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After President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, more than 1,000 U.S. governors, mayors, businesses and universities pledged to make greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would nevertheless move the U.S. towards meeting its original Paris goals.
"The actions of cities, companies and states aren't insignificant but they can't do it by themselves," Data-Driven Yale director Dr. Angel Hsu told The Guardian.
The report, co-authored by researchers at Data-Driven Yale, NewClimate Institute and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, in partnership with CDP, is the first to assess the potential impact of individual, quantifiable commitments from almost 6,000 cities, states and regions and more than 2,000 companies on global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.
They found that regional, local and corporate commitments in the U.S. could move the country at least halfway towards meeting its Paris goals, but not enough to close the gap entirely.
However, if the goals of all international cooperative agreements, such as the Global Covenant of Mayors, are met, the U.S. could actually meet or exceed its Paris commitment.
Globally, individual commitments would reduce emissions by 1.5 to 2.2 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide (GtCO2e) per year more by 2030 than if only existing national policies were implemented.
"The initial results presented in this report suggest that individual city, state, region and business commitments represent a significant step forward in bringing the world closer to meeting the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, but it is still not nearly enough to hold global temperature increase to 'well below 2°C' and work 'towards limiting it to 1.5° C.,'" the report authors found.
The regional and local initiatives studied cover seven percent of the world's population, and the companies involved have, at more than $21 trillion, a total revenue close to the size of the U.S. economy.
Researchers focused on nine high-carbon-emitting countries: Brazil, China, the U.S., Russia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and South Africa, as well as the EU.
They found that individual initiatives could reduce the EU's emissions by 230 to 445 metric tons (Mt) of CO2e per year and China's by as much as 155 MtCO2e.
The report was designed to help inform participants in the Global Climate Action Summit upcoming in San Francisco this September, which will gather regional, local and corporate leaders to discuss their contributions to fighting climate change.
For participants, the report should hammer home the importance of honoring their commitments.
"The potential of these commitments to help the world avoid dangerous climate change is clear—the key is now to ensure that these commitments are really implemented," Hsu said in the Data-Driven Yale press release.
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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.