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By Alexandra Rosenmann

Noam Chomsky ended his "Prospects for Survival" talk sponsored by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on April 13 with a bombshell report of a crucial event overshadowed by President Trump's election.

"Three events took place last November 8th," Chomsky told the audience. "One of them was very important. One was extremely important. The third was utterly astonishing."

According to Chomsky, "the least important [of the three] was the election in the United States ... [whereas] the more important, by far of the three, took place in Morocco."

The nine day UN-sponsored international climate change conference in Marrakech included participants from approximately 200 nations.

The purpose of the event was "to put some teeth in the Paris negotiations on climate change of the preceding year," he explained.

"It had been hoped that they could reshape the verifiable treaty on actions to address climate change. But that couldn't be done because of a single barrier," Chomsky said. "It's called the Republican party."

In August 2014, President Obama had first attempted to sidestep the GOP's resistance to the treaty through a "name and shame" plan, but as Chomsky explained "The Republican Congress of the United States would not accept any verifiable agreements."

As a result, Obama joined as an Executive Agreement, a decision which has since proved vulnerable due to Trump's anti-science agenda.

The third Nov. 8 event? The World Meteorological Organization released a report calling 2011-2015 the hottest five-year period on record.

"At that point, the deliberations ended, the electoral results came from the United States and the [Marrakech] meeting shifted to another question," Chomsky noted. "Can the world survive when the richest, most powerful country in world history ... not only is withdrawing from the effort to try to save the world from destruction, but is undertaking a dedicated commitment to race to the precipice as quickly as possible?"

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Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

Politics

President Donald Trump's top advisors and cabinet officials will debate whether the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

The landmark accord, which aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, was agreed upon by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

The Hill reported that the meeting is aimed at hammering out a growing divide in the administration between those in favor of the deal and those opposed to it. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday but had to be postponed as some participants are traveling with the president to Milwaukee.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to " cancel" the Paris climate agreement. The president, who once said climate change is a "hoax" and is working to dismantle environmental regulations, has surrounded himself with like-minded advisors and cabinet appointees such as senior adviser Steve Bannon and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who said last week "we need to exit" the deal.

POLITICO's sources said that the EPA chief is concerned that the Paris agreement could harm his legal position as he works to repeal President Obama's Clean Power Plan that regulates emissions from power plants.

On the other hand, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House special adviser, have are urged the president to stay in the deal, as Bloomberg reported.

Trump's current position on the Paris deal is unclear, but the New York Times reported that the pro-Paris view is gaining favor.

"We do not currently believe the Trump administration plans to withdraw from either Paris agreement," wrote Kevin Book, an analyst at DC-based ClearView Energy Partners in a memo to clients on Monday.

Incidentally, some major oil and coal producers have voiced support of the climate agreement, including Cheniere Energy Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., which was previously led by Tillerson, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc.

Coal baron Robert E. Murray, however, has opposed the deal as "just a way for other countries to get American money."

And Joseph Bast, the president of the climate change-denying Heartland Institute, commented that "President Trump should run, not walk, away from the Paris climate treaty."

"Most scientists do not believe global warming is a crisis that merits current efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much less the draconian cuts envisioned by the Paris climate treaty," Bast said.

As Trump mulls the decision, other world leaders are prepared to ramp action in case the U.S. pulls out.

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Similarly, Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister for power and coal said that India is "pursuing religiously" its goal of developing 225 gigawatts of clean energy by 2022, adding "it's not subject to some other country's decision."

Environmental groups have also weighed in on the deliberations. As the world's largest economy, the United States' withdrawal from the accord could significantly weaken the global pact.

"The United States is the world's largest historic climate polluter," said Friends of the Earth senior political director Ben Schreiber. "Our country has a moral imperative to take action proportionate to our responsibility for this crisis."

"Our commitments under the Paris Agreement were already woefully inadequate given our responsibility and the severity of the problem," Schreiber added. "By holding this meeting, Trump has communicated to the rest of the world that the U.S. is a climate pariah. We call on world leaders to use every political and economic means available to compel Trump to act in accordance with what climate science and justice demand."

The White House meeting comes as activists gear up for the April 29 Peoples Climate March in the nation's capitol and in sister marches around the country.

"An overwhelming majority of people in the United States support staying in the Paris agreement," 350.org executive director May Boeve. "It's one of the animating reasons why so many people are joining the Peoples Climate March this April 29th in Washington, DC and across the country."

"As the Trump administration deliberates isolating the U.S. from the rest of the world, movements for climate, jobs and justice are mobilizing to continue to build bold solutions that protect our communities and tackle climate change," Boeve said. "We know this deal is critical to defending our climate and communities—this is about our very survival."

White House Press Sec. Sean Spicer said last month that Trump will make a decision about the Paris agreement ahead of the Group of 7 leaders' meeting in late May.

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By Johannes Friedrich, Mengpin Ge and Andrew Pickens

A lot has happened since countries met in Paris in 2015 and agreed on an accord to combat climate change. So far, more than 140 countries have ratified or otherwise joined the Paris agreement, representing more than 80 percent of global emissions. Several major economies, including Canada, Germany and Mexico, have also developed long-term plans to decarbonize their economies.

As countries implement their targets and policies and develop more detailed pathways to reduce their emissions, it's important to fully understand our global emissions picture and how it has changed over time.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) recently updated its CAIT Climate Data Explorer on the world's top greenhouse gas-emitting countries with the latest global data available (2013). Here's an interactive chart to explore it by country and by economic sector, showing how the top emitters have changed in recent years.

1. The World's Top Three Emitters Contribute 14 Times the Emissions of the Bottom 100

The top three greenhouse gas emitters—China, the European Union and the U.S.— contribute more than half of total global emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5 percent. Collectively, the top 10 emitters account for nearly three-quarters of global emissions. The world can't successfully tackle the climate change challenge without significant action from these countries.

2. The Energy Sector is the Major Culprit, but Action in Every Sector Counts

Over the past 10 years, the energy sector has remained the largest contributor to emissions over any other sector, representing 72 percent of global emissions in 2013.



China saw the largest increase in single-sector emissions from 2012 to 2013 from its energy production, which increased by 365 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) or 4 percent. The majority of these emissions came from an increase in electricity production, heating and transportation. However, this does represent a lower rate of increase than the historical average—China's average annual growth rate for coal consumption from 2000 to 2013 was 8.8 percent.

On the other hand, Australia, the world's 15th largest emitter, saw the largest emissions decrease in a single sector, with its agricultural emissions dropping by 65 MtCO2e or a reduction of 34.6 percent since 2012. The majority of those reductions came from a decrease in the area of burning savannah, which reduced methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions.

3. Some Major Emitters are Reversing Their Trends

From 2012 to 2013, the top 10 emitters cumulatively increased their emissions by 2.2 percent, compared to the average annual growth of 2.4 percent over the last 10 years. Within that same period, the top two global emitters, China and the U.S., saw the largest single year percentage increase in greenhouse gas emissions, with a rise of 4.3 and 1.4 percent respectively.

Even with that growth of emissions from 2012-2013 by top emitters, if we expand the timescale, their combined emissions have remained the same for the past decade. In that time, the U.S. peaked its emissions in 2007 and the European Union, the third-largest emitter, saw steady reductions. Others have stabilized their emissions over the last 10 years, including Russia and Canada.

More recent data looking only at energy-related carbon dioxide emissions shows that this type of emission stayed flat globally between 2014 and 2016, even as the global economy grew during the same period. Since carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas, this is an encouraging trend. We await further data to see whether other types of greenhouse gases are growing or shrinking and whether this trend will continue.

As 21 countries are already proving, decoupling carbon dioxide emissions from economic growth is happening. But to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to bend the emissions curve significantly downward.

Explore CAIT Data

Learn more about global emissions by visiting WRI's CAIT Climate Data Explorer. You can sift through data covering 186 countries, multiple economic sectors, several types of emissions and a 162-year timespan. We also provide tools to explore other dimensions of climate policy, including countries' Paris agreement mitigation contributions, projections of emissions from major emitters through 2100 and various dimensions of climate equity.

By Nadia Prupis

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday explicitly called for the U.S. to remove itself from the Paris climate agreement, one of his strongest remarks yet expressing his opposition to the landmark deal to keep global warming below 2°C.

"Paris is something we need to look at closely. It's something we need to exit in my opinion," Pruitt said in an interview on Fox & Friends.

"It's a bad deal for America," he said. "It's an 'America second, third or fourth' kind of approach."

The Trump administration has already taken steps to undo landmark climate regulations, such as the executive order President Donald Trump signed last month that called for repealing former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which requires states to slash emissions and was a central component of the U.S.'s plan to meet its Paris goals.

Pruitt said adhering to the global climate treaty would cost American jobs, a claim which environmentalists—and, increasingly, even fossil fuel companies—say is wrong.

Nathaniel Keohane, the Environmental Defense Fund's vice president on global climate, told InsideClimate News that "[p]ulling out of the Paris climate accord would damage the U.S. more than it damages the Paris agreement or climate action globally."

"American leadership on climate is the key to attracting jobs and investment in the industries and sectors that will define the 21st century," Keohane said.

Tiernen Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, added, "Even for Scott Pruitt, this is outrageous and beyond the pale."

"The U.S. helped to lead the world on this treaty and it's clear that other countries are moving ahead because they see the incredible opportunities it offers," Sittenfeld said.

Kim Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, also said Thursday, "Administrator Pruitt's statements are unsurprising. He just can't seem to grasp what the vast majority of Americans and scientists have already figured out: climate change is real, it is happening now and human activities are causing it."

The Paris agreement "is a good deal for America," Glas said. "It will help ensure that America leads the way globally in creating quality jobs designing, manufacturing, and installing the clean energy technologies needed to reduce the carbon pollution that is driving climate change."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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The planet, as we know it, has been given a deadline: 10 years. According to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, if humans don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically and maintain carbon sinks, like forests, then the results will be catastrophic for the climate. But the researchers have developed a model that they believe could do the trick.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, outlines a plan that could simultaneously account for carbon uptake by plants and carbon release by anthropogenic (human-induced) activities.

"The study shows that the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5°C target by 2100," said Michael Obersteiner, coauthor and IIASA director.

The target is in line with the Paris agreement on climate change, which 194 countries signed, promising to limit future global average temperature increases to below 2ºC in hopes efforts would limit the average increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But the agreement allows countries to accomplish this in whatever way they see necessary and doesn't give clear instructions.

The IIASA model calls for fossil fuel consumption to be reduced to less than 25 percent of the global energy supply by 2100, a drastic cut from the 95 percent being used right now. Deforestation would also need to be cut significantly to lead to a 42 percent decrease in cumulative emissions.

Atmospheric carbon concentration [ppm] in the various scenarios, shown with CDIAC data and RCP projections. Credit: © Walsh et al, 2017

The study shows that in a "high-renewable" scenario, renewable energy like wind, solar and bioenergy would need to increase by around five percent a year for net emissions to peak by 2022. However, there also needs to be negative emissions technologies like reforestation and revitalizing ocean ecosystems or the global average temperature will still reach 2.5 degrees, missing the Paris agreement target.

China has bumped up their renewable energy consumption, and entire counties like Denmark have committed to 100 percent renewables. In the U.S., President Donald Trump is attempting to rollback climate regulations and even withdraw from the agreement. But that isn't stopping some states like California and Kansas from developing renewable energy options.

These are some tall orders, but science is showing some countries are moving in the right direction. Overall, there is hope. And the IIASA believes that "success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5°C instead of 2°C."

China, Brazil, India and South Africa issued a joint statement Tuesday calling on wealthy countries to stick to their finance commitments under the Paris agreement, and representatives from the four major developing economies highlighted concerns over the U.S.'s new climate policies at a subsequent press conference.

China's lead climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, told Reuters that U.S.-China climate "discussions were going on at multiple levels." Xie's assurances may echo a firmer stance from the international community: Deputy UN Chief Amina Mohammed told Newsweek Tuesday that world leaders will be working to bring Trump "back to the table" on the Paris agreement and climate change.

"I think that where people are not well-informed, we have to go back and do that," Mohammed said. "It seems as though we are taking 10 steps forward and five back, but it's an imperative. We don't have an option. The U.S. is an important leader in this and we believe that they will do the right thing once they are better informed about it."

And draft G-7 documents obtained by Politico show that during Monday's negotiations over an ultimately scuttled statement, G-7 officials "refused to agree to stronger language touting fossil fuels without assurances from the United States that it would stay in the Paris climate change agreement."

At a media briefing, South Africa's deputy minister of environmental affairs, Barbara Thompson, said changes in U.S. policy were "of major concern," but perhaps not entirely a lost cause. "The position of the U.S. is still very unclear to us," she said. "We believe there are different views within the U.S. administration."

For a deeper dive:

Finance: Bloomberg, Reuters, FT Mohammed: Newsweek G-7: Politico

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Solar panels in Shanghai. Photo credit: Shutterstock

By Bridgette Burkholder

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt called the Paris agreement a "bad deal." He claimed China has made no significant efforts to curb carbon pollution, while the U.S. has sacrificed jobs to meet the terms of the pact.

The facts don't support Pruitt's claim. While President Trump is working hard to dismantle U.S. climate policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping is assuming the mantle of global climate leadership and pushing for the rapid expansion of clean energy.

The same day that Trump called for a rollback of federal limits on carbon pollution, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reaffirmed China's commitment to the Paris agreement, saying "as a responsible, large, developing country, China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change."

Xi is in Florida this week to meet with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate. It's unlikely the two will talk about climate change, but China has made clear that it's not backing down from its plans to tackle the carbon crisis.

Here are five facts about China's progress on climate and energy:

1. China's solar capacity grew by 82 percent last year.

Though the country is often associated with coal, China is the world's largest solar producer, nearly doubling its solar capacity last year alone.

As the world's largest energy consumer, China aims to have 110 GW of solar and 210 GW of wind installed by 2020. That's more than double the solar and wind capacity currently installed in the U.S. China could meet its solar target as early as next year, according to Greenpeace.

2. China's coal consumption has dropped three years in a row.

Despite growing demand for energy, China has been shifting steadily away from coal. In January, the Chinese government canceled the construction of more than 100 coal-fired power plants, in an effort to reduce air pollution and slow climate change.

In a 2016 commentary in Nature Geoscience, researchers said that China's coal use has already peaked. British climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, a co-author of the commentary, told The Guardian this represented "a very important event in the history of the climate and economy of the world."

Thanks in part to falling coal consumption, China's carbon emissions have stayed flat—or declined—for the past three years. China has pledged to peak emissions by 2030.

3. China plans to invest at least $360 billion in renewable power generation by 2020.

China leads the world in renewable energy investment and recently announced it would put some $360 billion towards renewables by 2020. According to China's National Energy Administration, half of all new electricity generation by 2020 will come from wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power.

The New York Times reported that the "investment commitment made by the Chinese, combined with Mr. Trump's moves, means jobs that would have been created in the United States may instead go to Chinese workers."

4. Renewable energy jobs are booming in China.

Renewable energy already employs 3.5 million people in China, compared with less than a million in the U.S. China expects new investments will create 13 million more jobs in the sector by 2020, according to China's National Energy Administration.

5. China aims to have five million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.

To put that figure in perspective, there were only one million in the world in 2015. China is becoming a major market for electric vehicles. Last year, nearly 50 percent of all new electric cars were sold in China. The country has ambitious targets for the rollout of zero-carbon cars. One point of interest: Over the next five years, Beijing will replace all 70,000 of the city's gas and diesel-fueled taxis with electric vehicles.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

Politics
Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Photo credit: Flickr

A supervisor at the Department of Energy's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy told staff to stop using the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction" and "Paris agreement" in any official written communications, according to POLITICO's sources.

The instructions were reportedly given at a Tuesday meeting held shortly after President Trump's latest controversial executive order that reversed Obama-era climate policies.

Senior officials apparently told DOE climate office staff that the climate-related words would cause a "visceral reaction" with Energy Sec. Rick Perry, his immediate staff and the department's White House advisers.

While a department spokeswoman denied any official language ban in the climate office or in the department as a whole, POLITICO's sources said that there is a general sense among DOE employees that such hot-button terms should be avoided in favor of words like "jobs" and "infrastructure" in light of the Trump administration's anti-environmental agenda.

Environmental groups have balked at POLITICO's report. The Sierra Club noted that the DOE only just emerged from a storm of controversy regarding climate change after its staff purge during the transition period.

"What exactly is this office supposed to call itself now? The international C****** office?" Sierra Club Climate policy director Liz Perera said. "Ignoring the climate crisis will not make it go away, will not create jobs in the booming clean energy economy, and will not make our country great."

"Rick Perry lied to Congress about climate science to get a job at an agency he wanted to eliminate, and he has started things off with a blatant dereliction of duty. The only place the climate is not changing is in the minds of those in the Trump administration," Perera added.

The former Texas governor told Congress during his confirmation hearing that "science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change." In a 2011 presidential debate, Perry famously forgot the name of the agency he would abolish.

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