A wind farm in Texas, which leads the U.S. in wind energy production. The U.S. produces more megawatt hours of wind energy than any other nation. Photo: U.S. Department of Commerce
(First published on March 16, 2018, on State of the Planet.)
Wind and solar energy production are growing faster in the United States than any other source of electricity, and falling prices are making them more competitive with fossil fuel-driven electricity. Meanwhile, natural gas has surpassed coal as the prime fuel for power plants. Those trends helped drive down U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 to their lowest level since 1991, according to a report for the Business Council on Sustainable Energy.
That’s good news for anyone concerned about climate change. The shift to renewable energy is a key part of the global effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other earth-warming gases and slow down climate change by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. But critics argue that this growth wouldn’t be possible without financial support from the government. How much do renewables actually need tax breaks and other subsides?
(First published on March 8, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The world’s fast-growing major cities are where most people feel the impacts of climate change, as New York found out in Superstorm Sandy. Mayors from cities around the world are confronting the need to adapt and plan for resilience and sustainability. The role of women in all this will be highlighted at an upcoming conference at Columbia University.
(First published on Feb. 14, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
Aaron Putnam sits atop a boulder high in the Sierras of central California, banging away with hammer and chisel to chip out a sample of ice age history. Each hunk of rock is a piece of a vast puzzle: How did our climate system behave the last time it warmed up like it’s doing today?
Filed under Climate, Science
Horses near Lake Dali, in Inner Mongolia. Scientists studying the lake have concluded that the size of the lake has changed dramatically over the distant past, due to changes in the climate and resulting shifts in the annual monsoon. Photo: Yonaton Goldsmith
(First published on Feb. 6, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon’s changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.
(First published on Jan. 18, 2017, on State of the Planet.)
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to scientists and others who’ve been watching, but marks a milestone nonetheless: 2016 was the warmest year on record, dating back to the start of modern record keeping in 1880. And it’s the third record year in a row, keeping up a long-term trend of warming.
Groundwater pumping for agriculture and other uses has risen sharply. But a new study says it isn’t contributing as much as previously thought to sea level rise.
(First published on May 3, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Some research suggests that, along with melting ice sheets and glaciers, the water pumped from underground for irrigation and other uses, on the rise worldwide, could contribute substantially to rising sea levels over the next 50 years. A new study published in Nature Climate Change says the magnitude is much lower than previously estimated.
Filed under Climate, Science
A rendering of Climate City, the first research center solely dedicated to climate change, in Lorraine, France, at a former NATO airport. Architect: Agence d’Architecture A. Béchu
(First published on March 9, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
Sometime soon, a flock of “Climate Birds” could be ascending from a former NATO base in northeast France to take the measure of climate change around the world.
The Chambley-Planet Air Base, located in the Meurthe-et-Moselle département, about 10 miles west of the city of Metz, has more recently been the site of mass flights of hot air balloons that paint the sky with bright colors during a biennial festival. But the vision of Earth Institute scientist Yves Tourre and Laurent Husson, his partner and Climate City’s CEO, would turn part of the base into “Climate City”: a center for research on the local and regional impacts of climate change.
The graphs show the rightward shift—to warmer temperatures—in different regions of the world. The greater the shift, the more likely people in the region will experience summers or winters warmer than the average recorded between 1951-1980. The most dramatic changes can be seen in the Middle East and Southeast Asian summer months. Graphics: Hansen and Sato, Environmental Research Letters, March 2016
(First published on March 2, 2016, on State of the Planet.)
The global trend toward hotter summers could make parts of the Middle East and tropics “practically uninhabitable” by the end of the century, new research published this week contends.
The work, by climate scientist James Hansen and Makiko Sato of Columbia University’s Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, builds on earlier research showing that summers generally are more often becoming hotter than the average recorded between 1951-1980. The new paper updates their analysis of the data and looks at how temperatures are changing region by region. The authors conclude that summers in particular have continued to grow hotter, and that extreme heat events are occurring more frequently.
Students from the University of Waterloo in Canada had a breakfast meeting with the Kiribati delegation and met the island nation’s president, Anote Tong, on Dec. 6. From left: Kadra Rayale, Rija Rasul, Tong, Vidya Nair and Laura Maxwell.
(First published on Dec. 10, 2015, on State of the Planet.)
Four students in the Masters in Development Practice program at the University of Waterloo in Canada are in Paris for the UN climate summit to represent the Republic of Kiribati. The small island nation is one of several threatened by sea level rise.
This week they have been sitting in on various thematic discussions. Rija Rasul reports she has attended climate finance discussions. Her colleagues Laura Maxwell and Kadra Rayale have been in sessions on adaptation to, and loss and damage from climate change. Vidya Nair has been in discussions about technology and capacity building.
Filed under Climate, Stories