Bearing Witness to Climate Change June 2020

Despite the global economic slowdown, C02 levels in the atmosphere reached an all-time high in May. The monthly average was 417.2 ppm which is 1% higher than the last record high a year earlier. An annual increase of about 2.5 ppm is now about the average yearly change for the past decade. This is some 3 times the average increase of a half century ago. CO2 levels have increased nearly 30% in just my lifetime. Carbon dioxide levels are now said to be the highest they have been in some 3 million years.

Carbon emissions are beginning to rise as fast as they fell during the Coronavirus pandemic economic lockdown. In April fossil fuel emissions were estimated to be some 17% lower than the previous year but by June they were only 5% lower. The biggest decreases have come from transportation and shipping. Scientists still expect that for the entire year emissions will be down some 4-7%. That may be good news, but for all the wrong and ever so tragic reasons.

President Trump uses the pandemic as an excuse to continue to rollback regulations intended to reduce carbon emissions. This time it was to weaken the power of federal agencies to conduct environmental reviews of infrastructure projects and change the manner in which the EPA conducts cost-benefit analyses. The latter is expected to reduce the economic benefits of some environmental protections used in rule making. These are just a few of the nearly 100 environmental rules the Trump administration has been dismantling.

New ways of harnessing underwater currents in the world’s oceans are being studied for generating green energy in the US. Turbine prototypes are being tested in the waters off of Florida in the fast moving Gulf Stream. This is not the first such underwater power station as France has been using tidal flows to generate electrical power since 1966.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s policies are accelerating the deforestation of the Amazon jungle, which are said to be the lungs of the planet for their role in uptaking and sequestering carbon. It has been reported that clearing from logging, farming, mining, and other land grabs that were once illegal are taking place over vast areas while the government turns a blind eye. After a decade of improvement, land clearing has now returned to levels not seen since 2008.

A heat wave continues across much of Siberia where surface temperatures are up to 10 degrees C above average according to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service.  Temperatures across towns above the arctic circle are hitting record daily highs that are as much as 30 degrees above their normal temperature. The town of Verhoyansk hit an all time high of 100.4 degrees F which was also a record high for the arctic region. Thawing permafrost was cited as a contributing cause to a massive diesel fuel spill as well as wildfires raging across Siberian forests.

New Zealand scientists reported this month that temperatures in the South Pole are rising three times faster than the global average in increases. Temps have been found to be increasing by over 1 degree F per decade at the pole. It is thought that warming Pacific ocean surface temperatures are contributing to the overall warming of Antarctica.

In good news the state of California continues to lead away by adopting a new rule requiring the sale of more zero-emissions trucks by 2035. It’s part of their plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 where transportation accounts for 40% of all of the states emissions.

In a sign that financial markets are no longer in denial about global warming – even though many politicians still are – mortgage lenders and banks in some coastal locations have started to require much larger down payments for oceanfront property. The Climate Central research organization has projected that in 30 years an additional half a million homes along the coast will risk flooding once a year. Some speculate that with so many unforeseen changes, the common 30-year mortgage may disappear in the most vulnerable locations.


This month’s featured image is a screen shot from the June 4 Washington Post of a graph of NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory data prepared by John Muyskens at https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/06/04/carbon-dioxide-record-2020/.