Category Archives: Global Environment

United Nations Science Panel Issues Strongest Warning Yet About Global Warming


Mining machines digging for brown coal in front of a power plant near Grevenbroich, Germany, in April. Credit Martin Meissner/Associated Press

The United Nations science group charged with the responsibility of studying climate change issued its latest report yesterday, November 2, 2014, on the problems the world faces with global warming and the news is not good. The new report comes just a month before international delegates convene in Lima, Peru, in an effort to devise a new global treaty or other agreement to limit emissions, and it makes clear the urgency of their task.
Appearing at a news conference in Copenhagen Sunday morning to unveil the report, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, issued an urgent appeal for strong action in Lima. “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message,” Mr. Ban declared. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”
A core finding of the new report is that climate change is no longer a distant, future threat, but is being felt all over the world already. The group cited mass die-offs of forests, including those in the American West; the melting of land ice virtually everywhere in the world; an accelerating rise of the seas that is leading to increased coastal flooding; and heat waves that have devastated crops and killed tens of thousands of people.
A summary of the UN’s 175 page report is in the New York Times and is found here while the full UN report will be found here. And below are several important paragraphs from the NY Times article:

“ The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report.

Despite growing efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the global situation is becoming more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here on Sunday.

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.”


The Top Four CO2 Emitters: China, U.S. Europe, and India

The Global Carbon Project’s 2014 Report shows that in 2013 China’s CO2 emissions were twice that of the second largest carbon emitter, the United States. Third largest were the 28 European countries of the European Union (EU); India was in fourth place. Important to note is not just the rapid rise of China’s emissions but also that they grew at 4.2% last year. This contrasts with the downward trend of both the U.S. (with a small uptick in 2013 because of increase in coal usage) and Europe. India’s emissions showed the highest year gain and will continue to do so, particularly because according to a recent statement by an Indian official the  country has no plans to limit the CO2 emissions. (Read that article here). You’ll find the Global Carbon Project report here.


A recent report from the Global Carbon Project shows China’s soaring trajectory for heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Credit Global Carbon Project


Why Not Now? Video from UN Climate Summit

An extraordinarily powerful video watched today (September 23, 2014) by world leaders at the UN Climate Summit Meeting. Recommended highly. The link is here.



CO2 levels in atmosphere rising at dramatically faster rate, U.N. report warns

Greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, a U.N. report says, in part because of rising emissions from automobiles and smokestacks. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, a U.N. report says, in part because of rising emissions from automobiles and smokestacks. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

An article in The Washington Post by Joby Warrick reports on the alarming rise in atmospheric CO2 levels documented by the U.N’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extracts of the article are below. A link to the article is here. The WMO report can be found here.

“Levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record-shattering pace last year, a new report shows, a surge that surprised scientists and spurred fears of an accelerated warming of the planet in decades to come.

Concentrations of nearly all the major greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, reflecting ever-rising emissions from automobiles and smokestacks but also, scientists believe, a diminishing ability of the world’s oceans and plant life to soak up the excess carbon put into the atmosphere by humans, according to data released early Tuesday by the United Nations’ meteorological advisory body.

The latest figures from the World Meteorological Organization’s monitoring network are considered particularly significant because they reflect not only the amount of carbon pumped into the air by humans, but also the complex interaction between man-made gases and the natural world. Historically, about half of the pollution from human sources has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants, preventing temperatures from rising as quickly as they otherwise would, scientists say.

“If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse,” said Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of the WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch program, which collects data from 125 monitoring stations worldwide. The monitoring network is regarded as the most reliable window on the health of Earth’s atmosphere, drawing on air samples collected near the poles, over the oceans, and in other locations far from cities and other major sources of pollution.”




Scenes from the August 24, 2014 Napa Valley 6.0 Earthquake

Yes, we were rudely awakened at 3:30 am here in Berkeley by the magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered in nearby Napa, California, and although our house rocked and rolled for about 20 seconds we suffered no real damage compared to communities 30 miles north where over a hundred people were injured and many, many buildings and homes were severely damaged. Here’s video raw footage ( mainly without narration) that shows not just the building damage experience in Napa but also, importantly, the scene in the local hospital parking lot as they prepare to receive casualties. More news and updates later once things settle down (pun intended)


Grain Waits as Trains Move North Dakota Oil

Grain Waits as Trains Move North Dakota Oil

North Dakota’s oil boom is causing a transportation crisis for Midwest grain farmers according to an article in this morning’s New York Times written by Ron Nixon. You’ll find the whole article here. And here are several key lead  paragraphs:

“The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills….

Although the energy boom in North Dakota has led to a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, the downside has been harder times for farmers who have long been mainstays of the state’s economy. Agriculture was North Dakota’s No. 1 industry for decades, representing a quarter of its economic base, but recent statistics show that oil and gas have become the biggest contributors to the state’s gross domestic product.

An oil train rolled east through Fargo, N.D. Grain shipments have been delayed as oil has taken up freight space on the railways, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses. Credit Dan Koeck for The New York Times

An oil train rolled east through Fargo, N.D. Grain shipments have been delayed as oil has taken up freight space on the railways, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses.
Dan Koeck for The New York Times


BP’s 2013 Global Energy Update

What to know all about the global energy scene in two minutes and 43 seconds? Then check out BP’s animated video for a summary. Then go to the full report here for all the details.