A new report promoting urgent climate action in Australia has stirred debate for claiming that global temperatures will rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade.
Australia's Climate Council released the report on Thursday. The council is an independent organization of climate scientists and experts on health, renewable energy and policy who work to inform the Australian public on the climate crisis. But their latest claim is causing controversy.
"Multiple lines of evidence show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above the preindustrial level, without significant overshoot and subsequent drawdown, is now out of reach due to past inaction," Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Prof. Christopher Field of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment wrote in the foreword. "The science is telling us that global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s, and that long-term stabilization at warming at or below 1.5°C will be extremely challenging."
The report is titled "Aim high, go fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade," and as the name suggests, it is ultimately concerned with urging more robust climate action on the part of the Australian government. The report calls for the country to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035 in order to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris agreement, which means limiting warming to well below two degrees Celsius.
"The world achieving net zero by 2050 is at least a decade too late and carries a strong risk of irreversible global climate disruption at levels inconsistent with maintaining well-functioning human societies," the authors wrote.
The report further argues that global temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 2030s based on existing temperature increases; locked-in warming from emissions that have already occurred; evidence from past climate changes and the percentage of the carbon budget that has already been used.
The report isn't a call to give up on the Paris agreement. It is possible that global temperatures could swell past 1.5 degrees Celsius but still be reduced by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if temperatures do exceed 1.5 degrees, every degree of warming that can be prevented makes a difference.
"Basically we can still hold temperature rise to well below 2C and do that without overshoot and drawdown," Will Steffen, lead report author from the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, told Australia's ABC News. "Every tenth of a degree actually does matter — 1.8C is better than 1.9C, and is much better than 2C."
However, some outside scientists question both the accuracy and effectiveness of the report's claim. Both Adjunct Professor Bill Hare from Murdoch University and Dr. Carl-Freidrich Schleussner from Humboldt University told ABC News they have been trying to contact the Climate Council about its 1.5 overshoot claim for months. They said that it went against other major reports, including the UN Environment Program Gap Report and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5˚C.
"The big challenge their report reinforces is the need for urgent action to get on that 1.5C pathway, [so] it's very paradoxical to me that they've chosen to attack that target," Dr. Hare told ABC News.
However, Scientist Andy Pitman from the Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales told The Guardian that the report's assessment was correct.
"It's simply not possible to limit warming to 1.5C now," he said. "There's too much inertia in the system and even if you stopped greenhouse gas emissions today, you would still reach 1.5C [of heating]."
However, one aspect everyone agreed on involved the importance of lowering emissions as soon as possible.
"[There is] absolute fundamental agreement on the task at hand, which is to get emissions to plummet," Simon Bradshaw, report author and Climate Council head of research, told The Guardian.
By Brett Wilkins
As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.
The report, Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions was caused by the world's richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.
"In the year when the UK hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain's biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the UK's climate targets," the report's introduction states.
The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called "polluter elite" in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing "affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households."
The report found that the "polluter elite" must make "dramatic" lifestyle changes in order to meet the UK's goal — based on the Paris climate agreement's preferential objective — of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
In addition to highlighting previous recommendations — including reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and switching to electric vehicles and solar power — the report recommends that policymakers take the following steps:
- Implement frequent flyer levies;
- Enact bans on selling and promoting SUVs and other high polluting vehicles;
- Reverse the UK's recent move to cut green grants for homes and electric cars; and
- Build just transitions by supporting electric public transport and community energy schemes.
"We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions," Peter Newell, a Sussex University professor and lead author of the report, told the BBC.
"These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most, and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they're well insulated or not," said Newell. "They're also the sort of people who could really afford good insulation and solar panels if they wanted to."
Newell said that wealthy people "simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV, that's still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place."
"Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air," Newell added. "But these schemes are highly contentious and they're not proven over time."
The report concludes that "we are all on a journey and the final destination is as yet unclear. There are many contradictory road maps about where we might want to get to and how, based on different theories of value and premised on diverse values."
"Promisingly, we have brought about positive change before, and there are at least some positive signs that there is an appetite to do what is necessary to live differently but well on the planet we call home," it states.
The new report follows a September 2020 Oxfam International study that revealed the wealthiest 1% of the world's population is responsible for emitting more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity combined.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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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.
By Kenny Stancil
The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide surged past 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history this past weekend, according to a measurement taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii.
When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research station "began collecting CO2 measurements in the late 1950s, atmospheric CO2 concentration sat at around 315 PPM," the Washington Post reported. "On Saturday, the daily average was pegged at 421.21 PPM—the first time in human history that number has been so high."
Climate activist Greta Thunberg took notice of NOAA's most recent data on CO2 levels. She described the first-ever documented eclipse of 420 PPM of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere as "truly groundbreaking."
Is this is confirmed, then it is truly groundbreaking to say the least. And I don’t mean that in a good way... https://t.co/vwFOENLcWQ— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1617619321.0
Exceeding 420 PPM of the heat-trapping gas "is a disconcerting milestone in the human-induced warming of the planet, around the halfway point on our path toward doubling preindustrial CO2 levels," the Post noted, adding:
There is special significance in reaching and surpassing a concentration of 416 PPM. It means we've passed the midpoint between preindustrial CO2 levels, around 278 PPM, and a doubling of that figure, or 556 PPM.
The record of 421 PPM reached Saturday is just a single point and occurred as CO2 levels are nearing their yearly peak. But the levels over the past two months, of more than 417 PPM, signal that the annual average concentration is likely to exceed 416 PPM.
While the growing concentration of atmospheric CO2—which increases the global average temperature and the number and severity of extreme weather events—is a long-term trend that corresponds with the rise of fossil fuel-powered capitalism, it has accelerated particularly rapidly since the 1970s.
CO2 concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached a daily record of 421.21 Parts Per Million (PPM) on April 3.… https://t.co/2KYjC8IntE— Steve Bowen (@Steve Bowen)1617640923.0
The doubling of atmospheric CO2 is expected to increase Earth's temperature by 2.6 to 4.1ºC above preindustrial averages, a level of planetary heating that would "rul[e] out more modest warming scenarios," as the Post noted.
"Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were to plummet overnight, the planet would continue warming for years to come," the Post added. That's because, as Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, told the newspaper: "The amount of warming that the world is experiencing is a result of all of our emissions since the industrial revolution—not just our emissions in the last year."
As the Post reported, CO2 isn't the only GHG with "worrying trends." Emissions of methane and sulfur hexafluoride have spiked, too.
Although methane doesn't remain in the atmosphere as long as CO2, it absorbs heat much more effectively, which means that it greatly exacerbates the climate crisis. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 in the first two decades after its release.
Here's the Post on sulfur hexafluoride, a GHG that "results from the production of insulators used on electrical grids [and] also reached all-time records of 10 parts per trillion":
While its concentration remains orders of magnitude more dilute than that of most other major greenhouse gases, its rate of increase in the atmosphere has doubled since 2003.
Sulfur hexafluoride is also thousands of times more potent—a single molecule can cause 23,900 times more warming than a molecule of CO2. And a single molecule of sulfur hexafluoride can stick around in the atmosphere for more than three millennia.
While the Paris climate agreement seeks to limit the rise in annual mean global temperature to 1.5°C above preindustrial averages by the end of the 21st century, the World Meteorological Organization warned last year that there is a 20% chance the world will hit or surpass that level of warming in at least one year by 2024.
"The science is clear," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in December. "Unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse."
As forest ecologist Giorgio Matteucci tweeted Monday, "We have to act!"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jessica Corbett
While scientists and campaigners continue calling on world leaders to pursue more ambitious policies to cut planet-heating emissions based on moral arguments and physical dangers, a U.S. think tank released survey results on Tuesday that make a clear economic case for sweeping climate action.
The Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law invited 2,169 Ph.D. economists to take a 15-question online survey "focused on climate change risks, economic damage estimates, and emissions abatement," according to a report on the results. Nearly three-quarters of the 738 economists who participated in the survey say they agree that "immediate and drastic action is necessary."
"In sharp contrast, less than 1% believe that climate change is 'not a serious problem,'" the report says, noting a jump in support for bold climate action now compared with a 2015 survey. "Nearly 80% of respondents also self-report an increase in their level of concern about climate change over the past five years, underscoring the high level of overall concern among this group."
Just out: an impressive new international survey of 738 economists with expertise in climate by @NYULaw… https://t.co/eHGdjvMLHl— Dana Nuccitelli (@Dana Nuccitelli)1617120585.0
Of those surveyed, 76% believe the climate crisis will likely or very likely have a negative effect on global economic growth rates. Additionally, 70% think climate change will make income inequality worse within most countries and 89% think it will exacerbate inequality between high-income and low-income countries.
"People who spend their careers studying our economy are in widespread agreement that climate change will be expensive, potentially devastatingly so," said Peter Howard, economics director at the institute and co-author of the research, in a statement. "These findings show a clear economic case for urgent climate action."
As the report details:
Respondents were asked to estimate the economic impacts of several different climate scenarios. They project that economic damages from climate change will reach $1.7 trillion per year by 2025, and roughly $30 trillion per year (5% of projected GDP) by 2075 if the current warming trend continues. Their damage estimates rise precipitously as warming intensifies, topping $140 trillion annually at a 5°C increase and $730 trillion at a 7°C increase. As expected, experts believe that the risk of extremely high/catastrophic damages significantly increases at these high temperatures.
Sixty-six percent of respondents "agree that the benefits of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 would likely outweigh the costs," compared with just 12% who disagree. As the report says: "Costs are often cited as a reason to delay or avoid strong action on climate change, but this survey of hundreds of expert economists suggests that the weight of evidence is on the side of rapid action."
The economists also foresee a "rapid expansion of clean energy technologies" in the coming decades, and 65% of respondents expect the costs of emerging zero-emission and negative-emission tech will drop rapidly, similar to the recent developments with solar and wind energy. While a majority also expects negative-emission technologies will become viable in the second half of the century, the report notes that "a very high percentage of 'No Opinion' responses underscores the uncertainty of this projection."
Our global survey of over 700 economists gathered expert views on a series of key climate change questions. The ov… https://t.co/ftp9Ix3Sbq— Institute for Policy Integrity (@Institute for Policy Integrity)1617113684.0
"Economists overwhelmingly support rapid emissions reductions, and they are optimistic about key technology costs continuing to drop," said co-author Derek Sylvan, strategy director at the institute. "There is a clear consensus among these experts that the status quo seems far more costly than a major energy transition."
The survey comes as governments party to the Paris agreement are revising and releasing emissions pledges for the next decade ahead of a global summit in November. A United Nations report recently warned that the pledges put forth so far are dramatically inadequate. As Power Shift Africa director Mohamed Adow said: "It's staggering how far off track countries are to dealing with the climate crisis."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Even though 2020 lending was down 9% compared to the previous year, it was still higher than in 2016, when the Paris agreement took effect, and lending to the 100 fossil fuel companies with the biggest plans to expand actually rose by 10%. American and Canadian banks accounted for 13 of the 60 banks reviewed in the report, with JPMorgan Chase providing more fossil fuel financing than any other bank.
The report comes as pressure is mounting on financial institutions to stop investing in fossil fuels driving climate change and multiple banks have touted promises to cut and offset their greenhouse gas pollution, including JPMorgan, HSBC, and Citigroup.
As reported by The Guardian:
"When we look at the five years overall, the trend is still going in the wrong direction, which is obviously the exact opposite of where we need to be going to live up to the goals of the Paris Agreement," said Alison Kirsch, at Rainforest Action Network and an author of the report. "None of these 60 banks have made, without loopholes, a plan to exit fossil fuels."
"We have seen progress in restricting financing for special places like the Arctic or greenhouse-gas-intensive forms of oil, like tar sands, but these are such a small piece of the pie," she said.
For a deeper dive:
Correction: A previous version of this story stated wrongly that the biggest banks gave fossil fuel companies $32.8 trillion in financing. It is $3.8 trillion.
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By Gero Rueter
Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today, according to a report published Tuesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report predicts that renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will shape the way we power the world in 2050.
Adopting such solutions would set world leaders on track to meet their target of keeping the planet from heating by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels this century, according to the World Energy Transitions Outlook report. The UN had warned in November that pledges to meet this goal were so far "woefully inadequate."
"The window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal is closing fast," said Francesco La Camera, the director-general of IRENA. "The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing, but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction."
Instead, IRENA — an intergovernmental organization based in Abu Dhabi made up of 162 countries and the European Union — calls for a change in direction and a dramatic acceleration of the energy transition as countries walk the "narrow tightrope" toward the 1.5 C target.
Global Turnaround Through Green Power
That would make it the main energy source in the world, powering more than 80% of all vehicles. Heating would mainly be provided by heat pumps, whose number is set to rise 20-fold by 2050 to around 400 million.
To stay in line with climate targets, coal-fired power plants would have to be shut down and no new ones built. Ninety percent of electricity would have to come from renewable sources, mainly sun and wind, with a global installed capacity of photovoltaics almost 30 times greater than in 2018. There would have to be 14 times the wind power, and hydropower would have to double.
Fossil gas and nuclear energy, meanwhile, would make up 4% and 6% of electricity generated, respectively.
But, even with such an expansion of renewables and a drop in fossil fuels, the report relies on removing CO2 from the atmosphere to meet climate goals. This includes reforesting areas in which trees have been hacked down or burned, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere by growing plants, and capturing it from industrial sites and injecting it underground. The technology to capture carbon and store it is expensive, and exists only at a small scale.
Major Challenge, But Possible
To meet climate goals, the report assumed a globally available budget of 500 billion tons of CO2 for the current scenario. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if no more than this amount is released into the atmosphere, the world has a half-chance of warming 1.5 C and missing the target.
But, for a two-thirds chance of avoiding that level of warming, even more CO2 would have to be kept out of the atmosphere. According to the IPCC, total emissions would have to be limited to about 285 billion tons. Around 42 billion tons of CO2 are emitted by the energy and agricultural sectors every single year.
"A scenario like the one presented by IRENA is conceivable," said Christian Breyer, a professor of solar economics at LUT University in Finland, who was not involved in the study. Breyer criticized the report for its high CO2 budget and reliance on technologies to remove emissions rather than stop them in the first place.
In addition, he said, the benefits "of extremely low-cost solar electricity have not yet been fully incorporated into the scenario, but very expensive system solutions such as nuclear power and biomass with CO2 capture."
Economic Stimulus to Bring Jobs
That turnaround has already begun.
Global oil consumption will continue to fall in the coming years, and fossil gas is set to join it in 2025. "Financial markets are already reflecting this change by shifting capital away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable assets like renewables," La Camera said.
Echoing warnings from the UN last year, IRENA said that stimulus packages in the wake of the pandemic must be used strategically to meet the 1.5 C target. Doing so would also help employment. The report projects that investing in the energy transition will create close to three times more jobs than fossil fuels for every million dollars spent.
"While the pathway is daunting, several favorable elements can make it achievable," La Camera said. "Major economies accounting for over half of global CO2 emissions are turning carbon-neutral. Global capital is moving, too."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Kenny Stancil
For the Biden Administration to meet its long-term target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the United States must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 60% below 2005 levels by 2030, according to a new report released Thursday.
In its analysis, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) found that in order for the U.S. to do its fair share to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C by the end of the century — the goal of the Paris agreement — the country must slash at least 57% to 63% of its emissions by the end of the decade and provide financial support to developing nations striving to transition away from climate-destroying fossil fuels.
Having officially rejoined the Paris agreement earlier this year, the Biden Administration is currently preparing to unveil a new domestic emissions reduction target, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The U.S. is expected to announce its Paris agreement pledge for 2030 prior to a climate leaders' summit the White House is hosting on Earth Day, which falls on April 22.
US @ClimateEnvoy said this week he wants to be judged on what he delivers in a #climate plan... well -… https://t.co/C0RsbVh4Ff— Ed King (@Ed King)1615456449.0
The report emphasizes that "setting a strong and fair NDC is only the first step."
"Even if President Joe Biden were to adopt the Paris Agreement 2030 target we suggest he should, he still needs to implement policies to get the U.S. onto this emissions pathway towards zero greenhouse gas emissions," said Professor Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, one of the two CAT partner organizations.
"He has already announced a number of plans, which are positive first steps," Höhne added, "but not all of them are Paris Agreement compatible, nor would they be enough to meet our suggested 1.5˚C compatible target."
CAT analyzed Biden's plans for three sectors of the U.S. economy — power, transportation, and buildings — and compared them with Paris agreement-compatible benchmarks defined in a previous study.
According to the new report:
- Biden's plan to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 — an objective he set in motion with an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to develop a procurement plan for carbon-free electricity — is consistent with a Paris agreement pathway.
- Biden's proposal to gradually transition toward clean mobility, with a focus on the electrification of light-duty passenger vehicles (LDV), is insufficient. Although transportation is the largest source of emissions in the U.S., Biden has yet to set clear targets or timelines. CAT estimates that to comply with the Paris agreement, 95% to 100% of nationwide sales of LDV must be zero-emissions by 2030.
- Biden's plan to cut the carbon footprint of the U.S. buildings sector in half by 2035 through retrofitting, appliance electrification, and on-site renewable energy generation is a step in the right direction. However, CAT estimates that to be consistent with the Paris agreement, emissions need to be about 60% lower in residential buildings and 70% lower in commercial buildings by 2030, compared with 2015 levels.
The research conducted by CAT demands bolder climate policies to slash emissions more thoroughly and rapidly than others have proposed.
As Reuters reported, "European Union officials ... are calling on Washington to reduce emissions at least 50% this decade below 2005 levels," while environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council "have coalesced around a 50% reduction target for 2030."
While the 50% target advocated by the America Is All In coalition "is close to a 1.5˚C pathway for the U.S.," CAT stressed that "this target would still result in a gap of 0.5-0.9 GtCO2e emissions in 2030."
"For President Biden to show true climate leadership, we would want to see him coming forward with an ambitious, science-based target that would encourage domestic action toward decarbonizing the economy," said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, the other CAT partner.
"It would be a major boost to international climate cooperation," Hare added. "Having the U.S. taking such strong action would reverberate across the world, and result in other countries also stepping up to adopt the kind of targets they need to make global net-zero a reality."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
If governments fail to keep global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, much of the world's population could live in "lethal" levels of heat and humidity, new research finds.
Home to more than three billion people, the planet's tropical band, which includes most of South and East Asia, Central America and Central Africa, remains the most vulnerable to an unlivable climate, The New York Times reported. In these regions, populations are growing and by 2050, they could be home to half of the world's population, The Guardian reported. But if countries slash emissions now, life in the tropics could be prevented from reaching dangerous conditions, a study published Monday in Nature Geoscience suggests.
While extreme heat is indeed a major cause of concern for global populations, "humidity needs to be taken into account to estimate the health impact of extreme heat," the authors wrote, noting the importance of the wet-bulb temperature – a measure of air temperature and humidity.
"If it is too humid our bodies can't cool off by evaporating sweat – this is why humidity is important when we consider livability in a hot place," Yi Zhang, a graduate student in geosciences at Princeton University and the study's lead author, told The Guardian. "High body core temperatures are dangerous or even lethal."
If the extreme wet-bulb temperature passes 35 degrees Celsius, the human body can't cool itself. But if countries limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the wet-bulb temperature at the surface can not exceed 35 degrees Celsius, The Guardian reported.
The effects of heat and humidity on women, older people and people with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension are more extreme, Glen Kenny, a professor of physiology at the University of Ottawa, who was not involved in the new study, told The New York Times. If sweat cannot evaporate, then "essentially the body will gain heat," Kenny said, according to The New York Times. This could stress the heart, resulting in cardiovascular issues.
Over the past 40 years, the highest wet-bulb temperature recorded in the tropics has been well below 33 degrees Celsius, according to the scientists, The Independent reported. If countries are able to limit warming within the Paris agreement's objectives, then maximum wet-bulb temperatures are unlikely to reach the point where humans are unable to cool themselves. But even just a one degree Celsius increase in extreme wet-bulb temperature "could have adverse health impact equivalent to that of several degrees of temperature increase," The Guardian reported.
The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, despite the Paris agreement goals, and scientists warn that it could reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit before the end of the decade, The Guardian noted.
"Theoretically no human can tolerate a wet bulb temperature of above 35C, no matter how much water they have to drink," Mojtaba Sadegh, an expert in climate risks at Boise State University who was not involved in the study, told The Guardian. "If this limit is breached, infrastructure like cool-air shelters are absolutely necessary for human survival."
The research was based on the latitudes between 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south, which include countries such as Mexico, Libya, India, Brazil, Madagascar and the northern regions of Australia, The Guardian reported. "Given that much of the impacted area consists of low-income countries, providing the required infrastructure will be challenging," Sadegh told The Guardian.
But while the new research adds to the long list of reasons why countries should cut emissions to limit global temperatures, Dr. Dann Mitchell, joint Met Office chair in climate hazards at the University of Bristol, who was not involved in the study, said these findings "should be viewed cautiously," The Independent reported.
"While these heat stress thresholds are useful conceptually, especially for animals or ecosystems, we must be cautious about relating them to any particular step change in human mortality or morbidity," Mitchell told The Independent. "By construction, they do not take into account our adaptable natures."
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This is the largest emissions reduction that has ever been recorded. But to reach the Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needs to reduce emissions by one to two billion metric tons every year for the next decade and beyond, according to a new analysis published in Nature Climate Change.
"We need a cut in emissions of about the size of the fall [from the lockdowns] every two years, but by completely different methods," Corinne Le Quéré, lead study author from the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England, told The Guardian.
Before the pandemic, emissions were already declining in some countries due to policy changes, the report found. In 64 countries, emissions declined by 160 million metric tons a year between 2016 to 2019 compared to 2011 to 2015. However, that reduction is only a tenth of what is needed worldwide to meet the Paris agreement goals. In 150 countries, emissions continued to increase by 370 million metric tons a year during the four years before the lockdown.
The concern now is whether countries can build on the reductions caused by the pandemic, or if emissions will increase again as economies reopen. So far, the evidence points toward the latter. The International Energy Agency said this week that emissions had already rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, Forbes reported. Last month, the UN said that countries' existing commitments under the Paris agreement would only reduce emissions by less than one percent by 2030, even though experts say a 45 percent drop is required.
"Emissions were lower in 2020 as fossil fuel infrastructure was used less, not because infrastructure was closed down," Glen Peters, study co-author from the Cicero center for climate research in Norway, told The Guardian. "When fossil fuel infrastructure is put into use again, there is a risk of a big rebound in emissions in 2021, as was seen in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2009."
The report authors noted that policy makers could refer to the lockdowns for guidance on reducing emissions. Most of the reductions were driven by transportation decreases, the authors found. They suggested shifting toward electric vehicles and bike-and-pedestrian-friendly cities, as well as continuing and improving remote business options and encouraging a safe return to public transportation.
The authors also called for greater investments in renewable energy as part of the recovery process. They added that while recovery plans in the European Union, Denmark, France, UK, Germany and Switzerland included minimal fossil fuel investments, investments in most other countries, including the U.S. and China, were still fossil-fuel heavy.
"Experience from several previous crises show that the underlying drivers of emissions reappear, if not immediately, then within a few years," the authors wrote. "Therefore to change the trajectory in global CO2 emissions in the long term, the underlying drivers also need to change."
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The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.
The report was the first of its kind to quantify blue carbon -- carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere from ocean ecosystems -- across the 50 UNESCO Marine World Heritage sites. The report found six marine World Heritage Sites in Australia hold 40 percent of the estimated five billion tons of carbon dioxide stored in mangrove, seagrass and tidal marsh ecosystems within these sites, Edith Cowan University wrote in a statement.
"We know Australia contains some of the world's largest stores of blue carbon due to the enormous size and diversity of our marine ecosystems," the report author and ECU research fellow Dr. Oscar Serrano said, according to ECU. Included in these six marine World Heritage sites are Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay World Heritage areas, which together contain a majority of Australia's blue carbon habitats. "However, here in Australia and around the world, these ecosystems are under threat from human development and climate change," Serrano added.
These threats include pollution, like plastic litter, and climate change, UNESCO reported. This is an increasing problem not just in Australia, but among marine World Heritage sites globally, including ecosystems like the Sundarbans mangroves in India and Bangladesh, Everglades National Park in the U.S., the Wadden Sea in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, UNESCO noted.
Although blue carbon ecosystems represent less than one percent of the global ocean area, they store about half of the carbon dioxide via the world's oceans, absorbing carbon 30 times faster than rainforests, ECU wrote in a statement. But if these blue carbon ecosystems are not conserved, they could increase global carbon emissions.
"While they're healthy, blue carbon ecosystems are excellent stores of carbon dioxide, but if they are damaged, they can release huge amounts of carbon dioxide stored over millennia back into the atmosphere," Serrano added, according to ECU.
In 2011, for example, nine million tons of stored carbon dioxide were released following a marine heatwave that killed about one-third of the area's seagrass in the Shark Bay, The Guardian reported.
To avoid similar events, the report's authors call for conservation efforts like blue carbon strategies, where countries could earn carbon credits for restoring damaged ecosystems that store carbon, UNESCO reported.
"By quantifying the carbon value of these sites and recommending specific blue carbon strategies to conserve them, UNESCO's research findings point the way for countries, regions, and local communities seeking to conserve these areas and pursue blue carbon strategies," UNESCO wrote in a press release. This could mean including assets, like investing in the restoration and conservation of blue carbon ecosystems, into Nationally Determined Contributions, each country's pledged actions in the Paris agreement.
Currently, the Australian government is leading by example, developing a system to create carbon credits for restoration projects on increasing blue carbon stocks in marine ecosystems, The Guardian reported.
"There are significant opportunities for both the Great Barrier Reef and Shark Bay to be protected and restored to ensure they survive and thrive in the future," Serrano added, according to ECU.
By Anke Rasper
"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.
While most have increased their individual climate efforts, only two of the worst emitters, including the UK and the EU, have stepped up their goals considerably. And the member states' plans to tackle the climate crisis "are very far from putting us on a pathway that will meet our Paris Agreement goals," said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change.
The individual contributions submitted to date would only cut about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions — a far cry from the 45% cut needed by 2030 to meet the 1.5 degree goal, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In 2015, 195 countries and the European Union had agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global heating way below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.
UN Chief Guterres urged major emitters to "step up with much more ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030" well before the next UN Climate Conference, slated for Glasgow in November.
The interim report also stressed that poor countries were banking on the funds pledged under the Paris agreement to protect forests and other ecosystems, to carry out climate measures.
Nations Need to Improve Their Targets
The UN's interim report, which looked at the NDCs available as of December, provides a snapshot ahead of the COP 26 climate conference in November. The remaining 122 signatory countries have yet to define their updated contributions, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases: China and the U.S.
The Paris agreement is a voluntary process and leaves it up to national governments to decide how they want to achieve their self-imposed targets. There is no provision for sanctions or punitive mechanisms against countries that fail to meet their climate targets.
Will the U.S. Take the Lead on Climate Change?
Many hope that the U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement will provide a much-needed boost to international climate ambitions. U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry has already announced that the U.S. will present "very aggressive, strong NDCs" ahead of the special climate summit in Washington on April 22.
The U.S. under the Biden administration also wants to expand its climate diplomacy to include China in particular, currently the largest emitter. China has already announced plans to increase its national targets this year.
Other major emitters, such as Russia and Brazil, have so far shown little ambition to commit to more. Former head of the UN Climate Secretariat, Christiana Figueres, was optimistic nonetheless that "many large emitters such as the U.S., China, Japan and others" would submit ambitious plans, because it was "in their own competitive interests to reach 50% emissions reductions by 2030."
Together with Canada, the U.S. is also considering slapping higher import duties on countries that are not doing enough to save the climate. However, it is unclear whether such sanctions are compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Climate Change Existential Threat to Humanity
UN Climate Change Chief Patricia Espinosa pointed out that the last 10 years had been the hottest decade in human history. The record rise in temperatures, for example in the Arctic winter and northern Siberia, and dramatic winter weather slamming the traditionally mild southern U.S., were being amplified by the now measurably slowing Gulf Stream in the Atlantic — something that could be irreversible.
"It's time for all remaining Parties to step up, fulfill what they promised to do under the Paris Agreement and submit their NDCs as soon as possible," Espinosa said, adding "if this task was urgent before, it's crucial now."
And with the world focused largely on the coronavirus crisis, Espinosa stressed that any economic measures to offset the pandemic needed to take the climate crisis into account.
According to Espinosa, this is precisely why it is so important to tackle the global crises — such as COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the dramatic loss of biodiversity — as a whole.
"As we rebuild, we cannot revert to the old normal. The NDCs must reflect this reality and major emitters, especially G20 nations, must lead the way," she said.
The expanded final report, which will include all national climate contributions, will be released shortly before the UN climate conference in November. COP 26 President Alok Sharma urged all member states to "recognize that the window for action to safeguard our planet is closing fast."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Stuart Braun
We spend 90% of our time in the buildings where we live and work, shop and conduct business, in the structures that keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.
But immense energy is required to source and manufacture building materials, to power construction sites, to maintain and renew the built environment. In 2019, building operations and construction activities together accounted for 38% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, the highest level ever recorded.
To ensure that the Paris climate targets are met, the building and construction industry needs to become a climate leader by moving towards net-zero construction. Its CO2 emissions need to be cut in half by 2030 for building stock to be carbon-free by 2050, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In response, a raft of new net-zero building initiatives are focused on curbing emissions across the whole building lifecycle.
DW looks at five key points in understanding the push to carbon-free construction.
1. Urbanization Is Skyrocketing, and That's a Problem
A rapidly urbanizing world is compounding the massive impact of buildings and infrastructure on the climate crisis. According to urban climate-action initiative C40 Cities, 2.5 billion more people will flood cities (mostly in Asia and Africa) in the next three decades, while 60% of buildings required by 2050 still have to be built.
With the equivalent of a city of around 1.5 million people being constructed each week, carbon-heavy construction is skyrocketing, meaning the sector must rapidly decarbonize if global heating is to remain within the IPCC's limit of 1.5- to well below 2 degrees Celsius above 1990 levels.
This will not be easy.
A European Union directive to achieve nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (nZEBs) in all new structures by the end of 2020 was on track to achieve an 80% CO2 reduction, according to Lukas Kranzl, a senior scientist at the Vienna-based Energy Economics Group that is monitoring the nZEBs. Kranzl says this won't be enough to meet the Paris targets.
"We will need [almost] complete decarbonization in the building sector before 2050," he told DW, meaning that 95-100% emission cuts will be required.
2. Independent Initiatives Might Have the Solution
While Kranzl fears that some EU member states are not on the path to building and construction decarbonization, new independent initiatives are bringing together cities, companies and organizations to achieve net-zero building across the whole lifecycle.
The World Green Building Council's (WorldGBC) Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment is one such global initiative in which diverse stakeholders pledge to reach net-zero emissions for all new buildings by 2030, and all buildings by 2050.
Created in partnership with C40, the target was upgraded in September 2019 to include embodied carbon, which is to say emissions generated, not only during operational life but "during the manufacturing, transportation, construction and end of life phases of all built assets." Embodied carbon itself contributes around 11% of all global carbon emissions.
According to Victoria Burrows, director of Advancing Net Zero at the World Green Building Council, this shift reflects a "wholesized approach to carbon emissions in the building and construction sector."
While net-zero buildings were previously focused on operational performance, especially in terms of energy efficiency via solar power or passive design, embodied emissions include the significant "upfront" emissions created during the extraction and manufacture of building materials. The whole lifecycle measure includes "use stage" and "end of life" carbon generated through building maintenance and final deconstruction.
3. Cement Causes More Pollution Than You Would Think
When addressing embodied emissions, the construction phase that generates around 25% of greenhouse emissions is fundamental to the net-zero building revolution.
Designers of carbon-neutral building are replacing cement framing in larger buildings with new sustainable cross-laminated timber, for example. Achieving a 20% reduction in building weight is matched by a similar reduction in "embodied energy." The end result is a 26.5% reduction in the "global warming potential" of the building.
A new five-story apartment building in Boston's Roxbury district is leading the way. Its designers are using the revolutionary timber framing to significantly reduce emissions from steel and concrete and achieve a net-zero standard.
4. Scandinavia Is Becoming a Net-Zero Pioneer
A report released by C40 in October 2019 showed that the construction industry alone could cut emissions from buildings and infrastructure by 44% by 2050. Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm have since committed to take a leadership role in creating a global market for low-emission construction materials and zero-emission machinery.
Oslo, for instance, aims to make all city-owned construction machinery and construction sites operate with zero emissions by 2025. Meanwhile, Copenhagen's bold plan to be climate-neutral by 2025 will draw heavily on its commitment to zero-carbon construction. This will be achieved in part through "fossils- or emission-free construction machinery in construction projects," said Frank Jensen, mayor of Copenhagen.
With Stockholm also part of a cross-border tender for sustainable procurement of mobile construction machinery, such unified demand is designed to send a signal to the market, according to Victoria Burrows. The end result will be to "create a ripple effect" that will help kickstart the net-zero building transition.
5. Diverse Sectors Embracing Carbon-Free Construction
The success of the net-zero carbon buildings commitment hinges on involving stakeholders across the whole building supply chain, says Burrows. With building and construction able to "cut across many other sectors" in the fight against climate change, she notes that cement and engineering firms, cultural institutions like the Sydney Opera House, universities and city governments are committing to net-zero building.
So, too, are real-estate companies that might once have prioritized profits over reducing emissions. British global property giant Grosvenor Group and Canada's Avison Young, another international real-estate powerhouse, are among many others implementing a net-zero building roadmap — with or without government targets.
In December, Grosvenor Europe committed to reducing its carbon impact by 50% by 2030. It will partly achieve this by cutting energy use in its buildings by one-third, and the embodied carbon intensity of its developments by one half.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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