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.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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By Andrea Germanos
A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."
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