By Jeremy Lent
Imagine you're driving your shiny new car too fast along a wet, curvy road. You turn a corner and realize you're heading straight for a crowd of pedestrians. If you slam on your brakes, you'd probably skid and damage your car. So you keep your foot on the accelerator, heading straight for the crowd, knowing they'll be killed and maimed, but if you keep driving fast enough no-one will be able to catch you and you might just get away scot-free.
Of course, that's monstrous behavior and I expect you'd never make that decision. But it's a decision the developed world is collectively taking in the face of the global catastrophe that will arise from climate change.
With daily headlines pivoting from the unparalleled flooding from Harvey in Houston to the devastation caused by Irma in Florida, it might seem like the U.S. has its hands full just dealing with our own climate emergencies. In the short term, that's true. Harvey is estimated to have caused $180 billion of destruction, damaging some 200,000 homes, while Irma's havoc is still being assessed.
But meanwhile, multiply the damage from Harvey and Irma a hundredfold and you'll get a feeling for the climate-related suffering taking place right now in the rest of the world. In India, Bangladesh and Nepal, an estimated 40 million people have been affected by massive flooding, with more than 1,200 deaths. More than one third of Bangladesh's land mass has been submerged. As if that's not enough, Africa has been suffering its own under-reported climate disasters, with hundreds of thousands affected by flooding in Nigeria, Niger, Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Although the regime in the White House is doing its best to ignore it, these global weather extremes are clearly exacerbated by climate change, and have been predicted by climate scientists for decades. What is so disturbing is that we're experiencing this wave of disasters at a global temperature roughly 1°C above historic norms. It's a virtual certainty that we're going to hit 1.5° before long—perhaps in the next ten years—and unless we do something drastic to transform our fossil fuel-based society, we could be hitting 2°C as early as 2036. By the end of the century—when half the babies born this year should still be alive—conservative estimates have global temperatures hitting 3.3°C above baseline, based on the commitments that formed the 2015 Paris agreement at COP21. And that's not including potentially devastating feedback effects such as methane leaking from permafrost, which could lead to temperatures way higher, causing an earth that would literally be uninhabitable for humans in many regions.
The likely effects on our civilization are dreadful to contemplate. Because most cities have grown up around oceans, half the world's population currently lives within fifteen miles of the coast. The devastation we've been seeing from flooding and storm surges offers only a hint of the impending catastrophe. In the Global South, beleaguered by massive poverty and inadequate infrastructure, cities will be overwhelmed. Reduction in river flows and falling groundwater tables will lead to widespread shortages of potable water. Flooding and landslides will disrupt electricity, sanitation and transportation systems, all of which will lead to rampant infectious disease. Meanwhile, even as these cities strain beyond breaking point, devastating droughts will cause agricultural systems to collapse, forcing millions of starving refugees into the cities from rural areas.
Eventually, even the most strident climate denialists will have to adjust to the facts raining down from the sky. Even Rush Limbaugh was forced to evacuate his Palm Beach home after claiming Irma was a conspiracy. But when they do, you can guarantee their response will be parochial. Wealthier cities will begin massive investments in building barricades, improving infrastructure, even moving to higher land, to defend themselves against the climate cataclysm. That's known in climate change circles as "adaptation." In more rational parts of the rich world, cities such as London and Rotterdam are already doing it.
However, effective adaptation isn't an option for the megacities of the Global South, which are already floundering from inadequate resources, and where hundreds of millions are forced to subsist, undernourished and vulnerable, in shanty towns. A central part of the Paris agreement, which Trump recently rejected, was a Green Climate Fund that is supposed to receive $100 billion annually by 2020 from developed countries to aid the rest of the world in mitigating and adapting to climate change. So far, only $10 billion has been pledged, $3 billion of which is the U.S. portion that Trump has vowed not to increase. It's hard to see even a small fraction of that $100 billion annual payment actually coming through.
Yet it's the developed world that created this climate mess in the first place. With just 15 percent of the world's population, developed countries have been responsible for 58 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases. All that fossil fuel energy is what permitted them to industrialize and thus become "developed," to the point that they're now consuming 80 percent of the world's resources, leaving the poorest three billion in the Global South to survive on less than $2 per day. That doesn't leave much change for climate adaptation.
That's why the inadequate response of the rich world to climate disruption is like that driver choosing to plunge straight into the crowd rather than swerving and risk damaging their shiny new car. What would it take to put the brakes on in time to avoid climate catastrophe?
There is hopeful news about the spectacular rise of renewables, surprising experts with the speed with which they are replacing fossil fuels around the world. But while that's an essential part of a solution, modern renewables still account for just 10 percent of global energy production, which in turn contributes no more than 25 percent of total greenhouse emissions. Halting the slide to disaster requires something far more extensive: a complete transformation of our current economic system.
After Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. faced an existential threat, President Roosevelt announced a military production plan to Congress and the American people that seemed unachievable. Yet, not only did the country meet those plans, it overshot them as a result of the wholesale transformation of society towards a single goal. This kind of mobilization is what would be required today to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change: a Climate Mobilization.
In this case, though, it's a different kind of mobilization that's required. The threat we're facing comes, not from enemies at war with us, but from the results of an economic system designed to exploit the earth and the most vulnerable humans living on it at an ever-increasing pace. As long as we measure ourselves and others by how much we consume, we're complicit in fueling the global system that's rapaciously devouring the earth.
The good news is that there's a short window of time when a fundamental shift in our economic, social and political priorities could still prevent global catastrophe. Alternative economic models exist that offer ways to conduct commerce sustainably. Ultimately, a flourishing future requires moving away from the growth-based, consumption-obsessed values of global capitalism, and toward a quality-oriented approach that could allow all of us to live on the earth in dignity. It's even possible to draw down much of the carbon that's already been emitted—the potential is there but it requires a choice to be made: a shift in our society's values toward caring for others alive right now, and for future generations.
Will there be enough collective willpower to act and transform our society before it's too late? That depends on the lessons learned from Harvey, Irma and the climate disasters still to come. Suppose, as you're racing toward that crowd in the road, that you managed to brake in time, get out of the car and join them. And then imagine your surprise when you discover the road you were speeding on came to an abrupt end around the next curve and was leading you directly off the precipice. Ultimately, the climate catastrophe we're ignoring will become all humanity's catastrophe unless we start acting on it now.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
The recent documentary, Sea of Life, exposes key threats to the oceans, and calls for action.
Sea of Life follows filmmaker Julia Barnes on a three year adventure, spanning seven countries, to save coral reefs.
Although they cover less than 1 percent of the sea floor coral reefs support up to 30 percent of all species in the ocean at some stage in their life cycles. Often referred to as the rainforests of the ocean, coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. They're also an indicator for the future of the oceans and all life on Earth.
To date, we've lost more than 50 percent of the world's coral reefs. The main threats to corals are bleaching (caused by ocean warming) and ocean acidification. Most of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere doesn't stay in the atmosphere, it gets absorbed by the oceans, making the oceans more acidic. And in a more acidic environment any animal that builds a shell or a skeleton can't form. This means by 2070 coral reefs will literally start dissolving. But they will likely die out much earlier than that, due to ocean warming. Scientists are now predicting that less than 10 percent of the world's coral reefs will survive past 2050, as bleaching events become more frequent. Mass bleaching has already claimed large chunks of the Great Barrier Reef.
Corals are a sort of canary in the coal mine, signaling trouble ahead for all life on Earth. There have been five mass extinction in the history of the planet and at least four of them have been attributed to ocean acidification. Now, we're causing the oceans to go acidic faster than at any other time in the history of the planet.
When coral reefs go down they signal the start of a mass extinction in the oceans, and that is something that will affect all of us.
Tiny organisms in the ocean called phytoplankton are responsible for creating most of the oxygen in the air that we breathe. Two out of every three breaths we take come from plankton. Photosynthesizing on a massive scale, plankton are the reason the oceans are considered the blue lungs of the planet. Forty percent of the world's plankton populations are already gone. "We may be losing up to 1% a year because of ocean acidification ... It's like—why would do anything to disrupt the oxygen supply for the planet," asks Louie Psihoyos in Sea of Life.
What most people don't know about ocean acidification is that there's a lag time between the time it takes the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere to get absorbed into the ocean. So even if we stopped producing carbon dioxide today the oceans would have decades where they continue to become more acidic—20, or even 30 years. This means if we're going to solve ocean acidification we not only have to stop carbon emissions, we also have to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
The filmmakers for Sea of Life visited a marine protected area in Mexico called Cabo Pulmo. The area had once been heavily overfished, to the point where there was almost nothing left. Clearly this couldn't continue, so the citizens decided to create a marine reserve, giving the ocean a break and allowing life to recover. Within the next 10 years they saw a 450 percent increase in biomass in the ocean. The fish came back, and now the waters off Cabo Pulmo are a thriving natural community.
Given the chance, nature will come back. Today, we know that 90 percent of the fish are gone and that 75 percent of the forests have been wiped out. If we let this life come back, we could sequester an enormous amount of carbon, creating a world where all species can thrive.
Sea of Life follows the environmental movement through large rallies in New York and at COP21 in Paris, where instead of celebrating the Paris agreement, long-time environmental activist Emily Hunter asserts that the agreement isn't enough. "We've done over 20 years of campaigning, more than 20 years of negotiations, and if this is the deal that we finally get then we've failed."
The entire environmental movement could be considered a failure. Despite years of campaigning, almost every environmental problem has gotten worse, not better. As Rob Stewart explains in Sea of Life, "Our greatest ambitions on climate change would buy us 1% more time on a hugely degraded planet where we're still fighting each other over what remains. We need to imagine a world that's beautiful enough for us to fight for."
Sea of Life asks audiences to imagine a world worth fighting for. What could this world look like if we got things right? What if we made this planet beautiful for us and all species?
The film features inspiring young activists who are making a difference, including Felix Finkbeiner, whose organization has planted 14 billion trees, and Madison Stewart who makes films to change people's perspective about sharks. The 21-year-old filmmaker behind Sea of Life began working on the movie when she was 16. She believes young people have an opportunity to become heroes for the planet, living lives that are full of meaning and adventure and having an amazing time doing it.
Julia Barnes is motivated by the scale of the problem. The worse things get, the greater the imperative to take action. And now, with all of life on Earth at stake, she believes action is no longer an option.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The world is worried as Decision Day nears.
At a April 29 rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump said he would make a "big decision" on Paris within the next two weeks and vowed to end "a broken system of global plunder at American expense."
Now the Trump administration has a meeting scheduled Tuesday to decide whether to drop out of the Paris agreement.
During last year's campaign Trump called the Paris climate agreement, COP21, a "bad deal" for the U.S. and promised more oil drilling and to revive the fading coal industry. He's also called climate change a "hoax."
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1352229352.0
This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1388623196.0
Trump's senior strategist Steve Bannon, White House counsel Don McGahn, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are leading the climate deniers urging Trump to officially pull the U.S. from the accord. But, sources said, they are clashing with Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and First Daughter Ivanka Trump.
Trump's scorched-Earth approach to environmental protections has shocked current and former government officials overseas who are waiting nervously to see whether the U.S. will destabilize the agreement by pulling out of the deal, the Guardian reported.
• Izabella Teixeira, the former Brazilian environment minister: "Trump's actions on the climate are worrying. Although it is still too early to be sure what his strategy is for the U.S., the signs so far of backsliding are a concern to anyone who was involved in the long process that lead up to the Paris agreement. We certainly could not have imagined this political picture when we signed the agreement in Paris. It is a concern because we saw a similar situation when George W. Bush came to power and backed away from the Kyoto protocol."
• Erik Solheim, UN environment chief: "There is no doubt where the future is and that is what all the private sector companies have understood. The future is green. Obviously if you are not a party to the Paris agreement, you will lose out. And the main losers of course will be the people of the United States itself because all the interesting, fascinating new green jobs would go to China and to the other parts of the world that are investing heavily in this."
• Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji: "Climate change is not a hoax. It is frighteningly real. Billions of people are losing the ability to feed themselves. Don't let the whole side down by leaving, just when we have a game plan."
• Hilda Heine, the president of the Marshall Islands: said she was "extremely disappointed to see the United States seeking to roll back its efforts to reduce emissions. My country's survival depends on every country delivering on the promises they made in Paris. Our own commitment to it will never waiver."
• Ramón Méndez, former head of Uruguay's climate policy: "I'm very worried by what is happening in the U.S. regarding climate change. It was an extraordinarily strong shock to hear that Trump has signed a decree to revise the clean power plan. Of all of Trump's policies, this is the one with the worst consequences for the world. If an important country like the U.S., which has the second biggest emissions after China, doesn't abide by the Paris agreement, then the Paris agreement is broken. It will make it harder for other countries to maintain their ambitions."
"If the U.S. pulls out, it will be a pariah," said Andrew Light, a climate adviser at the World Resources Institute. "It will be on the sidelines, and that's going to hurt American businesses."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, tweeted what Trump had to say:
"Hydropower is great, great, form of power—we don't even talk about it, because to get the environmental permits are virtually impossible. It's one of the best things you can do—hydro. But we don't talk about it anymore."
But, once again, Trump is dead wrong.
Here are the problems with hydropower worldwide:
Trump's statement that "we don't talk about it anymore" is ridiculous. In fact, there are hundreds of massive hydropower dams under construction across the globe, and thousands being planned.
Clearly, Trump doesn't know a damn thing about dams.
By Nadia Prupis
Finance ministers for the Group of 20 (G20), which comprises the world's biggest economies, dropped a joint statement mentioning funding for the fight against climate change after pressure from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
OMG! Sen. Inhofe: Huge #EPA Budget Cuts Will Prevent Agency From 'Brainwashing Our Kids' https://t.co/RaxEvQTP6V @SierraClub @NRDC @foe_us— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489698497.0
A G20 official taking part in the annual meeting told Reuters that efforts by this year's German leadership to keep climate funding in the statement had hit a wall.
"Climate change is out for the time being," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin stressed that the move did not mark the end of the road for the statement. The G20 is scheduled to meet in full in July in Hamburg.
"There can be a way to overcome disagreements today—that is, not writing about it in the communique," Sapin told reporters on Friday. "But not writing about it doesn't mean not talking about it. Not writing about it means that there are difficulties, that there is a disagreement and that we we must work on them in the coming months."
The statement does mention the need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but overall the language appears weaker than previous communiques, critics said.
The 23-page draft, obtained by Bloomberg News, outlines how the most prosperous nations can lead by example, cutting their own greenhouse-gas emissions, financing efforts to curb pollution in poorer countries and take other steps to support the landmark Paris climate accord.
"The link between global warming and the organization of financial markets and even the organization of the global economy" is particularly important for France, Sapin said in Baden-Baden. "We'll see whether there'll be agreement with the U.S. administration, but there can be no going back on this for the G-20."
At the last G20 meeting in July 2016, the group's financial leaders urged all countries that had signed onto the landmark Paris climate accord to bring the deal into action as soon as possible. But President Trump, who has referred to global warming as a "Chinese hoax," took office vowing to remove the U.S. from the voluntary agreement.
On Thursday, a day before the finance meeting, the Trump administration unveiled its "skinny budget" proposal, which included a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It's Official: Trump Budget Would Make Deep Cuts to Climate and Science Research https://t.co/OxW4ntYos0 @beyondzeronews @Climate_Rescue— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489742706.0
As Friends of the Earth senior political strategist Ben Schreiber said at the time, "With this budget, Trump has made it clear that he is prioritizing Big Oil profits over the health of the American people."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
It's an honor to address this group of distinguished faculty, proud parents, supportive family members and friends.
We're gathered here in this idyllic location to celebrate the accomplishments of these young adults as they successfully complete one great challenge and prepare for others to come.
So please join me in congratulating Green Mountain College's (GMC) Class of 2017.
I'm especially honored to be giving the commencement speech at Green Mountain College for at least two reasons.
First of all, this is my home—broadly speaking.
I grew up in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Well, those of us in the slightly less "green" state of Massachusetts call them the Berkshires—but it is the same mountain range, the same magical small corner of the world.
Growing up in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts 100 miles southeast of here, I gained an appreciation for the wonder of nature hiking those mountains, wading in those streams, bicycling up and down those same hills.
I was an avid cyclist—though I didn't rack up the 4,000 miles a year that your president does.
Really? 4,000 miles a year President Allen?? [looking at him]
Have you tallied the carbon footprint of all of that respiration? I did (the nerd in me couldn't possibly resist). It's 95 entire kilograms of CO2 equivalent.
I hope that's been accounted for in GMC's carbon footprint estimates.
But let me get back on message…
The other reason I am so delighted to be here has to do with what Green Mountain College represents. Even the name of the college seems to speak unapologetically to its vision and its mission.
And GMC proudly advertises itself as "First in Sustainability."
Now talk is cheap of course. But GMC—and its students and graduates—haven't just talked the talk. They've walked the walk.
In this year's graduating class, for example, is a young woman named Keeley Titus. Keeley resided on the "sustainability floor" of her residence hall, which is built around locally raised food.
I have to say, I just love this story.
Keeley bottle-fed from birth two Nigerian dwarf goats named Margaret and Rose who reside at the college's farm. She's fed them 4 times a day. They are now old enough that Keely can produce fresh milk and cheese from them.
Keeley came to GMC because she wasn't interested in conventional programs focusing on big ag. She wanted to learn how to replicate sustainable food systems at the smaller mid-scale.
As Keeley notes, "I think that's the way we're moving as a country."
I think she's right. But only because of the efforts by her and other young leaders who are driven by the vision of a sustainable future—a vision undoubtedly nurtured by their experiences here at GMC.
For over two decades, this college has demonstrated an unmatched commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Amazingly, with an enrollment of only about 800 students (for the record—that's roughly the same size as my high school), the college offers majors in Environmental Studies, Renewable Energy & Ecological Design, Wilderness & Outdoor Therapy, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production, Animal Conservation & Care and numerous minor options in the environmental and sustainability space. Students can also design their own majors.
But even more impressive is the way the college integrates the theme of environmental sustainability throughout students' educational experience via its unique Environmental Liberal Arts curriculum.
Students of all majors learn about the importance of social and ecological sustainability through coursework that stresses critical thinking, analysis and written expression.
And outside of class, the learning continues in the form of outings and field trips, and service learning projects.
This integrated focus creates a shared sense of purpose—because here, the environment is 100 percent relevant to every field.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education awarded Green Mountain College the Campus Sustainability Leadership Award in 2007 for—and I quote:
"Commitment to environmental sustainability in its governance and administration, curriculum and research, operations, campus culture, and community outreach."
Green Mountain was named an EPA Energy Star Showcase Campus.
That GMC has received such accolades is not incidental.
Let me stress, once again, that GMC walks the walk. It recognizes:
1. Little Things Add Up! Like the recent campus-wide retrofitting of light fixtures and students have installed a wind turbine to power the campus green house and solar panel on the roof of the student center.
2. Student Engagement is Critical: Through the Student Campus Greening Fund (SCGF) every GMC student contributes $30 from the college activities fee. Students design projects and submit proposals. Awards are based on a student vote. SCGF money has been used to install bike racks, purchase recycling bins, use bio-diesel in campus maintenance equipment and upgrade the alternative energy systems that power the farm greenhouse.
3. We Need to Think Big: Seven years ago, GMC opened a new combined heat and power biomass plant costing $5.8m.
4. Commitments Must be Actionable: In 2011, GMC became climate neutral. Only the second college in the nation to achieve this goal, and the first to do so through a significant reduction in on-site emissions achieved through efficiency, adoption of clean energy, and purchase of quantifiable local carbon offsets.
5. Peer Pressure Works: GMC's achievement of carbon neutrality in 2011 was followed by Colby College of Maine in 2013, and late last year, close-by Middlebury College.
In the end, though, it really comes down to the people. GMC's faculty are of course top notch and include leading thinkers, educators and practitioners in the sustainability space.
But it's truly the students who make GMC so special.
In recent years, GMC students have done internships with the Boston Aquarium, the Nature Conservancy, the United Nations, the Office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
They've done internships with Green Mountain Power and Duke Energy. Yes—sometimes change can come from within.
And so many of GMCs graduates are now working productively in the area of environmental sustainability.
Take for example Joe Bossen, class of 2008. As a student, he experimented with small community-based coop. After graduation he founded a company called "Vermont Bean Crafters"—as Joe puts it "joyfully serving the tastiest in local, organic and plant-based food."
Joe was named Vermont Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Vermont Small Business Association in 2014.
Some of us grew up being told it's not easy being green.
But Joe is shining example that, with a bit of creativity, you can excel in both business and sustainability in today's world.
Or take Allan Coutinho—one of last year's graduates. Allan is a Brazilian native who was attracted by GMC's mission of social and environmental sustainability. He crafted a self-designed major that merged his interests in education and sustainable development. And he was the head of GMC's award-winning delegation to the UN's Model United Nations program.
He is now pursuing graduate studies at Harvard. He has said he doesn't think another school would have given him so many opportunities. And I suspect he's right about that.
Here are what a few other GMC graduates are doing today:
Kim Barrett—class of 2014, director of Kehoe Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Vermont.
Tori Knoss—class of 2012, naturalist, Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui, Hawaii.
Cory Cheever—class of 2008, environmental educator, Vermont Institute of Natural Science.
Keith Drinkwine—class of 2010, assistant director of Camps, Parks, & Forest, N.Y. State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
Mindy Blank—class of 2010, adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at GMC. She participated in the history-making COP21 climate meeting in Paris in December 2015. She has also worked for the International Energy Agency helping countries accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.
The list goes on. And an impressive list it is.
At a time when our environment is most imperiled, your work—class of 2017—is more important than ever.
Now, let me regale you with a story about my own college experience.
In 1984, after graduating from Amherst High School, I headed off to Berkeley.
To demonstrate against the policies of Ronald Reagan, you ask?
To participate in sit-ins protesting Apartheid in South Africa, you ask?
Alas, no, I didn't go to protest or demonstrate.
I went there to study applied math and physics among some of the world's leading experts.
And ironically, it was that path turned out to be the one that would lead me toward confrontation and battle.
I would go on to study theoretical physics in graduate school and to move into the then-burgeoning field of climate research.
My path of discovery would ultimately lead to me to publish the now iconic "Hockey Stick" curve in the late 1990s.
The curve tells an unmistakable story, namely that the current warming spike is unprecedented as far back as we can go. Our continued burning of fossil fuels is the culprit.
And fossil fuel interests and front groups and politicians doing their bidding attacked it—and me.
Despite the numerous independent confirmations of my findings by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and dozens of other assessments, the effort to discredit this research—and to discredit me personally—has continued.
I was initially reluctant about being at the center of the fractious societal debate over human-caused climate change.
But I have ultimately come to embrace that role. I have become convinced that there is no more noble pursuit we can engage in than to seek to insure that policy is informed by an objective assessment of scientific evidence.
That evidence now shows us that we face a stark choice, between a future with a little more climate change that we will still have to adapt to and cope with, and one with catastrophic climate change that will threaten the future of life as we know it.
And so here we are, at a crossroads.
Let me be blunt.
Never before have we witnessed science under the kind of assault it is being subject to right now in this country.
Nor have we witnessed an assault on the environment like the one we are witnessing in the current political atmosphere.
I will borrow and adapt—for our current time and place—the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:
First they came for the immigrants and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a scientist.
Then they came for the environmentalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an environmentalist.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Friends, let this not be our legacy.
Those of us who care about science and the role that science plays in our larger public discourse and those who care about environmental stewardship and a sustainable path forward must now make our voices heard.
Become involved. They are so many ways to speak out and to influence the dialogue. So many ways we can engage constructively with governmental, civic and corporate institutions in the realms of education, public policy and industry.
Past GMC graduates have gone on to become community planners, environmental lawyers, and directors of nonprofit organizations. Many now work for state and federal agencies or educational institutions.
Let me go just a bit further: Let me ask each of you to change the world for the better.
I am confident you will.
Godspeed to you all.
By Kevin Kalhoefer & Lisa Hymas
President Donald Trump has decided to exit the Paris climate agreement, according to Axios. The news site also reported that the Scott Pruitt-led U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been "quietly working" with opponents of the agreement to help them place op-eds in newspapers. Media Matters identified a number of anti-Paris agreement op-eds that have been published in papers around the U.S. in recent weeks, spreading misinformation about the expected economic impacts of the agreement, the commitment of developing countries to cutting emissions and climate science in general.
Trump plans to decide whether to remain in the climate pact in the coming days.
Axios and The New York Times both reported on May 31 that President Donald Trump is expected to pull out of the Paris agreement, according to sources with knowledge of the decision. Trump subsequently tweeted on May 31 that he would announce his decision on the Paris accord this afternoon at the White House Rose Garden. The agreement, reached in December 2015, brought nearly 200 nations together in a pledge to fight climate change and curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
I will be announcing my decision on Paris Accord, Thursday at 3:00 P.M. The White House Rose Garden. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1496279117.0
Paris Agreement Opponents Publishing Deceptive Op-Eds May Have Been Assisted by Scott Pruitt's EPA
EPA is "quietly working" to help right-wing activists publish op-eds arguing that Trump should take the U.S. out of the Paris agreement.
As Axios reported, "Pruitt told aides he wanted them to pump the brakes on publicly lobbying for withdrawal from Paris. Instead, the EPA staff are quietly working with outside supporters to place op eds favoring withdrawal from Paris."
Misleading op-eds have appeared in multiple newspapers in recent weeks.
Media Matters identified five anti-Paris agreement op-eds featuring misinformation about the agreement and climate change that were published in newspapers in recent weeks, including some that were syndicated and appeared in multiple outlets. Papers publishing the op-eds included The Washington Times, the Boston Herald, USA Today, The News Journal, The Jackson Sun and The Hill.
Right-Wing Op-Eds Pushed False Claim that Paris Agreement Would Be Economically Disastrous
Conservative op-ed writers falsely claimed that the Paris accord would impose massive costs on U.S. businesses and families.
In an opinion piece in The Washington Times, Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, argued that the U.S. should withdraw from the agreement, adding, "As economist Nicolas Loris and U.N. expert Brett Schaefer recently noted, 'The U.S. regulations alone would increase energy costs for U.S. families and businesses, causing an overall average shortfall of nearly 400,000 jobs and total income loss of more than $20,000 for a family of four by the year 2035.'" The figures were based on a 2016 Heritage Foundation report that claimed former President Obama's keystone policy for meeting Paris obligations, the Clean Power Plan, would cause an "aggregate gross domestic product loss of more than $2.5 trillion" by 2035. And Loris, who also works for the Heritage Foundation, penned his own opinion piece in the Boston Herald claiming, "Compliance with the Paris agreement will cost the global economy trillions of dollars over the next 80 years."
Other studies have concluded that the Clean Power Plan would produce net economic growth.
PolitiFact rated as "False" a Trump statement that was partly based on Heritage's claim that the Clean Power Plan would reduce U.S. GDP by $2.5 trillion. The fact-checking website noted that other analyses, including one written by Harvard researchers and published in a peer-reviewed journal, found that the plan would have a multibillion-dollar net-positive effect on GDP.
A Citi study found that it is not addressing climate change that would be extremely costly.
A study by financial institution Citi found that unchecked climate change could cost up to $72 trillion in global GDP and that moving to a low-carbon economy would be approximately $2 trillion cheaper than not doing so. From Harvard Business Review:
Estimates of climate risk in the trillions are unfortunately getting more common. [In 2015], Citi produced a powerful study of the costs and benefits of shifting the energy system toward low-carbon technologies. Unchecked climate change, Citi said, could cost the world $72 trillion by the middle of the century. But the big surprise in Citi's report was the cost of building the low-carbon economy: the world can spend $2 trillion less in total on energy infrastructure and ongoing fuel costs than it would in the business-as-usual scenario. So we save $2 trillion and avoid losing up to $72 trillion in economic activity.
Transitioning to a clean energy economy in line with Paris obligations would fuel economic growth and stimulate job creation. A report published this year by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency found that transforming the global energy system to line up with the goals of the Paris agreement "can fuel economic growth and create new employment opportunities" in energy and other sectors:
The energy transition can fuel economic growth and create new employment opportunities.
Global GDP will be boosted around 0.8% in 2050 (USD 1.6 trillion). The cumulative gain through increased GDP from now to 2050 will amount to USD 19 trillion. Increased economic growth is driven by the investment stimulus and by enhanced pro-growth policies, in particular the use of carbon pricing and recycling of proceeds to lower income taxes. In a worst-case scenario (full crowding out of capital), GDP impacts are smaller (sic) but still positive (0.6%) since the effect of pro-growth policies remains favorable. Important structural economic changes will take place. While fossil fuel industries will incur the largest reductions in sectoral output, those related to capital goods, services and bioenergy will experience the highest increases. The energy sector (including energy efficiency) will create around six million additional jobs in 2050. Job losses in fossil fuel industry would be fully offset by new jobs in renewables, with more jobs being created by energy efficiency activities. The overall GDP improvement will induce further job creation in other economic sectors.
Big businesses have strongly lobbied the Trump administration to stay in the Paris accord.
Despite right-wing claims that adhering to the Paris climate agreement would bring economic disaster, hundreds of major U.S. businesses have urged the Trump administration to stick to the climate deal. From CNN Money:
If Trump bails on the agreement, which has been signed by 195 countries, he will do so over the objections of hundreds of major U.S. businesses.
In recent months, big business has lobbied fiercely in favor of the deal, which aims to end the fossil fuel era. Even major oil firms like Chevron (CVX) and ExxonMobil (XOM) back it.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods wrote a personal letter to Trump earlier this month, urging him to stick to the deal. The U.S., he said, is "well positioned to compete" with the agreement in place and staying in means "a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field."
It might appear to be a strange move for energy firms, but many like the agreement because it favors natural gas (which they produce) over dirtier coal.
It's more than just energy firms, though: Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Starbucks (SBUX), Gap (GPS), Nike (NKE), Google (GOOGL, Tech30), Adidas (ADDYY) and L'Oreal (LRLCY) all support continued U.S. involvement.
Business leaders say the Paris deal, also called COP21, will help generate new jobs, limit damage from climate change and help assert American leadership on the global stage.
Conservative Op-Eds Argued Wrongly That China and India Are Not Taking Action
Right-wing op-eds falsely claimed that China, India and other developing nations were not committed to Paris goals.
In a syndicated column that appeared in USA Today and USA Today Network newspapers, Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment and a former vice president of Americans for Prosperity, wrote, "The Paris treaty effectively bans coal-fired power plants in the United States—while China has 368 coal plants under construction and more than 800 in the planning stage. India's coal production under the deal is allowed to double by 2020—and they are likely to have emissions much higher than what they promised." And in his anti-Paris op-ed in the Boston Herald, Loris wrote, "Developing nations want affordable, dependable energy to raise their standards of living, and countries such as India, China and Indonesia need to use a lot of coal to get there."
China and India are on pace to meet their emissions targets ahead of schedule.
The Washington Post recently reported that an analysis conducted by the Climate Action Tracker found that "China and India are on track to overachieve on their climate pledges" and quoted Bill Hare, CEO of the nonprofit science and policy institute Climate Analytics, saying that China and India "are going to slow the global growth in CO2 emissions significantly." A New York Times editorial discussing the same analysis noted, "The shift from fossil fuels has ... been much faster and more pronounced than most experts expected. China has reduced coal use for three years in a row and recently scrapped plans to build more than 100 coal power plants. Indian officials have estimated that country might no longer need to build new coal plants beyond those that are already under construction."
China and India are taking big steps to develop clean energy and scale back coal plants.
In January of this year, China announced that it plans to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable energy sources and is canceling plans to build more than 100 coal-fired power plants. Last year, India announced that it plans to get 57 percent of its total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 and launch a $2 billion equity fund to boost renewable energy development. According to The Associated Press, a March report by the groups CoalSwarm, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace found that "construction starts for coal-fired plants in China and India were down by 62 percent in January from a year earlier while new facilities starting operation declined 29 percent." Additionally, a May 22 New York Times editorial noted, "Electric vehicle sales in China jumped 70 percent last year, thanks in large part to generous government incentives. India is much further behind in this area, but the country's minister of power said last month that all cars sold in the country should be electric by 2030.
Developing nations pushed for a strong Paris agreement and were "crucial" to its adoption.
Developing countries, including the least developed countries, were a key part of the "high ambition coalition" that called for tougher climate change policies and "was widely credited with ensuring the Paris meeting ended in agreement," according to Climate Change News. Far from pushing for a weak agreement and wanting leeway to burn coal, the developing nations have been insistent on the need for fast action to deal with climate change, and have sounded alarms about the role of corporations and lobbyists in UN climate negotiations, fearing that they might weaken emissions goals.
Developing nations committed to cutting emissions even though it's more difficult for them and they have less responsibility to do so.
The world's developing countries have emitted only a small proportion of the climate-warming gases that humans have sent into the atmosphere over the past 160 years, and so they're responsible for only a small proportion of the global warming the world is experiencing. And yet all but two of the world's developing nations signed onto the Paris agreement and submitted action plans, many of which experts said were ambitious. Yet developing countries face a tougher challenge reducing emissions than their wealthier counterparts do. As Robert Lempert of the RAND Corporation explained to the Chicago Tribune, "The richest countries have much of their economy in lower-emitting sectors. ... The U.S. can grow their economy and improve their quality of life without increasing energy use. But in developing countries, you can't do that."
Op-Eds Against the Agreement Pushed Climate Science Denial
Anti-Paris agreement op-eds spread climate science misinformation.
In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Princeton emeritus physics professor and climate denier William Happer wrote that the U.S. "should withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement," claiming, "For too long, well-meaning policymakers have been misled by propaganda, masquerading as science, that more atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will harm the planet ... More CO2 is not a pollutant but is a benefit to humanity." In an op-ed in The Hill, Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute attempted to undermine the scientific rationale behind the Paris agreement by disputing that human activity is the dominant cause of recent global warming.
Slate's Phil Plait: Claiming CO2 is not a pollutant is "ridiculous" and "in-your-face wrong."
In a Feb. 18 column, science journalist Phil Plait wrote in Slate that the frequently used climate-denier claim that CO2 is not a pollutant is "ridiculous," "in-your-face wrong" and a "typical denier distraction technique, trying to downplay or distract you from what's really going on." He summarized the overwhelming scientific consensus: While some carbon dioxide is necessary for plant life, burning fossil fuels and thus releasing excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is warming up the globe "too quickly for many living things to adapt." Carbon pollution is causing rapid changes to the Earth's climate, and, as Plait explained, that speed is the "danger; the rate at which we are heating the planet is unprecedented."
Humans are "by far" the dominant cause of global warming.
InsideClimate News reported in 2016 that "ninety to 100 percent of climate scientists agree that the planet is warming due to human activity, according to a peer-reviewed paper published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The study, called a 'consensus on consensus' synthesizes findings from prior published research." In 2013, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported, "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines "extremely likely" as having 95 to 100 percent probability. A 2009 letter signed by 18 U.S. scientific organizations stated that "greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver" of climate change. In a 2012 literature review for the blog Skeptical Science, Dana Nuccitelli laid out the overwhelming evidence that humans are the primary driver of climate change, writing, "A wide variety of statistical and physical approaches all arrived at the same conclusion: that humans are the dominant cause of the global warming over the past century, and particularly over the past 50 years. This robust scientific evidence is why there is a consensus among scientific experts that humans are the dominant cause of global warming."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Media Matters for America.
By Lauren McCauley
Underscoring the dangers of U.S. President Trump's broad attacks on air and water regulations, a pair of reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday revealed that one in four young children die each year as a result of unhealthy environments.
This interactive map shows if your drinking water is at risk from Trump's executive order. https://t.co/QsvvhOn2JA via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1488643206.0
"A polluted environment is a deadly one—particularly for young children," said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan in a press statement on Monday. "Their developing organs and immune systems and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."
Beginning in utero, children are exposed to harmful environmental risks. According to the studies, roughly 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year from factors that could have been prevented through addressing environmental risks, which WHO called "a shocking missed opportunity."
Each year 1.7 million deaths of children under 5 years old are linked to the environment https://t.co/K7JUBTTz5j… https://t.co/DpyTQT7rVt— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO))1488758513.0
The first study, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children's Health and the Environment, provides a detailed update on a similar 2004 study, now incorporating some of the latest factors that affect children's health, including "increasing urbanization, industrialization, globalization and climate change."
A companion report delves into the details of environment-related death statistics. Among the known threats that kill hundreds of thousands of children each year, the studies found:
- 570,000 children under 5 years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke.
- 361,000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
- 270,000 children die during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution.
- 200,000 deaths of children under 5 years from malaria could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage.
Less is known about the impact of emerging environmental hazards, which include exposure to chemicals, electronic waste and climate change.
WHO notes that the toxicity of many chemicals "is not well understood," nor adequately assessed by regulators. "Chemicals from pesticides, plastics and other manufactured goods, as well as from environmental contamination, eventually find their way into the food chain," the health atlas notes. "These include arsenic, fluoride, lead, mercury, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyls and persistent organic pollutants, among others."
The report also warns that climate change is "one of the greatest new threats to children's environmental health," with higher levels of atmospheric carbon increasing rates of asthma and warming temperatures extending the range of infectious diseases. Further, WHO observes that on a hotter planet "[d]isruption to fresh water supplies and food crop harvests will exacerbate malnutrition and stunting," while "[m]ore frequent heat waves will put children at risk of heat stress, renal disease and respiratory illness."
Further, these shocking statistics come amid a concerted regulatory rollback in the U.S. on the part of the Trump administration, which is poised to gut regulations on vehicle emissions and has already undercut a rule that protects drinking water, another that required fossil fuel companies to report how much toxic methane they release into the environment and yet another that prevented mining companies from dumping coal waste into waterways.
Clean Power Plan, Clean Water Rule & federal coal leasing moratorium at stake under #Trump. @maryannehitt explains: https://t.co/xZFMtYpZEV— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1488159002.0
And that's not all. The president has vowed to "cut regulations by 75 percent, maybe more," which many have warned will have a massive toll on the nation's public health.
"A polluted environment," Dr. Maria Neira, director at WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, said Monday, "results in a heavy toll on the health of our children."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
By Nika Knight
A new report shows that many previous estimates of global sea level rise by 2100 were far too conservative, the Washington Post reported Thursday, and the research comes as new maps and graphics from Climate Central vividly show how disastrous that flooding will be for U.S. cities.
According to the Post:
"The assessment found that under a relatively moderate global warming scenario—one that slightly exceeds the temperature targets contained in the Paris climate agreement—seas could be expected to rise "at least" 52 centimeters, or 1.7 feet, by the year 2100. Under a more extreme, "business as usual" warming scenario, meanwhile, the minimum rise would be 74 centimeters, or 2.4 feet."
The report explored a minimum rise scenario, but not a maximum or worst-case scenario. However, a separate report (pdf) published at the end of the Obama administration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did just that, and found that in the most extreme case, the sea in some locations will rise a stunning eight feet by the century's end.
Illustrating how devastating this would be, Climate Central created 3D visualizations of what U.S. cities will look like in NOAA's most extreme scenario.
Some cities, such as New Orleans, would simply be uninhabitable, the images show:
But even Trump wouldn't be spared from the looming disaster, Climate Central observed, showing that the projected sea level rise will completely flood the president's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
By Nika Knight
Our window of time to act on climate may be shrinking even faster than previously thought.
We may only have one year remaining before we lock in 1.5 C of warming—the ideal goal outlined in the Paris climate agreement—after which we'll see catastrophic and irreversible climate shifts, many experts have warned.
That's according to the ticking carbon budget clock created by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). The clock's countdown now shows that only one year is left in the world's carbon budget before the planet heats up more than 1.5 C over pre-industrial temperatures.
That's under the most pessimistic calculations. According to the most optimistic prediction, we have four years to kick our carbon habit and avert 1.5 C of warming.
And to limit warming to 2 C—the limit agreed upon in the Paris climate accord—we have nine years to act under the most pessimistic scenario, and 23 years to act under the most optimistic.
"So far, there is no track record for reducing emissions globally," explained Fabian Löhe, spokesperson for MCC, in an email to Common Dreams. "Instead, greenhouse gas emissions have been rising at a faster pace during the last decade than previously—despite growing awareness and political action across the globe. Once we have exhausted the carbon budget, every ton of CO2 that is released by cars, buildings or industrial plants would need to be compensated for during the 21st century by removing the CO2 from the atmosphere again. Generating such 'negative emissions' is even more challenging and we do not know today at which scale we might be able to do that."
18 Signs That Show We've Reached the Tipping Point https://t.co/hB1A9fTqSC @ClimateCentral @OccupySandy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483150205.0
"Hence, the clock shows that time is running out: it is not enough to act sometime in the future, but it is necessary to implement more ambitious climate policies already in the very short-term," Löhe added.
"Take all of the most difficult features of individual pathways to 2 C—like fast and ambitious climate action in all countries of the world, the full availability of all required emissions reduction and carbon removal technologies, as well as aggressive energy demand reductions across the globe—the feasibility of which were so heatedly debated prior to Paris," Löhe said. "This gives you an idea of the challenge associated with the more ambitious 1.5 C goal."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
By Simon Evans
Speaking simultaneously on Wednesday morning at separate events in London, Amber Rudd, secretary of state for energy and climate change and Andrea Leadsom, energy minister, both sought to offer reassurances that UK energy and climate commitments would continue.
What does the UK's shock vote to leave the European Union mean for energy and climate change? Abdullah Bin Sahl / Flickr
"We made a clear commitment to acting on climate change in our manifesto last year. That will continue."
She confirmed commitments to the UK Climate Change Act, a phaseout of unabated coal, thecapacity market to secure electricity supplies and support for offshore wind and new nuclear. Leadsom also said the referendum would not affect climate and energy policy.
However, Rudd conceded that the referendum result had made the path to climate action harder, raising a host of questions. Adding to the air of uncertainty, there is now the prospect of a new Conservative prime minister being in place by September, as well as the possibility of a snap general election.
Carbon Brief has assembled a lengthy and probably incomplete, list of post-referendum questions for climate and energy policy.
In the days following the referendum, a range of questions and possible answers have already been offered on the climate and energy implications of the vote.
Policy Exchange looks at impacts across environment policy. Business Green has 12 unanswered questions for the green economy, Climate Home has six questions for UK and EU climate ambition and another three questions on whether Brexit means a climate policy "bonfire." Meanwhile, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has five energy and climate predictions.
The expected approval this week of the UK's fifth carbon budget for 2028-2032 would provide a key reference point for future policy. Still, uncertainty is sure to continue for months, if not years.
Here are some of the many unanswered questions.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change:
- Will the UK ratify it while still an EU member state, allowing the EU to ratify it, too?
- If the UK and EU delay ratification, (when) will the agreement enter force?
- Will the UK be able to retain a strong voice in international climate talks, outside of Europe?
- Which negotiating bloc would it join?
- What would UK and EU nationally determined contributions to the agreement look like?
- Will the UK government set the Paris goal of net zero emissions into UK law, as promisedby Leave supporter and energy minister Andrea Leadsom?
- Will UK spending on international climate finance continue its current, rising trajectory?
- Or will the spending be pared back as part of a move to end the UK commitment to spend 0.7 percent of national income on international aid?
- Is the cross-party commitment to UK climate ambition assured, as Rudd claimed this week?
- Will the next prime minister believe in continued climate action?
- What are the views of other contenders, such as home secretary Theresa May or work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb?
- How long will Rudd remain secretary of state for energy and climate change and Leadsom as energy minister, with both tipped for promotion if their side won the referendum?
- Who will replace them if they are moved on?
- Will the Department of Energy and Climate Change continue to exist under a new government?
UK Climate Change Act:
- The indications are that the government will put legislation on the fifth carbon budget before parliament on June 30, but Carbon Brief understands that parliamentary process means it may not pass into law before the end-of-June legal deadline. Will that legislation be in line with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to cut emissions by 57 percent by 2032, against 1990 levels?
- Will carbon accounting rules be amended, as per CCC advice, so that all UK emissions are counted towards carbon budget compliance?
- Will the government still publish a UK carbon plan by the end of 2016, on how the whole economy can decarbonize in line with the fourth and fifth carbon budgets for 2023-2032?
- If this plan is delayed or abandoned, how long can stasis continue without jeopardizing UK carbon targets?
- Would a delay or abandonment be subject to legal challenge, given the Act requires a planto be presented "as soon as is reasonably practicable" after the carbon budget is set?
- Does the act itself retain the overwhelming support of parliament, given all but six MPs approved it in 2008?
- Does it count for anything that Andrea Leadsom—Leave supporter, energy minister and potential Conservative leadership candidate—has said both before and after the referendum (see above) that the UK's climate commitment would be secure after Brexit?
- Or does the rise of climate sceptic Eurosceptics put the act in danger?
- What price premium on loans will be demanded by investors in UK energy infrastructure to cover the costs of political uncertainty? Rudd was unable to offer a direct answer to this "depressing" question from Carbon Brief.
- How much will this add to the costs of building new electricity generating capacity?
- Will any impacts vary by technology type, potentially favoring lower- or higher-carbon sources of power?
- How quickly will exchange-rate driven increases filter through to pump prices and energy bills, via the fuel used to heat homes and generate electricity?
- Is it realistic to expect any new government to mitigate this impact through a promised end to the 5 percent rate of VAT on energy, given the £2bn a year it brings the exchequer?
- How will steel and other energy-intensive industries cope with the expectation of higher energy prices?
- For instance, will the hoped-for Tata Steel rescue still go ahead?
- Will the government's Levy Control Framework, designed to limit the impact of low-carbon support on energy bills, remain in place?
- Could a new government seek to scrap the UK carbon price floor as a means to reduce energy bills for homes, businesses and industry, even though it brings in more than £1.5bn a year for the Treasury?
- How would this be squared with consequential increases in the level of required support for low-carbon sources of power?
- Will rising UK wholesale electricity prices attract investment in new generating capacity or will the rising cost of imported fuel outweigh any benefit?
- Could a post-Brexit cut in tariffs on Chinese solar module imports offset the impact of a falling pound?
- Will windfarms get more expensive in the UK, as sterling's fall pushes up the price of imported steel or turbine parts?
UK Energy Markets:
- Will Brexit lead to weaker economic growth and reduced energy use, as expected?
- Will this ease pressure on electricity supplies and reduce UK emissions?
- How will the new administration approach fuel duty, which has been repeatedly frozen by current Chancellor George Osborne?
- Is there still a business case for new interconnectors if the UK leaves the EU internal energy market and how will that case be affected by currency swings and changes in carbon pricing in the UK, France or other countries?
- How will energy firms operating in the UK and elsewhere fare if the value of sterling remains depressed, affecting relative earnings denominated in pounds, euros and dollars?
- Will the City of London still remain a leading lender to oil and coal projects around the world, as well as a center for carbon trading?
- Rudd has this week reiterated plans to phase out unabated coal, but when will the consultation on how to achieve this be published and what policy levers will it propose?
- Could the fall in the pound revive the UK coal-mining industry, which is currently embroiled in contentious efforts to expand despite the UK's coal phaseout plans?
- Will the new government heed climate-sceptic calls to back out of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, blamed for the closure of aging coal-fired power stations?
- Will the government invoke provisions of the 2013 Energy Act, allowing it to set a 2030 decarbonization target for the power sector, once it has set the fifth carbon budget?
- How will support for shale gas exploration be affected by changes in government personnel?
- How will the nascent fracking industry fare with a weaker economy and pound?
- When will the government publish the CCC's report on fracking and UK carbon budgets?
- Will North Sea industry benefit from currency movements as costs become relatively cheaper or will restrictions on freedom of labor movement pose greater challenges?
- Will the UK now abandon efforts to meet its EU 2020 renewable energy targets, which it has in any case been widely expected to miss?
- Could the UK still be fined by the European Court of Justice if Brexit is slow and the UK is still a member of the EU when the target bites in 2020?
- Is there cross-government backing for new renewable heat and transport subsidies?
- Will the UK continue to support electric vehicle uptake?
- When will the government set out the details and budget of the next auction for low-carbon electricity subsidies, supposedly due to take place later this year?
- Will this year's Autumn Statement set out post-2020 arrangements for low-carbon support under the Levy Control Framework, as suggested this week by Leadsom?
- Will there be support for low-carbon technologies other than offshore wind, which has received the clearest government backing but is more costly than solar and onshore wind?
- If the government is opposed to support for onshore wind, even in the form of so-calledsubsidy-free contracts for difference, will it follow the Competition and Markets Authority's recent request to produce an assessment of the negative impact on consumer bills?
- Rudd has given post-referendum assurances to French firm EDF over the Hinkley C new nuclear plant, but can the scheme hope to retain the high-level political support it has enjoyed from David Cameron, George Osborne and the French government?
- Does Brexit render Austria's legal challenge to the Hinkley C scheme irrelevant?
- Would a UK exit from the EU free the UK's hand to subsidize further new nuclear reactors without the need to seek state aid approval from the European Commission?
- Will the new government be as keen on small modular nuclear reactors as the current one?
- After Siemens' decision to freeze its UK wind power plans and with UK access to the EU's single market in doubt, can the UK attract new renewable manufacturing investments?
- What will a weaker pound mean for the cost of burning imported biomass at power stations including Drax, formerly the UK's largest coal plant?
- Does the prospect of Brexit mean the UK can award further biomass subsidies to Drax, before the ongoing EU state aid investigation into the planned support has concluded?
- When will the government publish follow-up research it commissioned on the climate impacts of burning wood, mostly imported from north America, to generate electricity?
- Could a new administration reverse the current government's skepticism over financial support for carbon capture and storage or tidal energy?
- How will Brexit affect the balance of power between EU member states on the European Council, given the UK has been part of a progressive alliance on climate and energy?
- Could Brexit strengthen Germany's hand, with its backing for more interventionist and target-led approaches such as binding energy efficiency and renewable energy targets?
- Or will Brexit give eastern European countries more leverage as they attempt to limit EU climate ambition?
- Will the UK relinquish its EU presidency, scheduled for the second half of 2017?
- Will the EU continue to negotiate its effort-sharing decision on member state climate targets for 2030, despite the prospect of Brexit?
- If the EU's 2030 target is recast with no UK participation, will it keep its headline goal of a 40 percent emissions reduction on 1990 levels or will it choose a new goal for 2030 emissions, either by simply removing the UK contribution or formally renegotiating country shares?
- Will the UK remain part of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS)? (Non-EU members including Norway are part of the scheme).
- Are currently-proposed EU ETS reforms still considered sufficient to cope with market shocks, such as that experienced in the wake of the UK vote?
- Does the fall in EU ETS prices of more than 20 percent in a week suggest further reform, perhaps an EU-wide floor price, is necessary to maintain decarbonization momentum?
- Who will lead the reform process now that British MEP Iain Duncan has resigned from the role of European Parliament rapporteur?
- Will the UK remain part of the EU Energy Union, with its plans for closer coupling between European energy markets?
- Would current or future energy infrastructure investments, including electricityinterconnectors to the continent, automatically lose EU funding after Brexit? (The EU isinvesting more than €2bn in UK energy projects, more than any other member state).
- Will the UK remain subject to EU product standards, including on the energy efficiency of vehicles and household goods?
Scotland and Northern Ireland:
- If Brexit triggers a successful Scottish independence referendum, what would become of UK climate policy and how would UK climate targets be divided? (Scotland already has its own climate goals, but the rest of the UK does not).
- Would consumers in the rest of the UK be willing to continue paying for a planned expansion of renewable energy in Scotland?
- Could the rest of the UK meet its climate targets without Scottish renewables?
- Would Scotland be willing to shoulder the cost of North Sea oil and gas decommissioning, which being funded via tax breaks on the industry?
- Are moves to unite Northern Ireland with the Irish republic likely to gain any traction and what would that mean for UK, Irish and EU climate pledges?
- What are the prospects for a third runway at Heathrow, given the committed opposition of Boris Johnson, a leading candidate to become prime minister?
- Does Brexit ease its path, given the UK's long-running breach of EU air pollution rules has been seen as a barrier to approval or will its demise enable the UK to meet suggested targets for aviation emissions more easily?
- How will the UK respond to this week's ruling that it breached EU air pollution rules in relation to the coal plant at Aberthaw in south Wales?
- Will the National Infrastructure Commission, seen as a personal project of current Chancellor George Osborne, still be able to carve out the significant policy role it had been poised to secure?
- Will a new government reverse the decision to scrap rules for zero carbon homes?
- How will it approach planning law, in particular the major pieces of UK environmental legislation that originate in EU law?
- If these EU planning rules are scrapped, will it become easier to build new energy infrastructure including wind farms, fracking sites or marine renewables?
- Will a new government continue to respect EU law during any transitional period, as called for by some lawyers?
Update 6/29/16—The question on the fifth carbon budget was amended. It previously said, in line with earlier press reports, that the fifth carbon budget would pass in to law on June 30, meeting the legal deadline. However, Carbon Brief now understands that the parliamentary process will not be completed on June 30.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
For those who missed out on the action, or just want to relive it, Pathway to Paris released Wednesday an album of its two-night event last December in Paris, which coincided with the UN's climate change conference, COP21.
Pathway to Paris, an initiative in partnership with 350.org, brings musicians, artists, activists, academics, politicians and innovators together to participate in live concerts to raise consciousness, foster dialogue and inspire climate action and the need to transition to renewable energy. Co-founders Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon organized the Dec. 4 and 5 events at Le Trianon concert hall in Paris.
The evening included performances by renowned artists and speeches by prominent environmentalists. The Path to Paris Live @ Le Trianon album includes:
- Wing by Patti Smith
- Bloom by Thom Yorke
- Elemental Prayer by Tenzin Choegyal
- White Nile by Flea and Warren Ellis
- Service by Fally Ipupa
- Nature by Patti Smith, Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon
- Heartstrings by Tenzin Choegyal
- Peaceable Kingdom by Patti Smith
- Two Suits by Flea and Warren Ellis
- Sweet Life by Fally Ipupa
- People have the Power by Patti Smith
- Jo Scheuer, director for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction in the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme
- Jesse Paris Smith, Pathway to Paris co-founder
- Rebecca Foon, Pathway to Paris co-founder
- Bill McKibben, author, 350.org
- Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything
- Dr. Vandana Shiva, author and activist
All proceeds from the the album will benefit 350.org and the United Nations Development Programme. Pathway to Paris @ Le Trainon can be purchased online for $9.99.
For a taste of the album's content, watch the following two videos that recap both nights of performances:
Dec. 4, 2015:
Dec. 5, 2015: