in a report that will be released on Thursday, the nonprofit Urban Green Council makes the case that the country’s largest population centers needn’t rely on a federal breakthrough. Specifically, the 51-page report, titled “90 by 50,” finds that New York City could slash its emissions by a whopping 90 percent by 2050 without any radical new technologies, without cutting back on creature comforts, and maybe even without breaking its budget.
That’s a far more aggressive target than even the city’s own relatively ambitious goal of reducing emissions by 30 percent by 2030. How is it possible? The strategy has plenty of familiar components—electrifying the transit system, converting to renewable power sources. But it all hinges on one seemingly mundane yet surprisingly potent move: retrofitting almost every building in the city to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. In a nod to Rudy Giuliani, Bill Bratton, and James Q. Wilson, I’ll call it the “triple-pane windows theory” of greenhouse-gas reduction.
The report takes as its starting point this foundational statistic: 75 percent of the readily measured carbon emissions in New York City come from buildings. That makes it very different from the nation as a whole, where agriculture and transportation are among the biggest culprits. At first glance, this looks like an obstacle: Inefficient buildings are much harder to replace than inefficient cars. And New York is already one of the country’s greenest cities per capita, which would seem to make a 90 percent cut more difficult than it would be elsewhe
For years, most of us have envisioned climate change as a long-term problem that requires a long-term solution. But as the years pass—and with the calendar soon to flip over to 2013—without any substantial attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, this impression needs to change in a hurry.
According to a new paper published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, there’s a startlingly small number we need to keep in mind when dealing with climate change: 8. That’s as in 8 more years until 2020, a crucial deadline for reducing global carbon emissions if we intend to limit warming to 2°C, according to a team of researchers from a trio of research institutions—the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, along with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado—who authored the paper.
They came to the finding by looking at a range of different scenarios for emissions levels in 2020 and projecting outward how much warming each one would cause for the planet as a whole by the year 2100. They found that in order to have a good chance at holding long-term warming to an average of 2°C worldwide—a figure often cited as the maximum we can tolerate without catastrophic impacts—annual emissions of carbon dioxide (or equivalent greenhouse gas) in 2020 can be no higher than 41 to 47 gigatons worldwide.
That’s a problem when you consider the fact that we’re currently emitting 50 gigatons annually; if present trends continue, that number will rise to 55 gigatons by 2020. In other words, unless we want catastrophic levels of warming, we need to do something, quickly
Snow that serves as the lifeblood of the nation’s $12.2 billion winter sports industry is melting under the influence of a warming climate, and dramatic steps are needed to protect the industry and the jobs it provides, a new study prepared for conservation groups concludes.
Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing — even ice fishing — could all be in trouble unless winter sports industry leaders take a leadership role in curbing emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, members of the National Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters insist.
“This industry as a whole needs to take its head out of the snow before it melts away,” said Antonia Herzog, assistant director of the defense council’s Climate and Clean Air Program.
“They need to start taking action,” Herzog said, adding that the industry should play an active role in pushing for new regulations curbing emissions from existing power plants in particular.
The Howarth et al paper estimating the climatic impact of shale gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has provoked a number of responses across the media. Since the issue of natural gas vs. coal or oil, and the specifics of fracking itself are established and growing public issues, most commentary has served to bolster any particular commenter’s prior position on some aspect of this. So far, so unsurprising. However, one aspect of the Howarth study uses work that I’ve been involved in to better estimate the indirect effects of short-lived emissions (including methane, the dominant component of shale gas). Seeing how this specific piece of science is being brought into a policy debate is rather interesting.
The basic issue is that for any real economic or industrial activity there are a variety of emissions associated with the life cycle of that activity – from construction, transport of fuels, operating emissions, end products etc. In deciding whether one activity is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than an alternative, people need to have an assessment of the cost, the carbon footprint, other impacts etc., over that whole life cycle. There are of course different elements to this (cost, pollution, social issues) that need to weighed up, but one piece that is amenable to scientific analysis is the impact on climate drivers.
Calculating the net climate impact of an activity requires tracking many different emissions (not just CO2), and accounting for their (time-varying) impact on radiatively active components of the atmosphere or the properties of the affected land surface. While straightforward in conception, this can be complex and, inevitably, there are uncertainties in assessing all the knock-on effects. Over the years, many of the complexities have become better acknowledged which, in some cases, increases the total uncertainty, but the alternative of assuming that the indirect effects have zero impact with zero uncertainty is not tenable.
CANCÚN, Mexico — The United Nations climate change conference began with modest aims and ended early Saturday with modest achievements. But while the measures adopted here may have scant near-term impact on the warming of the planet, the international process for dealing with the issue got a significant vote of confidence.
The agreement fell well short of the broad changes scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous climate change in coming decades. But it lays the groundwork for stronger measures in the future, if nations are able to overcome the emotional arguments that have crippled climate change negotiations in recent years.
The package known as the Cancún Agreements gives the more than 190 countries participating in the conference another year to decide whether to extend the frayed Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that requires most wealthy nations to trim their emissions while providing assistance to developing countries to pursue a cleaner energy future.
The agreement is not a legally binding treaty, but the success of these talks allows the process to seek a more robust accord at next year’s
The original U.S. cap-and-trade market, which succeeded in slashing the power-plant emissions that cause acid rain, is in disarray following the issuance of new federal pollution rules.
The collapse in the pioneering market where power producers trade permits that allow them to emit sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that cause acid rain comes as policy makers seek to establish a similar market to curb the emissions of carbon, a cause of climate change.
The acid-rain market has struggled for the past two years as utilities, states and investors waited for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new rules. The rules, released last week, put tougher limits on emissions by power plants but rely less on trading. As a result, the allowances that utilities now trade to allow them to emit sulfur dioxide are expected to become worthless.