Rich nations’ greenhouse gas emissions fall in 2012, led by U.S.

Industrialized nations’ greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.3 percent in 2012, led by a U.S. decline to the lowest in almost two decades with a shift to natural gas from dirtier coal. A report issued by Reuter to the United Nations showed that about 40 nations dropped about 10 percent below their emission levels in 1990.  The main success story is that the United States has been successful in dropping emissions, Europe is in fact mixed because only some countries were able to shift away from coal. U.S. emissions fell 3.4 percent in 2012 to 6.5 billion tonnes, the lowest since 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on April 15. The fall was linked to low natural gas prices, helped by a shale gas boom and a shift from coal, a mild winter and greater efficiency in transport. European emissions dropped only 1.3 percent in the same time. Road transport emissions declined in some EU nations such as Italy, Spain and Greece that are suffering prolonged economic downturns. While emissions rose in Germany and Britain, with more coal used to generate electricity. Among other major nations, emissions dipped in Canada in 2012 but rose in Russia, Japan and Australia.

– Sean Sabogal –


Forty-Four Years of Earth

Earth day started in 1970, when everyone had doomsday predictions. The first rallies were to warn people of overpopulation, a deforested planet, hundreds of starving people and a new Ice Age or the new greenhouse effects. Today, climate change has become a prime concern of environmentalists and governments. Here is an overview of how the world has changed since 44 years ago. We breathe cleaner air, for example air pollution in the once smog filled Los Angeles has dropped from 0.58 ppm to 0.151 ppm. Gasoline powered cars are more fuel efficient, like in 1970 the average per car was 13.5 mpg, now it’s 22.6 mpg. Fossil fuels per capita has dropped from $14.7 million in 1970 to $18.9 million today, but the economy and population have also climbed so it’s not bad numbers. In 1970, Americans produced 3.3 pounds of trash a day, most of it ending up in landfills, now Americans produce 4.4 pounds of trash a day but only 54% of it goes to landfills, the rest is recycled, composted or burned. Rivers no longer burn, and animal life is growing in those rivers again. The bald eagle is now also back, the population has grown by 10 times. The main problem is that there is still CFCs and the planet is getting warmer since 1970.

– Sean Sabogal –

Natural Variation: Warm North Atlantic Ocean promotes extreme winters in U.S. and Europe

According to a new study done by the University of California Irvine have shown that a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) which is a natural pattern of variation in the North Atlantic sea surface temperatures that switches between a positive and negative phase every 60-70 years can affect an atmospheric circulation pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) that handles the precipitation and temperature in the Northern Hemisphere during winter time. During winter time, AMO is in its positive phase making North Atlantic oceans warmer, which promotes the negative phase of NAO, which makes it cold in the U.S. and Europe. The AMO has been in a postitive stages since the 1990’s, causing the extreme winters of recent years. The melting of ice caps and concentrations of greenhouse gases may be changing the AMO, because they have noticed that the AMO was weak last year, and so it turned more positive than negative, which led a mild winter in Europe. More studies will be done to prove this further.

– Sean Sabogal –

Global Carbon Emissions Set to Reach Record 36 Billion Tons in 2013

According to the Global Carbon Project, co-led by researchers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, global carbon emissions will reach a new record high in 2013. There has been a projected 2.1 percent rise of global emissions this year. The global emission percent is 61 percent higher than it was in 1990. The Global Carbon Budget has indicated that the world’s largest contributors of fossil fuels are China (27%), the United States (14%), the EU (10%), and India (6%). However, the rate of growth has slowed down in the past 2 years compared to the past 10 years. Emission rate is growing in China at (+5.9%) and India (+7.7%), while the emission rate is declining in the United States(-3.7%) and in the EU(-1.8%). In the United States, the emission per person is highest at 16 tonnes per person. Most emissions are from coal(43%), oil (33%), gas (18%), and gas flaring at (0.6%).

– Sean Sabogal –

European Union More Cautious as Nations Approach 2030 Climate Targets

Starting Monday, November 11, the over 200 governments of the United Nations will meet together to develop a global pact that will become law by 2015 in order to cut global emissions. Due to the recent economic crisis, nations like Europe have been forced to shift their focus away from environmental issues, but now they hope to bring back the topic. Europe has been the main group of countries that has urged global governments to cut their emissions. Poland is hosting the talks, but the Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, believes that it should be a collective global effort instead of just Europe which only holds 11% of the world’s current global emissions. China and the United States are the world’s biggest emitters and have only pledged small promises. China has promised to cut emissions per unit of economic growth by 40-45 percent by 2020, but that only slows the emissions, it does not cut them. The United States has only modestly done anything, as it said it would cut 17% of it’s carbon emissions by 2020. Certain groups that will attend the meeting will urge immediate action, such as Green Growth Group and Friends of the Earth, and even Great Britain’s Environment Minister Ed Davey who wants a 50% cut of carbon emissions by 2030. 

– Sean Sabogal –

Emerging Economies Nearing Half of Global Warming Emissions

Total greenhouse emissions in developing nations such as China and others since 1850 will surpass those of rich nations sometime during this current decade. According to the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 48% of all global emissions were coming from China and other emerging nations from 1850 to 2010. This number is expected to surpass rich developed nations soon, causing the U.N. to have to determine who is really to blame for climate change. Developing nations’ emissions’ are rising fast, due to badly controlled industrial growth and will account for 51% of global emissions by 2020. The almost 200 governments of the United Nations will meet in November 11-22 in Warsaw to discuss pressing climate change issues and the U.N. claims it will focus on the biggest emitters, the United States, China, European Union and Russia. China claims it is still far behind developed countries in emissions, but the U.N. will still have a debate with China.

– Sean Sabogal –

“Sea-Sick” Oceans

It seems today that it has become impossible to discuss the issue of global warming without mentioning the state of the world’s oceans.  Rising sea-levels, “dead zones”, and ever-increasing water temperatures are just a few of the problems on the seemingly endless list of issues related to oceans caused by humans.  It is predicted that by the year 2100, around 98 percent of the Earth’s oceans will have been affected by low oxygen, a lack of biological productivity, acidification, or warming.  One may wonder, why all of the hubbub over something that wont even occur in our lifetime?  The answer is quite simple.  The effects of our carelessness in combination with that of the generations before us can, will, and are becoming evident already.  Our world renown beaches, sought after by millions of tourists, have begun to dwindle away slowly each year due to erosion, but the  effects of global warming are, as the name entails, global.  A study at Oregon State University suggests that an estimated “2 billion people will be impacted by these changes” and that “stressors will co-occur in areas inhabited by people who can least afford it” (Andrew Thurber, OSU Oceanographer, co-author of study).  Between 400 and 800 million people are directly dependent on oceans for the main source of their income, usually less than 4,000 USD annually.  If we continue to allow global warming to continue on its current trajectory without interference, we can absolutely expect a severe impact to be had on fisheries around the world, both small localized businesses as well as multi-national corporations.  In order to prevent a world where people do not know what a beach is, or what it is like to swim in the ocean, or eat a fish that has not been farmed in a tank we, as a global community, must tackle as many factors contributing to global warming forthwith and synchronously.  Simply addressing one or two issues at a time, though better than nothing, is not enough.  The real threats to the “blood” of our Earth are the compounded effects of global warming acting together increasing the already devastating effects of global warming exponentially.  I will leave you with a quote by the Indian Chief Seattle ““The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

– Sebastian Andrew