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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #46B

Posted on 15 November 2014 by John Hartz

4 reasons Republicans are losing their sh*t over the climate deal

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not pleased about the historic joint announcement of planned carbon emission limits by the U.S. and China. He put out this statement Wednesday:

Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners. This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs. The President said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them. It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.

McConnell has frequently complained that reducing our emissions is pointless if other countries won’t do the same. Just last month, explaining why the EPA’s proposed power plant regulations are all pain and no gain, he said, “nobody else is going to do that. The Indians and Chinese are building coal plants.”

4 reasons Republicans are losing their sh*t over the U.S.-China climate deal by Ben Adler, Grist, Nov 12, 2014

Bailing out the climate wreckers at the G20

If you’re trying to climb out of a hole, why pay someone to keep digging?

That’s the question to emerge from a joint Overseas Development Institute-Oil Change International report, “The fossil fuel bailout,” exposing the subsidies that the largest economies pump into exploring for oil, gas, and coal—the search for new reserves that, if exploited, will guarantee a global climate catastrophe.

 That’s because if we burn more than one-third of the known reserves, those that private and state energy companies are already sitting on, scientists tell us that the internationally agreed upon 2ºC threshold for global warming will be breached. So why, you might ask, are governments subsidising the discovery of more unburnable carbon?

Bailing Out the Climate Wreckers at the G20 by Kevin Watkins, Grist, Nov 14, 2014

China, coal, climate

It’s easy to be cynical about summit meetings. Often they’re just photo ops, and the photos from the latest Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, which had world leaders looking remarkably like the cast of “Star Trek,”were especially cringe-worthy. At best — almost always — they’re just occasions to formally announce agreements already worked out by lower-level officials.

Once in a while, however, something really important emerges. And this is one of those times: The agreement between China and the United States on carbon emissions is, in fact, a big deal.

To understand why, you first have to understand the defense in depth that fossil-fuel interests and their loyal servants — nowadays including the entire Republican Party — have erected against any action to save the planet.

China, Coal, Climate, Op-ed by Pual Krugman, New York Times, Nov 13, 2014

China tries to save Earth; Republicans furious

In June, after the Obama administration had announced its Clean Power Plan, The Wall Street Journal editorial page mocked its ambition by explaining what has become a vital tenet of right-wing dogma: limiting our carbon emissions would serve no purpose, since other countries in general, and China in particular, would never agree to limit theirs. “Mr. Obama's logic seems to be that the U.S. should first set a moral example by imposing costs that reduce our prosperity,” sneered the Journal’s editors, “This will then inspire China (8.7 billion tons), which produces and consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, to do the same to its 300 million people who still live on pennies a day. Good luck persuading Xi Jinping.”

Guess what? They seem to have persuaded Xi Jinping.

China Tries to Save Earth; Republicans Furious by Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, Nov 12, 2014

Does global warming make food less nutritious?

It is difficult to say whether or not the climate change we are now experiencing is negatively impacting the nutritional quality of our food, researchers warn that it may be only a matter of time. “Humanity is conducting a global experiment by rapidly altering the environmental conditions on the only habitable planet we know,” reports Samuel Myers, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Earlier this year, Myers and his colleagues released the results of a six year study examining the nutritional content of crops exposed to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) that are expected to exist by mid-century. The conclusions were indeed troubling. They found that in wheat grains, zinc concentrations were down some 9.3 percent and iron concentrations were down by 5.1 percent across the seven different crop sites (in Australia, Japan and the U.S.) used in the study. The researchers also noted reduced protein levels in wheat and rice grains growing in the CO2-rich test environment.

Does global warming make food less nutritious? by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, EarthTalk/Scientific American, Nov 10, 2014

Experts say Obama Climate Fund pledge far short of what is owed

President Barack Obama's pledge of up to $3 billion to a fund to help developing countries cope with climate change was met on Friday with caution by analysts and campaigners, who said the commitment falls well short of meeting the nation's true obligation to pay reparations to those bearing the brunt of the crisis.

"The U.S. has a historical, ecological, and climate debt, and a moral responsibility to pay for the mitigation and adaptation of the climate crisis," Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network and Coordinating Committee member of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, told Common Dreams. "The U.S. continues to throw peanuts towards poor countries of the Global South."

According to statements made by anonymous White House officials, as reported by theGuardian, Obama will pledge between $2.5 and $3 billion over the next four years to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which was created under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to direct funds from wealthy countries to developing ones to help them slash emissions and adapt and to global warming.

'Drop in the Bucket': Experts Say Obama Climate Fund Pledge Far Short of What Is Owed by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, Nov 14, 2014

Fossil fuels with $550 billion subsidies hurt renewables

Fossil fuels are reaping $550 billion a year in subsidies and holding back investment in cleaner forms of energy, the International Energy Agency said.

Oil, coal and gas received more than four times the $120 billion paid out in incentives for renewables including wind, solar and biofuels, the Paris-based institution said today in its annual World Energy Outlook.

The findings highlight the policy shift needed to limit global warming, which the IEA said is on track to increase the world’s temperature by 3.6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That level would increase the risks of damaging storms, droughts and rising sea levels.

Fossil Fuels With $550 Billion Subsidies Hurt Renewables by Alex Morales, Bloomberg, Nov 12, 2014

Global warming could increase U.S. lightning strikes by 50 percent

In a study just out in the prestigious journal Science, a team of researchers deliver an alarming prediction: A global warming world will see a major increase in lightning strikes.

"Even with the warming of a few degrees Celsius, you can get some very large climate impacts — in this case, a 50 percent increase in lightning," says study author David Romps, a climate researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

Romps explains that there are two central factors that set the atmospheric stage for lightning. The first is the amount of water or precipitation, and the second is the instability of the atmosphere, a situation which allows air to rise rapidly. "To make lightning in a thunderstorm, you need water in all three phases – gas, liquid, solid – and you need fast rising clouds that can keep all of that water suspended in the atmosphere to generate charged separation," explains Romps.

Global warming could increase U.S. lightning strikes by 50 percent by Chris Mooney, Wonkblog, Washington Post, Nov 13, 2014

House votes to build Keystone

The House on Friday passed legislation to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting the stage for a showdown in the Senate next week.     

The legislation was approved 252-161, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans in backing a construction permit for the controversial project, which would bring oil sands from Canada to refineries in the United States.

Passage of the bill was hailed by its chief House sponsor, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is facing a runoff against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on Dec. 6 after neither won a majority in the general election.

House votes to build Keystone by Cristina Marcos, The Hill, Nov 14, 2014

Obama puts climate change at fore in speech at U of Queensland

US President Barack Obama has placed climate change at the forefront of the G20 summit in Brisbane, announcing a $US3 billion contribution to the Green Climate Fund, and calling on young Australians to pressure politicians to resist vested interests and tackle global warming.

In a wide-ranging speech he also declared the United States would never abandon its leadership in the Asia-Pacific and called on countries to tackle Ebola rather than build moats around their island nations.

Australia resisted US pressure to place climate change on the official G20 agenda. However, it will be raised in the discussion on energy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott raised his government's repeal of Labor's carbon tax in a speech to a gathering of world leaders, which included President Obama, earlier on Saturday.

A few hours later, Mr Obama was applauded every time he mentioned climate change in his speech at the University of Queensland. He warned that no region in the globe had more at stake than the Asia-Pacific and said climate change meant more bushfires, flooding, extreme storms and rising seas in Australia.

G20 summit: Barack Obama puts climate change at fore in speech at University of Queensland by Latika Bourke, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 15, 2014

Obama to pledge up to $3bn to help poor countries on climate change

Barack Obama will make a substantial pledge to a fund to help poor countries fight climate change, only days after his historic carbon pollution deal with China.

In a one-two punch, the US plans to pledge a maximum of $3bn over the next four years to help poor countries invest in clean energy and cope with rising seas and extreme weather, according to those briefed by administration officials.

The White House told campaign groups and thinktanks that the figure was conditional on other countries making ambitious funding commitments. The American contribution would be capped at 30% of the fund, and the US would stump up the full $3bn only if the fund met its initial $10bn target, the official said.

G20: Obama to pledge up to $3bn to help poor countries on climate change by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Nov 14, 2014

U.S.-China climate pact could boost Indian efforts

This week's China-U.S. climate agreement between the world's top two polluting countries puts pressure on India, No. 3 on the list, to become more energy efficient and should encourage investment in renewable energy. 

But the pact is also a relief for India because it acknowledges the long-held view among developing economies that industrialized nations have been emitting heat-trapping gases for many more decades and so should shoulder more of the burden for tackling climate change. Emerging economies argue they should have fewer constraints to pollute as they grow. 

By showing the world's two largest economies are working together toward a common goal with different efforts, the breakthrough agreement signals greater global cooperation over the contentious issue. That eases tension that could help future global climate talks while also raising expectations for India to step up its efforts, experts and environmental activists say. 

U.S.-China Climate Pact Could Boost Indian Efforts by Katy Daigle, AP/The Huffington Post, Nov 14, 2014

US–China emissions deal will put pressure on Australian growth

While most of the world is celebrating the US–China pact on climate change, the deal puts pressure on the Australian government and resources companies to rethink relations with China.

The deal, signed at the APEC summit in Beijing this week, includes agreement to cut emissions and work together to mitigate the impact of climate change. For the first time China has set 2030 as the year in which its emissions are expected to peak. The deal creates a common framework with the United States, the other largest greenhouse gas producer in the world, to take action.

Chinese President Xi Jinping started the APEC summit hoping for blue skies in the capital. With this deal, he is showing he is prepared to take action to achieve this.

US–China emissions deal will put pressure on Australian growth by Kerry Brown, The Conversation AU, Nov 14, 2014

US/China emission targets should 'be floor, not ceiling' of climate action

After months of secret negotiations, a surprise joint announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping revealed the world's two largest contributors to global warming have made a non-binding agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the next fifteen years and stated their hope that such pledges will spur other nations to follow suit ahead of next year's international climate talks in Paris.

According to a statement on the deal from the White House, the U.S. "intends" to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent "below its 2005 level in 2025" and "to make best efforts" to meet the higher target. Meanwhile, "China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030."

Though termed a "historic agreement" by President Obama and a "game changer" by others who noted the importance of the two economic giants putting forward these commitments, other green campaigners warned against giving the non-binding and amorphous agreement more credit than it deserves.

US/China Emission Targets Should 'Be Floor, Not Ceiling' of Climate Action by John Queally, Common Dreams, Nov 12, 2014

White House hints at veto as Congress moves on Keystone pipeline

The House of Representatives approved a bill Friday authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a potential showdown between President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill over the controversial project.

Following the House’s 252 to 161 vote, attention shifts to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday on a Keystone bill co-sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

If the bill overcomes the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, Obama would have to decide whether to sign it, a calculation complicated by 2014 election politics and the White House’s hope of building a presidential legacy on environmental and climate change issues. 

White House hints at veto as Congress moves on Keystone pipeline by William Douglass, McClatchy Washington Bureau, Nov 14, 2014

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  1. Common sense based on a reasoned evaluation of available information  would conclude that the likes of the Republicans are irrationally pursuing the maximum possible short term benefit for a select portion of current day humans to the detriment of all other humans and the future of humanity.

    Common sense would say the actions they want to get away with are not just harmful but are ultimately unsustainable ways of living well that only a few on the planet can be allowed to benefit 'most vigorously' from, with people fighting any way they can get away with to benefit the most, with some people not getting any net benefit, and many people and other life being harmed without getting any benefit.

    And the most galling of the string of actions by this group of deliberate trouble makers is their attempt to claim that the made-up claims they want believed are 'common sense', which they hope will mena people accepting them without reasoned evaluation of available information. What they really hope is to keep a large percentage of the population inclined to want a better present for themselves rather than caring about the development of a sustainable better future for all.

    Their ability to prolong the poppularity of such damaging ultimately unsustaiable beliefs is a greater threat than the rapid production of excess CO2. And they probably understand that rational thoughtful 'common sense' gaining enough popularity threatens their ability to get away with their many deliberate misleading claims attempting to support their many harmful and ultimately unsustainable pursuits of profit. Hence. their attempts to abuse and ruin the term 'common sense', to try to make it mean something you believe without really thinking about.

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