Turbulent Times Ahead For Air Travel Due to Climate Change

From rising temperatures preventing take-off to rising seas flooding runways, aviation needs to adapt to changes already grounding flights around the world

Phoenix gets hot. But not usually as hot as last June, when the mercury at the airport one day soared above 48C. That exceeded the maximum operating temperature for several aircraft ready for take-off. They didn’t fly. More than 50 flights were cancelled or rerouted.
Thanks to climate change, soon 48C may not seem so unusual. Welcome to the precarious future of aviation in a changing climate. As the world warms and weather becomes more extreme, aircraft designers, airport planners and pilots must all respond, both in the air and on the ground. With about 100,000 flights worldwide carrying eight million passengers every day, this is a big deal.
Why is heat a problem for planes? In a word: lift.
Lift is the upward force created by diverting air around wings as an aircraft moves down the runway. It is harder to achieve when the air is scorching hot, because hot air is thinner than cold air. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) warned in 2016 that as a result, higher temperatures “could have severe consequences for aircraft take-off performance.”
Aircraft will need to jettison passengers, cargo or fuel to get the same lift on a hot day, raising costs and requiring more flights.
“Weight restrictions are likely to have the most effect on long-haul flights, which often take off near the airplane’s maximum weight,” says Ethan Coffel, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University. “Possible adaptations include rescheduling flights to cooler times of the day or lengthening runways.”
Daytime heat is why long-distance flights out of the Middle East already regularly take off in the cool of the night. But the same will soon apply in the US and southern Europe. That will create problems in places where night and early-morning flights are restricted to help people on the ground sleep.
Future lighter and more fuel-efficient planes will help, says Coffel. But it means the anticipated economic and environmental gains from such advances may be largely offset by coping with warmer air.

Wild rides

Once in the air, flying will feel different too, especially in and around the jet stream, for instance when crossing the Atlantic.
“At cruising altitudes, the north-south temperature difference that drives the jet stream is increasing,” says Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading in the UK. Flying east is becoming quicker in the stronger winds that result, but flying west will be slower. Airline schedulers will need to take the altered flight times into consideration in the future – and flyers may need to be prepared for more frustrating airport announcements of delayed incoming flights.
Flights will also be bumpier, says Williams. “Stronger winds will increase the amount of shear in the jet stream,” he says. Shear creates turbulence – particularly what is called “clear-air turbulence,” which occurs away from storm clouds and is hard for pilots to spot and fly round. “The increase in clean-air turbulence has the potential to be quite disruptive,” says Williams. In other words, get used to keeping your seatbelts fastened.

High-altitude icing

Climate change will also increase the number and intensity of thunderstorms, and push them upward into cruising altitudes. That will make flying trickier and could dramatically increase the risk of one of the most worrying upper-air phenomena for pilots: high-altitude icing.
High-altitude ice is a feature of thunderstorms, and it is dangerous. The infiltration of tiny particles of ice into turbofan engines has been blamed for more than 100 engine failures in recent years.
In the most notorious high-altitude icing accident, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009 crashed, killing all aboard, when it stalled after the autopilot disconnected when ice crystals disabled its speed sensors.
Officials of the European Aviation Safety Agency have blamed climate change – along with the failure of aircraft designers to reassess the risks – for the growing frequency of engine failures and other faults due to high-altitude icing. Worryingly, modern energy-efficient lean-burn engines may be more susceptible, Herbert Puempel, an aviation expert at the World Meteorological Organization, warned in the group’s journal.

On the ground

Some of the most expensive climate-change problems for the aviation industry will be on the ground. That’s because many runways are in places they really shouldn’t be.
Take Iqaluit airport in northern Canada. The permafrost on which it was built is melting. The runway and taxiway have had to be resurfaced as a result. And the melting is deepening.
There will be other such cases. But a more frequent problem is likely to be flooding. Many airports are built on flat, low-lying land, by the ocean or in drained swamps. Such places can be hard to drain and vulnerable to rising sea levels and more intense storms.
When Superstorm Sandy hit New York City in 2012, a storm surge 12ft highinundated the runways of LaGuardia, closing the airport for three days. A tropical storm hitting so far north is widely regarded as an effect of climate change. So expect more such extreme weather.
LaGuardia certainly is. Two-and-a-half years after Sandy struck, New York governor Andrew Cuomo put aside $28m to install new flood barriers and drainsat the airport.
Sandy was a wake-up call. A federal climate assessment subsequently found 13 major US airports at similar risk, from Honolulu to Miami. Included in the list are San Francisco and Oakland airports, both built on low-lying reclaimed land along the shore of San Francisco Bay.

Civilian airport authorities have been slow to address the issue, but the US military is more proactive. A Pentagon analysis of climate-related risk to military infrastructure, published in January this year, gave pride of place to threats to airfields from sea level rise, storms and high temperatures.
Internationally, there is also rising concern. The scientific consensus is that sea level rise probably won’t be more than one metre this century. But airport authorities believe that they must adapt to much higher waters during storm surges such as that experienced at LaGuardia.
Singapore’s Changi airport, one of the world’s busiest, is raising its new passenger terminal 5.5m above sea level as a precaution against future storm tides. Hong Kong is constructing a wall, eight miles (13km) long, around a new runway.
By those standards, dozens of the world’s great airports should be thinking about runway protection. Bangkok, Schiphol in the Netherlands, Sydney, both airports in Shanghai, London City airport and Kansai near Osaka all fall short.
Maybe more radical solutions are required. Back in the 1990s, Japan built a 1km floating airstrip in Tokyo Bay as a “scale model” for a full-size floating airport that could rise with the tides.

Whether the threat is too much heat for take-off, too much ice to stay in the air or too much water to land, most airports and airlines are approaching climate change as a problem they will address as it arises. But the stark truth, says Coffel, is that the future is now.
source:the guardian

Data Shows Humans Reversed Natural Global Cooling

In order to understand today’s global warming, we need to understand how Earth’s temperatures varied in the past. How does the rapid warming we see now compare with past natural climate changes? Also, how long have humans been having an impact on the climate? These are some questions that can be answered through paleoclimate studies. Paleoclimate research uses natural measurements of the Earth’s temperature. Clever scientists are able to estimate how warm or cold the Earth was far back in time, way before we had thermometers. 
Readers of this column are probably familiar with some of these paleoclimate techniques that may use ice cores or tree rings to infer temperature variations. A different method that uses plant distribution was a technique used in a very recent study published in Nature. That technique used pollen distribution to get an understanding of where plant species thrived in the past. Those distributions gave them insights about the temperatures. On the surface, it’s pretty straightforward. Tropical plants differ in major ways from plants that live in, say, the tundra. In fact, plants that thrive where I live (Northern USA) differ from plants that populate landscapes further south.
The authors used the pollen of various plants to help determine where they thrived in the deep past. I communicated with Dr. Bryan Shuman, from the University of Wyoming and I asked him why they used pollen. He responded:

Pollen works well as a temperature recorder because plants have specific temperature ranges that they can tolerate. By combining the temperature requirements for dozens of different plants that we can recognize from their pollen, we are able to narrow down the possible temperatures at the location where the pollen was collected. 
We use pollen rather than other plant fossils because pollen is widespread each spring and settles to the lake bottom where it is surprisingly resistant to degradation. We wash the samples of lake bottom mud with acids that can dissolve minerals, but the pollen can tolerate it. It lasts up to millions of years with degrading.

What the authors found was very interesting. Using data from 642 sites across North America and Europe, the temperatures they found closely matched those expected from computer simulations. They found that throughout most of the Holocene period (the last ~11,000 years), the Earth was warming very slightly. Only in the last ~2000 years has the Earth been in a cooling period (which probably would have continued except that human emissions of greenhouse gases have now reversed the cooling). 
 Temperature in North America and Europe over the past 11,000 years based on pollen reconstruction data. Illustration: Marsicek et al. (2018), Nature.
The authors attempted to put the recent warming (last century or so) into context. They found that the recent temperatures are much higher than temperatures over the past 11,000 years. In fact, according to their calculations, 2016 was warmer than 99.41% of all simulated Holocene years. 
This finding is profound. First of all, it means that human greenhouse gas emissions were easily able to overturn what should be a natural cooling trend. Second, the warming we have caused is far outside of the natural range. According to Dr. Shuman: 

The major significance here is temperature across two continents over the last 11,000 years. The paper provides a geologically long-term perspective on recent temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere and the ability of climate models, such as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) models used in the study, to predict the changes. Climate simulations do a strikingly good job of forecasting the changes.
I would say it is significant that temperatures of the most recent decade exceed the warmest temperatures of our reconstruction by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit, having few -- if any -- precedents over the last 11,000 years. Additionally, we learned that the climate fluctuates naturally over the last 11,000 years and would have led to cooling today in the absence of human activity.

People who deny or try to minimize the importance of human-caused climate change will often argue that climate changed naturally in the past. And while that’s true, we know the climate change is now being dominated by what humans are doing. That’s one clear result of this new paper. 
We have now pushed the Earth’s environment outside of where it should be. There are consequences for this disruption. Those consequences will include significant sea level rise, changes to rain/drought patterns, acidification of ocean waters, and a warmer atmosphere and ocean. There is still time to stop some of the coming climate change, but we are rapidly running out of time. The longer we delay, the worse things will get.
source:the guardian


Will taxing meat products based on their carbon footprint reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve public health? The answer is maybe, but not notably—and it will come with significant costs.

recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change advocates applying taxes to the consumption of meat as a means of lowering GHG emissions.
The idea is that if meat is more expensive, consumers will buy less of it. In turn, when faced with reduced consumption, farmers will produce less cattle.

Not all meat production produces the same volume of emissions. Since cows produce a lot of methane (a greenhouse gas), fewer cows should mean less methane, which in turn should help lower GHG emissions. Pigs and chickens don't spew methane the way cows do, but there are also the emissions associated with feeding them, as well as with the decomposition of manure.

While it's clear we need to proactively reduce GHG emissions globally, we believe the emissions tax approach is unlikely to achieve success.
It will likely increase food prices for consumers and decrease the prices farmers charge for their products, but it's unlikely to lower meat consumption significantly and therefore unlikely to lower GHG emissions from the livestock sector. There may be other detrimental impacts to taxation too.

Price Hikes Don't Usually Curb Consumption
Food consumption is not as strongly linked to price as one might think. Changes in consumption of food are typically much smaller than changes in the price consumers face in the grocery store. This is a phenomenon that has been recognized and measured for decades.

We would need to implement huge taxes to achieve a small decrease in consumption. As an example, the study in the Nature Climate Change journal suggests a 40 percent tax on beef would only reduce beef consumption by 15 percent.
Because taxes on food at the retail level tend to raise the prices paid by consumers, it's also worth noting that any increase in the price of meat would tend to affect low-income consumers more than more affluent consumers. Low-income consumers would pay relatively more than the rich.

We also need to consider substitution effects. While a high tax on beef and other meats will lower beef consumption somewhat, it may also lead to economizing by consumers through increased consumption of lower quality or more highly processed cuts of meat.
This could actually increase the relative prices of these cuts, making the negative impact of the tax on lower-income consumers even stronger, and would undermine some of the suggested health benefits.

It's worth noting that beef consumption is generally falling in Canada and the U.S., independent of price. Other factors are likely to be more effective at reducing beef consumption than taxation.

All Cattle Are Not Raised Equally
It's also important to recognize that different types of cattle production create different volumes of emissions.
There is a suggestion that any tax on meat should reflect the production system. Those that raise cattle on grasslands or in pastures, for example, would have lower taxes than cattle raised using intensive production systems, like those used throughout North America, which create higher emissions.
While cattle in North America spend their early life on pasture, most beef cattle are finished in feedlots where they are grouped and fed high-energy grain rations to efficiently produce the preferred texture and taste of beef.
A tax based on how cattle are raised, however, would be both politically and logistically difficult.

If grassland and pasture rearing of cattle are favoured because of lower GHG emissions, we could see significant deforestation in those countries that produce beef extensively, but not a substantial reduction in consumption as desired.
We could end up in a situation where many differences in production practices, even within countries, create different emissions estimates and therefore cattle producers would seek different tax levels.

Unintended Consequences
There's also a risk that a meat tax would reduce the incentive to initiate research and development that could help cut emissions within the sector.
Examples of such R&D; include efforts to improve the feed efficiency in cattle production. At the farm level, feeding more cattle on a forage-heavy pasture diet could increase the costs of producing cattle and change the characteristics of the beef while eroding the incentive to adopt climate-friendlier production practices.

It's worth noting that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has said that emissions could be reduced by 30 percent today if current best practices were broadly implemented. This is beyond the impact of a 40 percent tax. The incentive to adopt these best practices would be removed by the implementation of a tax.

Progress Can Be Made

As experts in food and agriculture economics, we agree that reduced GHG emissions are important for the future of humanity. We also believe that we are likely to substitute plant or insect proteins or cultured meats for traditional meat products over time.
Even if it were possible to get broad-based agreement for a global (or even just a Canadian) tax on meat, however, it is important to look not only at whether these efforts would reduce GHGs, but also at the unintended consequences of these efforts.
In the case of the proposed meat tax, it is not only unlikely to achieve the intended outcome, it is equally likely to create a spate of unintended consequences that would negatively affect not just cattle producers, but also consumers.

source : eco watch

Will Shell Convert From Oil To Renewables ?

On the surface, the good times are back for Big Oil. Later this week, Shell is expected to unveil its biggest profits in a decade since the oil price crash.
As the oil price recovers to over $65 a barrel last year, so do Shell's fortunes, with reported earnings of nearly $16 billion.

The days of Shell being on the rocks—pummeled by a low oil price—seem over. So much so that the company even has Big Oil's number one, Exxon, in its sights. Exxon's reported earnings are expected to be slightly lower than Shell's at a still significant $15.7 billion.
As Shell's CEO Ben van Beurden recently said, "At the moment we are number two and we are closing in on number one. We almost have the tiger by the tail."
As the two Big Oil companies battle it out for the number one spot, it is worth taking a step back and worth asking who will win the energy war not just in the next year, but in the decades ahead, which will be dominated by the upcoming renewable revolution, stranded assets and climate change. Many would argue that short term profits hide Big Oil's longer term problems.

In the medium term, Shell is betting big on gas, despite the fact that environmentalists argue is it no solution to climate change. For example, you can read OCI's report on gas here.
There are signs that the company is also taking some small steps into carbon disinvestment: As Reuters reported this week, "Royal Dutch Shell has spent over $400 million on a range of acquisitions in recent weeks, from solar power to electric car charging points, cranking up its drive to expand beyond its oil and gas business and reduce its carbon footprint."

Before we all get too excited by this, there are two fundamental problems. One is that the investments are small change, as Reuters pointed out: "The scale of the buying spree pales in comparison to the Anglo-Dutch company's $25 billion annual spending budget. But its first forays into the solar and retail power sectors for many years shows a growing urgency to develop cleaner energy businesses."
In total, according to analysts, Big Oil has invested just over $3 billion on renewables acquisitions over the past five years, predominantly on solar. Again it is peanuts compared to the tens of billions the companies spend looking for oil.

And the other problem is the one we have just mentioned, gas. As Reuters noted, "The investments are not limited to renewables such as biofuels, solar and wind. Shell, as well as rivals such as BP, Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are betting on rising demand for gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, to power the expected surge in electric vehicles in the coming decades."
Indeed, Shell may be betting on gas just at a time when the future of gas is in trouble. "The end of natural gas is near" is the title of an article this month on GreenBiz by Danny Kennedy from the California Clean Energy Fund. It states:

"Natural gas is no longer a contender or pretender, just a relic of the past, likely to fall as far and as fast as Old King Coal, and maybe faster … But I think it's important to reflect that in 2017, for all its other problems in the clean-energy industry and our nation more broadly, the gas industry became, if not dead, at least a dead man walking."

It is questions like these—is the market for gas in trouble?—that are supposed to be predicted by Shell's long term planning unit. A really interesting article by Fortune looks at how this Big Oil dinosaur is desperate not to die out in the coming decades.
All the oil majors have scenario planning and Shell has been doing some serious head scratching. As Jeremy Bentham, Shell's scenarios leader, said, "I am tasked with making sure that Shell isn't a dodo." So will Shell become extinct in the upcoming energy transition or dominate the new energy landscape?

The article argues that when Shell disinvested from most of its stakes in the tar sands last year, it was over long term fears over the oil price, rather than climate, that was the real concern.
The Shell scenarios team, Fortune noted, concluded that "global demand for oil might peak in as little as a decade—essentially tomorrow in an industry that plans in quarter-century increments."
Hastened by the quickening uptake of renewables, Shell executives were alarmed by the dropping oil price:

"When the oil-demand peak came, Shell believed, petroleum prices might begin a slow slide, dipping too low to cover the costs of oil-sands production. This wouldn't be just another oil-price cycle, a familiar roller coaster in which every down is followed by an up. It would be the start of a decades-long decline of the Oil Age itself—an uncharted world in which, in a phrase gaining currency at Shell, oil prices might be 'lower forever.'"

As Fortune noted, "If Shell failed to prepare for this new energy landscape, it could wind up saddled with massive stranded assets: buried oil and gas that its shareholders paid billions to find, but that, because of softening demand, the company found itself unable to profitably drill and sell."
Ben van Beurden, Shell's CEO, told Fortune, "We won't be sitting ducks. We are going to adapt."

But adapt to what? "What is a challenge at the moment," Beurden said, "is that we don't know anymore where the future will go." Beurden, Fortune said, is making strategic bets to transform "Big Oil into Big Energy."
Finally it seems Big Oil has got the message. In response, many will argue it it too little, too late. Environmental groups have been telling the oil companies for decades of the need to disinvest from fossil fuels due to climate change, not just deny the problem of climate change.

But only now, when their very own corporate future is threatened by companies such as Tesla, have the oil companies finally decided to act. Will it be too late for them and us? Will Shell become a Dodo? Only time will tell.

source:eco watch