Power plant greenhouse gas emissions drop 23 percent

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Switching to natural gas power generation has helped slow the pace of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo via the Wikimedia Commons.

Coal losing ground, but is still the biggest source of fuel for generating electricity

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The gradual shift to natural gas power plants may not be a panacea for reducing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but the switch has helped slow the pace emissions.

“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30 even 40 percent for some gases since 1997,” said NOAA atmospheric scientists Joost de Gouw. Continue reading

Study tracks natural variability of ocean acidity

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Ocean acidification will have impacts on most life in the coastal zone. bberwyn photo.

‘For vulnerable coastal marine ecosystems, this may be adding insult to injury …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In addition to the long-term threat of ocean acidification resulting from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, marine organisms also must deal with short-term spikes of increased acidity.

Those acute episodes are caused by a variety of natural factors, including temperature and algal activity, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University, who took a close look at natural cycles of acidity in a North Carolina estuary.

“The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole,” said  Zackary I. Johnson, a molecular biologists at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Continue reading

Global warming: New research suggests climate may be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought

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Convective clouds over the Florida coast. bberwyn photo.

Correcting models with new information on cloud formation leads to higher projected temperature increases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists taking a closer look at the role of water vapor in cloud formation say the climate is probably more sensitive to greenhouse gases than most existing models suggest.

Based on those observations, they concluded that global temperatures could easily climb by at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked.

The research, published in the journal Nature, helps answer one of the long-standing questions about climate sensitivity — the role of cloud formation and whether this will have a positive or negative effect on global warming. Continue reading

Global Warming: Some Arctic ocean organisms are unlikely to survive in increasingly acidic oceans

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

Some Arctic-dwelling copepods may not be able to survive increasingly acidic oceans.

“Some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification … ‘

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Marine organisms with a limited natural habitat range will likely suffer the most as oceans become more acidic. Among the first to go may be tiny copepods in the Arctic Ocean living just beneath the surface. The crustaceans are a critical part of the ocean food web, helping to sustain many other animals.

“Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early-life stages,” said Dr, Ceri Lewis, with the University of Exeter. “This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions.”

The recent findings on ocean acidification impacts came from a research expedition conducted as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey. The study found that copepods that move large distances, migrating vertically across a wide range of pH conditions, have a better chance of surviving. Continue reading

New study ups estimates of U.S. methane emissions

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U.S. emissions of heat-trapping methane may be much higher than previously thought.

Previous data may have seriously underestimated methane from fossil fuel production

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado regulators preparing to tackle heat-trapping methane have their work cut out — a new landmark study suggests that methane emissions from fossil fuel development in the south-central U.S. may be five times higher than previous estimates, and emissions from livestock operations may be twice as high.

Total methane emissions in the United States appear to be as much as 1.7 times higher than believed, a team of researchers said after analyzing detailed atmospheric measurements.

“This paper provides the most solid and the most detailed estimate to date of total U.S. methane emissions,” said coauthor Anna M. Michalak, a faculty member in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Michalak is also an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University. “This was really, from beginning to end, just a very clean analysis.” Continue reading

This year’s Colorado Climate Network conference to focus on local emissions reductions

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Global CO2 emissions continue to increase.

More action needed to meet emissions targets

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With global greenhouse gas emissions headed for a new record high this year, it’s clear that more needs to be done to avert a catastrophic temperature increase.

Leadership from the Obama administration helps set the tone for concerted action at all levels, beginning with individual choices and stepping up through communities, states and regions. In Colorado, many communities have already made great progress in reducing heat-trapping pollutants, but additional measures are needed to meet short- and long term goals.

Next month’s Colorado Climate Network conference (Dec. 12) will focus on local emissions reductions and includes sessions on the results of state and local emissions inventories, as well as spotlighting some successful local programs that could serve as models for other communities. Continue reading

Study outlines greenhouse gas ‘hangover’

Oceans will lose ability to absorb heat

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius may require a more dramatic turn away from fossil fuels than previously believed, researchers said last week, describing a greenhouse gas lag that could cause temperatures to keep rising even after CO2 emissions stop.

The Princeton-led study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature increase scientists deem unsafe. Temperatures would initially drop after CO2 levels stabilize, but eventually, the world’s oceans would lose some their capacity to take up heat, especially in polar regions, the study found.

In their study, the scientists modeled a scenario that halted all CO2 emissions after 1.8 billion tons carbon entered the atmosphere, a simulation often used to measure the staying power of heat-trapping gases. The model shows that oceans and forests would absorb about 40 percent of the CO2 within 40 years and 80 percent after 1,000 years. Continue reading

Climate: Protecting the cryosphere

International groups seeks immediate cuts in black carbon, methane, HFCs to protect world’s snow and ice regions

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Antarctic glaciers may last a little longer with immediate cuts to short-lived climate pollutants. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with the larger battle to reduce emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases, policy makers should also consider how they can cut short-lived climate pollutants in order to protect the world’s snow and ice.

A study released earlier this month shows that immediate cuts to short-lived pollutants could could prevent as much as a full degree Celsius of additional warming in the Arctic by 2050, preventing up to 40 percent of projected summer sea ice loss and 25 percent of springtime snow cover loss compared to business as usual emissions.

The report from the World Bank and the International Climate Cryosphere Initiative also spells out how immediate action could save millions of lives and protect critical ecosystems. Read the cryosphere action plan here.

“Reductions in emissions from diesel engines, open field and forest burning, and wood stoves will have a significant impact on the Arctic, while reducing emissions from the burning of biomass and coal for residential cooking and heating will have the largest impact on the Himalayas,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

“If you cut these using existing technology right now, you can cut the rate of climate-change in half. This is a no-brainer. It saves lives, crops, and it’s not going to shut down anybody’s life,” Zaelke said. “This is a piece we can get started on right now, a damn big piece, the only thing we can do to produce results in the next 50 years …  A lot of these changes can be done quickly, elegantly … with existing technology,” he said. Continue reading

Global CO2 emissions rising unchecked

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Co2 emissions are set to reach a record level this year.

New record level expected in 2013, with U.S. still by far the largest per capita source of greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just in time for the Warsaw climate talks, climate trackers with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia said global carbon dioxide emissions are set to soar to a new record high of 36 billion tons in 2013 — 61 percent above the 1990 baseline levels set for the Kyoto Protocol.

“Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change,” said the Tyndall Centre’s Professor Corinne Le Quére, who led the global carbon budget report.

“Alongside the latest Carbon Budget is the launch of the Carbon Atlas, a new online platform showing the world’s biggest carbon emitters more clearly than ever before,” Le Quére said, explaining that China’s growing economy is driving the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

Climate models underestimating Arctic permafrost methane emissions

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Methane from melt ponds in the Canadian Arctic are a significant source of greenhouse gases. bberwyn photo.

Study targets small melt ponds in Canadian Arctic

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — When it comes to global warming, size can matter — in unexpected ways — according to scientists who studied methane emissions from thawing permafrost in the Canadian Arctic.

The findings suggest that most climate models are underestimating those emissions, and that including greenhouse gases coming from small thaw ponds could have a significant impact on climate. Continue reading

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