The science laid out in a new U.N. report is clear and stark: Our fossil-fueled economy has irreversibly changed the global climate. Less certain is whether we’ll change lifestyles to confront rising seas and supercharged storms, according to scientists and policy analysts.
A first-of-its-kind coal-fired power plant retrofitted with technology to capture and store most of the carbon dioxide produced at one of its boilers officially began operations this week in Saskatchewan, Canada. Meanwhile, a similar project in Illinois to demonstrate a cleaner way to burn the world’s most abundant fossil fuel remains in legal and financial limbo.
Whether the U.S. government-backed project in Meredosia, Ill., will advance so-called carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology is an open question, but experts deem the technology itself vital if the world hopes to stand any practical chance at staving off catastrophic climate change.
And CCS is being propelled forward by pollution-control measures such as the Obama admnistration’s proposed rules to limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
In a bid to stave off the dire effects of global warming on human health and the environment, the White House on Monday unveiled a new plan to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.
“That’s like cancelling out annual carbon pollution from two-thirds of all cars and trucks in America,” Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in announcing the new rules.
Ships packed with frozen mackerel and herring will sail in convoy behind a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker from Norway to Asia this summer along the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean — a trial run as companies rush to capitalize on the world’s hunger for fish and to extract minerals from the top of the world.
Dozens of ships now transit the Arctic each year amid decreasing summer ice — in 2013,71 vessels plied the Northern Sea Route, including the first container ship. In another first, a bulk carrier transited coal through the famed Northwest Passage on a voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Finland. And that traffic is only likelier to get busier.
Hundreds more ships “go up to the Arctic and perform some activity and then they come out,” Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, explained to NBC News. Most of these ships transport equipment to mines and other industrial sites and leave with commodities such as oil, gas, copper, nickel, and iron ore.
Earthquakes like the one that woke residents from their beds on March 10 in Poland Township, Ohio, might become a more frequent occurrence in areas where fracking is becoming big business. Scientists are reporting mounting evidence that tremors can be tied to the much-debated drilling technique and related activities. What’s not clear is who might be held responsible for the quakes.
Fracking refers to the method the petroleum industry uses to break apart chunks of shale rock deep within the earth to free trapped oil and gas. Geologists in Ohio established a “probable connection” between fracking and the magnitude 3.0 quake on March 10. In Oklahoma, geologists report a spike in earthquakes associated with injecting into deep underground wells the wastewater generated during fracking operations.
The heightened awareness of seismic activity associated with fracking and wastewater injection raises the question of who is responsible should an earthquake occur that causes damage to people or their property.
Trains loaded with crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation rumble past the outfield bleachers of the Seattle Mariners’ baseball stadium several times a week. From there, the trains head north, their cargo destined for multiple refineries in Washington State.
The traffic is new: Just three years ago, no oil trains were coming to Washington. Bakken crude is filling a void created by dwindling shipments from aging oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, and the petroleum industry wants to bring in more. But the push to build more rail and shipping capacity in the Pacific Northwest is spurring debate over how that oil flow will affect the region—and where it should ultimately go.
A quarter-century after 10.8 million gallons of crude oil gushed from the Exxon Valdez and scarred Alaska’s Prince William Sound, oil spill responders fear that another disaster looms in more remote Alaskan waters where ship traffic is on the rise, due in part to the North American energy boom.
The largest concern centers on the Arctic, where oil exploration and development is progressing in fits and starts, and Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands, a choke point on a major shipping route between North America and Asia. Both regions are expected to see increased traffic as summer sea ice disappears and producers of North American crude oil and coal look to export fossil fuels to Asia.