UN Talks Out Of Sync With Global Climate Demands

 

UN climate negotiations in Madrid remained bogged down Monday in the fine print of the Paris treaty rulebook, out-of-sync with a world demanding action to forestall the ravages of global warming.

The 196-nation talks should kick into high-gear Tuesday with the arrival of ministers, but on the most crucial issue of all — slashing the greenhouse gas emissions overheating the planet — major emitters have made it clear they have nothing to say.

Only the European Union is dangling the prospect of enhanced carbon-cutting ambitions, to be laid out this week in its European Green New Deal.

The arrival Tuesday of Michael Bloomberg, who has thrown his hat — and a ton of money — into the US presidential contest, will underscore how much easier the task might be with a Democrat rather than a climate denier in the White House.

“I’m going to #COP25 in Madrid because President Trump won’t,” Bloomberg tweeted.

Observers say the case for a global Marshall Plan on global warming has become overwhelming.

A quartet of recent UN science reports catalogued a crescendo of deadly heatwave, flooding and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas, and projected far worse impacts just over the horizon.

Every year that CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise — as they have for decades — compresses the task of drawing them down fast enough to avoid catastrophic warming into an impossibly narrow time frame.

A youth-led movement, meanwhile, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — a magnet for climate hope and fear — has seen millions of protesters spill into the streets, with tens of thousands in Madrid on Friday.

Even forward-looking businesses and corporations are pushing for a rapid and well-ordered transition to a low-carbon world.

Fossil Fuel Taboo

On Monday 631 institutional investors managing $37 trillion — a third of the world’s monetary assets — called for a price on carbon and end to fossil fuel subsidies.

But governments are waiting until next year’s deadline to unveil revised emissions reduction commitments.

“Negotiations, by their nature, are ‘I’ll give you this, if you give me that’,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based climate policy think tank.

“So we are standing and watching our house on fire. I’ve got a hose, you’ve got a hose, but I’m not going to turn mine on until you do.”

At the same time, the rising tide of urgency has clearly permeated the “climate bubble” of diplomats, policy wonks, NGOs and business leaders that gather in a new city each year.

“Delegates are finally saying the ‘F’ words — Fossil Fuels,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, an umbrella organisation of activists.

For 25 years, she noted, it has been more-or-less taboo to point an accusing finger within the UN negotiations directly at the cause of global warming — the burning of fossil fuels.

It is no coincidence that the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement — which calls for capping the rise in temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius — does not mention “fossil fuel”, “oil”, “coal” or “natural gas”.

Climate-Addled World

Last month, however, a United Nations report showed for the first time that fossil fuel production planned or in the pipeline will overwhelm efforts to hold warming to levels consistent with a liveable planet.

Negotiators are addressing a trio of politically-charged technical issues before the Paris Agreement becomes operational at the end of next year.

One is reworking rules for largely dysfunctional carbon markets.

Another is so-called “loss and damage”.

Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of “mitigation” and “adaptation”.

But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states disappearing under the waves.

“There must be a path forward that ensures vulnerable countries will see finance and capacity-building support substantially scaled-up to address the loss and damage they are already experiencing,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Even fixing a timetable for periodic reviews of carbon-cutting pledges has proven too contentious for frontline climate negotiators to resolve.

‘We Must Stop Our War Against Nature,’ Says UN Chief On Climate

“We must stop our war against nature,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday in Madrid ahead of a key climate conference, warning against the devastating impacts of global warming.

“For many decades the human species has been at war with the planet, and now the planet is fighting back,” he said, decrying the “utterly inadequate” efforts of the world’s major economies to curb carbon pollution.

“We must stop our war against nature, and science tells us we can do it.”

Can We Eat Meat And Still Tame Global Warming?

This file photo taken on July 25, 2019, shows an aerial view showing beech trees suffering from drought stress in a forest in Warburg, western Germany.  PHOTO: INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Not everyone needs to become a vegetarian, much less vegan, to keep the planet from overheating, but it would surely make things easier if they did.

That’s the ambiguous and — for many on either side of this meaty issue — unsatisfying conclusion of the most comprehensive report ever compiled on the link between climate change and how we feed ourselves, released Thursday by the United Nations.

The core findings are crystal clear: climate change is threatening the world’s food supply, even as the way we produce food fuels global warming.

Rising temperatures in tropical zones are starting to shrink yields, displace staple crops, and sap essential nutrients from food plants.

At the same time, the global food system — from farm to food court — accounts for at least a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

With two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century, it cannot simply be scaled up without pushing Earth’s thermometer deep into the red zone, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report”.

More than a quarter of today’s food-related emissions come from cattle and sheep.

“Today’s IPCC report identifies the enormous impact that our dietary choices have on the environment,” commented Alan Dangour, nutrition and global health expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“It is clear that reducing the demand for meat in diets is an important approach to lowering the environmental impact of the food system.”

Double climate threat

The livestock industry is a double climate threat: it replaces CO2-absorbing forests — notably in sub-tropical Brazil — with land for grazing and soy crops for cattle feed. The animals also belch huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

On average, beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gases per unit of edible protein than basic plant proteins, notes the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based policy think tank.

For all these reasons, the IPCC concludes, gravitating towards “balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods” would hugely help the climate change cause.

This may sound like a ringing endorsement of vegetarianism, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the world must, or should, eschew meat altogether, the IPCC said.

Besides “coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,” that “balanced diet” also includes “animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse gas emission systems,” the report concluded.

There are likely several reasons the 100-plus authors stopped short of calling for a ban on carbon-intensive red meat.

To begin with, calling for anything is not part of their brief.

“The IPCC does not recommend people’s diets,” co-chair Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, tweeted in reaction to misleading media stories.

‘Reference diet’

“What we’ve pointed out on the basis of scientific evidence is that there are certain diets that have a lower carbon footprint.”

Observers privy to the week-long meeting, which vets the report summary line-by-line, also note that some scientific findings align better than others with the interests of beef-producing nations.

IPCC reports are based entirely on published, peer-reviewed research, and this one included thousands of data points.

But the final step in a years-long process is approval by diplomats who tussle over how key passages are formulated, including what gets left in or out.

Another compelling reason not to espouse a purely plant-based diet is that billions of poor people around the world depend on fish, and to a lesser extent meat, for protein and nutrients that may not be readily available elsewhere.

“More than 800 million people have insufficient food,” noted Harvard University’s Walter Willett, co-commissioner of a landmark study earlier this year in The Lancet proposing a “reference diet” for optimal health that is long on veggies, legumes and nuts, and short on meat, dairy and sugar.

That diet, The Lancet study found, could feed a world of 10 billion people in 2050 — but only barely.

“We are suggesting a more balanced diet that has roughly 100 grammes per person per week of red meat — a single serving once a week rather than ever day,” co-author Johan Rockstrom, former director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impacts, told AFP.

Meat consumption has levelled off in rich nations, where fast food chains — including Burger King, McDonald’s, and this week Subway — are rushing to offer faux meat alternatives.

But globally, consumption of all four major meats — beef, pork, chicken and lamb — are projected to rise slightly over the next five year, according to industry analysts.

AFP

Global Warming: World’s Oceans Heating Up At Increased Rate – Study

 

The world’s oceans are heating up at an accelerating pace as global warming threatens a diverse range of marine life and a major food supply for the planet, researchers said.

The findings in the US journal Science, led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, debunk previous reports that suggested a so-called pause in global warming in recent years.

The latest technology shows no such hiatus ever existed, raising new concerns about the pace of climate change and its effect on the planet’s main buffer – the oceans.

“Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought,” said co-author Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

About 93 per cent of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels — accumulates in the world’s oceans.

The latest report relied on four studies, published between 2014 and 2017, that gave more precise estimates of past trends in ocean heat, allowing scientists to update past research and hone predictions for the future.

Floating robots

A key factor in the more accurate numbers is an ocean monitoring fleet called Argo, which includes nearly 4,000 floating robots that “drift throughout the world’s oceans, every few days diving to a depth of 2,000 meters (yards) and measuring the ocean’s temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information as they rise back up,” said the report.

Argo “has provided consistent and widespread data on ocean heat content since the mid-2000s,” it said.

The new analysis shows warming in the oceans is on pace with measurements of rising air temperature.

And if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases, “models predict that the temperature of the top 2,000 meters of the world’s oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” it said.

The thermal expansion — water swelling as it warms — would raise sea level 12 inches (30 centimetres), above any sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets.

“While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that,” Hausfather said.

“The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface.”

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, told The New York Times. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

Laure Zanna, an associate professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford and who was not involved in the study, told the Times the new research was “a very nice summary of what we know of the ocean and how far the new estimates have come together.”

“We are warming the planet but the ocean is not warming evenly, so different places warm more than others,” Zanna said, according to the paper. “And so the first consequence will be that sea level will be different in different places depending on the warming.”

Global Warming Will Make Insects Hungrier, Eating Up Key Crops – Study

File photo.

 

 

Researchers have found a new way that global warming is bad for the planet: more hungry bugs.

Rising temperatures will stimulate insects’ appetites — and make some prone to reproducing more quickly — spelling danger for key staples like wheat, corn and rice which feed billions of people, researchers said Thursday.

And since these three crops account for 42 per cent of the calories people eat worldwide, any uptick in scarcity could give rise to food insecurity and conflict, particularly in poorer parts of the globe.

“When it gets warmer, pest metabolism increases,” said Scott Merrill, a researcher at the University of Vermont and co-author of the study in the journal Science.

“And when pest metabolism increases, insect pests eat more food, which is not good for crops.”

Prior studies have already warned of climate change’s harmful effects on food staples, whether by making water scarce for irrigation or sapping nutritious content from cereal grains.

The latest study adds to that body of research by focusing on the boosted appetites of pests like aphids and borers.

To find out just how bad it could get, researchers ran simulations to track temperature-driven changes in metabolism and growth rates for 38 insect species from different latitudes.

Results varied by region, with cooler zones more likely to see a boost in voracious pests, and tropical areas expected to see some relief.

Overall, “global yield losses of these grains are projected to increase by 10 to 25 per cent per degree of global mean surface warming,” said the report.

“In France or the northern United States, most of those insects will have a faster population growth if the temperature warms up a bit,” lead author Curtis Deutsch told AFP.

“In Brazil or Vietnam or a very warm place, then it might be the opposite,” said Deutsch, a researcher at the University of Washington.

France stands to lose about 9.4 per cent of its maize to pests in a world that is 2 C warmer, compared to about 6.6 per cent of yield losses today due to pests.

In Europe, currently the most productive wheat producing region in the world, annual pest-induced yield losses could reach 16 million tons.

Eleven European countries are predicted to see 75 per cent or higher losses in wheat from pests, compared to current pest damage.

In the United States, the world’s largest maize producer, insect-induced maize losses could rise 40 per cent under current climate warming trajectories, meaning 20 fewer tons of maize per year.

China, home to one-third of the world’s rice production, could see losses of 27 million tons annually.

The study did not account for any anticipated increase in pesticide use or other methods of stemming the expected crop loss.

‘Insane’ aphid population

Consider the case of a particularly dangerous pest, the Russian wheat aphid.

Though tiny, these bugs are a major threat in North America, where they are considered an invasive species after first being detected in the 1980s.

Merrill said no aphid males have been found in Canada or the United States. The females, it seems, are reproducing clonally, essentially “giving birth to live clones of themselves,” he told AFP.

“These insects are born alive. They are born pregnant. Not only that, their granddaughters are developing inside them when they are born. It is crazy,” he added.

“They can reproduce under ideal temperatures very quickly,” on the order of eight daughters a day.

“You can imagine how quicky a very small population, even one aphid, can just explode over a whole field season. One or two aphids could turn into a trillion under ideal conditions. It is insane how quickly these populations could grow.”

Until now, most research on crop effects from global warming has focused on the plants themselves.

But researchers hope their findings will spark a hunt for more local solutions, like selecting heat and pest resistant crops and rotating plantings rather than simply dumping more pesticides into the environment.

“We have to start thinking about how are we going to short-circuit some of those things before they actually happen,” Merrill said.

Pope Urges Oil Majors To Combat Global Warming

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 2, 2018. PHOTO: VINCENZO PINTO / AFP

 

Pope Francis asked Saturday that major oil and gas companies respect the 2015 Paris climate agreement to help protect the poor from global warming.

The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 by 196 nations resolving to limit warming to no more than two degrees centigrade.

In a meeting with industry executives at the Vatican, the Pope said it was “disturbing” that two-and-a-half years after the deal was struck, carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gas levels “remain very high”.

“Yet even more worrying is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground,” Francis told the Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home conference.

“Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation!”

The pope met officials from major oil and gas firms such as ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s state oil company Equinor.

He has long considered climate change as one of the key themes of his papacy. In 2015, his second encyclical was dedicated to the issue, describing it as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day”.

Francis implored the industry to halt prospection as climate change will have a disproportionate impact on the poor.

“The effects of climate change are not evenly distributed. It is the poor who suffer most from the ravages of global warming, with increasing disruption in the agricultural sector, water insecurity, and exposure to severe weather events,” he said.

“Many of those who can least afford it are already being forced to leave their homes and migrate to other places that may or may not prove welcoming.”

However, with US president Donald Trump announcing America’s exit from the Paris deal, ExxonMobil has announced plans to increase oil production in the US and start dozens of projects around the world.

An estimated one billion people have no access to electricity, and the US Energy Information Administration says energy demand is set to rise 28 per cent between 2015 and 2040.

AFP

Global Warming May Have ‘Devastating’ Effects On Rice – Study

 

As carbon dioxide rises due to the burning of fossil fuels, rice will lose some of its protein and vitamin content, putting millions of people at risk of malnutrition, scientists warned on Wednesday.

The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances.

“We are showing that global warming, climate change and particularly greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide — can have an impact on the nutrient content of plants we eat,” said co-author Adam Drewnowski, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington.

“This can have devastating effects on the rice-consuming countries where about 70 percent of the calories and most of the nutrients come from rice.”

Protein and vitamin deficiencies can lead to growth-stunting, birth defects, diarrhea, infections and early death.

Countries at most risk include those that consume the most rice and have the lowest gross domestic product (GDP), such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Drewnowksi said.

The findings were based on field studies in Japan and China, simulating the amount of CO2 expected in the atmosphere by the second half of this century — 568 to 590 parts per million. Current levels are just over 400 ppm.

For the experiments, 18 different strains of rice were planted in open fields, surrounded in certain areas by 56-foot wide (17-meter) octagons of plastic piping that released extra CO2.

According to study co-author Kazuhiko Kobayashi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, the experiment is designed to be more accurate than growing in a greenhouse.

“This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century,” said Kobayashi.

– Vitamins cut –

Researchers found that iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 — which help the body convert food to energy — were all reduced in the rice grown under higher CO2 conditions.

“Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1 percent; average Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) by 16.6 percent; average Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) by 12.7 percent; and average Vitamin B9 (folate) by 30.3 percent,” said the report.

On average, protein content fell 10.3 percent, iron dropped eight percent and zinc was reduced by 5.1 percent, compared to rice grown today under current CO2 conditions.

Vitamin B6 and calcium were unaffected, and vitamin E levels rose for most strains.

The reasons for the changes have to do with how higher CO2 affects the plant’s structure and growth, increasing carbohydrate content and reducing protein and minerals, said the study.

Higher CO2 means less exposure to nitrogen, which also may affect vitamin content, researchers said.

Not all rice varieties saw the same drops in nutritional value, raising hope that future research could help farmers develop strains of rice that would be more resilient to atmospheric changes.

A separate study out last year by researchers at Harvard University found that global warming would cut protein in a number of key staples, including rice, wheat, barley and potatoes.

The result: an additional 150 million people globally may be at risk of protein deficiency by 2050.

Warming Arctic Is ‘New Normal’ Will Affect Us All – Report

A rapidly warming Arctic, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the rest of the planet, is the “new normal,” and the melting ice is triggering environmental changes that will affect the whole world, warned a global scientific report Tuesday.

The Arctic is going through “an unprecedented transition in human history,” that will accelerate sea level rise and boost the frequency of extreme weather events, said the Arctic Report Card, released annually by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The region around the north pole “shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago,” it said.

Last year, winter sea ice fell to the smallest extent on record, and air temperatures reached the second warmest in modern times, said the peer-reviewed report compiled by 85 scientists from 12 nations.

Fewer heat records were shattered last year, compared to 2016. But in context, the trend was clear.

“The magnitude and pace of the 21st century sea ice and surface ocean warming decline is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and likely much longer,” said the report.

“There are many strong signals that continue to indicate the Arctic environmental system has reached a ‘new normal.'”
‘Refrigerator of planet’

The consequences of this continued warming are dire, according to co-author Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program.
“The changes that are happening in the Arctic will not stay in the Arctic,” he told the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, where the report was released.

“These changes will impact all of our lives. They will mean living with more extreme weather events, paying higher food prices and dealing with the impacts of climate refugees.”

The warming is already harming valuable fisheries in the eastern Bering Sea, compromising roads, homes and infrastructure due to permafrost thaw and risking increasing wildfires at high altitudes, said the report.

“The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator of the planet,” explained Mathis.

“But the door to that refrigerator has been left open and the cold is spilling out, cascading throughout the northern hemisphere.”

– Extreme weather –

Scientists say the two most pressing problems are the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the warming of Arctic air and water.

“Greenland ice sheet melting has the potential to trigger catastrophic sea level rise, while the overall warming that is occurring in the Arctic can disrupt the jet stream, which drives our weather patterns and contributes to extreme weather events,” said Mathis.

Unusual cold snaps, drought in the western US, and storms along the Gulf Coast could all be influenced by Arctic sea ice melting, he said.

“We are seeing from model results and now from some limited observations that there are some connections between the warming and the loss of sea ice in the Arctic and the propagation of extreme weather events that we are having across North America,’ he told the conference.

While much more research is needed to fully understand how the Arctic is influencing weather globally, Mathis said “we are fairly confident now that something is going on in the Arctic.”

“The warming that is occurring and the loss of sea ice that is occurring are creating conditions where more extreme weather events are beginning to show up in North America because of that.”

The Arctic Report Card is now in its 12th year, and is the first to be issued since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who has vowed to quit the 2015 Paris climate deal and has described global warming as a Chinese hoax.

NOAA’s acting administrator Tim Gallaudet was asked at a press conference if the American public should have confidence in the US government’s actions to fight climate change.

“The public — citing the State of the Arctic Report Card as an example — should have high confidence in us, NOAA and the administration, because we are continuing to report on changes around the planet and in the Arctic to better inform the public and the government,” he answered.

Offsetting Trump, Macron Moves To ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’

 

French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Nicolas Hulot addresses Climate Finance Day at The Economy Ministry in Paris on December 11, 2017, on the eve of The Climate World Summit. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Moving to fill a climate science gap in Donald Trump’s America, French President Emmanuel Macron named 13 US researchers Monday to be hosted and sponsored by France to help “Make Our Planet Great Again”.

They were among 18 beneficiaries of a Macron-led initiative to boost climate change research in the face of Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement to limit climate change.

“I do want to thank you for being here, for your answer to this first call, your decision to move and come to Paris,” the French leader told the chosen few at an event dubbed: “Tech for Planet” held on the eve of his “One Planet Summit”.

“One of our main perspectives is obviously to address the current challenges of climate change,” he said, but also “to boost your research, to boost your initiatives, and to be sure that here you have help in order to deliver more rapidly and to do more.”

Macron has earmarked 30 million euros ($35 million) for his “Make our Planet Great Again” initiative — a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Macron made the offer after Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax”, announced in June the United States would withdraw from the Paris pact, painstakingly negotiated by nearly 200 nations over more than two decades.

The US is the only country to reject the agreement.

Furthermore, Trump has asked Congress to slash the climate research budgets of federal agencies, threatening billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Macron’s 30-million-euro pledge has since been matched by French universities and institutions, enough to pay for five-year postings for 50 scientists. More beneficiaries will be chosen later.

Junior researchers will be alloted up to one million euros over four years, covering their salaries, two doctoral students, and expenses.

Senior researchers will each have a 1.5-million-euro budget that provides for two assistants and two students. Spouses will be given French work permits.

$100 billion

“Make Our Planet Great Again is an unexpected opportunity,” Alessandra Giannini, a researcher at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, one of the 18 recipients, told AFP.

For fellow beneficiary Nuria Teixido of Stanford University, the initiative was an important recognition “that science plays an important role” in confronting the problem of climate change.

Tuesday’s summit will gather leaders including UN chief Antonio Guterres, Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto, Theresa May of Britain, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to talk about climate finance.

It follows just weeks after the 23rd annual Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention, which was held in Bonn.

The US president’s rejection of the Paris pact threw a long shadow over the talks in Germany, where officials from Washington defended the use of fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

Trump was not invited to the latest talks, and Washington will be represented by an embassy official.

The gathering will look at sources of finance, public and private, to help countries make the costly shift to cleaner energy sources and to raise their defences against climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, harsher droughts, floods and superstorms, and disease spread.

Rich nations have pledged to muster $100 billion in climate finance for developing nations per year from 2020.

On 2015 trends, total public financing would reach about $67 billion by that date, according to a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Trump has said the United States — which had pledged $3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund, of which it delivered $1 billion under Barack Obama — would not fulfil its climate finance commitments.

On Monday, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said “a practical path forward for finance is needed” if climate change is to be braked.

Political agreements “will not be enough if we do not update and reset the global finance architecture and make all developement low-emission, resilient and sustainable,” she said.

AFP

Global Warming Outpacing Current Forecasts – Study

The ruins of a house smolder at night during the Creek Fire on December 5, 2017, in Sunland, California    Photo: David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

The United Nations’ forecast for global warming is about 15 percent too low, which means that end-of-century temperatures could be 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than currently predicted, according to a study released Wednesday.

This sobering verdict renders the already daunting challenge of capping global warming at “well under” 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — the cornerstone goal of the 196-nation Paris Agreement — all the more difficult, the authors say.

“Our results suggest that achieving any given global temperature stabilisation target will require steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than previously calculated,” they wrote.

A half-degree increase on the thermometer could translate into devastating consequences.

With only a single degree Celsius of global warming so far, the planet has already seen a crescendo of deadly droughts, heatwaves and superstorms engorged by rising seas.

Handout picture released by Chile’s National Forest Corporation (CONAF) showing the Grey Glacier detachment in the Torres del Paine National Park in Punta Arenas, Chile, on November 28, 2017.
HO / CONAF / AFP

 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides the scientific foundation for global climate policy, projects an increase in the earth’s average surface temperature of about 4.5 Celsius by 2100 if carbon pollution continues unabated.

But there is a very large range of uncertainty — 3.2 to 5.9 degrees Celsius — around that figure, reflecting different assumptions and methods in the dozens of climate models the IPCC takes into account.

– Good science, bad news –

“The primary goal of our study was to narrow this range of uncertainty, and to assess whether the upper or lower end is more likely,” lead author Patrick Brown, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University in California, told AFP.

By factoring in decades of satellite observations which track how much sunlight gets bounced back into space, the study showed that the more alarming projections are clearly aligned with that data and the warming that has been measured so far.

“Our findings eliminate the lower end of this range,” Brown said.

“The most likely warming is about 0.5 C greater than what the raw model results suggest.”

One scientist not involved in the research described it as a “step-change advance” in the understanding of how hot our planet is likely to become.

“We are now more certain about the future climate,” said William Collins, a professor of meteorology at the University of Reading.

“But the bad news is that it will be warmer than we thought.”

The study, published in the journal Nature, not only narrows the temperature, but reduces the degree of uncertainty as well.

“If emissions follow a commonly used ‘business as usual’ scenario, there is a 93 percent chance that global warming will exceed four degrees Celsius by century’s end,” said co-author Ken Caldeira, also from Stanford.

Up to now, there was barely more than a coin-toss certainty that the earth would breach the 4 C barrier by 2100 under that scenario.

AFP

Climate Activists Protest, Ask Governments To Shut Coal Power Plants

Demonstrators take part in a so-called Climate March against fossil-based energy like coal on November 4, 2017, in Bonn, western Germany. / AFP PHOTO / SASCHA SCHUERMANN

Thousands of demonstrators converged on Bonn Saturday ahead of UN climate negotiations demanding that governments step up action to halt global warming, starting with a rapid phase-out of coal-burning power plants.

Decked out in red to signify their “Stop Coal” campaign, the protesters chanted slogans and beat drums as they snaked through the former West Germany capital toward the UN centre that will host the 12-day, 196-nation talks, tasked with implementing the landmark Paris Agreement.

Police did not estimate crowd size, but noted that organizers put the figure at more than 20,000.

Inked outside the French capital in 2015, the world’s only climate treaty calls for capping global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.

Earth has already warmed by 1 C compared to pre-industrial levels.

“The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are under threat, entire island states are in danger of disappearing from rising sea-levels,” a coalition of more than 100 civil society groups said in a statement ahead of the march.

“Tackling climate change means a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, including the burning of coal.”

Coal accounts for roughly a third of global energy consumption, and powers 40 percent of all electricity — twice as much as the next energy source, natural gas.

Compared to gas and oil, coal produces more carbon pollution per unit of energy, making it the “dirtiest” of the fossil fuels.

Coal demand has slowed, especially in the United States where the natural gas fracking boom has undercut its market share.

But globally, demand is projected to expand until at least 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

That growth seriously threatens the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, UN and energy experts say.

– ‘We have to try’ –

If the world’s nearly 7,000 coal-fired power plants — with a combined capacity of nearly 2,000 Gigawatts — operate to the end of their lifetimes, it will add the equivalent of five years’ of global CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, the UN’s environment agency noted in a report last week.

Another 850 GW of coal capacity is either under construction or in the pipeline, mostly in India, China, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian countries.

Under pressure, the coal industry is banking on so-called clean coal technologies, especially one known as “carbon capture and storage,” or CCS, that isolates CO2 as energy is being produced and socks it away underground.

So far, despite decades of development, CCS has failed to materialise at scale. But proponents are hopeful that US President Donald Trump — a “clean coal” booster — will speed its deployment.

“It is very encouraging to hear a president talk positively about the role of cleaner coal technology,” Benjamin Sporton, CEO of the World Coal Association, based in London, told AFP earlier this year.

Solar and wind energy — while growing rapidly — still only account for a tiny sliver of global energy production.

According to a study published last week in Environmental Research Letters, holding sea level rise to 50 centimetres (20 inches) by 2100 would become nearly impossible if coal-fired energy is not phased out by mid-century.

“If emissions continue unchecked, oceans could rise by around 130 cm in 2100” — nearly double the maximum forecast in the UN climate science panel’s benchmark report, co-author Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told AFP.

For small island nations, and those with densely populated low-lying deltas such as Bangladesh, sea level rise on that scale would be catastrophic, experts say.

That is the hard-to-ignore message that Fiji, presiding this year over the annual climate summit, intends to drive home at every opportunity.

“We can count on Fiji to apply pressure on the major emitting countries in a way they will feel it,” Laurence Tubiana, director of the European Climate Foundation and one of the main architects of the Paris Agreement as France’s Climate Ambassador, told AFP.

“It is the only thing we can do,” said Sabine from nearby Cologne, when asked why she and her two daughters, 16 and 8, had joined the protest.

“I don’t know if it will change anything, but we have to try.”

AFP

Humans Contribute To Global Warming Says U.S. Environmental Agency Chief

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, on Friday, said that he believes human activity plays a role in global warming, but measuring that contribution with precision is difficult.

Speaking to reporters at the White House a day after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, Pruitt declined to directly answer questions about whether the President still believed global warming was a hoax, as he had said during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Pruitt said he had indicated that global warming is occurring, and that “human activity contributes to it in some manner.

“Measuring with precision, from my perspective, the degree of human contribution is very challenging,” he added.