Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April First Round-Up of Great Climate News

There is a raft of good climate and environmental news on this the first day of April, 2015. This includes radical policy shifts from previously intransigent political parties in the US, Canada and Australia. Fossil fuel companies that are embracing a greener world and evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are declining. Scientists are studying algae that is reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and thanks to a newly discovered bacteria methane trapped in the permafrost may not pose as great a risk as once thought. The latest meteorological statistics shed light on extreme weather and both sea level rise and global warming may be declining.

Politics

Republicans have been stalwart in their resistance to initiatives that combat climate change. However, many of the presidential candidates appear to have had a change of heart recognizing that they are at risk of being unelectable if they continue to flout scientific evidence. Of all the declared and possible candidates 18 of the 23 possible Republican presidential candidates now say that they will make the war against climate change a priority if they are elected.

Of the declared candidates only Ted Cruz continues to ride the denial train while Mark Everson and Jack Fellure have both indicated that they will pursue green economic policies focused on building a low carbon economy. Of those that are formally exploring a presidential bid only Donald Trump and Scott Walker continue to deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change while all the others (Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki) have reversed their positions.

Of those that have expressed an interest only Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum will run on a platform denies anthropogenic climate change while all the others (John R. Bolton, Bob Ehrlich, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Peter King, Rand Paul, and Mike Pence) will engage climate initiatives to varying degrees.

North of the border, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party have done a 180 on their pro-fossil fuel agenda. Prompted by low oil prices, Harper has indicated that his government will reduce its support for the tar sands and invest in renewable forms of energy.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated that he will slow coal expansion projects and immediately put a stop to the new Abbot Point coal terminal. He will also declare the Great Barrier Reef a national park with all the protections that this affords.

Fossil Fuels

Some leading oil companies including Shell, ExxonMobil and BP have indicated that for the first time they will scale back new oil exploration. On a related note the top five US coal producers (Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, Cloud Peak Energy, and Consol Energy), said in a March 31 joint press conference that they will halt all coal extraction operations in the US by 2020.

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" as it is colloquially known has been heavily criticized for the amount of water it uses and contaminates. This is particularly relevant in drought stricken areas of the US like California. To address this problem researchers have developed fracking fluids that are safe for human consumption.

GHG Emissions

After years of increases, the latest data suggest that levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are leveling off. Further, carbon dioxide (CO2), the single biggest driver of global warming has been decreasing at a rapid rate. Scientists attribute this decrease to a new type of ocean born algae that appears to consume and sequester vast quantities of carbon.

Another promising scientific observation finds that methane locked in the permafrost will not be released even if we see ongoing warming. Scientists had warned that the release of this methane would constitute a tipping point from which we could not recover. According to scientists studying the phenomenon the methane will remain under the earth or on the bottom of the sea floor due to a previously unknown microscopic bacteria that forms an impermeable barrier.

Climate

On the climate front a new meteorological report suggests that extreme weather declined in 2014 and the early part of 2015. The same study also suggested that the increases reported in previous year were a statistical anomaly.

Sea level rise is not only slowing it appears to be reversing. One of the possible explanations put forth to explain this phenomenon are massive holes that have formed on the sea floor that appear to be diverting billions of gallons of ocean water into massive subterranean caverns.

Finally, global warming may prove to be a hoax after all. A global conspiracy has been discovered that implicates thousands of scientists who colluded to fudge the numbers so that they can secure research funding.

If you believe any of the above you are indeed an April Fool.

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