The social cost of carbon is significantly higher than the federal estimate, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature.
Researchers put the financial toll associated with projected future carbon emissions at $185 per ton of carbon pollution added to the atmosphere, more than three times the federal government’s figure of $51.
They arrived at the conclusion in part by using a lower discount rate, or the cost-benefit analysis of reducing emissions now versus the future impacts of inaction. Lower discount rates result in higher estimates for the price of inaction.
Extreme floods are devastating Pakistan, caused by a combination of heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers. While Pakistan is no stranger to deadly floods, this event is especially shocking with more than 1,100 people dead so far and many millions more affected.
This Northern Hemisphere summer has seen extreme weather event after extreme weather event, from record-breaking drought in Western Europe, the United States and China, to flooding in Japan and South Korea.
This begs the question of the extent climate change is to blame. And, if so, is this what we should expect from now on?
A summer of extremes
The flooding in Pakistan is the latest in a sequence of exceptional disasters in the Northern Hemisphere.
Western Europe and central and eastern China have experienced record-breaking heatwaves and droughts leading to water restrictions. These heatwaves and droughts have also caused crop shortages, which are adding to the rising costs of food around the world.
While it’s true that several of this summer’s extreme events have been exceptional, we normally see more high-impact extreme weather events in Northern Hemisphere summer than any other time. This is because extreme heat, very heavy downpours, and drought are more likely at the warmest time of year.
Two-thirds of the planet’s land and more than 85% of the world’s population are in the Northern Hemisphere. This means there are more people to be affected by extreme weather than in the Southern Hemisphere, making the Northern Hemisphere summer the prime time for disasters to have severe impacts.
Additionally, extreme weather events can occur at the same time over different places, because of large-scale atmospheric waves called “Rossby waves”, which are a naturally occurring phenomenon, like La Niña and El Niño.
Back in 2010, western Russia experienced severe heat and wildfires while Pakistan had some of their worst floods to date. These events were connected by a Rossby wave causing a high pressure pattern to get stuck over western Russia and low pressure to persist over Pakistan.
Rossby waves can also result in heatwaves occurring at the same time, thousands of kilometres apart. Earlier this Northern Hemisphere summer, we saw simultaneous heatwaves strike the western US, western Europe and China.
Rossby waves may well have contributed to simultaneous disasters this summer, but it’s too soon to say for sure.
Climate change and the never-ending extremes
With so many extreme weather events causing mass deaths and large economic and environmental problems, it’s worth considering whether climate change may be making these events worse.
Human-caused climate change has warmed the planet by about 1.2℃ to date and this has caused some types of extreme weather to become more frequent and more intense, particularly extreme heatwaves and record-high temperatures.
Every heatwave in today’s climate has the fingerprint of climate change resulting from our greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, rapid analyses have already demonstrated that the human effect on the climate greatly increased the likelihood of the extreme heat in India and Pakistan in May, and the record high UK temperatures in July.
Research also shows climate change is increasing the occurrence of simultaneous heatwaves in the Northern Hemisphere, mainly due to long-term warming.
It’s less clear whether the Rossby wave pattern that causes simultaneous heatwaves in different places is becoming more frequent.
Climate change is also shifting rainfall patterns resulting in worsening drought in some areas, such as in much of Western Europe.
And severe downpours and extreme short-duration heavy rain, such as that seen in Seoul and Dallas in recent weeks, are being intensified by climate change. This is because global warming results in the air being able to hold more moisture – for every 1℃ of warming, the atmosphere can hold 7% more moisture.
Indeed, the heavy rains in Pakistan follow an observed trend towards increasing extreme daily rainfall totals. This area of the world is projected to see a continued intensification of daily and multi-day extreme rain events over summer, as the planet warms.
Worse extremes to come
We can expect more extreme weather events in the coming years as global greenhouse gas emissions continue at near-record rates.
Some heat extremes in recent years have been far beyond what we thought would happen after just over 1℃ of global warming, such as western North America’s record heat of last summer. But it’s hard to tell if our projections are under-forecasting extreme heat.
In any case, the world must prepare for further possible record-shattering high temperatures in the months, years and decades to come. We need to rapidly decarbonise to limit the damage caused by future extreme events.
The report America’s Strategy to Secure the Supply Chain for a Robust Clean Energy Transition lays out the challenges and opportunities faced by the United States in the energy supply chain as well as the federal government plans to address these challenges and opportunities. It is accompanied by several issue-specific deep dive assessments, including this one, in response to Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains, which directs the Secretary of Energy to submit a report on supply chains for the energy sector industrial base. The Executive Order is helping the federal government to build more secure and diverse U.S. supply chains, including energy supply chains.
To combat the climate crisis and avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, the U.S. is committed to achieving a 50 to 52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, creating a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and achieving net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes that a secure, resilient supply chain will be critical in harnessing emissions outcomes and capturing the economic opportunity inherent in the energy sector transition. Potential vulnerabilities and risks to the energy sector industrial base must be addressed throughout every stage of this transition.
The DOE energy supply chain strategy report summarizes the key elements of the energy supply chain as well as the strategies the U.S. government is starting to employ to address them. Additionally, it describes recommendations for Congressional action. DOE has identified technologies and crosscutting topics for analysis in the one-year time frame set by the Executive Order.
Along with the policy strategy report, DOE is releasing 11 deep dive assessment documents, including this one, covering the following technology sectors: • Carbon capture materials, • Electric grid including transformers and high voltage direct current (HVDC), • Energy storage, • Fuel cells and electrolyzers, • Hydropower including pumped storage hydropower (PSH), • Neodymium magnets, • Nuclear energy, • Platinum group metals and other catalysts, • Semiconductors, • Solar photovoltaics (PV), and • Wind.
DOE is also releasing two deep dive assessments on the following crosscutting topics: • Commercialization and competitiveness, and • Cybersecurity and digital components.
The Center for Sustainable Engagement & Development was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now these community leaders are changing the way the Lower 9th Ward can become resilient to natural disaster — and inspiring the next generation along the way.
A new project led by Associate Professor Kate McDowell and Assistant Professor Matthew Turk will help libraries tell data stories that connect with their audiences. Their project, “Data Storytelling Toolkit for Librarians,” has received a two-year, $99,330 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant RE-250094-OLS-21), under the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which supports innovative research by untenured, tenure-track faculty.
When it rains, water sheets off the roofs, parking lots, and roads that cover an increasing portion of the landscape. To avoid flooding, city infrastructure focuses on moving all that water into pipes and streams, getting it downstream and out of town as fast as possible. But the current standard for dealing with stormwater makes pollution worse for everything and everyone depending on urban streams, including the people who get their drinking water from farther down the river.
As cities continue to develop at lightning speed, washing our problems down the river becomes an increasingly unsustainable prospect.
If all of the vehicles in the world were to convert to electric, would it be quieter? – Joseph, age 10, Chatham, New Jersey
If everyone everywhere received a free electric vehicle at the same time – and owners were required to travel at really slow speeds across well-maintained roads – the world would sound different.
But that doesn’t mean it would be quieter.
People can have different feelings about the same sound. As the founder of Community Noise Lab at Brown University’s School of Public Health, I am particularly interested in how we, as humans, decide what is a sound and what is a noise – which is what we call unwanted sounds. We perceive the sounds that we experience in our daily lives in many ways, from quiet to loud. And they can make us feel happy, angry or many things in between.
These feelings can affect our health by relaxing or stressing us. Studies also show that chronic exposure to noise can affect your sleep and hearing and contribute to health problems like heart disease.
How loud are cars?
We know that gasoline-powered cars make a lot of noise, especially on highways where they can travel at high speeds. In 1981, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that nearly 100 million people nationwide were exposed to traffic noise every year that was loud enough to be harmful to their health. At the time, this was about 50% of the U.S. population.
Many factors influence how loud a car is on the road, including its design, how fast it travels and physical road conditions. On average, cars moving at around 30 mph on local roads will produce sound levels ranging from 33 to 69 decibels. That’s the range between a quiet library and a loud dishwasher.
For cars traveling at typical speeds on the interstate, which is around 70 mph, sound levels range up to 89 decibels. That’s equivalent to two people shouting their conversation at each other.
Electric and hybrid gas/electric cars emit very low sounds at low speeds because they don’t have internal combustion engines producing noise and vibrations. To ensure that pedestrians will hear electric and hybrid vehicles coming, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires these vehicles to emit sounds ranging from 43 to 64 decibels when they are moving at less than 18.6 mph. Each manufacturer uses its own warning sounds.
At high speeds, there may not be much difference between gas-powered cars and EVs or hybrids. That’s because other factors like tire and wind noise become louder as cars move faster.
Quieter streets for everyone
Infrastructure also contributes to street noise. Cracks, depressions and holes in roads can increase sound levels as cars travel across them.
Another way to reduce traffic noise would be to build more bike lanes and paths in less-wealthy communities, which often lack them, and encourage people to substitute this cheaper, healthier, cleaner and quieter mode of transportation when they can.
Electric vehicles are still out of reach for many people because most models cost more than gas-powered cars. So in reality, the benefits of switching to electric-powered vehicles – such as lower fuel costs, cleaner air and somewhat quieter streets – are going now mainly to people who live in wealthier communities and can afford EVs.
That inequitable distribution of benefits is what the EPA calls an environmental injustice: a situation in which everyone doesn’t have the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. To share those benefits more equally, electric vehicles will have to become as affordable as gas-powered versions.
Many people think of noise as a nuisance that’s less urgent than other, more pressing environmental issues like air and water pollution. As a result, governments fail to plan for noise, measure it, mitigate it or regulate it in any meaningful way.
In fact, noise is a significant environmental stressor that negatively affects everyone’s health and well-being, especially those who are most vulnerable. At Community Noise Lab, we aim to shed light on the public health implications of noise, argue for more holistic measurements of sound, and study noise together with other environmental pollutants like water and air pollution, working alongside vulnerable communities across the United States.
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And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will send an engineered bacteria into space as early as next year as part of ongoing research into solving the problem of plastic waste mitigation on Earth.
Deconstructed plastics, using the NREL oxidation platform, will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS), where astronauts will conduct an experiment involving bacteria engineered to upcycle oxidized plastic. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) selected the NREL project as part of the ISS National Laboratory Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics. The beauty brand Estée Lauder is providing financial backing for the challenge, with costs going to ISS National Laboratory partner Rhodium Scientific to provide engineering and flight support.