For years climate reporting had two strands: climate science got more alarming as we got closer and closer to exceeding various warming thresholds, and climate diplomacy and public policy were a relatively unbroken saga of disappointment and delay.
The media flocks to bad news, conflict, grid-lock, failure. Both strands of the pre-2014 climate story nourished this appetite. Since 2014, however, the climate story grew more complex, hopeful—but harder for the media to summarize. Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow at an alarming rate; projections of the risks of these concentrations become steadily graver, more bad news. So this week we were told that the planet was hotter than it has been in the last 100,000 years.
Current climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to avoid catastrophe—which causes concerned observers to argue that the world is not taking the problem seriously.
But on the solutions front, progress is accelerating. Climate diplomacy and public policy are not only galloping ahead at an unprecedented speed, their pace is increasing. We are in danger of not realizing that.
The media doesn't know how to cover a story that is headed in two directions, so it's unlikely that this week will be reported as a huge turning point in the fight for climate protection—but it was.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered': Paris Climate Agreement Reaches Major Milestone https://t.co/tC2N3Tdsme @BusinessGreen @Ethical_Corp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1475751918.0
First, with ratification by the EU of the Paris agreement came into legally binding force, five years earlier than originally envisaged. Media coverage of this possibility has focused on one defensive motivation, the desire to ensure that a potential Trump Administration could not pull the U.S. out. But that fear moved ratification up only a few months. It's clear that the major emitters wanted to ratify Paris in early 2017 at the latest, a step which not only locks in the U.S. but also accelerates all of the processes embodied in the bottom up Paris agreement—a critically important factor in maximizing the odds that the next round of global commitments , due in 2019, are as ambitious as possible.
Second, next week in Kigali, the world for the first time is poised to commit to the total phase out of one of the six major climate pollutants, HFC refrigerants. While these chemicals—an unintended consequence of the Montreal Protocol phase out of ozone layer destroying chemicals which the HFC's replaced—have thus far contributed only a small part of overheating to date, their use is growing rapidly, their phase out is expected to cut mid-century temperatures by a startling .5-1 degrees, avoiding the emissions of HFC's with the warming potential of 200 billion tons of CO2.
Third, the global community for the first time established an effective global emission limit for an entire sector of the economy, flying. At the Montreal meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, 60 countries representing 80 percent of the world's aviation agreed to cap global emissions from air travel at the 2019-2020 level, requiring emissions growth after that date to be offset. There are significant limitations to this agreement—we will need to phase out all emissions by 2050 not just emissions growth. There are concerns that the use of offsets, while offering a promising funding mechanisms to reduce deforestation, postpones the problem of eliminating aviation's reliance on fossil fuels. This is still a powerful precedent, and the airline industry overall actually favored a faster timeline.
Canada, which only a year ago was viewed as a major barrier to climate progress, became the first industrial nation outside the EU to embrace a national carbon price, putting in place one of the ingredients for a eventual global financial regime capable of achieving a decarbonized world economy by 2050.
The Netherlands concluded it would shut down its almost brand new fleet of coal power plants, because the nation could not meet its Paris climate pledge without doing so.
Dutch Parliament Votes to Shut Down All #Coal Plants via @EcoWatch https://t.co/SY4CNilg9g #EU #climatechange— Dan Zukowski (@Dan Zukowski)1474935765.0
These events are being covered by the media, but in a low-key, low intensity way—and the press won't be jumping up and down and pointing out to the things that didn't happen—and whose absence is enabling the building momentum behind climate progress:
- The Polish government, which badly wants to delay the fading of coal from the EU's energy mix, didn't choose to blockade early EU ratification of the Paris agreement.
- A fractious, challenging U.S.-China relationship on security issues was not allowed to get in the way of the two countries coming together on the aviation deal in Montreal.
- India's legitimate anger at the U.S. over how the Trade Representative is handling WTO complaints against India's efforts to build its domestic solar industry did not yield to India either refusing to ratify Paris this year or its declining to permit the phase out of HFC's.
- The major developing countries agreed, voluntarily, to participate in capping aviation climate pollution, when they still have many important reforms they are still seeking on climate finance from the industrial world.
- Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau chose to commit his government to carbon pricing without waiting for the reluctant, slower Provincial governments like Manitoba to agree.
- The Dutch government did not hide behind Europe's post-Brexit financial uncertainties to delay the decision on shutting down its coal plants.
Per se, road blocks not thrown up, or excuses for delay not offered, don't solve the problem. But they are significant and consequential signals that countries, including the biggest emitters and the historic laggards, are now serious above moving forward. And since forward momentum in the climate space creates its own tail winds (through economies of deployment), this first round of speed will turbo-charge the next round, giving us a serious shot of meet the de-carbonization imperative.
This week is what momentum feels like—and we need to find a way to better celebrate momentum, because it is the single process with the best shot of rescuing a stable climate.
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
- Hundreds of Botswana's Elephants Are Dying From Mysterious Cause ›
- How Botswana's Sudden Elephant Deaths Impact the Species ... ›
- In 'Conservation Disaster,' Hundreds of Botswana's Elephants Are ... ›
By Alexandra Villarreal
As West coast wildfires color the skies dystopian red and orange and an aggressive hurricane season batters the U.S. Gulf coast, college students are demanding their schools take bold action to address the climate crisis.
- NYC Public Schools to Excuse Climate Strikers - EcoWatch ›
- Portuguese Youth Activists Sue 33 Countries Over Climate Crisis ... ›
- Students Rally for Fossil Fuel Divestment at Ohio State University ... ›