National changes in night light emissions, 2012-2016. Graphic: Kyba, et al., 2017 / Science Advances

By George Dvorsky
22 November 2017

(Gizmodo) – To reduce energy consumption, many jurisdictions around the world are transitioning to outdoor LED lighting. But as new research shows, this solid-state solution hasn’t yielded the expected energy savings, and potentially worse, it’s resulted in more light pollution than ever before. [more]

Using satellite-based sensors, an international team of scientists sought to understand if our planet’s surface is getting brighter or darker at night, and to determine if LEDs are saving energy at the global scale. With the introduction of solid-state lighting—such as LEDs, OLEDs, and PLEDs—it was thought (and hoped) that the transition to it from conventional lighting—like electrical filaments, gas, and plasma—would result in big energy savings. According to the latest research, however, the use of LEDs has resulted in a “rebound” effect whereby many jurisdictions have opted to use even more light owing to the associated energy savings.

Indeed, as the new results show, the amount of outdoor lighting around the world has increased during the past several years. “As a result, the world has experienced widespread ‘loss of the night,’ with half of Europe and a quarter of North America experiencing substantially modified light-dark cycles,” write the researchers in the new study, which was published today in Science Advances. […]

“I expected that wealthy countries would appear to be getting darker (even if that wasn’t truly the case). Instead, we observed wealthy countries staying constant, or in many cases increasing,” said Christopher Kyba, lead author of the study and a researcher at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, in an interview with Gizmodo. “That means that even though some cities are saving energy by switching to LEDs, other places are getting brighter by installing new or brighter lamps (that need new energy). So the data aren’t consistent with the hypothesis that on the global scale, LEDs are saving energy for outdoor lighting applications.” […]

Disturbingly, the results presented in the new study may actually be worse than the data suggests. As previously mentioned, DRB is not able to detect low-wavelength blue light, which humans can see. Our planet, therefore, is even brighter at nighttime than the data suggests.

“This study is important because it validates with data two things we have suspected: that the rate of growth of light pollution continues upward on a worldwide scale, and that the migration of outdoor lighting from older technologies to LED isn’t having the anticipated benefit in terms of global reductions in energy usage,” John Barentine, the resident physical scientist for the International Dark-Sky Association, told Gizmodo. “The latter point is especially important because a number of governments have been convinced to convert their outdoor lighting to LED on the basis of promised reductions in energy usage.” [more]

The Switch to Outdoor LED Lighting Has Completely Backfired


Geographic patterns in changes in artificial lighting. Changes are shown as an annual rate for both lit area (A) and radiance of stably lit areas (B). Annual rates are calculated based on changes over the four year period, that is, Embedded Image, where A2016 is the lit area observed in 2016. See fig. S28 for total radiance change instead of stable light radiance change. Graphic: Kyba, et al., 2017 / Science Advances

ABSTRACT: A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light. We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.

Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent

Changes in nighttime light by number of countries, measured from 2012 to 2016. Graphic: USA Today

By Doyle Rice
22 November 2017

(USA Today) – For most of humanity’s history, the night has meant darkness. That’s no longer the case.

Researchers report the artificially lit nighttime surface of our planet is growing —  in both size and brightness — in most of the world’s countries.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, scientists said Earth's artificially lit outdoor areas grew by 2.2% per year from 2012 to 2016.

Overall, some 79 nations — mainly in South America, Asia and Africa — experienced a growth in nighttime brightness during those years. Only 16 witnessed a decrease in light, including war-wracked nations such as Yemen and Syria. 

In 39 countries — including the U.S. — it stayed about the same.

“Artificial light is an environmental pollutant that threatens nocturnal animals and affects plants and microorganisms,” the study said. Study co-author Franz Holker of the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany said nighttime light has "ecological and evolutionary implications for many organisms from bacteria to mammals, including us humans, and may reshape entire social ecological systems."

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization that combats light pollution worldwide, "the increased and widespread use of artificial light at night is not only impairing our view of the universe, it is adversely affecting our environment, our safety, our energy consumption and our health."

Increases in nighttime light pollution were seen almost everywhere researchers looked, with some of the largest gains in regions that were previously unlit.

"I actually didn’t expect it to be so uniformly true that so many countries would be getting brighter," said study lead author Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany.

“Light is growing most rapidly in places that didn’t have a lot of light to start with," Kyba said. “That means that the fastest rates of increase are occurring in places that so far hadn’t been very strongly affected by light pollution.” [more]

Farewell to night? Light pollution reducing darkness worldwide

Offshore processing centre for asylum seekers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Australian Government DIBP

21 November 2017 (United Nations) – Three weeks following the closure of the Manus Island regional processing centre, the situation on the ground is very serious and deteriorates by the day, a senior United Nations official on protection of refugees has said.

“Without distribution of food and clean water over the last three weeks [and] significant accumulation of waste and rubbish in the hot and humid weather, the health and sanitation is becoming a very significant issue,” Nai Jit Lam, Deputy Regional Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), currently on Manus Island, told journalists in Geneva over the phone.

“The people that we have spoken to are extremely angry and they see this as an opportunity to tell the world and to show the world, years of anger about how they have been treated over the four years, after being forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea,” he added.

According to the UN refugee agency, the conditions and the lack of medicines, increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers at the former facility are falling physically and mentally unwell. Alternative accommodation and services outside the facility are still under construction and it could be another two weeks before they are ready.

“We have observed [concerns] regarding security and the lack of interpreters on the Island, that brings about the issue of how they would communicate with local people or even the police as well,” added the UNHCR official, noting that local contractual disputes hinder staffing of caseworkers to look after the wellbeing of those there, and tensions with local community also remains.

Calling on Australian authorities for an active role resolve the situation, which Mr. Lam said that is a result of the forcible transfer of people, refugees and asylum seekers by Australia to Papua New Guinea and Nauru under its offshore policy.

“Australia must take responsibility for the protection, assistance, and solutions for the refugees here on Manus Island,” he stressed.

According to the UN refugee agency, Manus Island (located some 320 kilometres or 200 miles off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea) has been the focus of Australia’s off-shore processing policy. Of the approximately 3,000 refugees and asylum-seekers forcibly transferred by Australia to facilities in Nauru and Manus, some 1,200 remain in Nauru and 900 in Papua New Guinea.

Situation on Australian ‘offshore processing’ facility deteriorates by the day – UN refugee official

Neighbors of Quintín Vidal Rolón read Bible verses in his memory on 15 November 2017. Quintín Vidal Rolón, 89, survived Hurricane Maria but not its aftermath. Photo: CNN

By John D. Sutter, Leyla Santiago and Khushbu Shah
21 November 2017

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) – Puerto Rico is asking for help with its efforts to tally deaths from Hurricane Maria.

Héctor M. Pesquera, secretary of Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety, issued a statement Monday night imploring local funeral home directors to provide the government with more information about possible hurricane-related deaths.

"As I have expressed since the beginning of the emergency, any citizen or relative who has evidence or proof that a death is directly or indirectly related to Hurricane Maria, and still has not been accounted for, can send information for our consideration to investigate," said Pesquera, whose department oversees the count.

The statement follows an investigation into the death toll by CNN, which found dozens if not hundreds of deaths possibly related to the September 20 storm may be uncounted by the government. CNN surveyed 112 funeral homes across the US territory; and funeral home directors identified 499 deaths they claimed were related to Hurricane Maria.

    That's nine times the official death toll, which is 55.

    We were able to collect information from only about half the island's funeral homes.

    "Currently, no funeral home has provided the government with specific information of a death case believed to be related to the event that they believe should be added to those already counted," Pesquera's statement says. […]

    "Now we know why officials in PR Government are asking funeral homes for the info: true journalism," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz wrote in a tweet on Monday night. The mayor has been a critic of the official death toll. [more]

    After CNN investigation, Puerto Rico asks funeral homes to help identify hurricane deaths

    Pharrell Williams. Photo: Mario Sorrenti / W Magazine

    By Marissa G. Muller
    15 November 2017

    (W Magazine) – Pharrell Williams just dropped a new song, but you'll have to wait until 2117 to hear it. That is, unless you were one of the 100 people he premiered it to—who were prohibited from recording it—in Shanghai at a listening party thrown by Louis XIII cognac, which teamed up with Pharrell on the project designed to raise awareness for climate change. Fittingly dubbed "100 years," the song is a statement about the disastrous effect humans have on the environment, including a rising sea level. If humans continue to contribute to the rising sea level, however, even in 100 years people may not get to hear the song as it's currently being stored in a clay vessel that will be destroyed should its storage unit ever flood.

    If Pharrell's elaborate attempt to curb climate change doesn't sway you to change your consumption habits and encourage everyone else around you to do so as well, perhaps his words will. “I want to be really clear that I am not a tree hugger," he told Vogue. "I think it’s important that every human being—from the most eco-aware person to someone that’s driving a diesel truck—always has a sense of terrestrial awareness. That’s what it boils down to.”

    For Pharrell, change also boils down to passing the baton from the current generation making policies to the next one. “They don’t need to hear it as much as the old folks," he said of climate change. "These kids don’t feel there’s a necessity to own a car—they’ll Uber or they’ll Lyft. They don’t feel like they have to have a big house on the hill—they will Airbnb. They were born into a shared space. The older generation was sold the American dream that was like, ‘Okay, you have to own a house, you have to have two cars, you need the picket fence.’ That was a marketing scheme. Kids now are like, ‘Those are your rules.’ They have a different appreciation of how to treat the world. They think about things in a very different way. It’s this: Don’t try to live up to a super high standard, but be aware. Be aware of how you can contribute. That’s how we’ll realistically get it done.” [more]

    Pharrell's Song That Won't Be Released for "100 Years" is a Statement About Climate Change

    An Indian man rides a bike amid heavy smog on a street of New Delhi on 10 November 2017. Photo: Dominique Faget / AFP / Getty Images

    By Santosh Harish
    20 November 2017

    (Forbes Asia) – For most of November, Delhi has been blanketed by dense smog. Doctors in the capital declared the crisis a public healthy emergency, while the chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, called it a “gas chamber.” Since the beginning of the month, average pollution levels in the city have exceeded 10 times the World Health Organization-recommended 24-hour levels. At its worst, pollution levels were nearly 40 times this number.

    But pollution is not just a Delhi problem. Indian cities are consistently ranked among Asia’s most polluted, according to WHO. Per the WHO's 2016 database, 10 of the world's most polluted cities, in terms of fine particulate matter, are in India.

    Particulate matter pollution is the single largest environmental health risk across the world. These particles led to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015-2016-more deaths than from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS combined. A recent study from the Energy Policy Institute at University of Chicago (EPIC), on the impact of prolonged exposure to particulates, finds that an increase in particulate pollution (PM10) by 10 micrograms per cubic meter reduces lifespans by 0.6 years. For Delhi, that means average life expectancy could increase by about 6 years if particulate concentrations were brought down to national standards. Many other cities in North India would see similar benefits, including Agra (5 year gain), Bareilly (4.7 year gain) and Lucknow (4.5 year gain).

    Particulate pollution comes from many sources: vehicles, industrial plants, biomass burns and dust generated by construction or traffic on poorly asphalted roads. Reducing smog and improving air quality in Indian cities over the long term requires an approach that targets each source of pollution.

    What’s missing from the conversation

    While tackling pollution from vehicles and traffic have been widely discussed, a conspicuous absence in the current discussion has been industrial pollution reforms.

    Map of the cities in India and China with the worst air pollution. Data: WHO. Graphic: Nick DeSantis / Forbes

    Environmental regulations in India, especially for industrial pollution, are long overdue for an overhaul. State Pollution Control Boards are desperately understaffed. The environment acts have not kept pace with changing times. And, continued reliance on stringent command-and-control structures has proven to be ineffective because they are often unenforceable. Non-compliance is a criminal offense under the Air Act, and while Indian emissions standards are typically less stringent than in developed countries, dragging plants routinely to the courts and prison is fundamentally unfeasible. [more]

    Delhi's Deadly Air: How India Is Falling Short On Fighting Pollution

    Global Warming Index from Jan 1950 to May 2017 for HadCRUT4. The anthropogenic contribution in orange (with 5–95% confidence interval). The natural contribution (solar and volcanic) in blue. The red line shows the combined (total) externally-driven temperature change. The dark red line shows the evolution of the GWI when only past forcing and temperature data are used. It starts in 1944 - the time when a human-induced warming signal can first be detected - followed by a new data point for each month up until May 2017. The evolution of the red line indicates the degree of month-to-month variability of the index. The thin black line are the monthly (HadCRUT4) GMST data. For illustration, blue diamonds indicate when major climate summits took place in context of the monthly GMST at that time. Graphic: Haustein, et al., 2017 / Scientific Reports

    13 November 2017 (University of Oxford) – A new index of warming due to human influence on climate is released today in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. It exceeded 1°C above mid-19th-century levels in 2017 and is rising faster than ever before, leaving little time to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

    "Global temperatures may be pushed up temporarily by El Niño events or down by volcanic eruptions. We combine temperature observations with measurements of drivers of climate change to provide an up-to-date estimate of the contribution of human influence to global warming", explains Karsten Haustein, who led the study.

    The level of human-induced warming reached 1.02°C above the average for 1850-79 in November 2017 (with a 5-95% uncertainty range of 0.88-1.22°C) based on HadCRUT4 temperature dataset from the UK Met Office, or 1.08°C when estimated using a version of HadCRUT4 (Cowtan/Way) that interpolates over poorly-sampled regions like the Arctic.

    This figure is updated continuously on www.globalwarmingindex.org

    "This 'Global Warming Index' has been increasing continuously since the 19th century, with no pause in recent decades", Haustein continues. "It has risen at a rate of 0.16°C per decade over the past 20 years, and is expected to average 0.96°C above 1850-79 for the decade 2010-2019. Worryingly, it appears to be accelerating, despite the recent slow-down in carbon dioxide emissions, because of trends in other climate pollutants, notably methane."

    "A robust, continuously-updated index of human-induced warming - the only component of global temperatures we have any control over - is essential to monitor progress towards meeting temperature goals" notes David Frame, a study co-author. "We hope the 'Global Warming Index' will provide this essential information to the UNFCCC process."

    Using our index in conjunction with carbon budget estimates based on current emissions, the remaining time until we cross the (anthropogenic) warming target of 1.5°C or 2°C can be monitored continuously as well on www.climateclock.net

    The paper is freely available online at www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14828-5.

    These results will be presented to delegates of the UNFCCC COP23 at a side-event "Measuring progress towards Paris Agreement goals: aligning science and policy". Venue: Bonn Zone Meeting Room 11, 15:00-16:30, Monday 13 November.

    New index of human influence on global temperature is rising faster than ever


    ABSTRACT: We propose a simple real-time index of global human-induced warming and assess its robustness to uncertainties in climate forcing and short-term climate fluctuations. This index provides improved scientific context for temperature stabilisation targets and has the potential to decrease the volatility of climate policy. We quantify uncertainties arising from temperature observations, climate radiative forcings, internal variability and the model response. Our index and the associated rate of human-induced warming is compatible with a range of other more sophisticated methods to estimate the human contribution to observed global temperature change.

    A real-time Global Warming Index

    James Hansen in Bonn: he and his fellow NASA researchers first raised the alarm about global warming in the 1980s. Photo: Friedemann Vogel / EPA

    By Jonathan Watts
    17 November 2017

    (The Guardian) – One of the fathers of climate science is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying action on what he describes as the growing, mortal threat of global warming.

    Former NASA scientist James Hansen says the litigate-to-mitigate campaign is needed alongside political mobilisation because judges are less likely than politicians to be in the pocket of oil, coal and gas companies.

    “The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on,” he told the Guardian on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Bonn.

    Without Hansen and his fellow NASA researchers who raised the alarm about the effect of carbon emissions on global temperatures in the 1980s, it is possible that none of the thousands of delegates from almost 200 countries would be here.

    But after three decades, he has been largely pushed to the fringes. Organisers have declined his request to speak directly to the delegates about what he sees as a threat that is still massively underestimated.

    Instead he spreads his message through press conferences and interviews, where he cuts a distinctive figure as an old testament-style prophet in an Indiana Jones hat.

    He does not mince his words. The international process of the Paris accord, he says, is “eyewash” because it fails to put a higher price on carbon. National legislation, he feels, is almost certainly doomed to fail because governments are too beholden to powerful lobbyists. Even supposedly pioneering states like California, which have a carbon cap-and-trade system, are making things worse, he said, because “half-arsed, half-baked plans only delay a solution.”

    For Hansen, the key is to make the 100 big “carbon majors” – corporations like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell that are, by one account, responsible for more than 70% of emissions – pay for the transition to cleaner energy and greater forests. Until governments make them do so by introducing carbon fees or taxes, he says, the best way to hold them to account and generate funds is to sue them for the damage they are doing to the climate, those affected and future generations. […]

    He feels a growing sense of urgency. Current government commitments are so inadequate that temperature rises are currently on course to exceed 3C by the end of the century. Hansen says that would mean existing problems – rising sea levels, displacement by flooding, droughts disrupting food production, wildfires consuming forests, worsening storms and hurricanes – would get three times worse.

    “Three degrees would be disastrous. You can imagine the planet becoming ungovernable because we would lose the coastal cities where most people live … You’ll see migrants from those parts of the world and also so much disruption to the centres of wealth. So we can’t go down that path.” [more]

    'We should be on the offensive' – James Hansen calls for wave of climate lawsuits

    By Faiz Siddiqui and Kelyn Soong
    19 November 2017

    (the Washington Post) – Demonstrators packed the Mall on Sunday for a Unity March in support of disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

    Puerto Rican flags flapped in the wind as speakers made impassioned pleas for funding and support for Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The hurricane made landfall in September and devastated the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people.

    By afternoon, hundreds had amassed in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the Unity March for Puerto Rico. Many more had showed up in the morning to march from the U.S. Capitol, down Independence Avenue toward the Lincoln Memorial, as marchers observed attendance in the thousands.

    Evelyn Mejil, Sunday’s event organizer, said the demonstration was a powerful display of unity behind the efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico. She said the event came together amid a tense personal struggle; she didn’t hear from her family for two weeks.

    “It was a combination of frustration, anger, sadness, desperation, anxiety,” Mejil said.

    Mejil, 40, who lives in northern New Jersey, learned that her relatives lost their homes.

    “When you get that feeling of powerless and voiceless, I thought that something needed to be done.”

    Hundreds of demonstrators amass in front of the Lincoln Memorial for a Unity March in support of disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, 19 November 2017. Photo: Kelyn Soong / Twitter

    She characterized the rally as a success.

    “I think everyone was able to unify and be one message, which is, ‘We’re here for Puerto Rico and we’re going to continue to make sure we put pressure on Congress so that we do the right thing for Puerto Rico.’” [more]

    Puerto Rico Unity March draws demonstrators in rally for disaster aid

     

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