Nations Around The World Trying To Reach Agreement To Reduce Plastic Waste 

According to an official from the United Nations, 170 countries are currently negotiating a deal for a global treaty that would cut plastic waste, while environmentalists are weary of the plastic industry’s ability to change for the health of our planet.

United Nations Reports Record High Greenhouse Gas Levels Throughout World 

The United Nations announced this week that greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere hit record levels in 2020, and the world is “way off track on capping rising temperatures.”

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report that showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, which shows an exponential rise in the rate of emissions last year when compared to the rest of the decade. There was, however, a temporary decline in emissions during the initial phase of Covid-19 lockdowns. 

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said “the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises far in excess of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.

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“We are way off track. We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life. We need a dramatic increase in commitments from our world’s nations.”

Glasgow, Scotland hosted the climate talks where the UN met to discuss capping the global warming rates on Earth at the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius upper limit originally set out in the Paris Agreement. 

“It is going to be very, very tough this summit. I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia claimed that the nation will be aiming to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2060, adding that they also plan on doubling emission cuts within the next decade alone. 

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The nation of Ottawa offered an official plan where they would have developed nations donate up to $100 billion a year to poorer countries to tackle climate change by 2023. This plan calls on more developed nations to put in more effort when it comes to helping poorer nations. 

According to a poll performed by Reuters, economists found that hitting the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero carbon emissions will require more investments from richer countries. If the world continues on as it is, the average global temperature will increase by “1.6C, 2.4C and 4.4C by 2030, 2050 and 2100 respectively, which would also result in 2.4% lost output by 2030, 10% by 2050 and 18% by 2100,” according to the median replies to the poll.

In London, climate activists are taking action into their own hands by blockading major roads and disrupting traffic in the city’s financial district; similar protests are occuring all throughout Europe as well. 

“Greenhouse gas emissions are provoking climate catastrophes all over the planet. We don’t have time. It’s already late and if we don’t join the action against what’s happening, we won’t have time to save what is still left,” said Alberto, 27, a sociologist who took part in a sit-in protest in Madrid which blocked off one of the largest shopping streets in the city.

Power Plant

California to Build New Geothermal Power Plants

Although the current federal government currently denies the science of climate change, many states seek to advance research and technology for transitioning to renewable energies in the future, most notably California, which is one of the largest states in the country. Under Governor Gavin Newsom, California has set some of the most ambitious environmental policies in the nation, as the state is committed to improving its air quality and transitioning towards sources of energy like wind and solar. However, the state is also beginning to invest into an often-overlooked form of energy production, which is geothermal power. Three energy companies in the state have signed contracts to build two new geothermal power plants in the state—one in Imperial County near the Salton Sea and one in Mono County along the Eastern Sierra. The new plants will be the first geothermal power plants built in the state in almost a decade, demonstrating that California’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions includes a multitude of sources of energy.

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According to Governor Newsom, California’s focus on environmental policy has stimulated the economy, not harmed it, as some opponents of environmentalism have feared. Investing in renewable energy creates new jobs as infrastructure to create wind turbines, solar panels, and more needs to be built. Although wind and solar provides cheap, renewable energy, these methods of energy production depend upon weather conditions, as solar panels work less efficiently on cloudy days and not at all at night, and wind turbines are useless on a still day. Geothermal plants, on the other hand, can produce emissions-free power 24 hours a day, though this form of energy production is significantly more expensive than competing renewable energy sources.

Currently, most of the power supply in California comes from natural gas, which makes up 34.9% of the state’s power source; renewable energy, including geothermal energy, is a close second at 31.4%, whereas the least environmentally-friendly power source, coal, accounts for just 3.3% of the state’s energy. While geothermal is not the prefered source of renewable energy due to its cost, California has passed a bill requiring the state to become 100% climate-friendly by 2045, and the state will need to use all forms of renewable energy possible to achieve that goal. In addition to generating power, the companies involved in building these new geothermal plants hope to use them to extract lithium from the ground. Lithium is a key element for manufacturing batteries, and large amounts of lithium will be necessary in the transition to electric cars as well as storing energy.

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Already, 43 geothermal plants exist in California, many of which were built in the 70s and 80s and have been generating clean power ever since. Because the state is geologically active, California has great potential for generating power through geothermal plants—according to a 2008 estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey, the state has the potential to produce about 15,000 megawatts of power from geothermal energy. For environmentalists and proponents of renewable sources of energy, California’s recent investment in geothermal energy is heartening, as it shows that the state is committed to exploring all possible options for greenhouse-gas-free methods of producing electricity.

Global Warming

Climate Models Were Always Right on Global Warming

There are many people across the United States of America – as well as the world – who do not believe the argument for climate change, with many arguing that climate models are over-predicting how fast Earth is heating up.

With startling regularity, the claim continues to be argued that there is proof that climate change is not happening as fast as the experts claim. These claims are usually based on individual examples of data that may have been misinterpreted, even though over the years multiple studies have re-examined different climate models and continue to conclude that they are still working well.

A recent study has extensively investigated all global climate models that were released between the 1970s and 2007, which includes the ones that were used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s first three reports.

Lead study author Zeke Hausfather is a climate scientist at the University of California in Berkeley and has also worked alongside Tristan Abbott and Henri Drake – scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and Gavin Schmidt who is a scientist at NASA. Hausfather comments:

“It’s always a sign that you’re onto a good project when your first thought is, “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” No one has really gone back and gathered all of the old model predictions that were in the literature, in part because climate models have changed a lot.”

Obviously many of these original models have become archaic with newer models replacing them. Yet even with advancing technology helping to make clearer projections, most of the early models had got their predictions of how warm the Earth would increase by right. In fact out of 17 models, only three were found not to be accurate.

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However the latest study focuses on an often ignored, yet crucially important point regarding how climate models work. Each model has worked on the projections of future greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn predicts the level of warming expected.

But predicting most things can be difficult, especially when you try to predict carbon emissions, as there are many factors to take into consideration such as population growth and changes made within the energy landscape as well as economic shifts – all human factors making a difference to the natural world.

It was also suggested that in the past several of the models that had been criticized were actually pretty accurate as the simulation of the connection between greenhouse gases and temperatures were correct but the expectations regarding carbon emissions in the future were different to the emissions that were eventually created.

Basically, if scientists had entered the correct levels of greenhouse gas emissions when first creating the models, we would have seen the exact levels of future warming that they predicted.

During the 1980s James Hansen, a researcher for NASA, created a climate model that would eventually lead to him giving a congressional testimony on the threat of climate change. His testimony helped highlight climate change awareness throughout the world however due to his model over predicting warming by around 50% disbelievers were able to use his words as proof of global warming not being a real threat, due to their belief that scientists were prone to over exaggerate the facts.

Alongside his colleagues, Hausfather was quick to point out that the problem with his model was not the physics but the fact there was an assumption that there would be higher methane and chlorofluorocarbon emissions – both of which are dominant greenhouse gases – than there actually was.

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One of the reasons for this over-projection was the fact that the model did not allow room for the impact the Montreal Protocol would have. The Montreal Protocol was a global agreement to phase out chlorofluorocarbons in an attempt to protect the ozone layer and potentially repairing the damage that was already caused.

As Hausfather said, “If you went back and reran that model with the actual levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and methane and chlorofluorocarbons, you would have gotten a value that was indistinguishable from the warming that we’ve actually observed.”

Even with these issues addressed there are still many obstacles for the next climate models such as making sure that all assumptions regarding greenhouse gas emissions in the future are accurate.

There will also be a need to look at specific physical processes on Earth that are difficult to understand, including clouds which have always been hard to represent, even though many scientists think they will be an important influence in regards to climate change. And as each model gets more and more detailed, the emphasis on making sure these details are improved upon will be significant.

In summary, the latest study implies that conclusions from previous models have been accurate for many years when it comes to global warming.

As Hausfather said, “they haven’t been overestimating warming, but at the same time it isn’t warming faster than we thought. It’s pretty much warming just as we thought it would.”