While I find more positive items to report than negative, it is clear that much more needs to be done to avoid very serious climate impacts in the future. I like to think that the positive items represent progress that will accelerate in time to keep the rising temperatures manageable.
1. The EPA has issued rules that will sharply reduce the manufacture and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – potent greenhouse gases that are often used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. These gasses are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gasses. The EPA expects that a worldwide phasedown of HFCs can avoid up to 0.5 degrees of global warming by 2100. The EPA estimates that the move will prevent the equivalent of 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted – about the same as three years of U.S. power sector emissions.
2. New York City lawmakers passed legislation banning natural gas hookups in new buildings in favor of electricity or other more environmentally friendly sources for heating, hot water and cooking. The law will take effect in December 2023 for buildings less than seven stories high and in 2027 for taller buildings. The rule does not apply to hospitals, commercial kitchens and laundromats, and residents who currently utilize natural gas in their homes will not be affected.
3. The federal government has determined that the use of ocean sites in New York and New Jersey for offshore wind energy projects will not significantly harm the environment. Both states have ambitious goals for becoming carbon neutral and this decision will make it possible to install large amounts of offshore wind energy generation.
4. Six European supermarkets have announced they will stop selling some or all beef products originating in Brazil because of concerns over links to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and other ecologically important areas.
5. Methane is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas global warming and livestock account for about 1/3 of all methane emissions. Researchers have found a seaweed species in coastal Australia, Asparagopsis, that eliminated methane emissions when fed to cattle. If the 1.2 billion cattle on earth were fed the seaweed as less than 1% of their feed, it could reduce the global methane by an amount equivalent to all of the greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. That is a long way off, and it must be proven at scale, but it could be very significant.
6. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized the strongest-ever federal clean car standards for the model years 2023-2026. The EPA says the move will prevent 3.1 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2050, reduce US gasoline consumption by 360 billion gallons, and save consumers money in fuel costs. It is also expected to generate $190 billion in public health benefits from cuts to air pollution.
1. Ralph Northam, Virginia governor, outlined an ambitious plan to tackle resilience needs due to climate change throughout coastal Virginia only to have Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, one day later, announce his intention to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, threatening money dedicated to a flood preparedness fund.Youngkin famously said during the campaign that he didn’t know if humans were the cause of climate change.
2. The Thwaits glacier in Antarctica — nicknamed the "Doomsday Glacier" because its collapse could trigger a chain of events resulting in millions of people being permanently flooded out of their homes and becoming climate refugees — is showing signs of collapse. The ice shelf that is frozen to the sea bottom and holds back the giant glacier is melting and is cracking due to warming sea water. As a result, the glacier could soon start sliding into the sea, resulting in two feet to ten feet of sea level rise. This process could begin in the next few years and could last for centuries.
3. In addition to the tornado outbreak in the Midwest and the recent record breaking number of reports of hurricane force winds over 75 mph, there was a major typhoon that has devastated parts of the Philippines. Typhoon Rai intensified from a category 1 to a category 5 storm in less than 24 hours, killing 388 and displacing over 300,000. Climate change is making major cyclonic storms more intense and is fueling increased rapid intensification.
4. On the day after Christmas, Alaska recorded a temperature of 67 degrees F. This set a statewide record for the month of December. Rick Thoman, an Alaskan climate specialist, stated "In late December, I would not have thought such a thing possible."
Watch the movie "Don't Look Up" with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and a number of other stars. This movie is a satire on folks who do not believe in the climate problem or do not think it is a serious threat and do not listen to messages they do not want to hear. The movie is about an incoming comet instead of climate change. It is highly recommended by leading climate scientist, Michael Mann.
Happy New Year,