Obama: We Must Create a 'World That is Worthy of Our Children'
Today, President Obama joined more than 150 world leaders to kick off the COP21 UN Climate Summit in Paris. The goal of the two week conference is to finalize a binding agreement that will reduce global carbon emissions to limit global warming to 2C or 3.6F.
The talks opened with a moment of silence for victims of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.
"A political moment like this may not come again," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening remarks. "We have never faced such a test. But neither have we encountered such great opportunity."
President Obama said we need to deliver a meaningful deal because the "next generation is watching."
"Accepting this challenge will not reward us with moments of victory that are clear or quick," he said. "Our progress will be measured differently—in the suffering that is averted, and a planet that's preserved ... but the knowledge that the next generation will be better off for what we do here—can we imagine a more worthy reward than that? Passing that on to our children and our grandchildren, so that when they look back and they see what we did here in Paris, they can take pride in our achievement. Let that be the common purpose here in Paris. A world that is worthy of our children."
"Let that be our common purpose in Paris: A world that is worthy of our children" —@POTUS #ParisClimateConference https://t.co/5w2hTP5Cja— The White House (@The White House)1448885408.0
“This morning, President Obama made the case that all the incredible momentum that we have seen in recent months can and should be transformed into a strong, significant agreement among nations to act in Paris and beyond," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.
"Clean energy is more affordable and more accessible than ever before. More than 160 countries are at the table already with commitments to slash emissions. Record numbers of people around the world have taken to the streets calling for action—and their calls are being echoed in corporate boardrooms nationwide. Now, it’s time to make it count and fight for an agreement that puts us on a path to tackle the worst effects of the climate crisis, protect the most vulnerable communities, and grow a just, equitable clean energy economy.”
350.org Executive Director May Boeve agrees. "President Obama has lifted up climate change as the great moral issue of our time. Now, he must deliver. The science is clear: we must end the use of fossil fuels and fully transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050," she said. "Here in Paris, politicians must agree on that North Star and chart a clear course to get there. The hundreds of thousands who took to the streets over the weekend for the Global Climate March expect nothing less."
"President Obama’s words today made clear that communities around the world can’t wait any longer for real action on climate," commented Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard. "His speech showed that the political leaders and diplomats gathered in Paris need to deliver an ambitious agreement to protect those least responsible yet most affected by climate change.
“As the world’s second largest emitter and the biggest economy, the U.S. has a key role as a leader in international climate negotiations. That leadership entails a huge responsibility to those most affected by the negative impacts of climate change, not only in America but all over the world.”
Also today at COP21, President Obama and French President Hollande, along with other global leaders, announced “Mission Innovation” to reinvigorate innovation to help accelerate the global clean energy revolution to address climate change.
Twenty participating countries—including China, India, the U.S., Indonesia and Brazil—will work to double its clean energy research and development investment over the next five years. All partner countries together represent 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from electricity, and more than 80 percent of the world’s clean energy R&D investment.
"We know that large scale penetration of clean energy technologies will require that smart investment by governments is followed by smart private-sector investments," Paul Bodnar, National Security Council's senior director for Energy and Climate Change, and Dave Turk, deputy assistant secretary for International Climate and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy, said in a blog post.
"That is why Mission Innovation is complemented by a separate private sector-led effort that has pledged to invest extraordinary levels of private capital in clean energy, focusing on early-stage innovations. This parallel initiative—spearheaded by Bill Gates—includes a coalition of over 28 significant private capital investors from 10 countries, and will be called Breakthrough Energy Coalition."
Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at Greenpeace welcomed the announcement.
“The offer of billions of dollars for research into clean renewable energy is a welcome addition to an energy sector that is already making huge strides," Kaiser said. "This could help deliver the great prize—100% renewable for everyone by 2050. The President told the summit he means business this time. If the new cash is ploughed into the genuine clean high-technology renewable industries that are already delivering, we’ll know he means it.”
With the huge sums being talked about, there has to be some democratic accountability as to how it’s spent. For example it mustn’t go towards so-called geo-engineering—short-term quick-fixes that would store up long-term danger. We don’t yet know who will decide how the cash is distributed, but the people who have most to lose from climate change should certainly have a voice at the table.”
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.