Bearing Witness to Climate Change February 2022

A new study reports that gas stoves in the US are putting over 2.5 million tons of CO2e of methane into the atmosphere year. That is said to be equivalent to the GHG from 500,000 gas powered cars.  Not surprising, more progressive cities and states are enacting regulations to reduce the use of gas-powered appliances.

Solar energy has become so affordable and efficient that utilities in the US are being overwhelmed by consumers and businesses to connect their projects into the transmission grid. Some grid operators are asking for a two-year pause on approvals.

Global oil and natural gas prices have risen to their highest level in seven years as the economy comes roaring back while shortages strike western Europe and Russia threatens its neighbors. Natural gas prices in Europe are five times what they were a year ago, threatening progress in lowering carbon emissions.  Many coal-fired power plants were shuttered due to increasing electricity being produced from cheap natural gas. Now, coal is less expensive than gas to burn, and coal GHG emissions from coal plants are rising.

This winter more single-day records of snowfall are being recorded across the US Northeast. Scientists say that warmer weather in the Arctic is destabilizing the polar vortex allowing more frigid weather to seep into lower latitudes. A warmer Atlantic Ocean increases moisture in the atmosphere and contributes to heavier precipitation, including snow in the winter.

Global methane concentrations have soared to nearly three times their pre-industrial values according to the US NOAA. Scientists are concerned that it is coming from not only anthropogenic sources but as a result of a warming planet which is releasing more methane into the atmosphere.

Warmer Arctic winters are creating more extreme weather events and economic harm not only in North America and Europe, but also East Asia, according to research from the University of Zurich. Smaller agricultural harvests, reduced vegetation growth, and lower absorption of CO2 by forests are cited as a few of the consequences.

The forestry industry has argued for years that cutting down the oldest trees in mature forests is better for both the forest and climate. They cited research that says younger forests absorb more carbon at a faster rate than older ones. Climate activists argue that this analysis is incomplete because it ignores the fact that most of the older trees harvested end up in products that are burnt or discarded, releasing carbon back into the environment.

According to a new study in the British journal Nature Climate Change, the western US has been in a 22 year- long megadrought that is the worst for the last 1,000 years. The drought has been directly linked to climate change which contributed to record high temperatures, low rainfall, and low snow levels over the West.  Over 90% of the western US is experiencing drought conditions that have caused the region’s largest lakes and reservoirs to be at their lowest levels ever recorded.

US federal agencies including NOAA have issued a new report saying that sea levels will rise by an additional foot along East Coast shorelines in the next three decades.  They warned that the rise will cause increased flooding and erosion, made worse by storms and extreme weather events that produce tidal surges.

As the 2022 Winter Olympics in China concluded, climate scientists began advising that a warming planet will offer fewer consistent locations to host winter games in the future. Of the 21 locations that have hosted previous Winter Olympics, only one may offer reliable winter conditions to serve as a future host city. This year in China, most of the snow was man made which consumed massive amounts of water and energy to produce. Some locations are now too warm for even the most advanced snow-making technologies.

A federal judge in the US has blocked the Biden administration from using a higher number for the social cost of GHG emissions like carbon. Previously, federal agencies like the EPA were directed to use a cost of about $50 per ton of emissions when assessing the impact and costs of oil leases and infrastructure projects.  Climate activists argue that this is still too low, as the price of carbon should be over $100 per ton.

The US government is set to provide $6B of financial aid to help existing nuclear power plants remain in operation. Currently, about 60 US nuclear plants produce just under 100 GW of electricity which will decline to 60GW by 2030. Supporters of carbon-free nuclear power argue that the country will need this energy to serve as a reliable base for solar and wind power which are intermittent sources. They also make the case that because we have yet to put a price on carbon, the value of nuclear plants to the energy grid is far lower than what it should be.

A new UN report written by 50 researchers from 6 continents warns that wildfires will become far more frequent, uncontrollable, and devastating as the world warms due to climate change. They predict that the likelihood of catastrophic fires will increase by a third by 2050 and over 50 percent by the end of the century.

The risk of wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events continues to cause property insurance rates to increase all across the US. Rates rose by over 8% on average across the country last year, but some locations site double digit increases.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is roiling world energy markets. Energy bills in Europe, especially those for natural gas of which Russia supplies over 25%, have soared by double digits. Oil has passed $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014 as Russia supplies about 10% of the world’s use. Germany has suspended progress on the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia that would carry gas into Europe.  The only good news from the avoidable conflict is that it could accelerate the western world’s move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables not just because of climate concerns, but due to their own economic security threats from having to depend on a country like Russia.

Featured image is a from the journal Nature at

%d bloggers like this: