Which Countries Have the the Most and Least Sustainable Cities?

A Global Perspective on the Sustainable Performance of Urbanization (16 page pdf, Liyin Shen, Chenyang Shuai, Liudan Jiao, Yongtao Tan and Xiangnan Song, Sustainability, Aug. 11, 2016)

Today we review a comparison of 111 countries, according to how well they perform in urban sustainability, made up of indices of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The best overall performers are developed countries in Western Europe, the worst in Africa and Asia. It is notable that although Sweden is not the top performer in any one of the three indices, it is the best overall, signaling how well that country balances the three aspects.


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What Must Farmers do to Meet Emission Targets?

Reducing emissions from agriculture to meet the 2°C target (19 page pdf, E. Wollenberg, M. Richards, P. Smith, P. Havlík, M. Obersteiner, F.N. Tubiello, M. Herold, P. Gerber, S. Carter, A. Reisinger, D. van Vuuren, A. Dickie, H. Neufeldt, B.O. Sander, R. Wassmann, R. Sommer, J.E. Amonette, A. Falcucci, M. Herrero, C. Opio, R. Roman-Cuesta, E. Stehfest, H. Westhoek, I. Ortiz-Monasterio, T. Sapkota, M.C. Rufino, P.K. Thornton, L. Verchot, P.C. West, J.-F. Soussana, T. Baedeker, M. Sadler, S. Vermeulen, B.M. Campbell, Global Change Biology, May 17, 2016)

Also discussed here: New study sets climate target for agriculture (IIASA  News, May 17, 2016)

Today we review an assessment of approaches voluntarily proposed by 119 nations as Nationally Determined Contributions for COP21 in Paris to mitigate non CO2 emissions from the agricultural sector.  Currently available approaches would deliver as little as 21% of the mitigation required to meet the 2 Deg C goal by 2030. The authors call for a range of innovative methods including carbon pricing, sequestering soil carbon and shifting dietary patterns and breeding cattle to produce less methane. Although agriculture is rural, some cities such as Ottawa, Canada contain more farmland (40% of rural area or 300,000 acres) and so must face up to the challenges in reducing greenhouse gases in this sector, as well as in transportation and the heating and cooling of buildings- and make this part of  urban climate action plans.

cattle emissions

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Are Plug-In Hybrids the Best Option until Electric Cars Become More Common?

Going the Extra Mile – Intelligent Energy Management of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (6 page pdf, Kanok Boriboonsomsin, Guoyuan Wu, and Matthew Barth, ACCESS, University of California, May 2016)

Today we review some testing of energy management strategies to find the optimum use of the battery in a plug-in hybrid while minimizing the use of carbon fuel. This is in the context of the fact that electric cars are less than 1% of all cars in many parts of the USA and Canada and that in some regions of those countries (for example, California, Ontario, Quebec) electric power is produced from carbon free energy sources. Results indicate that if electric energy use is restricted to when the battery level is between 20 and 80% charged (such as in stop and go traffic or going downhill) then the fuel use is minimized.  Overall gasoline consumption can be reduced by between 9 and 14% over what a normal hybrid electric car would achieve which in turn is twice as efficient as car that uses only gasoline. This is true if the power used to charge the battery some from renewable energy (hydro or nuclear).

plug in hybrid diagram

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How Does Early Action to Cut Carbon Emissions Reduce Impacts from Climate Change?

Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5 _C and 2 _C (25 page pdf,Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Tabea K. Lissner, Erich M. Fischer, Jan Wohland, Mahé Perrette, Antonius Golly, Joeri Rogelj, Katelin Childers, Jacob Schewe, Katja Frieler, Matthias Mengel, William Hare, and Michiel Schaeffer, Earth System Dynamics, Apr. 21, 2016)

Also discussed here: 1.5°C vs 2°C: Why half a degree matters (Newsletter, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Apr. 21, 2016)

Today we review research using scenarios with global climate models that show the difference in impacts from limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C or to 2.0 deg C by taking action to reduce carbon emissions and how quickly this is done. Many authoritative sources from COP 21 in Paris indicated that unless cuts of the order of 50% are taken within a decade (2025) that the 1.5 deg goal will be breached and unless the cuts reach 100% by 2050 that the 2 deg goal is probably unachievable. The paper examines the consequences of taking action too slowly or to a less than acceptable degree.

The impacts affect the length of heat waves (lasting 2 months more for 1.5C or 3 months for 2C), water availability, sea level rise, coral reefs and reduced crop yields. Perhaps the largest impact, sea level rise, has the largest implications because the processes involved in melting ice sheets are so large and slow moving. Once the Greenland ice sheet begins to breakdown, sea level rises of 5-7 m are inevitable over centuries with warming over 2C and will accelerate beyond 2100, while early action to limit warming to 1.5C would limit the sea level rise to 40 cm. Clearly policy makers at both the international and national/subnational levels need to step up to the challenge and soon.

2 deg climate impacts

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What are the Best Incentives to Buy an Electric Car?

Incentives for promoting Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) adoption in Norway (12 page pdf, Kristin Ystmark Bjerkan, Tom E. Nørbech, Marianne Elvsaas Nordtømme, Transportation Research Part d 43, ScienceDirect, Jan. 14, 2016)

Also discussed here: What are the most effective ways of promoting electric cars?  (Science for Environment Policy, European Commission, Apr. 22, 2016)

Today we review research on which incentives are the most effective in selling battery electric (BEV) cars based on a survey of Norwegians. The survey analysis considered low and high income levels, the differing impacts of reduced (or subsidized) cost at purchase to ongoing costs and benefits such as exemption from tolls. The typical Norwegian owner of an e-car is male, aged 36-55, high income, university education and living in the capital (Oslo). The single biggest factor was the initial purchase price (with discounts), followed by (exemptions from) congestion or road pricing, followed by free access to bus lanes. This supports the tactics used by governments in countries, such as Canada, in offering significant discounts for new e-car purchases and less emphasis on using exemptions from road tolls (even though road pricing is much less used and there are far fewer electric cars on the road in this country compared to Norway).

ecar incentives

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How Much do Computers Contribute to Climate Warming?

The dirty parts of the computing world (Nathan Ensmenger, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Apr. 11, 2016)

Today we review as assessment of the degree to which computers and computer networks contribute to or pollute with energy use, water consumption, mining and e-waste. In all four categories computer technology plays a significant role with 2 of global electricity use, and 25 tons of e-waste from Western countries alone. A typical desktop computer uses 30% more energy than the standard refrigerator. The computational output from Bitcoin is 256 times the combined capacity of the world’s 500 top supercomputers. In many countries, energy is produced from fuels such as coal and natural gas which produce carbon emissions. Clearly computers should be part of the accounting of the world’s energy, waste and water tallies.

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Can Extreme Weather Events be Attributed to Climate Change?

Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change (163 page pdf, Committee on Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution; Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Mar. 17, 2016)

Also discussed here: Global Warming Is Happening FAST, but Is It Causing Extreme Weather Events?(Astrid Caldas, Union of Concerned Scientists, Mar. 11, 2016)

Today we review a major effort to answer the question: how does climate change affect extreme weather events? This was investigated using two well known approaches: the long term statistics of meteorological parameters and through simulations using physical climate models. Although much more research is needed, several conclusions were made including a main one that some types of extreme weather events (such as extreme cold and heat events)  are more easily understood and attributable to climate change than others (such as wildfires and severe convective storms and tornadoes) . This, in turn, is linked to the ability of models to simulate and physically represent large scale temperature events covering continents more effectively than those on an urban or smaller scale that involve fine scale precipitation patterns. Another major finding was that it is impossible to absolutely link climate change alone to a single extreme event because of the role that natural variability almost always plays.


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