By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
Our evolution has selected the "fight or flight" instinct to deal with environmental change, so rather like the metaphor of the frog in boiling water, we tend to react too little and too late to gradual change.
Climate change is often described as global warming, with the implication of gradual changes caused by a steady increase in temperatures; from heatwaves to melting glaciers.
But we know from multidisciplinary scientific evidence - from geology, anthropology and archaeology - that climate change is not incremental. Even in pre-human times, it is episodic, when it isn't forced by a human-induced acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions and warming.
There are parts of our planet's carbon cycle, the ways that the earth and the biosphere store and release carbon, that could trigger suddenly in response to gradual warming. These are tipping points that once passed could fundamentally disrupt the planet and produce abrupt, non-linear change in the climate.
A Game of Jenga
Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.
But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.
One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.
This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.
This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters with important regional variations.
More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.
Cutting Off Circulation
As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.
This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.
The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.
But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.
Recent research suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the cessation of arable farming in the UK, for instance.
It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?
At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.
But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.
We need to act now on our climate. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the Paris Agreement, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.
We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.
Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.
Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
The average American household spends about $175 a month on gasoline. That means billions of dollars to oil companies, refiners, and others — and a huge incentive for them to block policies that move America to clean, zero-emissions electric vehicles.
We're already seeing a coordinated push to stop President Biden and Congress from boosting American clean cars, trucks and buses — even though these policies will create jobs and a more just and equitable economy, clean the air, and are popular with the public.
EDF experts have assembled these facts to counter the lobbyists who want to make sure Americans keep paying at the pump.
1. Moving to Clean Electric Vehicles Will Help America Win the Race for Good Jobs Today and Tomorrow.
The question isn't electric vehicles versus gas-powered vehicles — the global industry is already moving to EVs, and spending at least $257 billion this decade to make the switch. The issue is whether American workers will get these jobs. We can build these vehicles in places like Hamtramck, MI and Spartansburg, SC or have them shipped to us from Hamburg and Shanghai. Switching to zero-emissions electric trucks, buses, and cars will create jobs today and help us compete with Europe and China in this rapidly expanding market.
Right now 95% of zero emission heavy duty vehicles are made in China, and Europe is making major investments. We need to act if we are going to ensure U.S. manufacturing is competitive in this growing zero emitting vehicles market.
2. Building More Electric Cars, Trucks, and Buses Here in the U.S. Can Mean Hundreds of Thousands of Good Paying Jobs.
Companies in the clean cars, trucks, buses industry and EV battery supply chain are already in operation and development all around the country. From Michigan to South Carolina, from Missouri to Texas, companies are building zero emission cars, EV batteries and charging infrastructure. As the shop chairman of United Auto Worker 598 recently said, companies like General Motors that are powered by union labor being on the forefront of this shift will mean "increased sales and customers… it means more jobs."
3. EVs Are Much Better for the Climate.
Electric vehicles in the U.S. emit less climate pollution than fully gasoline-powered cars, even when powered by today's mixed sources of electric power. Their engines are just much more efficient. And as we move to 100% clean power nationwide, EVs will be even better. That transition is already underway: 1 in 3 Americans are already getting service from a utility that's moving to 100% clean electric generation.
Transportation is the biggest source of climate pollution in the U.S. — and switching to zero emissions EVs are a big part of the solution. In the face of damaging and costly storms, floods, heatwaves and wildfires, we need action.
4. Zero Emissions Vehicles Mean Healthier Communities and a More Equitable America.
Fully electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions, so transitioning trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, taxis and ridesharing fleets to electric vehicles will reduce air pollution for everyone. This means fewer hospitalizations related to asthma and associated health problems — and can especially benefit people of color who, due to discrimination in housing, zoning and economic opportunity, more often live near ports, highways and other industrial sites where they are more likely to be exposed to harmful pollution from diesel and gasoline-powered vehicle traffic.
5. Achievable: The Speed of Technology Advancement, Along With Investments and Other Smart Policies, Will Let Us Reach Our Goal of All Zero Emission New Cars by 2035 and New Trucks and Buses by 2040.
More than 175 zero-pollution truck, bus, car and SUV models are in production or development for the U.S. market. Companies from Amazon and FedEx to Pepsi are looking to switch to clean vehicles. Every major car manufacturer is making significant investments in electric cars, with many aiming for a fully electric future. General Motors recently announced a goal of eliminating tailpipe pollution from all of its cars and pickup trucks by 2035. The faster we move, the faster we can put people to work building the cars of today and tomorrow
U.S. companies have proven time and time again, they can rise to meet any challenge — but they need a predictable business climate to scale up production and plan for the long term.
6. With Investment and Focus, Our Power Grid Can Manage and Support All Demand From Electric Vehicles.
Growth in electric cars and trucks will increase electricity demand. This can help increase investments in clean electricity, bolstering American energy independence and a reliable energy grid. With smart charging, EVs can actually help grid operators integrate higher levels of renewable energy. Energy regulators, electric utilities and grid operators are well aware of this and are monitoring and investing in the clean vehicle transition in real time – and Congress must prioritize and support incentives and policies to increase both EV and clean electricity deployment to ensure we maximize the benefits EVs can offer.
A cleaner grid means less dependence on polluting power plants, which are most often located near communities of color and low-income communities. It also means increased expansion of cleaner sources like rooftop solar in these neighborhoods. This can create good jobs in areas where they are desperately needed.
7. Electric Options Expand Consumer Choice.
Electric cars are being built and developed in as many varieties, from pick-ups to sports cars, as gasoline-powered cars. And their performance is better — some models can go from zero to sixty in 2.3 seconds, stats no gasoline-powered car off the lot can match.
Before too long, gas-powered cars will seem old-fashioned. Sure, some people will still enjoy their vintage cars. But technology moves quickly — and brings with it lower costs, higher performance and more fun.
8. Affordable: EVs Costs Are Declining and Will Save Consumers Thousands on Gas and Other Costs.
For years we've had debates about gas prices. With EV's you pay zero at the gas station. Just about the only people arguing against the switch to EVs are the oil companies, refiners and their allies — they're grasping to preserve their profits. Of course they want people to pay to fill up their cars with gasoline every week.
Analysts predict EVs will reach price parity with gasoline-powered cars by 2025. Research suggests that by 2030, the buyer of a new battery electric vehicle will save more than $7,000 over the life of the car compared to a gasoline-powered car. Our investments will also mean zero-emitting vehicles will be more affordable for local governments that want to create healthier communities.
9. We Can Produce Cleaner Car Batteries in the USA and Work to Recycle Their Components.
As we build more clean cars, we should also make producing batteries cleaner. A report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) says that the place where a battery is made has a lot to do with the amount of emissions from the manufacturing process. Batteries made in the US, with American manufacturing techniques, produce 65% less emissions than those currently made in China.* It's another reason for policies to boost American production of electric vehicles and their components and create jobs here at home.
We should continue to increase battery life and recycling. USA Today reports that "researchers found that recycling car batteries on a large scale was 'very promising'" and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that lithium-ion car batteries could last up to 15 years.
*Vehicles with Chinese-made batteries are still cleaner than gas vehicles.
10. To Combat Child Labor in the Overseas Mining Industry, We Need Strong Monitoring and to Build More Batteries Here Under U.S. Labor Laws.
Mineral sourcing from countries with gross human rights abuses, including child labor, is unacceptable. But the solution isn't sticking to a broken system of relying on polluting transportation that carries its own unacceptable human toll. Instead, we need standards supported by credible third-parties that verify minerals are being sourced sustainably and ethically. Those who are truly concerned about labor standards overseas should be advocating zero emission vehicle standards paired with domestic manufacturing incentive programs in the US.
11. The U.S. EPA and the State of California Have Clear Authority to Establish Pollution Safeguards That Rely on the Increasing Availability of Zero-Emitting Vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency has time tested authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt pollution standards that rely on the increasing availability of zero-emitting vehicles. California can set more protective standards for cars and trucks (and other states can adopt these standards).
Clean transportation is the future. It brings with it economic, health and environmental benefits. Still, lots of big interests make significant profits by ensuring that Americans open their wallets every week at the gas station. This gives us a big fight ahead to secure a quick transition to EVs.. But it's a fight we need to win.
Copyright © 2020 Environmental Defense Fund. Used by permission. The original material is available here.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Stuart Braun
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the dire threat of climate change Wednesday in a speech on the state of the planet delivered at Columbia University in New York.
"The state of the planet is broken, humanity is waging war on nature," he said. "Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury."
Referring to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) provisional report, The State of the Global Climate 2020, that was released Wednesday, he reiterated that the last decade was the hottest on record, and that ice sheet decline, permafrost melting, vast climate fires and unprecedented hurricanes were just some of the consequences.
"Stop the plunder," Guterres added, referring to the ongoing deforestation that is also fueling climate change. "And start the healing."
Climate policies have failed to rise to the challenge, Guterres said, noting that emissions in 2020 are 60% higher than in 1990. "We are heading for a temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (by 2100)."
Yet the secretary-general sees hope for 2021, saying it's time to "build a truly global coalition towards carbon neutrality."
This goal will require net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. More than 110 countries are already committed to carbon neutrality by this date, he noted, representing more than 65% of emissions. Central to achieving this goal will be to encourage renewable energy by instituting a carbon price and phasing out fossil fuel financing and subsidies.
"There is no vaccine for the planet," he said regarding the need to build a global climate action movement.
Last Six Years Are Six Hottest on Record
The WMO state of climate report referenced by Guterres confirms that 2020 is currently placed as the second warmest for the year-to-date when compared to equivalent periods in the past.
The annual climate scorecard details a litany of symptoms of a heating planet: a high frequency of severe droughts, unparalleled major hurricanes, retreating sea ice, heavy rain and flooding across Asia and Africa and extensive marine heat waves.
Headlining the global climate report is confirmation in 2020 that global heating is accelerating. Though 2016 remains the warmest year on record to date, it kicked off with a very strong El Niño warm phase, via which hotter oceans elevate global temperatures.
Four years later, these peak temperatures have continued, despite a cooler La Niña weather phase that started in September, and comparatively weak El Niño conditions. The global mean temperature for January to October 2020 was around 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline.
"With 2020 on course to be one of the three warmest years on record, the past six years, 2015–2020, are likely to be the six warmest on record," states the WMO climate report.
In the Siberian Arctic, temperatures were more than 5 degrees Celsius above average in 2020, reaching as high as 38 Celsius at Verkhoyansk in late June, provisionally the highest known temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle.
"We saw new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. "Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the U.S. West Coast and South America, sending plumes of smoke circumnavigating the globe."
Despite Pandemic, Greenhouse Gases Still Rising
The lockdowns implemented to slow the coronavirus pandemic have only resulted in a "temporary reduction in emissions" in 2020, according to the report. As a result, there will be a "practically indistinguishable" slowing of the fast-increasing CO2 concentrations recorded in 2019.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations generated largely by fossil fuel burning reached new highs in 2019, with carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) levels rising to a larger degree from 2018 (2.6 parts per million) than the increases from the previous two years.
"Real-time data from specific locations, including Mauna Loa (Hawaii) and Cape Grim (Tasmania) indicate that levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O continued to increase in 2020," stated the report.
This increase comes at a time when there should be rapid cuts in emissions in line with the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C.
Global Heating Symptoms Getting Worse
The report also notes that sea levels have risen at a higher rate year-on-year due partly to increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
Meanwhile, over 80% of the ocean area has experienced at least one marine heat wave in 2020. In addition, 43% of the ocean experienced marine heat waves that were classified as "strong."
2019 also saw the highest ocean heat content on record.
Heavy rain and extensive flooding affected large parts of Africa and Asia in 2020, especially across much of the Sahel, the Greater Horn of Africa, the India subcontinent and neighboring areas, China, Korea and Japan. With 30 named storms (as of November 17, 2020), the north Atlantic hurricane season recorded the highest ever number of named storms.
Moreover, severe drought affected much of the interior of South America in 2020, with the badly affected areas including northern Argentina, Paraguay and western border areas of Brazil.
"Climate and weather events have triggered significant population movements and have severely affected vulnerable people on the move, including in the Pacific region and Central America," the climate report said.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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The remains of at least 214 people who died attempting to cross the Mexico-Arizona border have been recovered so far in 2020, and advocates blame extreme heat, The Associated Press reports.
The figure is just 10 shy of the overall annual record from 2010, according to the nonprofit Humane Borders and the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, which together map recoveries of human remains. This year saw extreme heat — a hallmark signal of human-caused climate change — across the American West. Phoenix, Arizona endured its hottest summer on record with 144 days in triple digits and an average daily temperature around 110°F throughout July and August.
Those months were also the state's driest on record. Trump's border wall also likely contributed to the uptick in deaths. "The wall has sent a lot of people to rough terrain in our area," Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, a critic of the president and advocate for greater compassion in immigration policy whose jurisdiction includes Nogales, Arizona, told The Associated Press. "It's like driving livestock into a canyon where they ultimately die."
As reported by The Associated Press:
In southern Arizona, No More Deaths and similar humanitarian groups leave water jugs and other provisions in remote places. The group gained national attention when one of its members was tried and acquitted last year of harboring migrants.
[Tony] Estrada, the Santa Cruz County sheriff, said he's worried officials may see higher numbers of deaths next year if big groups of migrants surge to the border, hoping Joe Biden's administration is more welcoming.
"These people will keep coming because most of them have nothing back home," Estrada said.
For a deeper dive:
By Kenny Stancil
"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable the world is to a truly global catastrophe. But another, bigger, catastrophe has been building for many decades, and humanity is still lagging far behind in efforts to address it."
So begins Come Heat or High Water, the 2020 World Disasters Report published Tuesday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
While "Covid-19 has demonstrated that humanity has the capacity to recognize and respond to a global crisis," the authors wrote, "climate change is an even more significant challenge to humanity... one which literally threatens our long-term survival."
Indeed, "the impacts of global warming are already killing people and devastating lives and livelihoods every year," including in 2020, the report noted. "Climate change is not waiting for Covid-19 to be brought under control."
The analysis showed that more than 100 climate change-related disasters occurred in just the first six months of the pandemic, affecting over 50 million people.
"Many people are being directly affected by the pandemic and climate-driven disasters all at once," the report said, drawing attention to what researchers called "compounding shocks."
"And the world's poorest and most at-risk people are being hit first and hardest," which is consistent with "trends in vulnerability and exposure" that have led scholars to describe climate as a "risk multiplier."
While there is hope that one or more vaccines will soon provide protection against the coronavirus, IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain told reporters that "unfortunately, there is no vaccine for climate change."
To the contrary, the report stressed that climate-driven disasters "will only get worse without immediate and determined action."
According to the IFRC:
- In the past 10 years, 83% of all disasters triggered by natural hazards were caused by extreme weather- and climate-related events, such as floods, storms and heatwaves;
- The number of climate- and weather-related disasters has been increasing since the 1960s, and has risen almost 35% since the 1990s;
- The proportion of all disasters attributable to climate and extreme weather events has also increased significantly during this time, from 76% of all disasters during the 2000s to 83% in the 2010s;
- These extreme weather- and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years, the vast majority in low and lower middle-income countries; and
- Heatwaves, then storms, have been the biggest killers. A further 1.7 billion people around the world have been affected by climate and weather-related disasters during the past decade.
Governments "may well be 'busy' with the pandemic" right now, the Red Cross acknowledged, but the climate crisis is getting worse—not taking a break—meaning "there's still never been a more urgent time to... adapt to its realities."
"We must work to limit the deaths and damage that climate-driven disasters are already" causing, the report noted, while also "taking action to reverse climate change."
The good news, the authors wrote, is that "the massive stimulus packages that are being developed around the world in response to Covid-19 are an opportunity to build back better."
Even though the climate crisis is much more dangerous to human life on Earth than the pandemic, the $10 trillion spent on the global response to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis is far more than the amount of money the Red Cross said is necessary to "adapt to current and imminent climate-driven disaster risks."
According to the IFRC, "it would take an estimated $50 billion annually to meet the adaptation requirements set out by 50 developing countries for the coming decade."
The report advocated for investing "not only [in] a green recovery, but an adaptive one, using funds to... create jobs [while] making communities safer and more resilient."
Using "resources well" is crucial, the authors argued, given the "uneven geographic impacts of... hazards between regions," as well as how land-use patterns and socio-economic inequalities "affect who is at greatest risk... within countries."
The Red Cross pointed out that "funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction does not seem to consistently prioritize the countries at highest risk and with the lowest ability to adapt and cope with these risks."
"Many highly vulnerable countries are left behind, receiving little climate change adaptation support," the analysis showed. "None of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change and to climate- and weather-related disasters were among the 20 highest per person recipients of climate change adaptation funding."
"An additional challenge is ensuring that funding reaches the most at-risk people within these countries," the report continued. "Many communities may be particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks, from people affected by conflict whose capacity to manage shocks is already strained, to migrants and displaced people who may struggle to access the services and assistance they need, to urban poor people and other marginalized communities."
We must "get the priorities right," the authors added, and ensure that support reaches the "communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks."
"Let's not miss our chance," the report said, calling on society to "act effectively before it's too late."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Thousands of years ago, glacial runoff from Mount Kilimanjaro formed a deep basin off the coast of East Africa. Today, this oasis of deep, cool water provides coral reefs and marine life with a sanctuary from the rising temperatures of the climate crisis, allowing biodiversity to thrive.
"This area off the coast of Tanzania and Kenya is a small but vibrant basin of marine biodiversity," study author and lead WCS coral scientist Dr. Tim McClanahan said in a press release. "Our study shows that while warming waters may devastate surrounding reefs, this area could become an incredibly important sanctuary where marine species big and small will flock to find refuge from climate change. If well protected, this key transboundary marine ecosystem will remain a jewel of biodiversity for the entire East African coast."
The newly discovered refuge is teaming with marine life. Spinner dolphins swim there, and the coast has the highest density of dolphins in East Africa, The Guardian reported. Rare dugongs have been spotted there, and the deeper reaches are home to coelacanths, a prehistoric fish once believed to be extinct.
McClanahan did not immediately understand why so much life was drawn to this spot, which stretches from Shimoni, Kenya, which is 50 miles south of Mombasa, to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
"I thought 'why are all the animals here?' And I realised it was because of Kilimanjaro," he told The Guardian.
The sea surface temperatures of the tropical Indian Ocean have risen about one degree Celsius on average between 1950 and 2015, according to an Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region. In addition, the ocean has been subjected to greater and more frequent marine heatwaves, WCS explained. In this context, the cooler waters off of Kenya and Tanzania could provide an increasingly vital habitat for threatened species like sharks and rays.
To test whether this was indeed the case, McClanahan installed temperature gauges along the coast that he could then monitor by satellite, according to The Guardian. Once a warming event occurred and the temperatures began to rise, he entered the water to observe how the corals were impacted, and found that they were indeed preserved.
"Outside that area, the corals are bleached and dying. But inside the area, of around 400 sq km [150 sq miles] they retain their colour and their health. They are reds and brown. My research partner likes to call them: 'happy corals'," McClanahan told The Guardian.
He explained to InsideClimate News exactly how this works.
"It would be like running hot water into a cold bathtub; if the bath is cold, it would take a long time to warm up," he said. "By the time these hot water events pass, they haven't really raised the temperature of the water all that much. So you maintain these coral sanctuaries where the water is cool."
However, the area's role as a coral sanctuary will depend on its being protected from other threats. Coastal development, including a new port planned in northern Tanzania to serve a new oil pipeline, is one, WCS said. Another is unsustainable fishing practices like dynamite fishing, McClanahan told InsideClimate News. This is when fisherpeople drop a stick of dynamite into the water to kill massive amounts of fish in one go. Unsurprisingly, this also destroys coral.
"Some of the reefs that I've been studying suggest they can't recover for many, many years after the dynamite fishing," McClanahan told InsideClimate News.
Ask a Scientist: What Should the Biden Administration and Congress Do to Address the Climate Crisis?
By Elliott Negin
What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.
President Trump famously called climate change a "hoax," appointed fossil fuel industry lobbyists to key positions in his administration, rolled back the Obama-era rule that would have curbed power plant carbon emissions, and weakened Obama-era limits on vehicle carbon emissions. Just a day after last fall's election, he pulled the United States out of the international Paris climate agreement.
By contrast, President-elect Biden has endorsed a $2 trillion climate plan, and pledged to issue at least 10 executive orders to protect the climate and rejoin the Paris climate accord on Day One of his administration. He also has appointed an impressive and diverse climate change team to take key administration positions, including New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who co-sponsored the Green New Deal, to run the Interior Department; North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality head Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy as national climate advisor; and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, to serve as his international climate envoy.
That's a welcome relief, because the world is running out of time. In 2020 alone, wildfires burned millions of acres in Australia and California to a crisp; heat waves scorched Europe, Asia and the Arctic; floods inundated the U.S. Midwest as well as nations in Africa and Asia; and a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season battered the coasts of Central America, Caribbean islands and the United States.
But for all the promises President-elect Biden has made, some nagging questions remain: Given the constraints of a closely divided Congress, how much will the Biden administration truly be able to accomplish? And even with the United States rejoining the Paris accord, will countries live up to its promise to keep the Earth's temperature in check?
For some answers, I turned to Climate and Energy Program Policy Director Rachel Cleetus, who I last interviewed in May about what a post-pandemic economy should look like. The questions I posed to her this time around are a logical extension of the conversation we had then.
EN: Before we dig into what we can expect from the incoming Biden administration, let's talk about what Congress included in the pandemic relief package it passed just before Christmas. I don't know about you, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it included some good climate-related provisions. Does this suggest that the next Congress will take climate change seriously?
RC: The omnibus pandemic relief bill Congress just passed was long overdue and desperately needed, given the fact that millions of people are in increasingly dire economic straits. It also included a provision to dramatically reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), extremely potent heat-trapping gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators; an extension of renewable electricity production and investment tax credits, which will help boost clean energy and create jobs; support for energy storage technology research and development; and increased funding for ARPA-E, the Department of Energy's technology innovation program. The bill also included a one-year extension of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, a welcome but inadequate provision as black lung disease hits record levels in coal country.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress just passed with an overwhelming bipartisan override of President Trump's veto, also includes provisions recognizing the impact of climate change on the military and the need to invest in resilience measures.
These provisions demonstrate that Congress can act in a bipartisan manner on clean energy and climate change issues. But much more will be needed in the months and years ahead to make steep cuts in global warming emissions and achieve comprehensive, bold and just climate policies that benefit everyone. Congress has yet to demonstrate the will to act commensurately with the scale of the challenges we face, which is why we will need to continue to pressure policymakers to do the right thing after the new Congress and administration take office.
EN: Notwithstanding the fact that leading Republicans supported the climate-related elements of the pandemic relief package, how much will the incoming Biden administration have to rely on executive orders to advance initiatives to combat climate change? After all, the oil and gas industry still has a great deal of influence over Congress.
RC: President Biden should send a clear and strong signal, early on, that he is committed to using his full powers to advance climate action through executive authorities and regulations. Here are some of the most important actions on climate that he should take, many of which could be done within the first 100 days and some which should happen via a Day One executive order on climate change:
- Set science-informed climate goals and commit the United States to reaching net-zero carbon emissions economywide no later than 2050, and at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
- Direct all federal agencies to incorporate climate science into their actions and develop updated climate action plans.
- Initiate administrative and regulatory actions to sharply curtail heat-trapping emissions economywide and advance climate resilience, prioritizing investments in historically marginalized communities.
- Rejoin the Paris agreement, with an ambitious commitment to cut heat-trapping emissions and provide climate funding for developing countries, in line with the US fair share contribution to global climate goals.
- Reverse the Trump administration's egregious executive orders that have halted, undermined, and reversed climate action.
- Create White House-level offices focused on environmental justice and economic transition to elevate and mainstream these priorities.
As you note, opposition from the fossil fuel companies is not going away any time soon. They may continue to try to slow down or stop climate action, or at best support incremental policy changes that preserve their profits—even as they claim to endorse the Paris agreement's net-zero goal.
UCS and its coalition partners will continue to engage in sharp and strategic corporate campaigns to expose their disingenuous actions, curtail their Wall Street financing, and prod them to align their business models with what the science demonstrates is necessary. We will continue to push for companies to disclose their climate risks, and for financial regulators to require this. And we support the rights of affected parties to seek legal accountability for climate damages caused by fossil fuel companies.
EN: OK. So what can a narrowly divided Congress accomplish?
RC: Congress also will have to step up to play its part. We are coming off a year of record-breaking climate related disasters—including wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves—which intersected cruelly with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting ongoing economic crisis. People across the country need Congress to do its job. Securing robust, comprehensive, durable climate and clean energy policy will require legislation.
President Biden should immediately begin working with the new Congress to advance a suite of policies that ramp up clean energy, drive down carbon emissions economywide, and build climate resilience, while also addressing longstanding environmental injustices that have disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color and ensuring a fair transition for coal communities. Breaking through the long-standing political logjam won't be easy, but the needs are urgent and the economic, health and climate benefits of a low-carbon climate-resilient economy are clear.
Many of these policy priorities were highlighted in the Biden-Harris campaign platform. The incoming administration must do all it can to prod Congress to pass legislation addressing them. Here's just a partial list of what we need:
Additional pandemic relief and economic recovery packages. More funding for public health priorities and economic relief is desperately needed at the national, state and local level. Congress should include a robust "green" economic recovery package to jumpstart and foster a just and equitable economic recovery, with job creation driven by investments in clean energy and climate resilient infrastructure. Forty percent of these investments should directly benefit historically marginalized communities.
Fair transition for workers and communities. Congress should pass a comprehensive, well-funded transition package for displaced workers and communities hurt by the country's ongoing transition away from coal.
Environmental justice. Congress should strengthen public health safeguards, tighten enforcement, and invest in cleaning up the cumulative toxic burden of pollution in fence-line and frontline communities, which are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color.
Recognition of climate change's financial and economic risks. Congress should pass legislation to ensure that financial regulators require corporations to disclose their climate risk to ensure they—and the market more broadly—are appropriately accounting for such risks and taking steps to mitigate it.
Guaranteed community access to the courts. As a mounting number of cities, counties and states seek to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate damages and fraud, here's one thing Congress should not do: pass laws attempting to limit or eliminate communities' access to the courts to seek redress.
EN: President-elect Biden recently proclaimed that he will "put America back in the business of leading the world on climate change." What should that mean in concrete terms? As the country responsible for the largest share of cumulative carbon emissions to date, what does the United States have to do regain international respect and provide leadership?
RC: To be perfectly frank, the Biden administration will have to do a lot more than trot out tired rhetoric about US leadership on climate action.
What the country and the rest of the world need is for the United States to take its place at the table, alongside and in cooperation with nations large and small, and do its part responsibly, fairly and consistently. The Biden administration and Congress need to enact strong national climate policies and make an ambitious, credible emissions reduction commitment ahead of the next international climate talks. They also must commit to scaled-up climate finance for developing countries. Finally, they have to work together with states, cities, tribal governments, businesses, and local stakeholders, many of whom have contributed to significant climate progress despite the absence of national leadership in the last four years. It's time—well past time, actually—for meaningful federal action.
Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.
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By Kristy Dahl
In early January of this year, fresh off the experience of writing a year-end blog post for 2019, I started a project that I thought would make writing this year's year-end post easier. I created a little 2020 calendar on which I planned to record the one big thing that happened in the climate change space each day. In my mind I called it "The Daily Big Deal," and I could envision myself sitting here, as I am, on December 17, reviewing the year's climate-related events and deftly knitting them together in the blog post equivalent of a beautiful scarf made of reclaimed yarn. Or an ugly sweater. Or whatever.
You can see where this is going, of course. The calendar has exactly 17 entries, almost all of them before mid-March, when the U.S. shut down amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 began its seemingly never-ending nosedive. The story of 2020 will forever be one of the COVID-19 pandemic: a story of the lives lost, the heroic commitments of medical professionals, essential workers, and vaccine researchers, the deep crises of unemployment and hunger, the months of isolation from friends and family, the loss of normalcy, the failure of our federal government to stanch the spread of this deadly virus.
Despite my abandoned efforts to chronicle it, though, climate change was also deeply woven into the story of 2020. As we close out this year, these are the five climate lessons I'll be taking with me into 2021.
1. Climate change is showing up in our daily lives whether we recognize it or not
Climate change was on full display this year as a parade of extreme events marched its way around the globe. In what was a record-breaking wildfire year across the western U.S., over 4.2 million acres of California's land burned—an area larger than the state of Connecticut and more than burned during the entire decade of the 1990s. As dire as California's fires were, consider this: The year began with wildfires in Australia that burned 10 times more land than that (about 46 million acres in all). Combined with a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season with multiple direct hits to Louisiana and Nicaragua, flooding in the U.S. Midwest, heat waves in the UK associated with more than 2,500 excess deaths, locust swarms in East Africa, devastating back-to-back typhoons in the Philippines, and countless other climate-related events, it's clear that climate change was staring us in the face—or more like screaming at us—all year long.
But climate change isn't just here in the form of these extreme events. It's here in the winter coats cast aside for a few days in the Northeast in January, when places like Pittsburgh hit 70°F. It's here in the strange, early blooms of confused spring flowers. And it's here in the lack of summertime fog in my notoriously/gloriously foggy neighborhood.
Indeed, one of the year's most chilling and powerful new studies concluded that from 2012 onward, the fingerprints of climate change can be detected from any single day in the global record. Whether it is glaringly obvious or not on any given day, climate change is already shaping our everyday lives in ways big and small.
2. When it comes to cascading risks, we need to be thinking much more broadly
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, this year's climate extremes exposed the many ways in which climate change intersects with civil unrest, water quality, financial insecurity, racial inequities in access to health care and secure housing, and countless other issues that might otherwise be perceived as being wholly unrelated.
Like pandemic preparedness, effective climate adaptation and planning will require us to think much more broadly about what climate change means than we have before.
For example, we have long recognized the interconnectedness of extreme weather and our energy systems—thousands if not millions of people lose power every year during snowstorms, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and the like. But when we look at what happened when Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles, Louisiana, this summer, we can see that the cascading risks of climate-change-driven extreme weather extend far beyond the reach of our electricity system.
In the aftermath of Laura, hundreds of thousands of people were without power and water for days while a severe heat wave rode in on the storm's heels. Lake Charles' residents—about half of whom are Black and about 20 percent of whom live below the poverty line—had to somehow try to rebuild their homes and lives; keep themselves safe from the heat despite not being able to run their air conditioners or fans; and avoid contracting COVID-19 despite being unable to wash their hands. Add to that the financial insecurity many were experiencing after having been laid off during the pandemic shutdown, and we can see that the impacts of climate change reach deeply into so many different systems.
3. COVID-19 and climate change are racial injustices
The pandemic has touched all of our lives this year, but has taken a particularly devastating toll on Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities. In just one example, as of June, nearly one in three Black Americans personally knew someone who had died from COVID-19 compared with roughly one in 10 white Americans.
The disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color are a crystal-clear manifestation of the deep racial inequities that have built up over centuries of systemic racism in the U.S. Millions of people around the world rose up this summer to protest another manifestation of those inequities: the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people by the police.
The disproportionate impacts of climate change are yet another injustice that racism inflicts on communities of color. My colleagues and I have written extensively about these issues recently, and, personally, I'm closing this year out with a deeper understanding of the fact that we cannot and will not be able to address challenges like climate change and COVID-19 without addressing the systemic racism that results in the disproportionate suffering of Black and brown people.
4. When it comes to emissions reductions, we need profound change, but not the kind of devastating change we experienced this year
This year we expect that carbon dioxide emissions—the primary contributor to human-caused climate change–will have dropped by about 7 percent globally and about 11 percent in the U.S., primarily as a result of the widespread economic and emotional pain caused by the pandemic. This is not the kind of transformative change, driven by deep and sustained policies, that we need to meet our climate goals—and it is likely to be short-lived.
Studies show that we'll need to accomplish decreases of roughly that same magnitude every year for the next 10 years to be on track to limit future warming to 1.5-2°C, and we'll have to do so in ways that encourage economic stability, improve the quality of life for people around the globe, reduce—rather than exacerbate—racial inequities, and ensure a just transition to safe, well-paying jobs for those whose livelihoods have been entwined with the production of fossil fuels.
It's a task that looks more and more daunting by the day, particularly because emissions are on track to increase by 2 percent per year globally between now and 2030 if we continue on a business-as-usual path.
But there are multiple technically feasible pathways to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, with steep near-term reductions in emissions. And economic recovery packages that invest in clean energy rather than continuing to prop up the loathsome fossil fuel industry (as they have thus far) could put us on a path toward accomplishing near- and long-term emissions reductions.
Financial commitments to the fossil fuel industry have far outpaced commitments to clean energy in G20 countries since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. In the U.S. and around the world there is cause for hope
In a clear signal of the importance of climate change in U.S. voters' minds, climate change was a prominent topic in the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Indeed, pre-election surveys showed that, particularly for voters identifying as Democrats climate change was a high-priority issue despite the many immediate challenges the country faces.
The country then went on to elect a president and vice president who understand the science behind climate change and embrace the need for rapid, transformative climate action. President-elect Biden has affirmed his commitment to climate action in announcing an exciting slate of nominees and appointees who have long focused on issues of climate change and justice, including Deb Haaland, John Kerry, Gina McCarthy, and Mike Regan.
On the international front, China's pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 along with signals of similarly ambitions pledges from the EU, UK, Japan, and South Korea all serve as challenges for other countries—particularly developed countries like the U.S.—to commit to aggressive emissions reduction plans.
While we can't erase the past years and decades of climate inaction, all of these are signs that we may begin to right our path in earnest in 2021.
I think I can speak for many in the climate community when I say that the last four years have been grueling. Many of the drastic climate impacts we've long been warning about are coming to pass sooner than we had expected yet we've had to continue to fight for the issue of climate change to be named and recognized at all by our federal government. But there's been a heartening crescendo of calls over the last few years for intersectional solutions to climate change, and the incoming Biden Administration seems to be hearing those calls. There is a tremendous amount of work ahead of us as individuals, as a nation, and as a global society. But for the first time in years, I find myself hopeful that we'll start to see more meaningful progress on climate action in 2021.
Reposted with permission from Union of Concerned Scientists.
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By Dana Drugmand
An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.
The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."
This is the first climate lawsuit to be filed with the international court in Strasbourg, France, and campaigners say the decision represents a major step towards a potential landmark judgment.
‘Protect Our Future’
Cláudia Agostinho (21), Catarina Mota (20), Martim Agostinho (17), Sofia Oliveira (15), André Oliveira (12) and Mariana Agostinho (8) are bringing the case with nonprofit law firm Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), arguing that none of the countries have sufficiently ambitious targets to cut their emissions.
Portugal recently sweltered through its hottest July in 90 years and has seen a rise in devastating heatwaves and wildfires over recent years due to rising temperatures. Four of the applicants live in Leiria, one of the regions worst-hit by the forest fires that killed more than 120 people in 2017.
Responding to the development, André Oliveira, 12, said: "It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognise the urgency of our case."
"But what I'd like the most would be for European governments to immediately do what the scientists say is necessary to protect our future. Until they do this, we will keep on fighting with more determination than ever."
"This is an appropriate response from the Court given the scale and imminence of the threat these young people face from the climate emergency," he added.
By suing the 33 countries all together, the youths aim to compel these national governments to act more aggressively on climate through a single court order, which would potentially be more effective than pursuing separate lawsuits or lobbying policymakers in each country.
If successful, the defendant countries would be legally bound not only to ramp up emissions cuts, but also to tackle overseas contributions to climate change including those of their multinational enterprises.
The countries targeted include all of the European Union member states as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, none of which are currently aligned with Paris agreement target to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue a limit of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).
Climate Action Tracker rates most of Europe as "insufficient" in terms of its emissions reduction policies based on the Paris target, while Ukraine, Turkey and Russia are assessed as "critically insufficient" – meaning they are on track for a warming of 4 degrees C or higher.
The European Union has pledged to slash its emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030. But the Portuguese youth plaintiffs are calling for cuts of at least 65 percent by 2030, a level that European climate campaigners say is necessary to meet the 1.5 degrees warming limit.
The 33 countries must each respond to the youths' complaint by the end of February, before lawyers representing the plaintiffs will respond to the points of defense.
"Nothing less than a 65 percent reduction by 2030 will be enough for the EU member states to comply with their obligations to the youth-applicants and indeed countless others," Gerry Liston, legal officer with GLAN, said in a press release.
"These brave young people have cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a judgment which compels European governments to accelerate their climate mitigation efforts."
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
By Brett Wilkins
Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.
As part of the administration's race to rush through as many regulatory rollbacks as possible before President-elect Joe Biden enters office on January 20, the U.S. Department of the Interior released an analysis that sets the stage for modification of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
One of the nation's oldest wildlife protection laws, the MBTA saves the lives of millions of birds each year and, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "is credited with rescuing the snowy egret, wood duck, and sandhill crane from extinction."
The proposed rule shift would let energy, construction, and land development companies off the hook for "incidentally" killing birds, even though the Interior Department's analysis concludes that "increased bird mortality" will "likely result" from the change.
Breaking news! 🚨 “This is another step by the #USFWS to jam through a rule to cement an interpretation of the… https://t.co/NDzj3q6vmb— Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders of Wildlife)1606496560.0
Under the MBTA, ExxonMobil was compelled to pay $125 million in criminal penalties after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and BP was fined $100 million following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill that leaked over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing an estimated 100,000 sea birds.
It is precisely such penalties that corporate bird-killers are seeking to dodge in the future through the proposed rule change, which Trump administration officials including Daniel Jorjani, a former Koch brothers adviser who is now the head lawyer at the Interior Department, have pushed for years.
During his 2019 Senate confirmation hearing, Jorjani lied to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) about whether he had been in recent contact with the Koch brothers or any of their business interests. Before joining the government, Jorjani was formerly a highly paid operative at several organizations linked to the brothers and their fossil fuel empire.
Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said last year that Jorjani "opened the floodgates to bird killing by the oil and gas industry and other campaign contributors of the Trump administration," and accused him of being "part of a pattern in which Interior is basically run by the Koch Foundation for the benefit of the Koch Foundation."
Earlier this year, a federal court rejected a 2017 Interior Department opinion authored by Jorjani seeking to loosen MBTA protections. Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York wrote that Jorjani's interpretation of the law "runs counter to the purpose of the MBTA to protect migratory bird populations" and "is simply an unpersuasive interpretation of the MBTA's unambiguous prohibition on killing protected birds."
Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration's latest attempt to protect polluters and wildlife-killers from prosecution at the expense of avian lives.
"This is another step by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to jam through a rule to cement an interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that a federal court has already declared illegal," Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement. "At a time when North America has already lost three billion birds, the rule will further undercut our nation's ability to conserve birds so many people care about deeply."
Rappaport Clark was referring to a 2019 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science that found since 1970 the continent has lost over 2.9 billion birds, or nearly 30% of its avian population.
According to a 2005 study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
From 500 million to possibly over 1 billion birds are killed annually in the United States due to anthropogenic sources including collisions with human-made structures such as vehicles, buildings and windows, power lines, communication towers, and wind turbines; electrocutions; oil spills and other contaminants; pesticides; cat predation; and commercial fishing by-catch.
"Many of the deaths from these sources would be considered unlawful under federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act," the study stated.
A recent surge in bird deaths in the U.S. Southwest has been attributed to a combination of human-caused climate factors including heatwaves and wildfires.
If there is a silver lining for bird lovers, it is that the incoming Biden administration will be able to reverse any Trump-era rule changes, although doing so could take years.
Eric Glitzenstein, litigation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Washington Post that the new rule "will inevitably meet the same fate as the illegal opinion on which it is based."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Kenny Stancil
"The state of the planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal."
That's how United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres began a Wednesday address at Columbia University, in which he reflected on the past 11 months of extreme weather and challenged world leaders to use the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to construct a better world free from destructive greenhouse gas emissions.
Guterres' plea for countries to invest in a more just and sustainable future, transforming the economy and curbing climate change at the same time through the development of renewable energy among other green industries, coincided with the publication of two U.N. reports detailing the relationship between the continued extraction of fossil fuels and 2020's extreme weather.
In its annual report on the state of the global climate, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that "global temperatures from January to October were around 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, putting 2020 on track to being one of the three warmest years on record," Bloomberg Green reported Wednesday. "This decade will be the hottest on record, with the warmest six years all happening since 2015."
The Associated Press noted as well that "the WMO's report found global warming is worsening in all seven key climate indicators, but the problem is increasing human suffering in an already bad year."
According to the report, "over 50 million people have been doubly hit [in 2020]: by climate-related disasters (floods, droughts, and storms) and the Covid-19 pandemic." Guterres emphasized that "the impacts fall most heavily on the world's most vulnerable people."
"Those who have done the least to cause the problem are suffering the most," the U.N. leader pointed out, including in the deeply unequal developed world where "the marginalized are the first victims of disasters and the last to recover."
Guterres summarized the worsening toll of the world's interrelated environmental crises:
Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Deserts are spreading. Wetlands are being lost. Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests. Oceans are overfished—and choking with plastic waste. The carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas. Coral reefs are bleached and dying. Air and water pollution are killing 9 million people annually—more than six times the current toll of the pandemic. And with people and livestock encroaching further into animal habitats and disrupting wild spaces, we could see more viruses and other disease-causing agents jump from animals to humans.
The U.N. leader also spelled out the catastrophic contours of the climate emergency:
Ocean heat is at record levels. This year, more than 80 percent of the world's oceans experienced marine heatwaves. In the Arctic, 2020 has seen exceptional warmth, with temperatures more than 3 degrees Celsius above average—and more than 5 degrees in northern Siberia. Arctic sea ice in October was the lowest on record—and now re-freezing has been the slowest on record. Greenland ice has continued its long-term decline, losing an average of 278 gigatons a year. Permafrost is melting and so releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal.
"Covid-19 lockdowns have temporarily reduced emissions and pollution," Guterres added, "but carbon dioxide levels are still at record highs—and rising," along with other greenhouse gases.
Despite the gravity of the situation, "climate policies have yet to rise to the challenge," the U.N. leader lamented.
In a special report on the production gap—"the discrepancy between countries' planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius"—researchers from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and other institutions explained that the world must decrease fossil fuel production by 6 percent per year between 2020 and 2030 to limit catastrophic global warming.
Instead, countries are planning on increasing fossil fuel production by 2 percent per year, putting the world on pace to burn more than twice the amount of carbon by the end of the decade than deemed compatible with a 1.5 degree Celsius pathway.
"As we seek to reboot economies following the Covid-19 pandemic, investing in low-carbon energy and infrastructure will be good for jobs, for economies, for health, and for clean air," said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen."Governments must seize the opportunity to direct their economies and energy systems away from fossil fuels, and build back better towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future."
Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a sustainable energy expert at the International Institute for Sustainable Development and a co-author of the production gap report, explained to AP that "investing in oil, coal, and gas no longer makes economic sense because renewable energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels," especially after what she called "the pandemic-driven demand shock and the plunge of oil prices this year."
Nevertheless, she told AP, "We see that instead of governments letting these fossil fuel projects die, they resurrect them from the dead," channeling billions of dollars in public subsidies to the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
Guterres implored government officials to treat the trillions of dollars being invested in the post-coronavirus crisis recovery process as a mechanism to catapult the world onto a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable trajectory.
He stated unequivocally that devoting more funds to dirty energy than to clean energy at this pivotal moment in history, which locks in "unsustainable fossil fuel pathways," is an injustice inflicted on future generations as well as society's most vulnerable members who bear the least responsibility for climate risks and disruptions.
"The science is clear," Guterres told the BBC. "Unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6 percent every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse."
The solution, said Michael Lazarus, director of the SEI's U.S. Center and a co-author of the report on the production gap, is "government policies that decrease both the demand and supply for fossil fuels and support communities currently dependent on them."
Gerasimchuk acknowledged that "this may be one of the most challenging undertakings of the 21st century, but it's necessary and achievable."
"It's time," said SEI's executive director Måns Nilsson, "to imagine, and plan for, a better future."
Watch Guterres' entire address here:
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Kenny Stancil
As the climate crisis fuels devastating wildfires across the western United States and melts Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that Earth just experienced the hottest September on record and that 2020 is on pace to be one of the three hottest years on the books.
According to NOAA, "the 10 warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005, with the seven warmest Septembers occurring in the last seven years."
"We've broken the climate system," tweeted meteorologist Eric Holthaus. "We are in a climate emergency."
NOAA and NASA data have just confirmed that September 2020 was the warmest September ever measured globally. 2020… https://t.co/vib5KoQw3j— Eric Holthaus (@Eric Holthaus)1602687403.0
NOAA found that 2020 has a 65% chance of beating out 2016 as the warmest year on record, a 35% chance of being the second-warmest ever, and will almost certainly rank in the top three.
Climate scientists emphasized that this year's record-setting temperatures have been accompanied by an unprecedented wave of extreme weather events. A report published Tuesday by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction examined the "staggering" increase in climate-related disasters, which doubled from 3,656 between 1980 and 1999 to 6,681 between 2000 and 2019, as Common Dreams reported.
Researchers at Yale found that eight weather-related disasters causing $1 billion or more in damage occurred across the world in September alone, bringing the annual total thus far to 35. There were 40 such events in both 2018 and 2019.
With 16 extreme weather events so far in 2020, the U.S. has already tied its record for most billion-dollar weather disasters in a single year.
NOAA's findings echo a European Union study published one week ago. As Common Dreams reported, one of the EU climate scientists who contributed to the analysis noted that the planet "will carry on warming if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate they are at the moment."
"It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction," the U.N. report stated, "despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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