Climate change, uncertainty & security 2019 – January 2021

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UN Conference on climate change COP21 Paris & aftermath
Global Climate Report – July 2019
Wikipedia: School strike for climate
Climate Action Summit, 23 September 2019
CO2 levels rise to highest point since evolution of humans
(13 May 2019)

After Alarmism The war on climate denial has been won. And that’s not the only good news.
By David Wallace-Wells
(New York) All year, a planet transformed by the burning of carbon discharged what would have once been called portents of apocalypse. The people of that planet, as a whole, didn’t take much notice — distracted by the pandemic and trained, both by the accumulating toll of recent disasters and the ever-rising volume of climate alarm, to see what might once have looked like brutal ruptures in lived reality instead as logical developments in a known pattern. Our time has been so stuffed with disasters that it was hard to see the arrival of perhaps the unlikeliest prophecy of all: that the plague year may have marked, for climate change, a turning point, and for the better.
… in 2020, for me, there were three main sources of hope.
The first is the fact that the age of climate denial is over, thanks to extreme weather and the march of science and the historic labor of activists — climate strikers, Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion — whose success in raising alarm may have been so sudden that they brought an end to the age of climate Jeremiahs as well. Their voices now echo in some unlikely places. Exxon was booted from the S&P 500 within months of Tesla making Elon Musk the world’s richest man. The cultural cachet of oil companies is quickly approaching that of tobacco companies. Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil aside, practically every leader of every country and every major figure in every corporate and industrial sector now feels obligated — because of protest and social pressure, economic realities, and cultural expectation — to at least make a show of support for climate action. It would be nice not to have to count that as progress, but it is.
… The second source of good news is the arrival on the global stage of climate self-interest. By this I don’t mean the profiteering logic of BlackRock, which opportunistically announced some half-hearted climate commitments last year, but rather the growing consensus in almost every part of the globe, and at almost every level of society and governance, that the world will be made better through decarbonization. A decade ago, many of the more ruthless capitalists to analyze that project deemed it too expensive to undertake. Today, it suddenly appears almost too good a deal to pass up. (A recent McKinsey report: “Net-Zero Emissions at Net-Zero Cost.”)
The third cause for optimism is that, while the timelines to tolerably disruptive climate outcomes have already evaporated, the timelines to the next set of benchmarks is much more forgiving. This is why Glen Peters, the research director at the Cicero Center for International Climate Research, often jokes that while keeping warming below two degrees is very hard, perhaps even impossible, keeping it below 2.5 degrees now looks like a walk in the park.


28 December
The Biggest Climate Change Stories of 2020
(Bloomberg) 2020 was a monumental year for just about every kind of news, and climate news was no exception. As the world reeled from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic, racial tension, and economic collapse, it also dealt with deadly heat, hellacious wildfires, and the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history.
We may also remember 2020, however, as the year the world started to reverse centuries of damage to the climate. Just before the start of the year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new Green Deal, which would go on to become the centerpiece of the European Union’s economic recovery plan. Several more of the largest global economies—including China, which is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country—also came out with net-zero pledges. As oil and gas prices plunged due to the pandemic, NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s largest supplier of wind power, overtook Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. to become the world’s most valuable energy company, bar none. And in November, the U.S. voted to make Joe Biden, who adopted climate change as one of his signature campaign issues, its next president.

30 November
International lawyers draft plan to criminalise ecosystem destruction
Plan to draw up legal definition of ‘ecocide’ attracts support from European countries and small island nations
International lawyers are drafting plans for a legally enforceable crime of ecocide – criminalising destruction of the world’s ecosystems – that is already attracting support from European countries and island nations at risk from rising sea levels.
The panel coordinating the initiative is chaired by Prof Philippe Sands QC, of University College London, and Florence Mumba, a former judge at the international criminal court (ICC).
The aim is to draw up a legal definition of “ecocide” that would complement other existing international offences such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
The project, convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation at the request of Swedish parliamentarians, has been launched this month to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi leaders in 1945.

5 October
Is the changing planet imminently threatening our health?
Executive health editor Joanne Kenen called Howard Frumkin, the former dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, a leading expert on planetary health to talk about how climate change is affecting our health, and what can be done about it. Their conversation has been edited.
Part II – October 5
Here’s how tackling climate change might actually benefit our health.
(Politico nightly) We have to shift diets from meat toward more plant-based diets. That’s healthier, and we greatly reduce the carbon footprint of making food.
If we shift our transportation systems, especially in cities, away from single-occupancy motor vehicles toward walking, cycling and transit, then we get cleaner air, we get more physical activity, and we get fewer deaths from car crashes, which is a major killer of young people.
We get less urban noise, a stressor in cities. And we probably get better social connectedness, more social capital. At least we’ll get less road rage from reduced congestion.
Social connectedness is good for health. The things that we do might bring us together as a society — and help us restore the micro-connections we lost during Covid.
Building buildings that are energy efficient, well-lit with natural daylight and protected from the elements. Repairing substandard housing stock. That’s good for health.
Shifting from fossil fuels to renewables — that’s much better for health, including improved air quality.
There are lots of ways in which the transitions we have to make to deal with climate change are not the story of deprivation and sacrifice. It’s the story of improved lives and better health.
Part I – October 1
Severe events — hurricanes in the Gulf, the fires, the droughts in the Southwest — cause physical injuries, displacement and so on. Air quality gets worse. Ozone levels increase. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, allergies are worsened. Poison ivy is worse. Dengue fever is now occurring in this country. Lyme disease is expanding its range. It’s harder to maintain water purity, which affects a whole bucket of infectious diseases — those spread by mosquitoes and those spread by water.
What about food and nutrition?
When climate events interrupt the production or distribution of food, prices go up. People who are food insecure buy calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods. You get unhealthy diets — the kind of diets that promote noncommunicable disease like obesity, diabetes and so on.
Farmers’ ability to grow food plummets. Drought is very bad for the mental health of farmers, and when they can’t produce food, it’s bad for all the people who need to eat food.
Experts predict climate-driven migration as sea levels rise. That may take years, but what might it look like?
There isn’t a single city that has planned for a major population surge. Nobody has excess affordable housing. Nobody has excess schooling. Nobody has excess transit capacity. Nobody has excess employment. So once the moving starts, on that scale, there will be a lot of pain for a lot of people who try to relocate. That will in turn aggravate affordable housing shortages. Homelessness is bad for your health too.

22 September
Avoiding a Climate Lockdown
The world is approaching a tipping point on climate change, when protecting the future of civilization will require dramatic interventions. Avoiding this scenario will require a green economic transformation – and thus a radical overhaul of corporate governance, finance, policy, and energy systems.
(Project Syndicate) Shifting Arctic ice, raging wildfires in western US states and elsewhere, and methane leaks in the North Sea are all warning signs that we are approaching a tipping point on climate change, when protecting the future of civilization will require dramatic interventions.Under a “climate lockdown,” governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling. To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.
Many think of the climate crisis as distinct from the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic. But the – and their solutions – are interconnected.COVID-19 is itself a consequence of environmental degradation: one recent study dubbed it “the disease of the Anthropocene.” Moreover, climate change will exacerbate the social and economic problems highlighted by the pandemic. These include governments’ diminishing capacity to address public-health crises, the private sector’s limited ability to withstand sustained economic disruption, and pervasive social inequality.

27 July
How the global climate fight could be lost if Trump is re-elected
The US will officially exit the Paris accord one day after the 2020 US election and architects of that deal say the stakes could not be higher
in New York
(The Guardian) It was a balmy June day in 2017 when Donald Trump took to the lectern in the White House Rose Garden to announce the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the only comprehensive global pact to tackle the spiraling crisis.
Todd Stern, who was the US’s chief negotiator when the deal was sealed in Paris in 2015, forced himself to watch the speech.
“I found it sickening, it was mendacious from start to finish,” said Stern. “I was furious … because here we have this really important thing and here’s this joker who doesn’t understand anything he’s talking about. It was a fraud.”
The terms of the accord mean no country can leave before November this year, so due to a quirk of timing, the US will officially exit the Paris deal on 4 November – 100 days from now and just one day after the 2020 presidential election.
The lifetime of the Paris agreement, signed in a wave of optimism in 2015, has seen the five hottest years ever recorded on Earth, unprecedented wildfires torching towns from California to Australia, record heatwaves baking Europe and India and temperatures briefly bursting beyond 100F (38C) in the Arctic.

27 June
A Disastrous Summer in the Arctic
By Carolyn Kormann
(The New Yorker) Anthropogenic climate change is causing the Arctic to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Climate models had predicted this phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, but they did not predict how fast the warming would occur. Although Verkhoyansk has seen hot temperatures in the past, Saturday’s 100.4-degree record follows a wildly warm year across the region. Since December, temperatures in western Siberia have been eighteen degrees above normal. Since January, the mean temperature across Siberia has been at least 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average. As the meteorologist Jeff Berardelli reported for CBS, the heat that has fallen on Russia in 2020 “is so remarkable that it matches what’s projected to be normal by the year 2100, if current trends in heat-trapping carbon emissions continue.” By April, owing to the heat, wildfires across the region were larger and more numerous than they were at the same time last year, when the Russian government eventually had to send military aircrafts to battle vast blazes. The scale of the current wildfires—with towering plumes of smoke visible for thousands of miles on satellite images—suggest that this summer could be worse. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, they will also be more complicated to fight.
Toward the end of May, as the sun stopped dropping below the horizon, the heat continued. In the town of Khatanga, far north of the Arctic Circle, the temperature hit seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit, or forty-six degrees above normal, topping the previous record by twenty-four degrees. The heat and fires are also hastening the dissolution of Siberian permafrost, perennially frozen ground that, when thawed, unleashes more greenhouse gases and dramatically destabilizes the land, with grave consequences.

29 May
Economic Giants Are Restarting. Here’s What It Means for Climate Change.
Want to know whether the world can avert catastrophe? Watch the recovery plans coming out now in Europe, China and the United States.
Europe this week laid out a vision of a green future, with a proposed recovery package worth more than $800 billion that would transition away from fossil fuels and put people to work making old buildings energy-efficient.
In the United States, the White House is steadily slashing environmental protections and Republicans are using the Green New Deal as a political cudgel against their opponents.
China has given a green light to build new coal plants but it also declined to set specific economic growth targets for this year, a move that came as a relief to environmentalists because it reduces the pressure to turn up the country’s industrial machine quickly.
Gwynne Dyer: What coronavirus teaches us about climate change
The Earth system — biosphere, atmosphere, the oceans, the rocks, all the components that govern the climate — plays by its own rules. It will absorb new inputs like warming for a long time while changing as little as possible: it’s a homeostatic system.
We are still benefiting from this feature now: a full degree Celsius of warming already, and not much to show for it except hotter summers, shorter winters and bigger storms. But when the pressure on the climate system gets too great — reaches a tipping point — it is liable to charge off in unpredictable directions at high speed.
Non-linear change, they call it, and we won’t like it a bit. Hundreds of millions, maybe billions, will start to die.
Then we’ll be ready to make great changes to save ourselves, but it will be too late.
Human systems will be collapsing under the impact of famines, wars and endless waves of refugees, and besides once the climate hits non-linear change it’s almost impossible to bring it back. We’re stuck with wherever it ends up, whether that new state will support a large human civilization or not.
How far ahead is this calamity? We probably have at least a decade or two. Will we end all our greenhouse gas emissions in that time? Probably not.
Cutting our emissions isn’t enough. We actually have to stop all of our emissions before we push the climate system over the edge, and we don’t even know precisely where the edge is.

16 May
The best way to avoid future pandemics? Protect the natural world
(Project Syndicate/WEF) The human, economic, and social consequences of the rapid and devastating global spread of the coronavirus will last for years. And with the pandemic still unfolding, the most urgent priority is to support those directly affected by the virus and its associated hardships.
But this pandemic has also provided us with compelling proof of how closely our fate is linked with the health of the natural world. And right now, our relationship with nature is broken. We have cut down forests, overgrazed grasslands, built ports and roads, and expanded our cities at a rapid rate, destroying countless natural habitats. At the same time, we trade wildlife globally, moving common and endangered species alike across the world as if they were inanimate commodities.
All of this is bringing us into closer and more frequent contact with viruses that can spread from animals to people, including the COVID-19 coronavirus and dozens of other deadly and debilitating illnesses, from HIV to Ebola. Likewise, our degradation of marine ecosystems causes blooms of pathogens that can cause potentially fatal diseases such as cholera.
The good news is that far-sighted political leaders and the United Nations are already formulating nature-focused action plans that could help to stop the next pandemic before it starts. These strategies include conserving ecosystems and wilderness that are still untouched by human activity, clamping down on wildlife trade (including by educating people about the risks of consuming wildlife), and restoring and protecting significant areas of land and ocean.
The world already safeguards 15% of its land and 7% of the ocean. But, for the sake of our health and prosperity, we must do more. Indeed, there is increasing agreement among countries that we need to return half the planet to nature and use the other half responsibly, and that we should start by protecting at least 30% of it by 2030.

Venice canals run clear, dolphins appear in Italy’s waterways amid coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Getty/Twitter

22 April
Pandemic side-effects offer glimpse of alternative future on Earth Day 2020
Coronavirus has led to reduced pollution, re-emerging wildlife and plunging oil prices and shown the size of the task facing humanity
(The Guardian) The skies are clearing of pollution, wildlife is returning to newly clear waters, a host of flights have been scrapped and crude oil is so worthless that the industry would have to pay you to take it off their hands – a few months ago, environmentalists could only dream of such a scenario as the 50th anniversary of Earth Day hove into view.
But this disorientingly green new reality is causing little cheer given the cause is the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged much of the world.
“This isn’t the way we would’ve wanted things to happen, God no,” said Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration. “This is just a disaster that pointed out the underlying challenges we face. It’s not something to celebrate.”
Wednesday’s annual Earth Day event, this year largely taking place online, comes as public health restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have resulted in a sharp dip in air pollution across China, Europe and the US, with carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels heading for a record 5% annual drop.
The waters of Venice are now clear, lions lounge on roads normally frequented by safari-goers in South Africa and bears and coyotes wander around empty accommodation in Yosemite national park in California.
Meanwhile, nearly eight in 10 flights globally have been canceled, with many planes in the US carrying just a handful of people. The oil industry, a key driver of the climate crisis and direct environmental disaster, is in turmoil, with a barrel of crude hitting an unprecedented minus-$40 on Monday.
These would perhaps be the sort of outcomes seen had stringent environmental policies been put in place in the wake of the first Earth Day in 1970, which saw 20 million Americans rally in support of anti-pollution measures.

18 April
Earth Day: The roots of our current environmental crisis go back 12,000 years
Joshua Sterlin, Phd Student, NRS, Leadership for the Ecozoic Program, McGill University
(The Conversation) We have changed the planet so much that it can be detected in the very crust of the Earth. This has led some to name our current age after our species, calling it the Anthropocene.
When did the Anthropocene start? An often suggested answer is the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when some humans began to change the planet at a remarkable clip. This includes pumping out the first significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Fertile grounds (for disease)
The agricultural revolution began approximately 12,000 years ago and sparked a cascading shift in human-environment relations among certain peoples that has yet to end. The domestication of cereals and livestock, on which this revolution is based, created the population sizes and densities that provide the basis for epidemic disease.
Fanning out from those initial centres, the agricultural revolution arrived in the Americas (though it too had already begun here), carried and enacted by European settlers — with disastrous results.
It continues in the Amazon rainforest as the forest is cleared, mined and planted. Indigenous peoples are again at major risk from introduced disease.

10 April
How coronavirus will change the world for ever
From the rise of surveillance to the retreat of globalism and death of cash, the pandemic’s impact may be felt for decades, Catherine Philp writes
(The Times)  Last week Britain called off the COP26 climate talks planned for November, acknowledging that the pandemic made the pre-event diplomacy required impossible. In the US, Mr Trump has issued a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for environmental violations if the perpetrator can prove the pandemic was the cause. The bandwidth for international action on climate change has never looked narrower, even though plunging oil prices and fear over the instability of the oil market have some predicting the death of fossil fuels, inadvertently saving the planet.
A bright spot: the decrease in human activity has cleared air pollution above stilled cities. “If climate change had an effect as immediate as coronavirus, I imagine you’d get a similar response,” mused Kelly Hogan, a British scientist marooned in Antarctica, the only coronavirus-free continent. “It can be frustrating because the pace of climate change is slower. But maybe it’s reassuring to see that a response of this magnitude can happen when we want it to.”

26 March
Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change
(PRI) When it comes to the spread of COVID-19, personal choices matter. One infected person staying home instead of going out could save thousands of lives.
Cornell University Economist Robert Frank … studies how individual actions can spur wider changes in society. He said changing policies starts with changing the culture — and that can start with one person. …peer pressure effect can be put to work to help solve big global problems, such as the coronavirus or climate change, Frank said. If someone you know takes up social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus or starts flying less because of climate change, you’re more likely to do it, too.
For example, a 2012 study in California showed people were more likely to install solar panels on their roof if someone else in their neighborhood had done so.  Frank also says small actions for a cause, like climate change, can change the way you see yourself, and make you an advocate for wider change and collective action.

20 January
Climate Refugees Can’t Be Sent Back, Says UN in Landmark Decision
(EcoWatch) Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.
The first-of-its-kind ruling opens the door for a new kind of legal claim to future protections for people whose lives and health are threatened by a warming planet and sea-level rise, according to legal experts, as The Guardian reported. The ruling is expected to have profound consequences as the impacts of the climate crisis are predicted to displace tens of millions of people.
The UN Human Rights Committee ruling started from the case of Ioane Teitiota, who applied for refugee protection from New Zealand, claiming that his life was at risk in his home country of Kiribati, which is predicted to be one of the first countries lost due to sea-level rise, as CNN reported. Kiribati is an equatorial island nation in the middle of the Pacific that spans 1.3 million square miles, but only has 310 square miles of land and roughly 110,000 people.

15-17 January
Bloomberg Politics: It’s easy to scorn billionaires when they warn about global warming from their world of private jets and luxury yachts. That’s not deterring some of the most powerful people from focusing on climate change at their annual gathering in the Swiss resort of Davos next week.
There’s always a risk the World Economic Forum’s focus could backfire by strengthening the idea that rising temperatures are something only elites can afford to care about. And despite progress on electric cars and clean energy, the planet is getting hotter.
But, as Peter Coy writes, don’t underestimate the power of talk.
Sipping champagne with their peers in the shadow of melting glaciers may attract public disdain, yet it can galvanize a sense of urgency among the titans of industry, presidents and prime ministers, big-name thinkers and other Davos delegates.
As images of the devastating wildfires in Australia capture the world’s attention, this year may finally see a shift in thinking about climate change among those who have the power to do something about it.
Whatever else, the Davos crowd can bank on a very public climate shaming from one of their number: A certain Greta Thunberg is on this year’s guest list. — Michael Winfrey

Climate crisis fills top five places of World Economic Forum’s risks report
The World Economic Forum’s annual risks report found that, for the first time in its 15-year history, the environment filled the top five places in the list of concerns likely to have a major impact over the next decade.
Børge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum, said: “The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.”
It said the top five risks in terms of likelihood in the next 10 years were:
Extreme weather events with major damage to property, infrastructure and loss of human life.
Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses.
Human-made environmental damage and disasters, including environmental crime, such as oil spills and radioactive contamination.
Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse with irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humankind as well as industries.
Major natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and geomagnetic storms.


20 December
We’re Getting a Clearer Picture of the Climate Future — and It’s Not as Bad as It Once Looked
By David Wallace-Wells
(New York) You may not have noticed it, amid the flood of bad news about the “Emissions Gap” and the collapse of the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, but over the last few weeks a new narrative about the climate future has emerged, on balance encouraging, at least to an alarmist like me. It is this: As best as we can understand and project the medium- and long-term trajectories of energy use and emissions, the window of possible climate futures is probably narrowing, with both the most optimistic scenarios and the most pessimistic ones seeming, now, less likely.
That narrowing contains both good and bad news — what was recently the best to hope for now seems vanishingly unlikely, and what was the worst to fear much less likely, too;
A few weeks ago, the International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook 2019. The IEA is not known to be optimistic, at least to climate advocates, who have, for years, mocked its projections for future renewable growth: Every year, the agency basically predicts a plateau for renewable use, and every year renewables keep dramatically growing. This made the most noteworthy prediction in this year’s report even more so. According to the IEA report, given only current carbon policies, which nearly everyone studying climate considers terribly weak, the world is on track for about 3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100, which could, if existing pledges were implemented, be brought down as low as 2.7 degrees — about one and a half degrees less warming than is suggested by the U.N.’s IPCC reports in what is often referred to as the “business as usual” “RCP8.5” scenario.

8 December
Seychelles: The island nation with a novel way to tackle climate change
(BBC) Mr Green has been fishing his local bay for decades – but not any more. He’s set up a project with his fellow fishermen to voluntarily stop fishing here for six months of the year, hoping that this will allow fish stocks to replenish.
In the first deal of its kind, the East African nation swapped 5% of its national debt for a cash injection to fight the effects of climate change on the ocean.
In return, it promised to protect 30% of its national waters, which is an area twice the size of the UK – by the end of next year. It’s a huge undertaking for this tiny nation.
The Seychelles government agreed the debt swap with the Nature Conservancy, a US charity, and a number of investors in 2016.
Under the terms of the $21m (£16m) deal, the charity and the investors – who include the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – bought a portion of the Seychelles’ national debt from European nations, such as the UK and France.
The debt is now held by a trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), which offers the country lower interest rates on its repayments.
The savings – over $8 million – are ring-fenced for projects designed to protect marine life and handle the effects of climate change.

7 December
The World Solved the Ozone Problem. It Can Solve Climate Change.
The same tools that fixed the ozone hole — science, innovation and international action — can address it.
(NYT editorial) The bottom line is that the world, confronted with two dire threats to the earth’s fragile atmosphere, found two planetary responses with positive outcomes. The ozone layer is healing. That’s worth remembering as we struggle, often despairingly, to find common ground in the battle against climate change. Compared with the manifold complexities of global warming, dealing with ozone depletion was, in fact, relatively simple. But the key point is that it happened, and it’s worth asking why the world has not responded with similar resolve in dealing with the main global warming gases like carbon dioxide, about which we have known a lot for a long time. (7 December)

5 November
More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency
Analysis outlines six major steps that ‘must’ be taken to address the situation.
(The Atlantic) A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.
The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming, such as those of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in that it does not couch its conclusions in the language of uncertainties, and it does prescribe policies.
The study, called the “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency,” marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favor of labeling climate change an “emergency,” which the study notes is caused by many human trends that are together increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency The report, published Tuesday in the journal Bioscience, was spearheaded by the ecologists Bill Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University, along with William Moomaw, a Tufts University climate scientist, and researchers in Australia and South Africa.

23 October
Ten facts about the economics of climate change and climate policy
A joint report from The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
(Brookings) Considerable uncertainties surround both the extent of future climate change and the extent of the biophysical impacts of such change. Notwithstanding the uncertainties, climate scientists have reached a strong consensus that in the absence of measures to reduce GHG emissions significantly, the changes in climate will be substantial, with long-lasting effects on many of Earth’s physical and biological systems. The central or median estimates of these impacts are significant. Moreover, there are significant risks associated with low probability but potentially catastrophic outcomes. Although a focus on median outcomes alone warrants efforts to reduce emissions of GHGs, economists argue that the uncertainties and associated risks justify more aggressive policy action than otherwise would be warranted (Weitzman 2009; 2012).
In the following set of facts, we describe the costs of climate change to the United States and to the world as well as potential policy solutions and their respective costs.
Fact 1: Damages to the U.S. economy grow with temperature change at an increasing rate.
Fact 2: Struggling U.S. counties will be hit hardest by climate change.
Fact 3: Globally, low-income countries will lose larger shares of their economic output.
Unlike other pollutants that have localized or regional effects, GHGs produce global effects. These emissions constitute a negative spillover at the widest scale possible: For example, emissions from the United States contribute to warming in China, and vice versa. Moreover, some places are much more exposed to economic damages from climate change than are other places; the same increase in atmospheric carbon concentration will cause larger per capita damages in India than in Iceland. This means that carbon emissions and the damages from those emissions can be (and, in fact, are) distributed in very different ways.
Fact 4: Increased mortality from climate change will be highest in Africa and the Middle East.
Fact 5: Energy intensity and carbon intensity have been falling in the U.S. economy.
Fact 6: The price of renewable energy is falling.
Fact 7: Some emissions abatement approaches are much more costly than others.
Fact 8: Numerous carbon pricing initiatives have been introduced worldwide, and the prices vary significantly.
Fact 9: Most global GHG emissions are still not covered by a carbon pricing initiative.
Fact 10: Proposed U.S. carbon taxes would yield significant reductions in CO2 and environmental benefits in excess of the costs.

27 September
How ‘organized climate change denial’ shapes public opinion on global warming
Climate communication researchers say climate skepticism is taking new form
(CBC) With citizens around the world filling the streets demanding climate action, it might appear that the voices of contrarians are growing fainter. But doubts about climate change still surface.
Just this week, Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada,  told the Toronto Star‘s editorial board that that “while the climate may be changing, this is not due primarily to human activity.”
In the U.S., climate contrarians hold key political positions.
“We have the president of the United States basically enunciating climate denier talking points, so it’s still alive and well,” said Robert Brulle, a professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I., who has spent years researching climate contrarians.
John Cook at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University recently completed a study tracking climate misinformation in internet articles. He discovered an increase in rhetoric denying that warming is happening — but he also saw evidence of an uptick in misinformation about climate change solutions over the last few years. … researchers have also found evidence that climate misinformation is affecting public opinion about the nature of climate change and the efficacy of solutions.

See also: Meet the Money Behind The Climate Denial Movement
Nearly a billion dollars a year is flowing into the organized climate change counter-movement
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists, international governmental bodies, relevant research institutes and scientific societies are in unison in saying that climate change is real, that it’s a problem, and that we should probably do something about it now, not later. And yet, for some reason, the idea persists in some peoples’ minds that climate change is up for debate, or that climate change is no big deal.
Actually, it’s not “for some reason” that people are confused. There’s a very obvious reason. There is a very well-funded, well-orchestrated climate change-denial movement, one funded by powerful people with very deep pockets. In a new and incredibly thorough study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle took a deep dive into the financial structure of the climate deniers, to see who is holding the purse strings.
According to Brulle’s research, the 91 think tanks and advocacy organizations and trade associations that make up the American climate denial industry pull down just shy of a billion dollars each year, money used to lobby or sway public opinion on climate change and other issues. ( 23 December 2018)

25 September
Goldman Sachs released a 34-page analysis of the impact of climate change. And the results are terrifying.
(Markets/Business Insider) A Goldman Sachs report on the impact of climate change on cities across the world makes for grim reading.
Rising temperatures would lead to changing disease patterns, more intense and longer-lasting heatwaves, more destructive weather events, and pressure on the availability and quality of water for drinking and agriculture.
Major cities were also highlighted at risk of flooding with parts of New York, Tokyo, and Lagos all at risk of being partially submerged.
The bank’s Global Markets Institute, led by Amanda Hindlian, warned of “significant” potential risks to the world’s largest cities, which are especially vulnerable to more frequent storms, higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and storm surges.
Cities generate about 80% of global GDP and are home to more than half of the world’s population, a share that Goldman says, citing the United Nations, is projected to reach two-thirds by 2050. About 40% of the global population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast, it says, and 1 in 10 live in areas less than 10 meters above sea level.

16 September
The fight to contain climate change: Implementing Paris, mobilizing action
“We need to hasten the coming of that tipping point when business-as-usual politicians and corporate leaders understand they will fail, lose office, lose their standing, or be left behind unless they meet the climate challenge head on,” Todd Stern writes.
(Brookings) With the follow-on elements to the Paris Agreement – the so-called Paris “rulebook” – all but finished at COP 24 in Poland last December, the concern of the international climate community is now focused principally on the challenge of rapidly increasing the ambition of country efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

14 September
Gwynne Dyer Climate – Jonathan Franzen sees the light
The distinguished American novelist and essayist has a piece in the current issue of The New Yorker entitled “What If We Stopped Pretending?” Stop pretending that the climate apocalypse is not going to sweep us all away, he means. As he writes: “to prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.”
We are almost certainly going to crash through 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere in less than fifteen years, which in the natural course of events would take us up through +2C about a decade later. Welcome to the climate apocalypse.
Unlike Franzen I do talk to climate scientists, and it’s hard to get them to say this on the record. They don’t want to sow panic. But if you back them up against a wall and threaten them with a knife, most will admit they think going beyond 450 ppm is nearly inevitable now – mainly because human politics can’t change fast enough to stop it.
But what the climate scientists all know, and some think might save us, is that 450 ppm and +2C are not indissolubly linked. What we need is more time, and it is theoretically possible to hold the global temperature down while we work frantically first to get our emissions down, then eliminate them entirely, and finally draw down the excess CO2 that we have already put into the atmosphere.
There are a number of potential methods for doing this, all of them controversial. The leading proposal at the moment is injecting sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. (No living things up there.) That would reflect a small portion of incoming sunlight and keep the planet below +2C and its attendant calamities for the time we need.

29 August
‘Disturbing’: Europe Is Warming Much Faster Than Science Predicted
Summers in Europe are much hotter than they used to be and winters aren’t nearly as cold as they once were. And, the continent is warming much faster than climate models had once projected. That is the disturbing takeaway from a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Leaked Draft of U.N. Climate Report Says Warming Oceans Are ‘Poised to Unleash Misery
The draft of the 900-page report is intended to be released in late September following an IPCC meeting in Monaco from September 20 to 23, and follows up on another U.N. report on disastrous land use policies, in which the panel called for a revolution in land use policy.
(New York) The report, which leaked to the French News agency AFP and focuses on the oceans and the planet’s stores of frozen water known as the cryosphere, states that if warming isn’t halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius, sea levels will rise high enough to displace around 280 million people. (If perspective is needed, that’s four times the current number of worldwide refugees, which is a record high. And that’s to say nothing of other forms of climate displacement.) By 2100, the draft states that “annual flood damages are expected to increase by two to three orders of magnitude.” That means flood damages will increase either 100- or 1,000-fold — in a world where king tides are already causing cities like Miami to flood on a regular basis, and where Indonesia just announced announced a new inland capital because Jakarta is sinking. By 2050, low-lying cities and small island nations will face “extreme sea-level events” every year. At two degrees, the report anticipates that the frequency of extreme El Niño events will double, leading to greater risk of forest fires and cyclones.
Australia pressures UNESCO over impact of climate change on Great Barrier Reef
Two government reports are expected to project a poor outlook for the reef
The federal government is pushing UNESCO’s world heritage committee to resolve how it will deal with the impact of climate change on world heritage properties, including the Great Barrier Reef.
It comes ahead of the release of two government reports [Two government reports on the health of the reef are due imminently. The first is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s outlook report, which is published every five years. The second is a joint federal and Queensland government report on water quality.] that are expected to project a poor outlook for the reef, the status of which will be reassessed by UNESCO next year after previously avoiding an in danger listing.
The world heritage committee has been reviewing its climate change policy and how countries should manage the impact of the climate crisis on the world heritage system.
Climate change has been recognised as an existential threat to many world heritage properties.
A 2017 Unesco report looked at the impact on coral reefs, which are especially vulnerable, and concluded that “drastic reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions were “the only real solution” if coral reefs were to stand a chance of survival.

28 August
The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: A World of Fire
The growing intensity of wildfires and their spread to new corners of the globe raises fears that climate change is exacerbating the dangers
(NYT) Since July, fire has charred about six million acres of Siberian forest, an area roughly the size of the state of Vermont. In Alaska, fires have consumed more than 2.5 million acres of tundra and snow forest, leading researchers to suggest that the combination of climate change and wildfires could permanently alter the region’s forests.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and some studies have noted that, as it warms, “there also is expected to be more lightning,” said Dr. Abatzoglou, and in remote areas, lightning is a significant cause of fires.
Not a popular view, but some points are valid and worth considering.
How the G-7 Fell for the Amazon Scam
By Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and a contributing editor with Politico Magazine
(Politico) The fires aren’t an epochal event. According to the New York Times, the Brazilian agency tracking fires by satellite image reports that, at this point in the year, it’s the highest number of fires identified since 2010, which obviously isn’t thousands of years ago, indeed, not even a decade ago. In the 10 years prior to 2010, there were years when the number of fires was much higher.
The fires aren’t the spontaneous result of global warming. The program director of the group Amazon Watch told CNN, “The vast majority of these fires are human-lit,“ noting that it isn’t easy for the rainforest to catch fire, even in the dry season. “Natural fires in the Amazon are rare,” the Times reports, “and the majority of these fires were set by farmers preparing Amazon-adjacent farmland for next year’s crops and pasture.
Nor is it true that deforestation in the Amazon is spiraling out of control. Deforestation markedly diminished in the 2000s, declining by 70 percent from 2004 to 2012, per Shellenberger. It has picked back up again under Brazil’s new populist president Jair Bolsonaro, a trend worth monitoring but hardly the onset of planetary catastrophe.
… Macron and Co. need to be aware of how their high-handedness—including poorly informed declarations from afar—comes across in Brazil. Advanced countries that deforested long ago because it accorded with their economic interests should be humble when insisting that a poorer country not do the same. Proposals to buttress the Amazon have to run with the grain of Brazil’s interests, not against it.

27 August
The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs
Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply.
(The Atlantic) Losing the Amazon, beyond representing a planetary historic tragedy beyond measure, would also make meeting the ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement all but impossible. World leaders need to marshal all their political and diplomatic might to save it.
The Amazon is a vast, ineffable, vital, living wonder. It does not, however, supply the planet with 20 percent of its oxygen.
Contrary to almost every popular account, Earth maintains an unusual surfeit of free oxygen—an incredibly reactive gas that does not want to be in the atmosphere—largely due not to living, breathing trees, but to the existence, underground, of fossil fuels.
we have been gifted such an absurd surplus of oxygen by deep geological time, and by strange ancient life we’ll never know, that it won’t soon run out by our own hand, whether by deforestation or industry. Thankfully, most of the organic carbon in the Earth can be found not in easily recoverable reservoirs of fossil fuels, available to feed our industrial appetites, but in rather more rarefied deposits—small whispers of this life diffused in mudstones throughout Earth’s crust. There’s plenty of oxygen. For now.

16 August
Fraser Institute: Climate policy—results more important than rhetoric
as Canada’s political parties rollout their climate plans for the federal election in October, I’m here to report to Canadians that many of the extreme policy ideas you’re hearing will do more harm than the climate change they are meant to prevent.
For example, consider the popular idea of limiting cumulative global warming to (at most) two degrees Celsius or (if possible) 1.5 degrees Celsius. These targets have become so mainstream that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report last fall advising governments on various policies that could give humanity a shot at hitting the 1.5 degree target.
But according to the most reputable work on the topic, achieving that target would cause far more harm than benefit. Specifically, on the very same weekend the UN issued its report, Yale’s William Nordhaus won the Nobel (Memorial) Prize in economics for his pioneering work on the economics of climate policy. Indeed, the New York Times article on Nordhaus’ Nobel Prize led readers to believe that his work supported the same goals as the UN. But that’s incorrect. Whereas the UN report showed governments how they might limit warming to 1.5°C, Nordhaus’ model (in its 2017 calibration) suggested an “optimal carbon tax” that would allow for 3.5°C of warming—in other words, 1.5°C is too aggressive a target and would leave the world worse off than allowing more warming and higher emissions, because people would have to switch to higher-cost methods of power generation and transportation.

31 July
Pacific Islands Declare ‘Climate Crisis’ That Calls for the End of Fossil Fuels
(Gizmodo) The Pacific Islands are ground-zero for climate change. By 2050, many of the low-lying atolls that make up the region could be uninhabitable. Leaders of these islands, including Fiji and the Solomon Islands, recognize the dangers climate change from sea level rise to extreme weather.
That’s why they made a special “climate crisis” declaration during the Fifth Pacific Islands Development Forum Leaders’ Summit on Tuesday.

27 July
Axios Trends: 1 big thing: Climate change’s crucial moment
Scientists for decades have warned of the time when climate change would begin to change our daily lives.. We’re now entering that moment.
The Fed, corporate executives, college students, retailers and politicians are all coming to grips with this seminal challenge.
The big picture: We as a species are now living with this problem like never before.
Climate change is …
Hitting the bottom lines of all sorts of companies, whether it’s BP worried about leaving its oil in the ground or Big Pharma poised to profit off the additional drugs we’ll need in a warmer world.
Intensifying our temperatures, storms and wildfires..
Altering what we eat. New meat-like foods are on the menu and beef sellers are searching for ways to satisfy red-meat diets without the carbon footprint of cows..
Exacerbating global conflict as the disparate impacts start to shift geopolitics.
Supercharging our politics, with a president who mocks it and a Democratic Party that calls it a crisis.
Between the lines: We’re entering a period of heightened awareness about the problem while simultaneously struggling to address it, given our world’s continued deep reliance on cheap oil, natural gas and coal to power our lives.
It isn’t a black-and-white problem, but it is a black-and-white moment wherein we have to decide whether to take big action.
The bottom line: We have been driving climate change for decades, and we’ll be dealing with it for centuries — but we can still manage and minimize it.

25 July
Record temperatures scorch France, U.K., as Europe swelters through heat wave
In Paris, temperature hit 42.6 C, breaking previous record set in 1947

5 July
Study Shows Tree Planting Can Actually Fight Climate Change, if We Start Today
(Science Alert) If we all get planting, roughly 4.4 billion hectares of our planet’s surface could be shaded by trees – enough to pull decades of carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere. …earlier this year, ETH Zurich researcher Thomas Crowther and his colleagues have made it their mission to determine how we might press rewind on emissions before it’s too late.
At a conference in February, he presented his team’s findings on how maximising biodiversity will help us lock away carbon in the form of wood and other organic material.
Now they’ve published details on their research, and the news is kind of bitter-sweet.
Their analysis of the planet’s potential to support lush woodlands found if we discount the parts of the globe that already have forests, not to mention cities and agriculture, there’s still space left over – just under a billion hectares we can still squeeze some trees onto.

14 June
‘High likelihood of human civilisation coming to end’ by 2050, report finds
Over-conservative climate scenarios mean we could face ‘world of outright chaos’, says analysis authored by former fossil fuel executive and backed by former head of Australia’s military
(The Independent UK) The increasingly disastrous impacts of the climate crisis, coupled with inaction to tackle it are sending our planet down a bleak path towards an increasingly chaotic world which could overwhelm societies around the globe, the report’s authors contend.
The paper, produced by the Melbourne-based think tank the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, is presented by the former chief of the Australian Defence Forces and retired Royal Australian Navy Admiral Chris Barrie.
In his introduction he says the report’s authors “have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way.”
The paper argues that “climate change now represents a near to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation,” and calls for a recalibration in how governments respond to estimated climate scenarios so they take worst case projections more seriously.
Temperatures leap 40 degrees above normal as the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet see record June melting
Greenland saw temperatures soar up to 40 degrees above normal Wednesday, while open water exists in places north of Alaska where it seldom, if ever, has in recent times.
It’s “another series of extreme events consistent with the long-term trend of a warming, changing Arctic,” said Zachary Labe, a climate researcher at the University of California at Irvine.

11 June
Planet is entering ‘new climate regime’ with ‘extraordinary’ heat waves intensified by global warming, study says
A study published this week in the journal Earth’s Future concludes that this heat wave epidemic “would not have occurred without human-induced climate change.”
The alarming part? There are signs record-setting heat waves are beginning anew this summer — signaling, perhaps, that these exceptional and widespread heat spells are now the norm.
In the past few days, blistering, abnormal heat has afflicted several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including major population centers.
New Delhi, India’s capital, soared to 118.4 degrees (48 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperature ever recorded in June. Some parts of India have seen the mercury eclipse 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in recent days, not far off the country’s all-time high.

25 May
Climate change visualized: How Earth’s temperature has changed since 1970
(Axios) 2018 was Earth’s 4th-warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016, the planet’s warmest recorded year, as well as 2015 and 2017, according to information released by NOAA, NASA and the U.K. Met Office.
Why it matters: The yearly rankings don’t tell the whole story of long-term climate change, since natural variability can still push or pull an individual year up or down the rankings. However, the overall picture is growing starker with each passing year. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record since reliable data began in 1880 have occurred since 2005. At the same time, greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels — as well as deforestation and intensive agriculture — have skyrocketed to levels not seen in more than 800,000 years.
The latest: An unusually warm April followed a top 3 hottest March, and indicates that the Earth is headed for yet another top 3 warmest year on record. In addition, Arctic sea ice extent reached a record low for April, NOAA reports. This follows recent news that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere edged past 415 parts per million for the first time in human history, likely becoming the highest level on record in at least 3 million years.
Between the lines: Global average surface temperatures are edging closer to the 1.5°C aspirational warming target contained in the Paris climate agreement, which many low-lying island nations see as key to their survival, but the world’s energy system is marching in the wrong direction for limiting global warming’s severity.

22 May
Moderate Democrats’ Delusions of ‘Prudence’ Will Kill Us All
(New York) Earlier this month, the weather report for the Arctic Circle was partly cloudy with a high of 84 degrees.
Earlier this year, a United Nations report found that “potentially devastating temperature rises of 3 to 5 [degrees Celsius] in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement.” At the moment, no nation on Earth is on track to meet its emissions targets under that accord. And any temperature rise above what’s already inevitable would pose a severe risk of melting the methane-infused Arctic permafrost, thus releasing 283 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — a development that, when combined with the disappearance of heat-deflecting ice, would rapidly accelerate global warming and all but doom human civilization.
Meanwhile, the government of the world’s lone superpower remains dominated by a political party that regards climate change as something between an afterthought and a “Chinese hoax.” The GOP vigorously opposed the Paris agreement, and is in the process of repealing just about every measure the Obama administration took to uphold it. In fact, the Republican White House is so committed to a new rule that would keep economically inefficient — and ecologically ruinous — coal-fired power plants in operation, it is ignoring an EPA report that estimates such a policy would result in 1,400 additional premature deaths in the U.S. every year. For their part, Senate Republicans are so contemptuous of the notion that the climate crisis demands ambitious government action, they have turned the Green New Deal into a punching bag, and insisted that any new infrastructure package must consist largely of environmental deregulations.

20 May
Rise in global sea levels could have ‘profound consequences’
(BBC) Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica, The long-held view has been that the world’s seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100. This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure. This could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the authors say. The question of sea-level rise was one of the most controversial issues raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when it published its fifth assessment report in 2013. It said the continued warming of the planet, without major reductions in emissions, would see global waters rising by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. Many experts believe this was a very conservative estimate.

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