Last week, researchers at nasa and noaa found that “the earth is warming faster than expected.” Photograph by Kyle Grillot / Bloomberg / Getty
This week’s newsletter ponders how adaptable we are and serves as a reminder that we cannot take for granted that we are sufficiently so for the changes upon us:
A solar power plant in Gujarat, India. Renewable energy in the country would be cheaper than between 87% and 91% of new coal plants, the report says. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters
Looks like we are almost there:
Almost two-thirds of renewable energy schemes built globally last year expected to undercut coal costs
Almost two-thirds of wind and solar projects built globally last year will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the world’s cheapest new coal plants, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Continue reading
A section of the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline in Superior, Wis. Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune, via Associated Press
McKibben, always ahead of the curve, has this proposal for us all to consider:
Michael Siluk/Education Images — Universal Images Group via Getty Images
The announcement this week from the Canadian company TC Energy that it was pulling the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline project was greeted with jubilation by Indigenous groups, farmers and ranchers, climate scientists and other activists who have spent the last decade fighting its construction.
The question now is whether it will be a one-off victory or a template for action going forward — as it must, if we’re serious about either climate change or human rights. Continue reading
Guardian graphic | Source: Morales-Caselles et al, Nature Sustainability, 2021
Thanks, Damian Carrington, for getting us the data that Morales-Caselles et al compiled making us wonder whether convenience is worth this cost:
Just 10 plastic products make up 75% of all items and scientists say the pollution must be stopped at source
Plastic items from takeaway food and drink dominate the litter in the world’s oceans, according to the most comprehensive study to date. Continue reading
Way back when, the idea of planting a million trees was set in motion. I missed this Economist film and article at that time, but while pursuing planting I have seen other related concerns, each of which is worthy of consideration (as we continue planting):
Why tree planting is not the panacea some had hoped
Here you will find some of the resources used in the production of The Economist’s film “Climate change: the trouble with trees” along with exclusive additional material. It is part of the “The Story Behind”, a film series that reveals the processes that shape our video journalism. Continue reading
ExxonMobil, the owner of this Louisiana oil refinery, has adopted a tobacco-industry strategy to protect its business model. Photograph by Barry Lewis / Getty
This is a question we ask, rhetorically, all the time. But we normally neither seek the actual answer nor come across the answer; but today is different, thanks to Bill McKibben’s weekly newsletter:
The Salton Sea is one of numerous new mining proposals in a global gold rush to find new sources of metals and minerals needed for electric cars and renewable energy.
Thanks to the New York Times for this coverage of the choices surrounding how and where to mine a key ingredient of more efficient batteries–a consequential environmental question:
A race is on to produce lithium in the United States, but competing projects are taking very different approaches to extracting the vital raw material. Some might not be very green.
“This is the most sustainable lithium in the world, made in America,” Rod Colwell, the chief executive of Controlled Thermal Resources, said. “Who would have thought it? We’ve got this massive opportunity.”
Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.
The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.
But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste. Continue reading
Smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
Stewardship has rights and responsibilities, and we expect better both from and for Brazil in their stewardship of the Amazon region. For our part, among other things, we can all avoid purchasing products that result from this deforestation:
International team of researchers also found that deforestation rose nearly four-fold in 2019
A fallen tree lies in an area of the Amazon jungle that was cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Rondonia State. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
The Brazilian Amazon released nearly 20% more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past decade than it absorbed, according to a startling report that shows humanity can no longer depend on the world’s largest tropical forest to help absorb manmade carbon pollution.
From 2010 through 2019, Brazil’s Amazon basin gave off 16.6bn tonnes of CO2, while drawing down only 13.9bn tonnes, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading
Because its costs continue to slide with every quarter, solar energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere on the planet by the decade’s end. Photograph by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / Getty
Thanks to Bill McKibben, as always, for at least one bit of good news in his weekly newsletter:
Peter Prato for The New York Times
Last month I learned enough from Ezra Klein’s food-related conversation with Mark Bittman to share the podcast episode. I listen to his podcast for the quality of his discussions with knowledgeable guests. But he is also a great essayist and yesterday he published an op-ed essay that is worth a read on a topic we have linked to many times:
It wouldn’t actually take that much of an investment for Biden to get us headed in the right direction.
I’m a vegan, but I’m also a realist. There’s no chance humanity is going to give up meat, en masse, anytime soon. That said, we can’t just wish away the risks of industrial animal agriculture. If we don’t end this system, soon, terrible things will happen to us and to the planet. Terrible things are already happening. Continue reading
Climate activists at a rally in Athens, Greece, in late 2018, hold up banners warning that time is running out on efforts to contain the earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Photograph by Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty
Thanks to Bill McKibben for this Earth Day edition of his newsletter, The Climate Crisis, which we sample from regularly:
Center City Philadelphia, viewed from the Schuylkill River. ZOONAR GMBH / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Thanks to Jonathan Mingle and Yale e360 for this analysis:
Ending the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and buildings is a key challenge for cities hoping to achieve net-zero emissions. Nowhere is that more evident than in Philadelphia, where technical and financial hurdles and a reluctant gas company stand in the way of decarbonization.
In 1836, Philadelphians mostly used whale oil and candles to light their homes and businesses. That year, the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works caused a stir when it lit 46 downtown street lamps with gas made from coal in its plant on the Schuylkill River. Continue reading
Progress is slow on the route to vegetarianism, so we monitor what we can about the meat we continue to consume. Thanks to Mighty Earth for this scorecard:
Beef Scorecard: Global Food Brands Failing to Address Largest Driver of Deforestation
WASHINGTON, DC – The world’s top supermarket and fast-food companies are largely ignoring the environmental and human rights abuses caused by their beef products, a new scorecard by Mighty Earth finds. The scorecard evaluates the beef sourcing practices of fifteen of the world’s largest grocery and fast-food companies that have pledged to end deforestation across their supply chains. Despite beef’s role as the top driver of global deforestation, only four companies- Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, and McDonald’s – have taken some action to stop sourcing beef from destructive suppliers. Continue reading
A seagrass meadow near Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. PAUL HILTON FOR CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL
Thanks to Nicola Jones, as ever, and to Yale e360 for publishing this explanatory article on a relatively new topic:
Seagrasses, mangrove forests, and coastal wetlands store vast amounts of carbon, and their preservation and restoration hold great potential to bank CO2 and keep it out of the atmosphere. But can the blue carbon market avoid the pitfalls that have plagued land-based programs?
A mangrove forest on the Leizhou Peninsula at the southern tip of China. KYLE OBERMANN
Off the shores of Virginia, vast meadows of seagrass sway in the shallow waters. Over the past two decades, conservation scientists have spread more than 70 million seeds in the bays there, restoring 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of an ecosystem devastated by disease in the 1930s. The work has brought back eelgrass (Zostera marina) — a keystone species that supports crustaceans, fish, and scallops, and is now absorbing the equivalent of nearly half a metric ton of CO2 per hectare per year. Continue reading
Broad beans and other legumes are abundant in proteins and dietary minerals. Photograph: Christopher Miles/Alamy
Reducing synthetic nitrogen in farming, by letting legumes do more nitrogen-fixing in the soil, has plenty of other benefits:
Plant more bean-like crops in Europe and consider ‘healthy diet transition’ to beat climate crisis, say scientists
Adding the likes of peas, lentils, beans, and chickpeas to your diet, and farming more of them, could result in more nutritious and effective food production with large environmental benefits, scientists have found. Continue reading
A plantation site for the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. BILLION TREE TSUNAMI PROGRAMME KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA
We have committed to planting trees. And we know that getting to a trillion trees planted is not going to be easy. But the effort has obvious and less obvious upsides. Every great idea also has its downside(s) and challenges to surmount, even planting trees:
High-profile programs aimed at planting billions of trees are being launched worldwide. But a growing number of scientists are warning that these massive projects can wreck natural ecosystems, dry up water supplies, damage agriculture, and push people off their land.
Women participating in Ethiopia’s mass tree-planting campaign in Addis Ababa last June. Ethiopia aimed to plant 5 billion seedlings in three months. MINASSE WONDIMU HAILU/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES
In late January, the multibillionaire Elon Musk took to Twitter and abruptly announced, “Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology”. This triggered a deluge of sarcasm across the platform: “You mean, like, trees?” “I planted a tree, do I win?” Continue reading
UNITED STATES – March 30: Visitors gather to watch the sunrise under blooming Japanese cherry blossom trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington in 1912. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
In Washington, D.C. the cherry blossoms came early this year. Plenty was said, including on Texas Public Radio, about the implications related to climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert has this to say, pivoting from cherry blossoms to both environmental and economic policies in the USA:
GETTY IMAGES. Scotland’s renewables output has tripled in 10 years
Thanks to Scotland, for the ambition and demonstration; and to the BBC for reporting this:
GETTY IMAGES. WWF Scotland is calling for an increased roll-out of electric vehicles
Scotland has narrowly missed a target to generate the equivalent of 100% of its electricity demand from renewables in 2020.
New figures reveal it reached 97.4% from renewable sources.
This target was set in 2011, when renewable technologies generated just 37% of national demand. Continue reading
Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Census Bureau Research: Austin R. Ramsey/IRW; Graphic: Kelly Martin/IRW
Yesterday’s post was about a book that argues we must change the way we source food. Water use is a parallel topic, of equal importance, and today National Public Radio (USA) presents an investigative report about Louisiana’s challenges related to water, and changes that must be made:
A wastewater treatment plant in West Monroe, La., uses microalgae to biologically purify water. It’s the first step in a process that helps supply water for a local paper mill, saving the area’s stressed aquifer for residents. Austin R. Ramsey/IRW
Louisiana is known for its losing battle against rising seas and increasingly frequent floods. It can sometimes seem like the state has too much water. But the aquifers deep beneath its swampy landscape face a critical shortage.
Groundwater levels in and around Louisiana are falling faster than almost anywhere else in the country, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. An analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop and WWNO/WRKF traced the problem to decades of overuse, unregulated pumping by industries and agriculture, and scant oversight or action from legislative committees rife with conflicts of interest. Continue reading
Beam trawlers’ heavy chains are dragged along the seabed, releasing carbon into the seawater. Photograph: aphperspective/Alamy
One of the many things that humans have been doing for a long time that are going to have to change:
Dragging heavy nets across seabed disturbs marine sediments, world’s largest carbon sink, scientists report
Fishing boats that trawl the ocean floor release as much carbon dioxide as the entire aviation industry, according to a groundbreaking study.
Bottom trawling, a widespread practice in which heavy nets are dragged along the seabed, pumps out 1 gigaton of carbon every year, says the study written by 26 marine biologists, climate experts and economists and published in Nature on Wednesday. Continue reading