Overview: Global warming

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Authors: Derek Paul and Metta Spencer

This planet is gradually warming, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. The increased temperature changes the climate in other ways too, including the rise in sea levels; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in the times when flowers bloom; and extreme weather events.

Life on Earth is dependent on a layer of gases, primarily water vapor, in the lower atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, while radiating some of it back and keeping our planet at a temperature capable of supporting life.

The sunlight that remains trapped is our source of energy and is used by plants in photosynthesis, whereas the remainder is reflected as heat or light back into space. Climate forcing (or “radiative forcing”) is the differential between the amount of sunlight absorbed by Earth and the amount of energy radiated back to space.

Several factors determine the size and direction of this forcing; for example light surfaces are more reflective than dark ones, so geographical regions covered by ice and snow reflect back more than areas covered by dark water or dark forests; this variable is called the “albedo effect.”

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An interesting article about the prevalence of heavy fuel usage in the Arctic. Heavy fuel is a dirty fuel that causes lots of pollution. Heavy fuel poses a risk regardless of whether it is burned for energy or being transported. This is particularly challenging and concerning within the context of sensitive Arctic ecosystem and environments. Additionally colder temperatures in the environment and water cause fuel to break down slower and results in longer impacts on ecosystems. There are ongoing calls – by countries such as Canada and the Scandinavian nations – to prohibit the use of heavy fuel as a fuel source in the Arctic. Though, these proposals will not prevent heavy fuel from being shipped as cargo through the Arctic.

Title: Heavy fuel oil and the Arctic — are they compatible?
Author: Mortensen, Niels Bjørn
Publications: Lloyd’s List: Maritime Intelligence (Informa)
Date: 1 July 2017
Notes: Lloyd’s List is a long-time newspaper and publication which publishes on maritime and naval matters.

Article Excerpt:

“Whether carried or burned, heavy fuel oil is a particular threat in Arctic waters

In March 2017, Arctic sea ice hit a new record — the lowest amount of winter ice since satellite records began 38 years ago.

As Arctic waters open up, most likely due to human use of fossil fuels, vessels powered by heavy fuel oil are likely to divert to Arctic waters in search of shorter journey times. This will mean more burning of marine fuels and black carbon emissions, accelerating further melting. More open water means further absorption of the sun’s warmth and heating of the Arctic Ocean — a vicious cycle.

As a former navigator I have sailed on ships in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. In 1979 I was second officer on the first ship to east Greenland that season and we arrived at Angmagssalik around July 1 after spending a day navigating very heavy multi-year ice. Later that year, I was in the Thule (Qaanaaq) district in northwest Greenland, which opened up for ship traffic only in early August.

Much later, around 1998, I got involved in the International Maritime Organization’s work on drafting the Polar Code. The first draft was brought to the IMO by Canada, but it needed quite some work in order to appear as an IMO document. The first version was adopted in 2002 as a set of voluntary guidelines, whereas the present version, which entered into force on January 1 this year, is a mandatory IMO Code under both the Solas and the Marpol Conventions.

Looking again at this year’s ice chart, it appears that the areas I visited back in 1979 will be open to ship traffic much earlier and the navigable window will be much longer.

Is that good? Well, from a purely navigational view, an ice-free Arctic for half of the year would be convenient. Many tonne-miles would be saved and thereby less fuel burned on a global basis, which arguably could have a mitigating effect of shipping on climate change and even delay the 2°C temperature increase scenario by several weeks. But overall, is this significantly beneficial compared with the negative side-effects of global warming, and the potential impacts of burning heavy fuel oil in the Arctic?

Rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice and the Arctic glaciers is predicted to have negative global effects. Melting of glaciers will result in rising sea levels globally, threatening the existence of many island states. Many large cities will also need to invest in expensive climate change mitigation enterprises, such as increasing the height and extent of dykes and barriers. Two obvious examples are New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and New York/New Jersey during hurricane Sandy. Rising sea levels and a likely increase in frequency and violence of hurricanes is a toxic mix for low-lying cities and countries.

Massive melting of ice in the Arctic might also, according to some scientists, force the Gulf Stream to take a more southerly course, which will result in a much colder northern Europe. So even in a global warming scenario, there might be regions that will experience colder weather and climate.

HFO is a dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers ships around the world. Around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic is HFO, over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states — countries that have little if any connection to the Arctic. Combined with an increase in Arctic state-flagged vessels targeting previously non-accessible resources, this will greatly increase the risk of an HFO spill.

If HFO is spilled in the colder waters of the Arctic, it breaks down even more slowly than in warmer waters, with long-term devastating effects on both livelihoods and ecosystems.

HFO is a larger source of high emissions of harmful air pollutants — such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, including black carbon — than alternative fuels such as distillate and liquid natural gas. When emitted and deposited on Arctic snow or ice, the climate warming effect of black carbon is five times more than when emitted at lower latitudes, such as in the tropics.

Mitigating risks

Canada along with Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and the US have now proposed, in time for next week’s 71st meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, that work begins on mitigating the risks of use and carriage of HFO as fuel by ships in the Arctic. The European Parliament has broadly supported this move by adopting its resolution calling for a ban on the use of HFO in Arctic waters.

Meanwhile, Danish Shipping (the association of Danish shipowners) and Arctic expedition cruise operator Hurtigruten, among others, have called for regulation banning the use of HFO in the Arctic.

The submission from Canada et al is a request for a new output from the IMO, hence there are no concrete text amendments proposed. However, it is already embedded in Marpol Annex I that carriage of Heavy Grade Oil in the Antarctic, ie south of latitude 60 S, is prohibited. Heavy Grade Oil is defined as oil with a density greater than 900 kg/m3 or a viscosity (at 50°C) of 180 centistokes (cSt) or above. Thus, drafting of the relevant text to introduce a similar ban in the Arctic would be the least of the challenges.

It is noteworthy that the proposal will cover only the carriage of HFO as fuel, not as cargo. There are huge known oil reserves in the region, not least in the Russian Arctic, and a possible ban of transporting this at sea would presently not be feasible. Oil transported as cargo will most certainly be carried on board double-hulled tankers, whereas the requirement to double side skin protection of fuel tanks has taken effect only for ships built after January 1 this year.

It is also interesting that Canada et al in the submission do not use the damaging effects of Black Carbon as part of the rationale for a ban.
In October 2016, the IMO at MEPC 70 decided that from January 1, 2020, all ships operating outside Emission Control Areas must not burn fuel oil with a sulphur content above 0.5% (by mass). When that rule was adopted in 2008, it was believed that such future fuel oil would be distillate, either marine gas oil or marine diesel oil.

One could then suggest that the problem of carriage of HFO in the Arctic would resolve itself by 2020.

Well, if only the world were so simple.

In connection with the 0.1% sulphur limit in ECAs in 2015, the world saw a number of new fuels that did not fall under the traditional definition of distillate fuel. It is expected that the 2020 global cap of 0.5% sulphur limit will see the introduction of many new fuels. Some of these are expected to be based on de-sulphurised HFO derived from sweet crude, others might be blends of HFO with low-sulphur products. It could even be new oil products that the world has not yet seen.

It should thus be evident that a carriage ban only on HFO as fuel might not solve the potential problem. Whether the definitions of Heavy Grade Oil, as used for the Antarctic, will suffice is not for this author to judge. It would be recommended to involve refinery and bunker experts to ensure a robust definition of a fuel ban in the Arctic.

At this July’s MEPC meeting, IMO member states must not only support the action proposed by Canada and others to mitigate the risks of HFO use in the Arctic, they must commit to any measures taken by the IMO to reduce these risks — including a ban.”

An interesting article regarding the role of ship emissions and ship-related pollution in public health. European health agencies spend approximately €58 billion ($83 billion CAD) each year on serious diseases connected to ship emissions and ship-related pollution. These are mostly heart and lung diseases. Furthermore, this annual €58 billion ($83 billion CAD) expense does not include environmental damage.

Additionally of note: “the NGO Transport & Environment said, “Marine fuel is 2,700 times dirtier than road diesel and €35 billion of fuel tax is paid yearly in Europe for road transport, while shipping uses tax-free fuel.”

Given that shipping accounts for over one fifth of global fuel consumption, the fact that its emissions are not more strictly regulated is cause for concern.”

Title: Pollution from ships kills thousands each year
Author: White, Samuel
Date: 10 June 2015
News Agency: EURACTIV
Link: https://www.euractiv.com/section/science-policymaking/news/pollution-from-ships-kills-thousands-each-year/

Article Excerpt:

Shipping emissions are an invisible killer that cause lung cancer and heart disease, a new study has found, but researchers say the 60,000 deaths they cause each year could be significantly cut by exhaust filtration devices.

The University of Rostock and the German environmental research centre Helmholzzentrum Munich have established a firm link between shipping exhaust emissions and serious diseases, that cost European health services €58 billion annually.

Conventional ship engines that burn heavy fuel oil or diesel fuel emit high concentrations of harmful substances including heavy metals, hydrocarbons and sulphur, as well as carcinogenic particulate matter (PM).

People in coastal areas are particularly at risk, researchers said. Up to half of PM-related air pollution in coastal areas, rivers and ports comes from ship emissions, according to the study.

Lief Miller, the CEO of conservation NGO NABU, said, “The results are frightening and confirm our worst fears. Emissions from ships cause serious lung and heart diseases.”

Fine particle emissions have been linked to increased health risks for decades. Although substantial efforts have been made to reduce the sulphur and diesel soot emissions from cars and lorries, no comparable efforts have been made for the shipping sector.

The NGO Transport & Environment said, “Marine fuel is 2,700 times dirtier than road diesel and €35 billion of fuel tax is paid yearly in Europe for road transport, while shipping uses tax-free fuel.”

Given that shipping accounts for over one fifth of global fuel consumption, the fact that its emissions are not more strictly regulated is cause for concern.

Improving air quality through exhaust filtration

For the researchers, legislation enforcing particle filtration and PM limits in shipping is the “next logical target for improving air quality worldwide, particularly in coastal regions and harbour cities”.

Dietmar Oeliger, NABU’s transport expert, said, “We really underline the recommendation of the scientists to urgently switch to low sulphur fuels together with effective emission abatement techniques.”

The most effective method of cleaning up emissions from shipping is to combine PM filters with low-sulphur fuels, a measure that has long been in place on the roads.

Other options include converting ships’ engines to run on gas or retrofitting them with exhaust gas cleaning systems known as “scrubbers”.

Controlling sulphur emissions

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has capped the sulphur content of shipping fuel at 3.5%. By 2020, the IMO will limit sulphur content in ship’s fuel to 0.5% worldwide.

In many of Europe’s coastal waters the limit is 1%, and as of January 2015, the limit in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) of the North and the Baltic Seas is just 0.1%.

According to Transport & Environment, the health benefits from the implementation of the new stricter SECAs are projected to be worth up to €23 billion.

But these limits are not strictly enforced, and the options available for reducing sulphur and PM emissions remain too expensive for the majority of ship operators.

As well as severe health risks to humans, sulphur causes acid rain and leads to a host of environmental problems including soil and water quality degradation and damage to biodiversity.

“We need meaningful measures to incentivise the uptake of cleaner marine fuels as a stepping stone towards cleaning up the sector,” said Sotiris Raptis, clean shipping officer at Transport & Environment.

An interesting article about the role of the shipping industry.

Title: UN Will Force Shipping to Clean Up its Act
Author: Laramée de Tannenberg, Valéry
Publication: Euractiv
Date: 26 October 2016
Link: https://www.euractiv.com/section/transport/news/un-will-force-shipping-to-clean-up-its-act/
Notes: See additionally Samuel White’s EURACTIV article on premature deaths from pollution from ships.

Article Excerpt:

The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is pondering measures to cut shipping pollution and bring emissions into line with the Paris Agreement. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Like commercial aviation, marine transport slipped through the cracks in the Paris Agreement. Responsible for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, commercial shipping is also a major source of local air pollution.

But the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MPEC) has begun to take local and global impact of shipping pollution seriously; it was on the agenda for the committee’s 70th meeting in London this week.

The UN organisation is considering enforcing stricter regulations on large ships. Under the proposals, the owners of the tens of thousands of ships with a displacement greater than 5,000 tonnes would be obliged to measure their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and to declare the results to the IMO and the ships’ countries of registration. This is a first step.

At its meeting in April this year, MPEC also agreed on the need for marine transport to take account of the Paris Agreement. The IMO plans to adopt binding measures to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint, and could lay out its timetable this week.

Cutting Sulphur Emissions:

The 171 members of the IMO will also have to agree on a date for the entry into force of the new rules on the reduced sulphur content of fuels. Adopted in 1997, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) placed a limit of 0.5% on the sulphur content of shipping fuel, which will come into force in 2020.

60,000 premature deaths per year

Existing rules limit the sulphur content of shipping fuel to 3.5%, making marine transport the biggest emitter of sulphur oxides in the world. Exceptions can be found in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) of North America and Northern Europen where the mlimit is 0.1%.

In 1999, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University estimated that between 5% and 30% of the concentration of airborne sulphates in coastal regions was down to commercial shipping. These particles are harmful to marine and land environments, as well as to human health.

Later research by the University of Delaware attributed more than 60,000 premature deaths per year in Europe and Asia to this pollution, and predicted that that figure would rise by 40% by 2012.

Opposition from refiners

But refiners of shipping fuel have spoken out against the mandatory sulphur reduction. At least, if it comes into force so soon.

Cutting sulphur content would require big changes to machinery and investments in the billions of dollars. According to the consultancy CE Delft, the success of the reduced sulphur convention will depend on the ability of the refiners to provide low-sulphur fuel from 2020. If not, the oil companies and some shipping companies plan to push the entry into force of Annex VI of the MARPOL convention back to 2025.

One interesting detail: the Cook Islands pushed hard to strengthen the Paris Agreement, but are one of the fiercest opponents of binding emissions limits on maritime transport.

CBC published this interesting article yesterday (15 February 2020) of the Canadian impacts of Russia’s $300 billion investment in the Arctic – specifically within the realm of gas and oil. These investments would encourage development of and increased traffic in Northern sea routes. There is hope that this could assist with economic bolstering and potential development of remote Northern communities along the Northern Sea Route. What impacts these activities will have on locals – including Indigenous (Chukchi, Nenets, etc.) peoples – has yet to be fully determined. However, there is international concern that gas and oil drilling in this ecologically sensitive region could result in long-term, environmental damage – such as through leaks or spills.

On a related topic: it is important to note that the Soviet Union formerly used the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, and areas around Novaya Zemlya as a nuclear waste dump. These areas abut and/or intersect the Northern Sea Route. I am hoping that some of these $300 billion in investments could go towards cleaning up these sites. Former President Boris Yeltsin’s science advisor first reported on the state of the Kara Sea nuclear waste dump in 1993 – though according to recent media articles – little has been done in subsequent decades to clean-up and contain the nuclear waste, move it to a more appropriate and secure location, and remediate the contaminated environments. Interestingly, several gas and oil companies proposed drilling the Kara Sea due to its large gas and oil reserves – but shifted plans about 5 years ago. Multiple agencies – including environmental groups – indicated concern of drilling activities in close proximity to a nuclear waste dump. In recent years, Russia additionally has developed floating nuclear reactors which can be moved along the Northern Sea Route to supply power to remote regions – with a particular focus on resource extraction activities.

Title: What Russia’s $300B investment in Arctic oil and gas means for Canada
Author: John Last
Date: 15 February 2020
News Agency: CBC News / CBC North
Link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/russian-arctic-oil-and-gas-explained-1.5462754

Article Excerpt:

“Last month, the Russian government pushed through new legislation creating $300 billion in new incentives for new ports, factories, and oil and gas developments on the shores and in the waters of the Arctic ocean.

The incentives are part of a broader plan to more than double maritime traffic in the Northern Sea Route, on Russia’s northern coast — and give a boost to state energy companies like Gazprom, Lukoil, and Rosneft.

But analysts say their immediate impact will be increased exploration and development for offshore oil and natural gas.

With Canadian and U.S. offshore oil developments still on ice, here’s what Russia’s big spending could mean for the Arctic — and Canadians.

How is the money being spent?
Russia’s government is offering tax incentives for offshore oil and gas developments, including a reduced five per cent production tax for the first 15 years for all oil and gas developments.

Projects in the east Arctic, closer to Canada’s Beaufort Sea, receive an even greater incentive — no extraction tax for the first 12 years of operation.

Russia may be borrowing a page from Canada’s book in drafting the policy. Doug Matthews, a Canadian energy writer and analyst, said the incentive package sounds “rather like our old national energy program in the … Beaufort [Sea] back in the ’70s and ’80s.”

What new projects are getting the go-ahead?
Russia’s minister of the Far East and Arctic, Alexander Kozlov, said in a press release that those incentives are resulting in three new massive offshore oil projects.

Currently, there is only one producing offshore oil platform in Russian waters — the Prirazlomnaya platform, located in the Pechora Sea.

Russia’s state oil companies are also expected to massively intensify their onshore Arctic operations.

Rosneft’s Vostok Oil project, billed as the “biggest in global oil,” will involve the construction of a seaport, two airports, 800 km of new pipelines, and 15 new towns in the Vankor region.

“The project is expected to become the stepping stone for large scale development of Arctic oil,” said Nikita Kapustin, an energy researcher with the state-funded Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an email.

Developments in the Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi Seas — nearer to Alaska — are “more distant prospects,” Kapustin said.

But massive incentives for Arctic ports and pipelines could make exploiting those regions more feasible in the future.

What could the environmental impacts be?
Simon Boxall, an oceans scientist at the University of Southampton, said sending more goods via the Northern Sea Route could actually have a positive environmental impact.

“You’re knocking thousands of miles off of that route, and that of course saves energy, it saves fuel, it saves pollution,” he said.

The problem, Boxall says, comes with what those ships are carrying. Any spilled oil degrades slowly in cold Arctic waters, and is easily trapped beneath ice.

Boxall is optimistic that moderate spills from Russia’s offshore oil projects could be contained to “a fairly small locality,” and would be unlikely to affect Canadian shores.

But Tony Walker, an assistant professor at the School of Resource & Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, disagrees.

“Any petroleum products released into surface water could easily get to the Northwest Territories in just a matter of days,” he said.

“Basically, it’s everybody’s problem.”

Walker says most Arctic nations have limited capacity to perform cleanups in the region. Russia’s fleet is mostly based in Murmansk, near its western border, he says, and is mostly decommissioned anyway.

“So it would really be virtually impossible,” he said.

How could this affect oil and gas prices?
Despite enabling access to more than 37 billion barrels of oil — equivalent to about a fifth of Canada’s total remaining reserves — analysts say the effect on prices should be negligible.

“The main intention of Arctic oil is to replace production of some of the more mature Russian fields,” said Kapustin.

“I don’t see much of an effect on price,” said Matthews.

The primary market for Russia’s Arctic oil and gas is China. Canada’s market share there is so small, Matthews says, it’s unlikely to make a difference.

Could Canadian businesses benefit?
Since U.S. and EU sanctions were put in place in 2014, international oil companies have been reluctant to co-invest in Arctic oil projects. Sanctions prohibit collaboration on offshore oil projects with Russia’s biggest companies.

Canadian businesses also might not have the expertise needed any longer, according to Matthews.

“We were really the leaders back in the ’70s and ’80s for technology for Arctic exploration,” Matthews explained. But “when the oil industry in the Beaufort [Sea] shut down in the mid-’80s … we really lost that technological edge.”

Canada’s recent investment in pipelines means some Canadian companies have built expertise in their construction, including in cold-weather environments.

But Matthews and other analysts say Russia is more likely to look to the East for expertise and investment — to Japan and China, and to India, which Kapustin said has already invested in the Vostok Oil project.”

Geothermal energy has significant potential for a number of global regions. Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility recently shared this article indicating geothermal energy is being explored in Massachusetts. Is there an opportunity for expansion of geothermal systems to other regions?

Title: How A Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About A Geothermal Future
Author: Bruce Gellerman
Date: 13 January 2020
News Agency: WBUR (Boston University)
Link: https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2020/01/13/heat-eversource-geothermal-energy-climate-change

Article Excerpt:

Natural gas utilities in Massachusetts are facing an existential crisis: they could be out of business by mid-century. That’s because the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires emissions from burning fossil fuels — like natural gas — be cut by 80% economy-wide by 2050.

But now a solution that could help save the companies — and the climate — is at hand. Or, more accurately, underfoot. It’s geothermal energy, which takes advantage of the biggest energy storage system on earth: the earth itself.

Our planet absorbs the sun’s solar energy and stores it underground as thermal energy that can be used to heat and cool homes and businesses. Just a few yards down, the earth’s temperature is a constant 50 to 60 degrees; warmer than the air above during winter, cooler in the summer. You can take advantage of the temperature difference using what is called a geothermal or ground source heat pump: plastic pipes filled with water and antifreeze pick up the heat from the ground, and the pump circulates it through a building.

The technology, developed in the late 1940s, does away with furnaces, air conditioners and hot water heaters, and is the most efficient way to heat and cool a building. While it’s widespread in some countries, like Sweden, it’s been slow to catch on here.

“The site has to be appropriate,” said architect Lisa Cunningham, who recently designed a gut renovation of a private Brookline home using geothermal energy. The best sites for geothermal systems have lots of space to install horizontal pipes in relatively shallow ground. But because the Brookline lot is so small, workers had to drill two holes 500 feet deep.

“One thing that’s so great about having a project like this right in the heart of a very dense town, we’re showing people it can be very cost-effective,” Cunningham said, adding that the cost for installing the system in the Brookline home “came in less than a comparable gas system.”

But that includes thousands of dollars in state rebates and federal tax incentives that are expiring. Cost is still a big hurdle, said Zeyneb Magavi, co-executive director of Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), a Cambridge-based environmental nonprofit.

“Geothermal ground source heating has been around a long time, and it has usually been installed one house by one house individually,” she said. “It works. However, it is a fairly high up-front cost, and you have to have the means and motivation to be able to do it.”

Magavi, a clean energy advocate, said she asked herself: Who already digs holes and puts pipes in the ground, has big money and is motivated to find a new business model? Her answer: natural gas distribution companies.

Magavi was familiar with the gas utilities through her work — along with HEET co-executive director Audrey Schulman and the Gas Leaks Allies — helping gas companies identify leaky pipes most in need of repair.

Together, they found it would cost $9 billion over 20 years to fix the aging infrastructure. Magavi suggested they use for money to transform the industry instead.

“The idea is that a gas utility takes out its leaky gas pipe and, instead of putting in new gas pipe, we put in a hot water loop,” Magavi said. “If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, let’s invest in infrastructure for the next century. Let’s not invest in infrastructure that was hot in 1850.”

HEET commissioned a study to investigate if there were a way to make geothermal energy appealing to both utilities and environmentalists.

“We wanted something that was renewable, resilient, reliable, kept gas workers in jobs, [was] equal or lower cost than gas, and safe and doable,” Magavi said. She found that “networking” — connecting geothermal systems to many homes and businesses — ticked all of the boxes.

“The beautiful thing is that when you interconnect them, the more customers you put on the system, the more efficient it gets,” Magavi said.

Magavi showed the results to senior officials with Eversource, the largest energy delivery company in New England.

It was an unusual pitch, but she felt that “they also understood that we were approaching this always from a data- and fact-based conversation, and they took us very seriously,” Magavi said.

Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner said the company likes the idea.

“This looks a lot like the gas business that we’re in except it’s totally clean,” Conner said. “Eversource can bring the capital and the expertise to this. We know how to build infrastructure.”

Eversource conducted its own study of networked geothermal heat pump systems, leading it to propose three different pilot projects to Massachusetts regulators in order to prove that the networked systems are feasible.

Under a networked system, homes and businesses would own the geothermal heat pumps, while Eversource would own and manage the system of pipes, sensors and pressure regulators, Conner said. That would convert the gas utility into a networked, thermal management company.

“Maybe I have a laundromat that has a lot of heat load, maybe it’s working a lot in the evening,” Conner said. “So they are leveraging putting heat back into the system potentially in the evening when others need it for cooling. So you get that benefit.”

State regulators are now reviewing Eversources’s proposals for networked pilot projects, and could give the go-ahead within a year.

“I think we can move fast,” Magavi said. “My vision of the future is that we have wires delivering us renewable energy competing with pipes delivering us renewable energy. So thermal power and electric power grids, and the two benefit each other.”

Geothermal energy heating our homes, with pumps powered by solar- and wind-generated electricity. If this unusual collaboration between a natural gas utility and an environmental organization pays off, a clean energy future could be right under our feet.

An interesting article on nine major climate change tipping points.

Title: Explainer: Nine ‘tipping points’ that could be triggered by climate change
Author: Robert McSweeney
Date: 10 February 2020
Publication: Carbon Brief
Link: https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-nine-tipping-points-that-could-be-triggered-by-climate-change

An interesting video from Nordic Innovation around sustainable cities and waste management. In Iceland, 6 to 10% of all emissions come from landfills. This is particularly a problem for methane. Nordic Innovation is using drones to better analyze and map these sites for tailored and targeted interventions for areas of high emissions. Methane is then collected by a gas collection system – which cleans the methane – and delivers it to gas stations in Reykjavik for use by automobiles. This is a way to recycle methane – and Iceland has been using this technology for over a decade. Reykjavik is additionally monitoring for microplastic contamination within their drinking water system. These are fascinating and initiative technological applications with potential applications for elsewhere globally.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TjAon3R7NA

Correction: “These are fascinating and initiative technological applications with potential applications for elsewhere globally.” should read as These are fascinating and innovative technological applications with potential applications for elsewhere globally.”

One cruise ship can use up to 150 tons of fuel a day – which is equivalent to the emissions of one million cars. Yikes! Several sensitive ecosystems – such as Venice and its surrounding lagoon in Italy – have taken steps to limit cruise ships’ access (quantity, size, etc.) due to the impacts of climate change and damage caused by these ships. Is it time to limit cruise ships access to the Antarctic and Arctic regions? I have heard that tourism in the polar regions is becoming increasingly popular. Though surely the presence of large ships in these regions is not good for climate change and surely has severe impacts on the sensitive ecosystems. Is it time to limit access just for researchers, scientists, etc.?


I am shocked that Arctic and Antarctic jurisdictions have not limited access by cruise and tourist ships to their sensitive environments and locales. Venice – a sensitive lagoon – has recently begun implementing measures to limit access due to damage being caused by cruise ships. Surely these large ships have significant emissions – alongside disruptions to the ecosystems. Not to mention all the emissions that stem from folks flying into the nearest port in the first place.

This article from the CBC says a cruise ship has the same emissions as one million cars. There are virtually no policies or programs mandating environmentally friendly measures for cruise and tourist ships in either national or international contexts.


Is it time to ban cruise and tourist ships from the Arctic and Antarctic and limit access to researchers, scientists, etc.?

I am a student at the University of Toronto and often walk by the Ontario legislative and parliament buildings, which abut the campus. I think it would be an interesting initiative to see various government and institutional (colleges, universities, etc.) buildings – such as Queen’s Park, etc. – install solar panels on their roofs, etc. These buildings have large foot prints (surface area) with both angled / flat roofs — and could likely generate a fair bit of electricity from solar panels. This would demonstrate beneficial and innovative land stewardship and create a positive role model for other individuals and property managers in various contexts. It could additionally save money for the government!

(Some of the buildings use skylights for interior lighting – though there is a lot of underutilized space on the structure…)

Buildings such as these could even re-cycle / re-use rain water from the roofs – either for irrigation of the grounds – or for use in the building (other than drinking water).

The World Economic Forum released an interesting video relating to the greenhouse industry in the Netherlands. As the Netherlands is a densely populated country with limited land space, optimization of the industry is a precedent and priority. The video introduced notions of using soil less mediums – such as mineral bags – to root the plants in. Even more interesting, was that Co2 from nearby coal refineries were being pumped directly to the greenhouses – to assist with plant growth – as tomatoes, etc. like high levels of Co2. Has anyone heard of this industrial connection before?

I am reminded of the greenhouse industry in Ontario – on the shores of Lake Erie – but realize that there are likely not refineries nearby that could incorporate this technology. These greenhouses near the lake – alongside agricultural ventures in the USA – are critical suspects in the large and recurring toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.

The Short List Of Climate Actions That Will Work

There is more consensus on what solutions are effective than there appears to be

By Michael Barnard. Medium, Oct. 22, 2019 . https://medium.com/the-future-is-electric/the-short-list-of-climate-actions-that-will-work-d08c8069d2a8

I spend a lot of time critiquing solutions for low-carbon transformation, and that leads, inevitably, to people asking me: what works? What should we be doing? Most recently, that came in the form of a question on Quora that was well enough formed to trigger me to write down the solution set: “What exactly is the current scientific consensus on steps to combat climate change?“

Consensus is an interesting word. I tend to prefer consilience, where multiple lines of investigation lead to the same conclusions. That said, the following are the solutions or approaches that I see from my investigations and discussions as gaining consensus and consilience. It’s not the how, but the what. There are many paths that lead to these realities. One way to read the following is to consider that it describes the world in 2050.

This list doesn’t necessarily map easily to Project Drawdown because its approach is a cost benefit analysis of CO2e reductions for dollars, while this is a more aggressive transformational vision.

The Short List

Electrify everything

Convert all energy services to work directly from electricity instead of fossil fuels. Transportation, industry, and agriculture. All of it. All gas appliances must go. All road transport must be electric. Most trains and a lot of planes must shift to electric. Electricity creating biofuels or hydrogen for the subset of transportation that can’t be electrified. All heat from electricity. The US throws away two thirds of all primary energy, mostly in the form of waste heat from fossil fuels used in inherently inefficient combustion processes. We only have to replace a third of the actual primary energy we use today to maintain our lifestyle and economy.

Overbuild renewable generation

All other forms of generation with the exception of nuclear were overbuilt, so we’ll do the same with wind and solar, and they are really cheap, so that is not that expensive. Also a bit of geothermal and some biomass. After all, only $3 trillion of renewables would provide all primary energy for everything the US does today.

Build continent-scale electrical grids and markets

And improve existing ones. HVDC became much more viable with high-speed hybrid circuit breakers in 2011, and is an essential technology for long-distance, low-loss electrical transmission. It can replace some AC transmission and be buried along existing right-of-ways.

Build a fair amount of hydro storage

And some other storage too. While storage of electricity is an overstated concern given overbuilt renewables and continent-scale grids, some is still required. Pumped hydro resource potential is far greater than the need, is efficient, and uses very stable, known technologies. Shifting existing hydro-electric dams to be passive, on-demand storage as opposed to baseload is also key. Fast response grid storage can be provided by existing lithium-ion technologies, as Tesla has proven in California and Australia. By 2050, we’ll have roughly 20 TWh of batteries on wheels in US cars alone, available both for demand management to reduce peak demand, soak up excess generation, and to provide vehicle-to-grid electricity as needed.

Plant a lot of trees

We have cut down about 50% of the six trillion trees that used to grow on earth. Planting a trillion trees would buy us a lot of time as they sucked about a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere per tree over 40 years.

Change agricultural practices

High-tillage agriculture is a process that keeps releasing carbon captured by the soil back into the atmosphere. Switching to low-tillage farming would buy us a lot of time as the CO2 captured by farmland would stay in the soil a lot longer, and some of it would be permanently sequestered.

Fix concrete and steel

8% of global CO2 emissions come from making Portland cement. It’s absolutely critical to urban densification and industry, so we won’t stop making it. But it’s a huge source of CO2, about half from the energy and half from CO2 that bakes off limestone as it is turned into quicklime. Electrifying that energy flow helps a lot, but capturing that CO2 is one of the few places where mechanical carbon capture makes sense. Steel will mostly be fixed by aggressively turning internal combustion cars and other fossil fuel infrastructure into new steel using electric minimills. 70% of North American steel is already made this way.

Price carbon aggressively

The simplest way to get a lot of people and industries to shift away from emitting lots of CO2 is to make it expensive. That’s what carbon taxes do.

Shut down coal and gas generation aggressively

Getting rid of coal is already happening, but it’s by far the biggest single source of CO2 emissions. Aggressive actions to eliminate burning coal are needed. For gas, the question is how few gas plants can we build, how many of them can we run on biologically sourced methane and how fast can we shut them down.

Stop financing and subsidies for fossil fuel

Exploration, extraction, and use, just cut it out. The US alone spends tens of billions of dollars annually on subsidies of various kinds for the fossil fuel industry, and hasn’t done a thing about it since committing to eliminate them in 2009. The G7 and G20 have committed to eliminating subsidies, but progress has been very slow. The World Bank continues to finance coal, oil, and gas projects, despite commitments to end them.

Eliminate HFCs in refrigeration

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer targets the unforeseen side effects of displacing ozone-depleting CFCs with high global warming potential HFCs. Project Drawdown puts this at #1 on its ranked list of solutions by cost vs benefit. The US has not ratified this Amendment, although 65 other countries have.

There are some mildly controversial things left out of this list:

Nuclear power is too slow to build and too expensive

That’s empirical reality, not an advocacy statement. The conditions for rapid build that existed in a couple of places and times in the past don’t exist today. And we need a lot of clean electricity very quickly. Nuclear need not apply. Keep existing nuclear going, don’t stop new nuclear buildout in China, pretty much the only place building new generation capacity, but don’t expect it to be more than a rounding error in a few decades. New nuclear technologies are decades from commercial deployment at any scale, and we have technologies that are reliable, predictable, cheap, and fast to build, so there will be nothing for new nuclear to do once it actually makes it out of R&D.

Mechanical carbon capture and sequestration is a mostly dead end

This is an overhyped fig leaf for the fossil fuel industry. Virtually every CCS site is actually an enhanced oil recovery site which recovers oil that couldn’t be pumped out before, typically enough that 2–3 times more CO2 is generated from the oil than was put underground. Exceptions are natural gas wells with too high a concentration of CO2, leading to 25 times the emissions once the natural gas is burned. Expensive, unscalable, and wasteful. As stated, it might be useful for concrete.

Air-to-fuel technologies are dead ends

Solutions such as Carbon Engineering’s direct-air-capture with hydrogen electrolysis to create synthetic fuels is a broken model. It’s vastly more expensive and higher CO2 emitting than electrification or biological pathway fuel synthesis. Any money spent on this would have vastly better results if spent on renewables instead. It’s not an either-or, but in this case policy makers should ignore this and governments shouldn’t fund it.

The military is a hard problem

The military requires vast amounts of high energy fuel in places with no electrical supply chain, often for months at a time. The US military is considered by many to be the single largest CO2 emitting organization in the world. However, eliminating global fossil fuel strategic military actions — which describes virtually everything done in the Middle East for the last 100 years — will diminish the need for the US military substantially. A great deal of its current emissions, which hopefully will start coming to light once the US signs the Paris Accord either in 2021 or 2025 once Trump is gone, are related to the ongoing Middle Eastern deployments. There’s only so much we can do for biofuels, but to be clear, the world has been in a period of diminishing military conflict since the end of WWII. Globalization may have downsides, but the ties of trade and treaties which bind countries together have been highly effective in allowing diplomacy pathways to work, and making the military option increasingly difficult to consider.

Where approaches or recommendations from people or groups diverge from the above, question what lobbying groups are involved, where revenue will be lost or gained and in general what the motivations of the people or organizations involved are. This is all empirically grounded analysis. It’s not rocket science.

We have the solutions. We just need the will to execute, which is being sapped by the losers in this necessary transformation, predominantly the fossil fuel industry.

This article originally appeared on CleanTechnica.


The Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park – in Ontario – is the largest undeveloped provincial park in Southern Ontario. That is, there are no central park facilities, etc. It’s a lot of wilderness.

Interestingly, the park – before it was parkland – was extensively logged. It was known as the burnt lands for a while – due to the desolation and lack of trees – from both logging and repeated wildfires. Since then, it has regrown and is now dense bush – including forests, swamps, etc – and is likely a large carbon sink. Perhaps more areas need to be declared parks.

U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says

The report says a combination of global starvation, war, disease, drought, and a fragile power grid could have cascading, devastating effects.

by Nafeez Ahmed | Oct 24 2019, 9:00am

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades, the report notes.

The senior US government officials who wrote the report are from several key agencies including the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, and NASA. The study called on the Pentagon to urgently prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we near mid-century.

The report was commissioned by General Mark Milley, Trump’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the highest-ranking military officer in the country (the report also puts him at odds with Trump, who does not take climate change seriously.)

The report, titled Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army, was launched by the U.S. Army War College in partnership with NASA in May at the Wilson Center in Washington DC. The report was commissioned by Gen. Milley during his previous role as the Army’s Chief of Staff. It was made publicly available in August via the Center for Climate and Security, but didn’t get a lot of attention at the time.

The two most prominent scenarios in the report focus on the risk of a collapse of the power grid within “the next 20 years,” and the danger of disease epidemics. Both could be triggered by climate change in the near-term, it notes.

“Increased energy requirements” triggered by new weather patterns like extended periods of heat, drought, and cold could eventually overwhelm “an already fragile system.”

The report also warns that the US military should prepare for new foreign interventions in Syria-style conflicts, triggered due to climate-related impacts. Bangladesh in particular is highlighted as the most vulnerable country to climate collapse in the world.

“The permanent displacement of a large portion of the population of Bangladesh would be a regional catastrophe with the potential to increase global instability,” the report warns. “This is a potential result of climate change complications in just one country. Globally, over 600 million people live at sea level.”

Sea level rise, which could go higher than 2 meters by 2100 according to one recent study, “will displace tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people, creating massive, enduring instability,” the report adds.

The US should therefore be ready to act not only in Bangladesh, but in many other regions, like the rapidly melting Arctic—where the report recommends the US military should take advantage of its hydrocarbon resources and new transit routes to repel Russian encroachment.

But without urgent reforms, the report warns that the US military itself could end up effectively collapsing as it tries to respond to climate collapse. It could lose capacity to contain threats in the US and could wilt into “mission failure” abroad due to inadequate water supplies.

Total collapse of the power grid

The report paints a frightening portrait of a country falling apart over the next 20 years due to the impacts of climate change on “natural systems such as oceans, lakes, rivers, ground water, reefs, and forests.”

Current infrastructure in the US, the report says, is woefully underprepared: “Most of the critical infrastructures identified by the Department of Homeland Security are not built to withstand these altered conditions.”

Some 80 percent of US agricultural exports and 78 percent of imports are water-borne. This means that episodes of flooding due to climate change could leave lasting damage to shipping infrastructure, posing “a major threat to US lives and communities, the US economy and global food security,” the report notes.

At particular risk is the US national power grid, which could shut down due to “the stressors of a changing climate,” especially changing rainfall levels:

“The power grid that serves the United States is aging and continues to operate without a coordinated and significant infrastructure investment. Vulnerabilities exist to electricity-generating power plants, electric transmission infrastructure and distribution system components,” it states.

As a result, the “increased energy requirements” triggered by new weather patterns like extended periods of heat, drought, and cold could eventually overwhelm “an already fragile system.”

The report’s grim prediction has already started playing out, with utility PG&E cutting power to more than a million people across California to avoid power lines sparking another catastrophic wildfire. While climate change is intensifying the dry season and increasing fire risks, PG&E has come under fire for failing to fix the state’s ailing power grid.

The US Army report shows that California’s power outage could be a taste of things to come, laying out a truly dystopian scenario of what would happen if the national power grid was brought down by climate change. One particularly harrowing paragraph lists off the consequences bluntly:

“If the power grid infrastructure were to collapse, the United States would experience significant:

• Loss of perishable foods and medications
• Loss of water and wastewater distribution systems
• Loss of heating/air conditioning and electrical lighting systems
• Loss of computer, telephone, and communications systems (including airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services)
• Loss of public transportation systems
• Loss of fuel distribution systems and fuel pipelines
• Loss of all electrical systems that do not have back-up power”

Although the report does not dwell on the implications, it acknowledges that a national power grid failure would lead to a perfect storm requiring emergency military responses that might eventually weaken the ability of the US Army to continue functioning at all: “Relief efforts aggravated by seasonal climatological effects would potentially accelerate the criticality of the developing situation. The cascading effects of power loss… would rapidly challenge the military’s ability to continue operations.”

Also at “high risk of temporary or permanent closure due to climate threats” are US nuclear power facilities.

There are currently 99 nuclear reactors operating in the US, supplying nearly 20 percent of the country’s utility-scale energy. But the majority of these, some 60 percent, are located in vulnerable regions which face “major risks” including sea level rise, severe storms, and water shortages.


The report’s authors believe that domestic military operations will be necessary to contain future disease outbreaks. There is no clear timeline for this, except the notion of being prepared for imminent surprises: “Climate change is introducing an increased risk of infectious disease to the US population. It is increasingly not a matter of ‘if’ but of when there will be a large outbreak.”

Areas in the south of the US will see an increase in precipitation of between .5 and .8 mm a day, along with an increase in average annual temperatures of 1 to 3 degrees Celsius (C) by 2050.
Along with warmer winters, these new conditions will drive the proliferation of mosquitos and ticks. This in turn will spur the spread of diseases “which may be previously unseen in the US”, and accelerate the reach of diseases currently found in very small numbers such as Zika, West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and many others:

“The US Army will be called upon to assist in much the same way it was called upon in other disasters. Detailed coordination with local, state and federal agencies in the most high risk regions will hasten response time and minimize risk to mission.”

A new era of endless war

The new report is especially significant given the Trump administration’s climate science denial. Commissioned by General Mark Milley, now the highest ranking military officer in the United States, the report not only concludes that climate change is real, but that it is on track to create an unprecedented catastrophe that could lead to the total collapse of US society without serious investments in new technology and infrastructure. However, while focusing on projected climate impacts, the report does not discuss the causes of climate change in human fossil fuel emissions.

The report was written by an interdisciplinary team active across several US government agencies, including the White House’s Office of American Innovation, the Secretary of Defense’s Protecting Critical Technology Task Force, NASA’s Harvest Consortium, the US Air Force Headquarters’ Directorate of Weather, the US Army’s National Guard, and the US State Department. The US Army War College did not respond to a request for comment.

Their report not only describes the need for massive permanent military infrastructure on US soil to stave off climate collapse, but portends new foreign interventions due to climate change.

The authors argue that the Syrian civil war could be a taste of future international conflicts triggered by climate-induced unrest. There is “no question that the conflict erupted coincident with a major drought in the region which forced rural people into Syrian cities as large numbers of Iraqi refugees arrived,” they say.

The resulting conflict “reignited civil war in Iraq,” and heightened military tensions between the US and Russia.

“The Syrian population has declined by about 10 percent since the start of the war, with millions of refugees fleeing the nation, increasing instability in Europe, and stoking violent extremism,” the report concludes.

The most urgent case for a potential US intervention, however, is the South Asian country of Bangladesh.

With half its 160 million-strong population currently living at sea level, some 80 million Bangladeshis are set to be displaced as huge areas of the country become “uninhabitable” due to climate impacts: “How will this large scale displacement affect global security in a region with nearly 40 percent of the world’s population and several antagonistic nuclear powers?”
With a population eight times that of Syria’s, the report explains, “permanent displacement of a large portion of the population of Bangladesh would be a regional catastrophe with the potential to increase global instability.”

The authors recommend the US Army work with the State Department and USAID to “strengthen the resilience of [Bangladeshi] government agencies and provide training for the Bangladeshi military.”

Water scarcity will destabilize nations—and the U.S. Army

While sea level rise offers one specific type of risk, another comes from water scarcity due to climate change, population increase, and poor water management. The report describes water scarcity as a near-term risk driving civil unrest and political instability.

By 2040, global demand for fresh water will exceed availability, and by 2030 one-third of the world population will inhabit the “water-stressed regions” of North Africa, Southern Africa, the Middle East, China, and the United States, the report notes.

The decline in water availability over the next two decades will lead to an increase in “social disruption” in poor, vulnerable regions.

Water scarcity is also a driver of possible global food system failure, which could trigger new “outbreaks of civil conflict and social unrest.”

The report depicts a global food system increasingly disrupted by “rapid freeze-thaw cycles in spring and fall, soil degradation, depletion of fossil water aquifers, intensified spread of agricultural pests and diseases, and damage to shipping infrastructure as a consequence of flooding.”

Such food system instability will result in “significant increases in mortality in vulnerable locations, which are those where DoD-supported humanitarian intervention is most likely.”
But foreign military interventions, particularly in water scarce regions of the Middle East and North Africa, might not be viable unless the US Army invents or acquires radical new technologies to distribute adequate levels of water to soldiers.

The problem is so bad and so expensive, the report says, that the Army “is precipitously close to mission failure concerning hydration of the force in a contested arid environment.”

Water is currently 30-40 percent of the costs required to sustain a US military force operating abroad, according to the new Army report. A huge infrastructure is needed to transport bottled water for Army units. So the report recommends major new investments in technology to collect water from the atmosphere locally, without which US military operations abroad could become impossible. The biggest obstacle is that this is currently way outside the Pentagon’s current funding priorities.

Rampaging for Arctic oil

And yet the report’s biggest blind-spot is its agnosticism on the necessity for a rapid whole society transition away from fossil fuels.

Bizarrely for a report styling itself around the promotion of environmental stewardship in the Army, the report identifies the Arctic as a critical strategic location for future US military involvement: to maximize fossil fuel consumption.

Noting that the Arctic is believed to hold about a quarter of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves, the authors estimate that some 20 percent of these reserves could be within US territory, noting a “greater potential for conflict” over these resources, particularly with Russia.

The melting of Arctic sea ice is depicted as a foregone conclusion over the next few decades, implying that major new economic opportunities will open up to exploit the region’s oil and gas resources as well as to establish new shipping routes: “The US military must immediately begin expanding its capability to operate in the Artic to defend economic interests and to partner with allies across the region.”

Senior US defense officials in Washington clearly anticipate a prolonged role for the US military, both abroad and in the homeland, as climate change wreaks havoc on critical food, water and power systems. Apart from causing fundamental damage to our already strained democratic systems, the bigger problem is that the US military is by far a foremost driver of climate change by being the world’s single biggest institutional consumer of fossil fuels.

The prospect of an ever-expanding permanent role for the Army on US soil to address growing climate change impacts is a surprisingly extreme scenario which goes against the grain of the traditional separation of the US military from domestic affairs.

In putting this forward, the report inadvertently illustrates what happens when climate is seen through a narrow ‘national security’ lens. Instead of encouraging governments to address root causes through “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” (in the words of the UN’s IPCC report this time last year), the Army report demands more money and power for military agencies while allowing the causes of climate crisis to accelerate. It’s perhaps no surprise that such dire scenarios are predicted, when the solutions that might avert those scenarios aren’t seriously explored.

Rather than waiting for the US military to step in after climate collapse—at which point the military itself could be at risk of collapsing—we would be better off dealing with the root cause of the issue skirted over by this report: America’s chronic dependence on the oil and gas driving the destabilization of the planet’s ecosystems.

I have heard algae and ocean environments act as both large carbon sinks and produce significant quantities of oxygen. I had not heard of this specific Eos bioreactor device – though it is an interesting article. One of my questions- not addressed by the article – is what waste products are produced by these devices?

Thanks for sharing.

Sea in Siberia is “boiling” with Methane bubbles


In an interview by the online National Observer with renowned linguist and cognitive scientist (etcetera) Noam Chomsky, posted February 12 (2019), the latter emphasizes humankind’s desperate need to revert to renewable energies, notably that offered by our sun:

“A very good economist, Dean Baker, had a column a couple of weeks ago in which he discussed what China is doing. They are still a big huge polluter, but they are carrying out massive programs of switching to renewable energies way beyond anything else in the world. [American] States are doing it. Or not.” … In Tucson, Arizona, for example, “the sun is shining … most of the year, [but] take a look and see how many solar panels you see. Our house in the suburbs is the only one that has them [in the vicinity]. People are complaining that they have a thousand-dollar electric bill per month over the summer for air conditioning but won’t put up a solar panel; and in fact the Tucson electric company makes it hard to do. For example, our solar panel has some of the panels missing because you’re not allowed to produce too much electricity …

People have to come to understand that they’ve just got to [reform their habitual non-renewable energy consumption], and fast; and it doesn’t harm them, it improves their lives. For example, it even saves money. But just the psychological barrier that says I … have to keep to the common beliefs [favouring fossil fuels] and that [doing otherwise] is somehow a radical thing that we have to be scared of, is a block that has to be overcome by constant educational organizational activity.”

He concluded, “The way every other popular movement developed — the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, the feminist movement — just constant, often very small groups, growing into bigger groups for activism. Occasionally they have a dramatic action like a demonstration, but mainly to stimulate ongoing activity.

And it can’t be delayed.”

Source: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/02/12/features/noam-chomsky-couple-generations-organized-human-society-may-not-survive-has-be

I have heard of an interesting initiative in India regarding the creation and use of plastic-based roads. A technology exists that allows old plastics – such as plastic bags – to be shredded and used alongside glue and tarmac to create durable roads. 1 kilometer of this style of “plastic road” uses the equivalent of 1 million plastic bags – and so far India has installed roughly ~33 000 kilometers of this road style. Using this plastic mixture additionally saves about 1 ton of asphalt for every 1 kilometer of road. It is additionally about 8% cheaper than a conventional road – per statistics by the World Economic Form. It has been indicated that this form of road is stronger than conventional roads and more resistant to potholes. However, my questions are – what are the byproducts of this road? Is it recyclable when needing repairs or replacement? Is there run off in the form of small plastic particles / microplastics? Is it permeable / what are the long-term implications for the health of soil in adjacent environments?

Here is a video the World Economic Forum posted on their Instagram social media: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2tSrjYHcCn/?igshid=1m998ig1b50s1

We can save the world with no cost…


Climate change is not smoke or mirrors..it is real and its coming to get us. Observe good scientiffic information coming from the brains of NASA.

CLARREO : a satellite that can help make our space based scientiffic instruments much more accurate and powerful.

And I thought he was just an action hero…


I read online that the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations began on 23 September 2019. I am curious if anyone is calculating or tracking the various ecological impacts (emissions, etc.) from this conference. Photos on social media indicated a large number of delegates from all over the world – as well as thousands of protesters. How many emissions are from the delegates flying or travelling in to New York for this conference? Surely some live near the city – but others are travelling thousands of kilometers to reach the conference. On the same note – does the protest – of which Ms. Thunberg is the figurehead – have a net negative or net positive impact on climate change re: total emissions, etc.?

Furthermore, does the United Nations track the emissions / climate change impact from their delegates? I have seen on social media and news agencies that the Secretary General (Antonio Guterres) travels all over the place – in short periods of time – such as flying to Mozambique then Tuvalu then Philippines, etc. What is the climate impact of all this air travel over the course of the year?

Does the UN track country and region of origin for delegates, etc? This could be a start re: calculating this. It may be more difficult to calculate for the protesters – but not impossible – as many folks on social media share their experiences, etc. Is there an increased opportunity for teleconferences, etc. to mitigate climate impacts – with the advent of more integrated technology? It may not replace a face-to-face meeting and is vulnerable to hacking – but is surely not out of the picture for certain contexts.

I wonder if climate change doesn’t also have to do with the shifting of the magnetic poles…

Climate changes ID’d

Several nations have explored options of artificial islands to mitigate climate change and other political situations. One of the most famous at present is China’s activity in the South China Sea around the Paracel Island.

Interesting, the Maldives constructed an artificial island via dredging a shallow area of sea several years ago. This allegedly is to mitigate congestion on the main capital island of Male.

“A Flood-Resistant Island:

You catch a ferry from a part of Male where motorcycles clog the narrow streets and fishermen gut their morning catch on the sidewalk. A few minutes later, you arrive in a brand new world, the island of Hulhumale. It’s an artificial island built by engineers, not volcanoes.

When the ferry arrives, you step up onto this island. The streets are straight and wide. There’s a new hospital, new schools, new government buildings, new apartments — all several feet higher than the rest of the Maldives.

The flood-resistant island was created by a huge dredge that sucked up sand from the ocean floor and disgorged it into a shallow lagoon. Eventually, Hulhumale rose from the waters.

That was more than five years ago. Now, several thousand people live here. Gayoom’s goal is to attract at least 50,000.

But unlike their president, residents don’t talk much about climate change.

They say they like Hulhumale because it’s clean. It has wide sand beaches instead of a concrete seawall. Apartments are less expensive than on Male.”

“”The higher elevation of the land is to address the sea-level rise,” he says. “But the primary factor is to create a city to ease the congestion in Male.”

Link: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18425626

What are the environmental impacts on adjacent ecosystems from this process? Are marine habitats being disrupted from large scale dredging activities? Is there an environmentally friendly way to construct artificial islands?

Several urban areas have begun seawall construction to try and mitigate regional flooding and/or evacuation. Are there similar ecosystem options to mangroves for areas where mangroves are not native and/or the climate is not welcoming to them? Malé in the Maldives has begun an artificial seawall construction around the city – funded partly by Japan. New York has additionally begun investigating (if not constructing) systems to mitigate flooding on Lower Manhattan. Is there opportunity for a mix of artificial and natural seawalls and seawall alternatives? Other nations – such as Fiji (and potentially Kiribati and Tuvalu)- have begun looking for land in other countries to purchase to move their population(s) as climate refugees. Is there a clear legal situation for climate refugees? I am not sure if there is a precedent in history before – though there are certainly examples of forced relocation.

Whether it’s the mass deforestation and incineration of the Amazonian rainforest (which produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen), a B.C. midsummer’s snowfall, a vicious heatwave, a near-extinct whale species gradually dying off, unprecedentedly large-scale flooding or geologically invasive/destructive fracking or mass deforestation or increasingly dry forests resulting in record-breaking deadly wildfires in California and B.C. or a myriad of other categories of large-scale toxic pollutant emissions and dumps, there’s discouragingly insufficient political gonad planet-wide to sufficiently address it.

Astonishingly, what apparently still politically matters most, or too close to it, is the seemingly euphoria-inducing creation of jobs, however temporary, and stimulating/strengthening the economy (whatever that exactly means).

Perhaps due to (everyone’s sole spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment. It’s as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants emitted out of exhaust and drainage pipes, or spewed from very tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind); like we’re safely inconsequentially dispensing of that waste into a compressed-into-nothing black-hole singularity.

Although I have never (nor likely ever will) own and/or operate any form of motor vehicle, there are many green-minded people who rely upon their (probably very efficient) fossil-fuel powered cars since they haven’t had a monetarily feasible opportunity to acquire an electric vehicle.

Also, I believe it’s no coincidence that the first thing upon his “Progressive” Conservative Party’s election into office after a campaign won in part with a large political donation from the fossil fuel industry Premier Doug Ford canceled government rebate incentives for electric car buyers in Ontario. As for our allegedly environmentally concerned Canadian (neo-)Liberal government, besides pushing for the TRIPLING(!) of dilbit-oil tanker flow, it recently gave the old and increasingly outdated dirty-energy Big Fossil Fuel sector 12X(!) as much subsidization as they allocated towards clean renewable energy technology innovations.

Especially with the vocal paid fossil fuel shills, apologists and activists (so many of whom are themselves barely making ends meet), I see our collective selves—including the mainstream news-media and most of institutionalized organized religion—essentially acting as the industry’s Useful Idiots.

I gained a huge amount of surprising knowledge from this extraordinary article. It explains how the whole carbon cycle works in nature and why we’re not going to run out of oxygen — though humankind is doing something terrible.

The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs
Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply.
By Petet Brannen. The Atlantic Aug 27, 2019

Why are climate deniers so hostile to women?

Here’s an article from The New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/article/154879/misogyny-climate-deniers

The Green Old Deal
By William Hawes

There are a lot of things to like about the recent resolution for the Green New Deal. The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the acknowledgment of the catastrophic events that will occur if the world does not act soon- these are all healthy signs. Like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which removed many stigmas about socialism, raising public consciousness about the structural changes needed to lessen the impacts of global warming are to be commended.

However, there are very serious problems with the language of the resolution, as well as the underlying assumptions, biases, and ideology which pervades the text.

Starting with an obvious problem, the “Green New Deal” is based on the political and economic mobilization of FDR’s New Deal. It was the New Deal, essentially, which saved capitalism from collapse in the US in the 1930s. If the Green New Deal is saying anything, it is offering cover to the ruling class- here is your propaganda model out of this mess you’ve created; here is another chance to save capitalism from itself. It’s a false promise of course, as no purely technological scheme based in a capitalist economy will be able to fix what’s coming, but it’s a very convenient narrative for capitalist elites to cling to.

Roosevelt’s New Deal placated workers and bought time for the bourgeoisie to rally, but it was the combined forces of post-WWII macroeconomic Keynesian economic stability, high taxes on the wealthy, the Bretton Woods agreement, the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan which helped grow the middle classes in the mid-20th century.

Indeed, the Green New Deal (GND) mimics the mainline liberal/reformist agenda when it pledges to try: “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation…”

That’s about as boilerplate as one can get. You’d expect to hear this blather from anywhere on the mainstream spectrum, out of the mouth of a Chamber of Commerce hack or a College Republican newsletter.

Another issue of basic civil decency is that the GND is blatantly cribbing from the Green Party’s own ideas, and then watering them down, without any reference to their origins. The limitations of the GPUS do not need to be run through here, but the point remains: stealing policies from others who have been campaigning on this platform for decades, without offering even a token of acknowledgement, is not a good look.

I mean, this is all so obvious, and frankly, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to live in a country with such little common sense.

There’s more. The resolution calls for “net-zero global emissions by 2050”. This sounds great, except it leaves the foot in the door for a carbon trading scheme, where polluters will pay to offset their emissions with money, “investments in technology”, false promises to plant tree farms which they can renege on in court battles, etc.

Further, the GND states that it supports:
“to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth”

It calls for:
“[The] Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses…”

First, who in Congress is talking about implementing the kind of direct democratic practices alluded to here, or drawing on the expertise of community leaders, local governments, etc? Nobody. Who in Congress is calling for actually concrete material reparations, reconciliation, and public methods to heal the intergenerational traumas, inequities, and systemic racism and classism which continue to punish vulnerable communities? No one. Who in Congress is calling for an end to our intervention in Venezuela and supporting the Maduro government from the obvious covert and military-corporate machinations currently underway? Not a soul.

I understand that this resolution is a first sketch, a very early draft which may go through many changes. I am not interested in demeaning people who are serious about fighting climate change; or scoring points by being “more radical” than others; or by igniting controversy around a critical “hot take” of the GND.

What I am curious about is how those in Congress foresee the types of jobs being created. Are we going to have millions of people planting trees (the best way to slow down climate change) or millions toiling in wind and solar factories? The most effective way to slow global warming would be to support the Trillion Tree Campaign.

Another ridiculous oversight is the lack of acknowledgement in the resolution of quite possibly the 2nd most pressing issue regarding humankinds’ survival, the threat of nuclear war and militarism. Obviously only international cooperation can determine the nuclear states relinquishing their arsenals, as well as shut down all reactors worldwide. Further, the huge budget of the military and the interests of the defense companies in promoting endless wars are not called out.

The only way a GND can work is through international collaboration. Asking other countries with far fewer resources, infrastructure, and technology at their disposal to “follow our lead” as we undergo a purely domestic New Deal within our 50 states and territories is cruel, shortsighted, and disingenuous. It would be the 21st century analogy to socialism in one country, expecting other nations to simply deal with the wreckage of climate disasters after we’ve fucked over the entire world.

What I’m attempting to sketch out is that to even put a dent in global warming in the 21st century and beyond, the feeble approaches by bourgeois democrats must be denounced for what they are. A GND for the USA as the “leader” is not in the cards; the analogy I’d use is more like a fully international Green Manhattan Project.

This would mean councils of expert indigenous peoples, climate scientists, ecologists, and socio-psychological experts in conflict resolution and ecological and cultural mediation worldwide would begin directing and implementing structural transformations of society, by addressing the separation from nature, historical amnesia, and emotional numbness endemic to Western society.

Natural building methods would have to take prominence over Green-washed corporate-approved LEED standards, massive conservation, ecological and restoration projects would have to get underway, along with the relocation of millions globally who live in unsustainably arid or resource hungry areas, and programs for regenerative organic agriculture would need to begin being taught to our youth right now. Is anything like this happening or being talked about in the mainstream?

These supporters in Congress as well as most progressives are assuming we still have twelve years to act, which the latest IPCC report warned was the maximum amount of time left. Perhaps people should be reminded that 12 years is just an estimate. We might have two years. We may be already over the tipping point.

Really, this is all just bullshit for Democrats to get each other reelected by LARPing as progressives and social democrats, and anyone with half a brain can see that. There can be no mass green transportation system unless urban cores get significantly denser, because as of now, perhaps half the country is still based on a post-WWII design to accommodate the whimsies of suburban property developers who only cared for profit and segregated communities, city planners with no conception of the consequences of rising energy demand, and homeowners in the fifties who likewise did not understand the devastation that sprawl, large energy-hogging single family homes, inefficient energy transmission, and long commutes would contribute to global warming.
How many mountains would need to be mined and blasted, how many wild plants and animals killed and desecrated, and rivers and waterways polluted would it take to get every soccer mom and Joe six-pack a new electric vehicle?

It is possible that only a mass relocation to urban cores with public infrastructure and fair compensation for citizens to move would allow for a green transportation and energy network to work properly. If not explained properly, these positive ideas for change would only feed into conservative far-right paranoia.

There are two people in Congress out of 535 that identify as anti-capitalist. The evidence even for these two is lacking, and we don’t have time to wait electing the other 270 or so. The military, financial institutions, defense companies, fossil fuel multinationals, intelligence sectors, and mainstream media are in total lockstep on the march towards societal and economic collapse and continued ecological degradation. Can anyone see the Pentagon, Halliburton, Shell and BP, and any Democrat or Republican giving away the equivalent of trillions of dollars in renewable technology, resources, IT networks, medicine, etc., to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia? I didn’t think so.

If even self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t have the guts to speak out against imperial mechanized drone warfare and the CIA literally fomenting a coup in Venezuela, and the majority of citizens having no problem with this, it just goes to show the lack of empathy and education in this country. Both of them are childish and uneducated; and should be treated as such, even if we should show conditional support for this preliminary GND, if only because it could theoretically morph into something promising.

In short, this first draft GND is “old” for a couple reasons: first, the economic model and the signaling in the language come directly from the liberal-bourgeois-reformism of the FDR administration. Second, it is old in the sense of being behind the times environmentally; it doesn’t keep up with what science proves is necessary for humanity to thrive: the GND does not call for economic degrowth, a reduction in energy demand, a sharp reduction in obtaining protein from meat, and a thoroughly anti-capitalist method to regenerate civic life and the public commons.

The flip side is that to thrive in a truly green future, we will have to re-examine truly ancient “old” Green methods to balance the “new” methods of technological innovation: the ancient ways of working with nature that indigenous traditions have honed, which has provided humanity with abundance for tens of thousands of years.

Natural building, creating and promoting existing holistic, alternative medicine, localizing energy and agricultural production, and growing food forests must be at the top of any agenda for humankind in the 21st century. This might seem impossible to our Congress because these methods do not cater to “marketplace solutions”, do not rely on factories and financialization, do not use patents to create monopolies, i.e., because these priorities do not put more power in the hands of capitalists.

Here are a few final thoughts. The first is the whole premise of the GND is based on a very reductionist, analytical, and Anglo style of thinking. Basically, this resolution is insinuating that we can change everything about the economy and forestall climate change without taking apart the financial sectors, the war machine, etc.

The second thought follows form the first, which is that the Continental thinkers offer a more grounded, immanent approach which examines how capital itself has warped human nature.

Specifically, many important researchers demonstrated how the culture industry has manufactured ignorance, false needs, and ennui on a mass basis.

For instance, in a US context, to put it in very crude stereotypes, how are we going to convince one half of the country to stop eating red meat, give up their pickup trucks, put their guns in a neighborhood public depot, and stop electing outright racists and sexists. On the other hand, how can we convince the other half to give up their Starbucks on every corner, give up their plane travel to exotic locations, not buy that 2nd posh home to rent out on Airbnb which leads to gentrification, etc.

Basically, most middle class people in the US don’t want to fundamentally change as of yet, and this resolution won’t have the force to confront the utterly fake, conformist, and escapist lifestyles most US citizens continue to choose at least partially of their own volition.

Simple, clear language is important to energize citizens and can lead to catalyzing change. The concept of the Green New Deal could very well be that theme which unites us. One hundred and two years ago, it was those three special words “Peace, land, bread” which helped unite a nation and sparked a revolution.

Here’s one last thing to chew on. In the 21st century, the nation-state has proven that its time is over, as it provides a vehicle which centralizes corporate and military power that now threatens the existence of life on this planet. The Green New Deal calls for:

“obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples…”

Although it is clear the writers meant this in a very general and vague kind of way, as obviously not a single agreement has been “honored” going back 500 years by invading settler-colonialists, enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples would mean the abolition of the USA. That’s a Green New Deal I can work with.

WRITTEN BY William Hawes. Author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. Visit my website williamhawes.wordpress.com

Remember the California wildfires…now we have the amazon wildfires…why are these fires happening all of a sudden. CNN is reporting on the situation and its looking pretty grim for global warming. We need trees because they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, not to mention protect wildlife and provide the ecosystem they need to survive. Hopefully someone will develop a strategy for dealing with these catastrophic events so that action can be taken when something like this occurs. With all the incredibly technology we have we could at least help save some of our important worldly resources. How is fire fighting drone technology coming along? Can it be used under the circumstances? How can it be organized and deployed? I hope the world’s leaders are considering such an option.

how Climate Change Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis
By Robinson Meyer | The Atlantic | 1 August 2019

“In other words, the success of the delaying tactics of the carbon lobby create a situation in which we’re then faced with the possibility of a sudden regulatory shock, something that really inflicts major losses.”

Many ideas discussed in this outstanding interview with the financial historian Adam Tooze.

“Tooze: I mean, that’s been the green-modernization agenda of climate politics, certainly in Europe, since the 1980s, right? This is not simply a zero-sum game; this is a structural transformation that has many very attractive properties. There’s loads of excellent jobs that could be created in this kind of transition.”


“Climate Reality” is the organization that Al Gore founded. They recently held a big conference in Minneapolis. It’s good to know that there is a branch operation in Montreal that is apparently run mostly by francophone youth. You can see the Canadian group on Facebook as “Climate Reality Canada / Réalité climatique Canada.”

‘This Is Not Normal’: Record-Smashing European Heat Wave Sparks Demands to Combat Climate Emergency
“The climate is changing. Use your voice, wallet, and votes to fight it.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer, Common Dreams


Are there still extensive wild fires throughout Europe? I heard they were particularly bad in Portugal among other regions.

Here’s new research showing that there’s enough room to plant another trillion trees, and that it is the best and cheapest way to help solve the climate crisis. I say “HELP solve,” because it will take too long for the trees to grow to expect them to do the job alone. But we have to start now.

Of course, there’s this alternative.