2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #48A

Air pollution costs Britain £10bn a year, report shows

Britain has 10 of Europe’s top 50 “super-polluting” power stations and factories, helping to cost it more in health and environmental impacts than any other countries, except for Germany and Poland.

New air pollution figures from the European environment agency (EEA) suggest that a handful of power stations and industrial plants together cost the National Health Service and the wider UK economy over £10bn a year.

Of over 14,000 major industrial plants identified in Europe’s 27 countries, Drax power station in Selby and the Longannet plant at Kincardine in Scotland were ranked respectively 5th and 10th between 2008-2012.

Air pollution costs Britain £10bn a year, report shows by John Vidal, The Guardian, Nov 25, 2014 

Britain left 'exposed' to more floods and heatwaves

The UK is dangerously "exposed" to increasingly extreme weather brought about by climate change, a leading adviser to the Government has warned.

Professor Lord Krebs, who chairs an expert group of the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said thousands of lives could be lost in searing heatwaves, and a lack of spending on flood defences would lead to "unnecessary flood damage" unless action was

Britain left 'exposed' to more floods and heatwaves by Ian Johnston, The Independent, Nov 23, 2014

Central American civil society calls for protection of local agriculture

Worried about the effects of global warming on agriculture, water and food security in their communities, social organisations in Central America are demanding that their governments put a priority on these issues in the COP20 climate summit.

In the months leading up to COP20 – the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – civil society in Central America has met over and over again to reach a consensus position on adaptation and loss and damage.

These, along with mitigation, are the pillars of the negotiations to take place in Lima the first 12 days of December, which are to give rise to a new climate change treaty to be signed a year later at COP21 in Paris.

“Central American organisations working for climate justice, food security and sustainable development are trying to share information and hammer out a common position,” Tania Guillén, who represents Nicaragua’s Humboldt Centreenvironmental group at the talks, told IPS.

Central American Civil Society Calls for Protection of Local Agriculture at COP20 by Diego Arguedas Ortiz, Inter Press Service (IPS), Nov 25, 2014

Climate change is not just about science

ext December, 196 nations will meet in Paris to agree a course of action to respond to climate change. They will do so under the auspices of the UN framework convention on climate change. This is an international treaty negotiated at the Earth summit in Rio in 1992 with the objective to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”.

The discussions in Paris in 2015 will be informed by the latest climate science. In our play 2071, which recently completed its inaugural run at the Royal Court theatre in London, directed by Katie Mitchell, we explore the science, its implications and the options before us. A key aim is to leave the audience better placed to participate in the public discourse, in which we all need to play a part.

Climate change is not just about science – it’s about the future we want to create by Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan, The Observer, Nov 22, 2014

Climate change will slow China's progress in reducing infectious diseases

China has made significant progress increasing access to tap water and sanitation services, and has sharply reduced the burden of waterborne and water-related infectious diseases over the past two decades. However, in a study published in the latest edition of Nature Climate Change, researchers from Emory University found that climate change will blunt China's efforts at further reducing these diseases in the decades to come.

The study found that by 2030, changes to the global climate could delay China's progress reducing diarrheal and vector-borne diseases by up to seven years. That is, even as China continues to invest in water and sanitation infrastructure, and experience rapid urbanization and social development, the benefits of these advances will be slowed in the presence of climate change. 

Climate change will slow China's progress in reducing infectious diseases by Melva Robertson, Emory News Center, Nov 23, 2014

Do Democrats and Republicans actually experience the weather differently?

Last week, as extreme and early winter weather crashed into the continental U.S., it was inevitable that we once again started debating global warming. For some conservatives, unusual winter weather seems to spur dismissive comments about climate change — even as liberals tend to explain why a changing climate may see more "stuck" weather (whether cold or hot) and more powerful snowstorms in some cases, due to greater water vapor in the atmosphere.

Such partisan disagreement about the relationship between climate change and weather extremes has become pretty routine — but a new study just out in Nature Climate Change puts it in a fascinating new light. The research suggests the climate issue may have become so politicized that our very perceptions of the weather itself are subtly slanted by political identities and cues.

Do Democrats and Republicans actually experience the weather differently? by Charis Mooney, Wonkblog, Washington Post, Nov 24, 2014

Half of Americans think climate change is a sign of the Apocalypse

Snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, snowzilla, just snow. Superstorm Sandy, receding shorelines, and more. Hurricanes Isaac, Ivan, and Irene, with cousins Rammasun, Bopha, and Haiyan.

The parade of geological changes and extreme weather events around the world since 2011 has been stunning. Perhaps that's part of why, as the Public Religion Research Institute reported on Friday, "The number of Americans who believe that natural disasters are evidence of the apocalypse has increased somewhat over the past couple years."

As of 2014, it's estimated that nearly half of Americans—49 percent—say natural disasters are a sign of "the end times," as described in the Bible. That's up from an estimated 44 percent in 2011.

Half of Americans Think Climate Change Is a Sign of the Apocalypse by Emma Green, The Atlantic, Nov 22, 2014

In climate talks, spotlight turns to India

India's new prime minister, a Hindu nationalist and former tea seller, recently urged his country's schoolchildren to help save the planet by relishing the delight of a full moon.

"On a full moon night, if street lights are put off for two, three hours, will it not be service to the environment? Won't you enjoy the full moon night?" Narendra Modi said in September, adding: "We have forgotten to live with nature." He urged kids to switch off fans, lights, or appliances when not in use and turn off tap water when brushing teeth.

Modi, 64, has sounded at times like a climate activist. "Al Gore was right when he commented a few years ago that it was inconvenient to many leaders to hear, face and accept the naked truth of global warming," Modi wrote in a 2011 e-book, Convenient Action,which heralded his climate efforts while chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.

In climate talks, spotlight turns to India by Wendy Koch, National Geographic, Nov 25, 2014

Obama’s climate change envoy: fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground

The world’s fossil fuels will “obviously” have to stay in the ground in order to solve global warming, Barack Obama’s climate change envoy said on Monday.

In the clearest sign to date the administration sees no long-range future for fossil fuel, the state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas.

The assertion, a week ahead of United Nations climate negotiations in Lima, will be seen as a further indication of Obama’s commitment to climate action, following an historic US-Chinese deal to curb emissions earlier this month.

A global deal to fight climate change would necessarily require countries to abandon known reserves of oil, coal and gas, Stern told a forum at the Center for American Progress in Washington. 

Obama’s climate change envoy: fossil fuels will have to stay in the groundby Suzanne Goldenberg, Nov 24, 2014

Solar and wind energy start to win on price vs. conventional fuels

For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

That day appears to be dawning.

The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.

Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.

Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels by Diane Cardwell, New York Times, Nov 23, 2014

Some climate change impacts unavoidable - World Bank

Some future impacts of climate change, such as more extremes of heat and sea level rise, are unavoidable even if governments act fast to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank said on Sunday.

Past and predicted emissions from power plants, factories and cars have locked the globe on a path towards an average temperature rise of almost 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times by 2050, it said.

"This means that climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be simply unavoidable," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told a telephone news conference on the report, titled "Turn down the Heat, Confronting the New Climate Normal."

"The findings are alarming," he said.

Some climate change impacts unavoidable: World Bank by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Nov 23, 2014

Violence ahead as tragedies of the commons spread

The world risks heading the way of Easter Island – a spiral into conflict as depleted natural resources are plundered

THERE is a growing feeling that resources vital to sustain human life, such as fresh water, land and fossil fuels, are being used too fast to ensure our long-term presence on the planet. It seems obvious that nations should cooperate on this problem, and yet successful cross-border solutions and agreements are hard to find. Why don't we act for the common good more often?

Look around the world and you can see instances of water-related inter-state tension and conflicts in many regions, including the Middle East (Jordan riverbasin, Tigris-Euphrates basin), Asia (Indus river), and Africa (the Nile).

"Fish wars" have erupted sporadically, such as Europe's cod wars, and while these have been more contained, they could resurge amid decreasing stocks. In the same way, the shared resource of global climate continues to be threatened by the relentless burning of fossil fuels.

Violence ahead as tragedies of the commons spread by Petros Sekeris, New Scientist, Nov 24, 2014

Water war amid Brazil drought leads to fight over puddles

Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles by David Biller and Vanessa Dezem, Bloomberg, Nov 25, 2014

Winter weather weirdness may be just beginning

Brace yourself. November’s white nightmare could become a recurring bad dream of varying intensity.

While last week’s winter blast appears to be the freak offspring of a typhoon-blasted jet stream and a warm Lake Erie, it’s also part of a long-term pattern that shows no sign of changing.

Meteorologists and geographers say that lake-effect snows have increased as temperatures have warmed in recent decades. That means more bizarre early-season storms, though not necessarily as bad as last week’s, are likely in the future as the warming trend continues.

“The general notion is that, as the climate warms and the lakes hold their warmth longer into the fall, you’re going to see a lot more lake-effect snow until it’s too warm to have much snow,” said Mark Monmonier, distinguished professor of geography at Syracuse University and the author of the 2012 book “Lake Effect: Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows.”

Winter weather weirdness may be just beginning by Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News, Nov 22, 2014

Yes, we can beat climate change — but it will take massive international government coordination 

One of my recurring obsessions over the years has been the enormous difference between reducing carbon emissions and reducing carbon emissions enough. There are thousands of ways to reduce emissions relative to a business-as-usual baseline, many of which are relatively painless. But reducing emissions enough to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius — the agreed-upon international target — is another matter entirely. Plenty of policies and strategies can achieve the former but not the latter.

It’s troubling how often this distinction is elided, especially in politics, where people talk as though reducing emissions at all, or even growing emissions more slowly, is a sign of success on climate change.

That’s why, to my mind, some of the most important work in the world is being done at the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project (DDPP). Convened by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, it consists of 15 research teams, one for each high-emitting country, each charged with developing concrete, detailed pathways by which its respective country could reduce emissions enough to meet the 2C goal.

Yes, we can beat climate change — but it will take massive international government coordination by David Roberts, Grist, Nov 24, 2014

Posted by John Hartz on Wednesday, 26 November, 2014

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