December 24, 2019
The last few weeks have seen disturbing news of conditions in the arctic, including an unprecedented natural discharge of methane near Barrow, Alaska – and reminders that the region is warming twice as fast as the globe’s temperate zones.We review this week some vital matters about how methane’s effect on global warming is misleadingly reported – even by scientists.

But first the news.

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State Sen. Jen Metzger introduces bill
to ban fracking permanently in New York

ROSENDALE, N.Y. — State Sen. Jen Metzger has introduced a bill to ban fracking permanently in New York.“The existing ban on fracking, announced by Governor Cuomo and state health and environmental officials on December 17, 2014, was undertaken as a regulatory action by the [state] Department of Environmental Conservation,” Metzger, D-Rosendale, said in a prepared statement. “The [new] legislation will give New York’s ban on fracking the permanence of law, and includes gelled propane fracking, a new and extremely dangerous process the oil and gas industry is proposing.”…—”State Sen. Jen Metzger introduces bill to ban fracking permanently in NY,” Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman, 12/19/19

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Energy & Environment Power 50

50 key players in shaping New York energy policy.

Many grass roots activist and leaders of the New York activist community honored, including Sane Energy Project’s Lee Ziesche; Judith Enke, formerly Region 2 Director of the EPA’s founder of Beyond Plastics; and Sandra Steingraber, ‘the intellectual godmother of New York’s anti-fracking movement;’ former Commissioner of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, Joseph Martens, now Director of New York Offshore Wind Alliance, and more.

[The list is headed by the likes of the CEOs of ConEd and Williams Pipeline Company, but what the hell…—Editor]—”Energy & Environment Power 50; 6-50,” City&State|New York, 12/22/19

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Surfrider Appeals Permit for LNG Terminal
Coos Bay, Oregon

The Surfrider Foundation’s Coos Bay Chapter is challenging the proposed development of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon. The proposed Jordan Cove LNG pipeline and export facility threatens over 400 waterways, eliminates critical estuarine habitat and permanently alters recreational features essential to the local population and tourism industry.  The energy export facility, proposed for the north side of the Port of Coos Bay, has been heavily opposed by local citizens, environmental groups, fishermen and many landowners whose property would be subject to the Pacific Connector Pipeline that would deliver gas to the facility.…

Further reading Several Oregon agencies file extensive critique of FERC’s environmental analysis of Jordan Cove LNG in Coos Bay
Southern Oregon Turns Out To Weigh In On Controversial Jordan Cove LNG Project
Stopping the Pacific Connector Fracked Gas Pipeline
Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas

Surfrider Foundation’s environmental policy on LNG facilities finds that due to their impacts on coastal and ocean ecosystems, air quality, coastal access and increased greenhouse gases, LNG facilities in the coastal zone are not consistent with our mission for protection, conservation of and access to coastal resources. The Coos Bay Chapter has found that siting a facility at Jordan Cove is inconsistent with its vision and mission as a chapter to both protect Coos Bay’s natural resources and recreational opportunities, and the Chapter’s mission to support the community’s growth and sustainability.…—”Surfrider Appeals Permit for LNG Terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon,” Elizabeth Taylor, Surfrider Foundation, 12/18/19

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Time to move away from old precedents in FERC pipeline reviews

Maintaining the status quo does not engender confidence that FERC is only approving pipeline projects that are truly needed, consistent with the “public convenience and necessity

The following is a contributed article by Susan Tierney, a Senior Advisor at Analysis Group, former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, and former environmental cabinet officer and public utility commissioner in Massachusetts.

Since adopting its natural gas pipeline Policy Statement 20 years ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved 474 gas pipeline projects, representing 23,773 new miles of pipeline around the nation. It has rejected only two projects.

This outcome, along with the significant changes that have occurred in the natural gas industry, led me two years ago to call on FERC to update its Policy Statement, which has guided how the Commission considers pipeline projects since 1999. In April 2018, FERC decided that it would consider changes and it requested stakeholder comment. The fact that more than 1,600 comments, from a broad spectrum of industry participants, were filed with the agency suggests the intense interest this debate is generating.

Change long overdue

I conducted a thorough review of those comments, and can confirm, as outlined in a new report, that most outside the industry agree that change is long overdue.

Many public officials (including state regulators), landowners, academics, environmental organizations, think tanks, publicly-owned gas utilities, and private citizens agree that FERC must conduct more thorough reviews of proposed pipeline projects. They argue, correctly in my view, that when FERC decides whether a new pipeline is needed, the agency ignores the external costs of new pipeline projects and gives insufficient attention to the rights of landowners and the environmental impacts of new pipelines, especially their climate impact.…—”Time to move away from old precedents in FERC pipeline reviews,” Sue Tierney, Utility Dive, 11/19/19

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I’m the 13-year-old police threatened to arrest
at the Kirribilli House protest.

My name is Izzy Raj-Seppings, and I dragged my dad on a one-hour bus trip on the hottest day of the summer to demand Scott Morrison act on climate change because I’m tired of watching my future burn before my eyes

As Australia burned from tragic bushfires, on Thursday I joined hundreds of others to demand action from our prime minister outside his Kirribilli residence.

It was a whirlwind of emotions and action. The drastic change from motivational speeches, to a peaceful sea of tents awaiting the PM’s climate action, to a squad of riot police moving through the crowd arresting people, was unsettling.…—”I’m the 13-year-old police threatened to arrest at the Kirribilli House protest. This is why I did it,” Isolde (Izzy) Raj-Seppings, Australia news|The Guardian, 12/21/19

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It’s the Arctic, Stupid! —and the Methane

Dr. Peter Wadhams: Arctic Research & the Methane Risk

Peter Wadhams is back on ScientistsWarning.TV with a comprehensive analysis of the reticent approach that part of the scientific community has been taking toward the potentially very dangerous methane hydrate situation in shallow Arctic sea waters, in this conversation recorded in March of 2019.

I brought to his attention a video that had been put together by Yale Climate Connections in January 2019, which took the position that there really wasn’t too much to worry about in terms of a potential Arctic methane release. Not fully trusting the video’s assertions, I wanted Dr. Wadhams’ take on it. The conversation touched upon several areas where science and scientists are not as objective as they should be.

Apparently the situation with methane in the Arctic permafrost, both land based, and in this case sub-sea in the Arctic Ocean, is such an immense potential game-changer that it is provoking willful ignorance among many scientists and policy makers.

Dr. Wadhams also notes that a proper risk analysis of methane outbreak at various levels has been missing so far, but should be conducted now as a high priority task.—”Dr. Peter Wadhams: Arctic Research & the Methane Risk,” Stuart Scott, UPFSI|YouTube, 7/21/19

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A Methane Leak, Seen From Space,
Proves to Be Far Larger Than Thought

The findings mark a step forward in using space technology to detect leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites worldwide.

The scientists said the new findings reinforced the view that methane releases like these, which are difficult to predict, could be far more widespread than previously thought.

Further reading: Researchers find leak in West Texas injection well

“We’re entering a new era. With a single observation, a single overpass, we’re able to see plumes of methane coming from large emission sources,” said Ilse Aben, an expert in satellite remote sensing and one of the authors of the new research. “That’s something totally new that we were previously not able to do from space.”…—”A Methane Leak, Seen From Space, Proves to Be Far Larger Than Thought,” Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, 12/16/19

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Smoke blankets Sydney as air pollution rises 11 times above ‘hazardous’ level

Sidney’s Balmoral Beach was covered in ash from nearby bushfires

Smoke from Australia’s bushfires blanketed Sydney on Tuesday, creating unhealthy air quality conditions for locals — which measured 11 times the “hazardous” level in some parts of the city. New South Wales government’s director of environmental health called the haze “unprecedented,” Reuters reported.

“This smoky period we’ve been experiencing for the past month or so, it is unprecedented, so these conditions are a risk to people’s health,” Richard Broome said, according to Reuters.

Further reading: Australia fires: PM rejects ‘reckless’ calls to limit coal industry

Many locals are experiencing sore eyes, nose and throat irritations, he added, but those with pre-existing conditions, as well as young children and the elderly, “were at particular risk,” Broome added.…—”Sydney: Toxic bushfire smoke blankets city, creating ‘hazardous’ pollution levels,” Bianca Britton,  CNN, 12/22/19

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Arctic habitats and cultures on thin ice as region warms

WASHINGTON (AP) – Rising temperatures and shrinking snow and ice cover in the Arctic are endangering habitats, fisheries and local cultures, according to a report issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“A lot of people think of the Arctic as being a faraway place, but the loss of ice is affecting people now – it’s changing peoples’ lives,” said Don Perovich, a Dartmouth College geophysicist who contributed to the report. “It isn’t just a bunch of cold statistics.”

The Bering Sea, which lies between Alaska and Russia, is one of the world’s two most productive fisheries. But the Arctic region is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the report found. The past two years saw record low levels of sea ice – frozen seawater – floating on the Bering Sea during winter, the report found.…—”Arctic habitats and cultures on thin ice as region warms,” Christina Larson, SFGate, 12/10/19

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Methane’s Short-term Global Warming Potential

[Editor’s note: The global warming potential (GWP) of all gases is measured against that of CO2 as a standard, since CO2 has a far longer lifetime than most other greenhouse gases. As the reader will see below, the GWP of methane is quite high when first emitted to the atmosphere, and drops considerably over its first 45-50 years of life.

It turns out that governments report the dangers of methane by citing the GWP at the 100-year level (“methane GWP-100”), at which it is about 28 times as dangerous as CO2 as an agent of global warming. Scientists conventionally use the methane GWP-20 figure of about 85 times that of CO2.

However, humankind has only 11 years left, scientists warn, to make radical changes in our emissions of all global warming gases. So it would make sense that we would know the GWP-10 value for methane, which is about 105 times as dangerous as CO2. Citing the GWP-100 or even the GWP-20 figure for methane gives the public a false sense of comfort, as it can be seen that most of methane’s damage will happen in the ten years we have left to do something about it.

These figures are very difficult to find, and here we rely on an undergraduate physics student at Stanford University, in 2016. We are looking for further information on this topic, as it is vital to and understanding of how dangerous methane is as a global warming agent, particularly as we are recently finding reports o unprecedented discharges.]

Fig. 1: Development of AGWP-CH4, AGWP-CO2 and GWP-CH4 with time horizon. The red and green curves show how the AGWPs changes with increasing time horizon. [1] The blue curve shows how GWP, which is their ratio, falls with increasing time horizon. (Source: V. Jadhav)}

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016

Global Warming and Climate Change, today’s most-trending topic on a global scale and one of the most serious threats in mankind’s history is a very extensive phenomenon and there exists a plethora of scientific parameters which can help us understand various aspects of the global warming and climate change properly. Greenhouse gas emissions, especially anthropogenic GHG emissions, are a major factor responsible for this whole issue. Now, in order to understand the “impacts” of GHG emissions on atmosphere/climate, various “metrics” are developed, studied and applied. Metrics are used to quantify the contributions to climate change of emissions of different substances and can thus act as “exchange rates” in multi-component policies or comparisons of emissions from regions/countries or sources/sectors. Metrics are also used in areas such as Life Cycle Assessments and Integrated Assessment Modelling. Global Warming Potential is one such metric. Some other examples of metrics are Radiative Forcing (RF), Global Temperature Potential (GTP) etc.

Significance

Global Warming and Climate Change, today’s most-trending topic on a global scale and one of the most serious threats in mankind’s history is a very extensive phenomenon and there exists a plethora of scientific parameters which can help us understand various aspects of the global warming and climate change properly. Greenhouse gas emissions, especially anthropogenic GHG emissions, are a major factor responsible for this whole issue. Now, in order to understand the “impacts” of GHG emissions on atmosphere/climate, various “metrics” are developed, studied and applied. Metrics are used to quantify the contributions to climate change of emissions of different substances and can thus act as “exchange rates” in multi-component policies or comparisons of emissions from regions/countries or sources/sectors. Metrics are also used in areas such as Life Cycle Assessments and Integrated Assessment Modeling. Global Warming Potential is one such metric. Some other examples of metrics are Radiative Forcing (RF), Global Temperature Potential (GTP) etc.…—”Global Warming Potential,” Vijaysinh Jadhav, Stanford University, 11/21/16

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Winter solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska

Time-lapse movie of the winter solstice sun and ice fog in Fairbanks, Alaska.—”Winter solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska,”  Taro Nakai, YouTube, 12/21/12

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‘We Fear for Our Children:’
Alaska Natives Speak out in Climate Change Report

For the first time, NOAA’s annual report on the devastating effects of climate change in the Arctic is highlighting the unsettling changes to the lives of the people who live there.

Few communities on Earth are experiencing the effects of climate change as profoundly as Alaska Natives. Now, their voices and experiences are being amplified in a new climate report by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration that highlights how dramatic sea ice losses and ecosystem shifts are impacting their food security and traditional way of life.…—”‘We Fear for Our Children:’ Alaska Natives Speak out in Climate Change Report,” VICE. 12/11/19

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Hartford to cut insurance for coal, tar sands companies – Business Insurance

Hartford Financial Services Inc. on Friday became the latest insurer to announce it would restrict its insurance of coal producers.

In a statement, Hartford said it will no longer insure or invest in companies that generate more than 25% of their revenue from thermal coal mining or more than 25% of their energy production from coal and companies that generate more than 25% of their revenue from extraction of oil from tar sands.

Further reading Insurers Divest from Coal Over Climate Risks
Fossil fuel divestment has ‘zero’ climate impact, says Bill Gates

The insurer will phase out the relationships by 2023, the statement said. The policy will not include disability, life and other voluntary benefits products that Hartford offers to the companies.…—”Hartford to cut insurance for coal, tar sands companies,” Gavin Souter, Business Insurance|Diversity+Inclusion Institute, 12/20/19

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Why ‘Mom and Pop’ green energy producers
can’t sell their clean power in B.C. anymore

Family-run green power projects — that for decades have supplied electricity to remote communities and the provincial grid — now face bankruptcy as BC Hydro favours big dams and big producers

The B.C. government was so excited to announce one of the province’s first independent power projects that former Energy Minister Jack Davis handed Ron Williams his contract in front of 400 applauding delegates at a conference at the Hotel Vancouver. 

Williams, a small woodlot operator who lives near William’s Lake, remembers the day vividly: it was April 4, 1990, and he had driven down to attend the two-day conference sponsored by BC Hydro to promote independent power production. 

From then on, Davis told Williams and 400 other delegates, “BC Hydro will canvass the private sector for power that can be generated below Hydro’s avoided cost.”…—”Why ‘Mom and Pop’ green energy producers can’t sell their clean power in B.C. anymore,” Sarah Cox, The Narwhal, 12/17/19

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The social cost of atmospheric release

Abstract

I present a multi-impact economic valuation framework called the Social Cost of Atmospheric Release (SCAR) that extends the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) used previously for carbon dioxide (CO2) to a broader range of pollutants and impacts. Values consistently incorporate health impacts of air quality along with climate damages. The latter include damages associated with aerosol-induced hydrologic cycle changes that lead to net climate benefits when reducing cooling aerosols. Evaluating a 1 % reduction in current global emissions, benefits with a high discount rate are greatest for reductions of co-emitted products of incomplete combustion (PIC), followed by sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and then CO2, ammonia and methane. With a low discount rate, benefits are greatest for PIC, with CO2 and SO2 next, followed by NOx and methane. These results suggest that efforts to mitigate atmosphere-related environmental damages should target a broad set of emissions including CO2, methane and aerosol/ozone precursors. Illustrative calculations indicate environmental damages are $330-970 billion yr−1 for current US electricity generation (~14–34¢ per kWh for coal, ~4–18¢ for gas) and $3.80 (−1.80/+2.10) per gallon of gasoline ($4.80 (−3.10/+3.50) per gallon for diesel). These results suggest that total atmosphere-related environmental damages plus generation costs are much greater for coal-fired power than other types of electricity generation, and that damages associated with gasoline vehicles substantially exceed those for electric vehicles.…—”The social cost of atmospheric release,” Drew T. Shindell, SpringerLink|Springer Verlag, 2/5/15

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Industry air emissions in Texas more than doubled last year

Industrial companies in Texas produced more than 135 million pounds of air emissions beyond what regulators expected last year.

Texas companies last year spewed more than 135 million pounds of toxic pollutants beyond what is permitted, a doubling of emissions over 2017, according to a new analysis by an environmental nonprofit.

Much of the spike in 2018 came from a single event at the Beaumont Gas to Gasoline Plant in Jefferson County, when an equipment startup at the plant on Aug. 29, 2018 lasted for more than five days and emitted more than 53 million pounds of carbon dioxide — a primary driver of climate change.…—”Unauthorized air emissions in Texas more than doubled in 2018, environmental group says,” Erin Douglas and Perla Trevizo, Houston Chronicle, 12/18/19

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Searching for the Yukon River’s missing Chinook

Life along the 3,000-kilometre river is shaped by this once-abundant salmon. So what happens when the species, complexly co-managed by Canada and the U.S., begins to disappear?

The Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) of the Yukon River make one of the longest salmon migrations in the world — and, arguably, one of the most politically and socially complex. 

A staple food and cultural touchstone for First Nations living along the Yukon River, Canadian-origin salmon are born in the Yukon, spend their adult lives in the Alaskan and international waters of the ocean, traversing thousands of kilometres to breed. They are managed jointly by the U.S. and Canada under the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, which is part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty

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Large atmospheric waves in the jet stream
present risk to global food production

Researchers at Oxford University, together with and international colleagues, have discovered jet stream patterns that could affect up to a quarter of global food production.

In a new study published today in Nature Climate Change, scientists show how specific wave patterns in the jet stream strongly increase the chance of co-occurring heatwaves in major food producing regions of Northern America, Western Europe and Asia. Their research finds that these simultaneous heatwaves significantly reduce crop production across those regions, creating the risk of multiple harvest failures and other far-reaching societal consequences, including social unrest.…—”Large atmospheric waves in the jet stream present risk to global food production,” University of Oxford, 12/9/19

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‘A Quantum Leap in Its Ambition’:
Europe’s Investment Bank Will Stop Funding
Fossil Fuel Projects

The move is expected to support Europe’s plans to become the first climate-neutral continent.

The European Investment Bank adopted an unprecedented strategy to end funding for fossil fuel energy projects, in a move expected to support Europe’s plans to become the first climate-neutral continent.

The board of the Luxembourg-based lending arm of the European Union decided at a meeting on Thursday to approve a new energy policy that includes increased support for clean-energy projects. The bank will not consider new financing of unabated fossil fuels, including natural gas, from the end of 2021.

With more than half a trillion dollars in outstanding loans, the EIB is the biggest multilateral financial institution in the world. Given the EIB’s market impact and influence over the lending strategies of investors, its decision could end up depriving polluting projects from other sources of financing as well.…—”Europe’s Investment Bank Will Stop Funding Fossil Fuel Projects,” Ewa Krukowska, Fortune, 11/15/19

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Why frackers are using sewage to collect oil and gas

America’s oil industry faces a number of challenges, including low oil prices, the rise of electric vehicles and proposals to limit fracking. But one of its biggest problems: The industry is running out of water.

The US oil boom is being driven mostly by the growth of fracking — injecting water into shale formations to free up deposits of oil and natural gas that were never economically accessible before.

But much of that oil and natural gas is found in the most arid parts of the country, where water is scarce.
“We’re in the middle of desert,” said Jerry Morales, mayor of Midland, Texas, ground zero for the fracking boom. “And two years ago we came out of a seven-year drought.”…—”Why frackers are using sewage to collect oil and gas,” Chris Isidore, CNN, 11/8/19

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Governments’ fossil fuel policies
may leave them open to climate liability

A new report says governments’ planned fossil fuel production will make curbing global warming impossible, which could make them liable.

If countries produce all the fossil fuels they currently have planned, the world has no chance of limiting global warming to the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, a new report finds. That conclusion could bolster the cases being pursued around the world to hold governments accountable for their policies’ impact on the climate.

Related news New Research Tying 20 Companies to One-Third of Global Emissions Aids Liability Argument
What Oil Companies Knew About Climate Change and When: A Timeline
Carbon Capture: Will It Save the Climate, or the Fossil Fuel Industry?
Court Advisors Urge Dutch Supreme Court to Uphold Historic Climate Verdict Court Advisors Urge Dutch Supreme Court to Uphold Historic Climate Verdict
Final Appeal in Historic Urgenda Case May Hinge on Human Rights

According to the report published Wednesday, conducted by the UN Environment Program and international research organizations, nations are currently on track to allow production of 50 percent more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be exploited to hold global temperature rise below 2 degrees C. If the temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5 degrees C—the more ambitious aim of the Paris Agreement—current policies would lead to 120 percent more fossil fuels than can be burned. The report, called the “Production Gap,” is the first to analyze whether governments’ plans for fossil fuel production are consistent with Paris climate goals.…Governments’ fossil fuel policies may leave them open to climate liability,” Dana Drugmand, Climate Liability News, 11/21/19

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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 editor@thebanner.news.