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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #27B

Posted on 4 July 2015 by John Hartz

A hard deadline: We must stop building new carbon infrastructure by 2018

In only three years there will be enough fossil fuel-burning stuff—cars, homes, factories, power plants, etc.—built to blow through our carbon budget for a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Never mind staying below a safer, saner 1.5°C of global warming. The relentless laws of physics have given us a hard, non-negotiable deadline, making G7 statements about a fossil fuel-phase out by 2100 or a weak deal at the UN climate talks in Paris irrelevant.

“By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again unless they’re either replacements for old ones or are carbon neutral? Are you sure I worked that out right?” I asked Steve Davis of the University of California, co-author of a new climate study.

“We didn’t go that far in our study. But yes, your numbers are broadly correct. That’s what this study means,” Davis told me over the phone last fall.

A hard deadline: We must stop building new carbon infrastructure by 2018 by Stephen Leahy, The Leap, July 2, 2015

China Helps Pave the Road to Paris with Ambitious Climate Pledge

China formally pledged on Tuesday to play an ambitious role in curbing its carbon dioxide emissions over the next 15 years. It represented a major contribution toward the success of climate treaty talks by the world's biggest source of global warming pollution.

As had been expected, China said its carbon emissions would peak by 2030 or sooner, with carbon-free energy providing 20 percent of its needs. Its government also set a new, loftier goal for energy efficiency, saying that by 2030 the carbon intensity of its economy would fall by 60 to 65 percent compared to 2005. Its previous vow was 40 to 45 percent by 2020. And it promised to ramp up reforestation.

"A one-thousand-mile journey starts from the first step," the document declared, using one of China's most famous aphorisms. It was an apt expression, acknowledging that the world cannot solve the climate crisis all at once, but that leading nations must create credible momentum if calamity is to be averted.

China Helps Pave the Road to Paris with Ambitious Climate Pledge by John H Cusman Jr, InsideClimate News, June 30, 2015

Climate change could drain global seafood supplies

Seafood lovers are set to see less shellfish, salmon and other fish on their dinner plates as climate change warms the oceans and makes them more acidic.

The findings from a series of studies out this week suggest rising greenhouse emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are adding stress to oceans that are already suffering from overfishing, pollution and destruction of coastal ecosystems like mangroves.

"The types of fish that we will have on our dinner table will be very different in the future," said William Cheung, University of British Columbia associate professor and the co-director of the Nereus program, an international research team that put has put out a report on the state of the oceans. "Fisheries will be catching more warm-water species, with smaller size, and that will affect fish supply through our domestic and overseas fisheries as well as imports."

Climate change could drain global seafood supplies by Michael Casey, CBS News, July 2, 2015

Episcopal church votes to divest from fossil fuels: 'This is a moral issue'

The leadership of the Episcopal church has voted to withdraw from fossil fuel holdings as a means of fighting climate change, delivering an important symbolic victory to environmental campaigners.

Two weeks after the pope’s pastoral letter on the environment, the divestment decision by a major US Protestant denomination underscored that climate change is increasingly seen by religious leaders as a deeply moral issue.

The measure, adopted by the governing body at a meeting in Salt Lake City, commits the church to quit fossil fuels and re-invest in clean energy.

It covers only a small portion of church holdings, but encourages individual parishes and dioceses to begin moving funds in their control away from coal, oil and gas."

Episcopal church votes to divest from fossil fuels: 'This is a moral issue' by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, July 3, 2015

Federal report: Polar Bears in peril due to global warming

Polar bears are at risk of dying off if humans don't reverse the trend of global warming, a blunt U.S. government report filed Thursday said.

"The single most important step for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a draft recovery plan, part of the process after the agency listed the species as threatened in 2008.

"Short of action that effectively addresses the primary cause of diminishing sea ice, it is unlikely that polar bears will be recovered."

Federal Report: Polar Bears in Peril Due to Global Warming, AP/New York Times, July 3, 2015

Global climate pact gains momentum as China, U.S. and Brazil detail plans

Five months before a United Nations summit meeting aimed at forging a historic global accord to cut climate-warming emissions, significant signs of progress toward an agreement are emerging.

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, submitted a 16-page plan to the United Nations on Tuesday detailing how it plans to shift its economy to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030. On the same day, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, which is among the top 10 carbon emitters, and President Obama announced in Washington that their nations had agreed to sharply expand electricity generation from renewable sources.

But it is increasingly evident that the policy actions by these countries and others will not be enough to stave off a rise in the atmospheric temperature of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, scientists say, the planet will be locked into a future of extreme storms, droughts, food and water shortages, and rising sea levels.

Global Climate Pact Gains Momentum as China, U.S. and Brazil Detail Plans by Coral Davenport, New York Times, June 30, 2015

How and where did UK lose city-sized area of green space in just six years?

The UK’s spreading cities are relentlessly eating up the country’s green spaces, according to new research, and experts and campaigners believe government planning reforms will aggravate the loss.

A satellite survey by a research team at the University of Leicester (UofL) found that between 2006 and 2012, 22,000 hectares (54,ooo acres) of green space was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland concreted and 1,000 hectares of precious wetland was drained to make way for urban sprawl. That’s a landscape twice the size of Liverpool, transformed forever, in just six years.

The updated map is the fourth time the UK’s land use has been surveyed using the Corine European standard, which separates land use into 44 categories. Since the first map was created in 1990, UK urbanisation has continued at roughly the same rate, said study leader Professor Heiko Balzter, director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at UofL.

How and where did UK lose city-sized area of green space in just six years? by Karle Mathiesen, The Eco audit, Guardian, July 2, 2015

Invited by Vatican, Naomi Klein makes moral case for world beyond fossil fuels

Naomi Klein—activist, author, and self-described "secular Jewish feminist"—spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday where she championed the Pope's message for global action on climate change and made the case for "the beautiful world" beyond fossil fuel addiction.

Klein, who was invited to speak by the Vatican, gave her speech ahead of a two-day conference to discuss the Pope's recent encyclicalLaudato Si', on the environment and the threat of the global economic system—subjects that the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate knows well.

The encyclical has garnered praise from environmental campaigners like Greenpeace International's Kumi Naidoo, who called it a "clarion call for bold, urgent action."

"Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for 'every person living on this planet.' And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me," Klein toldreporters ahead of the conference, which is called People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.

She praised what she described as "the core message of interconnection at the heart of the encyclical." 

Invited by Vatican, Naomi Klein Makes Moral Case for World Beyond Fossil Fuels by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams, July 2, 2015

More nations pledge to cut carbon emissions

Pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions poured in yesterday from across the globe as countries from Korea to Iceland vowed new contributions toward what many hope will be the first truly international climate change accord.

China made the biggest splash with a formal declaration to the United Nations of a promise to stop its rise in annual carbon pollution by 2030. The government also said it will slash its emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 60 to 65 percent below 2005 levels and boost non-fossil-fuel energy sources—including both renewables and nuclear—to 20 percent.

Visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, meanwhile, struck a deal with President Obama in Washington, D.C., for both Brazil and the United States to increase their shares of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2030. Rousseff also promised to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil, while restoring or reforesting 12 million hectares (30 million acres) by 2030.

More Nations Pledge to Cut Carbon Emissions by Lisa Friedman, ClimateWire/Scientific American, July 1, 2015

Prince Charles: rewire the global economy to stop climate change

Prince Charles has said that “profound changes” to the global economic system are needed in order to avert environmental catastrophe, in an uncompromising speech delivered in front of an audience of senior business leaders and politicians.

The heir to the throne – often criticised for his meddling in political affairs – argued that ending the taxpayer subsidies enjoyed by coal, oil and gas companiescould reduce the carbon emissions driving climate change by an estimated 13%.

Although the prince’s passion for environmental causes is well known, the speech delivered on Thursday evening in St James’s Palace, London was particularly pointed in its criticism of companies that protected vested interests and came with a report that proposed raising taxes on them.

Prince Charles: rewire the global economy to stop climate change by Damian Carrington, Guardian, July 2, 2015

Scientists convinced European heat waves boosted by climate change

As Germany and Spain sweated and London sweltered through its hottest July day on record this week, scientists said it is "virtually certain" that climate change is increasing the likelihood of such heat waves in Europe.

In real-time data analysis released on Friday, a team of international climate scientists from universities, meteorological services and research organisations said the kind of heat waves hitting Europe this week - defined as three-day periods of excessive heat - are becoming much more frequent in the region.

In De Bilt in the Netherlands, for example, a heat wave like the one forecast for the next few days would have been a roughly 1-in-30-years event in the 1900s, according to the scientists. It is now likely to happen every three and a half years, they said.

Scientists convinced European heat waves boosted by climate change by Laurie Goering, Tompson Reuters Foundation, July 3, 2015

Smithsonian revamps disclosure rules after Willie Soon controversy

The Smithsonian Institution has written new rules to head off conflicts of interest, part of its long-awaited response to revelations that one of its scientists, climate contrarian Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon,failed to divulge the funding sources for research questioning man-made global warming.

The organization's new disclosure policieswould make funding sources for research by its staff more transparent––and allow the institution to assess potential conflicts before approving research grants.

Those and other recommendations follow dual four-month investigations prompted by the revelation in February that Soon did not disclose the identity of fossil fuel interests that funded his published studies––which often place blame for rising global temperatures on solar activity instead of fossil fuel burning.

Smithsonian Revamps Disclosure Rules After Willie Soon Controversy by David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News, June 29, 2015

The beyond-two-degree inferno

In the history of humankind, there is a dearth of examples of global threats so far-reaching in their impact, so dire in their consequences, and considered so likely to occur that they have engaged all nations in risk mitigation. But now with climate change, we face a slowly escalating but long-enduring global threat to food supplies, health, ecosystem services, and the general viability of the planet to support a population of more than 7 billion people. The projected costs of addressing the problem grow with every year that we delay confronting it. In recognition of the shared risks we face and the collective action that will be necessary, an international meeting of stakeholders will convene in Paris next week, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December, to discuss solutions for both climate mitigation and adaptation. 

The beyond-two-degree inferno, Editorial by Marcia McNuttScience, July 3, 2015  

The deadlier scourge of wildfires in an Age of Climate Change

The 19 firefighters who died battling a wildfire in southwest Arizona captured the nation’s attention in 2013, but aside from being the largest loss of firefighters since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the worst in a wildfire since 1933, it served as a vivid reminder of climate change’s deadly force.

Kyle Dickman’s new book, On the Burning Edge, tells the story of the firefighters who died in what is known as the Yarnell Hill fire. Dickman spent five years as a wildland firefighter, and uses this story to spotlight global warming’s role and explore the state of America's wildfire fighting system.

Wildfires in the U.S. have been growing more severe, more costly and more frequent over the past half century. Dickman writes that mismanagement, suppressing natural fires and allowing forests to grow dense, as well as encroaching development have led to worse fires, with climate change providing even more fuel. With longer periods of drought and hotter temperatures wicking moisture from the forests, much of the West is a tinderbox. Research shows conditions will continue to worsen as the planet continues to warm.

The Deadlier Scourge of Wildfires in an Age of Climate Change by Katherine Bagley, InsideClimate News, July 2, 2015

Unprecedented alliance of peak bodies pressures PM over climate change

Some of the nation's peak business and lobby organisations are calling on the Abbott government to dramatically ramp up Australia's emissions reduction commitments from 2020 onwards, warning against "piecemeal" policies and arguing that avoiding dangerous warming and reconfiguring the economy requires tougher and more urgent action than politicians have allowed.

In a development designed to obliterate right-left and business-environmental divides, an unprecedented alliance of industry bodies, energy suppliers, climate activists, and the welfare lobby has formed, hoping to overcome Australia's polarised political stand-off on climate.

The group wants to set the path for policies that reduce financial risk, encourage investment in low and zero-carbon technologies, and help avoid an increase in global temperature of greater than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Unprecedented alliance of peak bodies pressures PM over climate change by Mark Kenny and Lisa Cox, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), June 29, 2015

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. That first-linked article, "Hard Deadline," is quite a doozy.

    It just seems like almost everyone is living in some deluded fantasy.

    Any ideas on how to bring production of all fossil-death-fuel machines and plants to a halt by 2018?

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  2. Something to include in next weeks news roundup?

    Includes interviews with Box, Mann, Schmidt, and Parmesan, and lots of interesting insights into their (and our) emotional responses to our predicament.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I alerted my fellow SkS authors to the article yesterday and it will be included in the next posting of the Weekly News Roundup. I will also post a link to it on the SkS Facebook page. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

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