How are U.S. CO2 emissions changing?

The recent EIA report Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005 (10/29/18) provides the graphic (copied here) showing the changes of the source of electricity generation and corresponding changes in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2017.

Electricity related CO2 emissions declined but not all sectors decreased. The EIA report U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2017 (9/25/18) provides a detailed analysis of U.S. CO2 emissions.  Figure 4 (copied here) from the report shows that transportation related CO2 emissions have grown, although they haven’t reached pre 2008 levels. This report contains 11 graph and 2 tables with downloadable data.

Overall U.S. CO2 emissions have declined in the last three years (see figure 1 in the second report), but unfortunately according to the IEA after little change from 2014-2016:

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes, a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat.

Further, according to the Quartz article Instead of falling, global emissions are set to rise in 2018 by Akshat Rathi (10/8/18)

“When I look at the first nine months of data, I expect in 2018 carbon emissions will increase once again. This is definitely worrying news for our climate goals,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, told the Guardian. “We need to see a steep decline in emissions. We are not seeing even flat emissions.”

Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research says he agrees with Birol’s assessment. Emissions from both China and the US, the world’s two largest emitters, are up in the first nine months of the year. The reason is likely tied to strong economic growth, according to Peters.


Who votes?

The Pew Research Center article U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout by Drew Desilver (5/21/18) provides a summary of voting percentages by country in the chart copied here (data available). In terms of the percent of eligible voters, the U.S. is near the bottom with 56% voting n 2016, although once registered the turnout is 87%. This is the second largest spread of the percent voting between eligible voters and registered voters.  In the U.S., if you want to keep someone from voting, keep them from registering.

A more detailed look at voting by county is available  in the Washington Post article The geography of voting — and not voting by 

The Post article has other maps and details that can be used in a QL course. The Pew article contains data that can be used in a stats class. Go vote tomorrow!

How do we take the temperature of the oceans?

APO is atmospheric potential oxygen.

The recent BBC article Climate change: Oceans ‘soaking up more heat than estimated’  b

The key element is the fact that as waters get warmer they release more carbon dioxide and oxygen into the air.

“When the ocean warms, the amount of these gases that the ocean is able to hold goes down,” said Dr Resplandy.

“So what we measured was the amount lost by the oceans, and then we can calculate how much warming we need to explain that change in gases.”

The image here is copied from the original article in Nature, Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and COcomposition by Resplandy et. el (10/31/18) . The abstract to the paper provides a nice summary:

The ocean is the main source of thermal inertia in the climate system1. During recent decades, ocean heat uptake has been quantified by using hydrographic temperature measurements and data from the Argo float program, which expanded its coverage after 20072,3. However, these estimates all use the same imperfect ocean dataset and share additional uncertainties resulting from sparse coverage, especially before 20074,5. Here we provide an independent estimate by using measurements of atmospheric oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2)—levels of which increase as the ocean warms and releases gases—as a whole-ocean thermometer. We show that the ocean gained 1.33 ± 0.20  × 1022 joules of heat per year between 1991 and 2016, equivalent to a planetary energy imbalance of 0.83 ± 0.11 watts per square metre of Earth’s surface. We also find that the ocean-warming effect that led to the outgassing of O2 and CO2 can be isolated from the direct effects of anthropogenic emissions and CO2 sinks. Our result—which relies on high-precision O2 measurements dating back to 19916—suggests that ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates, with implications for policy-relevant measurements of the Earth response to climate change, such as climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases7 and the thermal component of sea-level rise8.

The paper has other interesting graphs that could be used in a QL based class. For a calculus class, the graph here is an example of the use of the Δx notation in the “real world”.

Will this be an warmer El Niño winter?

The NOAA article Another mild winter? NOAA’s 2018-19 winter outlook by Mike Halpert (10/22/18) discusses the likelihood of El Niño this winter and the impact on temperatures.  The discussion of prediction and probabilities can be used in QL and stats courses:

I again remind readers (if this seems repetitive, well, it is) that these forecasts are provided in terms of probabilities (% chance) for below, near, or above average outcomes with the maps showing only the most likely outcome (1).  Because the probabilities on these and all CPC outlook maps are less than 100%, there is no guarantee you will see temperature or precipitation departures from normal that match the color on the map.  As we’ve explained in earlier blog posts, even when one outcome is more likely than another, there is still always a chance that a less favored outcome will occur.  And in fact, for the forecasts to be reliable (a critical part of a probabilistic forecast), less likely outcomes MUST happen from time to time.

There is also interesting material regarding weak, moderate, and strong  El Niño events and the graph (copied here) which shows the historic impact of different strength events.

This lack of consistency reflects that a weaker El Niño does not exert a strong push (or forcing) on the U.S.  If we have a stronger El Niño, the big push from the vigorous tropical heating sets off a cascade of global impacts, including changes in the strength and position of the jet stream that affects U.S. weather, which tends to dominate over other factors that could impact the outlook.  Because of an expected smaller push from El Niño, however, other climate patterns are more likely to play a larger role in shaping the upcoming winter.  These patterns, like the Arctic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, can have a profound impact on the character of the winter, but are quite challenging to predict months in advance.

Go to the article if you’d like to see the prediction for this year, but first try providing your own probabilistic estimates for next year. There is similar graph and discussion regarding precipitation.

How are climatic zones changing?

The Yale Environment 360 article Redrawing the Map: How the World’s Climate Zones Are Shifting  by Nicola Jones (10/23/18)  provides animated maps, such as the one below, and quantitative statements about changing ecology including rates (great for a calculus class):

Lauren Parker and John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho tracked what would happen to hardiness zones from 2041 to 2070 under future global warming scenarios, and found the lines will continue to march northward at a “climate velocity” of 13.3 miles per decade.

One study in northern Canada found that the permafrost around James Bay had retreated 80 miles north over 50 years. Studies of ground temperatures in boreholes have also revealed frightening rates of change, says Schafer. “What we’re seeing is 20 meters down, it’s increasing as high as 1-2 degrees C per decade,” he says. “In the permafrost world that’s a really rapid change. Extremely rapid.”

North America is seeing the opposite phenomenon: Its arable land is romping northward, expanding the wheat belt into higher and higher latitudes. Scientists project it could go from about 55 degrees north today to as much as 65 degrees North — the latitude of Fairbanks, Alaska — by 2050. That’s about 160 miles per decade.

The article includes potential ramifications of these changes along with other quantitative information.

Graphic: Hardiness zones in the U.S., which track average low temperatures in winter, have all shifted northward by half a zone warmer since 1990. SOURCE: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. GRAPHIC BY KATIE PEEK.

How much have fall nighttime temperatures risen?

According to the Climate Central post, Fall Nights Are Warming in Our Changing Climate (10/17/18), of 244 cities in the U.S., 83 percent have average fall low temperatures on the rise. For example, the graph here is for NYC. Why does this matter:

Warming fall nights mean more than just a delay in pulling out those comfortable sweaters and drinking hot apple cider. The lack of cool nights effectively lengthens the summer, as the first frost of the year also comes later. While warm-weather fans may celebrate, this also means that disease-carrying pests like mosquitoes and ticks will persist longer before dying off in the winter. Nationally, the long-term warming trend has lengthened the growing season by two weeks compared to the beginning of the 20th century. The allergy season is also getting longer, with ragweed pollens not disappearing until the first freeze of the fall.

The article has a drop down menu to select cities across the U.S. to see a graph similar to the one copied here for the selected city.  They don’t post the data that was used to create the graphs, but they do explain their data sources under methodology.

A statistics project could have students create this graph for their hometown.  One way to obtain the data was noted in our post, What do we know about nighttime minimum temperatures?: Go to  NOAA’s Local Climatological Data Map. Click on the wrench under Layers. Use the rectangle tool to select your local weather station. Check off the station and Add to Cart. Follow the direction from their being sure to select csv file. You will get an email link for the data within a day.  Note: You are limited in the size of the data to ten year periods. You will need to do this more than once to get the full data set available for your station.

What is the relationship between rates of suspension by race and free and reduced lunch?

Propublica’s article, Miseducation – Is There Racial Inequality at Your School? by  Lena V. Groeger, Annie Waldman and David Eads, (10/16/18), provides data by state on the percent of nonwhite students, the percent of students who get free/reduced-price lunch, high school graduation rate, the number of times White students are likely to be in an AP class as compared to Black students, and the number of times Black students are likely to be suspended as compared to White students. The comparison is also available for Hispanic students.

The graph here was created with their data and compares the percent of students on free and reduced lunch with the number of times Black students are likely to be suspended  compared to White students (state data isn’t available for HI, ID, MT, NH, NM, OR, UT, or WY).  The red lines uses all the data where as the blue line removes the outliers of DC and ND. The blue regression line has a p-value of 0.012 and R-squared of 0.15.  This suggests that wealthier states, as measured by free and reduced lunch programs, have a greater disparity is suspensions between black and white students. The impact of outliers is instructive here and there are other scatter plots worth graphing from the article. There are also statistics projects waiting to be created with this data.

The article also has an interactive map or racial disparities by districts, but the map can be misleading based on missing data from districts. Can you see how?  This makes the map itself useful for QL courses.  R Script that created this graph. Companion csv file.

Who misses school the most?

The EPI article,  Student absenteeism – Who misses school and how missing school matters for performance by Emma García and Elaine Weiss (9/25/18) provides a detailed account of absenteeism based on race and gender.  For example, their chart here is the percent of students that missed three or more days in the month prior to the 2015 NAEP mathematics assessment. There are noticeable differences. For instance, the percentage of Black, White, and Asian (non ELL) that missed three or more days in the month is 23%, 18.3%, and 8.8% respectively.

Why does this matter?

In general, the more frequently children missed school, the worse their performance. Relative to students who didn’t miss any school, those who missed some school (1–2 school days) accrued, on average, an educationally small, though statistically significant, disadvantage of about 0.10 standard deviations (SD) in math scores (Figure D and Appendix Table 1, first row). Students who missed more school experienced much larger declines in performance. Those who missed 3–4 days or 5–10 days scored, respectively, 0.29 and 0.39 standard deviations below students who missed no school. As expected, the harm to performance was much greater for students who were absent half or more of the month. Students who missed more than 10 days of school scored nearly two-thirds (0.64) of a standard deviation below students who did not miss any school. All of the gaps are statistically significant, and together they identify a structural source of academic disadvantage.

These results “… identify the distinct association between absenteeism and performance, net of other factors that are known to influence performance?”  The article has 12 graphs or charts, with data available for each, including one that reports p-values.

What is in the new IPCC report?

The is too much in the new IPCC report (released this week) to cover here, but we can highlight a couple of points. The first is their graph copied here.  The main graph provides projections for change in global temperature based on what happens to CO2 and non-CO2 radiative forcing gasses.  For example, if net CO2 emissions reach zero by 2055 (CO2 emitted minus CO2 absorbed graph b) and non-CO2 gases are reduces (graph d), then we are likely to stay below the 1.5 °C threshold.  What the graph does not say is what happens if society does nothing.

We recently posted about see level and here is an excerpt from the report about that:

Model-based projections of global mean sea level rise (relative to 1986-2005) suggest an indicative range of 0.26 to 0.77 m by 2100 for 1.5°C global warming, 0.1 m (0.04-0.16 m) less than for a global warming of 2°C (medium confidence). A reduction of 0.1 m in global sea level rise implies that up to 10 million fewer people would be exposed to related risks, based on population in the year 2010 and assuming no adaptation (medium confidence). {3.4.4, 3.4.5, 4.3.2}

The executive summary and/or the graphs could be used in QL rich courses.

Who perceives our economic system as fair or not fair?

The Pew Research Center’s article Partisans are divided over the fairness of the U.S. economy – and why people are rich or poor by Amina Dunn (10/4/18) provides interesting results about perceptions of our economic system.

Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (63%) say the nation’s economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, compared with a third (33%) who say it is generally fair to most Americans, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. While overall views on this question are little changed in recent years, the partisan divide has grown.

For the first time since the Center first asked the question in 2014, a clear majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (57%) now say the economic system is generally fair to most Americans. As recently as the spring of 2016, a 54% majority of Republicans took the view that the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests.

And while wide majorities of Democrats and Democratic leaners have long said that the U.S. economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, the share who say this has increased since 2016 – from 76% then to 84% today.