2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #39B

5 big announcements for cities at Climate Week 

Even as nations gathered in New York this week to discuss global-level action on climate change, there was strong recognition that cities, not countries, have so far played the pivotal role in the world's fight against climate change—and will continue to do so in the decades to come.

Urban centers house 54 percent of the world's population and account for approximately 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But they are also where most of the most innovative emission reduction strategies and adaptation measures are being implemented. These programs, as well as the question what needs to be done to further this work, were the topic of events throughout Climate Week New York City, from the United Nations to hotel conference rooms to the Empire State Building.

5 Big Announcements For Cities at Climate Week by Katherine Bagley, Inside Climate News, Sep 26. 2014

ALEC tries to prove it’s not lying about climate change, fails miserably

Monday, Google made waves — and kick-started an exodus — by cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council. The reason, according to Google chairman Eric Schmidt? The free market lobbying group is “just literally lying” about climate change.

Unfortunately for ALEC, it’s no longer fashionable to be a climate denier, or to promote climate denial. And it’s proving to be a rather unprofitable position as well. This has put the group in the rather awkward position of having to defend its belief in climate change.

Yeah, it’s not going so well.

ALEC tries to prove it’s not lying about climate change, fails miserably by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Sep 26, 2014

Can humanity rise to the climate challenge?

No one who was there–and survived–will ever forget Nov. 8, 2013. The strongest storm in the history of humanity devastated Tacloban and many other cities and towns in the Philippines. Three days after Super Typhoon Yolanda hit, I stood on behalf of the Philippines at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. I appealed to the whole world to take urgent action to address climate change.

Yolanda devastated communities and claimed thousands of lives. My own brother A.G. Saño, whose environmental and peace murals have adorned many walls around the country, was in downtown Tacloban when the storm hit. He bravely helped gather the bodies of the dead for several days. He is truly my hero. Every single person who works tirelessly on the ground to make people’s lives better joins the true heroes of our times.

When we talk about heroes and about saving humanity, it means humanity needs saving.

Can Humanity Rise to the Climate Challenge?, Op-ed by Naderev M. "Yeb" Saño, Inside Climate News, Sep 24, 2014

China, U.S. make treaty pledges during Climate Summit

The world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters, the U.S. and China, on Tuesday threw their political and climate-changing weight behind an effort to strike an international deal to slow global warming.

“We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair,” President Obama said during his speech at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York. “Not when we have the means, the technological innovation and the scientific imagination to begin the work of repairing it right now.”

Speaking just two days after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of New York and other cities in marches demanding action to protect the climate, Obama and a senior Chinese official made important announcements about their efforts to do so.

China, U.S. Make Treaty Pledges During Climate Summit by John Upton, Climate Central, Sep 23, 2014

Climate Summit: Much talk, a bit of walk

Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions.

“You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.”

Tuesday’s climate summit was not a part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation framework. Instead, it was a special event convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to catalyse public opinion and increase political will for a binding climate agreement to be negotiated in Paris at the end of 2015.

“This mixture of governmental, business, cities, states [and] civil society engagement is certainly unprecedented and it offers a chance to open the climate change discussion at a heads of state level as never before,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute (WRI), in a statement before the summit.

Climate Summit: Much Talk, A Bit of Walk by Joel Jaeger, International Press Service (IPS), Sep 24, 2013

Crazy weather traced to Arctic's impact on jet stream

The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change may be to blame for more frequent prolonged spells of extreme weather in Europe, Asia and North America, such as heat wavesfreezing temperatures or storms.

These are relatively short-term periods of bizarre weather, like the cold snap that paralysed North America earlier this year, rather than longer-term rises in temperature.

They are related to "stuck" weather patterns, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, told a conference on Arctic sea ice reduction in London on 23 September. "Is it global warming? I think it's safe to answer yes," she told the meeting. 

Crazy weather traced to Arctic's impact on jet stream by Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, Sep 26, 2014

Do Americans appreciate climate change risks?

A trio of senior environmental officials from local and federal government yesterday offered its views on how the average American might need to get a better grasp of the risks posed by climate change.

Speaking here during a conference on rising seas, the officials were pressed by a moderator from the Association of Climate Change Officers to discuss how they tend to approach widespread ambivalence or downright ignorance about global warming.

Explaining the executive federal view was Alice Hill, senior adviser for preparedness and resilience to President Obama on the national security staff. Hill said there is a recognition at the White House that climate is an issue of national security significance. She stressed that the president takes the matter seriously, but she also worries that Americans tend not to follow in his footsteps or view the issue with much urgency.

"It is not a priority for the American public," she said. "I don't pick up the sense of urgency that matches what we're hearing" from climate scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Do Americans appreciate climate change risks? by Colin Sullivan, Climate Wire/Scientific American, Sep 25, 2014

Lyme Disease Surges into Canada

One of the clearest signs of health risks in a warming world has emerged in one of the world’s most advanced economies, as Canada belatedly struggles to cope with Lyme disease's migration in North America.

Lyme Disease Surges North by  Marianne Lavelle, The Daily Climate/Scientific American, Sep 25, 2014

Obama mandates climate resilience in all U.S. development projects

All international development assistance and investments from the United States will now be required to take into account the potential impacts of climate change, according to a new rule signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

When designing development programmes of any type, federal agencies will need to factor in climate resilience, referring to the ability of a host country or community to anticipate and prepare for global warming-related changes. Those agencies will likewise be required to encourage similar planning by multilateral development institutions. 

“The president is setting the right course with his executive order,” Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy programmes at the World Resources Institute, a think tank here, said in a statement. “We can’t pursue development around the world without recognising the risks that climate change poses every day.” 

Obama Mandates Climate Resilience in All U.S. Development Projects by Carey L. Biron, Inter Press Service (IPS). Sep 24, 2014

Study lowers range for future global warming, but does it matter?

Doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere won’t produce as much global warming as some previous estimates, says a new study. However, scientists don’t universally accept this result nor do they agree about whether it makes much difference about what we should do about it.

The study, published in the journal Climate Dynamics, finds doubling the amount of carbon dioxide (from pre-industrial levels) in the atmosphere is likely to warm the climate by about 2.4 F (1.3 C)* by the time doubling occurs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its latest assessment report, had estimated the value of this quantity known as the “transient climate response (TCR)” to be 33 percent higher, or 3.2 F (1.8 C)*.

The authors, British scientist Nicholas Lewis and Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry, developed a model using historical measurements of temperature and ocean heat content as well as estimates of the levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere to estimate the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Study lowers range for future global warming, but does it matter? by Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Sep 26. 2014

The hidden benefits of mitigating climate change

On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to open a climate summit that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes will ultimately lead to a global environmental agreement to be signed in Paris next year.

You’re forgiven if you hold your applause. World leaders have been trying without success to cut such a deal for almost two decades, crashing time and again into the fear that slowing the emissions of carbon that are inexorably changing the climate carries an economic cost that few are willing to bear.

This time, though, advocates come armed with a trump card: All things considered, the cost of curbing carbon emissions may be considerably cheaper than earlier estimates had suggested. For all the fears that climate change mitigation would put the brakes on growth, it might actually enhance it.

The Hidden Benefits of Mitigating Climate Change by Eduardo Poerter, New York Times. Sep 23, 2014

UN Climate Summit achieves successes, but does it really matter?

At the end of his summit meeting on the climate crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out a list of accomplishments festooned with 46 bullet points, some of them marking concrete new pledges, others diaphanous phrases.

Among the most notable were two separate pledges on forests, which if followed through could eliminate deforestation by 2030, and end deforestation at the hands of the palm oil industry even sooner.

Other announcements, such as promises by France and Germany that each would commit $1 billion to a fledgling fund to assist poorer nations, lent support to existing UN arrangements that have been slow to mature.

And there were also agreements that could help hold down emissions with or without a new treaty. These included pledges by dozens of big corporations to price the cost of carbon into their business decisions and force governments to follow suit; the formation of a compact among cities to track and reduce their own emissions; and new steps to make it easier for municipalities to borrow for projects like energy efficiency, a key to reducing their carbon footprints.

But would all of this really enhance the likelihood of a successful treaty negotiation? 

UN Climate Summit Achieves Successes, But Does It Really Matter? by John H Cushman Jr, Inside Climate News, Sep 26,2014

UN Climate Summit: A 'game-changer' for global warming?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon looks to have pulled off a remarkable feat in gathering world leaders together to spell out their national action plans for climate change, at a time when the issue had just about fallen off political radars.

"Climate change is the defining issue of our times," Ban has said over and over again, urging that "now is the time for action." 

And this week the heads of UN member countries appear to have taken up the challenge. One after the other, leaders pledged billions for a global climate fund to help developing nations, set specific targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promised greater use of clean energy.

But promises in the hot media glare — and mass demonstrations — of New York are one thing. There’s still the matter of whether the steps needed to mitigate global warming will actually be taken after the summit wraps up and all the brouhaha fades. 

UN Climate Summit: A 'game-changer' for global warming? by Trinh Theresa Do, CBC News, Sep 24, 2014

UN climate summit: Mandela’s widow says leaders lack courage

Nelson Mandela’s widow delivered a stinging rebuke to world leaders attending the UN’s New York summit on Tuesday, accusing them of lacking the courage to address climate change.

Addressing the General Assembly at the close of the one-day meeting, Graca Machel said there was a “huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard today”.

She added: “You, our leaders, you must have the courage that will make you unpopular for thousands of your citizens.”

Machel’s views stood in stark contrast to those of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who moments earlier had congratulated world leaders who attended the meeting.

“Today was a great day, an historic day” he said. ‘Never before have so many leaders come together to back climate action.”

UN climate summit: Mandela’s widow says leaders lack courage by Ed King, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC), Sep 24. 2014

US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks

Protecting the infrastructure of American cities from the effects of climate change is rising on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to a top agency official.

"Increasingly, we've moved not only from a security focus to a resiliency focus," said Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at Homeland Security, an agency better known for its fight to curb terrorist threats.

Durkovich spoke Thursday on a panel at the Rising Seas Summit, a three-day conference organized by the U.S.-based Association of Climate Change Officers to discuss tools and ideas on building resiliency, particularly against rising sea levels.

US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks by Lisa Anderson, Thompson Reuters Foundation, Sep 25, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 27 September, 2014

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