Countries reached a deal aimed at staving off dangerous climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases.
The pact also presses for more urgent emission cuts and promises more money for developing countries – to help them adapt to climate impacts.
However, the pledges don’t go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.
A commitment to phase out coal that was included in earlier negotiation drafts led to a dramatic finish after India led opposition to it.
India’s climate minister Bhupender Yadav asked how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they “have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication”.
In the end, countries agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, amid expressions of disappointment by some. COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for how events had unfolded.
Alok Sharma fought back tears as he told delegates that it was vital to protect the agreement as a whole.
As part of the agreement, countries will meet next year to pledge further major carbon cuts with the aim of reaching the 1.5C goal. Current pledges, if fulfilled, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.
If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, scientists say the Earth is likely to experience severe effects such as millions more people being exposed to extreme heat.
Despite the weakening of language around coal, some observers will still see the deal as a victory, underlining that it is the first time coal is explicitly mentioned in UN documents of this type.
Coal is responsible for about 40% of annual CO2 emissions, making it central in efforts to keep within the 1.5C target. To meet this goal, agreed in Paris in 2015, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and to nearly zero by mid-century.
Finance was a contentious issue during the conference. A pledge by developed nations to provide $100 billion per year to emerging economies, made in 2009, was supposed to have been delivered by 2020. However, the date was missed.
It was designed to help developing nations adapt to climate effects and make the transition to clean energy. In an effort to mollify delegates, Alok Sharma said around $500 billion would be mobilized by 2025.
Main achievements of the Glasgow Climate Pact:
Re-visiting emissions-cutting plans next year to try to keep 1.5C target reachable
The first ever inclusion of a commitment to limit coal use
Kim Jong-un called on North Korean officials to deal with food supply issues and highlighted the danger of climate change.
In 2020, typhoons badly impacted vital crops, while weeks of drought followed by heavy monsoon rains have damaged them this year as well.
The North Korean leader said measures to overcome “abnormal climate” were needed, and asked also officials to tackle drought and floods.
Kim Jong-un’s comments came in a speech to the ruling party’s Politburo on September 2.
He had said that the “danger” of climate change had become “higher in recent years adding that “urgent action” needed to be taken.
Kim Jong-un also called for improvements to North Korea’s flood management infrastructure saying: “River improvement, afforestation for erosion control, dyke maintenance and tide embankment projects”, should be prioritized.
Apart from the damage caused by natural disasters, North Korea’s economy has been hit hard by international sanctions, as well as border closures and harsh lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Although North Korea has not reported any Covid-19 cases, it has sealed its borders and imposed lockdowns.
The border closures have affected vital imports from China.
“Tightening epidemic prevention is the task of paramount importance which must not be loosened even a moment under the present situation,” said Kim Jong-un, according to state media.
In Canada, heat warnings have been issued for parts of the provinces of
Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Daytime temperatures in Toronto could feel
like 104F on July 19 and 20, when humidity is factored in. Severe thunderstorms
are also expected.
Canadian meteorologists say that in Montreal the temperature could feel like 113F with humidity over the next two days.
US meteorologists say the heat wave is expected to continue through the
weekend, and some cities may see their highest temperatures in years.
In some cities it might feel as hot as in California’s Death Valley – a desert region known for its extreme heat. But they say a dramatic change is on the way early next week, when it is expected to suddenly cool off.
A newly discovered amphibian that buries its head in the sand has been named after President Donald Trump, apparently in response to his comments about climate change.
The Dermophis donaldtrumpi, which was discovered in Panama, was named by the head of a company that had bid $25,000 at auction for the privilege.
EnviroBuild said it wanted to raise awareness about climate change.
The company’s co-founder Aidan Bell in a statement: “[Dermophis donaldtrumpi] is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and is therefore in danger of becoming extinct as adirect result of its namesake’s climate policies.”
The small, blind, amphibian is a type of caecilian that primarily lives underground, and Aidan Bell drew an unflattering comparison between its behavior and President Trump’s.
He wrote: “Burrowing [his] head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change.”
The amphibian is not the first creature to be named after Donald Trump.
In 2017, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, was discovered by biologist Vazrick Nazari in a collection of moths from the Museum of Entomology, at the University of California. Vazrick Nazari said the moth’s unique head coloring reminded him of President Trump.
The assessment says: “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states.”
It also notes that the effects of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country, including more frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events.
However, the report says that projections of future catastrophe could change if society works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “to adapt to the changes that will occur”.
Last month, President Donald Trump accused climate change scientists of having a “political agenda”, telling Fox News he was unconvinced that humans were responsible for the earth’s rising temperatures.
After taking office, President Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, which commits another 187 other countries to keeping rising global temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels.
At the time, President Trump said he wanted to negotiate a new “fair” deal that would not disadvantage US businesses and workers.
Earth Day is observed every year on April 22, when more than one billion people across the world mark the event by showing support for environmental protection.
Festivals, rallies and outdoor events are held in nearly 200 countries – often, with the support of A-list celebrities and political leaders.
Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 and aims to encourage people across the world to be more environmentally friendly.
This might mean increasing the amount they recycle, volunteering for a local green project or installing solar panels in their home.
The very first event for Earth Day, which was held in America following a devastating oil spill, is credited as the beginning of the modern environmental movement. The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.
April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date to celebrate Earth Day.
The height of counterculture in the US, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. War raged in Vietnam and students nationwide overwhelmingly opposed it.
Since its launch, Earth Day has been supported by an array of famous people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Watson.
Now it is coordinated globally by the non-profit Earth Day Network, which describes it as “the largest secular holiday in the world”.
Each year, festivals, parades and rallies are held in at least 192 countries to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
Earth Day has its own flag, which was created by peace activist John McConnell and features a picture of the world on it.
It also has its own anthems – one of which is performed to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, but with lyrics about protecting the planet.
In 2017, more than one billion people are expected to celebrate Earth Day. Earth Day 2017’s Campaign is Environmental & Climate Literacy.
Some 171 countries signed the Paris climate deal at United Nations headquarters on April 22 – a record number for a new international treaty.
About 15 nations, mainly small island states, had already ratified the agreement.
However, dozens of other countries were required to take this second step before the pact came into force.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Paris will shape the lives of all future generations a profound way – it is their future that is at stake.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ban Ki-moon said the planet was experiencing record temperatures: “We are in a race against time I urge all countries to join the agreement at the national level.”
“Today we are signing a new covenant for the future.”
As the world marked the 46th Earth Day, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres explained what now needed to happened.
“Most countries, though not all, need to take the signed document and go back home and go to ratification procedures that in most countries requires parliamentary discussion and decision.”
Even though the US and China represent around 38% of global emissions, getting to the 55% figure will not be that easy.
The EU, which represents just under 10% of global CO2, will take a considerable amount of time as each of the 28 members has to ratify it themselves.
That is unlikely to begin until the EU can agree how much of the carbon cutting each country will have to undertake.
Small island states were upset with this approach.
President Barack Obama is also keen to see the new agreement take effect before he leaves office next January. A little known clause in the treaty means it would take four years if a new leader, less committed to climate action, wanted to take the US out of the agreement.
Other countries are also aware of this and are watching the US election process very closely.
China said it would “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G20 summit in China in September.
There is obvious delight here in New York at the record turnout of countries and leaders to sign the agreement. However, some attendees are cautioning that this is merely the first rung on a very difficult ladder.
Climate change has been a very heated topic in the U.S. for several years now. At first hailed as a hoax by many conservative politicians, climate change is now widely viewed as a very real and proven threat caused by humans. However, several states that face some of the worst effects of global warming are still either rejecting climate change entirely or very grudgingly beginning to make minor changes to better prepare for these effects.
Two States in Denial
Both North Carolina and Florida, two states that border the ocean, one of which is entirely surrounded by water, are known for their controversial and outdated views on climate change. North Carolina and Florida stand to receive some of the worst effects of climate change, such as increasing sea levels that could force many residents to abandon their homes.
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports the climate change theory, these states’ governments have taken elaborate steps to quiet environmentalists and scientific reports, and condemn the climate change theory as false.
After receiving a report that detailed how sea levels along the coast would rise as much as 39 inches over a span of 100 years, the General Assembly outlawed any communities from passing new laws based on the information provided in the report.
The popular Comedy Central TV show, The Colbert Report, made North Carolina’s ruling national news when it ridiculed the state government’s decision on air. Due to the backlash North Carolina’s government received from this, the state finally accepted a new report in 2015 that laws could be based on, reversing the decision to essentially outlaw climate change. However, the new report shows less dire sea level increases since it only looks ahead about 30 years. Hardly a victory for passionate environmental residents in North Carolina hoping to see real changes being made.
Florida, on the other hand, is still actively in denial on the issue of climate change. According to scientists, Florida is one of, if not the most susceptible state in the country to the effects of climate change.
The Florida government, however, does not seem concerned given the fact that officials throughout the state’s government and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were banned from even mentioning the phrases “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011. This law still seems to be in effect today. How can any promising changes be made when officials aren’t even allowed to mention the issue by name?
Image via Flickr by John Englart
What You Can Do
Residents of states like North Carolina and Florida are left to their own devices to figure out how they can actively become more environmentally conscious. All hope is not lost, though. There are a variety of steps you can take if you reside in one of these problem states, or anywhere in the U.S. Here’s a list of ideas to help you, your family, and your community lessen the effects of climate change:
Recycle, recycle, recycle: recycling and reusing materials is more important than ever as waste pollution is having a more damaging effect on the planet every day.
Support green businesses: Be selective where you take your business. Try to support local businesses that work to be as energy-efficient and green as possible, like Air Treatment Inc. This local North Carolina HVAC company does their best to debunk home maintenance myths and raise the energy efficiency of every home, reduce carbon emissions, and keep indoor air quality up.
Drive less, walk more: If you can, try to use your car as little as possible and instead take public transportation, walk, or carpool with friends.
Bring your own bags: Single-use plastic bags are now being banned by entire cities, and even one state so far, due to their destructive and wasteful impact. If your city is still using them, be sure to bring reusable bags with you to the store and pass on the plastic.
Climate change is a very real threat. Although your state government may ignore the scientific evidence, don’t stop fighting to make your community as environmentally conscious and eco-friendly as possible.
On the first day of his visit to the US, Pope Francis has called for further action on climate change saying that it was “a critical moment of history”.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 11,000 people on the White House South Lawn, Pope Francis said the problem could “no longer be left to a future generation”.
President Barack Obama said Pope Francis reminded people “that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet”.
The pontiff will later conduct the first canonization on US soil.
Following the speech, the two leaders met behind closed doors in the Oval Office.
Speaking in English – one of the few times the Argentine pontiff is expected to do so during the week’s many events – Pope Francis praised President Barack Obama for recent proposals aimed at tackling air pollution.
Photo Getty Imagez
Time remains to make the changes required, Pope Francis said, in a speech that also called for protecting religious liberty and stamping out discrimination.
The environmental issue is a divisive one in US politics, with one Republican congressman boycotting Pope Francis’ speech to Congress on September 24 because of the pontiff’s stance.
All the leading Republican presidential candidates oppose action to tackle climate change because they say it will hurt the economy.
The morning began with the pontiff emerging from the Apostolic Nunciature – the Holy See’s equivalent of an embassy – around 09:00 local time.
Clad in his traditional white cassock, Pope Francis spent several minutes greeting well-wishers who had assembled behind temporary fencing in front of the diplomatic complex.
After shaking hands and giving hugs and kisses to the largely young crowd, the pope boarded a modest hatchback trailed by a convoy of large security vehicles and made the 15-minute drive through Washington on streets that had been cleared of traffic for the occasion.
At the White House large crowds gathered on the South Lawn to greet Pope Francis. Officials said over 11,000 tickets had been issued, but noted that the crowd was even larger.
A cadre of Obama administration officials and a military color guard flanked a stage set up outside the South Portico – among the most rare and respectful diplomatic ceremonies that the US government can offer visiting dignitaries.
Following a military color guard and the playing of the Holy See and US national anthems, President Barack Obama welcomed Pope Francis with brief remarks.
The canonization on September 23 will be part of a Spanish-language Mass to be held at the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, and will elevate to sainthood the Spanish missionary who brought Christianity to what is now the US west coast.
At the afternoon Mass, Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan who founded a mission in California in the 18th Century, will become the first Hispanic saint in the US.
But the decision to canonize the missionary has been criticized by some Native Americans, who view him as someone who aggressively imposed Catholicism on their ancestors.
Pope Francis has in the past apologized for the treatment of indigenous people.
California has dropped plans to cut gasoline use in half by 2030, after intense oil industry lobbying.
Governor Jerry Brown and other senior lawmakers had included the proposal in a climate change bill, but were forced to retreat amid growing opposition.
California Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who supported the cut, accused oil companies of deploying “scare tactics”.
The leaders have vowed to push ahead with other reforms, including boosting renewable electricity use.
“I’d say oil has won the skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle,” Gov. Jerry Brown said.
“I’m more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California – cleaning up the air, reducing the petroleum and creating green jobs.”
The plans to require a 50% reduction in gasoline use in motor vehicles by 2030 were met with fierce opposition from business groups and oil companies, who warned of negative consequences for California’s economy.
Kevin de Leon said the industry had a “singular motive” and accused it of creating a “multibillion-dollar smoke screen” to deter lawmakers from voting for the legislation.
Republicans, along with many moderate Democrats, had resisted the proposal.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, welcomed the September 9 decision to cut the emissions target from the bill.
“Today’s announcement was an acknowledgement that California’s energy future, economic competitiveness, and environment are inextricably linked,” she added.
California is the second-biggest producer of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels among US states.
Jerry Brown pledged to move ahead with the two remaining components of the climate change bill, aimed at increasing renewable electricity use and improving energy efficiency in buildings.
The issue has been a key priority for the governor during his final term.
Gov. jerry Brown is expected to attend the UN climate change conference in Paris in November.
President Barack Obama will unveil the revised Clean Power Plan on Monday, August 3.
The new plan’s objective is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third within 15 years.
The measures will place significant emphasis on wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.
However, opponents in the energy industry have vowed to fight the plan.
They say Barack Obama has declared “a war on coal”. Power plants fired by coal provide more than a third of the US electricity supply.
The revised plan will aim to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 32% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.
Each US state will have an emission-cutting goal assigned to it and must submit a proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency on how it will meet the target.
The measures would give the president the moral authority he needs to argue for global reductions in greenhouse gases at a major conference in Paris later this year.
However, several state governors are already saying they will simply ignore the plans.
In face of the criticism, the White House said the release of the plan was “the starting gun for an all-out climate push” by the president and his cabinet.
In a video released by the White House, Barack Obama said the new limits were backed up by decades of data showing that without action the world faced more extreme weather and escalating health problems.
“Climate change is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore,” the president said.
“My administration will release the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan, the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she would defend the plan if she was elected to replace Barack Obama.
“It will need defending. Because Republican doubters and defeatists – including every Republican candidate for president – won’t offer any credible solution,” she said.
“The truth is, they don’t want one.”
One Republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, said the plan would be “catastrophic,” while another, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, said the plan was “irresponsible and over-reaching”.
Correspondents say the emphasis on renewable energy sources marks a significant shift from the earlier version of the plan that sought to speed up a transition from coal-fired power to natural gas plants, which emit less carbon dioxide.
It is believed the revised plan will aim to keep the share of natural gas in US power generation at current levels.
Power stations are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the US and account for about one third of all such US emissions.
Pope Francis has issued an encyclical, calling for fossil fuels to be “progressively replaced without delay”.
The pontiff urges the richer world to make changes in lifestyle and energy consumption to avert the unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.
Environmentalists hope the message will spur on nations ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris in December.
However, parts of the document, leaked earlier this week, have already been criticized by some US conservatives.
The document has been dismissed by two Republican presidential candidates.
The encyclical, named “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home”, aims to inspire everyone – not just Roman Catholics – to protect the Earth.
The 192-page letter, which is the highest level teaching document a pope can issue, lays much of the blame for global warming on human activities.
Pope Francis writes that: “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.
“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
The Pope criticizes what he calls a “collective selfishness”, but says that there is still time to stop the damage, calling for an end to consumerism and greed.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi launched the pontiff’s second encyclical at a news conference on June 18.
The release comes six months before international leaders gather in Paris to try to seal a deal to reduce carbon emissions.
It has been widely welcomed by environmental groups, with WWF president Yolanda Kakabadse saying it “adds a much-needed moral approach” to the debate on climate change.
Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo highlighted passages calling for policies that reduce carbon emissions, including by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
But a leak of the document, published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine on June 16, got a frosty response from skeptical conservatives in America, including two Roman Catholic presidential candidates.
Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said he did not get his economic policy from his bishops, cardinals or pope.
Meanwhile Rick Santorum questioned whether Pope Francis was credible on the issue of climate science.
However, many academics have welcomed the pontiff’s input.
The UN’s climate change chief Christiana Figueres says the Pope’s message will influence talks in Paris this year on a deal to tackle global warming.
Developing countries are demanding firmer promises of financial help from rich countries so they can adapt to inevitable changes in the climate and get clean energy to avoid contributing to further warming.
Christiana Figueres said their position would be strengthened by Pope Francis’ insistence that this was the clear moral responsibility of the rich.
The encyclical will be welcomed by poor countries in Africa and Latin America.
The big question is how it will play in the USA, where it has already been dismissed by a Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who is a Catholic.
Leading Republicans have warned the UN that they will undo President Barack Obama’s climate policies – so if the encyclical sways any of the conservative Catholics in Congress that could prove significant.
The second day of the G7 summit in Germany is being dominated by the climate change and extremism talks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the economic powers group to reach an agreement on limiting global temperature rises.
Angela Merkel also wants G7 members to contribute to a fund for poor countries suffering the worst effects of climate change.
There will also be talks on the threat from radical extremism with the leaders of Nigeria, Tunisia and Iraq.
G7 summit is being held at the picturesque Schloss Elmau hotel in Krun in the Bavarian Alps.
It is being attended by President Barack Obama, UK PM David Cameron, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, Canadanian PM Stephen Harper and Italian PM Matteo Renzi.
The first working session on June 8 will focus on climate and energy, with Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to get leaders to agree to keeping temperature rises within 2C of pre-industrial levels.
Angela Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests on tackling global warming to build momentum before a major UN climate summit in Paris in December.
Later, G7 leaders will be joined by Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to discuss the threat posed by groups like Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram.
On June 7, David Cameron said the UK was sending an extra 125 military trainers to Iraq to help in the battle against IS, describing the militants as “the biggest threat” G7 leaders had to address.
ISIS continues to control large swathes of Iraq and Syria despite being the target of a US-led air campaign against them.
In Nigeria, a similar regional battle is being fought against Boko Haram militants who have carried out attacks since 2009 to try to create an Islamic state.
The 41st G7 summit is held in Schloss Elmau, Krün, Bavaria, Germany on June 7–8, 2015.
This year’s Earth Hour is celebrated on Saturday, March 28, again between 8:30 and 9:30 pm local time.
In 2015, the tagline for the global campaign was Change Climate Change, returning to the movement’s original focus to initiate citizen action on global warming.
Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It is held worldwide annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the last Saturday in March.
On March 27, a day before the event, over 170 countries and territories have confirmed their participation; with more than 1200 landmarks and close to 40 UNESCO world heritage sites set for the switch off.
For the second year running, Earth Hour Blue aims to raise funds for WWF organized climate focused projects on a crowdfunding platform. This year, crowdfunding projects include solar light distribution in the Philippines and India, and wildlife based projects from Colombia, Uganda and Indonesia.
World leaders are holding a summit on climate change at the United Nations.
The aim at the New York meeting is to galvanize member states to sign up to a comprehensive new global climate agreement at talks in Paris next year.
“Today, we must set the world on a new course,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told leaders from 120 countries.
“I am asking you to lead.”
It is the first high-level gathering since the Copenhagen summit in 2009.
With so many nations attending the summit at the UN headquarters and so little time at the one-day meeting, three separate sessions will run simultaneously in three different rooms.
Ban Ki-moon has organized the summit and on September 21 took part in a climate change march in New York with thousands of protesters – including Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who has recently been appointed a UN representative on climate change.
On September 22, more than 100 people were arrested after they refused to leave a protest near Wall Street. At one stage, demonstrators tried to push past police barricades, sparking a brief clash with officers.
The Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, was reported to have announced their intention to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy.
Leonardo DiCaprio has recently been appointed as UN representative on climate change
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining Global Divest-Invest, a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50 billion in fossil fuel assets.
Meanwhile, Google has announced it is to sever ties with a rightwing US lobbying network, the American Legislative Council, over its skeptical positions on climate.
The real bargaining on climate change is expected to take place at a private dinner on September 23 hosted by Ban Ki-moon and attended by a select list of 20 or so countries.
However, the absence of the leaders of China, Russia and India – whose PM Narendra Modi arrives later in the week – does not augur well.
President Barack Obama will strive on September 23 to generate international support for the battle against climate change when he addresses the UN, with time running out on his desire to leave an environmental legacy.
The president has warned that a failure to act on climate change is a “betrayal” of future generations. But correspondents say he faces numerous obstacles – including a Congress unwilling to curtail greenhouse gas emissions – let alone ratify an international agreement.
Barack Obama’s last meeting with heads of state in order to reach a climate deal in Copenhagen five years ago ended in disappointment, with member countries failing to agree on a timetable to reduce long-term emissions.
Ban Ki-moon has asked that the political leaders come to UN headquarters bearing pledges of action. He wants to hear commitments to cut carbon and offers of finance for those most affected.
Observers believe the meeting can still achieve political momentum despite the absence of Chinese, Indian, Australian, Russian and Canadian leaders.
Multiple street protests demanding urgent action on climate change have been taking place around the world, with marches reported in more than 2,000 locations.
The People’s Climate March is campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week.
Huge demonstrations have been taking place in Australia and Europe.
In Manhattan, tens of thousands of people are at a march that is also being attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live,” Ban Ki-moon told reporters.
“There is no <<Plan B>>, because we do not have <<Planet B>>.”
Street protests demanding urgent action on climate change have been taking place around the world
The UN Secretary General was accompanied by primatologist Jane Goodall and the French Ecology Minister, Segolene Royal.
Organizers of the Manhattan event said they had attracted 550 busloads of marchers, billing it as the biggest protest on the issue for five years.
They said the massive mobilization was aimed at transforming climate change “from an environmental concern to an <<everybody issue>>. ”
Business leaders, environmentalists and celebrities are expected to join the demonstration.
Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio also took part, having been appointed as a UN representative on climate change last week.
In Australia, organizers said up to 20,000 people had turned out in Melbourne to call on PM Tony Abbott to do more to tackle climate change.
On September 23, the UN will host a climate summit at its headquarters in New York with 125 heads of state and government – the first such gathering since the unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s Secretary General, hopes leaders can make progress on a universal agreement to be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.
He said he would “link arms with those marching for climate action” to show that the UN stands “with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.”
The New York rally is part of a global protest that includes events in 161 countries.
A UN report on climate change released today in Berlin says the world must rapidly move away from carbon-intensive fuels.
There must be a “massive shift” to renewable energy, says the 33-page study.
It has been finalized after a week of negotiations between scientists and government officials.
Natural gas is seen as a key bridge to move energy production away from oil and coal.
But there have been battles between participants over who will pay for this energy transition.
The report is the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up to provide a clear scientific view on climate change and its impacts.
The Summary for Policymakers on mitigation paints a picture of a world with carbon emissions rising rapidly.
“The high speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon, and all of global society will have to get on board,” the IPCC’s chair Rajendra Pachauri told journalists in Berlin at the launch of the report.
Dr. Youba Sokono, a co-chair of the IPCC’s working group 3, which drew up the report, said science has spoken.
He added that policy makers were “the navigators, they have to make decisions, scientists are the map makers”.
About half of all the carbon that humans have pumped into the atmosphere since 1750 has been emitted in the last 40 years.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to provide a clear scientific view on climate change and its impacts (photo Reuters)
Rates have been rising fast since 2000, despite the global economic crash.
The report points to an increased use of coal in the decade from the turn of the millennium, “reversing the longstanding trend of decarbonization of the world’s energy supply”.
Driven by a global increase in population and economic activity, global surface temperature increases will be between 3.7C and 4.8C in 2100 if no new action is taken.
This is way above the 2 degree level, regarded as the point beyond which dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.
However, the scientists involved in the report say this situation can be turned around.
To be sure of staying below 2 degrees, the amount of carbon in the air needs to be around 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. To get there, emissions in 2050 need to be 40-70% lower than they were in 2010.
The IPCC says that renewables are a critical part of that pathway.
Since the last report in 2007, the scientists say that renewable energy has come on in leaps and bounds.
In 2012, renewables accounted for just over half of the new electricity generation added around the world.
The scientists stress that renewables are becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels and also offer a range of other benefits, including clean air and energy security.
“It certainly is the end for carbon intensive fuels that’s for sure,” said Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute, who was a review editor on one of the chapters of the IPCC report.
“There needs to be a massive shift away from fossil fuels and investment needs to shift to going 100% clean as fast as possible.”
One of the surprising endorsements in the report is natural gas.
“Emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants,” says the summary.
The report describes natural gas as a “bridge” technology with deployment increasing before peaking and falling below current levels by 2050.
However, many of the scenarios examined by the panel would still involve an “overshoot” of the target range.
To cope with this the world may need to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Combining carbon capture and storage with bioenergy is seen as one potential solution, but the report is lukewarm on these ideas, saying the “methods are uncertain” and are “associated with risks”.
Timing is everything, say the scientists.
“Delaying mitigation efforts beyond those in place today through 2030 is estimated to substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low longer-term emissions,” says the summary.
The report points out that there needs to be huge shifts in investment if the worst impacts of rising temperatures are to be avoided. Investment in renewables and other low carbon sources needs to at least treble by the middle of the century, while money flowing into fossil fuels has to diminish.
But differences have emerged over who should make the cuts in emissions and who should pay for the switch to low carbon energy sources. Developed and developing countries have clashed here in Berlin, echoing divisions found in the UN negotiations.
Switch off your lights on Saturday, March 29, from 20h30 to 21h30 local time and save the planet.
Switch off your lights on March 29 to celebrate Earth Hour 2014
Every year in March since 2007, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) celebrates Earth Hour, where millions of people, businesses and governments – including the European Union institutions – around the world turn off their lights for one hour, sending a powerful message for action on climate change.
A new World Meteorological Organization bulletin has revealed the levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high in 2012.
According to the WMO, atmospheric CO2 grew more rapidly last year than its average rise over the past decade.
Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also broke previous records
Thanks to carbon dioxide and these other gases, the WMO says the warming effect on our climate has increased by almost a third since 1990.
The WMO’s annual greenhouse gas bulletin measures concentrations in the atmosphere, not emissions on the ground.
Carbon dioxide is the most important of the gases that they track, but only about half of the CO2 that’s emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the plants, trees, the land and the oceans.
Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, global average levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by 141%.
According to the WMO there were 393.1 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2012, an increase of 2.2 ppm over 2011.
This was above the yearly average of 2.02 ppm over the past decade.
The levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high in 201
“The observations highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
While the daily measurement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded the symbolic 400 ppm mark in May this year, according to the WMO the global annual average CO2 concentration will cross this point in 2015 or 2016.
Levels of methane also reached record highs in 2012 of 1,819 parts per billion. Concentrations have been increasing since 2007 after a period when they appeared to be leveling off.
The WMO report says that it is not yet possible to attribute the methane increase to either human activities like cattle breeding and landfills or natural sources such as wetlands.
They believe that the rising emissions come from the tropical and mid-latitude northern hemisphere and not from the Arctic, where methane from the melting of permafrost and hydrates has long been a concern.
Emissions of nitrous oxide have also grown, with the atmospheric concentration in 2012 at 325.1 parts per billion, 120% above pre-industrial levels.
Nitrous oxide gas, although its concentrations are tiny compared to CO2, is 298 times more warming and also plays a role in the destruction of the ozone layer.
Recent research indicates that the rate of increase in emissions might be slowing down, but the gases can continue to concentrate in the atmosphere and exert a climate influence for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Scientists believe that the new data indicates that global warming will be back with a vengeance, after a slowdown in the rate of temperature increases over the past 14 years.
A new research has found evidence to suggest that climate change, rather than hunting, was the main factor that drove the woolly mammoth to extinction.
A DNA analysis shows that the number of creatures began to decrease much earlier than previously thought as the world’s climate changed.
The study also shows that there was a distinct population of mammoth in Europe that died out around 30,000 years ago.
The results have published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The view many researchers had about woolly mammoths is that they were a hardy, abundant species that thrived during their time on the planet.
But according to the scientist who led the research, Dr. Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the study shifts that view.
Dr. Love Dalen worked with researchers in London to analyze DNA samples from 300 specimens from woolly mammoths collected by themselves and other groups in earlier studies
The scientists were able to work out how many mammoths existed at any given time from the samples as well as tracing their migration patterns. They looked at the genetic diversity in their samples – the less diverse the lower the population.
Climate change, rather than hunting, was the main factor that drove the woolly mammoth to extinction
They found that the species nearly went extinct 120,000 years ago when the world warmed up for a while. Numbers are thought to have dropped from several million to tens of thousands but numbers recovered as the planet entered another ice age.
The researchers also found that the decline that led to their eventual extinction began 20,000 years ago when the Ice Age was at its height, rather than 14,000 years ago when the world began to warm again as previously thought.
They speculate that it was so cold that the grass on which they fed became scarce. The decline was spurred on as the Ice Age ended, possibly because the grassland on which the creatures thrived was replaced by forests in the south and tundra in the north.
The reason they died out has been a matter of considerable scientific debate. Some have argued that humans hunted them to extinction while others have said that changes in the climate was the main factor.
A criticism of the climate extinction argument is that the world warmed well before the creatures became extinct and so that could not have been the cause.
The new results show that mammoths did indeed nearly go extinct between Ice Ages and so backs the view that climate change was the principal cause for their demise.
These results back a computer simulation of conditions at the time carried out by researchers at Durham University in 2010.
And of course other animals, including humans, became more active after the Ice Age and so competition with other species and hunting may also have been a factor in their extinction, though not the principle cause, argues Prof. Adrian Lister of the NHM.
“During the last ice age, between about 50,000 and 20,000 years ago, there were substantial movements of mammoth populations – European populations being replaced by waves of migration from the east, for example,” he said.
“But from about 20,000 years ago onwards, the population started the dramatic decline that led to its extinction, first on the mainland about 10,000 years ago, and finally on some outlying Arctic islands. The pattern seems to fit forcing by natural climate change: any role of humans in the process has yet to be demonstrated.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – a political independent who has played a prominent role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – has delivered a big boost to President Barack Obama by endorsing him for re-election.
Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who became a Republican to run for Big Apple mayor in 2001 and ran as an Independent for re-election in 2009, said that Hurricane Sandy had helped reshape his thinking about the presidential campaign.
He had been pointedly critical of both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, saying that both men had failed to address properly the problems afflicting the nation.
But Michael Bloomberg said in recent days he had decided that Barack Obama was the best candidate to tackle climate change, which the mayor cited as a contributory factor to the violent storm that took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and brought carnage costing billions of dollars.
“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast – in lost lives, lost homes and lost business – brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Michael Bloomberg wrote in an article for his own website Bloomberg View.
“Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be – given the devastation it is wreaking – should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg has delivered a big boost to Barack Obama by endorsing him for re-election
The timing of the endorsement is unexpected because Michael Bloomberg this week publicly called on Barack Obama to resist visiting New York this week because the city was too busy dealing with the disaster.
But his backing is the latest indication that Hurricane Sandy could be a big factor in Tuesday’s election.
Barack Obama has already used it to burnish his bipartisan credentials and a Washington Post/ABC poll found that 80 per cent of voters viewed his actions favorably.
Republicans dismissed the endorsement saying that Michael Bloomberg, as the epitome of the monied east coast elite, would hardly sway voters in the mid-West battleground states.
But there is little doubt that the Romney campaign would dearly have loved to have had the New York mayor’s backing.
Barack Obama said in a statement: “I am honored to have Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement. I deeply respect him for his leadership in business, philanthropy and government, and appreciate the extraordinary job he’s doing right now, leading New York City through these difficult days.”
A new study shows that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years.
Researchers analyzed data on the condition of 217 individual reefs that make up the World Heritage Site.
The results show that coral cover declined from 28.0% to 13.8% between 1985 and 2012.
They attribute the decline to storms, a coral-feeding starfish and bleaching linked to climate change.
The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Glen De’ath from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and colleagues determined that tropical cyclones – 34 in total since 1985 – were responsible for 48% of the damage, while outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish accounted for 42%.
Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 due to ocean warming also had “major detrimental impacts” on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10%.
“This loss of over half of initial cover is of great concern, signifying habitat loss for the tens of thousands of species associated with tropical coral reefs,” the authors wrote in their study.
Co-author Hugh Sweatman said the findings, which were drawn from the world’s largest ever reef monitoring project involving 2,258 separate surveys over 27 years, showed that coral could recover from such trauma.
“But recovery takes 10-20 years. At present, the intervals between the disturbances are generally too short for full recovery and that’s causing the long-term losses,” Hugh Sweatman said.
John Gunn, head of AIMS, said it was difficult to stop the storms and bleaching but researchers could focus their short-term efforts on the crown-of-thorns starfish, which feasts on coral polyps and can devastate reef cover.
The study said improving water quality was key to controlling starfish outbreaks, with increased agricultural run-off such as fertilizer along the reef coast causing algal blooms that starfish larvae feed on.
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