Australia’s carbon emissions continuing to rise


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Australia (Mauro/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 12, 2018

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rose for the 3rd consecutive year. According to the Environment Department, carbon rose 0.7% this year because of an increase in gas production and exports. In 2016, Australia’s levels rose 0.8% and they were warned they were off track to miss the 2030 target set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Australia’s government signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 which outlined a plan to reduce emissions 26-28% by 2030.

Despite the increasing carbon levels, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg claims they are still on track and, “the final decision on the timing and appropriate quantity and quality limits will be taken by 2020 following further consultation and detailed analysis.” “If you look on a yearly basis [it] is true [that emissions went up]. But if you look on the last quarter, they went down. If you look at the trend, it is improving.”

Minister Frydenberg’s statement is not congruent with the 2017 United Nations Emissions Gap Report that stated the “government projections indicate that emissions are expected to reach 592 [million tonnes] in 2030, in contrast to the targeted range of 429-440 [million tonnes]. The Environment Department‘s most recent review said that Australia is currently responsible for 1.3% of carbon emissions.

California Wildfires


Kasey Dresser | January 5, 2018

Hello everybody!

I’m Kasey and I’m a student at the University of Iowa. I’m currently visiting home during winter break in beautiful San Diego, California. And as I’m sure you seen on the news I came home after an extremely destructive fire season.  Luckily I live closer to the coast so my home was not affected but my grandma and several of my friends were evacuated.  All of the local high schools, including my sisters, were closed. Last weekend, My dad and I headed inland to film the damage.

 

China is taking influence from California’s cap and trade program to reduce carbon emission


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Smog (Hyun Jin Cho/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | December 26,  2017

Cap and trade is a government based program that controls the amount of carbon emissions that a company is allowed to emit. The company buys a permit that allows them to release a specific amount.

California, and parts of Canada and the UK already have cap and trade programs set up. China met with Governor Jerry Brown over the summer to discuss China’s carbon markets. Since the start of the cap and trade program in 2012, California has raised $4.4 billion by selling credits. The plan is to have greenhouse gas emissions cut by 80% in 2050. The program has also created more local jobs.  This progress is an example not only for states but more countries too.

The first steps in China’s cap and trade program will cover the electricity industry. This will focus on reducing coal-fire based energy. Later the program will expand to transportation and industrial sectors. Forbes predicted that if China can get the price of carbon to $10 on the national market and keep it there, they can eliminate a quarter of their emissions by 2030.

The United States and China are responsible for 42% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. President Xi’s actions have committed himself to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and since the United States has pulled support, he has pledged to have a larger international leadership position.

Toyota is making moves for clean energy


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Toyota (Saud Al-Olayan/flickr
Kasey Dresser | December 15,  2017

The Japanese car company, Toyota, has recently announced new plans to be more environmentally conscious. 

To start, they are building a power plant, opening in 2020, that will produce clean energy from cow manure. The project is known as the Tri-Gen Project and will be located in Long Beach, CA. According to Science Alert, the plant is expected to power 2,350 homes and fuel 1,500 hydrogen-powered vehicles daily. The facility will also have one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world.

Toyota made plans to stop producing cars with internal combustion engines by 2040.  And by 2050, they plan to reduce vehicles carbon emissions by 90%. The website and press release go over 4 more goals to better the companies environmentally friendly business.

Scott Pruitt has also expressed interest, publicly, in partnering with Toyota. This will be the first alliance since the lawsuit of 2003 when the EPA sued Toyota for violations of the Clean Air Act. The new partnership is being actively discourage by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG is a non-profit organization that has been a large player in creating federal environmental policies. Ken Cook, the President of EWG, sent a detailed letter to James Lentz , the CEO of Toyota, expressing concerns about the alliance. His biggest concern is Pruitt’s new 30% budget cut and feels Pruitt’s presence in the EPA will cause more harm than good.

For now, the EPA and EWG both agree that Toyota’s new environmentally friendly goals are a step in the right direction.

On The Radio – United Nations Environment Programme seeks to tackle air pollution


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The United Nations warned of the many human health impacts pollution poses. (United Nations/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 11, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how the United Nations released an anthology with suggested methods for reducing pollution worldwide. 

Transcript: As global pollution increases, action is needed now more than ever. 

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus. 

United Nations Environment Programme recently released The Executive Director’s Report: Towards A Pollution-Free Planet, an anthology that pulls environmental data from every continent and suggests general methods for reducing pollution globally. 

The report suggests that nobody is free from the effects of global pollution. Around one in four deaths globally are caused by environmental degradation, and governments must take action to reduce pollution in all its forms if they want to reduce the negative side effects of a damaged environment. 

Every aspect of global environmental damage must be examined and monitored, from waste disposal to the burning of fossil fuels. The people most effected by pollution are working class laborers in cities, since around 80% of big cities internationally do not meet the UN standards for clean air. 

Children, elderly and other vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by air pollution. 

The statistics are sobering, but the report suggests that with better government control and a serious approach to pollution, we can all work together to better the environment and our health. 

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org. 

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone. 

Record highs in Iowa track with global highs


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Yesterday’s record-setting hourly temperatures are highlighted in red. (Iowa Mesonet)
Jenna Ladd | December 6, 2017

Temperatures reached an all-time high of 69 degrees Fahrenheit in Des Moines on Monday.

Iowa Mesonet found that temperatures at 8 AM and 12 PM on Monday also reached an all-time hourly high for the state on the 131 year record. A cold front swept across the state Monday night, causing temperature highs to drop to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Des Moines on Tuesday.

There are a couple of months left in 2017, but the year is expected to be the second or third warmest year on record. The World Meteorological Organization announced on November 3rd at the United Nations climate change conference that average temperatures from January through September 2017 were 1.98 degrees Fahrenheit higher than preindustrial levels. In fact, the five year period from 2013 through 2017 is expected to be the warmest five year period on WMO’s record.

Record high temperatures have come with an uptick of catastrophic weather events worldwide. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in the statement, “We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius [122 degrees F] in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.”

Temperatures in December and January will determine whether 2017 is the second or third warmest year on record.

Following massive spill, Keystone XL gets go-ahead in Nebraska


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TransCanada tweeted a picture of the affected area around the recent oil spill in South Dakota. (TransCanada)
Jenna Ladd | November 22, 2017

More than 200,000 gallons of oil spilled from the Keystone Pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota late last week, yet further expansion of the pipeline’s bigger brother, Keystone XL, was approved by the state of Nebraska on Monday.

TransCanada, the company that owns both pipelines, shut down the Keystone Pipeline last Thursday morning at 6 am after detecting a drop in pressure, indicating a leak. About 5,000 barrels of oil spilled onto privately owned land roughly 200 miles north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The company is still investigating the cause of the pipeline’s rupture.

Just three days after the oil spill, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission decided the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline’s route through Nebraska. Caving to pressure from Nebraska’s conservative legislators as well as industry and labor groups, the five-person commission agreed to allow the pipeline to cross through Nebraska. However, the pipeline must follow an alternative route. While the pipeline will enter and exit the state in the originally proposed locations, the commission will require its route to follow an existing pipeline’s path. This change will make responding to leaks more efficient according to regulators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that 10-25 million gallons of oil spill each year. Not only do oil spills destroy habitat, kill plants and animals, and compromise agriculture, they also threaten public heath by contaminating drinking water and degrading air quality.

Thursday’s oil spill came exactly one year after Native American protesters were sprayed with water cannons in 23 degree weather as they attempted to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through North Dakota, citing oil spills as a primary concern.