Day: November 3, 2021

EPA launches P2 Resources Search tool

EPA has launched a new search tool to connect visitors to P2 resources such as case studies, webinars, articles about P2 solutions, practices, and technologies. The tool allows searches by keyword, sector, and process type.

EPA ability to regulate power sector GHG emissions at risk as Supreme Court takes case, analysts say

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The Supreme Court’s decision to review a lower court’s ruling striking down Trump administration regulations governing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants could limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s options for regulating the power sector, according to legal observers.

The high court on Friday agreed to review a January decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to vacate the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which the Trump administration used to replace the more stringent Clean Power Plan adopted during the Obama administration.

With a decision expected early next summer, the Supreme Court could prevent the EPA from regulating GHG emissions across broad generating fleets as the Obama rule tried to do and instead require it be done on a power plant-by-power plant basis, legal experts said.

Proposed U.S. carbon capture credit hike cheers industry, worries greens

Read the full story from Reuters.

A proposed tax credit hike for U.S. carbon capture and sequestration projects being mulled by Congress could trigger a big jump in use of the climate-fighting technology to clean up industry, but environmentalists worry the scheme will backfire by prolonging the life of dirty coal-fired power plants.

Humanity is compressing millions of years of natural change into just a few centuries

The near future may be similar to the mid-Pliocene warm period a few million years ago. Daniel Eskridge / shutterstock

by Dan Lunt, University of Bristol and Darrell Kaufman, Northern Arizona University

Many numbers are swirling around the climate negotiations at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, COP26. These include global warming targets of 1.5℃ and 2.0℃, recent warming of 1.1℃, remaining CO₂ budget of 400 billion tonnes, or current atmospheric CO₂ of 415 parts per million.

It’s often hard to grasp the significance of these numbers. But the study of ancient climates can give us an appreciation of their scale compared to what has occurred naturally in the past. Our knowledge of ancient climate change also allows scientists to calibrate their models and therefore improve predictions of what the future may hold.

Recent climate changes in context. IPCC AR6, chapter 2

Recent work, summarised in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has allowed scientists to refine their understanding and measurement of past climate changes. These changes are recorded in rocky outcrops, sediments from the ocean floor and lakes, in polar ice sheets, and in other shorter-term archives such as tree rings and corals. As scientists discover more of these archives and get better at using them, we have become increasingly able to compare recent and future climate change with what has happened in the past, and to provide important context to the numbers involved in climate negotiations.

For instance one headline finding in the IPCC report was that global temperature (currently 1.1℃ above a pre-industrial baseline) is higher than at any time in at least the past 120,000 or so years. That’s because the last warm period between ice ages peaked about 125,000 years ago – in contrast to today, warmth at that time was driven not by CO₂, but by changes in Earth’s orbit and spin axis. Another finding regards the rate of current warming, which is faster than at any time in the past 2,000 years – and probably much longer.

But it is not only past temperature that can be reconstructed from the geological record. For instance, tiny gas bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice can record atmospheric CO₂ concentrations back to 800,000 years ago. Beyond that, scientists can turn to microscopic fossils preserved in seabed sediments. These properties (such as the types of elements that make up the fossil shells) are related to how much CO₂ was in the ocean when the fossilised organisms were alive, which itself is related to how much was in the atmosphere. As we get better at using these “proxies” for atmospheric CO₂, recent work has shown that the current atmospheric CO₂ concentration of around 415 parts per million (compared to 280 ppm prior to industrialisation in the early 1800s), is greater than at any time in at least the past 2 million years.

chart showing climate changes over history
An IPCC graphic showing climate changes at various points since 56 million years ago. Note most rows show changes over thousands or millions of years, while the top row (recent changes) is just a few decades. IPCC AR6, chapter 2 (modified by Darrell Kaufman)

Other climate variables can also be compared to past changes. These include the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide (now greater than at any time in at least 800,000 years), late summer Arctic sea ice area (smaller than at any time in at least the past 1,000 years), glacier retreat (unprecedented in at least 2,000 years) sea level (rising faster than at any point in at least 3,000 years), and ocean acidity (unusually acidic compared to the past 2 million years).

In addition, changes predicted by climate models can be compared to the past. For instance an “intermediate” amount of emissions will likely lead to global warming of between 2.3°C and 4.6°C by the year 2300, which is similar to the mid-Pliocene warm period of about 3.2 million years ago. Extremely high emissions would lead to warming of somewhere between 6.6°C and 14.1°C, which just overlaps with the warmest period since the demise of the dinosaurs – the “Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum” kicked off by massive volcanic eruptions about 55 million years ago. As such, humanity is currently on the path to compressing millions of years of temperature change into just a couple of centuries.

Small animals in a forest
Many mammals, like these horse-ancestors ‘Eohippus’, first appeared after a sudden warm period 55 million years ago. Daniel Eskridge / shutterstock

Distant past can held predict the near future

For the first time in an IPCC report, the latest report uses ancient time periods to refine projections of climate change. In previous IPCC reports, future projections have been produced simply by averaging results from all climate models, and using their spread as a measure of uncertainty. But for this new report, temperature and rainfall and sea level projections relied more heavily on those models that did the best job of simulating known climate changes.

Part of this process was based on each individual model’s “climate sensitivity” – the amount it warms when atmospheric CO₂ is doubled. The “correct” value (and uncertainty range) of sensitivity is known from a number of different lines of evidence, one of which comes from certain times in the ancient past when global temperature changes were driven by natural changes in CO₂, caused for example by volcanic eruptions or change in the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere as rocks are eroded away. Combining estimates of ancient CO₂ and temperature therefore allows scientists to estimate the “correct” value of climate sensitivity, and so refine their future projections by relying more heavily on those models with more accurate climate sensitivities.

Overall, past climates show us that recent changes across all aspects of the Earth system are unprecedented in at least thousands of years. Unless emissions are reduced rapidly and dramatically, global warming will reach a level that has not been seen for millions of years. Let’s hope those attending COP26 are listening to messages from the past.


COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.


Dan Lunt, Professor of Climate Science, University of Bristol and Darrell Kaufman, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Northern Arizona University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

USDA launches first phase of soil carbon monitoring efforts through conservation reserve program

Read the full story at Successful Farming.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $10 million in a new initiative to sample, measure, and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to better quantify the climate outcomes of the program.

USDA putting $146M toward sustainable ag research

Read the full story in Food Manufacturing.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Oct. 6 an investment of more than $146 million in sustainable agricultural research projects aimed at improving a robust, resilient, climate-smart food and agricultural system.

Tap water produces a protective shield against microplastics

Read the full story from Trinity College Dublin.

Tap water produces a natural protective shield against harmful microplastics, which can help prevent household products such as plastic kettles from releasing them.

Climate warming changes bird migration timing and body size

Read the full story from the Wildlife Society.

Climate change has likely caused migratory birds’ bodies to get smaller and their wings to get longer over the years, and the timing of their migrations has shifted substantially.

Researchers determined this by tapping into a one-of-a-kind dataset from the Field Museum in Chicago. Since the 1970s, museum staff and volunteers have collected migrating birds that crashed into Windy City buildings. One researcher—Field Museum ornithologist David Willard, now the collections manager emeritus—recorded body size and wing length of every single dead bird, where the crash occurred and when. Together, this effort resulted in nearly a half-century of data on more than 70,000 individuals of 52 migratory bird species.

That helped a team of biologists add to a growing body of research suggesting that climate change has affected the size and shape of a variety of species. In their latest study, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, the team revisited those findings by looking at how changes in body size were related to changes in migration timing.

Monolith enters into agreement to scale clean hydrogen and carbon black technology internationally

Read the company’s news release.

Monolith, a leader in clean hydrogen and materials production, today announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SK Inc. to pursue a joint venture for producing clean hydrogen and carbon black products in South Korea. Monolith currently produces clean hydrogen and carbon black in Hallam, Nebraska, with plans for additional U.S.-based growth already underway.

As part of the MOU, Monolith will share its production and technology knowledge with SK Inc. to produce hydrogen and solid carbon products in South Korea. SK Inc. will oversee the production, sales and distribution of these products in that market. Monolith and SK Inc.’s work together first began in the summer of 2021 following SK Inc.’s investment in the clean hydrogen production leader.

What’s missing from forest mortality projections? A look underground

Read the full story from University at Buffalo.

You can’t see it happening. But what goes on below ground in a forest is very important in determining its fate. In a study, scientists conclude that the sideways flow of water through soil can have an important impact on how riparian forests respond to climate change. Models used to predict the future plight of forests typically don’t account for this factor — but they should, researchers say.

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