Archive | Global Warming

EU Calls for New CO2 Restrictions for Vans

The European Union is placing new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions for commercial vans in an effort to reduce fuel costs and eliminate the heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change.

The European parliament voted Tuesday for new limits that will require auto manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions by 14 percent by 2017, AFP reports. A 28 percent reduction from 2007 levels would follow in 2020.

Beginning in 2019, auto makers who break the rule will receive a fine of 95 euros for each gram per kilometer that exceeds the limit.

The regulations will apply to new light commercial vehicles, 12 percent of which are vans, AFP reports.

The European Commission, the parliament and governments have signed off on the measure. It will go into effect within the next few weeks after EU states approve it.

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Obama Budget Calls for Clean Energy Funding

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for additional federal funding for clean energy research as part of his 2012 budget.

The proposed plan, which was released Monday and is pending approval from Congress, also seeks to eliminate longstanding subsidies for fossil fuels.

Obama aims to increase funding for the Energy Department by 12 percent. The plan would offer $853 million for the development of small nuclear reactors, which are much less expensive than traditional nuclear facilities but may take years of research before earning approval, AFP reports.

The budget would also slash tax incentives for oil companies and reduce government support for drilling, potentially saving $4 billion per year.

It would trim 13 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget down to $9 billion by cutting funding for the agency’s efforts to provide clean water and fight invasive species like Asian carp, AFP said.

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Drought in Amazon Gave Off More CO2 than U.S. in a Year

An extensive drought in the Amazon rain forest last year spurred massive carbon dioxide emissions, British and Brazilian scientists said Thursday. They fear the devastating event may become a common occurrence, turning the world’s largest rain forest from an absorber of heat-trapping gases into a source of the harmful emissions.

Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds, and his team of researchers said in a study published Thursday that 2010′s crippling dry spell was worse than a “once-in-a-century” 2005 drought and may have caused more emissions than the United States does in a year.

Forests abundant in vegetation help diminish carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by soaking it up as they grow, but they release the heat-trapping gas when they die and biodegrade.

The 2010 drought was severe enough to leave major Amazonian rivers dry, stranding thousands who depend on boat transport. It followed the region’s dry spell in 2005, a drought so severe that scientists had dubbed it a “once-in-a-century” event at the time.

But last year’s drought was even more intense than the one five years before, scientists discovered. It caused rainfall shortages that affected a 1.16 million square-mile expanse of the Amazon, compared with the 734,000 square miles exposed to drought in 2005.

The 2010 dry spell also caused higher tree mortality and had three major epicenters, as opposed to the 2005 drought, which was mainly concentrated in one area in the southwestern Amazon.

The Amazon typically soaks up around 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year. According to the study, the forest will release 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2010 and 2011 for a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons. That’s below the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions in 2009, which were approximately 5.4 billion metric tons.

“If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases that could speed it up,” Lewis said.

The study was published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

Posted in Drought & Shortages, Global Warming, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Republican Senators Pledge to Strip Obama Climate Power

A group of Republican U.S. senators Monday announced plans to strip the Obama administration of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and 10 other conservative senators introduced sweeping legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating heat-trapping emissions from power stations and industrial plants without permission from Congress.

The bill would also bar all federal agencies from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions when implementing existing laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

“My bill will shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy,” said Barrasso, an outspoken skeptic of climate change.

“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap-and-trade policies in any form.”

Environmental groups and Democratic senators fired back immediately, with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry charging that Barrasso’s bill “puts the public health at risk and encourages the outsourcing of American jobs.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the legislation threatens bipartisan efforts to serve the public by protecting the environment.

“Since president Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have worked together to protect American families from dangerous pollution,” Boxer said in a statement. “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused the Republican senators of seeking to please industrial emitters, saying: “The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters.”

While the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House can block the effort to curb powers on emissions, the proposed bill demonstrates that it will be impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on climate change. Obama’s “cap-and-trade” bill to force emissions standards halted in Congress last year.

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Davos Forum: Leaders Call for Green Economy

International leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland say U.S. businesses must pressure the federal government to work toward an energy-efficient economy before China reaches one first.

U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres said Thursday that China “is going to leave us all in the dust” if Western countries don’t begin to act on climate change, AP reports.

Figueres said the Chinese “are not doing it just because they want to save the planet. They are doing it because it’s good for the economy.”

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard called for U.S. businesses to change their perspective on energy efficiency, saying they should realize that “it’s bad business to not be among the front-runners” in the race for a green global economy.

The annual conference is held in a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.

Posted in Effects, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Finance, Accounting, & Investment, Global Warming, Globalization & Free Trade, Policies & Solutions0 Comments

Greenland Ice Sheet Melting at Record Rate

Greenland’s ice sheet experienced the fastest melting rate on record in 2010, according to a new study.

In a study published in “Environmental Research Letters,” researchers said that rising temperatures melted an area the size of France last season – the largest melt-region since records began in 1979.

“This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” said study co-author Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at The City College of New York.

“Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September,” he added.

Analyzing satellite and land surface data, researchers found that the area vulnerable to melting has been steadily increasing by about 17,000 kilometers a year. That is “equivalent to adding melt-region the size of Washington state every ten years,” Tedesco said on his research website.

After the warmest spring and summer on record, reduced snowfall left ice exposed longer than normal.

“Bare ice is much darker than snow and absorbs more solar radiation,” said Tedesco. “Other ice melting feedback loops that we are examining include the impact of lakes on the glacial surface, of dust and soot deposited over the ice sheet and how surface meltwater affects the flow of the ice toward the ocean.”

The findings are significant because Greenland’s ice sheet, which makes up about one-twentieth of the world’s ice, is quickly becoming a major contributor to rising sea levels. Although it currently only adds about .02 inches to global levels each year, that amount could dramatically increase. Were it to melt completely, it would raise sea levels by about 21 feet.

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Alaska Native Groups to Sue Over Polar Bear Protection Plan

A coalition of Alaska Native groups says it intends to sue the federal government over a critical habitat designation for polar bears.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) and other native groups said Monday that the Department of Interior’s designation of coastal areas of the North Slope as critical habitat for polar bears will potentially cost the state billions of dollars from delayed offshore drilling projects.

The groups sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and put in a 60-days notice of intention to sue Monday.

Polar bears were first categorized as threatened in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act. The species is suffering rapid habitat loss from diminishing sea ice caused by global warming.

But the groups contend that critical habitat designation will to nothing to combat or end climate change for the polar bears. Instead, they say, the restrictions will hurt Native communities by denying them access to their own resources.

“This, in conjunction with other cumulative impacts with government policy disruption, may force Alaska natives to abandon our ancestral villages in search of new work to support our families,” Tara Sweeney of ASRC said at an afternoon press conference, according to KTUU-TV.

The area in question is more than 187,000 square miles (484,000 square kilometers) in and near the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

“The critical habitat designation does not get at the problem of melting sea ice, so it won’t help the polar bear,” North Slope Borough Mayor Edward S. Itta said, according to The Associated Press. “As a solution, this completely misses the mark.”

Other Alaska Natives support the designation and believe it is essential to the survival of the polar bear. They say the groups are focused on financial losses.

“I think they are looking out for the interests of the corporation,” Kaktovik resident Robert Thompson told KTUU. “ASRC has offshore drilling capacity which might be slowed down with critical habit designation.”

Posted in Global Warming, Global Warming & Climate Change, Mammals0 Comments

Superstorm Poses Threat to California, Scientists Say

A potential “superstorm” could dump up to 10 feet of rain on California in a catastrophic flood, scientists and emergency planners predict.

Federal and California officials on Friday discussed the plausible consequences of such a storm, using advanced flood mapping and atmospheric projections with data from California’s historic storms.

A research team of over 100 scientists said in a scenario released by the U.S. Geological Survey this week that California faces the risk of massive floods caused by an “atmospheric river” (AR) of moisture flowing into the state.

The report estimates that the flooding would last up to 40 days, affecting almost one-fourth of California’s homes and causing up to $300 billion in damage.

The scientists, engineers, lifeline operators, emergency planners and insurance experts working on the project named the event “ARkStorm,” after an intense atmospheric river moving water at the same rate as 50 Mississippi rivers discharging water into the Gulf of Mexico, ABC News reported.

The Pacific moisture-filled air current would overwhelm California’s flood protection system, inundate the Central Valley, and trigger hundreds of landslides.

In a conference held by the United States Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Emergency Management Agency, officials convened to outline new strategies to limit the flood’s devastation.

“Our storms really are as bad as hurricanes in the amount of rain that they can bring,” USGS Director Marcia McNutt said, according to ABC. “Without that type of labeling, we haven’t recognized that our storms are that bad and we risk underestimating emergency response (to storms).”

Climate scientists have long linked rising temperatures to intense weather events like the potential ARkStorm. As the earth’s atmosphere gets hotter, it stores more energy, setting off more extreme weather events with greater frequency.

Scientists say they are able to monitor the ARs with satellite imagery that has improved in the last few years, the New York Times reports.

They estimate that the AR that set off an intense storm over California last month moved water at 20 times the rate of the Mississippi River discharging water into the Gulf.

“Floods are as much a part of our lives in California as earthquakes are,” said Lucy Jones, the chief scientist for the United States Geological Survey’s multi-hazards initiative, according to the New York Times. “We are probably not going to be able to handle the biggest ones,” she added.

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Effects, Global Warming, Precipitation & Water Cycle, Water, Ecosystems & Agriculture0 Comments

Bacteria Ate Methane from Gulf Oil Spill

Bacteria consumed methane gas from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in four months, a report said Thursday.

Methane constituted 20 percent of the crude oil that erupted from the Macondo oil well in worst marine spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

A report published Thursday in the journal Science said a sudden bloom of bacteria ingested the methane completely by early September.

“They did a good job on it and that was much earlier than expected,” said John Kessler, a chemical oceanographer at Texas A&M University, according to AP.

University of California Santa Barbara geochemistry professor David Valentine, one of the study’s lead authors, said the discovery proves that the bacteria play a vital role in preventing heat-trapping greenhouse gases on the ocean’s floor from entering the earth’s atmosphere.

“They do serve an important function, and as we see here under certain conditions these bacteria can be very effective at preventing the methane from reaching the atmosphere,” Valentine told AFP.

Valentine added that previous research showed that other types of bacteria also ingested the ethane and propane released by the explosion.

The researchers also said bacteria consumed some of the crude oil itself, but it is not yet clear how much.

Posted in Global Warming, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum, Toxic Substances, Water Pollution0 Comments

2 Million Fish Dead in Chesapeake Bay

Millions of dead fish littered the shores of the Chesapeake Bay this week, the Maryland Department of the Environment said.

Officials are still investigating the incident but have pointed to lower-than-average water temperatures as a likely cause of death from cold stress.

“Our theory is that it was a very rapid temperature drop,” MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said, according to msnbc.com. “Obviously, these are fish that are susceptible to very cold temperatures.”

An estimated 2 million fish reportedly washed ashore beginning last week in Calvert County and Kent Island. The fish were chiefly juvenile spot fish, which are about 3 to 6 inches in length.

Stoltzfus said the MDE is assessing water quality in the area.

“So far, there don’t appear to be any water quality or pollution issues that have contributed to this fish kill,” Stoltzfus said.

The bay has not seen a fish die-off this significant since 1976, when 15 million dead fish washed ashore, msnbc.com reported Thursday.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Fish, Global Warming, Oceans & Coastlines0 Comments

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