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COVID-19 Trumps Climate Concerns

April 17, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #356

In the United States, Europe, and around the world, governments are setting aside concerns about the purported “existential threat” of climate change to focus on the much more real, concrete threat the coronavirus poses to human health and the economy.

Everywhere you look, world leaders supposedly committed to fighting climate change as the gravest threat facing human civilization and the environment, are jettisoning climate policies in hope of reducing the damage to their economies from the COVID-19 shutdown and speeding economic recovery once the pandemic subsides.

In the United States, Democrats led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to pack the third coronavirus relief bill with a grab-bag of special-interest mandates and subsidies, including restrictions on carbon emissions from airlines and extending subsidies for wind and solar power beyond their current expiration dates. President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in the Senate refused to be extorted. In the end, Democrats showed the shallowness of their fear of climate change by removing all climate and green-energy proposals from the bill. They fought harder for extra funding for arts and humanities programs, performance halls, and museums than they did for climate policies.

Across the pond, the European Union seems also to be wavering on its climate policies in the wake of CONVID 19, at the behest of calls from its member governments and companies in important industrial sectors.

The Polish government says the coronavirus will make it nearly impossible to achieve any of the European Union’s current and proposed climate goals. “As a consequence of this crisis, our economies will be weaker, companies will not have enough funds to invest, completion of some important energy projects may be delayed or even suspended,” Poland’s climate ministry told Reuters. “These are real problems that we will be facing soon, and achievement of our climate goals will be even more difficult because of them.”

Poland is far from alone in this. In a speech in the State Parliament in Munich on March 19, Marcus Soder, minister president of the German state of Bavaria, requested the federal government suspend Germany’s electricity tax and EEG levy, a 6.88 ¢/kwh surcharge paid by electricity consumers. German consumers and industries are on the hook to pay €23.9 billion in green energy levies alone this year, amounting to approximately 280 euros per household, Soder noted.

Euractiv reports Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called for the E.U. to scrap plans for a Green New Deal mandating members achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, which was proposed in March. “Europe should forget about the Green Deal now and focus on the coronavirus instead,” Babiš told reporters on March 16.

Babiš’s call for scrapping deeper emission cuts was echoed by Jan Zahradil, vice chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, who said the crisis requires reconsideration of governments’ climate plans. “No post-virus economy in Europe will be able to handle it, it’s too expensive,” Zahradil tweeted.

Even U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres—just months after declaring the climate crisis an emergency at U.N. summits in September 2019 and December 2019, during which he called for an end to fossil-fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—now says the COVID-19 pandemic is the world’s top priority. In a an unprecedented mid-March online press conference, Guterres said action on climate change would have to be delayed for the near future as all the U.N.’s resources and programs would be directed at tackling the pandemic and its impact on U.N. efforts to reduce hunger and poverty across the globe.

If the Green New Deal and similar policies were really good for the world’s peoples and economy and would produce jobs and improve living standards, the current disease-induced economic crisis and shutdown of global trade would be the logical time for a fresh start with a new, green economy. Instead, in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, all the stimulus and economic support laws enacted or proposed to combat the economic devastation wreaked by the virus are aimed are restarting economies powered largely by fossil fuels, with much of the support going to industries, such as airlines, for which fossil fuels are essential.

Despite many leaders arguing for years that restrictions on fossil fuels and big green energy programs would drive economic growth and create millions of jobs, governments are withdrawing support for climate policies and industries dependent on them and are pouring money into the same fossil-fuel-dependent industries that powered the economic growth of the past century and a half.

Ignoring their previous calls for living with less and reaching a steady-state economy not dependent upon continual growth, everyone now seems to be a proponent of more growth, more production, more wholesale and retail sales, more dining and drinking out, and so on.

The public wants restaurants, bars, theaters, and stadiums to reopen. They want fully stocked supermarket shelves. No one is praising this economic decline, despite its purported climate benefits and even though the current state of the economy would be the end result of any country or region imposing anything like a Green New Deal.

People can push green fairy tales in good economic times, but support fades when hard times hit and a crisis displays the reality of what it really takes to power an economy and produce the goods and services people want and need.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: NPR, Forbes, Scientific American; The Star, Washington Times; No Trick Zone; Euractiv


IN THIS ISSUE …

Life Flourishes Around Acidic Undersea Carbon Dioxide Hotspots … Rising Seas Increase Carbon-dioxide ‘Burial’ … Higher Carbon Dioxide = More Greening, Larger Carbon Sink


LIFE FLOURISHES AROUND ACIDIC UNDERSEA CARBON DIOXIDE HOTSPOTS

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters shows sea life is flourishing in parts of the ocean where carbon dioxide levels are much higher than ambient ocean conditions. This is the direct opposite of what climate alarmists say should be the case.

The researchers from institutions in the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the United States studied an area they call “Soda Springs,” linked to nearby volcanos in the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines and associated with coastal acidification. As a “champagne-like environment of bubbling carbon dioxide with off-the-chart readings of the greenhouse gas, … the passage is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world and is home to thriving coral reefs, [rather than] a climate change nightmare,” the scientists state.

Carbon dioxide concentrations near the vents are as high as 95,000 parts per million (ppm), more than 200 times the concentration of CO2 found in the atmosphere, fluctuating between 60,000 and 95,000 ppm. These may be the highest ever recorded in nature, and although the carbon dioxide concentrations quickly drop off as the tides mix the water, the surrounding waters along the adjacent coastlines sustain carbon dioxide levels in the 400 to 600 ppm range, at or well above ambient atmospheric levels, yet corals and the biodiversity they support thrive.

University of Texas at Austin Professor Bayani Cardenas, coauthor of the study, says vents at this level of the ocean have received little attention until now because of the difficulties involved in studying them.

“It’s really a big part of the ocean that is left unexplored because it’s too shallow for remotely operated vehicles and is too deep for regular divers,” said Cardenas. Cardenas has years of experience as a deep diver, allowing him to film and take water samples in and around the vents.

SOURCE: PHYS.ORG


RISING SEAS INCREASE CARBON-DIOXIDE ‘BURIAL’

New research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences finds as temperatures have modestly increased over the past century and a half and atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased relatively steadily for approximately the last 70 years, the amount of carbon dioxide stored in terrestrial plants and soils—known as carbon burial rates—have increased along Florida’s coasts.

The study found rising seas bring material with them that helps to build up coastal wetlands such as marshes and mangroves. These then capture and build up dead plant matter in their roots, where the matter is “buried” in the wet ground, storing the carbon dioxide and building up the land instead of decomposing and releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

During long floods and when seas rise, the root and reed systems of mangroves and marsh vegetation expand belowground, storing more carbon there while building up additional space for carbon dioxide to be buried and preserved.

Over approximately the past 120 years, “organic carbon burial rates have increased … in marshes and mangroves, with mangroves having the greatest gains. [As a result,] stored carbon stocks have increased by about 4-8 kilograms per square meter in the past century in these study areas,” the study found.

It seems logical to suppose the carbon-dioxide burial increase taking place along Florida’s coasts is happening in many other coastal ecosystems as well and that the interactive relationship among coastal ecosystems, the seas, and carbon dioxide levels found in this study is critical to an accurate estimation of carbon dioxide levels and rates of sea level rise in climate models.

SOURCE: EOS


HIGHER CARBON DIOXIDE = MORE GREENING, LARGER CARBON SINK

A new study in Global Change Biology shows the Earth is greening more than previously measured or estimated, as carbon-dioxide fertilization results in plants storing more carbon dioxide in the soil.

Examining four independent lines of evidence which show growing positive trends in the global net land carbon sink, the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the Northern Hemisphere, satellite‐observed leaf area, and global gross primary production, as inferred from long‐term atmospheric carbonyl sulfide concentration records, an international team of scientists from universities and research institutes in Australia, France, New Zealand, and Sweden found terrestrial biosphere activity had increased more than previously understood by those examining the different lines of evidence independent of the others.

The new research indicates carbon dioxide fertilization in plants has increased by nearly 200 percent more than previous estimates stated, resulting in more carbon dioxide being stored in the soil. In short, carbon-dioxide greening is expanding the Earth’s carbon sink.

The researchers estimate the Earth will store 57 billion more tons of carbon dioxide between 2006 and 2099 than previous estimates claimed, offsetting the equivalent of 17 years of current anthropogenic carbon-dioxide emissions by 2100, significantly more than the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions nations are promising to forego under the Paris climate agreement.

SOURCE: Global Change Biology

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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