Carl Pope: Cities Can Lead ... Cities Want to Lead ... So Let them!
Prospects for the Paris climate summit is much brighter than for any climate gathering since Kyoto in 1997. Three main factors are driving Paris towards success: China's decision, partly driven by its air pollution crisis, to become a major advocate of change both domestically and globally has upended the politics of North vs. South. The dramatic fall in the price of clean energy options like wind and solar has made climate progress seem like an enticing economic opportunity, not a burdensome shared sacrifice. And the opening up of the Paris process to the first responders to climate risk—cities and their leadership—has disrupted the ability of nation state negotiators to just stand pat.
Welcome to #Cities4Climate – a historic event recognizing local climate action during #COP21 https://t.co/SQcYBll6JI https://t.co/r8u5TDKVa0— Mike Bloomberg (@Mike Bloomberg)1449214354.0
Cities, after all, already contain half the world's population and are the source of 70 percent of its emissions. By 2040 their population share will be more than 70 percent and they will emit about 90 percent of all climate pollutants. So they clearly have to drive the solution. And because they are also the focus of the worst heat waves, the most damaging sea level rise and the biggest natural disaster burdens, they are powerfully motivated to curb climate disruption.
Finally, in a world where clean energy is suddenly cheap, the real conflict of interest is between fossil fuel producers (who want high prices for coal and oil as long as possible) and energy consumers, who want cheap, clean energy today if possible. And with few cities, the economies of the world's big cities are tied to energy consumption, not fossil fuel production. So while oil and coal interests can tie down national governments and prevent them from decarbonizing quickly, cities want to get on with the job—and they are.
City governments don't yet control all of their own emissions. But they do generally manage three sectors—buildings, transportation and waste—which are responsible for about 1/3 of urban climate pollution. A study by the Stockholm Institute found that by 2050 cities adopting economically profitable, emission reducing solutions in these three sectors could cut global emissions by 8 GT of CO2 a year—for comparison , the 2030 climate pledges currently on the table from all the world's sovereign nations add up to Y GT. So the city capacity is very consequential. A study by the New Climate Economy also found that cities could save $17 trillion with these measures. Cities are also poised to save 1GT even before 2020—and early progress is the most valuable climate progress.
Overheard at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders earlier today #Cities4Climate #Quote https://t.co/TFy6nef55E— Cities4Climate (@Cities4Climate)1449238727.0
Cities are already leading the day. The White House celebrated the collective work of more than 100 U.S. cities in their commitments to the Compact of Mayors, a coalition of cities pledging to undertake transparent, data-driven approaches to reduce city-level emissions, lower climate change risk and work to complement national and international efforts to protect our climate.
But cities can do far more if properly empowered. In the U.S., for example, some cities control the source of their electricity and where they do, they are moving rapidly to lower carbon sources. Omaha, Nebraska, owns its own power and has committed to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, far more than the 30 percent Obama Clean Power Plan target. In six U.S. states, including California, Illinois and Ohio, cities can choose their own electricity providers. So far 1,300 cities, with 5 percent of the U.S. population, have taken advantage of this, including such behemoths as Chicago and Cincinnati. And in every case the city gets cheaper power and cleaner, lower carbon electrons. U.S. cities are leading the way.
Electricity is not the only climate pollution source that cities need to be empowered to tackle. In many countries, cities are hampered by the lack of authority to issue bonds to pay for low carbon infrastructure like mass transit to building retrofits, even when such infrastructure is wildly profitable and would enable cities to cut taxes. Other cities in the emerging world have permission to borrow, but haven't been given the necessary financial tools to qualify for a credit rating—so they can't borrow affordably. Once Lima Peru got a credit rating, it built a rapid transit system that is transforming the face of the city.
Many cities lack the authority to insist that cars and trucks coming in burn clean fuels in clean engines—the resulting pollution problems not only disrupt the climate but also impose enormous health burdens on urban residents. Paris has been forced to consider banning diesel cars from the city, but has no influence over the lax, shoddy regulations that the member states in the European Union have established over vehicle emissions, as revealed in the last Volkswagen scandal. When Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York and tried to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in Manhattan with congestion pricing, the state legislature blocked him. And his efforts to encourage hybrid taxes in NYC's yellow cab fleet were hampered by federal rules and regulations.
So the key to unlocking the full potential of city climate leadership is to empower cities with the policy levers to clean up not only buildings and transit, but electricity, fuels and vehicles—if every city had the strongest tools that are currently available only to a few, the world's climate prospects would glow far more brightly.
Cities can lead. Cities want to lead. Let them!
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.