2020-04 01
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Russia drafts strategy for low-carbon development



Russia's Ministry for Economic Development last week published a draft strategy for low-carbon development to 2050. The strategy's basic scenario would see nuclear output grow from 203 TWh in 2017 to 225 TWh in 2030 and 260 TWh in 2050. The ministry said the strategy, which is open to comments until 10 April, is aimed at ensuring the country's transition to a trajectory of diversified economic development characterised by low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. According to Reuters, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Mikhail Rasstrigin said the document is the first comprehensive attempt of the federal government to do this. "Importantly, it sets specific goals for the key areas where the bulk of energy efficiency effects could be reaped," he said. Those areas are: industry, buildings, energy generation and transport. The draft strategy focuses on two main scenarios for low-carbon development: a "basic" scenario and an "intensive" scenario. Under the basic scenario - which the strategy deems to be the most feasible - the carbon intensity of Russia's GDP will reduce by 9% by 2030 and 48% by 2050 (relative to current levels). Target greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, although higher than today, would be lower than 1990 emissions by one third. This would be achieved through measures including large-scale increases in energy efficiency, the introduction of a carbon price, the development of nuclear and renewable energy, reductions in clear-cutting of forests and an expansion of protect forest areas. The intensive scenario would allow Russia to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the 21st century. In addition to the measures in the basic scenario, it would include efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of manufactured goods, energy, works and services. This would be through steps including the large-scale electrification and digitalization of transport and industry; an increase in renewable energy; the introduction of technology to capture, store and process carbon dioxide, a halt in clear-cutting of forests and further expansion of forest protection. Russia is a party to the 2015 Paris Agreement, under which parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to develop long-term, low-emission development strategies. Under the agreement, all parties are required to put forward nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Russia has yet to submit its first NDC. Source: wnn Author: World Nuclear News Date: 01 April 2020

2020-03 25
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These satellite photos show how COVID-19 lockdowns have impacted global emissions



Quarantining and lockdowns have forced many countries' industries to shut down, with many factories closing their doors. Nitrogen dioxide emissions are a major air pollutant, and are closely linked to factory output and vehicles on the roads. NO₂ emissions can be a good indicator of global economic activity—and the changes are visible from space. The Emissions Impact of Coronavirus Lockdowns There’s a high chance you’re reading this while practicing social distancing, or while your corner of the world is under some type of advised or enforced lockdown. While these are necessary measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, such economic interruption is unprecedented in many ways—resulting in some surprising side effects. The Evidence is in NO₂ Emissions Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) emissions, a major air pollutant, are closely linked to factory output and vehicles operating on the road. As both industry and transport come to a halt during this pandemic, NO₂ emissions can be a good indicator of global economic activity—and the changes are visible from space. These images from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), as well as satellite footage from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), show a drastic decline in NO₂ emissions over recent months, particularly across Italy and China. NO₂ Emissions Across Italy In Italy, the number of active COVID-19 cases has surpassed China (including the death toll). Amid emergency actions to lock down the entire nation, everything from schools and shops, to restaurants and even some churches, are closed. Italy is also an industrial hub, with the sector accounting for nearly 24% of GDP. With many Italians urged to work from home if possible, visible economic activity has dropped considerably. This 10-day moving average animation (from January 1st—March 11th, 2020) of nitrogen dioxide emissions across Europe clearly demonstrates how the drop in Italy’s economic activity has impacted the environment. That’s not all: a drop in boat traffic also means that Venice’s canals are clear for the time being, as small fish have begun inhabiting the waterways again. Experts are cautious to note that this does not necessarily mean the water quality is better. NO₂ Emissions Across China The emissions changes above China are possibly even more obvious to the eye. China is the world’s most important manufacturing hub and a significant contributor to greenhouse gases globally. But in the month following Lunar New Year (a week-long festival in early February), satellite imagery painted a different picture. coronavirus pollution air quality lockdown quarantine factory emissions global nitrogen carbon dioxide pandemic economic activity indicator space With factories empty, less emissions are produced. NO₂ emissions around the Hubei province, the original epicenter of the virus, steeply dropped as factories were forced to shutter their doors for the time being. What’s more, there were measurable effects in the decline of other emission types from the drop in coal use during the same time, compared to years prior. coronavirus pollution air quality lockdown quarantine factory emissions global nitrogen carbon dioxide pandemic economic activity indicator space With China slowly returning to work, this reduced consumption could rebound. Back to the Status Quo? In recent weeks, China has been able to flatten the curve of its total COVID-19 cases. As a result, the government is beginning to ease its restrictions—and it’s clear that social and economic activities are starting to pick back up in March. With the regular chain of events beginning to resume, it remains to be seen whether NO₂ emissions will rebound right back to their pre-pandemic levels. Source: World Economic Forum Author: Iman Ghosh Date:25 Mar 2020

2020-03 17
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After Covid-19, the Climate



If there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is what it might mean for the climate crisis. Not only have attempts to control the virus led to a reduction in carbon emissions, they have also led to a significant shift in the way individuals, institutions and politicians discuss our responsibility to protect vulnerable groups in our societies. By late last year, it seemed clear that decades of attempts to coax governments and business leaders into taking seriously the risks posed by the climate crisis were leading nowhere. Yet faced with the far more immediate threats posed by a global pandemic, states that for decades had been committed to neoliberal thinking have slowly begun to embrace such radically old-fashioned ideas as planning for the future, relying on scientific expertise, or calling on their constituents to make sacrifices in order to protect vulnerable members of society. Environmental campaigners and journalists have begun to document the effects that the shut-down of factories, cancellation of large conferences, postponement of sporting events, and limitations on freedom of movement have had on carbon emissions. For those of us who work in universities, the possibility that academic life can go on despite a major reduction in air travel may prove to be a turning point. In recent years, many faculty had begun to reflect critically on the carbon footprint of academic conferencing. That conversation intensified after Greta Thunberg sailed from Stockholm to New York to take part in the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. Yet most of us continued to decide that our careers, the connections we made from attending events in person, the insights we were bringing to the world, or simply surviving in the hyper-competitive and entrepreneurial world of the modern university, justified continuing to travel regularly rather than rethinking our addiction to a carbonised academic lifestyle. As the Covid-19 situation began to unfold, however, that calculation shifted. The week before last, faculty at my law school in Melbourne received an email advising us that we should cancel all non-essential travel for the foreseeable future. Many employees of universities, companies, hospitals and research institutes received similar advice. If travel was avoidable without major impact – because it could be postponed, or we could attend online – it should not proceed. If we believed our travel was essential, we could present our case to the dean. Yet with medical experts engaged in disaster management planning, trying to conjure up extra intensive care beds, ventilators, protective equipment and medical staff in preparation for the tsunami of acute respiratory cases that will arrive in the new few weeks, our reasons to travel seem far less compelling than the reasons to stay still and play a part in delaying the spread of the virus. Numerous governments have now introduced social-distancing policies to win time for front-line medical staff and for the elderly patients who will be at most risk in the crisis phase. The contrast with the way that governments have approached climate change regulation is stark. In the early days of the environmental movement, the international lawyer Edith Brown Weiss developed the principle of intergenerational equity, arguing that we have obligations to future generations. Yet international lawyers long ago stopped discussing such principles seriously. Instead, it became conventional wisdom that the appropriate framework for thinking about negotiating climate agreements was rational choice economics or game theory, with the guiding assumption that rational actors – from genes to individuals to states – will always pursue their self-interest at the expense of others. The idea that people might be willing to make sacrifices for the general good, let alone for a different generation, seemed utopian. Our ‘way of life’, as George H.W. Bush bluntly declared at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, is ‘not up for negotiations’. Yet in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, government leaders are now directly, and properly, calling on all of us to make whatever sacrifices we can to slow down the rate at which this disaster unfolds. That includes closing schools and universities worldwide to delay the spread of infections among students in order to protect their grandparents’ generation. A similarly stark difference can be seen in the way that governments engage with experts and corporate lobbyists. The response to Covid-19 has relied heavily on the advice of public health experts, statistical modelling and logistical planning. The idea that ageing leaders might dismiss the whole crisis as fake news or partisan politics is not sitting well with a public looking for guidance, clear advice and funding for vital testing and medical infrastructure. The entrenched model of corporate lobbyists shaping the priorities of government decision-makers is coming under increased scrutiny. The Australian government imposed travel bans on China, South Korea and Iran, but exempted travellers from Northern Italy until the evening after the Formula One teams had arrived for the Australian Grand Prix. The news that Ferrari had weeks ago demanded ‘assurances’ that it would not be faced with any regulatory surprises has raised questions about the role of lobbyists in increasing risks to human life and health. Yet when it comes to climate change, the dismissal of scientific expertise and the commitment to protecting corporate investors from the risks that future environmental or health regulations might pose to their bottom line have been central for decades. The regulatory responses to the crisis of Covid-19 remind us that there are many ways in which individuals, communities, law-makers and states may respond to a crisis, and that policy-making can be driven by something other than appeals to self-interest. Ideals of intergenerational equity, the collective good and making sacrifices to protect the vulnerable have reappeared in political discourse. Perhaps, once the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over, governments may be ready to bring that wisdom to bear on the crisis of climate change. Source: LRB blog Author:Anne Orford Date:17 MARCH 2020

2020-03 10
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Climate change: Carbon-reducing seagrass planted off Welsh coast



A million seagrass seeds are being planted as part of Britain's largest project to save the "wonder plant". Experts say seagrass helps tackle the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide faster than trees. But up to 92% of the plant may have disappeared from the UK's coast over the last century, research has found. Work has now started on lowering the seeds onto the seabed off Pembrokeshire to create a new 20,000 sq m (215,280 sq ft) meadow. Scientists hope it will also help boost fish numbers and support marine wildlife. Seagrass, which is found in shallow waters of coastal regions, has been declining globally at a rate of about 7% a year since 1990. That is a result of long-term development of our coastlines and pollution of the sea, according to project leader Dr Richard Unsworth, of Swansea University. "It is not that we can blame one person, industry or organisation, it's the growth of a population around the coast," he said. "Planting seagrass is an opportunity to reverse that loss and start to kick into action a recovery for our seas around the UK." World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Sky Ocean Rescue and Swansea University say the underwater plant is key to reducing carbon dioxide - a gas which contributes to global warming. They hope the 4.9-acre (2 hectare) project at Dale Bay will also provide a nursery for young fish and a habitat for invertebrates. Seagrass 'supports 20% of fisheries' App to aid seagrass meadow research Seagrass meadows in 'perilous state' "It's incredibly productive and just sucks carbon into the sediments, traps particles that are locked there for millennia," said Dr Unsworth. "That means that carbon dioxide is not in the atmosphere." Image copyrightNATURE PICTURE LIBRARY Image caption UK seagrass meadows house species such as endangered seahorses and sea snails Last summer, 750,000 seeds were gathered from sites around the British coast and stored at the laboratories in Swansea University. The seeds have been transferred into small hessian sandbags and lowered onto the seabed. Another 250,000 seeds will be gathered later this year and added to the meadow in November. "We see seagrass as this wonder plant because of its ability to fight climate change, to help fish stocks, coastal communities and livelihoods," said Alec Taylor of WWF. "We need to expand hundreds of thousands of hectares of seagrasses, saltmarshes and other coastal ecosystems to avoid some of the damages from climate change." Why is seagrass important? It takes carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests It accounts for 10% of annual ocean carbon storage globally, despite only taking up 0.2% of the seafloor It protects coasts from coastal erosion It is a habitat for many types of fish like cod, plaice and pollock It produces oxygen It cleans the ocean by absorbing polluting nutrients Source: BBC News WWF, Sky Ocean Rescue, Swansea University Date: 10 March 2020

2020-03 06
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NASA Satellite Offers Urban Carbon Dioxide Insights



A new NASA/university study of carbon dioxide emissions for 20 major cities around the world provides the first direct, satellite-based evidence that as a city's population density increases, the carbon dioxide it emits per person declines, with some notable exceptions. The study also demonstrates how satellite measurements of this powerful greenhouse gas can give fast-growing cities new tools to track carbon dioxide emissions and assess the impact of policy changes and infrastructure improvements on their energy efficiency. Cities account for more than 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions associated with energy production, and rapid, ongoing urbanization is increasing their number and size. But some densely populated cities emit more carbon dioxide per capita than others. To better understand why, atmospheric scientists Dien Wu and John Lin of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City teamed with colleagues at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in Columbia, Maryland; and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They calculated per capita carbon dioxide emissions for 20 urban areas on several continents using recently available carbon dioxide estimates from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, managed by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Cities spanning a range of population densities were selected based on the quality and quantity of OCO-2 data available for them. Cities with minimal vegetation were preferred because plants can absorb and emit carbon dioxide, complicating the interpretation of the measurements. Two U.S. cities were included: Las Vegas and Phoenix. Many scientists and policy makers have assumed the best way to estimate and understand differences in carbon dioxide emissions in major cities is to employ a "bottom-up" approach, compiling an inventory of fossil fuel emissions produced by industrial facilities, farms, road transport and power plants. The bottom-up method was the only feasible approach before remote-sensing data sets became available. This approach can provide estimates of emissions by fuel type (coal, oil, natural gas) and sector (power generation, transportation, manufacturing) but can miss some emissions, especially in rapidly developing urban areas. But for this study, researchers instead employed a "top-down" approach to inventory emissions, using satellite-derived estimates of the amount of carbon dioxide present in the air above an urban area as the satellite flies overhead. "Other people have used fuel statistics, the number of miles driven by a person or how big people's houses are to calculate per capita emissions," Lin said. "We're looking down from space to actually measure the carbon dioxide concentration over a city." Published Feb. 20 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study found that cities with higher population densities generally have lower per capita carbon dioxide emissions, in line with previous bottom-up studies based on emissions inventories. But the satellite data provided new insights. "Our motivating question was essentially: When people live in denser cities, do they emit less carbon dioxide? The general answer from our analysis suggests, yes, emissions from denser cities are lower," said Eric Kort, principal investigator and associate professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan. "It isn't a complete picture, since we only see local direct emissions, but our study does provide an alternative direct observational assessment that was entirely missing before." The Density Factor, and Exceptions Scientists have hypothesized that more densely-populated urban areas generally emit less carbon dioxide per person because they are more energy efficient: That is, less energy per person is needed in these areas because of factors like the use of public transportation and the efficient heating and cooling of multi-family dwellings. Satellite data can improve our understanding of this relationship because they describe the combined emissions from all sources. This information can be incorporated with more source-specific, bottom-up inventories to help city managers plan for more energy-efficient growth and develop better estimates of future carbon dioxide emissions. The OCO-2 data show that not all densely-populated urban areas have lower per capita emissions, however. Cities with major power generation facilities, such as Yinchuan, China, and Johannesburg, had higher emissions than what their population density would otherwise suggest. "The satellite detects the carbon dioxide plume at the power plant, not at the city that actually uses the power," Lin said. "Some cities don't produce as much carbon dioxide, given their population density, but they consume goods and services that would give rise to carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere," Wu added. Another exception to the higher population density/lower emissions observation is affluence. A wealthy urban area, like Phoenix, produces more emissions per capita than a developing city like Hyderabad, India, which has a similar population density. The researchers speculate that Phoenix's higher per capita emissions are due to factors such as higher rates of driving and larger, better air-conditioned homes. Looking Ahead The researchers stress there's much more to be learned about urban carbon dioxide emissions. They believe new data from OCO-2's successor, OCO-3 - which launched to the International Space Station last year - along with future space-based carbon dioxide-observing missions, may shed light on potential solutions to mitigating cities' carbon emissions. "Many people are interested in carbon dioxide emissions from large cities," Wu said. "Additionally, there are a few places with high emissions that aren't necessarily related to population. Satellites can detect and quantify emissions from those locations around the globe." Launched in 2014, OCO-2 gathers global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide - the principal human-produced driver of climate change - with the resolution, precision and coverage needed to understand how it moves through the Earth system and how it changes over time. From its vantage point in space, OCO-2 makes roughly 100,000 measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the globe every day. JPL manages OCO-2 for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. While OCO-2 wasn't optimized to monitor carbon emissions from cities or power plants, it can observe these targets if it flies directly overhead or if the observatory is reoriented to point in their direction. In contrast, OCO-3, which has been collecting daily measurements of carbon dioxide since last summer, features an agile mirror-pointing system that allows it to capture "snapshot maps." In a matter of minutes, it can create detailed mini-maps of carbon dioxide over areas of interest as small as an individual power plant to a large urban area up to 2,300 square miles (6,400 square kilometers), such as the Los Angeles Basin, something that would take OCO-2 several days to do. Source: NASA Author:Jane Lee, Paul Gabrielsen Date: MARCH 6, 2020