2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #45B

Big oil, big profits, big tax breaks 

Once again, it’s been a good quarter for Big Oil. The big five oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell—reported $23 billion in combined profits for their third quarter of 2013. That’s $175,000 per minute. Together, these five companies earn more in one minute than 95 percent of Americans earn in a year. These profits were slightly lower this third quarter compared to 2012, primarily due to lower (but not low) oil and gasoline prices. Gasoline averaged $3.63 per gallon in the first 10 months of 2013, slightly less than last year’s record of $3.68 per gallon.

Even though profits were lower, the big five companies continue to enrich their largest shareholders and senior executives by using a large share of profits to buy back their own stock. This past quarter, the combined buybacks of the companies (save ConocoPhillips) were nearly $10 billion, or 43 percent of the four companies’ total profits. In addition, these five companies are sitting on more than $71 billion in cash reserves.

Big Oil, Big Profits, Big Tax Breaks by Daniel J. Weiss and Tiffany Germain, Center for American Progress, Nov 5, 2013

Climate change and aerosols: new research

New research published today in Nature gives us a better idea of how much aerosols produced by people are influencing climate change.

Aerosols — tiny particles produced naturally and by burning fossil fuels — work against warming by greenhouse gases to cool the Earth. This led scientists to speculate that aerosols were “masking” warming, and that without aerosols in the atmosphere the Earth would be heating up much faster.

The study released today shows that aerosols produced by people are not as important as once thought. But natural aerosols are far more important for their influence on climate, and researchers warn without better understanding of natural sources of aerosols, climate forecasts will fall short. 

Climate change and aerosols: new research by James Witmore, The Consveration, Nov 7, 2013

Climate change is melting away Nepal's mountain tourism

Dawa Tshering Sherpa remembers the 1985 flood as if it happened just yesterday. At that time, Sherpa, a then-trekking guide living in this riverside village in the Mount Everest region, was home, resting after lunch.

"Suddenly, I heard a sound like a thunder," the 68-year-old recalled over tea on a recent day. "I looked out from the window and saw a dark river coming down from the mountain."

Climate change is melting away Nepal's mountain tourism by Coco Liu, E&E Publishing, Nov 7, 2013

Climate change may magnify toxic chemical dangers

A draft summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report on the impacts of global warming leaked into the blogosphere last Friday. The draft highlights concerns ranging from melting sea ice to diminishing crop yields to health dangers from hunger and heat waves. What it does not address, however, is the added possibility that climate change could magnify the havoc wrought by long-lasting and pervasive toxic chemicals.

Two of the greatest threats to global health, some scientists say, could be closely connected.

Climate Change May Magnify Toxic Chemical Dangers by Lynne Peeples, The Huffington Post, Nov 8, 2013

Concentrations of warming gases break record

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), atmospheric CO2 grew more rapidly last year than its average rise over the past decade.

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also broke previous records

Thanks to carbon dioxide and these other gases, the WMO says the warming effect on our climate has increased by almost a third since 1990.

The WMO's annual greenhouse gas bulletin measures concentrations in the atmosphere, not emissions on the ground.

Concentrations of warming gases break record by Matt McGrath, BBC News, Nov 5, 2013

Fossil fuel subsidies dwarf renewables support, favour rich

Mounting global fossil fuel subsidies distort the price of carbon, favour the rich in the developing world and amount to six times as much as subsidies for renewable sources of energy, according to a new report.

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet,” wrote Shelagh Whitley, author of the report and a research analyst for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) based in London.

The report was released on Thursday, days before member nations of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meet in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss how to work toward a new climate deal in 2015.

Fossil fuel subsidies dwarf renewables support, favour rich - report by Jake Lucas, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nov 8, 2013

Global warming finally reaches the last Arctic region

Lakes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, in northeast Canada, are showing evidence of abrupt change in one of the last Arctic regions of the world to have experienced global warming, according to Canadian research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

The research team consisting of Drs. Kathleen Rühland, John Smol, and Neal Michelutti from Queen’s University Ontario, Dr. Andrew Paterson of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, and Bill Keller from the Laurentian University Ontario, retrieved sediment cores from lakes around the western shoreline of Hudson Bay and looked for changes in the microscopic algae that settle at the lake bottom after death.

Global Warming Finally Reaches the Last Arctic Region by Kathleen Rhuland, The Conversation, Scientific American, Nov 7, 2013

Natural particles confound climate scientists and computer models

In the world of climate modeling, aerosols are troublemakers.

The tiny airborne particles, which come from human sources like burning fossil fuels and biomass as well as natural sources like volcanic eruptions and sea spray, are known to have a cooling effect on the Earth's climate by affecting cloud reflectivity.

Exactly how much they cool, though, is a topic of considerable uncertainty.

Natural Particles Confound Climate Scientists and Computer Models by Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Nov 7., 2013

U.N. climate talks will be all about the Benjamins

To slow climate change and protect the world’s vulnerable poor from the effects of global warming, the West is going to have to give developing nations a hand. And that hand will need to come in the form of cold, hard cash.

Unfortunately, not a lot of that is on offer right now. That fact will take center stage during international climate talks in Poland over the next two weeks.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s next Conference of the Parties, commonly known as a COP, begins Monday in Warsaw. Officials representing nearly 200 countries will bicker and beg as they try to move forward in the quest for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. That deal was struck way back in 1997. The U.S. never ratified it, Canada ultimately walked away from it, and the agreement expired last year. It’s been sticky-taped together through amendments to extend its life until a new agreement can be reached.

U.N. climate talks will be all about the Benjamins by John Upton, Grist, Nov 8, 2013

United Nations group warns on emissions

Major polluters must immediately begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the rise in global temperatures is to be held in check, or else a higher price will have to be paid later, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Environment Program.

While a failure to act swiftly will not necessarily doom the effort to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, it will make it much harder and more expensive to do so, the agency said in its latest Emissions Gap Report. The authors said delay today would require more drastic measures in the future as well as a gamble on currently unproven technologies.

United Nations Group Warns on Emissions by David Jolly, New York Times, Nov 5, 2013

What really alarms Filipinos is the rich world ignoring climate change

As Haiyan batters the Phillipines, the political elites at the UN climate talks will again leave poor countries to go it alone.

Typhoon Haiyan: what really alarms Filipinos is the rich world ignoring climate change by John Vidal, The Guradian, Nov 8, 2013

World headed for a high-speed carbon crash

If global carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, humanity will eventually be left with no other option than a costly, world war-like mobilisation, scientists warned this week.

“It’s blindingly obvious that our economic system is failing us,” said economist Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey in the UK.

Climate change, pollution, damaged ecosystems, record species extinctions, and unsustainable resource use are all clear symptoms of a dysfunctional economic system, Jackson, author of the report and book “Prosperity Without Growth”, told IPS.

“It is a travesty of what economy should be. It has absolutely failed to create social well being and has hurt people and communities around the world,” he said.

World Headed for a High-Speed Carbon Crash by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service(IPS), Nov 7, 2013

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 9 November, 2013

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