June 5, 2019
There are many forces at work contributing to renewal. As Lushwala, a Peruvian indigenous leader says, some of these forces are destructive, some regenerative. We look this week into both the destructive and the regenerative.
But first the news.
Decision on Invenergy’s power plant weeks away,
Burrillville rallies at the State House
With the final decision on Invenergy’s power plant weeks away, Burrillville rallies at the State House – Uprise RI
“We are here today in frustration and outrage at our Senators and Governor Gina Raimondo for not coming out against Invenergy‘s proposed power plant in Burrillville,” said Kathy Martley of Burrillville BASE, one of the first groups to oppose the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in northwest Rhode Island. “All of these towns, in and around Rhode Island, have made resolutions against building this proposed power plant.
“The people are speaking out. The Senators and Governor are not listening,” continued Martley. “We have been fighting for four years, speaking to Senators, to the Governor, [holding] rallies, getting the facts of this fracked gas diesel power plant, giving the facts about the danger, the hazards, pertaining to Invenergy’s power plant. Now it has been proven that the energy from this power plant is not needed. We can’t afford the impact on our wildlife, environment, air and our health, the health of our future generation… We have not been put first in the eyes of our government. Even though we have spoken our voices have not been heard.
“Rhode Island objects!” said Martley. “We object!”
Over fifty people, mostly Burrillville, agreed with Martley, chanting “We object!” Their objections echoing throughout the halls of the State House Thursday evening.
Cities and towns in and around Rhode Island have passed resolutions opposing Invenergy’s planned $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, aimed at the irreplaceable forests of northwest Rhode Island. The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to license the plant in June, nearly four years after Governor Gina Raimondo promised the company to do everything in her power to make the plant happen.…—Steve Ahlquist, “With the final decision on Invenergy’s power plant weeks away, Burrillville rallies at the State House,” Uprise RI, 5/31/19
How eminent domain is blighting farmers
in path of gas pipeline
How eminent domain is blighting farmers in path of gas pipeline
In July 2015, Neal Laferriere and his wife, Beth, purchased a home in Summers county, West Virginia. The first time they visited the property after purchasing it, they found stakes outlining what they would later find out to be the route for a gas pipeline.
About two years later, representatives for the Mountain Valley pipeline approached the Laferriere family over the land rights to their property. “The land agent was saying if we don’t come to the table they would just take it via eminent domain,” Laferriere told the Guardian.
Under eminent domain, private property is seized from owners for public use. But for many landowners along the Mountain Valley pipeline route –like the Laferrieres – the forced loss of some of their land was not the end of their woes. Many suffered damages to the rest of their property after agreeing to land easements or fighting the pipeline’s invocation of the eminent domain law.
Once completed, the Mountain Valley pipeline will transport up to 2bn cubic feet of fracked natural gas daily from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins along a 303-mile route from north-western West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a proposed 73-mile extension into North Carolina. The $4.6bn project is estimated to be completed in mid-2020, more than $1bn and over a year past the project’s initial estimated cost and completion date after protests, lawsuits and environmental violations have caused numerous delays.
With few alternative options in the face of eminent domain and concerned that his farm would be in jeopardy of being ineligible for organic certification, Laferriere signed a land easement for the pipeline route through their property.
On 7 September 2018, Laferriere was out on his farm harvesting ginseng and planting seeds with two of his children when they noticed a helicopter flying low over the property. “A few seconds later we started getting pelted by these little blue pellets. Two of my children sustained lacerations to the face,” he said.
Ten days later, an agent with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and two representatives from the Mountain Valley pipeline met with Laferriere. He was informed the pellets were a product called EarthGuard Edge, meant for erosion control, and there was nothing to be done to clean up the product on the farm for which he had only recently obtained organic certification.
“The land agent said they were sorry and they would make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The next two days, a helicopter flies over again and covers the rest of my property with these pellets,” added Laferriere.…—Michael Sainato, “How eminent domain is blighting farmers in path of gas pipeline,” The Guardian, 5/28/19
Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown
on pipeline protests
Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown on pipeline protests
“This provision is a clear infringement on the basic right of speech and assembly,” Sen. Ed Markey said of calls to make it a crime to disrupt pipeline construction.
The Trump administration is joining calls to treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country.
The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a proposal Monday calling for Congress to expand a law that threatens fines and up to 20 years’ prison time for “damaging or destroying” pipelines currently in operation. The expanded version would add “vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting or inhibiting the operation of” either existing pipelines or those “under construction.”
While House Democrats will almost certainly block the proposal, it intensifies fights already underway in several energy-producing states to tamp down the waves of pipeline protests launched by progressive environmental advocates around the country as they seek to stop production of fossil fuels. PHMSA insists it doesn’t want to inhibit legitimate protests, but free speech advocates worry that efforts to impose massive fines and years in prison for “impeding” pipeline construction could also infringe on activists’ First Amendment rights.
“The proposed penalty is far and away more extreme than what we’ve seen at the state level,” said Elly Page, attorney for International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, a nonprofit group that has tracked anti-protest bills through state legislatures. “When you combine provisions that vague to penalties that extreme, that creates uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.”
PHMSA included the proposal, which appears similar to model legislation that conservative American Legislative Exchange Council created, in a longer list of changes the department would like to see in pipeline safety standards that Congress is set to reauthorize.…—Ben Lefebvre, Anthony Adragna, “Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown on pipeline protests,” Politico, 6/3/19
Cutting-edge CO2 tracking technology
could boost climate liability claims
Cutting-edge CO2 tracking technology could boost climate liability claims
Carbon emissions from every power plant in the world could soon be tracked publicly, data that could help hold emitters accountable for climate change.
The fossil fuel industry is quick to hail technology as the way society is going to solve climate change (and allow them to keep operating), but what if technology is what holds them accountable for climate change instead? That’s among the prospects of a new venture from the nonprofit WattTime, which is using artificial intelligence coupled with old-fashioned satellite tracking to show the carbon emissions of every power plant in the world. Currently, anyone trying to quantify the drivers of global warming relies largely on the peer-reviewed Carbon Majors report, but having the raw data available for everyone to see is another step in drawing a clearer link between fossil fuel burning and the climate crisis.
Artificial intelligence coupled with satellite imagery could soon deliver plaintiffs in climate litigation real-time data on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants around the world. It potentially opens a new front in holding the energy industry accountable for the impacts of those emissions on the climate.
WattTime, an Oakland-based nonprofit, developed a system that will produce actual carbon dioxide measurements by combining image feeds from satellites in low Earth orbit. The end result will be a massive trove of data, which will then be shared with the public.
Supporters of the project say the data will provide new ammunition to plaintiffs in climate liability cases by showing how much of global warming can be attributed to particular sources.
“This will have massive far-reaching implications in the evidence to back some of those claims, or back some of those potential plaintiffs in court, if it comes to that,” Chiel Borenstein, the director of operations at WattTime, told Climate Liability News.
“You’ll have a central data set that’s reliable and that’s as empirical and precise as possible, and is readily available.”
WattTime officials said some of the data may be available free of charge to the public, but it may charge for deeper access.
Shaun Goho, deputy director of the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School said the technology could make it easier for plaintiffs to establish that power plants are violating their permit limits. It would depend on whether judges accept its results as reliable, he said.…—Marco Poggio, “Cutting-edge CO2 tracking technology could boost climate liability claims,” Climate Liability News, 5/29/19
Every protest shifts the world’s balance
Rebecca Solnit: ‘Every protest shifts the world’s balance’
Two hundred years after the Peterloo massacre, which led to the founding of the Manchester Guardian, protest is shaping our political moment. Where do we go from here?
Scale it up and it’s revolution; scale it down and it’s individual non-cooperation that may be seen as nothing more than obstinacy or malingering or not seen at all. What we call protest identifies one aspect of popular power and resistance, a force so woven into history and everyday life that you miss a lot of its impact if you focus only on groups of people taking stands in public places. But people taking such stands have changed the world over and over, toppled regimes, won rights, terrified tyrants, stopped pipelines and deforestation and dams. They go far further back than the Peterloo protests and massacre 200 years ago, to the great revolutions of France and then of Haiti against France and back before that to peasant uprisings and indigenous resistance in Africa and the Americas to colonisation and enslavement and to countless acts of resistance on all scales that were never recorded.
They will go far forward from this moment. And at this moment, with organisations addressing the climate crisis, reinvigorated feminism in many parts of the world, anti-racist and human rights campaigns focused on specific groups and issues, protest is a force running through everything – and running against a lot of things, since this is also an age of authoritarianism and a consolidation of wealth among a global super-elite.
Right now, for example, Florida’s Coalition of Immokalee Workers is forming another alliance with students to pursue rights for farm workers by targeting nationwide US burger chain Wendy’s. They can stand as one of the great examples of the power of the supposedly powerless, which could be more fruitfully thought of as exercisers of other kinds of power than institutional, military, or financial power, the kind less seldom recognised, cultivated, studied or valued. This alliance of labour organisers and immigrant farm workers from the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico began co-ordinating human rights and workers’ rights campaigns almost two decades ago, from a base in the tomato-growing region around the town of Immokalee in Florida. It would be easy to call immigrant farm workers powerless, and indeed modern-day slavery was one of the issues they addressed.…—Rebecca Solnit, “Every protest shifts the world’s balance,” The Guardian, 6/1/19
Guide: FOIA Basics for Activists
Guide: FOIA Basics for Activists
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other public records laws have long been critical tools at the core of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ social justice work in support of community and movement partners. This guide is a key resource of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Open Records Project: FOIA for the Movement.
FOIA Basics for Activists is designed to support activists, organizers and social movements in filing FOIA requests to aid their ongoing campaigns and work. Please note that this guide does not contain legal advice regarding the litigation of FOIA requests in court.
This resource is primarily focused on using FOIA to file requests with federal agencies like the FBI or ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement). Where we can, we also offer information and tips on filing state-level open records requests (you cannot use FOIA to request information from state governments). Because each state has its own open records laws, we do not provide individualized guides for all 50 states. However, most state open records request laws are based on the same fundamentals set out by the federal FOIA statute so many of the principles discussed here also apply to state-level requests.—”Guide: FOIA Basics for Activists,” Center for Constitutional Rights, 5/28/19
A Wave of Renewal
CARETAKERS OF LIFE (Part 2) Wave of Renewal
CARETAKERS OF LIFE is a five-part video series with messages from Peruvian ceremonial leader, Arkan Lushwala.
In this short video Peruvian ceremonial leader and Pachamama Alliance friend Arkan Lushwala reminds us that the natural world is built upon cycles of creation, conservation, and renewal. According to many sages and wisdom keepers we are at the end of a cycle, in a time of renewal when things change rapidly, and ideas or ways of being that no longer serve are discarded to make space for new creation.
Further viewing: Caretakers of Life Series
While renewal holds the promise of the new creation to come, it can be challenging to navigate times of upheaval—like the times we are in now! Stories of extinction, destruction, and hate have become increasingly commonplace in the media, to the point that some people may develop a layer of callousness just to get through the day.
Arkan reminds us to stay present and also stay sane, to step back and remember that there are larger rhythms at play. Staying grounded in this perspective is how we’ll be able to most effectively address the challenges we face.
Tech giants pressure Dominion for more storage,
renewables, less gas in Virginia
Tech giants pressure Dominion for more storage, renewables, less gas in Virginia
Dominion Energy is getting blasted for the addition of natural gas infrastructure in its latest integrated resource plan (IRP) from its biggest-growing customers in Virginia: tech companies.
Dominion’s latest IRP “again fails to fully take into account the energy preferences of the data center industry — by limiting the amount of competitively-procured solar energy, neglecting to consider energy storage as a cost-effective and beneficial energy resource, and continuing to plan for the development of additional natural gas infrastructure,” a May 8 letter from Microsoft, Apple, Salesforce and seven other tech companies states.
The 10 companies, organized by the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, demanded more solar and wind power offers for data center operators in Virginia. The boom of data centers in the state has occurred as the tech companies pursue their own carbon reduction goals and add more renewable energy to the grid.
The letter, which specifically references Dominion’s IRP, asks Virginia power providers to take into account the sustainability goals of data center operators and to steer away from adding more cheap natural gas by using competitive procurement of renewable resources instead.…—Julia Gheorghiu, “Tech giants pressure Dominion for more storage, renewables, less gas in Virginia,” Utility Dive, 5/14/19
Because it’s not a drill:
technologies for deep adaptation to climate chaos
Because it’s not a drill: technologies for deep adaptation to climate chaos – Insight
The climate emergency calls on us to explore what we can do, individually and collectively, to adapt to climate-induced disruption. Such adaptation must go beyond mere adjustments to our existing economic system and infrastructure, in order to prepare us for the breakdown or collapse of normal societal functions. A framework for exploring this issue, called Deep Adaptation, is summarised. Technologies will be important for helping us develop not only resilience but also collapse-readiness. Five areas of technology are outlined in order to illustrate the kinds of ideas that can emerge from applying a Deep Adaptation approach to our predicament. In outlining technological possibilities, it is emphasised that any technology should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, rather than from a general perspective on whether technology is helpful or not. In addition, the focus on technology in this paper and its associated discussions is not intended to distract from the political and psychological challenge of our climate emergency. Therefore, a transformative economic agenda is retained as a context for how we imagine policies to harness technologies for Deep Adaptation. Brief recommendations are offered for the European Commission.
Further reading: Full paper (PDF) “Because it’s not a drill: technologies for deep adaptation to climate chaos“
As news of our climate predicament worsens, more organisations are exploring the possibility of future disruption to our social and economic systems. That was the topic of an event organised by staff of DG Connect of the European Commission on May 13th 2019. In the morning, invited speakers shared their views on the climate emergency and potential societal collapse. Then in the afternoon, a workshop was organised on Deep Adaptation to our climate predicament. The originator of the Deep Adaptation approach, Professor Jem Bendell, Director of the Institute For Leadership And Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria, UK, gave a speech based on a paper he prepared for the conference, “Because It’s Not a Drill: Technologies for Deep Adaptation to Climate Chaos”. The paper is being discussed in the Government and Policy interest group of the Deep Adaptation Forum.…—Jem Bendell, “Because it’s not a drill: technologies for deep adaptation to climate chaos,” Insight|University of Cambria, 5/13/19
No, we shouldn’t pump desert groundwater
near Joshua Tree to help store electricity
No, we shouldn’t pump desert groundwater near Joshua Tree to help store electricity
For years developers have tried to figure out how to re-purpose Kaiser Steel’s former open-pit iron mine at Eagle Mountain in Riverside County. One idea: Use it as a massive landfill, a proposal that fortunately never came to fruition. The current owners of the site now want to convert it into an immense, $2.5-billion hydroelectric battery, using daytime power to pump water from a lower-elevation pit to a pit 1,400 feet farther up the mountain, then running the water downhill at night through turbines to create energy.
As California sprints to convert to all-renewable energy sources, it is confronting a persistent problem: what to do when the sun goes down and solar farms stop generating electricity, or when the doldrums hit and wind turbines stop churning. These sources produce more electricity than can be consumed immediately, but the grid doesn’t have the storage capacity to save the power for when night falls or the wind stops. And as a result, solar farms have been going offline or producers have been giving away their excess watts.
California already has several pumped-water storage systems, and that approach, while expensive to build, has been relatively reliable. It makes a certain amount of sense in places where water flows naturally, so long as the projects don’t harm the local environment. Still, technology may be making such systems obsolete, as developments in batteries and other storage technologies are preparing a path to cheaper and more efficient systems.…—Editorial Board, “No, we shouldn’t pump desert groundwater near Joshua Tree to help store electricity,” Los Angeles Times, 5/29/19
U.S. Pipeline Boom Could End In Crisis
U.S. Pipeline Boom Could End In Crisis | OilPrice.com
U.S. energy infrastructure builders might have gone a bit too far in commissioning new projects as a possible change in demand fundamentals in Asia leaves them very exposed
An oil and gas building spree in the United States might have a serious boomerang effect that could hit the industry as hard as a changing fundamentals landscape hit the coal industry in the 2010s, a report from Global Energy Monitor has warned.
According to the report, there is US$232.5 billion worth of new oil and gas pipelines being planned and built right now in North America, with most of this in the United States. This expansion, however, does not rely on an increase in domestic demand for oil and gas. It relies almost exclusively on demand growth in Asia, much like the coal expansion in the 2010s. That, however, went awry, decimating the coal industry.
The factors that could ruin the pipeline expansion in the United States include demand patterns in that key Asian market everyone is targeting as well as changing attitudes—and legislation—concerning climate change and the oil and gas industry.…—Irina Slav, “U.S. Pipeline Boom Could End In Crisis,” OilPrice, 4/23/19
Colorado Gov Polis unveils roadmap to 100% carbon free
by 2040, signs 11 clean energy bills
Colorado Gov Polis unveils roadmap to 100% carbon free by 2040, signs 11 clean energy bills
The various electric vehicle, climate and energy bills will reduce economy-wide emissions 90% by 2050 but don’t set specific legislative mandates.
Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last week signed seven climate and energy bills along with four electric vehicle (EV) bills, and unveiled a road-map of the state’s path to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.
The newly signed legislation will decarbonize the state’s economy 90% below 2005 levels by 2050, codify Xcel Energy’s 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 goal and expand energy efficiency and EV programs in the state.
Polis ran his campaign in part on reaching 100% carbon-free power by 2040. His first executive order focused on advancing transportation electrification in the state.
Colorado’s 2019 legislative session was a victory for clean energy advocates, though there has been some tension between industry groups and environmentalists over how strict the regulatory process should be.
Two of the signed bills focus on addressing climate change through emissions reductions and, similar to the governor’s “Roadmap to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040 and Bold Climate Action,” outline processes for achieving those reductions through voluntary goals, rather than mandates.
The “mandate”-versus-“goal” debate was a point of tension between the governor and the Democratic Speaker of the House, KC Becker, as they were developing the 90% economy-wide carbon reduction bill, with Polis opposing enforceable mandates. Environmentalists in general tend to prefer mandates over voluntary goals, while businesses often prefer the latter.…—Catherine Morehouse, “Colorado Gov Polis unveils road-map to 100% carbon free by 2040, signs 11 clean energy bills,” Utility Dive, 6/3/19
In degrading Nature humanity harms itself, UN report warns
In degrading Nature humanity harms itself, UN report warns
Diplomats and scientists from 130 nations gather in Paris next week to vet and validate the first UN global assessment of the state of Nature in more than a decade, and the news is not good.
A quarter of 100,000 species already assessed are on a path to extinction, and the total number facing a forced exit from the world stage is closer to a million, according to an executive summary, obtained by AFP, of a 1,800-page scientific report three years in the making.
A score of 10-year targets adopted in 2010 under the UN’s biodiversity treaty — to expand protected areas, slow species and forest loss, and reduce pollution impact — will almost all fail, the draft Summary for Policy Makers reports.
But the focus of the five-day meet is not just pangolins, pandas, polar bears and the multitude of less “charismatic” lifeforms that humanity is eating, crowding or poisoning into oblivion.
Rather, the spotlight is on the one species that has so ravaged Earth’s natural systems as to imperil its own existence as well.
That, of course, would be us: homo sapiens.
The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, healthy soil, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves — to name but a few of the dwindling services rendered by Nature — poses no less of a threat to humanity than climate change, according to the report, set to be unveiled May 6.
“Up to now, we have talked about the importance of biodiversity mostly from an environmental perspective,” said Robert Watson, chair of the UN-mandated body that compiled the report, told AFP.
“Now we are saying that Nature is crucial for food production, for pure water, for medicines and even social cohesion.”
And to fight climate change, he added.…—Agence France Presse, “In degrading Nature humanity harms itself, UN report warns,” France24, 4/25/19
Exposing the Dirty Business Behind the Designer Label
Exposing the Dirty Business Behind the Designer Label
Fashion is the world’s second-most polluting industry after the oil industry.
Even before it gets worn once, that new T-shirt you bought is already dirtier than you can imagine. It’s soaked through with toxic waste, factory smog and plastic debris—all of which is likely just a few spin cycles away from an incinerator, or maybe a landfill halfway around the world. Our obsession with style rivals our hunger for oil, making fashion the world’s second-most polluting industry after the oil industry.
Further reading: Soon Your Clothes Could Be as Recyclable as Glass or Paper. Really
According to the think tank Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), the majority of fast-fashion products —the hyperactive production and marketing cycle fueled by high-volume, high-speed supply chains, which often bludgeon the environment while driving ultra-cheap retail market —are incinerated or trashed within a year. In the U.S., wasted leather, cloth, rubber and other scraps constitute over 8 percent of the total volume of solid waste. Global clothing consumption averages about 22 pounds annually per person, though the U.S. and Europe each average roughly triple that amount.
While local pollution piles up, a more chronic hazard looms on the horizon. At the current rate of pollution, the apparel sector’s carbon emissions will balloon by 60 percent by 2030, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, amounting to about a quarter of the global carbon budget. The total share of carbon emissions from the sector by 2050 would actually be equivalent to roughly 300 million tons of oil—more than tripling within a generation.…—Michelle Chen, “Exposing the Dirty Business Behind the Designer Label,” Truthout, 5/19/19
Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science
Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science
In a significant escalation, policymakers are seeking to undermine or discard research showing the most dire risks of inaction on climate change.
WASHINGTON — President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.
Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.
In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.
And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.
Mr. Trump is less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him. He came into office viewing agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency as bastions of what he calls the “deep state,” and his contempt for their past work on the issue is an animating factor in trying to force them to abandon key aspects of the methodology they use to try to understand the causes and consequences of a dangerously warming planet.
As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.…—Coral Davenport and Mark Landler, “Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science,” The New York Times, 5/27/19
Subscribe to read | Financial Times
Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up
—And No One Knows Why
Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up—And No One Knows Why
Levels of heat-trapping methane are rising faster than climate experts anticipated, triggering intense debate about why it’s happening.
Every week dozens of metal flasks arrive at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, each one loaded with air from a distant corner of the world. Research chemist Ed Dlugokencky and his colleagues in the Global Monitoring Division catalog the canisters and then use a series of high-precision tools—a gas chromatograph, a flame ionization detector, sophisticated software—to measure how much carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane each flask contains.
These air samples—collected at observatories in Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, and Antarctica, and from tall towers, small aircraft, and volunteers on every continent—have been coming to Boulder for more than four decades, as part of one of the world’s longest-running greenhouse gas monitoring programs. The air in the flasks shows that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere had been steadily rising since 1983, before leveling off around 2000. “And then, boom, look at how it changes here,” Dlugokencky says, pointing at a graph on his computer screen. “This is really an abrupt change in the global methane budget, starting around 2007.”
The amount of methane in the atmosphere has been increasing ever since. And nobody really knows why. What’s more, no one saw it coming. Methane levels have been climbing more steeply than climate experts anticipated, to a degree “so unexpected that it was not considered in pathway models preparatory to the Paris Agreement,” as Dlugokencky and several coauthors noted in a recently published paper.
As the years plod on and the methane piles up, solving this mystery has taken on increasing urgency. Over a 20-year time frame, methane traps 86 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It is responsible for about a quarter of total atmospheric warming to date. And while the steady increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are deeply worrying, they are at least conforming to scientists’ expectations. Methane is not. Methane—arguably humanity’s earliest signature on the climate—is the wild card.…—Jonathan Mingle, “Atmospheric Methane Levels Are Going Up—And No One Knows Why,” WIRED, 5/16/19
And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.