The latest Climate Change Chronicles from the PLM Green Global Alliance provides a quick-to-scan summary of news during October 2023 from around the world about the changing climate and its impact on people and the planet.
I am often asked if the distressing news about climate change does not depress me. Not at all. As someone who was educated as an engineer (like many of our PLM Green followers and contributors) I am energized by analyzing problems, confronting challenges, and collaborating on solutions. I hope our readers working in PLM are equally motivated as achieving sustainability will require all of our professional contributions.
Our good news quiz question of the month: what European capital announced a ban on all gasoline powered vehicles in their city center by 2025? Read on to find out and learn what else might have been missed in your own news feeds.
(For more good news and uplifting discussions about the use of PLM-enabling technologies in creating a sustainable low-carbon circular economy, join the PLM Green LinkedIn Group.)
Global heat records were once again broken last month. The planet’s average temperature for September 2023 was almost 1 degree F warmer than the previous record for the month. It was also over 3 degrees F warmer than recorded temperatures before industrialization.
NOAA reported that “for the sixth consecutive month, September also saw a record-high monthly global ocean surface temperature. September 2023 tied August 2023 for the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly (1.85 degrees F, or 1.03 degrees C, above average) of any month in NOAA’s global record.”
Sea ice in the Antarctica winter, which builds during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, was reported to be at its lowest recorded levels since continuous satellite coverage began in 1979. Sea ice at the south pole has been declining for the last seven years.
A new study has found that Antarctica’s ice shelves have shrunk by 40% in the past 25 years. More than half of the ice shelves surrounding the continent have been reduced in volume, contributing to rising sea levels. As the shelves melt, it allows glaciers and ice sheets on land to flow into the Southern Ocean. Scientists now believe that further melting of the massive ice sheets is locked in and unavoidable.
Scientists in the Nature Climate Change journal expressed concerns that ice losses in Antarctica will accelerate, leading to a faster rise in global sea levels that previously predicted. Until recent years, the Antarctic climate has been more stable than that of the arctic.
North of Antarctica, the country of New Zealand has just experience record high temperatures for their spring month of September which were over 2 deg F warmer than the historic average for the month.
Some 15,000 scientists have signed on to an update of a 2019 warning of a climate emergency. They cited record high temperatures across the globe, greenhouse gases that continue to rise in the atmosphere, extreme weather events, ice losses in the poles, deforestation, and rising fossil fuel usage.
👍 Sweden’s capital of Stockholm announced a ban on diesel- and gas-powered vehicles by 2025 in a large portion of its center city. In doing so, it will be the first European city to prohibit gas cars outright. The progressive city, like many around the world, is bucking its more conservative national governments which are slowing climate progress.
An Italian climate researcher who had participated in the Scientists Rebellion was fired from his German think tank employer for refusing to take transcontinental flights to return from his research in the South Pacific. Instead, citing a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse emissions, he opted to take a slow combination of mostly trains, buses, and ferries.
Winemakers in some of the world’s most important viticulture regions of the world, such as those in France, are working feverishly to adapt to climate change. Like other farmers around the world, warming temperatures with more extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, are causing grape growers to experiment with new methods of cultivation, processing, and even moving vineyards to higher elevations that have lower temperatures.
NOAA scientists have conducted one of the first broad studies on the impact of climate change to marine mammals. They concluded that over 70% of marine mammal stocks are threatened by climate change that will impact their habitats water chemistry, predators, and food sources. Larger mammals, such as whales, were said to be the most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, European paleoclimate scientists believe that the planet will eventually become too hot for all mammals, whether on land or in water. Climate change due to the increase of greenhouse gases was just one of several long-term factors cited.
👍 The Biden administration announced plans to award up to $7B for creating seven regional hydrogen hubs around the country that will make or use cleaner-burning hydrogen for industrial applications. The administration’s IRS is soon expected to announce rules for tax credits that could eventually measure into the many billions for low-emissions hydrogen. The DOE estimates that the use of greener hydrogen could grow to over 10 million tons by 2030.
👍 In a new papal document called Laudate Deum, Pope Francis, nearly a decade after his groundbreaking Laudato Si environmental encyclical, has implored world leaders to take more climate action before it was too late on a collapsing planet. The Pope lamented that we appear unable to halt enormous damages and that irreversible harm to the planet and its people was now unavoidable. In doing so he scorned those wealthy countries and corporate powers of the world which have spread disinformation.
👍 The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook where it predicted that global demand for oil, gas, and coal will peak by 2030. They now believe that demand will soon level off at slightly above today’s levels and remain that way for decades. The IEA went on to say that there will be 10 times as many EVs on the roads by then and that renewables will soon power 50% of the world’s electricity.
The IEA also issued an analysis that estimated roughly 50 million miles of new power lines will need to be built by 2040 to support all the renewable power sources needed to meet the goals for low carbon electricity generation. The IEA director warned that policy makers and regulatory agencies were not giving improvements to the power grid the urgent attention it deserves. There is already a logjam of nearly 3,000 GW of renewable energy waiting for permission to connect to power distribution grids around the world.
The US Treasury Department issued a report on the impact of climate change on American families. It found that some 13% of all households reported economic hardship due to severe weather events and disasters in 2022 where the total cost of damages was $176B. Not surprising, the most financially vulnerable families experienced the worst losses. The report also predicted that in the future no county will be exempt from losses due to a changing climate.
UNICEF reported that in the five years between 2016-2021 children across the world were uprooted from their homes by extreme weather events over 40 million times out of a total of 134 million for all people. The Philippines, India, China, Africa and Caribbean were cited as the most vulnerable locations for families with children.
The Amazon basin in Brazil is enduring a historic severe drought made worse by climate change and deforestation. Dry conditions have fueled wildfires that scientist worry will produce more emissions than that captured by its rainforests. Both indigenous populations and wildlife are being stressed and on the move, migrating for fresh water supplies as rivers dry up.
Late last month the water temperature in one Amazon lake reached 102 deg F, killing over 100 endangered Amazon River Dolphins. Dozens of carcasses were found floating in the waters or washed ashore. The region has been suffering from a historic drought which contributed to water temperatures almost 10 degrees above normal.
Distrust, crises, competition, conflict and wars across the globe – including om Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, and now in Israel – are threatening progress to wean the world off of fossil fuels by decarbonizing the global economy. The two largest emitters of GHG, China and the US, are increasingly at odds with each other on economic and security matters, threatening to derail climate negotiations. As tensions rise across the Middle East, the host country and attendees at next month’s climate summit in petrostate UAE are worried that little progress will be made.
Trade talks between the US and EU on carbon-intensive industries, like steel and aluminum production, are faltering before their deadline. It was once hoped that negotiations quickly would lead to an international agreement on reducing or blocking all together the trade in the dirtiest of these materials that account for up to 10% of total global emissions.
Automakers in China are expected to capture a third of the global EV market by the end of the decade. This is due to massive multi-billion dollar investments by the Chinese government and Chinese businesses, most notably Nio, to automate production of vehicles and component materials like batteries.
Yet, big oil companies internally seem to accept the reality of climate change and see the writing on the wall for their business futures, even though they may dispute its inevitability in public. This is propelling the global oil and gas industry to consolidate with giants buying up smaller or merging with larger producers to preserve revenues and likely keep prices high as demand is expected to peak this decade.
A Category 5 storm devastated the Mexican resort city of Acapulco killing dozens and forcing thousands to flee for power, water, and housing. Hurricane Otis surprised everyone, including meteorologists who were shocked when it strengthened from a Cat 1 to 5 storm in a day’s time. While scientists know that the rapid intensification of storms is another consequence of global warming, they are less sure in predicting which storms will be so affected.
👍 Who and how Americans receive help with disaster relief is finally getting more attention as the country experiences a greater number of weather-related disasters. It has also become obvious that much of the nation’s public policy, insurance markets, and financial industry is set up to aid the well-to-do while the most vulnerable suffer. People of color, those with disabilities, single parents, and recent immigrants who struggle with English services are often the ones to receive less help and experience a prolonged man-made disaster long after the initial natural disaster passes.
One example of such an uneven recovery from disaster is that of Ft. Myers Beach, Florida which was devastated under 14 feet of storm surge from Hurricane Ian a year ago. While wealthy property owners were able to rebuild or relocate, the working poor, struggling retirees, and small business owners that depended on tourists were been left behind in dystopian scenes.
New research from the National Academy of Sciences is warning that currently inhabited regions on the planet may become inhospitable if not unlivable for humans by the middle of this century due to a changing climate. Scientists fear that locations across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia will experience days if not weeks at a time a deadly combination of heat and humidity, what is known as wet-bulb temperature, that the human body just cannot withstand.
👍 The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is drafting rules for employers to protect their employees from excessive indoor or outdoor heat. Proponents say that new federal guidelines are needed because up to now only a handful of states have done so while many other states are resisting state-wide or local attempts to protect workers from extreme heat.
👍 While carbon in the atmosphere is still increasing, there is growing acknowledgement if not reason to celebrate that the transition to green energy renewables is happening at a faster pace than projected or once thought possible. Global wind and solar-generated electricity is expected to overtake that from coal by 2025. The cost of renewables is dropping fast with that of solar plummeting by over 80% since 2009 and energy from wind by more than half. Nearly a quarter of electricity in the US is expected to come from renewable sources this year. The sale of EV’s is accelerating at rate of nearly 50% from year to year. Investment and employment is growing in renewable projects at a faster pace in several states that already have massive oil and gas production facilities.
Featured image of 2023 record low Antarctica winter ice is from NOAA at https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/2023-antarctic-sea-ice-winter-maximum-lowest-record-wide-margin.