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2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #30B

Posted on 23 July 2015 by John Hartz

Climate treaty's finances on shaky ground

Faith in the Green Climate Fund, the finance arm long believed to hold a key to achieving a global climate change accord in Paris in December, is beginning to wane.

The Green Climate Fund is supposed to be the primary distributor of tens of billions of dollars in climate aid to help the world's poorest countries deal with climate change caused primarily by the actions of others. It was designed to help heal the deep divisions between rich and poor nations that have long dimmed hopes for a meaningful global warming solution. 

But with just one more board meeting to go before the Paris climate talks begin, the money it has to work with is not close to what's needed, the $3 billion contribution from the United States is looking iffy, and the fund has partnered with several financial institutions that developing nations distrust. 

Climate Treaty's Finances on Shaky Ground by Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News, July 20, 2015

Europe to America: Your love of air-conditioning is stupid

The weather in Washington, D.C., and  Berlin, Germany, has been pretty similar recently. There is one striking difference between the two capitals, though: Whereas many Americans would probably never consider living or working in buildings without air conditioning, many Germans think that life without climate control is far superior.

The divide isn't limited to Berlin and D.C.: In fact, many Europeans visiting the U.S. frequently complain about the "freezing cold" temperatures inside buses or hotels. American tourists on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, have been left stunned by Europeans' ability to cope with heat, even at work spaces or in their private homes.

Overall, it's safe to say that Europe thinks America's love of air-conditioning is actually quite daft. Europeans have wondered about this particular U.S. addiction for a while now: Back in 1992, Cambridge University Prof. Gwyn Prins called America's love of air-conditioning the country's "most pervasive and least-noticed epidemic," according to the Economist. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's getting worse: American demand for air-conditioning has only  increased over the past decades.

Europe to America: Your love of air-conditioning is stupid by Rick Noack, Washington Post, July22, 2015

Innovation sputters in battle against climate change

In the race to develop technologies to slowclimate change, the world is off track.

That’s the latest assessment from the International Energy Agency, which presented a bleak outlook ahead of the planned climate summit meeting in Paris this December, where countries rich and poor are hoping to agree on a strategy to slow global warming.

Even under the more optimistic assessments of humanity’s technological capabilities, limiting the atmosphere’s warming to two degrees Celsius above the average in the preindustrial era — considered by many scientists to be a tipping point toward climatic upheaval — seems to be slipping out of reach.

“For the first time since the I.E.A. started monitoring clean energy progress, not one of the technology fields tracked is meeting its objectives,” Maria van der Hoeven, the agency’s executive director, wrote in a foreword to the report. “Our ability to deliver a future in which temperatures rise modestly is at risk of being jeopardized.”

Innovation Sputters in Battle Against Climate Change by Eduardo porter, New York Times, July 22, 2015

New grants fund research for underseas carbon storage

As scientists seek ways to control greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change, the federal government is on a mission to prove whether rock formations deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean can be used to store and lock away human carbon dioxide emissions.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which has been researching carbon dioxide storage for years, announced $12 million in new research grants this month to learn the potential of the Atlantic sea floor to sequester carbon along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is among the technologies both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the federal government see as one of the best solutions to control greenhouse gas emissions without forcing utilities to fully quit using fossil fuels

New Grants Fund Research for Underseas Carbon Storage by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, July 22, 2015

Pope represents fundamental shift in climate change

For the past few months, it seemed that meeting the Pope was all Portland Mayor Charlie Hales could talk about. In myriad speeches, talks and tweets, the politician seemed genuinely excited to be one of about 65 municipal leaders chosen by the Vatican to attend a summit this week focused primarily on combatting climate change.

The conference, in which mayors of some of the world’s biggest cities declared that human-induced climate change is real and must be addressed, is aimed at influencing world leaders ahead of a major international climate change summit later this year.

But more than a stage for the simple signing of declarations, the Vatican summit represents a fundamental shift in how the issue of climate change is framed. Not only did the participants sign their names to a joint statement declaring that human-induced climate change must be countered, they also agreed that doing so is a “moral imperative.”

Pope represents fundamental shift in climate change by Omar el Akkad, The Globe & Mail, July 22, 2015

The first six months of 2015 have been the hottest on record

The first half of 2015 was the warmest first six months on record for the globe, according to a pair independent analyses from government scientists released Monday.

Global temperatures from January through June 2015 exceeded 2010 as the warmest first half of any year, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Record warm temperatures across a swath of the northeast, central and southwest Pacific Ocean basins, as well as parts of the western Atlantic Ocean, western Caribbean Sea, southern Mexico, northern Scandinavia, Barents Sea, northern and central Argentina contributed to the anomalous January-June 2015, according to NOAA.

This follows a record warm 2014 for the planet.

The First Six Months of 2015 Have Been the Hottest on Record by Jon Erdman, The Weather Channel, July 21, 2015

The pope, climate change and the cultural dimensions of the Anthropocene 

The ink is still drying on the Pope’s Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’” or “On Care for Our Common Home,” and scholars, critics and pundits will analyze and assess it for years to come.

But one aspect of the letter becomes clear to anyone who reads it: it is impressively expansive, covering environmental science, economics, international politics, carbon credits, social equity, technology, consumerism, social media, theology, and much more. Getting to the root of our “ecological crisis,” Pope Francis calls for us to “promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature.” It’s a bold appeal to reevaluate our worldviews, values and spiritual beliefs.

But why now? The modern environmental movement has been with us for more than 50 years, leading to social movements, myriad legislation and lifestyle changes that reflect environmentalists’ modern focus on sustainability. Why does the pope’s encyclical on ecology resonate so much today?

I’d like to offer one thought on why this message is important at this point in human history. We are at a unique moment in our time on Earth as a species, one never faced before and one requiring a new system of ethics, values, beliefs, worldviews and above all, spirituality.

Geophysicists have given this moment a name; it is called the Anthropocene. The pope’s landmark encyclical provides a moral compass to help navigate this emerging era.

The pope, climate change and the cultural dimensions of the Anthropocene by Andrew J Hoffman, The Conversation, July 17, 2015

UN climate deal draft must be shorter, clearer - minister

Ministers working towards a new U.N. deal to tackle climate change, due in December, need a negotiating text that is shorter and more manageable than the current draft, the Marshall Islands' foreign minister said after informal talks in Paris.

"It should be something that people can understand, be able to work with and negotiate from," chief diplomat Tony de Brum told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from France.

The current version of the draft text is a bewildering 85-page list of options, incorporating the demands of the nearly 200 nations participating in the process. 

UN climate deal draft must be shorter, clearer - minister by Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 22, 2015 

Washington state’s terrifying new climate threat: “Urban wildfires”

Wildfire season isn’t what it used to be.

In Washington state, a combination of ongoing drought and rapid developmentmade 2014 particularly nightmarish, and this year’s unusually hot conditions are fueling another season of dangerous blazes — more than 300 so far, including one,3,000-plus acre wildfire that destroyed homes and businesses in central Washington.

That’s no longer out of the ordinary. Washington firefighters are bracing themselves for an onslaught of oxymoronic-sounding “urban wildfires,” NPR reports – basically, brush fires that bump right into cities, threatening entire communities. Officials there say it’s a “growing threat,” one more commonly associated with cities like San Diego — although increasingly, they point out, the weather in Washington state seems to resemble that of southern California.

Washington state’s terrifying new climate threat: “Urban wildfires” by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, July 22, 2015

World mayors warn of threats to mankind, commit to U.N. development goals

More than 65 mayors from around the world pledged on Wednesday to implement the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their cities and to combat global warming, saying society was facing numerous threats.

The mayors signed a pledge at a Vatican-hosted conference where participants included New York's Bill de Blasio, Anne Hildago of Paris as well the mayors of Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, Johannesburg and Mexico City.

"The very tissue of our societies is under threat of growing inequalities, the unmet needs of the extreme poor and the extremely vulnerable, and a natural environment being hit by more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, and other climate-related threats," the pledge said.

World mayors warn of threats to mankind, commit to U.N. development goals by Philip Pullella and Chris Arsenault, Reuters, July 22, 2015

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. I've been saying for a few years now that US coal was being killed off by economic forces. A Washington Post article seems to confirm this. New Obama administration EPA regulations which would sharply cut back on coal power are about to go into effect and the GOP had been promising all out war to block them... only to discover that most states are already on track to meet the requirements without any regulatory pressure at all. Natural gas, wind, and solar have been decimating US coal. Coal plants are being shut down en masse... years before end of life. That has changed investments in those plants into losses... which in turn has virtually eliminated investment in and development of new coal plants. More than 70% of the new US electricity deployed so far this year has been renewable.

    Natural gas isn't as cheap for the rest of the world, but wind and solar are and will soon be having a similar impact world wide. Even China and India are now looking at reducing their plans for coal, and that change will only accelerate as wind and solar costs continue to fall. Coal is dying.

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  2. It seems the UK is moving in the opposite direction by reducing subsidies on renewables Perhaps this is a reflection on David Cameron's comment  that "polices that increased household bills are green crap

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I presume your comment is in response to one of the articles listed in the OP. Which one?

  3. Any plans to post any response to or summary of the Hansen et al. paper on sea level rise and related issues that just became public?

    rs has a nice summary on his blog:

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] It's a draft paper subject to open review. If individual members of the SkS all-volunteer author team want to comment on it, they are certainly free to do so. 

  4. Sorry JH but I don't know what you mean by OP.  My comment was made in response to a piece on BBC news a couple of days ago commenting on the UK government's plans to scale back subsidies to renewables. Roger Harrabin was interviewed and was, as you might imagine, not entirely enamoured of the plan. One of the links above was to a UK government website.   I also read a piece on the plan in the Guardian and gave a link to their comments. I hope this answers your query.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] OP=Original Post 

    BTW, comments need context if they are to be meaningful to the reader.

  5. Oh sorry I should have stated I was replying to comment 1.  I didn't think to as it was the only comment on the thread .  

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] No problem. I read your comment in isolation so I didn't see the connection to the prior comment. 

  6. Correction to #1 above. Coal is not just dying. Coal is on it's death bed and life support is failing.

    Heard of Peabody Energy? Largest coal company in the world? 2011 share price: $73. Today's low share price: $0.99. It's literally a penny stock.

    The collapse of investor support for coal is nearly complete. The, directly linked, collapse of political support for coal is already well underway. We've passed the tipping point... all the political benefits which have been propping up coal for decades will now shortly be withdrawn and replaced by impediments. That will transition coal cost competitiveness from 'barely hanging on' to 'completely hopeless'. The US is ahead of the curve on this, but the rest of the world will follow much sooner than most projections of future coal use have suggested. I'll be surprised if coal use isn't falling world wide by 2020.

    Too soon to call when petroleum will follow suit. Probably all down to when electric car batteries become cost competitive.

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  7. That peabody stock seems to have fallen in half at faster than regular intervals: i.e. faster than exponential!

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