Bearing Witness to Climate Change September 2022

It’s official but little surprise to Europeans who suffered through the past three months, Europe just had its hottest summer on record according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The last record stood for only one year, from 2021. How tragic that now the warming continent is now worried about surviving a cold winter due to the worsening energy crisis brought on by a shortage in fossil fuels which contributed to the record summer heat.

King Charles III has ascended to the British throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Charles is now the most outspoken global leader who has not been hesitant to talk about climate change dating back to the 1970s. In his opening remarks to the last UN Climate Change Conference, Prince Charles at the time called for a warlike effort to combat climate change, saying that time was running out.

The first in a fleet of five hydrogen-powered trains has begun service in Germany. They will replace fossil-fuel burning diesel trains, saving over 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.  While the trains may be emissions-free, production of the hydrogen they will run on is not yet all from renewable sources, but it is a start.

The use of renewable energy continues to grow in the US where it made up nearly 25% of all electricity generated in the second quarter of this year. Thankfully, the burning of coal continues its decline.

Plans for a Civilian Climate Corps have stalled out in the US after funding for it was omitted in the recent legislation. At one time, an investment of $30B was proposed to provide funding for young men and women to perform national service by working on climate-related projects.

A new international study warns that the world is on the brink of a number of disastrous irreversible climate tipping points. They include: collapse of Greenland’s ice sheet, disruption of the North Atlantic meridional circulation, thawing of the methane-rich permafrost, tropical coral reef die-off, collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and winter sea ice loss in the Arctic.  At current rates of warming, scientists believe that 4 tipping points are now likely to be surpassed.

An article published in the journal Nature urges fellow climate researchers and advocates to commit acts of civil disobedience to pressure governments to act faster with more meaningful policies. The call comes after a summer where every continent and most nations experienced extreme weather events made worse by climate change. Earlier this year over 1,000 scientists from 25 countries staged public demonstrations to raise public awareness that time is running out.

In a survey of citizens in 19 developed countries, some 75% of the respondents said that climate change was the top major threat. However, in the US the top threat was cyberattacks as just over half said climate change was a major threat. Astonishing, the other half said climate change was a minor threat or not a threat at all. Ironically, the spread of false information online was the second highest perceived threat. But it seems many could just not connect the dots that perhaps they were being fed false information from climate deniers.

The month-long historic heat wave that hit China this summer – which triggered droughts, water shortages, wildfires, and blackouts – crippled parts of the country’s economic output, exports, transportation infrastructure, energy production, agriculture, and public health.

A new study has reported that the Middle East is getting even more arid and hotter with climate change at rates twice those of other parts of the globe. The region is warming an average of about 0.5 degrees each decade and some predict it will be even warmer, nearly 10 degrees F hotter by the end of this century.

While portions of the globe are suffering from droughts and shrinking bodies of water, other locales are seeing lakes increase in size because of more frequent and heavier rainfalls. As example, rising waters are threatening villages and their residents in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, causing more hardship and migration on its population.

Across much of Europe, tens of thousands took to the streets protesting the rising cost of energy for their homes, vehicles, and businesses.  The demand for more plentiful cheaper energy should be driving more toward renewables, but instead countries are rushing to find new sources of gas and petrol while blaming Russia for not feeding their addiction. We are starting to see a number of countries destabilized by what many expect to be the first of several energy crises as the world’s economies become decarbonized. Economists predict the slowing economy may enter into a global recession triggered by energy shortages due to an over-reliance on gas from Russia. Protests of high energy prices have also broken out in India and Haiti, pushing the latter into near anarchy.

Some 20 new floating gas terminals are being rushed into production and service that will allow Europe to receive by sea imports of LNG from countries like the US. Climate scientists fear that massive spending to support the production, shipment, and receipt of LNG will only lock the world into decades more reliance on the burning of fossil fuels.

The EU is also in discussion with Spain and Portugal to increase imports of LNG from existing and new terminals.  For years the Iberian Peninsula was not dependent on cheap Russian oil and gas imports because they were not well connected to the pipelines that serve the rest of Europe. As a result, the two countries developed relative energy independence with heavy investments in solar and wind.

With fears of a European recession, the EU has proposed that energy firms, which are enjoying record profits due to high prices, give some $140B back to consumers and businesses thru a windfall tax on their earnings.

India is making huge progress in electrifying two- and three-wheel vehicles like mopeds and rickshaws. Nearly half of all new three-wheeled vehicles are now electric.  In a country where there are only 22 cars per 1,000 people, the move to inexpensive battery powered vehicles may allow the country to avoid millions of gas-powered automobiles and leapfrog over more advanced economies.

Last summer Lytton, Canada set a record temperature of 121 degrees then promptly burned down when a deadly fire erupted in the heat. Now the nearby city of Vancouver is suing major oil companies seeking damages for climate change as the province of British Columbia expects to spend some $400 million on measure to adapt to climate change.

For over a century people moved to California because of the weather.  Now, thousands are leaving as the state experiences disaster-after-disaster. Megadroughts, wildfires, flash floods, water shortages, energy blackouts, scarce insurance, and record heat are all taking their emotional and financial toll. A two-week heat wave shattered records across the state for September with high temperatures that exceeded 115 degrees F in some locations like the state capitol Sacramento. How ironic as the state has done more than any others in taking the lead in moving to a low carbon future while the rest of the US delayed action.

The past summer across the US saw a whiplash of going from one weather extreme and disaster to another. With 40% of the country officially in drought conditions, some agricultural yields were the lowest for a decade, creating higher prices on top of those due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Droughts were broken by flash flooding where the rainfall on hardened soil simply flowed off.

The recent passage of the Biden inflation and climate bill is precipitating a new wave of investment in clean energy by the private sector.  The investments will be across the board in infrastructure, transportation, transmission, materials, minerals, manufacturing, R&D, onshoring, and much more. Analysts expect that total investment in renewable energy will be over $1 trillion dollars by 2035.  The Biden administration announced that John Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, will oversee the federal investments which will help to decarbonize the economy.

Warming ocean waters are impacting the fisheries around the world and the fishing communities who depend on them. This time off the Mediterranean shore of Lebanon, non-native sea life like jellyfish are outcompeting native species like octopuses. The Med is reported to have become nearly 2 degrees F warmer over the past three decades.

As the European energy crisis worsens, Germany has formally announced that it will extend the life of 2 of 3 nuclear power plants that were once due to be shuttered. The UK has announced a price cap on energy bills for homes and businesses. Droughts and low river levels are threatening power from hydroelectric as well as fossil fuel plants that depend on water for steam generation or cooling.

Environmentalists across Europe are objecting to the increase in logging and deforestation of some ancient forests to supply wood pellets for heating and energy, while some claim that wood is the largest renewable energy source in all of Europe. A third of Italy’s renewable energy comes from wood pellets sourced from eastern Europe that receive EU supported subsidies and tax breaks.

Flooding in Pakistan last month that left a third of the country under water has driven millions from their homes, creating a humanitarian, economic, and now agricultural food crises. More than 1,000 are said to have died and the economic damage is estimated to exceed $10B in what government officials call a climate disaster of epic proportions.  Scientists report that the flooding was indeed made worse by climate change.

Rather than selling his company or taking it public, the eccentric billionaire owner of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, says he will give his company away to a non-profit to assure that profits from the company will continue to be used to fight climate change. We can hope many others will follow this example.

President Biden announced at the North American Car Show approval of $800M to build electric vehicle charging stations across the country along federal highways. The administration says the total funding of $7.5B should provide for some 500,000 stations.

A clairvoyant UN IPCC report from ten years ago warned and forecasted the current extreme weather disasters that the globe is now experiencing: record heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding from heavier rainfalls.

Congressional investigators have found documents from major oil companies that confirm the companies gaslighted and downplayed concerns about climate change while misleading their employees, customers, shareholders and public at large by promoting disinformation.

The recent climate legislation in the US provides $6B to help manufacturing companies reduce their GHG emissions which produce about a third of total US emissions.  The expectation is that much of the money will be used to decarbonize the production of concrete, asphalt, and other materials.

As part of the legislative deal making, the Biden Administration awarded nearly $200M of offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Previously the administration had set a 70-year low for awarding these types of leases.

When the United Nations General Assembly met in person for the first time in two years, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not mince any words in admonishing world leaders for their failure to act on threats to humanity and the planet. In what some called one of the most consequential speeches by a UN leader, Guterres said that our planet is in peril because the international community is unwilling to tackle the big changes, like climate change, all while the fossil fuel industry feasts on hundreds of billions in subsidies and profits.

The first public global registry and database of fossil fuel reserves, production, and emissions has been released by Carbon Tracker. It covers over 50,000 sites in 89 countries for about 75% of all such carbon-polluting sites.

A $1.2 trillion dollar government fund of Norway has announced the date of 2050 in which the 9,000 companies it has invested in should become net zero.  The fund said that it would divest itself of investments in companies that fail to make progress.

The US Senate approved ratification of the Kigali international amendment to the 1987 Montreal Treaty which limits use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) refrigerants such as those used commercial and residential air conditioning. Some 130 counties have now agreed that over the next 14 years the use of HFCs will be reduced by 85%.

Small island nations across the world are collaborating in developing plans to respond to rising sea levels thru the Rising Nations Initiative. Tuvalu is one of these that hopes to raise elevations some 13-16 feet above current sea levels.

World Bank President David Malpass refused at a public event to acknowledge man-made gas emissions are creating a worsening climate crisis, saying he was just not a scientist. Al Gore among others promptly labeled him a climate denier. Malpass and the World Bank have been under increasing pressure to stop funding oil and gas projects and do more to prepare the world for climate change.

With more droughts and wildfires, air quality within much of the Western US has become worse due to extreme smoke days after years of progress. A recent study using satellite date reports that there has been a 27-fold increase for some 25 million people to experience extreme levels of smoke.

A new study reports that the process of flaring oil wells is not as effective in burning off excess methane. As a result, far more methane may be emitted into the atmosphere from oil and gas production than was originally thought. The IEA estimates that more than 140 million cubic meters of methane is burned this way.

The European energy crisis continues to worsen, as a possible prelude to even more drastic disruptions due to climate change and decarbonization. Germany has nationalized gas-supplier Uniper, which was struggling from reduced imports from Russia, and begun planning to ration energy this winter. Britain will cut energy bills for businesses, schools, and medical facilities by using discounts to effectively cap the wholesale price of electricity and natural gas.

A rupture of the undersea Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russian into Europe, thought to be an act of sabotage, may be the largest single man-made release of methane ever discovered. Researchers with the United Nations Environmental Programme International Methane Emissions Observatory program found the leak using satellite images of gases bubbling up in the Baltic Sea.

The US Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, issued a dire warning of an economic calamity if climate change is not more urgently addressed. She made her comments as a hurricane in the  Carribean began its march toward the Florida coast as the month ends which would soon bring a human catastrophe and financial calamity to the state like never experienced.

America’s six largest banks agreed to participate in an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank that will assess their exposure to climate risks. This progress is long overdue as other central banks around the world, mostly in Europe, have been doing this for some years.

Featured image is from Inside Climate News at

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