2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade – The New York Times

“Last year was the second-hottest on record, government researchers confirmed on Wednesday in analyses of temperature data from thousands of observing stations around the world. They said that 2019 was only slightly cooler than 2016 and the end of what was the warmest decade yet.”

David Lindsay,  NYT Comment:

Thank you for this report, and yuck. It is time to panic, breath, and take action, as if your house was on fire, because our earth is in serious trouble. It is time to throw all the climate change deniers and footdraggers out of congress and the white house

The future of the tens of thousands of species, including humans, depends on us turning around our economies and reduse our green house gas emmissions in the next ten years, say the 2000 or so top scientist, who volunteer their time to the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, under the auspices of the United Nations.

 

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

Opinion | Australia Is Burning – By Cormac Farrell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Farrell is an environmental scientist and a certified bush-fire planning and design practitioner.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“CANBERRA, Australia — Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales. I am over a hundred miles away, unable to reach them by phone.

In the middle of this destruction, many Australian commentators in the mainstream and social media peddle a simplistic view: that the fires were caused by excess plant growth and mismanagement of public land.

Opinion | The Tragedy of Germany’s Energy Experiment – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock

“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”

My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.

Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.

In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”

See Where Australia’s Deadly Wildfires Are Burning – The New York Times

Days into the New Year, deadly wildfires, fueled by wind and scorching summer heat, continued to rage across Australia’s southeast.

Fire detections in the last 24 hours

Fire detections since November 2019

Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System. Data as of January 3.

“Thousands of tourists and residents have been forced to evacuate from areas along the southeast coast so far, and tens of thousands more are fleeing to safer ground ahead of the weekend, with forecasters predicting a new round of dangerous fire conditions.

High winds and temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius, are expected starting Friday.

Australia’s 2019 fire season started early and has been exceptionally brutal, experts say, even for a country used to regular burning.

Wildfires have scorched millions of acres of land across the country since October, destroying more than a thousand homes and killing at least 19 people, including three volunteer firefighters.

The most-affected state, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is having its worst fire season in 20 years.”

Australia Fires Keep Spreading as Military Reservists Called Up – The New York Times

By Livia Albeck-RipkaJamie Tarabay and 

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“Hundreds of people who had spent days trapped by fires along a beach in the town of Mallacoota reached safety more than 300 miles away on Saturday morning, after a 20-hour trip on a naval ship.

Others had stayed behind, even as Australian officials across three states urged anyone who could leave to do so. By Saturday, numerous towns along Australia’s eastern and southeastern coasts were ringed by fire.

This is already one of the worst wildfire seasons Australia has ever endured, and by all measures, Saturday was expected to be even more extreme. High winds and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit were likely to exacerbate fires already raging out of control. Officials in the state of New South Wales said they expected to lose more houses over the weekend.”

Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad – The New York Times

By Andy Parsons and 

Photographs by 

“This fire season has been one of the worst in Australia’s history, with at least 15 people killed, hundreds of homes destroyed and millions of acres burned. And summer is far from over.

This week, thousands of residents and vacationers in southeastern Australia were forced to evacuate to shorelines as bush fires encircled communities and razed scores of buildings. Military ships and aircraft were deployed on Wednesday to deliver water, food and fuel to towns cut off by the fires.

The hot, dry conditions that have fueled the fires are nothing new in Australia. Here’s why this fire season has been so calamitous.

A kangaroo rushing past a burning house in Lake Conjola on Tuesday.

Record-breaking temperatures, extended drought and strong winds have converged to create disastrous fire conditions.”

Opinion | How to Help Brazilian Farmers Save the Amazon – By Daniel Nepstad – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Nepstad is a forest ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

“When I moved to the Amazon “Wild West” town of Paragominas in northern Brazil in 1984 as a young scientist studying forest recovery on abandoned pastures, I expected a town filled with bandits and land grabbers. Instead, what I mostly found were courageous, hard-working families from across Brazil who had come to the rugged town of sawmills, cattle ranches and smallholder settlements to improve their lot in life.

But as the global outcry over recent Amazon fires and the rise in deforestation has demonstrated yet again, the stigma surrounding Amazon farmers as accomplices in this destruction remains, making enemies of would-be allies.

Indeed, outrage over the fires and President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions obscures a central question: Can responsible, law-abiding landholders and businesspeople in the Amazon — like those I met in Paragominas — compete with people who break the law, grab land and forest resources and drive much of the deforestation?

The simple answer is no. And until that changes, it will be difficult to stop the cutting and burning of these forests, which worldwide account for about a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. But two recent developments suggested things may be changing for the better.

One turn of events was the decision by the California Air Resources Board in September to endorse — after 10 years of design and debate — a Tropical Forest Standard that could protect the forests of the Amazon and beyond. The standard sets rules for state, provincial and national governments in the Amazon to limit deforestation so that they can qualify to sell credits to companies seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard is designed to make sure that the carbon offsets that companies are buying are actually going to real, verifiable deforestation efforts. What’s significant about the standard is its size — it focuses on recognizing and rewarding successful forest conservation across entire states, provinces or even nations in the Amazon. Moreover, and this is critical, it includes principles for guaranteeing that indigenous groups and other local communities have a voice in the policies and programs that are developed.”

Killer Slime, Dead Birds, an Expunged Map: The Dirty Secrets of European Farm Subsidies – The New York Times

“In the spring of 2017, a European Union working group of environmentalists, academics and lobbyists was having a technical discussion on green farming practices when a map appeared on an overhead screen. In an instant, the room froze.

A farm lobbyist objected. Officials murmured their disapproval.

The map juxtaposed pollution in northern Italy with the European Union subsidies paid to farmers in the region. The overlap was undeniable and invited a fundamental question: Is the European Union financing the very environmental problems it is trying to solve?

The map was expunged from the group’s final reports, those in attendance say. But using the European Union’s own economic models, The New York Times created an approximation that confirms what European officials did not want seen: The most heavily subsidized areas had the worst pollution.”

Overlapping E.U. subsidies with Italy’s nitrate pollution

E.U. farm subsidies                                                Nitrate pollution

More subsidies                                                     Higher pollution

 Pierre Philippe’s fight began when people and animals started dying on the beaches of northwestern France.

A man’s body was pulled from a pile of green slime. A rider was discovered unconscious beside his dead horse. A beach worker slipped into a coma, and a jogger fatally collapsed.

The reason seemed obvious to Dr. Philippe, an emergency room doctor. Every summer, algae coats the Brittany beaches with bright green slime. As it decomposes, it gives off hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can kill in seconds.

Dr. Philippe tried for years to persuade government health officials to acknowledge the threat, or even discuss it. They refused. “If they recognize the problem, they also indirectly admit responsibility,” he said. “And they know that.”

That’s because talking about the algae meant talking about farming.”

Climate Change Is Ravaging the Arctic, Report Finds – By Kendra Pierre-Louis – The New York Times

“Temperatures in the Arctic region remained near record highs this year, according to a report issued on Tuesday, leading to low summer sea ice, cascading impacts on the regional food web and growing concerns over sea level rise.

Average temperatures for the year ending in September were the second highest since 1900, the year records began, scientists said. While that fell short of a new high, it fit a worrying trend: Over all, the past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the region.

“It’s really showing that we have a system that’s under duress,” said Donald K. Perovich, a professor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and the lead author of the report’s chapter on sea ice.

The results are from the annual Arctic report card, a peer-reviewed assessment produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that takes a broad look at the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. The Arctic is of interest to researchers because it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing changes both in the ocean and on land.”