Monday, May 20, 2013

Arctic Council Adds 6 Nations as Observer States, Including China

KIRUNA, Sweden — The Arctic Council agreed on Wednesday to expand to include six new nations, including China, as observer states, as a changing climate opens the Arctic to increasing economic and political competition. 

The inclusion of observer states to the council came after a spirited debate at its biennial meeting and reflected the growing prominence of the issues facing the region. The council is made up of the eight Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. 

With the Arctic ice melting, the region’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals have become newly accessible, as have shortened shipping routes and open water for commercial fishing, setting off a global competition for influence and economic opportunities far beyond the nations that border the Arctic. 

From the NY Times :

Carbon-dioxide concentrations hit their highest level in 4m years

The measure of global warming

AT NOON on May 4th the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere around the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii hit 400 parts per million (ppm). The average for the day was 399.73 and researchers at the observatory expect this figure, too, to exceed 400 in the next few days. The last time such values prevailed on Earth was in the Pliocene epoch, 4m years ago, when jungles covered northern Canada.

There have already been a few readings above 400ppm elsewhere—those taken over the Arctic Ocean in May 2012, for example—but they were exceptional. Mauna Loa is the benchmark for CO2 measurement (and has been since 1958, see chart) because Hawaii is so far from large concentrations of humanity. The Arctic, by contrast, gets a lot of polluted air from Europe and North America.
The concentration of CO2 peaks in May, falls until October as plant growth in the northern hemisphere’s summer absorbs the gas, and then goes up again during winter and spring. This year the average reading for the whole month will probably also reach 400ppm, according to Pieter Tans, who is in charge of monitoring at Mauna Loa, and the seasonally adjusted annual figure will reach 400ppm in the spring of 2014 or 2015.

Mauna Loa’s readings are one of the world’s longest-running measurement series. The first, made in March 1958, was 315ppm. That means they have risen by a quarter in 55 years. In the early 1960s they were going up by 0.7ppm a year. The rate of increase is now 2.1ppm—three times as fast—reflecting the relentless rise in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

EPA methane report further divides fracking camps

Pittsburgh — The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is "kind of an earthquake" in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. "This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks."

We need more green billionaires like Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer: The Wrath of a Green Billionaire

Billionaires get frustrated by Washington ineptitude just like everybody else. The difference is that they can afford to do something about it. Tom Steyer, who founded the San Francisco-based hedge fund Farallon Capital Management and retired last year with an estimated $1.4 billion fortune, is one such fed-up billionaire. Steyer’s particular grievance is the lack of government action to combat global warming. “If you look at the 2012 campaign, climate change was like incest—something you couldn’t talk about in polite company,” he says. “With the current Congress, the chance of any significant energy or climate legislation that would move the ball forward is somewhere around nil—possibly lower.”

So Steyer, 55, a major Democratic contributor, quit Farallon to devote his time and much of his money to changing this reality. In doing so, he’s joined an emerging class of billionaires—including this magazine’s owner, Michael Bloomberg and Facebook (FB) co-founder Mark Zuckerberg—who have forsaken the traditional approach of working through the political parties and instead jumped directly into the fray, putting their reputations and fortunes behind a cause.