Air Pollution from Cruise Ships in Port and at Sea

Hoping for a fresh sea breeze aboard a cruise ship? Better hold your nose! (Karin Jäger, DW Environment, Jan. 26, 2017)

Also discussed here: NABU Cruise Rankings 2016 : Cruise ships fall short in environmental protection (MARES, Sep. 1, 2016)

And here: This stinks! – Clean up cruise ships! NABU’s campaign for a cleaner cruise industry (10 page pdf, NABU Background Cruise Ships, 2015))

And here: NABU measures air pollution in ports (NABU)

And here: Scrubbers – An economic and ecological assessment (45 page pdf, Eelco den Boer, Maarten ‘t Hoen, DELFT for Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), Mar. 13,  2015)

And here: The 0.1% sulphur in fuel requirement as from 1 January 2015 in SECAs (30 page pdf, European Maritime Safety Agency, Dec. 13, 2010)

Today we review examples of pollution from cruise ships both in port and now with previously never measured pollution, at sea. One ship emits as much air pollution over the same distance travelled as 5 million cars. 38% of the NO2 and 19% of particulates in the major German cruise ship port, Hamburg, comes from maritime traffic. Only 80 ships out of 55,000 worldwide have scrubbers installed to reduce the back soot emitted. Most of the 14,000 ships sailing in European SECAs < Sulphur Emission Control Areas>  every year switched to low sulphur fuels instead of installing scrubbers. The UN, through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has the mandate to regulate the maritime environment internationally through its International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (so-called MARPOL protocol).


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The Impact of Traffic-Related Air Pollution on Cloud Formation

Effect of vehicular traffic, remote sources and new particle formation on the activation properties of cloud condensation nuclei in the megacity of São Paulo, Brazil (22 page pdf, Carlos Eduardo Souto-Oliveira, Maria de Fátima Andrade, Prashant Kumar, Fábio Juliano da Silva Lopes, Marly Babinski, and Eduardo Landulfo, Atmos. Chem. Phys., Nov. 24, 2016)

Today we review research on the impact vehicle emissions have on cloud formation in the largest city in South America with a 20M population and 7 M vehicles. Such a concentration of emissions may have global impacts on precipitation. Cloud condensation nuclei in this city originate from three sources: vehicle emissions, biomass burning in the vast tropical forests and from sea-salt. Careful direct and indirect (lidart) measurements over a four month period revealed that vehicles were predominant in producing these nuclei with two diurnal maxima during rush hours.


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Are Regional (not Global) Interventions Needed to Reduce Impacts and Mitigate Climate Change?

The Rationale for Accelerating Regionally Focused Climate Intervention Research (17 page pdf, Michael C. MacCracken, Earth’s Future, Nov. 14, 2016)

Today we review a proposal to focus on particular regions where effort to reduce climate impacts would be more effective and likely have fewer unintended negative consequences than efforts aimed at the globe as a whole. Included in the potential approaches are modifying arctic warming by injecting sulfate aerosols directly into the Arctic atmosphere, moderate the intensity of tropical cyclones by brightening cloud albedoes, slowing the melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets by blocking ice streams, and compensate for the reduced cooling from SO2 emissions in Asia by brightening the Pacific Ocean.

Two people on the shore of the Pacific Ocean

Two people on the shore of the Pacific Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Can The US Transportation Become Carbon Free by 2050?

50 Steps Toward Carbon-Free Transportation – Rethinking U.S. Transportation Policy to Fight Global Warming (92 page pdf, Farontier Group, Oct. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: Report: Global Warming Solutions (Environment America Research & Policy Center, Oct. 24, 2016)
Today we review a report that recommends 50 steps aimed at state and federal program  and policies that could make the USA’s transportation system carbon free by 2050. The steps include making carbon reduction strategies a key priority by exploiting the growth of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and the sharing of cars and bicycles, adding more effective public transit, employing smart pricing policies and phasing out carbon intensive vehicles and fuels.


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How Can Transportation in the USA Become Carbon Free by 2050?

50 Steps Toward Carbon-Free Transportation – Rethinking U.S. Transportation Policy to Fight Global Warming (92 page pdf, Farontier Group, Oct. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: Report: Global Warming Solutions (Environment America Research & Policy Center, Oct. 24, 2016)

Today we review a report that recommends 50 steps aimed at state and federal program  and policies that could make the USA’s transportation system carbon free by 2050. The steps include making carbon reduction strategies a key priority by exploiting the growth of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and the sharing of cars and bicycles, adding more effective public transit, employing smart pricing policies and phasing out carbon intensive vehicles and fuels.


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How Can Cities Reduce Methane Emissions?

Mitigation of methane emissions in cities: how new measurements and partnerships can contribute to emissions reduction strategies (39 page pdf, Francesca M. Hopkins, James R. Ehleringer, Susan E. Bush, Riley M. Duren, Charles E.Miller, Chun-Ta Lai, Ying-Kuang Hsu, Valerie Carranza, James T. Randerson, Earth’s Future, Sep. 10, 2016)

Today we review research into methane emissions from cities which along with other greenhouse gases contributes to climate warming. Cities themselves account for 70% of GHG emissions globally.  Unlike CO2 however, methane emissions are more easily managed at the city level whether they come from transportation and the increased shift to natural gas as a fuel for city vehicles or, secondarily, from landfills where methane is emitted from decomposing organic materials or, thirdly, from leaks in the systems delivering natural gas to users. One of the major problems is the lack of accurate inventories of methane emissions which in some cities results in an underestimate of 50%. Some efforts being made in the transportation sector to reduce CO2 emissions include shifts to the use of propane or natural gas but these may have unintended consequences in terms of their contribution as a radiatively active gas to the greenhouse effect. Landfill emissions may be reduced by simply reducing the amount of waste generated though pricing of garbage or encouraging home composting.


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Can the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Work?

The Paris Agreement and the New Logic of International Climate Politics (28 page pdf, Robert Falkner, International Affairs, Aug.31, 2016)

Today we review an analysis of the international negotiations from the top-down 1996 Kyoto Accord that today applies only to 15% of global carbon emissions, to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that failed to reach consensus on a global emission reduction goal but managed to provide an umbrella for all participating countries for future negotiations. To the bottom-up Paris Agreement in 2015, signed by 195 nations, combines domestic politics with international commitments through a “naming and shaming” approach, voluntary national commitments,  rachet-up reviews every five years and, perhaps most importantly, definition of a long term goal to reach “net-zero” emissions or “emission neutrality” between 2050 and 2100. As these voluntary commitments would result in a global warming of 2.7 C above pre-industrial levels, further reductions beyond the pledges are needed. The author cautions that “the Paris Agreement cannot be expected to ‘fix’ the climate problem; it can only provide a supportive framework within which states and other actors can achieve the required emissions cuts.”

Carbon emissions from various global regions d...

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800–2000 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Measuring Exposure to Urban Air Pollution Where People Work rather than Where they Live.

The Impact of Mobile-Device-Based Mobility Patterns on Quantifying Population Exposure to Air Pollution (11 page pdf, Marguerite Nyhan, Sebastian Grauwin, Rex Britter, Bruce Misstear, Aonghus McNabola, Francine Laden, Steven R. H. Barrett, and Carlo Ratti, Environmental Science and Trechnology, Aug. 12, 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution threat hidden as research ‘presumes people are at home’: study (The Guardian, Aug. 24, 2016)

And here: Urban air pollution is worse than we think—but better data might solve the problem (Barbara Eldredge, CURBED, Aug. 30, 2016)

Today we review research into a study in New York City that compared the exposure to urban air pollution during an active day at the place of work and travelling to that rather than as earlier exposure studies have done only at the place of residence. The results indicate, first of all, that the highest concentration of PM2.5 is not surprisingly in central Brooklyn and Queens and in the southern half of Manhattan Island. Pollution levels at places of work compared to those at residences was 10 μg/m3 higher which suggests that a higher congestion charge be applied to vehicles which enter the high emission zones (which is the basis for the [present congestion charge zone in London, UK) .Future applications of this research when self driving cars are the norm might involve automatically controlling their movement to avoid adding to the pollution levels in some packets of the city.


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Do Biofuels Produce Less Carbon Emissions than Petroleum Fuels?

Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use (John M. DeCiccoDanielle Yuqiao Liu,   Joonghyeok HeoRashmi KrishnanAngelika KurthenLouise Wang, Climatic Change, Aug. 25, 2016)

Also discussed here: Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions (ScienceDaily, Aug.25, 2016)

And here: Controversial study claims biofuels aren’t carbon neutral, says it’s much worse than gasoline (ZNE Science, Aug. 26, 2016)

Today we review research into the belief assumed by government policy to justify agricultural subsidies that  biofuels (mostly from corn and soy beans) which currently amounts to 14.6 B gallons/year (or 6% of emissions) offset carbon emissions using petroleum products. This belief is based on the supposition that emissions from biofuels balance carbon emissions by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis from the new crops. Results indicate that this additional carbon uptake is only 37% of the emissions from biofuels.  The conclusion reached is that the rising use of biofuels (which has tripled over the last 10 years) has resulted in net increase rather than a net decrease in carbon emissions.


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How Does a Low Carbon Future for Canada compare with Europe, the USA and Australia?

What low carbon futures might look like… (Ralph Torrie, Aug. 27, 2016)
Also discussed here: Low Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios (55 page pdf, Ralph D. Torrie, Tyler Bryant, Dale Marshall, Mitchell Beer, Blake Anderson, Ryan Kadowaki, and Johanne Whitmore, Technical Report, Trottier Energy Futures Project, Jan. 2013)

Today we review a report that compares low carbon future scenarios from 8 countries: 3 carbon resource rich (USA, Canada, Australia) and 5 European countries (Sweden Germany, France, Finland, UK). The common goal of the scenario was to lower carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. Each country has its own approaches to the challenge from differing start points and so the scenarios differ as well although some similarities were noted including: decarbnization of the electricity supply, increased efficiency of fuels, a large supply of biofuels and electricity‘s share of the total energy  consumption grows over time.  Sweden has by far the lowest energy intensity because almost all of its electricity comes from nuclear, hydro and biomass- so that future reductions in carbon emissions comes from increased energy efficiency. Canada like Sweden  also generates energy from non-carbon sources but has larger inputs ofnon-renewable energy sources (natural gas, coal, oil) in its energy pie and so has further to go to reach 80% less carbon emissions. Over 50% reductions in carbon emissions in Canada and the USA is in transportation where the growth of electric vehicles is key.


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What is Needed to Limit Global Climate Warming to 1.5C Using a Scenario Approach?

A Better Life with a Healthy Planet – Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions, A New Lens Scenarios Supplement (96 page pdf, Shell, May 2016)

Today we review a supplement to the Shell scenarios published in 2013 that examined steps toward a net zero energy future. The Shell scenario team became famous for their contributions to determining post-apartheid options for South Africa after 1990. It is a scoping document, starting with an estimate of the energy needs of the world in 2100 “for a better life”, based on a 50% population increase and a lowering of energy demand per person from as much as 300 gigajoules in USA/Canada to 100 GJ per person, as a world average – which amounts to a doubling of the global energy needs.

To accomplish this by 2050 and meet the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C, would require net zero emissions by that year and that, in turn, would require some form of negative carbon reduction, using technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which would mean lowering its current high cost to around $30 per tonne by 2030- equivalent to wind power costs. Carbon pricing is seen as an absolute necessity to bring solar energy up to 40% of energy needs by 2060. It also requires 80% of passenger cars converted to electricity by 2030 and, in terms of land use, reducing drastically the amount of agricultural land used for feeding animals from the current 80%. For developing countries, investment in infrastructure and adapting to a solar society would allow them to leap-frog to net zero emissions as well.


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How Does Geoengineering fit with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

Implications of the Paris Agreement for Carbon Dioxide Removal and Solar Geoengineering (10 page pdf, Joshua B. Horton, David W. Keith, and Matthias Honegger, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Jul. 2016)

The Paris Agreement did not explicitly mention geoengineering as a solution, in addition to efforts to reduce carbon emissions, to the challenges involved in reaching the ultimate goal of end to global warming and a stable radiation equilibrium,. Geoengineering may be broken down into two approaches: carbon dioxide removal (CDR)  (as shown, for example, by carbon capture and sequestration) and solar radiation management (SRM) (as shown, for example, by the introduction of aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect incoming solar radiation). The authors of the paper reviewed here flag several indirect references to CDR in the Paris agreement as well as suggesting the inevitability of SRM, if there is any chance of meeting the very challenging objective of limiting warming to 1.5 C or less. They noted that CDR comes with a high short term cost while SRM does not but could limit warming to 1.5 C- although SRM comes with much more uncertainty when it comes to side effects and governance issues.

Schematic showing both terrestrial and geologi...

Schematic showing both terrestrial and geological sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from a coal-fired plant. Rendering by LeJean Hardin and Jamie Payne. Source: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Feasible are Electric-Powered Cars for Widespread Use?

Potential for widespread electrification of personal vehicle travel in the United States (Abstract, Zachary A. Needell, James McNerney, Michael T. Chang & Jessika E. Trancik, Nature Energy, Aug. 15, 2016)
Also discussed here: Today’s electric vehicles can make a dent in climate change: Electric vehicles can meet drivers’ needs enough to replace 90 percent of vehicles now on the road (Science Daily, Aug. 15, 2016)
And here: Low-carbon infrastructure strategies for cities (Abstract, C. A. Kennedy, N. Ibrahim & D. Hoornweg, Nature climate change, Mar.16,2014)

Today we review research into the feasibility of widespread use of e-cars for urban transportation. Results indicate that 87% of current needs can easily be met by today’s electric vehicle technology, noting the obstacles that are holding back their full acceptance can or will be overcome. The need to charge batteries can be done overnight or during the day in parking facilities. The relative short driving range can be overcome for driving long distances by utilizing alternatives such as car-sharing with conventional vehicles or by purchasing a second car for those needs. Converting 90% of today’s vehicles to electric power would reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the USA by 30% – or more if power came from utilities with lower carbon fuel use.

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A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Technique that Might Actually Work

Rapid carbon mineralization for permanent disposal of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (4 page pdf, Juerg M. Matter, Martin Stute, Sandra Ó. Snæbjörnsdottir, Eric H. Oelkers, Sigurdur R. Gislason, Edda S. Aradottir, Bergur Sigfusson, Ingvi Gunnarsson, Holmfridur Sigurdardottir, Einar Gunnlaugsson, Gudni Axelsson, Helgi A. Alfredsson, Domenik Wolff-Boenisch, Kiflom Mesfin, Diana Fernandez de la Reguera Taya, Jennifer Hall, Knud Dideriksen, Wallace S. Broecker, Science, Jun.10, 2016)

Also discussed here: Climate change mitigation: Turning carbon dioxide into rock (Science Daily, Jun. 9, 2016)

Today we review research conducted in Iceland into a technique that converts atmospheric CO2 into a carbonate solid for storage underground rather than the better known CCS approach which attempts to store CO2 underground in its gaseous state, with all of the risks of it leaking back into the atmosphere later. Preliminary testing and drilling near Reykjavik indicate that up to 5,000 tonnes of CO2/year can be stored this way. The feasibility for this to significantly address global emissions will be tested when this technique is scaled up to much larger rates.

co2 injection site

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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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How do Special Interests Hold Back Progress on Climate Change?

Dislocated interests and climate change (5 page pdf, Steven J Davis and Noah Diffenbaugh, Environmental Research Letters, May 31, 2016)

Today we review a very pertinent analysis of costs and benefits as applied to climate impacts and national (and corporate) interests and how the concentration of short term, local benefits is separated in time and space with longer term impacts. As a concluding sentence in the article reads: “the most problematic dislocations of interests are where benefits are concentrated in time, space, and parties”. Often too, the profits from fossil fuels accrue to corporations in developed countries while the impacts fall mainly on developing countries and governments. Attempts to recover these costs get bogged down in a lack of international mechanisms to deal with them either through the World Trade Organization, World Bank or the International Framework on Climate Change and climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 or the Paris Agreement of 2015 – all of which point to the need for a greater definition and recognition of these special needs in addressing climate change.

special interests and cl ch

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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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What Impact Do Local Emission Controls have on Air Pollution?

Response of SO2 and particulate air pollution to local and regional emission controls: A case study in Maryland (16 page pdf, Hao He, Konstantin Y. Vinnikov, Can Li, Nickolay A. Krotkov, Andrew R. Jongeward, Zhanqing Li, JeffreyW. Stehr, Jennifer C. Hains, and Russell R. Dickerson, Earth’s Future, AGU, Apr. 12, 2016)

Today we review the changes that emission controls implemented in the state of Maryland with the Healthy Air Act in 2009, had on the concentration of SO2 and PM2.5 using measurements from satellites in space as well as ground measurements over the last 10 years. Results indicate that emissions from (coal burning) power plants were reduced by 90% while concentrations of SO2 were reduced by 50% and PM2.5 by 25%- with all of the decline of PM2.5 due to a reduction in sulphur. Results were striking in the decrease of the seasonal peak of SO2 in mid summer when there is a higher power demand. The difference between the greater SO2 emission reduction  and concentration reductions shows the added input to the pollution from other than power plants (such as diesel vehicle emissions).

local emission controls

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What is the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing?

Fracking Communities (22 page pdf, Colin Jerolmack and Nina Berman, Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet, Public Culture, Duke University Press, May 2, 2016)

Also discussed here: Fracking Hits Milestone as Natural Gas Use Rises in U.S. (Bobby Magill, Climate Central, May 6, 2016)
Today we review an article that chronicles the impact fracking has and is having on rural communities and the natural forests and parks that lie among them. Although fracking natural gas (and closing coal plants) has been credited with the 12% reduction in CO2 in the USA from 2007 to 2012, the process involves over 1,000 truckloads of water for just one well and 1,020 shale wells have been approved in Pennsylvania alone. More than 15 million Americans in 11 states live within a mile of a fracked well. New York is the only state where municipal bans are legal. As methane is 20 times more radiatively active in the atmosphere than CO2, leaks of more than 3% from a well eliminate the greenhouse gas benefit that methane enjoys over emissions from coal.

fracking traffic

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How Could the USA Become Carbon Neutral by 2050?

100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States (Abstract, Mark Z. JacobsonMark A. Delucchi, Guillaume BazouinZack A. F. BauerChrista C. Heavey,   Emma Fisher, Sean B. MorrisDiniana J.Y.Piekutowski, Taylor A. Vencill and Tim W.Yeskoo, Energy and Environmental Science, May 27, 2015

Also discussed here:   Here’s what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy (David Roberts, Vox Energy and Environment, May 3, 2016)

Today we review a report that details how the USA could reach 100% renewable energy sources by 2050 and what cost and benefits would be needed to accomplish that. 80-85% of existing carbon energy sources would be replaced by 2030 and the rest by 2050 with 49% wind power, 45% solar power and the remainder hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave power. Benefits include $7.1 trillion per year in avoided climate impact losses due to US emissions and $600 billion per year in avoided health costs. The approach includes more emphasis on public transit and safer walking and cycling, mandating battery electric vehicles for short and medium distance driving, an expansion in the number and distribution of electric charging sites as well as a time of use that favours night time charging, and electrification of freight rail.


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All about Carbon Pricing: Carbon Tax? Cap and Trade?

Putting a Price on Carbon: A Handbook for U.S. Policymakers (56 Page pdf, Kevin Kennedy, Michael Obeiter, And Noah Kaufman, World Resources Institute, Apr. 2015

Today we review a handbook to implement carbon pricing– either by tax or by cap and trade– in the USA. Among the points noted were that a low to moderate tax alone would be “highly unlikely” to meet the UN’s goal of keeping global warming to less than 2 C (as recommended by 195 states at COP21 in Paris). Technological innovations subsidized by government are also needed and these can be funded from carbon tax revenue as well as other benefits such as tax cuts, return of money to households and electric users, and helping those directly harmed by carbon taxes as well as reducing national debt. Canada and the USA are well behind Scandinavian countries (such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, beginning in the early 1990s)  to establish a national carbon tax, although at the sub-national level,  California and Western states, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have started to price carbon in recent years. Another interesting point is that a moderate carbon tax of $28/tonne applied to the USA would impact low income earners by 2.5% (and high earners by only 1%). This identifies the need to neutralize the regression effects by subsidizing the low income group by this amount.

carbon pricing basics

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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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Modelling the Best Way to Reduce Global Carbon Emissions

2 °C and SDGs: united they stand, divided they fall? (16 page pdf, Christoph von Stechow, Jan C Minx, Keywan Riahi, Jessica Jewell, David L McCollum, Max W Callaghan, Christoph Bertram, Gunnar Luderer and Giovanni Baiocchi, Environmental Research Letters, Mar. 16, 2016)

Also discussed here: Short-sighted climate policy jeopardizes other UN sustainable development goals (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis News, Mar. 16, 2016)

Today we review the results from 7 “integrated” models which were used to assess 20 scenarios for each decade out to 2050 while considering the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets and the agreement to limit global climate warming to 2 deg C, set out in the recent COP 21 conference in Paris. Some carbon emission reduction strategies have emphasized economic impacts alone, failing to take into account wider social and environmental implications.

Application of carbon pricing to transportation, for example, has a greater potential for lowering emissions in the near term because of the short turn-around needed for technological improvements (e.g. electric vehicles) and the quick responsiveness of users to fuel price changes. On the other hand, a major increase in energy prices can have major impacts on the poor in developing countries, unless their concerns are accommodated in some way.

Another significant finding from this research is the impact of delaying the reduction of energy while waiting for potential non carbon energy technologies to become cost effective and widely used, such as BioEnergy(BE), Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). The modelling indicates that delaying climate mitigation in the short term, to give time for these technologies to emerge, leads to more risk and costs in the long term if the 2 deg goal is to be met.


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The Anthropocene and the Future

The Anthropocene: a conspicuous stratigraphical signal of anthropogenic changes in production and consumption across the biosphere (20 page pdf, MarkWilliams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N.Waters, Matt Edgeworth, Carys Bennett, Anthony D.Barnosky, Erle C. Ellis, Michael A. Ellis, Alejandro Cearreta, Peter K. Haff, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Reinhold Leinfelder, John R. McNeill, Eric Odada, Naomi Oreskes, Andrew Revkin, Daniel deB Richter,Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, James P. Syvitski, Davor Vidas, Michael Wagreich, Scott L.Wing, Alexander P.Wolfe, and An Zhisheng, AGU Publications – Earth’s Future, Mar. 14, 2016)

Also discussed here: Human impact forms ‘striking new pattern’ in Earth’s global energy flow (ScienceDaily, Mar. 23, 2016)

Today we review a geophysical history of the earth from the days when carbon and biological life were not present, through the evolution of the biosphere over 4 Billion years and photosynthesis to the advent of animal and plant life some 460 million years ago, modern humans 195, 000 years ago to the farming of land 10,000 years ago and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the beginning of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. This history not only puts the significance of global climate change into context but it also shows the ways that man has literally changed the world.

anthrocene future

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What is the Local Environmental Impact of Fracking?

Investigating the traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing (fracking) operations (13 page pdf, Paul S. Goodman, Fabio Galatioto, Neil Thorpe, Anil K. Namdeo, Richard J. Davies, Roger N. Bird, Environment International, Feb. 1, 2016)

Today we review an aspect of fracking, not often investigated: the impact of local fracking wells which is a combination of the air pollution emissions from the fracking itself and the removal of waste water by tanker trucks which adds vehicle emissions and noise. There is a requirement for 9,000 to 29,000 cubic metres per well, or 54,000 to 174,000 cubic metres for a six-well pad. Total CO2 emissions associated with extraction of shale gas from a well were small (0.2–2.9%) compared to the combustion of the gas from the well. Modelling of NOx emissions showed increases reaching 30% over non-fracking periods and noise levels doubling.

fracking traffic

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The Relationship between Traffic-Related Air Pollution and the Incidence of Parkinson’s Disease.

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Parkinson’s Disease in Denmark: A Case–Control Study (6 page pdf, Beate Ritz, Pei-Chen Lee, Johnni Hansen, Christina Funch Lassen, Matthias Ketzel, Mette Sørensen, and Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2016)

Today we review research into the relationship between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. Results from a large sample over 15 years  in Denmark indicates that this exposure increases the incidence of PD.

Histological sample of Substantia nigra in Par...

Histological sample of Substantia nigra in Parkinson’s disease. A. SNpc neuron with a Lewy body, extracellular neuromelanin and pigment-laden macrophages. Haematoxylin/Eosin stain, 500×. B. Alpha-synuclein-positive Lewy neurit, 400×. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How is Traffic-Related Air Pollution Related to Dementia?

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Dementia Incidence in Northern Sweden: A Longitudinal Study (7 Page pdf, Anna Oudin, Bertil Forsberg, Annelie Nordin Adolfsson, Nina Lind, Lars Modig, Maria Nordin, Steven Nordin, Rolf Adolfsson, and Lars-Göran Nilsson, Environmental Health Perspectives, Mar. 1, 2016)

Today we review research which assessed the exposure of a cohort of elderly patients (79-81 years old) to traffic related air pollution (represented by NO2) in a northern Swedish city. Conclusions included observed associations between dementia incidence and local traffic pollution. The magnitude of the association was similar for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.  The importance of further research  is underlined by the predicted tripling of Alzheimer’s Disease over the next 40 years unless preventive measures are taken.

sweden dementia no2

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What does the 2 Deg C Carbon Budget Look Like?

Differences between carbon budget estimates unraveled (Abstract, Joeri Rogelj, Michiel Schaeffer, Pierre Friedlingstein, Nathan P. Gillett, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Keywan Riahi, Myles Allen & Reto Knutti, Nature Climate Perspective, Feb. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: A lower limit for future climate emissions (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) News, Feb. 24, 2016)

And here: A second look at the two-degree target (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) News, Dec. 7, 2015)

Today we review research at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis near Vienna which examines the conditions necessary to keep global warming within the 2 deg C target accepted by the United Nations Conference COP21 at Paris in the fall of 2015. The limit to the amount of carbon which can be burned (or the available carbon budget) in the future after 2015 has been estimated at varying amounts from 590 to 1240 billion tonnes, a difference of almost a billion tonnes. Differences arise because of assumptions made in various scenarios as well as the contributions by other greenhouse gases than CO2. The possibility of overestimating the budget by up to a billion tonnes is a major concern in terms of the urgency to reduce carbon emissions in action plans for the immediate future.


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Can We Reduce Carbon Emissions Enough to Meet Targets or Do We need Technology to Extract It Directly?

The suddenly urgent quest to remove carbon dioxide from the air (Chris Mooney, The Washington Post, Feb.26, 2016)

Also discussed here: Four ways to suck carbon out of thin air (Tim Meko, The Washington Post, Feb. 27, 2016)

Today we review an article that looks at the pros and cons of directly removing carbon from the air, in addition to the various plans to reduce emissions, which will be needed if the world is going to meet the goals (but not action plans) agreed to at the recent COP21 climate conference in Paris. Four approaches are described: Direct air capture, Bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage, Afforestation and Enhanced weathering.  While each can extract some carbon, the question remains if that is enough to meet the challenge which, in simple terms, means comparing the CO2 emissions of 17 tons/year/person (in the USA) with the extraction of a ton/day promised by technology. No question that something is needed in addition to the very modest targets that many countries are planning to reduce emissions at source. No surprise either that pricing carbon use is seen as essential.

direct air capture

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How do Carbon Emissions from Electric Vehicles Compare to Conventional Ones on a Life Cycle Basis?

Consequential life cycle air emissions externalities for plug-in electric vehicles in the PJM interconnection (13 page pdf, Allison Weis, Paulina Jaramillo and Jeremy Michalek, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 9, 2016)

Today we review an assessment of the life cycle emissions their costs from hybrid, plug-in hybrid vehicles compared to conventional ones, driven in states where the majority of the electric power generated is from coal or natural gas. Not surprisingly, the conclusion is that plug-in hybrid emissions are more damaging than hybrid and conventional vehicles under current conditions. The same analysis was done in a future power regulated scenario where renewable energy sources partly replace the carbon burning sources (e.g. 3 to 20% more wind power). Here, the hybrid and plug-in vehicles have higher SO2 and other pollutant emissions and lower PM 2.5 emissions while NO2 and greenhouse gas emissions can be higher or lower than conventional, depending on the individual case. In summary, as applied to Canada, it appears that electric cars make sense in regions where the power sources are largely renewable (e.g. Ontario, Quebec and BC where almost all electric power is nuclear or hydro) but do make sense in regions were power is generated from carbon fuels (such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes).

e car emissions

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How Much can e-LRTs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The Role of Rail Transit Systems in Reducing Energy and Carbon Dioxide Emissions: The Case of The City of Rio de Janeiro (16 page pdf, Carlos Eduardo Sanches de Andrade  and Márcio de Almeida D’Agosto, Sustainability, Feb. 5, 2016)

Today we review a paper that uses a model to estimate the GHG emissions avoided by shifting urban transportation mode from passenger car to electric rail transit as a test case for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a city of 6.5M, projected over the period from 2016 to 2040. The amount of GHG emissions avoided were 55,449 tonnes per year for the city or 44.53 grams per passenger kilometer. Although cars in Brazil use more ethanol in their fuel than elsewhere and this is accounted for here, many of the assumptions made to model the shift could be applied to other cities.

Light Rail Transit train on the Dudley B. Menz...

Light Rail Transit train on the Dudley B. Menzies Bridge in Edmonton, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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What are the Health Impacts from Roadside Emissions while Reducing Greenhouse Gases?

Near-Roadway Air Pollution and Coronary Heart Disease: Burden of Disease and Potential Impact of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy in Southern California (8 page pdf, Rakesh Ghosh, Frederick Lurmann, Laura Perez, Bryan Penfold, Sylvia Brandt, John Wilson, Meredith Milet, Nino Künzli, and Rob McConnell, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb. 1, 2016)

Today we review research into the impact of roadside emissions for people living near (within 50 m) of major highways in Southern California. While various policies have been put in place recently and into the future to reduce PM2.5 and greenhouse gas emissions, this study concentrated on the specific health impacts from roadside gases as they affect coronary heart disease. Results indicate that although emissions have lessened that more and more people live closer to the highways so that the health impacts become greater. Several options are suggested to alleviate this including a switch to zero emission electric vehicles and putting a buffer between the highways and residential areas.

south calif health

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How Much Coal, Gas and Coal Must be Kept Unused to limit Global Warming to 2 deg C?

The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C (Abstract, Christophe McGlade & Paul Ekins, Nature. Jan.8, 2016)

Also discussed here: Keep It in the Ground (36 page pdf, Sierra Club, Greenpeace,, Jan. 2016)

And here: Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of world’s coal is “unburnable”, study says (Carbon Brief, Jan. 7, 2015)

Today we review a report commissioned by several environmental activist groups that examines the extent to which the remaining coal, gas and oil reserves would threaten the UN’s target to keep warming from greenhouse gases to below 2 deg C. The major threats come from the USA from fracking and oil, Australia from coal and from Canada with tar sands as well as from Russia, the Mid-East and China. Globally 1/3 of the oil reserves, ½ of the gas reserves and 80% of the coal reserves must remain unused between now and 2050 in order to reach the goal.

keep in the gorund

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How Big is the Global Stranded Carbon Assets Problem?

The tragedy of the horizon (John Lorinc, Corporate Knights, Jan. 19, 2016)

Also discussed here: The $2 trillion stranded assets danger zone: How fossil fuel firms risk destroying investor returns (32 page pdf, Carbon Tracker, Nov. 2015)

Today we review a speech by the former Governor of the Ban of Canada (currently Governor for the Bank of England) given just before the Climate Conference in Paris and a report by Carbon Tracker which defined what oil, gas and coal resources must be left in the ground if the atmospheric CO2 has to be kept below 450 ppm which is equivalent to keeping the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 deg C. The best estimates are that between a fifth to one third of existing carbon reserves must be kept in the ground with most attention to coal then oil then natural gas. The Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) “solution” (which is hyped by politicians, especially in Canada, adverse to restricting oil production) is not seen as having a significant role until 2050 or later- when action between now and 2050 is the critical period to reduce CO2 emissions, confirmed by the conclusions and agreement at Paris. Put in banking terms, the total value of stranded assets could be over $100 trillion. The other reality is that when the market discovers that there is no future for carbon fuels beyond the short term, the prices and intrinsic value of equities in these markets will be “re-priced”- which is what gets the attention of people like Carney.

stranded carbon history

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What Toxic Metals Come out of the Catalytic Converters on Car Mufflers?

Analysis of model Pd- and Pt-containing contaminants in aqueous media using ESI-MS and the fragment partitioning approach (Abstract, Leonid V. Romashov, Gleb D. Rukhovichb and Valentine P. Ananikov, RSC Advances, Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dec. 7, 2015)

Also discussed here: What happens with the environment when your car moves? (ScienceDaily. Jan.13 2016)

Today we review research from Russia into the inadvertent release of toxic metals from catalytic converters (or autocatalyst as it is termed here) which convert exhaust gases such as NOx, CO and other dangerous compounds to CO2, water and nitrogen. However, contact with water leaches the precious metals such as paladium, platinum and rhodium into toxic clusters – how toxic must be evaluated in the future but may put into question the role of the converters.

muffler metals

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Is Geoengineering A Practical Way of Combating Global Warming?

Blocking the Sun Is No Plan B for Global Warming (David Biello, Scientific American , Dec. 9, 2016)

Today we review an assessment of attempting to reduce global warming by directly reducing incoming sunlight for the entire globe by artificial means, known as geoengineering. In view of the failure of many countries to take action to mitigate climate change, the challenge to reduce carbon emissions has gone to the point where many feel that taking direct action through geoengineering is the only solution. The author warns though that doing this may produce inadvertent disasterous results as well as giving relief to the very modest efforts currently being made to reduce CO2 emissions.


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Mapping Methane, the Greenhouse Gas

Making methane visible (Abstract, Magnus Gålfalk, Göran Olofsson, Patrick Crill & David Bastviken, Nature Climate Change, Nov. 30, 2015)

Also discussed here: Advanced new camera can measure greenhouse gases (Science Daily, Nov. 30, 2015)
Today we review research from Sweden aimed at detecting methane, a highly radiative and invisible greenhouse gas, whose importance is being heightened by fracking natural gas in North America and elsewhere and the difficulty in measuring and monitoring it as part of climate change mitigation and action plans. The application of the new method uses a camera to record a high resolution spectrum and selects the methane contribution. This may be applied to sewage sludge deposits, combustion processes, animal husbandry and lakes as well as the vast areas of bogs and marshes that make up northern Canada and Russia. The present study used a camera on the ground but plans are to make it airborne for larger scale methane mapping.

detecting methane

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Where does the Particulate Matter in Cities Come From?

Contributions to cities’ ambient particulate matter (PM): A systematic review of local source contributions at global level (9 page pdf, Federico Karagulian, Claudio A. Belis, Carlos Francisco C. Dora, Annette M. Prüss-Ustün b, Sophie Bonjour b, Heather Adair-Rohani b, Markus Amann, Atmopsheric Environment, Nov. 2015)

Also discussed here: Urban air pollution: What are the main sources across the world? (Science Daily, Dec. 1, 2015)

Today we summarize the results of a paper that reviewed sources of PM2.5 and PM10 in 51 countries. By far the greatest source globally is traffic-related urban air pollution which amounted to 25% of ambient PM. The highest traffic emissions come from North America, Western Europe, Turkey and the Republic of Korea. The highest industrial pollution was found in Japan, Middle East and Southern Asia, Turkey, Brazil, Central Europe, and South Eastern Asia.

pollution sources

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Getting Inertia and Effectiveness into Meeting the Climate Change Challenge

UNFCCC before and after Paris – what’s necessary for an effective climate regime?

(22 page pdf, Lukas Hermwille, Wolfgang Obergassel, Hermann E. Ott, Christiane Beuermann, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Nov. 26, 2015)

Today we review a paper that examines the history, goals and structure of the UN Framework for Global Climate Change (UNFGCCC) and its failure to date of limiting GHG emissions. Part of the reason for this failure was its narrow focus on GHG emissions and for the Kyoto Protocol, unlike most environmental agreements, limiting participation to a short list of major emitting, developed countries with no role for developing countries. What is called for is a climate team approach to which those countries with ambitious goals are allowed to lead and with carbon trading attracting others to join the team. Also of note is the need for non emission goals such as progress on poverty and social conditions to count as credits for developing countries.

UNFGCC diagram

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How will the Paris Agreement Limit Future Rises in Global Temperature?

Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change? ( 2 page pdf, Allen A. Fawcett, Gokul C. Iyer, Leon E. Clarke, James A. Edmonds, Nathan E. Hultman, Haewon C. McJeon, Joeri Rogelj, Reed Schuler, Jameel Alsalam, Ghassem R. Asrar, Jared Creason, Minji Jeong, James McFarland, Anupriya Mundra, Wenjing Shi, Science Express Policy Forum, Nov. 26, 2015)

Today we review an analysis of various scenarios for CO2 emission reduction, based on the voluntary pledges made by 190 countries attending the Paris conference COP 21. On the assumption that these pledges are implemented, beginning in 2020 and ending in 2030, the longer term implications to limit further warming depend on either a continuation of the level of decarbonization pledged (“Paris continued” which is around 2% per year)or an increase in the reductions (“Paris increased” which is around 5% per year). The probability of limiting warming to 2 deg C is only 8% under Paris continued while limiting it to 4 deg C is 75%. Under Paris increased, the probability of limiting warming to 2 deg C increases to 30%. Under any scenario, the need to bring carbon emissions to net zero before 2100 is required to avoid 2 deg C warming.

cop21 and temp rise

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Priorities Needed to Achieve a Low Carbon World

World Energy Trilemma – Priority actions on climate change and how to balance the trilemma (57 page pdf, World Energy Council, 2015)

Also discussed here: Paris, give us carbon pricing, but give us market mechanisms too! (Joan MacNaughton, World Energy Trilemma, World Energy Council, Sep. 23, 2015)
Today we review a report and recommendations from the World Energy Council, aimed at the COP21 climate conference to take place in Paris in December 2015. Among the important factors that need to be considered in setting a global goal to remain below 2 C warming target is the need to recognize different energy dependencies in various countries and sub-regions, the need to have carbon pricing in place, in order to allow the successful implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) without which achievement of the goal is impossible and the major role for the private sector, especially in controlling emissions from the supply chain. For example, the differences between the carbon pricing strategies of fossil fuel provinces in Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland) and low carbon energy producing provinces (British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec) and the mix of carbon tax and cap and trade approaches show how local situations lead to different low carbon solutions.

world energy council

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What is the Cost of Inaction on Climate Change?

Climate Change in the U.S. – Benefits of Global Action (96 page pdf, Environmental Protection Agency, Sep. 7, 2015)

Also discussed here: Can we put a value on the benefits of climate action? (Mark Dwortzan, World Economic Forum, Sep 7 2015)

Today we review an assessment of the benefits of taking action on climate change and the costs of inaction on cutting carbon emissions to limit climate warming to less than 2 C that would be realized by the end of the century in the Unites States. Impacts are many and widespread and vary in nature and cost across the various regions of the USA. Mitigation would prevent 57,000 premature deaths by 2100 with an economic benefit of $930 B. In the Great Lakes region, 520 bridges are vulnerable compared to 53 with mitigation. In the Southwest, the number of droughts and heat waves is expected to quadruple by2100 while under mitigation no increase is seen. In the Rocky Mountains, nearly 2 million more acres of forests will burn by 2100 compared to 1.5 million less with mitigation, compared to today.

benefits heat waves USA

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How do Stranded Assets Interfere with Carbon Taxes to Achieve a Low Carbon Economy?

Assessing carbon lock-in (8 page pdf, Peter Erickson, Sivan Kartha, Michael Lazarus and Kevin Tempest, Environ. Res. Lett., Aug. 25, 2015)

Today we review the results of economic modeling which examined how high carbon emitters and their infrastructure and supporting networks tend to discourage attempts to transform society to a low carbon economy in time to avoid exceeding the 450 ppm/2 deg C warming that is the global target. Results show that coal fired power plants are the biggest obstacle world-wide and their lifetimes lasting decades also discourage early conversion to low catrbon. . The model also predicts what level of carbon price would make continued investment in these old technologies uneconomic. Coal power plants require a carbon tax above $30 US/tonne. Other stranded assets include gas power plants and combustion engine cars and their economic carbon tax trigger point is higher than for coal.

overcommitted emissions

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Using Congestion Pricing to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Research on Urban Road Congestion Pricing Strategy Considering Carbon Dioxide Emissions (20 page pdf, Yitian Wang, Zixuan Peng, Keming Wang, Xiaolin Song, Baozhen Yao, and Tao Feng, Sustainability, Aug. 6, 2015)

Today we review research into models of congestion pricing to reduce both traffic congestion and the emissions that are produced by stop and go traffic- something that is not usually considered when planning congestion pricing because of the difficulty in measuring actual road emissions. The fact that road emissions make up 80% of transportation GHG emissions makes this assessment very important when emission reduction, especially in cities, is the goal. Results indicate that achieving both objectives is feasible with emissions falling by 19%, and modal car use falling from 70% to 56% with increased use of public transit.

congestion pricing and ghgs

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“Avoid, Shift, Improve” – Decarbonizing Quebec’s Transportation Sector

Energy policy 2016-2025 – Decarbonization of Road Transport (73 page pdf, Gouvernement du Québec Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, 2015)
Today we review a background paper prepared by the Quebec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, outlining plans to reduce the emission of carbon emissions by the transportation sector in that province, 76% of which comes from road transport. Recognizing that 99% of the province’s energy is produced from renewable energy sources, principally hydro, the main emphasis of the Avoid, Shift, and Improve plan, is on reducing travel in privately owned vehicles, shifting to use of a 95% electrified public transit and improving engine efficiency and increase the use of non carbon biofuels, propane and natural gas. Encouragement to convert to hybrid or totally electric vehicles (18% or 1.2 million by 2020 from under 6,000 today), and make more use of shared cars with an eye toward driverless or autonomous cars in the future that make fewer demands on the road infrastructure.

transit quebec

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How Does Traffic Related Air Pollution Affect Children’s Health?

Blood Pressure and Same-Day Exposure to Air Pollution at School: Associations with Nano-Sized to Coarse PM in Children (6 page pdf, Nicky Pieters, Gudrun Koppen, Martine Van Poppel, Sofie De Prins, Bianca Cox, Evi Dons, Vera Nelen, Luc Int Panis, Michelle Plusquin, Greet Schoeters, and Tim S. Nawrot, Environmental Health Perspectives, Jul. 2015)
Today we review research into the links between short term exposure to particulate matter of various sizes and impacts on blood pressure of school-age children who are particularly vulnerable because their higher breathing rate, as well as their generally greater activity than older people. Results indicate a clear association with Ultra Fine Particulates (diameter 20-30 nm) and higher blood pressure. In addition, repeated exposure to particulates may result in long-term chronically elevated pressures, as well as a chronic increase in arterial stiffness in children due to traffic-related air pollution.

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English: Southern end of the High Street, Keyn...
English: Southern end of the High Street, Keynsham, on a busy Saturday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How do Fireworks Affect Local Air Quality?

Effects of Independence Day fireworks on atmospheric concentrations of fine particulate matter in the United States (7 page pdf, Dian J. Seidel, Abigail N. Birnbaum, Atmospheric Environment, May 30, 2015)
Also discussed here: July 4 fireworks spark astonishing spike in air pollution, NOAA study finds (Jason Samenow, Washington Post, Jun. 30, 2015)

Today we review a nation-wide assessment of the impact of fireworks on local air quality in the USA. Results indicate tht the particulates emitted during these displays increased particulate pollution by 42% on average, although individual cities had increases of 400% temporarily and other venues such as the International Fireworks Competition in Montreal and New Years Eve in Germany showed increases of 40 to 50 times more. As the particulate emissions from these eruptions last only for a few hours, the higher pollution levels are not counted in either the national air quality regulations (such as National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5 in the USA or European Union PM10 air quality standard). Clearly short term air quality forecasts could be improved using the results from this study. In addition, spectators would be well advised to stay upwind from the fireworks to avoid polluted air and the health impacts that may result from breathing it.

fireworks for july 4

Key Quotes:

“Every July 4, the 14,000-plus dazzling fireworks displays across the nation have a toxic effect on our atmosphere…they temporarily increase particulate pollution by an average of 42 percent.

“PM2.5 concentrations peaked around 9-10 p.m. on July 4 at more than twice their average concentration before dropping back to background levels by around noon on July 5.”

“[in Washington DC] Between about 8 and 10 p.m., PM2.5 levels surged by over 400 percent compared to average before gradually returning to background levels the next day”

“At one site adjacent to fireworks, hourly PM2.5 levels climb to ~500 mg/m3, and 24-hr average concentrations increase by 48 mg/m3 (370%).”
“Increase in PM2.5 by up to a factor of 50 within the fireworks plume and within 2 km of the launch site during the 2007 Montreal International Fireworks Competition”

“Increase in sub-micron particle mass concentration by a factor of 10 or greater for about an hour following the 2005 New Year’s celebration fireworks in Mainz, Germany, and a daily average concentration on January 1 exceeding the European Union PM10 air quality standard of 50 mg/m3”

“Designated exceptional events are not included in determining compliance. Some fireworks events have been allowed exceptional event Designation..While the EPA does not regulate fireworks, the agency does recommend that people who are considered sensitive to particle pollution try to limit their exposure by watching fireworks from upwind – or as far away as possible,”

“Current air quality prediction efforts in the US address PM2.5, but the national prediction models do not currently include fireworks as source of
particulate emissions … although local forecasters may account for fireworks effects in communications with the public.”

What does the Pope have to Say about Climate Change?

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ Of The Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home (184 page pdf, Vatican, Jun. 18, 2015)

Also discussed here: Eight things we learned from the Pope’s climate change encyclical (The Guardian, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: Civil Society Reactions: Papal Encyclical for Climate Action (Climate Action Network, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: The Pope’s Memo on Climate Change Is a Mind-Blower (Wired, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: What Does the Pope’s Climate Encyclical Mean? (Aaron Huertas, Union of Concerned Scientists, Jun. 18, 2015)

And here: Can Pope Francis’s ‘street cred’ shift the climate change debate? (Erin Obourn, CBC, Jun. 20, 2015)


Today we review the “Encyclical Letter” which sets the stage for nations to gather at Paris in December 2015 to meet the challenges of climate change and prescribe global solutions that reduce impacts. The Pope’s comprehensive and (surprisingly) well informed statement recognizes that oil and gas consumption by technology is the main cause of anthropogenic climate change and that impacts unfairly hit the developing world which has had little if no role in causing them but now have difficulty in dealing with them. The need to go beyond technological solutions is underlined as well as the need to communicate both social and environmental concerns in addition to economic challenges which many see as the main or only worry.


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How Could Carbon Pricing Reduce Canada’s CO2 Emissions?

The Case for a Carbon Tax in Canada – Setting Course for a Low-Carbon Economy (286 page pdf, pp 98-135, Nicholas Rivers, Canada 2020, Jun. 18, 2015)
Also discussed here: World Energy Outlook Special Report 2013: Redrawing the Energy Climate Map  (134 page pdf, International Energy Agency, Jun. 10, 2013)

Today we review a paper that examines the benefits and myths about carbon taxes and then suggests ways of implementing them in Canada. The main benefit which has been seen by administrations that have done it (such as British Columbia) is that it is 40%-90% less costly to implement than by regulation. The “unpopular” myth is contradicted by polls showing support by a majority of Canadians and business and even by oil companies whom politicians are trying to “protect”. The “ineffective” myth is proven incorrect from BC where emissions were reduced by 10% and in the UK where they fell by 18%. A simple tax on all carbon fuel burned is proposed with the main decision by government on what level to set the tax – which could be set to the social cost of carbon which has been at about $40/t CO2 which would raise about $25 B in revenue each year (enough to subsidize low income people impacted by the tax as well as to return revenue to the public as a whole through lower income taxes).

co2 emissions canada 2013

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What is a Fair and Ethical Reduction of Carbon Emissions for Nations to Meet their Climate Change Responsibilities?

Do US GHG Emissions Commitments Pass Ethical Scrutiny? (Ethics and Climate, Jun. 16, 2015)
Now that the Pope’s encyclical has made ethics a major consideration for addressing climate change, the question is asked what level of reduction of carbon emissions is fair and ethical in order to keep the earth’s atmosphere below the accepted 2 degrees of warming? As 5% of the world’s population, the USA’s share of the required 270 gigatons carbon reduction would be 13.5 Gtc compared to the current emission rate of 1.44 Gtc/year and this, in turn, would point to a 95% reduction by 2050, not the 80% pledged by the USA in 2014. And this does not include the ethical issues of responsibility for the fate of developing countries which did not play a significant role by their carbon emissions in getting to the state of the world we are now in. Other developed countries with high emission rates need to consider their fair share as well, in the days and months leading up to the agreement on emission rates expected at the UN’s climate conference in Paris in December 2015.

Carbon emissions from various global regions d...

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800–2000 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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