Federal Judge Ousts Trump’s Bureau Of Land Management Chief

Federal Judge Ousts Trump’s Bureau Of Land Management Chief

Chris D’Angelo,  Environment Reporter,          September 25, 2020

A federal judge on Friday blocked William Perry Pendley, the anti-public lands extremist who has overseen the federal Bureau of Land Management for more than a year, from continuing to lead the bureau.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana ruled that Pendley has illegally served as acting director of BLM for more than 400 days.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed in August by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), which argued that Pendley’s ongoing tenure violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The act limits the amount of time Cabinet officials may serve in an acting role to 210 days.

“Today’s ruling is a win for the Constitution, the rule of law, and our public lands,” Bullock wrote in a Twitter response. “Montanans can rest easy knowing that National Public Lands Day will begin with William Perry Pendley packing his desk and vacating the Director’s Office.”

National Public Lands Day is Saturday.

A former property rights attorney who spent his career arguing that public lands should not even exist, Pendley has led the bureau since July 2019 via a series of controversial temporary re-appointments. He’s overseen 245 million acres of federal land ― more than 10% of the entire U.S. landmass ― without ever having to face the scrutiny of a Senate confirmation process.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” Morris wrote in his decision.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William Perry Pendley speaks at a conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Oct. 11, 2019. His nomination as director was withdrawn but he has remained in the job. (Photo: Matthew Brown/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

President Donald Trump formally nominated Pendley in June to serve as BLM permanent director only to turn around and withdraw the nomination in August amid mounting public outrage. It was later revealed that Pendley personally crafted and signed a succession order to keep himself at the helm of the bureau indefinitely.

The Interior Department, which previously dismissed Bullock’s legal challenge as frivolous, called Friday’s ruling “outrageous” and “well outside the bounds of the law.”

“It betrays long-standing practice of the Department going back several administrations,” spokesperson Connor Swanson said in an email. “We will be appealing this decision immediately.”

Drilling, mining and logging have been top priorities on public lands during Trump’s tenure, and Pendley has played a key role in working to boost development in the West. The court could ultimately invalidate rules and plans that Pendley was involved in crafting.

“The Court recognizes that any “function or duty” of the BLM Director that has been performed by Pendley would have no force and effect and must be set aside as arbitrary and capricious,” Morris wrote in his opinion. He gave the Interior Department and Bullock 10 days to file briefs detailing which of Pendley’s orders should be scrapped.

The Interior Department, which oversees BLM, has tried in recent months to claim that Pendley has never served as acting chief. “William Perry Pendley is not, and has never been, Acting BLM Director,” an Interior spokesperson recently told HuffPost.

Doctors alarmed by surge in hospital visits as toxic smoke engulfs west coast

The Guardian – Health

Doctors alarmed by surge in hospital visits as toxic smoke engulfs west coast

Erin McCormick in Berkeley, California   
<span>Photograph: Philip Pacheco/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Philip Pacheco/Getty Image

 

A month after hundreds of wildfires started spewing toxic smoke along the west coast, doctors are seeing the alarming health effects of air pollution.

In northern California’s Stanford Health Care system, hospital admissions have jumped by 12% in recent weeks, including a stunning 43% increase in cerebrovascular conditions such as strokes. In Oregon, health officials reported nearly one out of 10 people visiting the emergency room had asthma-like conditions due to the smoke. And in San Francisco, doctors had to cancel their clinics for recovering Covid-19 patients, because the air was so unhealthy that just getting to their appointments could make patients more sick.

Related: What is California’s wildfire smoke doing to our health? Scientists paint a bleak picture

A growing body of scientific evidence paints a dire picture of the effects of wildfire smoke on the human body. Experts told the Guardian earlier this month that the smoke can have an almost immediate effect on people’s health, causing asthma, heart attacks, kidney problems and even mental health issues to surge.

Now, as the west coast reckons with an unprecedented stretch of hazardous air, scientists and health experts are growing even more concerned about the immediate and long-term consequences of continuous exposure to the harmful pollution.

In the Bay Area, despite firefighters gaining control of the nearest blazes started by lightning strikes in August, smoky conditions have persisted, turning the sky orange and keeping people inside their homes.

“We’re on the 30th consecutive day of our ‘Spare the Air’ alerts,” said Kristina Chu of the Bay Area air quality management district on Wednesday. “That’s an all-time record,” she explained; the previous longest was 14 days.

<span class="element-image__caption">A pedestrian walks past the Willamette Bridge and downtown Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Don Ryan/AP</span>A pedestrian walks past the Willamette Bridge and downtown Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday. Photograph: Don Ryan/AP

After a month steeped in orange-brown air filled with dangerous tiny particles emitted by the wildfires, patients with pre-existing lung or heart conditions were at particular risk for hospitalization or even premature death, health officials in California said.

“We’ve now had a month of severe exposure to smoke and the levels have been very high,” said Dr Mary Prunicki, director of research for Stanford’s Sean N Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research.

At Stanford’s health centers, doctors told the Guardian they had seen a troubling rise in overall hospitalizations, as well as an increase in specific conditions.

Bibek Paudel, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford’s asthma clinic, has been following the rise in hospitalizations. In the first two weeks after smoke pollution permeated the Bay Area’s air, he calculated an extra 500 people had been admitted to Stanford’s hospitals compared with what would normally be expected – 12% more than the two weeks before the fires. After three weeks of bad air, he could detect an 14% increase in the number of heart patients hospitalized, an 18% percent increase in kidney conditions and a 17% increase in asthma hospitalizations.

Fine particles go to the bottom of your lungs, then can cross over to the bloodstream and go anywhere in your body

Mary Prunicki, Stanford doctor

“The smoke and the number of intense fires has gone up and up,” he said, noting that the California fire season has just begun. “I expect it will go up even more.”

The most alarming finding was the 43% increase in strokes and other cerebrovascular hospitalizations, which could be related to inflammation brought on by the pollution, the researchers said.

The research also shows a 15% increase in hospitalizations for substance abuse disorders and a small uptick in other mental health hospital intakes.

“People were already dealing with the stress of Covid-19,” said Prunicki. “And I read that there has been an increase in alcohol use. This just may be a tipping point.”

Prunicki said researchers were just beginning to understand the many detrimental effects that the smoke ingredients, known as particulate matter 2.5, have on the body.

“Fine particles [in the smoke] go to the bottom of your lungs, then can cross over to the bloodstream and go anywhere in your body,” said Prunicki. She co-authored an earlier study that showed even healthy teenagers see an increase in the markers of inflammation in their bloodstreams during periods of wildfire smoke exposure.

“I don’t know that we have it figured out on a cellular level, but we see dysregulation and we know that pollution is causing inflammatory changes throughout your body,” she said.

Scientists are still working to understand the long-term effects of wildfire smoke exposures, but studies of firefighters have shown they face a higher rate of cancer than the general public, despite being otherwise healthier than the average person.

In Oregon, residents were facing air pollution so severe that the air quality index readings were “literally off the charts”, according to Gabriela Goldfarb, a spokesperson for the Oregon health authority, which has been monitoring an increase in people seeking emergency treatment for asthma symptoms. While any air quality index over 300 is considered “hazardous”, numerous communities bordering the wildfires near Salem and the Portland suburbs have experienced readings of over 500, she said.

<span class="element-image__caption">Smoke from wildfires fills the sky over Pasadena, California, on 12 September.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: John Antczak/AP</span>Smoke from wildfires fills the sky over Pasadena, California, on 12 September. Photograph: John Antczak/AP

Goldfarb says the health authority has spent years studying how to combat the health toll of more frequent wildfires, which have been intensified by the climate crisis. Its recommendations have included proposals to distribute air purifiers to low income families and renters. But this year, legislation to do that was put on hold when the Oregon legislature disbanded early due to the pandemic. Now, she said, it is hard to recommend safe alternatives for the public, other than staying home – and people facing evacuation don’t even have that option.

“Traditionally people could go to their public library or a local shopping center to escape the smoke. But those aren’t available this year because of Covid,” she said.

Dr Neeta Thakur, a University of California, San Francisco, pulmonologist who heads both the chest clinic and the clinic for recovering Covid-19 patients at San Francisco general hospital, said the smoke pollution had presented a catch-22 for those concerned about the risks of the coronavirus.

She said one of her lung patients called the hospital complaining of breathing problems and was told to come immediately to the emergency room. But the patient, an older person, waited, fearing exposure to coronavirus. Two days later, the patient’s lung problems became so severe that they had to be brought in by ambulance and intubated in the ICU, she said.

“There was definitely a delay in seeking care because of fear of the pandemic,” said Thakur, noting that the patient was recovering at home.

“We could see more of this,” added Thakur, who has had to cancel recent clinics for people recovering from Covid and asthma patients because of the poor air quality. “Trying to navigate these two health crises and tell people what to do is very difficult.”

She said residents of low income communities bore the brunt of the health risks because of poor-quality housing.

“I can go inside and get clear air,” she said. “But when you live in poor-quality housing, the bad air outside can come inside.”

On Thursday, air quality experts predicted west coast residents would finally get a break as offshore winds blew the clouds of smoke inland, spreading them all the way to the east coast.

Still, “we do not feel we’re in the clear for this fire season yet,” said Goldfarb. She predicted rain storms might bring lightning and the prospect of more fires to Oregon; California air quality officials noted that the state might not see rain until November and smoke pollution could return as early as this weekend.

“If there are people who need to leave the house and get some fresh air, we recommend they do it now,” said Chu, of the Bay Area air quality district. “It’s a new normal that we’re getting used to.”

Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

Bloomberg – U.S.

Gas Companies Are Abandoning Their Wells, Leaving Them to Leak Methane Forever

Mya Frazier               

 

(Bloomberg) — The story of gas well No. 095-20708 begins on Nov. 10, 1984, when a drill bit broke the Earth’s surface 4 miles north of Rio Vista, Calif. Wells don’t have birthdays, so this was its “spud date.”

The drill chewed through the dirt at a rate of 80 ½ feet per hour, reaching 846 feet below ground that first day. By Thanksgiving it had gotten a mile down, finally stopping 49 days later, having laid 2.2 miles of steel pipe and cement on its way to the “pay zone,” an underground field containing millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas.

The drilling rig arrived two months later, in early January. While 1985 started out as a good year for gas, by its close, more than half the nation’s oil and gas wells had shut down. How much money the Amerada Hess Corp., which bankrolled the dig, managed to pump out of gas well No. 095-20708 before that bust isn’t known. By 1990 the company, now called simply Hess Corp., gave up and sold it. Over the next decade or so, four more companies would seek the riches promised at the bottom of the well, seemingly with little success. In 2001 a state inspector visited the site. “Looks like it’s dying,” he wrote.

Gas wells never really die, though. Over the years, the miles of steel piping and cement corrode, creating pathways for noxious gases to reach the surface. The most worrisome of these is methane, the main component of natural gas. If carbon dioxide is a bullet, methane is a bomb. Odorless and invisible, it captures 86 times more heat than CO₂ over two decades and at least 25 times more over a century. Drilling has released this potent greenhouse gas, once sequestered in the deep pockets and grooves of the Earth, into the atmosphere, where it’s wreaking more havoc than humans can keep up with.

Well No. 095-20708 is also known as A.H.C. Church No. 11, referring both to Hess and to Bernard Church, who like so many in California’s Sacramento River Delta sold his farmland but retained the mineral rights in the hope that they’d make his family rich. The Church well is a relic, but it’s not rare. It’s one of more than 3.2 million deserted oil and gas wells in the U.S. and one of an estimated 29 million globally, according to Reuters. There’s no regulatory requirement to monitor methane emissions from inactive wells, and until recently, scientists didn’t even consider wells in their estimates of greenhouse gas emissions. With the pandemic depressing demand for fossil fuels and renewable energy development booming, why should owners idle or plug their wells when they can simply walk away?

In the past five years, 207 oil and gas businesses have failed. As natural gas prices crater, the fiscal burden on states forced to plug wells could skyrocket; according to Rystad Energy AS, an industry analytics company, 190 more companies could file for bankruptcy by the end of 2022. Many oil and gas companies are idling their wells by capping them in the hope prices will rise again. But capping lasts only about two decades, and it does nothing to prevent tens of thousands of low-producing wells from becoming orphaned, meaning “there is no associated person or company with any financial connection to and responsibility for the well,” according to California’s Geologic Energy Management Division.

“It’s cheaper to idle them than to clean them up,” says Joshua Macey, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago, who’s spent years studying fossil fuel bankruptcies. “Once prices increase, they could be profitable to operate again. It gives them a strong reason to not do cleanup now. It’s not orphaned yet, although for all intents and purposes it is.”

The life cycle of the Church well exemplifies this systemic indifference. Hess’s liability ended when it sold more than 30 years ago; the last company to acquire the lease, Pacific Petroleum Technology, which took over in 2003, managed to evade financial responsibility entirely as the well’s cement and steel piping began to corrode. Letters from state regulators demanding that the company declare its plans for the well went unanswered. In November 2007 the state issued a civil penalty of $500 over Pacific’s failures to file monthly production reports on the well. Instead of paying, Pacific requested a hearing, at which a representative testified that there was still $10 million worth of natural gas waiting to be pumped and promised the company would secure funds, make necessary repairs, and start producing again. The state was unconvinced and demanded Pacific plug the well. Another decade passed. The company never pumped a single cubic foot of gas and made no effort to plug the well. (Representatives of Pacific couldn’t be reached for comment.)

If Church were the only neglected well, it would be inconsequential. But these artifacts of the fossil fuel age are ubiquitous, obscured in backyards and beneath office buildings, under parking lots and shopping malls, even near day-care centers and schools in populous cities such as Los Angeles, where at least 1,000 deserted wells lie unplugged. In Colorado an entire neighborhood was built on top of a former oil and gas field that had been left off of construction maps. In 2017 two people died in a fiery explosion while replacing a basement water heater.

These kinds of headline-grabbing episodes are anomalies, but all this leaking methane also has dire environmental consequences, and the situation is likely only to get worse as more companies fail. “The oil and gas industry will not go out with a bang,” Macey adds, “but with a whimper.” As it does, the wells it orphans will become wards of the state.

Days before the 33rd anniversary of Church’s spud date, in November 2017, Eric Lebel, a researcher with the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford, arrived at the wellhead. The rusted 10-foot structure—a “Christmas tree,” as it’s called in the industry—loomed over him.

While Lebel knew the well’s depth, it was still hard for him to envision its scale. “If you don’t see it, you don’t think about it,” he says later. “What’s underground is impossible to imagine.” The Earth’s interior has been unfathomably scarred by hydrocarbon infrastructure, he says. For almost two centuries, since the drilling of the first gas well in 1821, the fossil fuel industry has treated the planet like a giant pincushion. The first U.S. gas well in Fredonia, N.Y., extended only 27 feet underground, but drilling since has gone ever deeper. Ten-thousand-foot wells like Church are common today.

Now imagine each of those pins in the global pincushion is a straw inside a straw. In Church’s case, the outer straw is 7.625 inches in diameter and made of steel, encased in cement; inside is a 2.375-inch-wide steel tube. The deeper the well, the more the heat and pressure rise. At Church’s deepest point, 10,968 feet, the temperature likely exceeds 200F. The weight of the Earth exerts more and more pressure as the well goes deeper—reaching about 5 tons per square inch at the bottom. That’s the equivalent of four 2,500-pound cars on your thumb. All of this puts a huge amount of stress on that underground infrastructure. As it breaks down, eventually it begins to leak.

Astonishingly, no one had even bothered to ask how much until the past decade. In 2011, Mary Kang was a Ph.D. student at Princeton modeling how CO₂ might escape from underground storage vessels after being captured and buried. She looked for similar models on methane and came up with nothing; some of the industry sources she spoke with were confident that it wasn’t much—and that even if it was, technology existed that could fix it. “It’s one thing to assume,” Kang remembers thinking to herself. “It’s another thing to go get empirical data.”

Kang went to Pennsylvania, where boom and bust cycles over the years have left a half-million gas wells deserted. Of the 19 she measured, three turned out to be high emitters, meaning they released three times more methane into the atmosphere than other wells in the sample. “There were no measurements of emissions coming out of these wells,” she says. “People knew these wells existed, they just thought what was coming out was negligible or zero.” By scaling up her findings, Kang was able to estimate that in 2011, deserted wells were responsible for somewhere from 4% to 7% of all man-made methane emissions from Pennsylvania.

Those findings inspired Lebel and other researchers in the U.S. and worldwide to start taking direct methane measurements. The industry responded by ignoring them and fought fiercely against the Obama administration’s efforts to start regulating methane emissions. (A 2016 rule requiring operators to measure methane releases at active wells and invest in technology to prevent leaks was summarily overturned by the Trump administration at the beginning of August.)

Meanwhile, scientists trudged on. So far researchers have measured emissions at almost 1,000 of the 3.2 million deserted wells in the U.S. In 2016, Kang published another study of 88 abandoned well sites in Pennsylvania, 90% of which leaked methane.

Internationally, researchers tracked increasingly bad news. German scientists discovered methane bubbles in the seabed around orphaned wells in the North Sea. Taking direct measurements of 43 wells, they found significant leaks in 28. In Alberta, researchers estimated methane leaks in almost 5% of the province’s 315,000 oil and gas wells. In the U.K., researchers found “fugitive emissions of methane” in 30% of 102 wells studied. Such findings are both a threat and an opportunity, says Lebel, who considers abandoned wells the easiest first step to cutting methane emissions globally. That’s what brought him to Church in the first place.

According to his field logs, Lebel spent his first hour on site building a secure air chamber using a Coleman canopy tent draped in tarps, which he held in place with sandbags. Inside the tent, fans effectively created a convection oven of rapidly circulating air. As he worked, a farmer who leases the land wandered over. Be careful, he warned Lebel. Sometimes fire comes out of that well. Just yesterday he’d seen a plume of flames erupt from it, he said.

At 3:41 p.m., using an instrument that resembles a desktop computer with an abundance of ports, Lebel took his first methane measurement. “We knew right away it was a major leaker,” he recalls. It exceeded the instrument’s threshold of 50 parts per million almost immediately. Lebel collected air samples in tiny glass vials to take back to his lab. The analysis was damning: Two hundred and fifty grams of methane were flowing out of the well each hour. A rough calculation shows that over a decade and a half the Church well had likely emitted somewhere around 32.7 metric tons of methane, enough to melt a sizable iceberg.

Despite the flurry of recent research, the full scale of the emissions problem remains unknown. “We really don’t have a handle on it yet,” says Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell who’s studied methane leaks from active oil and gas wells for decades. “We’ve poked millions of holes thousands of feet into Mother Earth to get her goods, and now we are expecting her to forgive us?”

There’s no easy way to bring up the thousands of feet of steel and cement required to carry gas out of a well as deep as A.H.C. Church 11. That means the only way to keep the well from leaking is to fill it up. Plugging a well costs $20,000 to $145,000, according to estimates by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For modern shale wells, the cost can run as high as $300,000.

On a Wednesday morning near the end of June 2018, a crew of workers from the Paul Graham Drilling & Service Co., hired by the state of California after Pacific Petroleum failed to respond to years of notices, arrived at the well site. As they would on any job, they first dropped a “string,” a lengthy metal cable, into the well; in ideal circumstances, it’d be a straight shot to the bottom. But not that day.

Well records indicate that a “packer,” a ring-shaped device used to create a seal between the outer and inner straws of gas wells, had been installed about 7,000 feet down. It would have to come out first, or they wouldn’t be able to get the cement all the way to the bottom. When they tried to pull out the packer, the string broke.

The tiny packer, just 2.5 inches wide, stayed stuck for weeks. As the crew tried to get it out, tubing inside the well broke—“structurally compromised due to corrosion,” they told California’s Department of Conservation in the work log they submitted. They were forced to go “fishing,” using specialized tools to retrieve the tubing, piece by broken piece. But the packer was still in there. Eventually they used even more specialized tools to grind it away.

It wasn’t until July 26, almost a month after workers arrived at the Church site, that they were able to start “running mud,” the industry term for pumping cement into the outer straw. This straw had been purposely perforated to allow oil and gas to flow from the pay zone into the well. The plugging cement is supposed to accumulate upwards as more gets pumped in. But if it leaks off into that porous pay zone, no matter how much mud the team runs, it simply disappears. Unless the cement and other sealants reached every nook and cranny, the site might continue to leak.

Thankfully, Church filled easily, requiring 36,500 pounds of cement. The unforeseen difficulties added $171,388 to Paul Graham’s original estimate, raising the total bill to $294,943, more than double the crew’s $123,555 bid. (Neither the cleanup company nor the state representatives who oversaw the work responded to interview requests.) Ingraffea examined the myriad work orders from the job and called it a “well from hell.”

By late August, almost two months after they arrived at the Church site, the crew had cut off the Christmas tree and welded a half-inch-thick steel plate to the top of the wellhead. It had taken nine days longer to fill the well than it had to drill it in the first place. Looking across the landscape today, it’s as though Church never existed.

The atmospheric evidence, of course, shows otherwise.

The cost to plug just California’s deserted wells—an estimated 5,500—could reach $550 million, according to a report released earlier this year. While not an insignificant price tag, the real shock would come if the industry collapses and walks away for good. In that doomsday scenario, the costs to plug and decommission 107,000 active and idled wells could run to $9 billion. And yet so far in 2020, California has approved 1,679 new drilling permits.

“We make the same mistake over and over again,” says Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford who oversees Lebel’s work. “Companies go bankrupt, and taxpayers pay the bills.”

Congressional efforts to create a well-plugging program for cleanup are stalled. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies have made trillions of dollars in profits over the past century and a half while enjoying relative impunity. On federal lands, where oil and gas companies actively drill, bond levels haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1951, when they were set at $10,000 for a single well and $150,000 for however many wells a single operator controls nationwide. In California a company drilling 10,000 feet or more needs only $40,000.

Even spending all the billions of dollars required to plug the world’s millions of deserted wells won’t stave off environmental catastrophe. The vast heat and pressure of the Earth’s subsurface—the same forces that crushed dinosaur bones into hydrocarbons in the first place—mean that no plugging job lasts forever. Scientists and engineers debate how long cement can survive in the harsh environment of the Earth’s interior. Estimates typically fall from 50 to 100 years, a long enough time horizon that even some of today’s biggest oil and gas companies may no longer exist, but short enough to be uncomfortably within the realm of human comprehension. No regulations require states or federal agencies to measure emissions after wells are plugged.

While little is being done to prevent methane from creating catastrophic warming, less is being done to prevent water contamination. Researcher Kang, now an assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University, worked as a groundwater monitoring consultant before getting her Ph.D. In 2016 she published a paper with Jackson showing that California’s Central Valley, where a quarter of the nation’s food is produced, has close to three times the volume of fresh groundwater as previously thought. Such good news came with an urgent caveat: Nineteen percent of the state’s wells came close to these aquifers. “It’s definitely a threat and something that needs protection,” Kang says. “There’s so much we don’t know.”

What we do know is scary enough. “The cement will deteriorate,” says Dominic DiGiulio, a senior research scientist for PSE Healthy Energy, an Oakland, Calif.-based public policy institute, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for more than three decades in subsurface hydrology. “It’s not going to last forever, or even for very long.” A.H.C. Church lies in the Solano Subbasin, part of the Sacramento Valley Groundwater Basin. Almost 30% of the region’s water comes from subsurface sources, according to a 2017 report from the Northern California Water Association. “Given sustained droughts, groundwater resources are going to be very important in the coming decades,” DiGiulio says. “California is going to need these resources.”

Among the hundreds of pages of records chronicling the well’s spud, activity, and plugging, the one consistent name was Bernard Church. One afternoon this summer, I called the phone number listed on the most recent document, from a 2004 inspection, and reached his wife, Beverly Church. She now lives in Walnut Creek, Calif., about 40 miles southwest of the well site, and she told me her husband had died nine years earlier.

He and their family never became rich. Holders of mineral rights can lease them back to oil and gas companies and receive royalties on what their wells produce. But because so little had been pumped from Church, none of the 20 or so family members who eventually held a stake wound up with much. “We didn’t make any money off of it,” Beverly says.

That’s not an uncommon outcome, explains Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “Every once in a while someone might” get rich, she says. “But it’s not a thing. Big Oil is getting rich. For individual, ordinary people, it’s all risk and no reward.”

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BP Says the Era of Oil-Demand Growth Is Over

Bloomberg – Business

BP Says the Era of Oil-Demand Growth Is Over

Rakteem Katakey                            

(Bloomberg) — BP Plc said the relentless growth of oil demand is over, becoming the first super-major to call the end of an era many thought would last another decade or more.

Oil consumption may never return to levels seen before the coronavirus crisis took hold, BP said in a report on Monday. Even its most bullish scenario sees demand no better than “broadly flat” for the next two decades as the energy transition shifts the world away from fossil fuels.

BP is making a profound break from orthodoxy. From the bosses of corporate energy giants to ministers from OPEC states, senior figures from the industry have insisted that oil consumption will see decades of growth. Time and again, they have described it as the only commodity that can satisfy the demands of an increasing global population and expanding middle class.

The U.K. giant is describing a different future, where oil’s supremacy is challenged, and ultimately fades. That explains why BP has taken the boldest steps so far among peers to align its business with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Just six months after taking the top job, Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said in August he’d shrink oil and gas output by 40% over the next decade and spend as much as $5 billion a year building one of the world’s largest renewable-power businesses.

That’s because he suspects oil use may already have peaked as a result of the pandemic, stricter government policies and changes in consumer behavior. BP’s energy outlook shows consumption slumping 50% by 2050 in one scenario, and by almost 80% in another. In a “business-as-usual” situation, demand would recover but then flatline near 100 million barrels a day for the next 20 years.

Read: BP Walks Away From the Oil Super-major Model It Helped Create

BP isn’t the only big oil company adapting its business to the energy transition. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SE and others in Europe have announced similar pivots toward cleaner operations as customers, governments and investors increasingly call for change.

Three Possible Futures

BP’s report comes ahead of three days of online briefings starting Monday on its clean-energy and climate strategy. The study considers three scenarios, which aren’t predictions but nevertheless cover a wide range of possible outcomes over the next 30 years and form the basis of the new strategy Looney announced in August.

The “Rapid” approach sees new policy measures leading to a significant increase in carbon prices. The “Net Zero” course reinforces Rapid with big shifts in societal behavior, while the “Business-as-usual” projection assumes that government policies, technology and social preferences continue to evolve as they have in the recent past.

See also: New EU Climate Plan Brings End of the Combustion Engine Closer

In the first two scenarios, oil demand falls as a result of the coronavirus, the report shows. “It subsequently recovers but never back to pre-Covid levels,” according to Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist. “It brings forward the point at which oil demand peaks to 2019.”

That contrasts with what many others are forecasting. Russell Hardy, chief executive officer of trading giant Vitol Group, said on Monday that oil demand is poised for 10 years of growth before a steady decline. He predicts consumption will return to pre-virus levels by the end of next year.

BP’s outlook last year contained a scenario called “More energy,” which had oil demand growing steadily to about 130 million barrels a day in 2040. There’s no such scenario this time.

“Demand for oil falls over the next 30 years,” BP said in the report. “The scale and pace of this decline is driven by the increasing efficiency and electrification of road transportation.”

Covid Impact

The pandemic shattered oil consumption this year as countries locked down to prevent infections from spreading. While demand has since improved, and crude prices with it, the public health crisis is still raging in many parts of the world and the outlook remains uncertain in the absence of a vaccine.

The impact, including lasting behavioral changes like increased working from home, will affect economic activity and prosperity in the developing world, and ultimately demand for liquid fuels, according to BP. That means it won’t be able to offset already falling consumption in developed countries.

Demand for liquid fuels is seen falling to less than 55 million barrels a day by 2050 in BP’s Rapid scenario, and to around 30 million a day in Net Zero. The drop is mostly in developed economies and in China. In India, other parts of Asia and Africa, demand remains broadly flat in the first scenario but slips below 2018 levels from the mid-2030’s in the second.

Other points in the energy outlook:

The Rapid scenario has carbon emissions from energy use falling by around 70% by 2050, while they drop by more than 95% in Net Zero. Business-as-usual sees them peaking in the mid-2020’s.Demand for all primary energy — the raw materials from which energy is derived — increases by about 10% in Rapid and Net Zero in the period, and by around 25% in the third scenario.In Rapid, non-fossil fuels account for the majority of global energy from the early 2040’s.Growth in China’s energy demand slows sharply relative to past trends, reaching a peak in the early 2030’s in all three scenarios.Renewable energy — excluding hydro — increases more than 10-fold in both Rapid and Net Zero, with its share in primary energy rising from 5% in 2018 to more than 40% by 2050 in Rapid and almost 60% in Net Zero.Natural gas consumption is seen broadly unchanged to 2050 in Rapid and around 35% higher in business-as-usual. Demand falls by about 40% by 2050 in Net Zero.

(Updates with BP briefings in the seventh paragraph, Vitol CEO comments in the 10th.)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

An ominous map shows the entire West Coast with the worst air quality on Earth as historic wildfires spew smoke

Insider

An ominous map shows the entire West Coast with the worst air quality on Earth as historic wildfires spew smoke

A thick layer of wildfire smoke tints the skies orange in San Francisco, California, on September 9, 2020. <p class="copyright">Katie Canales/Business Insider</p>
A thick layer of wildfire smoke tints the skies orange in San Francisco, California, on September 9, 2020.  Katie Canales/Business Insider.
  • The US West Coast has the worst air quality in the world due to wildfire smoke across California, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Maps of air-quality index measurements show hazardous levels of particulate matter from wildfire smoke across the entire West Coast.
  • Research has linked particulate matter from wildfires to heart and lung problems, increased hospital visits, and worse flu seasons.
  • The EPA recommends residents stay indoors with filtered air, keep physical activity levels low, and wear an N95 respirator if they have to go outside.

The West Coast has the worst air quality on Earth right now, as nearly 100 active wildfires — including three of California’s four biggest ever recorded — spew smoke.

Particulate matter from the smoke has made the air unhealthy to breathe all along the coast, as this map from air-quality monitoring company PurpleAir shows.

<p class="copyright"><a href="https://www.purpleair.com/map" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PurpleAir" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">PurpleAir</a></p>PurpleAir

The numbers in the colored circles indicate the air quality index (AQI) detected by various monitoring sensors across the country. AQI is a metric measuring the level of pollutants in the air and how hazardous those levels are to human health, as determined by guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

A higher AQI indicates more pollutants in the air and a greater health hazard. The EPA considers any AQI above 150 to be unhealthy for all people. Anything above 300 is considered a “health warning of emergency conditions.”

The EPA does not make recommendations for AQI levels above 500, since they’re “beyond index.”

But PurpleAir’s monitors around Salem, Oregon, reported AQIs as high as 758 on Friday morning.

Those levels are comparable to some of the worst days for air quality in Dehli, India — the world’s most polluted city, according to the nonprofit Berkeley Earth.

Satellite imagery shows fires and smoke along the US West Coast, September 8, 2020. <p class="copyright"><a href="http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/loop_of_the_day/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CIRA/NOAA GOES-West" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">CIRA/NOAA GOES-West</a></p>Satellite imagery shows fires and smoke along the US West Coast, September 8, 2020. CIRA/NOAA Goes – West

None of PurpleAir’s monitors at other locations across the globe were reporting AQIs anywhere near 400 on Friday morning.

Fires have burned millions of acres and forced mass evacuations

California has been battling blazes for several weeks following a dry lightning storm on August 16 that ignited hundreds of fires. The state’s Doe Fire in the Mendocino National Forest is now the biggest in history at more than 471,000 acres. California’s third- and fourth-biggest fires ever are currently burning, too.

Firefighters keep an eye on the Creek Fire along state Highway 168, September 6, 2020, in Shaver Lake, California. <p class="copyright"><a href="https://newsroom.ap.org/detail/CaliforniaWildfires/18fc201319634de9b82eb2b6148e2186/photo?Query=creek%20AND%20fire&mediaType=photo&sortBy=arrivaldatetime:desc&dateRange=Anytime&totalCount=718&currentItemNo=11" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo</a></p>Firefighters keep an eye on the Creek Fire along state Highway 168, September 6, 2020, in Shaver Lake, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo.

In California, more than 3.1 million acres have burned so far — an area more than 100 times the size of San Francisco and far more than any other year on record. Fire season doesn’t normally peak until late September.

In Oregon, meanwhile, fires spanning more than 1 million acres have forced about 40,000 people to evacuate. Flames encroaching on the Portland metro area prompted Mayor Ted Wheeler to issue a Fire Emergency Order on Thursday evening.

More than 500,000 acres have burned in Washington.

In total across the West Coast this fire season, at least 25 people have died.

The fires have spread quickly because forests are dried out by years of record heat. Some blazes are emitting so much smoke that they create their own weather systems, and the haze has tinted the skies orange and red over San Francisco and other parts of the coast.

Particulate matter from smoke has serious health consequences

The AQI numbers on PurpleAir’s map refer to the quantities of tiny particulate matter in the air — specifically, particles that measure 2.5 micrometers across or less. These are known as PM2.5.

Wildfire smoke carries many of these invisible particles, which come from the buildings and vegetation fires burn as well as chemical reactions in the gases it produces.

When humans inhale these particles, they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. Research has connected PM2.5 pollution to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death. In healthy people, it can irritate the eyes and lungs and cause wheezing, coughs, or difficulty breathing.

The map below, from the EPA’s air-quality monitoring website, shows a band of dangerous PM2.5 pollution along the West Coast (similar to what PurpleAir is reporting). The circles are color-coded by AQI ranges: Green indicates good air quality, while maroon indicates “hazardous” conditions with an AQI above 300.

<p class="copyright"><a href="https://gispub.epa.gov/airnow/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:AirNow.gov" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">AirNow.gov</a></p>AirNow.gov

“Decades of research have shown that elevated air pollution exposure is associated with a number of adverse health impacts, including compromised immune systems,” Erin Landguth, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s School of Public and Community Health Sciences, told The New York Times.

She added that research indicates that “after bad fire seasons, one would expect to see three to five times worse flu seasons.”

A 2017 study found that hospitals saw a 7.2% increase in admissions for respiratory issues following wildfire smoke events that produced two or more days of moderate PM2.5 pollution.

To reduce exposure to particulate matter, the EPA recommends people stay indoors with filtered air (ideally in a room with few windows or doors and an air purifier), keeping windows and doors closed. Physical activity levels should remain low, and those who must go outside should wear an N95 respirator. Those masks have been in short supply this year, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Devastating consequences’: At least six dead as wildfires rage across West Coast

NBC News

Devastating consequences’: At least six dead as wildfires rage across West Coast

David K. Li and Matteo Moschella and Whitney Lee and Tim Stelloh and Sarah Kaufman                      September 10, 2020.
Scenes of devastation as two wildfires merge in Northern California

Wildfires continued to rage out of control throughout California and the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday, killing at least six people and devastating half a dozen towns in Oregon.

 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that in the last 24 hours, the state had “experienced unprecedented fire with significant damage and devastating consequences.”

“This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” she said at a news conference.

In Washington State, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said that a child had died in one of the state’s largest wildfires, the 163,00-acre Cold Springs fire. The blaze is burning mid-way between Spokane and Seattle. Franz didn’t offer details but said she was devastated by the death.

“The pain that family is going through is unfathomable,” she said.

In Oregon, wildfires burning east of the state capital tore through the small city of Lyons, killing Wyatte Tofte, 12, and his grandmother, Peggy Mosso, according to the boy’s father, Christopher Tofte. The boy’s mother, Angela Mosso, suffered severe burns and is in critical condition, he said.

And in Butte County, California, where the state’s deadliest fire on record killed 85 people and all but destroyed the town of Paradise two years ago, the remains of three people were found Wednesday after a wildfire burned through the area, Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters.

Two people were found at the same location, Honea said. The third was found elsewhere. Honea declined to provide additional details until the remains are identified.

In Southern Oregon, officials in the town of Talent told their 6,600 residents to stay outside the city limits because there’s scant electricity and it’s not safe stepping around fallen power lines.

While City Hall, the police department and other government buildings survived, there were whole neighborhoods and blocks of businesses completely gutted by the blaze.

“The fire ripped through the core of our (Oregon Route) 99 corridor,” the main stretch of town, Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood told NBC News. “Where it burned, it burned completely and totally. I’m exhausted and shocked by it.”

City officials were hoping that their fast-acting residents, who evacuated Tuesday and Wednesday, would keep deaths at zero.

“I believe that most everyone is safe, it could have been far worse,” Ayers-Flood said.

Brown enacted a fire conflagration act for the first time in state history, with at least 35 fires scorching more than 300,000 acres of land in Oregon.

“Our number-one priority right now is saving lives,” Brown said on Twitter Wednesday. During the news conference, she said that six towns in Marion, Lane, and Jackson counties have been “substantially destroyed.”

Meanwhile, up the road in Medford, residents in the southern end of the city were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday as the Almeda Fire made its way north.

And to make matters worse, another blaze dubbed the Obenchain Fire was gaining strength north of Medford, according to Jackson County Emergency Management, prompting more evacuation orders.

“Level 3 (evacuation order), that’s as serious as it gets,” Rudy Owens, spokesman for the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, said of the emergency actions taken in and around Medford.

Huge swaths of tinder-dry brush across the western U.S. were ablaze on Wednesday as firefighters battled flames, hot weather and high winds.

There were 14,000 firefighters on the lines in California as 28 wildfires burned out of control, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

Near the Oregon border, a fire that began Monday had exploded to 30,000 acres by Wednesday and destroyed an estimated 150 homes in the small community of Happy Camp, the U.S. Forest Service said.

In the central part of the state, the Creek Fire had consumed nearly 167,000 acres by Wednesday evening, officials said. In Butte County, the blaze that killed three people, the Bear Fire, prompted evacuation warnings for part of the town of Paradise.

Remarkably, three other fires still burning on Wednesday — the August Complex, SCU Lightning Complex and LNU Lightning Complex blazes — were classified as the second, third and fourth biggest wildfires in state history, firefighters said Wednesday.

Before Wednesday, wildfires had killed eight people in California, including five during the LNU fire, which was sparked by a rare summer thunderstorm last month. The state has seen a record 2.5 million acres burn this year.

While these flames were burning well outside the state’s biggest cities, their smoke had enveloped large urban cores.

An eerie orange and brown glow filled the sky above the Bay Area, a mixture of fog and smoke from the fires that cast San Francisco in a perpetual rust colored haze on Wednesday.

Citing the “unprecedented” and “historic fire conditions” in California, 10 national forests were ordered closed on Wednesday, meaning that all 18 national forests in the state were shut down.

“These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely,” Regional Forester Randy Moore said in a statement.

Wildfires in the state of Washington also continued to burn on Wednesday, with more than 576,400 acres charred since a series of blazes were touched off on Labor Day, said state Department of Natural Resources spokesman Joe Smillie.

In the small community of Malden, near the Idaho state line, most of the town was destroyed by a fast-moving blaze that swept through the area Monday. Larry Frick, who stayed and fought the fire as it surrounded his home, compared the scene Wednesday to a war zone.

“There were explosions going off non-stop and some really big ones where I could feel it shake the ground,” he said in an interview.

Frick said he tried to save his neighbor’s house, but the wind-whipped flames roared through its facade, reducing the structure to rubble in what seemed like minutes. The fire, which has destroyed 98 buildings, had grown to nearly 18,000 acres by Wednesday, fire officials said.

Federal Report Warns of Financial Havoc From Climate Change

The New York Times

Federal Report Warns of Financial Havoc From Climate Change

Coral Davenport and Jeanna Smialek                     September 9, 2020
Southern California Wildfires
Fountain Valley, Caif., firefighters extinguish hot spots at a structure destroyed by the El Dorado wildfire on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, near Yucaipa, Calif. A couple’s plan to reveal their baby’s gender went up not in blue or pink smoke but in flames when the device they used sparked a wildfire east of Los Angeles. The fire started Saturday morning in dry grasses at El Dorado Ranch Park, a rugged natural area in the city of Yucaipa. (Cindy Yamanaka/The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP)

 

WASHINGTON — A report commissioned by federal regulators overseeing the nation’s commodities markets has concluded that climate change threatens U.S. financial markets, as the costs of wildfires, storms, droughts and floods spread through insurance and mortgage markets, pension funds and other financial institutions.

“A world wracked by frequent and devastating shocks from climate change cannot sustain the fundamental conditions supporting our financial system,” concluded the report, “Managing Climate Risk in the Financial System,” which was requested last year by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and set for release Wednesday morning.

Those observations are not entirely new, but they carry new weight coming with the imprimatur of the regulator of complex financial instruments like futures, swaps and other derivatives that help fix the price of commodities like corn, oil and wheat. It is the first wide-ranging federal government study focused on the specific impacts of climate change on Wall Street.

Perhaps most notable is that it is being published at all. The Trump administration has suppressed, altered or watered down government science around climate change as it pushes an aggressive agenda of environmental deregulation that it hopes will spur economic growth.

The new report asserts that doing nothing to avert climate change will do the opposite.

“This is the first time a government entity has looked at the impacts of climate change on financial markets in the U.S.,” said Robert Litterman, the chairman of the panel that produced the report and a founding partner of Kepos Capital, an investment firm based in New York. “Rather than saying, ‘What’s the science?’ this is saying, ‘What’s the financial risk?’ ”

The commodities regulator, which is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump, voted unanimously last summer to create an advisory panel drawn from the world of finance and charged with producing a report on the effects of the warming world on financial markets. The initial proposal for the report came from Rostin Behnam, one of the panel’s two Democrats, but the report is written by dozens of analysts from investment firms including Morgan Stanley, S&P Global and Vanguard; oil companies BP and ConocoPhillips; and agricultural trader Cargill, as well as academic experts and environmental groups.

It includes recommendations for new corporate regulations and the reversal of at least one Trump administration policy.

“It was shocking when they asked me to do this,” Litterman said. “This is members of the entire community involved in financial markets saying with one voice, ‘This is a serious problem, and it has to be addressed.’”

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, declined Tuesday to comment on the report because the White House had not yet seen it.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative research organization, who served as economic adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said: “This was initiated by the Trump administration. It is the only document of its type.”

He added, “If you’re denying this exists, you don’t ask for a report on it.”

The Republican chairman of the CFTC, Heath Tarbert, acknowledged the risk of climate change, but he noted that the report also detailed what the regulators called “transition risk” — the financial harm that could befall the fossil fuel industry if the government enacted aggressive policies to curb carbon dioxide pollution.

“I appreciate Commissioner Behnam’s leadership on convening various private sector perspectives on the important topic of climate risk,” Tarbert said in a statement. “The subcommittee’s report acknowledges that ‘transition risks’ of a green economy could be just as disruptive to our financial system as the possible physical manifestations of climate change, and that moving too fast, too soon could be just as disorderly as doing too little, too late. This underscores why it is so important for policymakers to get this right.”

The authors of the report acknowledged that if Trump is reelected, his administration is all but certain to ignore the report and its recommendations.

Instead, they said they saw the document as a policy road map for a Joe Biden administration.

Biden’s climate policy proposals are the most ambitious and expensive ever embraced by a presidential candidate, and most of them would meet resistance in Congress. But even without legislation, he could press forward with regulatory changes. Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor who is seen as a top contender to be Treasury secretary in a Biden administration, has called for financial regulators to treat climate change as a significant risk to the financial system.

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, speaks in Wilmington, Del., Sept. 2, 2020. (Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, speaks in Wilmington, Del., Sept. 2, 2020. (Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)

 

In calling for climate-driven policy changes, the report’s authors likened the financial risk of global warming to the threat posed by the coronavirus today and by mortgage-backed securities that precipitated the financial crash in 2008.

One crucial difference, they said, is that in the case of climate change, financial volatility and loss are likely to be spread out over time, as they hit different regions and markets. Insurance companies could withdraw from California in the wake of devastating wildfires, and home values could plummet on coastlines and in floodplains. In the Midwest, banks could limit loans during or after extended droughts that drastically lower crop yields. All of those problems will be exacerbated by climate change, but they are unlikely to hit all at once.

“Financial markets are really good at managing risk to help us provide credit, so that the economy can flourish,” said Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, an editor of the report who served as senior official at the Treasury Department during the Obama administration. But, he added, the system breaks down “when it’s no longer able to manage risk, when it’s invisible, it’s not captured by the price of stocks.”

“That’s what we saw in the financial crisis of 2008, and it’s as relevant now on climate change as it was then on mortgage-backed securities,” he said.

Among the first of those risks already pervading the markets, the report’s authors say, are falling home prices and rising mortgage default rates in regions where wildfires and flooding are worsening.

“Climate change is linked to devaluing home values,” said Jesse Keenan, an editor of the report and a professor of real estate at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“If in your town, your house is devalued, that makes it harder for your local government to raise money,” he said. “That’s one set of risks that could lead to a contagion and broader instability across financial markets.”

Extreme weather could cause swings in agricultural commodity prices, the report warns, and climate-spurred market volatility could afflict pension and retirement funds, which invest across a range of asset classes.

“Climate change is one of the top three risks to our fund,” said Divya Mankikar, an author of the report and an investment manager at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s biggest public pension fund. “We pay pension and health benefits to over 2 million current and former state employees. So the payout is decades out.”

The report makes several concrete recommendations for inoculating the financial system against potential harm.

It emphasizes the need to put a price on carbon emissions, which is often done either by taxing or through an emissions trading system that caps carbon emissions and allots credits that polluters can buy and sell under that cap.

The report calls for the reversal of a proposed rule being put forward by the Trump administration’s Labor Department that would forbid retirement investment managers from considering environmental consequences in their financial recommendations.

“If there’s any class of investors that should be thinking about the long run, it’s retirement funds and pension funds,” said Nathaniel Keohane, an author of the report and an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group.

The report suggests that the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a Treasury Department-led body created in the wake of the 2008 crisis, incorporates climate risks into its annual report and its communications with Congress. It suggests that the Federal Reserve and other major financial regulators join international coalitions that focus on climate threats.

The report also suggests that bank regulators should roll out a climate risk stress testing pilot program. Such stress tests, which assess how bank balance sheets and the broader system would fare in bad climate-related economic scenarios, have been under development in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

The authors also recommend that another financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, strengthen its existing requirements that publicly traded companies disclose the risks to their bottom lines associated with climate change.

Coca-Cola has noted in its financial disclosures that water shortages driven by climate change pose a risk to its production chains and profitability. But many other companies “just check the box” on that requirement, Keohane said.

Such disclosures should also include the risk to companies’ bottom lines posed by future policies designed to mitigate climate change, such as taxes or regulations on carbon dioxide pollution, which could hurt fossil fuel producers.

“If carbon risk is priced, this will add cost to the oil and gas industry,” said Betty Simkins, a report author and professor of finance at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. “But they need to be prepared for this. It’s better for the companies to disclose the risk and be as financially fit as possible.”

Summer 2.0 has reached B.C., here’s how hot it’ll get

The Weather Network

Summer 2.0 has reached B.C., here’s how hot it’ll get

Tyler Hamilton, The Weather Network                 September 6, 2020
Summer 2.0 has reached B.C., here's how hot it'll get
Summer 2.0 has reached B.C., here’s how hot it’ll get

 

Summer 2.0 has set in across British Columbia, and its accompanying warmth looks to stick around for a bit, will likely make up for lost ground.

Early summer was a bit of a bummer for the province, as below-normal temperatures spilled well into July.

By early next week, a record-breaking ridge that’s settled in offshore of the province is forecast to reach peak heights. Current modelling suggests temperatures could be up to 10 degrees above average for some as the atmosphere pushes outside the boundaries of climatology.

records

The province’s all-time temperature records for September are tough numbers to beat, as a similar setup in 2017 developed a thermal trough caused by down-sloping winds from the higher terrain inland. This pattern is known to bring warm, dry air down-sloping towards the ocean; consequently, shutting off the natural air-conditioning – onshore flow and marine air.

setup

Here’s a fun hypothetical scenario: If this were winter, this same upper air pattern would likely bring low elevation snow down to sea-level. The warm, dry air would be dense, bitter air flowing out of the Fraser River.

smoke

Throughout the summer, the South Coast has dodged the forest fire smoke. The latest smoke models indicate this may change late-Thursday and beyond as the high pressure off the coast of California siphons smoke north.

Climate change has arrived

The Week

Climate change has arrived

The Week Staff                September 6, 2020

The connection between hellacious weather and man-made climate change is becoming undeniable. Here’s everything you need to know:

What has shifted?

For years, climate scientists have been wary of attributing extreme weather directly to man-made atmospheric warming, but that’s changing in the face of historic heat waves and cascading natural disasters. In recent weeks alone, a “derecho,” a complex of unusually powerful, hurricane-like storms, tore through the Midwest, destroying homes and crops across a 745-mile path; Hurricane Laura crashed into the Gulf Coast with sustained 150-mph winds; and hundreds of California wildfires incinerated an area the size of Rhode Island in just a week. The Southwest suffered a punishing heat wave with a high of 130 in Death Valley, perhaps the hottest day in world history. It followed highs of 125 in Iraq and a record 100-degree day in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, a once-in-100,000-years event. These freak patterns, researchers say, are almost certainly the result of mankind pumping 2.6 million pounds of CO2into the atmosphere per second. “We’ve gotten to the point where, when it comes to extreme heat waves, there is almost always a human fingerprint,” said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

How strange is recent weather?

The expression “500-year storm” is losing its meaning: Houston has suffered five of them in a five-year span. California’s wildfires — ignited by 1,200 lightning strikes in a 72-hour span — produced the second- and third-worst blazes in state history, even without the aid of the fall’s strong Santa Ana winds. The Atlantic coast has seen 10 named storms so far this season, a mark typically hit in October, and upcoming storms are projected to be twice as intense as usual, because of extremely warm ocean waters. Hurricanes have done $335 billion in damage over the past three years, compared with $38.2 billion across the entire 1980’s, adjusted for inflation. Climate disasters of all types inflicted $807 billion in damage during the 2010’s, the hottest decade on record.

What’s the link to climate change?

Weather patterns are shaped by an intricate web of atmospheric and oceanic conditions, which is why scientists traditionally resist drawing causal links between climate change and any one event. But when both rising temperatures and disasters become consistent and pervasive, the connection becomes obvious. The average daily highs in Northern California during wildfire season are 3 to 4 degrees warmer than they were in 1900. Warming of the planet’s surface causes atmospheric instability than can producer stronger, more frequent storms, while rising ocean temperatures and unusually moist air spawn hurricanes that grow rapidly more powerful, then stall after making landfall and dump torrential rain.

Where is it worst?

The future of climate chaos is being previewed in northern latitudes, where a CO2 domino effect plays out: Warm winters melt more snow, causing the ground to absorb more heat, which leads to dry soil that fuels wildfires and thaws permafrost, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. In Russia this summer, thawing permafrost caused a power-plant fuel tank to collapse, spilling more than 20,000 tons of diesel into the Ambarnaya River. Russia’s average temperature was nearly 11 degrees above its January-to-April norm, the largest anomaly ever for any country. In February, Antarctica hit a record 69 degrees, causing a 120-square-mile chunk of glacier to break off.

How else is climate change felt?

Disrupted weather patterns are rippling around the globe, creating bizarre, almost biblical catastrophes. Extreme temperatures in the Indian Ocean caused drought and wildfires in Australia while spawning cyclones in eastern Africa. The torrential rain there created perfect conditions for desert locusts, which reproduced at terrifying rates. By March, hundreds of billions of the finger-length insects swept across the region, devouring every crop in their path, and pushing tens of millions of Africans to the brink of starvation. People are even experiencing climate change through their sinuses. Airborne pollen increases as temperatures climb, which is why residents of Alaska, where warming is happening twice as fast as the global average, report especially bad allergies. “There’s irrefutable data,” said Jeffrey Demain, director of an Alaskan allergy center.

What does the future hold?

Much depends on the oceans, which play a critical role in absorbing CO2 and heat, and regulating weather. “The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom bomb explosions,” said Lijing Cheng, a Beijing physics professor. Warming oceans are circulating more slowly — by about 15 percent in the Atlantic Ocean since 1950. The reduction in their moderating influence could cause warmer summers, colder winters, changing rainfall patterns, and more destructive storms. Climate change is no longer a theoretical threat. In California, average temperatures have climbed 1.8 degrees since 1980 while precipitation has dropped 30 percent, doubling the number of extreme-risk days for wildfires each year. A few weeks ago, rancher Taylor Craig drove for his life as flames raced toward his Northern California home. Later, sitting in a Walmart parking lot, Craig said he realized he had joined a new and growing club. “I’m a climate refugee,” he said.

A CO2 silver lining

The pandemic forced automobile and airplane travel to fall off a cliff, and satellite images of pollution in the atmosphere offered a striking before-and-after contrast. At the height of April’s coronavirus lockdowns, Google’s mobility data indicated that 4 billion people cut their travel in half. As a result, worldwide daily CO2 emissions dropped by an estimated 18.7 million tons, falling to levels not seen since 2006. Reduced car, bus, and truck traffic contributed to 43 percent of the drop-off, although emissions from residential buildings ticked up 2.8 percent, mostly from people running air conditioners while stuck at home. Scientists, however, are not celebrating. They anticipate just a 7 percent decline in carbon emissions this year, and point to historical evidence of emissions shooting back up after declines during recessions or world wars. “It goes to show just how big a challenge de-carbonization really is,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. To reach the global emissions targets of the 2015 Paris climate accord, CO2 would need to drop as it did in 2020 every year for the next decade.

Winter suddenly arrives for the Rockies three days after temperatures hit 100 degrees

NBC News

Winter suddenly arrives for the Rockies three days after temperatures hit 100 degrees

Kathryn Prociv, NBC News                         September 8, 2020
Winter suddenly arrives for the Rockies three days after temperatures hit 100 degrees

The calendar might still read early September, but the snow and cold temperatures look and feel more like early November.

As many as 15 inches of snow fell over parts of western South Dakota overnight Monday into Tuesday, with heavy snow expected to continue through the day.

Across parts of the northern and the central Rockies, including Denver, some 6 million people were under winter alerts Tuesday. Across this region, 4 to 8 inches of snow could fall, with locally higher amounts of 12 to 18 inches at the highest elevations through Wednesday. As the day broke, snow was already falling across parts of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming and moving into northern Colorado. By mid-morning Tuesday, the snow was expected to spread across Colorado and last through Wednesday morning.

Winter hadn’t just arrived through precipitation: Temperatures 30 to 40 degrees below average were forecast to lead to numerous records Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lows were forecast to dip into the teens and 20’s with wind chills in the single digits, with highs that will struggle to get out of the 30’s for several locations from the Rockies to parts of the Plains.

The widespread record cold (and associated snow) is due to an anomalously strong dip in the jet stream causing cold air to blast down from Canada. The cold plunge is actually connected to Typhoon Maysak in the Pacific last week. As the calendar turns to the fall, typhoons in the Pacific often amplify the jet stream downstream, thereby influencing the weather in North America.

IMAGE: Snow in Arvada, Colo. (@Bartleb13 / via Twitter)
IMAGE: Snow in Arvada, Colo. (@Bartleb13 / via Twitter)

 

But what makes this preseason winter blast particularly remarkable is that the same areas seeing snow Tuesday experienced a stretch of record heat, which in some places exceeded 100 degrees, only a few days ago.

Take Denver: On Saturday, the city hit 101 degrees. Not only was that a daily record high, But it also set an all-time hottest temperature record for the month of September in the city, and it was the furthest into September the city had ever hit 100. The previous record was 98 degrees, set last September.

On Monday, Denver hit a high of 93 degrees, making it the 73rd day in 2020 to exceed 90 degrees. That tied the all-time record of 73 days set in 2012.

Just 12 hours later, Denver was nearly 60 degrees colder Tuesday morning, with light snow beginning to fall around the area.

So, in three days, Denver went from a record-shattering 101 degrees to one of its earliest snowfalls on record.

From sweating to snow shovels. “Rare” barely begins to describe the climate shifts.