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A Green New Deal For Global Security

As we enter the New Year of 2019, we face the potential for more record global warmth. The fossil fuel burning that has continued for so long, that has been industrialized and unwisely linked (by industry and policy) to economic growth in many regions continues at a devastating pace. A pace that injects about 37 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year. For in too many cases, the necessary transition to an admittedly much stronger and far more viable clean energy economy has been blocked or delayed.

A Harmful Status Quo

We are a world locked in conflict between old fossil fuel interests and emerging clean energy and pro climate change response interests. Thus far, the conflict has generated a state of both economic and political grid-lock. One that at present perpetuates the harmful status quo.

We face vast continued greenhouse gas emissions presenting a growing danger to everyone and everything living on Earth. The threat of damaging climate change occurring on human time-scales is no longer some far-off object whose emerging reality can easily be hidden from public view by republican deniers in the U.S. government and abroad or related mass media campaigns funded by the fossil fuel monetary and political interests who authored the crisis.

surface melt ponding Amery ice shelf

(Increasing surface melt ponding in both Antarctica and Greenland, as seen in this January 1, 2019 satellite shot of the Amery Ice Shelf, is one visible sign of climate change’s growing impacts. Large land ice sheet melt is the primary driver of both sea level rise and changes to ocean circulation. Just two of many harms driven by fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions. Image provided by NASA Worldview.)

The threat posed by human-caused climate change is one that impacts us now. And though present impacts are mild compared to a future in which vast fossil fuel burning and related dumping of carbon into Earth’s atmosphere continues, we are faced with growing damage, hurt, and harm today.

How did we get here? It’s a big question. One to be answered fully by future historians. But we can simply say that we haven’t transitioned away from fossil fuel burning fast enough. That we haven’t yet adopted clean energy or clean political thinking at a swift enough pace. That the old ways of power-brokering linked to fossil fuel burning continue with a tenacity which is, itself, difficult to deny.

Old Smoke-Stack Politics vs New Clean Energy Politics

Though a single blog is perhaps too short an article to address such a vast issue fully, it is certainly possible to take a look at the tip of the (metaphorically and literally) melting ice-berg. In doing so, we ask the teasing question — how are such seemingly far-flung objects as Amery Ice Shelf melt ponds, a Green New Deal, Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and Russian nuclear capable bombers in Venezuela linked?

As literary objects go the question is, of course, rhetorical. But it is one that reveals how old smokestack style power-plays can keep us stuck in the ongoing harmful pattern of fossil fuel burning, warming, and increasing global environmental damage together with the related geopolitical conflict that all too frequently results. It also opens up the avenue to a new geopolitical contest to old regimes. One based on clean energy economies of scale and technological innovation coupled with climate change response.

Clean Energy Enabled Obama’s Counter to Russian Aggression

Back during the Obama Administration, there was a larger challenge to old forms of power brokering. It happened when Russia invaded the Ukraine and the U.S. sanctioned Russian oil ventures such as the fossil fuel multinational — Rosneft.

The U.S., under Obama, through both clean energy policy and increased oil extraction at home had become more energy independent. But more importantly, with policies such as EV incentives, increased fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, the sun shot initiative, adherence to the Paris Climate Agreement, and the implementation of the Clean Power Plan taking hold, the U.S. was also turning toward a future that was finally less dependent on fossil fuels and, more importantly, the broad availability of oil and gas. The U.S., under Obama, was thus able to move more and more away from the old oil and gas politics that might have forced our nation to turn a blind eye to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Instead, old oil-based global policy gave way to something new as the U.S. effectively canceled an Exxon-Mobil contract with Rosneft even as it moved to hamper Russia’s oil oligarchs in retaliation for its physical aggression.

Russia — Slave to Oil and Gas Revenue

Then and now, Rosneft was a cornerstone of Russian political and economic power. The company, like the East India Trade Company of the old British Empire, serves Russia as a way of projecting its power abroad. We see this in Russia’s past use of gas shipments to influence Europe. We see it in Russia’s past and present use of oil ventures like Rosneft to gain political footholds in places like Venezuela. And we see it in Russia’s attempts to use Rosneft to directly influence U.S. policy through relationships with western oil giants like Exxon.

Western sanctions against Rosneft and related oil oligarchs put a check on Russian power projection. It also leveled a direct threat to Russia’s narrow economic power base. Represented, in part, by its use of Rosneft as a political tool for power projection, Russia is itself fully invested in fossil fuel burning. For not only is Rosneft a lever for Russian power brokering abroad, the company exists in a context in which 16 percent of Russian GDP comes from oil and gas money. Moreover, 52 percent of Russia’s federal budget is funded by fossil fuel revenues from state-corporate entities such as Rosneft. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Russia’s export revenue comes from the oil and gas sector. Unable or, more likely, unwilling to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, Russia is instead a slave to it.

2016 Election Meddling in Context

Given the above, we can see that the Russian economy suffers a kind of resource curse in relation to its dependence on fossil fuels. But Russia has also taken a rather odd stance with regards to climate change. National policy has long considered climate change beneficial to Russia. This despite the fact that recent research shows numerous harms including movement of rains away from most productive soils, expanding wildfires in the north, widespread loss of land due to sea level rise, and destabilization of border states to the south.

(How a Green New Deal would make America great by enabling us to confront foreign adversaries and climate harms in one go.)

That said, after grappling with an Obama Administration more emboldened to sanction its fossil fuel industry, Russia had every short term economic and political incentive to seek regime change in the U.S. Trump, with his climate change denial, promise to double down on old energy sources like oil gas and coal, and his stated aims to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement while cancelling programs like the Clean Power Plan appeared to be ready to generate policy more beneficial to Russia’s fossil fuel sector. With oil and gas presently so central to Russia’s economy, the motivation to support Trump on an economic and political power basis alone must have been quite strong. This on top of a widely cited motivation to generate chaos and division in the U.S. during election season.

Venezuela: Oil as Power Lever and Motivator for Aggression

Following its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election with the stated aim to place Donald Trump as President, Russia’s oil-based power plays continued. This time, Rosneft gained a lien on 50 percent of Citgo — the Venezuelan state oil company. Venezuela, even more heavily dependent on oil revenue than Russia, has been facing economic decline ever since oil prices crashed during the late 2000s. Smelling opportunity, Russia has moved into Venezuela, funded its debt, and announced joint oil production agreements.

Russia’s increased hold over Venezuela is also reminiscent of past cold war power moves in which easily leveraged resources like oil often played a key role in establishing vassal or proxy states. The most recent move by Russia brings with it the old sabre rattling of nuclear capable weapons system movements and related media sensationalism as Russia’s deployment of two nuclear bombers to a Venezuelan air base ruffled feathers from Europe to the U.S.

Green New Deal — A Way Forward for U.S. Climate and National Security

Russia’s power plays may seem similar to the past. But they occur in a context where the U.S. increasingly has the option to respond by doubling down on clean energy policy as a means to directly counter the might of bad actor regimes dependent on fossil fuel revenue. This is in direct contrast to the cold war where hard power responses like troop movements and weapons systems deployments were seen as central to national defense.

In the new era, such movements of troops may also be seen as necessary. But the response that matters most to long term U.S. national security is the lessening of reliance on fossil fuel to give the U.S. a better bargaining position vis a vis petro states like Russia while simultaneously reducing the nation’s contribution to the climate crisis.

Such synergistic foreign policy benefits evoking a new U.S. economic and moral leadership would seem to make clean energy based programs like the Green New Deal and revitalization of energy efficiency and clean energy supports a no-brainer nationally. These are domestic programs with global consequences for the future of the United States. And the fact that adversaries like Russia are working hard to prevent the implementation of such programs at home should provide a clear incentive for all Americans to support them.

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2018 Likely to be 4th Hottest; But 2019 Might Break All Records

According to NASA’s global monitoring division, the period of December 2017 through November 2018 was the fourth hottest such time ever measured in the global climate record. Starting in 1880, the measure now spans 138 years. And it marks a period of unprecedented rapid change in the Earth’s climate system — driven primarily by fossil fuel burning and the resulting emission of heat trapping gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Global temperatures 2018 NASA

(The above graphic provided by NASA GISS shows the ongoing monthly warming trend since 1880. Recent record hot years show up in red. Present 2018 dates and temperatures are indicated by the black dots and red line near the top of the graph. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monitor shows 2018 hitting 0.82 degrees Celsius above its own mid 20th Century baseline for the 12 month time-frame. This puts 2018 about 1.04 C above 1880s averages in the December to November period composing NASA’s climate year. 2018 is now on track to be the fourth hottest year behind 2016 (#1), 2017 (#2), and 2015 (#3). As a result, every year of the past four years represents the hottest years ever recorded since consistent measurements began more than a century ago.

According to every major climate monitoring agency, the uncontested driver of this warming trend is an ongoing and growing fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emission. During 2018, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to an average near 410 parts per million and carbon dioxide equivalents, a measure taking into account all greenhouse gasses, hit near 495 parts per million. This level of heat trapping gasses is unprecedented for at least the past 18 million years and will result in significant continued warming if they remain or keep rising.

Looking forward, an emerging El Nino combined with these high and rising levels of heat trapping gasses has the potential to produce record global temperatures during 2019. According to NOAA, sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific are presently in the El Nino range and the climate monitor is predicting a 90 percent chance of official El Nino formation during the winter of 2018 with a 60 percent chance for its continuance during spring.

(Video blog providing in-depth analysis of NASA’s most recent global temperature update.)

El Nino is the hot end of the natural variability scale. When combined with rising atmospheric greenhouse gasses trapping more heat in the Earth system, it has tended to produce record hot or near record hot years. 2016 saw a very strong El Nino along with a major new global temperature milestone in the range of 1.21 C above 1880s averages. Though the 2019 El Nino is predicted to be milder than the 2016 event, high and rising greenhouse gasses means that a new record could be breached with temperatures likely to hit a range between 1.17 C and 1.3 C.

With present temperatures now well outside the typical range for the past 10,000 years following the last ice age, each additional 0.1 C of warming is likely to bring additional impacts on top of the more severe weather, worsening fires, rising seas, and ocean health impacts we have already seen. It is thus the case that the age of human caused climate change is upon us and that escalating climate action is needed to prevent a quick ramp to catastrophic events.

Hellacious Forecasts for Florence

Models are now predicting that Florence will threaten the U.S. East Coast as a major hurricane next week. We are still one week out. And should take any prediction at this time with a grain of salt. However, this is a concerning trend which we should continue to monitor.

Climate change factors discussed RE increasing U.S. East Coast hurricane risks include much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures, lifting of deflecting troughs to the north, and fixed Jet Stream ridge patterns that, when they prevail across the U.S. East, enhance the potential for land-falling storms.

(This is one of five video blogs covering climate change and clean energy posted today on my YouTube Channel. I will post a daily highlight of the feed here. In addition, I will post an in-depth climate change related blog here on a weekly basis as a new format. Warmest regards to all! — R)

U.S. EV Sales Surge to New Record in August

Tesla Model 3 is driving a massive surge in U.S. electric vehicles sales. According to Inside EVs, Tesla Model 3 sales hit 17,800 during August in the U.S. Meanwhile total U.S. EV sales likely hit near 35,000.

Florence’s Rapid Intensification Surprises

An overview of present tropical cyclone activity over the U.S. and in the North Atlantic to include Gordon, Francis, and a tropical disturbance emerging from Africa. Both National Hurricane Center reports and larger climate change related factors are discussed.

Jebi — Worst Typhoon in 25 Years is Third Major Disaster to Strike Japan

The worst Typhoon in 25 years to strike Japan has forced 2 million to evacuate, injured at least 300, killed 9, and inflicted massive damage on the island nation. Jebi is the third major disaster to impact Japan during the Summer of 2018 — all of which have been influenced by human-caused climate change.

Miserably Hot in Mid-Atlantic? There’s a Reason for That.

High heat index values continued across parts of the Mid Atlantic today with heat index (feels like temperatures) above 100 for many locations. A front, fortunately, is expected to bring some relief by this weekend.

August Comes in as 4th Hottest on Record

According to global climate monitoring by Europe’s Copernicus, August of 2018 was the fourth hottest in the climate record.

NOAA — 70 Percent Chance of El Nino During NH Winter

An analysis of ENSO trends in which NOAA is indicating a 70 percent chance of El Nino this Winter. El Nino’s interaction with human-caused climate change is also discussed.

August Likely to Be Another Record Month for U.S. Electric Vehicle Sales

Inside EVs is predicting another record month for US EV sales in August even as the 300K annual rate falls into reach. Meanwhile Tesla production for Q3 is tracking for 70-80 K even as EV advances continue.

Storms Move Toward Hot Western North Atlantic

 

Models show a progression of storms heading toward the Western North Atlantic. This is a concern as sea surface temperatures off the U.S. East Coast are presently hot enough to sustain category 5 systems. It’s not usual for this region of ocean to be capable of sustaining such intense storms. But Human caused climate change appears to be enabling this extreme weather potential.

Gordon’s Rains Expected to Persist

An analysis of Tropical Storm Gordon’s potential impacts related to a fixed weather pattern over the Central U.S.

Analysis of Present Surface Methane Hot Spots

A contextual analysis of present surface methane emission sources and rates of atmospheric accumulation.

Helpful Climate Voices for August 31, 2018

Highlighting helpful climate voices in the present broader discussion on climate change impacts, causes and solutions. This week’s list includes: Dr Genevieve Guenther, Nevin of the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, and Dr. Kate Marvel.

Arctic Sea Ice, Weather, and Climate Update

An overview of prevailing Arctic sea ice, weather, and climate conditions for the date of August 31, 2018.

Jebi Threatens Japan with 170 Mph Winds

 

The most intense tropical cyclone of 2018 — Jebi — is churning through the Western Pacific. Japan is now in the bull’s eye of the projected path.

4 Million EVs on the Road Globally — To Hit 5 Million in About Six Months

 

The number of EVs on the road in Europe has hit 1 million with a 42 percent growth rate in the January to June timeframe. Meanwhile, Global EVs have hit 4 million with nearly 2 million sales projected for this year. From January to July, Tesla took the crown as top-selling EV automaker.

Wisconsin Hit Hard by Heavy Rain — More On the Way

Flood emergencies have been declared as parts of western and southern Wisconsin have been hit hard by rainfall totals ranging between 5 and 15 inches over the past week. The above analysis provides both weather and climate contexts for this event.

Cooperation with Nature — Caroline Casey Climate Chat

Please join Caroline Casey and I for a broad-ranging discussion of key climate change, clean energy and climate related actions.

California Has Already Cut Carbon Emissions to 1990s Levels

California has reduced its electrical power sector related carbon emissions by 35 percent — enabling it to achieve a goal set for 2020 early. Looking ahead, California will need to rely an synergies between batteries and clean energy both in power and transport as it moves to cut emission further.

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