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  1. Everybody knows that California is one of the biggest producers of agricultural products in North America. In fact, despite having been in a drought situation for five years in a row, the agriculture industry generated record revenues in 2014, and employments levels reached a record high. But that’s short-term stuff. Experts and concerned voices of the general public have been asking what are the long-term effects of such a long drought? Despite the crisis having been officially declared at an end on April 7th, the legacy of California’s water crisis can already be felt across industries, from the agricultural sector to the state’s symbolic golf courses, as well as in both urban and rural areas. As a result, water conservation practices continue to play an important role in the state, as there is no doubt that there will be more droughts in store. It’s just a matter of when. Drought agriculture Despite the drought being declared “over”, the state’s ecological and economic future continue to remain at risk. Sustainability is a particular issue at hand. Record agricultural revenues and employment records invariably come at a cost when a region happens to be suffering from long-term drought. If the state has fared relatively well thus far, it is only because farmers have resorted to pumping up astounding amounts of groundwater – a practice that most certainly has a deadline drawn by Mother Nature. Pumping groundwater has already caused visible effects across the state. Rural areas in particular have been hit hard as households that are dependent on wells have been left without water. Meanwhile, parts of the state have begun to sink at increasingly rapid rates from over pumping. Up to 18 native fish species and water-bird populations are also at risk of total extinction or decline. All in all, it is clear that the agricultural sector’s attempt to thrive despite a drought has wreaked havoc on the environment. Unfortunately, a lack of data makes it difficult to propose regulations that could deal with disastrous over-pumping. Though the latest drought is technically over, if harmful watering practices continue, there may not even be a habitable California in the future for there to be a legacy left behind at all. A culture of conservation The frequency and duration of California’s droughts has led to the development of a culture of conservation in recent years. Regulations developed since the last disastrous drought have resulted in water conservation practices becoming the default behaviour of many Californians. Studies have conducted in order to identify how much energy is saved as a result of water conservation practices, in addition to evaluating the impact of conservation culture on municipal water treatment plant operations. This water conservation culture is extremely important given that rural and urban areas are often at risk of destruction due to wildfires. A disproportionately large number of wildfires have occurred in California over the drought years, permanently damaging the ecosystem and destroying lives in the process. As such, conservation strategies also involve advocating for better forest management practices, which could potentially save lives and the ecosystem with proper execution. This includes both suppressing existing fires and preparing for potential fires in the off-season. That said, recent cuts to the Department of the Interior amount to $1.5 billion. Vaguely worded promises to responsibly budget the wildfire suppression program make it difficult to say just how this already underfunded initiative will be able to contribute to safeguarding California in a meaningful manner in the years to come. Golfing goes green The negative effect of droughts on California’s legacy can also be seen on the state’s iconic golfing greens. While dead grass is perhaps less important than a raging wildfire, the fact remains that golf courses have been an important part of the state’s identity. Continued droughts could do lasting harm to this particular aspect of Californian culture. With Californian golf courses using close to 300 million gallons of water a year, there is no question as to why Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive 25 percent water reduction order across the state, with special attention given to golf courses. However, up to three-quarters of the state’s golf courses have been using high-tech, responsive sprinklers that are water-efficient for many years. Another one-third of golf courses are watered specifically only using reclaimed, non-potable water. Unfortunately, a certain number of regions have been lackluster in their efforts to champion conservation culture. Some regions have implemented far more aggressive water-reduction measures than others, meaning that conservation efforts vary from golf course to golf course and that the burden is not shared equally. Ultimately, golf greens will matter very little to California if the state continues to suffer from serious long-term droughts as it has over the past five years. No amount of water reduction orders or last-ditch efforts to pump out groundwater will be able to save the region if widespread agricultural practices don’t change and conservation efforts aren’t stepped up a notch. An increase in wildfires during drought periods will also continue to pose another major risk to Californian homes and businesses. It remains to be seen how President Trump’s new budgets will affect the current state of affairs – and just what will become of California’s legacy.
  2. Check out this infographic that shows the impact of climate change on public health. Click here to see a larger version!
  3. In just 15 years the world could suffer a catastrophic global water crisis, the United Nations (UN) warn in its annual World Water Development Report. The UN report forecasts that global water demand will increase by 55 percent by 2050. If current trends of water usage continues the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water supply as early as by 2030 – which could potentially have catastrophic consequences. Groundwater supplies are quickly diminishing and the report estimates that 20 percent of the world’s aquifers are currently over-exploited. There is an urgent need to manage water more sustainably, the UN report concludes. If we fail to do this, the competition for water will increase and lead to “significant impacts” on both the economy and human well-being. It will also increase the risk of conflicts, the UN report warns. Safe drinking water supplies will continue to dwindle as long as water pollution continues to be ignored and go unpunished by local authorities, and water use remains wasteful and unregulated, as it unfortunately does in many nations, the UN says in its report. In order to mitigate this water crisis, the UN is urging politicians, communities and industries to rethink its water policies and to make a greater effort to conserve water. The 55 percent increase in water demand is mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use. But due to increasing population numbers and consumption levels, agriculture will also need to substantially increase its food productions to keep up with demand – and this will in turn increase water usage. “By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60 percent more food globally, and 100 percent more in developing countries […] global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050, leading all other sectors, with the bulk of this increase occurring in emerging economies and developing countries,” the UN report said. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit.” Considering that current demands for water in the agriculture sector is already unsustainable, this will be a difficult task. The agriculture sector must increase its water use efficiency by reducing water losses in the production process, and to “increase crop productivity with respect to water” availability and demand, the report says. The UN report also points to two worrying global trends that are converging: climate change and growing economic development in poor developing countries. This convergence will especially “intensify the water insecurity of poor and marginalized people in low income countries.” “Water resources are a key element in policies to combat poverty, but are sometimes themselves threatened by development,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. “Water directly influences our future, so we need to change the way we assess, manage and use this resource in the face of ever-rising demand and the over exploitation of our groundwater reserves.”
  4. After Shell proved, through blunders and its infamous reputation, that it is not fit to drill in the Arctic, Aug. 17 brought news that the Obama administration had granted them approval to do just that. The troubling development came just days after President Obama announced he would visit Alaska to discuss the impact of climate change on the region. Now, as the oil corporation further destroys the already-disrupted Arctic sea ice, the problem of global warming can only grow worse. The move is especially bewildering for many, as the president has declared Alaska to be "the frontlines of our fight against climate change." For a place of such importance, it hardly seems like an opportune time for the administration to greenlight a venture that will wreak environmental havoc, but that is what has come to pass. Even so, the approval has not gone unnoticed by activists. Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Marissa Knodel said, "When Obama visits the Arctic this month, he must face the communities he is sacrificing to Shell's profits." Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard added, "The president cannot have it both ways. Announcing a tour of Alaska to highlight climate change days before giving Shell the final approval to drill is deeply hypocritical." In an official report, however, Greenpeace seemed to suggest that the brunt of the blame does not lie with Obama, but rather, with the greed-driven company that seeks to ravage the Arctic. They noted that the president "has used his executive power to show climate leadership before. Earlier this year, he vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline in response to a nationwide public outcry, demanding the U.S. no longer champion policies and projects that accelerate climate change. "The world is watching Shell right now. [They have] a history of ineffective equipment. In 2012, one of Shell's Arctic rigs ran aground and became stuck in Dutch Harbor. The technology does not exist to effectively clean up an oil spill in the icy and unpredictable waters. This is a disaster waiting to happen." The imbalanced and contradictory approach the Obama administration seems to be taking in regard to environmental matters is confusing. That has grown more so with today's news that the EPA, which was responsible for the recent mishap resulting in a large mine waste spill, has proposed new regulations aimed at cutting methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent (from 2012 levels) over the next ten years. The rules would apply to new or modified sources of oil and natural gas and require energy companies to find and fix leaks and take careful steps to limit emissions. And yet, experts seem to point out that this is not quite cause for celebration. Up in the Arctic, when Shell starts breaking up ice in its exploration for oil, more methane will be released into the atmosphere - enough, perhaps, to render the curbing of emissions from other manmade activities a moot point. Merritt Turetsky, a biology professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario, remarked, "Permafrost carbon feedback is one of the important and likely consequences of climate change, and it is certain to trigger additional warming. Even if we ceased all human emissions, ice would continue to thaw and release carbon into the atmosphere." Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said, "Granting Shell the permit to drill in the Arctic was the wrong decision, and the fight is far from over. The people will continue to call on President Obama to protect the Arctic and our environment." And the opposition to Shell's drilling is composed of more than just environmental activists. Hillary Clinton released a statement on the matter in the form of a tweet, saying, "The Arctic is a unique treasure. Given what we know, it's not worth the risk of drilling." Brune added, "She's exactly right. Everything we know about dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic indicates it imperils a national treasure and is guaranteed to make our climate crisis worse. Allowing Shell to use unproven technology in the Arctic is a recipe for disaster and toxic to any climate action legacy."
  5. Australian attitudes towards climate change have been shifting considerably over the past few years. While many Australian’s don’t believe in climate change, more do. The majority also believe the Australian government should be doing more to address climate change on a global scale. An Ongoing Disagreement as to the Cause of Climate Change According to CSIRO’s 2014 annual survey of Australian attitudes to climate change, a strong majority of Australian’s believe that climate change is happening and support a variety of initiatives to address the potential impacts. However, the study concluded that there was an ongoing disagreement as to whether the cause of climate change are natural fluctuations or are the consequences of human activity. The CSIRO survey also found a pattern of ‘optimism bias’ – the belief that one is less likely than others to experience something negative. Many Australian’s believed that they would be least harmed by climate change while those most unlike themselves (those in poor, developing nations and people in the world generally) were more likely to be harmed. Contracted by the Garnaut Climate Change Review team, the CSIRO reviewed a number of recent studies examining Australians’ views of climate change. A total of 22 studies were reviewed and analysed. From this existing research it was concluded that most Australians believe that climate is changing, but fewer believe that the change is attributable to human activity. This belief in climate change and its drivers has waned during the last few years, reflecting trends in other Western countries. Beliefs about climate change are strongly related to political preferences, voting behaviours and gender, while no clear relationships between these beliefs and location, income or age have been shown. Australia Needs to Take Action on Climate Change While there was no clear consensus on what policy actions Australians prefer, such as setting a carbon price or establishing an emissions trading scheme, the study did conclude that most Australians believe that Australia should take action on climate change without waiting for a global consensus. A recent ReachTEL survey of 2400 people concluded the same. Conducted for a coalition of environmental groups, 64 per cent of respondents stated that they were more likely to vote for a party seeking 100 per cent renewable energy in 20 years. 48 per cent of respondents also said they were more likely to support a party reducing Australia’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The survey concluded that 56.4 per cent of Australians want the government to do more to address climate change. 27.8 per cent believed the current policies were correct and only 9.9 per cent wanted less action on climate change. Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world. If every person in the world produced the same green house gas levels as each Australian, the world would produce approximately 560% more green house gas emissions. To combat this, Australian’s need to do more to lower their own personal carbon footprints, while continuing to push their government for a tougher stance on climate change.
  6. The federal government is putting a lot of pressure on today’s automakers to produce fuel-saving vehicles. Modern innovations such as cylinder deactivation technology are now being used on a regular basis. Here are five reasons why we need more energy efficient vehicles. Reduce Pollution Environmental pollution is the top reason why fuel use needs to be minimized. Research shows that automobiles can certainly taint the air. In heavily populated metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and New York, up to 90 percent of air pollution comes from vehicle emissions. Meanwhile, China’s thick smog can actually be seen from outer space. As a result of burning gasoline and diesel, the ozone layer has become depleted. Helps the Economy It is no secret that fuel can be a major expense. Keep in mind that the average driver travels more than 13,000 miles a year. If you commute on a daily basis, you understand the value of reducing fuel consumption. Cities also spend a lot of tax money on refueling public transport vehicles. By purchasing less fuel, governments will have more money to spend on other things. Less Dependence on Crude Oil The overwhelming majority of the crude oil reserves are located in the Middle East. This means that countries such as the United States must import oil. To reduce petroleum use, the U.S. government wants the average car to return at least 45 mpg. By using engine dynamometers, automakers can fine-tune a vehicle’s efficiency without compromising any performance. Companies like Power Test Inc. also design dynamometers to handle large engines. Trucking companies will be able to dramatically improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet. Prevent Climate Change Climate change is a subject that a lot of people tend to overlook. According to scientists, the amount of greenhouse gases released by vehicles has a direct influence on global climate change. Powerful hurricanes and tsunamis have been linked to the changing climate. The advancement of hybrid and electric vehicles can certainly help us to overcome this problem. Ability to Travel without Breaking the Bank A lot of Americans love to take road trips. However, the cost of fuel can put a major dent in a person’s budget. When more fuel-efficient vehicles start to hit the market, drivers will be able to travel more often. They can visit their family and friends for a far cheaper cost. Engineers are working hard to improve fuel efficiency. Hopefully, we will see big improvements in the near future.
  7. Trading The Environment

    The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was a rousing success in Paris this year… for people in international trade. There is some hopeful talk as well as some fluff published by the United Nations left to show that no one really cares about the environment. The motto was “eat, think, save.” People get carried away with the spirit the event is supposed to create that it becomes harder to even consider what such catchphrases mean. Recyclable cups were championed? Sure, the concept sounds noble to get people to return and reuse them for a credit. For a conference with a theme of cutting down greenhouse gasses, how about just not supporting the idea of plastic materials at all? How about people bring their own ceramic mugs and reuse those? And not do it because there is some financial incentive, but because the collective effort of the world promotes conservation? All the food was “rescued.” That’s a pretty ambiguous statement. I can only assume they didn't go dumpster diving for the food, but was the food purchased from a nearby farm that has no distribution network because they’ve been priced out by corporate agriculture? The fluff piece gives no insight into what the rescued food even means, what it was or how that helps the overall cause. There was certainly no mention of it being locally sourced or anything like that. Then there is the promotion of “eco-cars.” Instead of dressing up the emperor, how about just encouraging people to not drive? Electric cars still have moving parts, which need grease and oil to operate. They may help with emission standards, but to how much of a degree? Until more people start getting rid of their cars, getting exercise and considering real alternatives, there will be little to no improvement to the earth or humanity. The article closes with an admission that maybe the conference should have discussed bigger and better things like heating and air conditioning. Nice that someone was willing to note that. Better luck next year, Morocco! To keep it all abstract seems exactly how the world’s richest nations want things to be, something that looks good yet accomplishes nothing in the way of progress. On the heels of the climate conference, the United States is all in trying to push through a trade agreement to do away with just about any environmental effort that stands in the way. Meanwhile, the Japanese Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that the environment comes second to economy. Sketchy dealings to push through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership send multinational efforts toward complete corporate control. European health markets “reduced safety and backdoor privatization” is the reality people are grappling with. Governments that don’t care about the health of a person certainly aren’t very likely to care about the health of the earth. International trade is a barrier to environmental efforts as Matt Carthy from Sinn Fein was quoted, the Paris talks just echoed that governments “must not allow any countries to limit trade and investment opportunities for European corporations seeking to penetrate new markets around the world.” Not only is international trade a barrier to local market economies, it also distinctly contradicts the feel good mission of the conference in not wanting to truck in fresh bagels every day. Priorities are obviously skewed. Until the corporate power structure changes, the environment is still hell bent on destruction. As Green Blog contributor Megan Bonetti pointed out in the wake of the climate conference, it's the "developed" countries that hold all the cards in the debate. It makes sense that the United States is at the forefront of environmental atrocities, where fifty percent of citizens don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming. As long as information is withheld and fluffy conventions take the place of meaningful dialogue and actionable steps, people will continue to believe exactly what they are supposed to believe. International trade is a barrier to environmental efforts as Matt Carthy from Sinn Fein was quoted, the Paris talks just echoed that governments “must not allow any countries to limit trade and investment opportunities for European corporations seeking to penetrate new markets around the world.” International trade is also a barrier to local market economies and distinctly a contradiction to the feel good nature of not wanting to truck in fresh bagels to the conference every day. Priorities are obviously skewed. Until the corporate power structure changes, the environment is still hell bent on destruction.
  8. Hi! I share the great article "Awareness today . . ." about the COP21 and our sense of humanity, by the Brazilian writer Paiva Netto. Check out it and leave your comments on the website I quote a short part of the article: "I present, as follows, for this 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) held in Paris, France, from November 30 to December 11, 2015, a modest contribution to the debates that the climate agenda urgently demands. For decades I have defended that the destruction of Nature is the extinction of the human race. It is evident that this is not just a simple catch phrase to grab the attention of Humanity, always in a hurry, often towards its own extermination. In general, human beings act like there is no tomorrow. For this reason, they cease to assess the future results of their actions in the present. This is worrisome, because when the devastating effects of bad sowing arrive, the situation may be irreversible or accompanied by enormous losses. Sustainability is in vogue. However, do we act according to its meaning? Problems related to natural resources increase every day. Look at how water levels in reservoirs are getting lower in several cities in the world! . . . " Keep reading: Best Regards, Gabriela.
  9. More than 146 countries covering 87% of global greenhouse gas emissions have now submitted their national pledges to tackle climate change in advance of the major climate summit in Paris. These are known as Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions. Note the language: these aren’t commitments and are only “intended”. Since collectively these INDCs would still leave us on course for nearly 3℃ warming, some way beyond the 2℃ target that the international community has settled on as a safe threshold, the hope is that they will be ratcheted up at Paris and beyond. But will countries stick to these pledges? And what happens if they don’t? Climate negotiations have a long history of countries failing to deliver on their commitments. More than 16 countries failed to meet their targets under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol up to 2012 and some major emitters like Canada simply reneged on their commitments without consequences. But the problem of getting countries to implement their commitments is certainly not unique to climate change. Indeed it is a general feature of international relations that in the absence of a global police force and with weak judicial systems, there is no overriding central authority to force states to abide by national or international law. Essentially the only sanctions available are moral pressure (stigmatising non-compliant countries, as happens over human rights), trade sanctions (used to isolate governments such as the apartheid regime in South Africa) or military sanctions (applied to various countries in the Middle East in recent years). Military sanctions are clearly not going to be applied in this case. Trade measures have been used in climate policy however, sometimes controversially, such as subsidies to solar and wind industries or so-called border tax adjustments, where countries impose a fee on products coming from markets where carbon is not regulated or taxed giving them an unfair competitive advantage. It is moral pressure that climate diplomacy really relies upon though. This has pressured the EU to adopt and maintain a leadership role, for example in setting out a more ambitious target than that adopted by many other major industrialised regions. Often, however, even that is ineffective. The pariah status that the Bush government earned for walking away from the Kyoto Protocol had only minimal effect on the US’s position at the time. A change of administration ultimately brought about a shift in policy. There have been calls in the past for more ambitious approaches to enforcing climate commitments. In 1997 Brazil proposed the establishment of a Clean Development Fund to fine countries failing to meet their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The funds generated from fines on richer (“annex 1” in UN language) countries would then have been distributed to poorer nations to meet their adaptation costs or fund local mitigation actions. The proposal was vetoed and instead turned into the Clean Development Mechanism which allows richer countries to pay poorer ones to reduce emissions on their behalf. In a cunning political move, rather than targeting tougher compliance for richer countries, the solution became to pay poorer countries to comply instead. In reality, the tools that will be used to hold governments to account for their climate commitments will be a combination of public and civil society pressure and the threat of litigation on behalf of those people affected by inaction, of which we have seen an increase in recent years. The Dutch government was subject to the first climate liability case in June 2015, but there have been earlier attempts by affected indigenous groups in the Arctic to bring cases against the US government over its lack of action on climate change. We will likely see more such cases in future. This activism will increase thanks to a growing realisation of the gains to be made from moving rapidly to a lower carbon economy in terms of jobs, competitiveness and energy security. In other words, pressure from below is likely to be the driver of change as much as, if not more than, pressure from above.
  10. 2015 will likely be the hottest year on record, according to a preliminary analysis released by the World Meteorological Organization. Worldwide temperatures are expected for the first time to reach more than 1℃ above pre-industrial temperatures. The five years from 2011-2015 will also likely be the hottest five-year period on record. Average global atmospheric CO₂ concentrations over three months also hit 400 parts per million for the first time during the southern hemisphere Autumn this year. On top of this, we are experiencing one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded. According to Dr Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, these climate milestones are both symbolic and highly significant. “One degree is half way to the 2 degree guardrail of warming that the global community is aiming for in terms of future climate change,” Dr Braganza said. “400 parts per million of CO₂ in the atmosphere is a composition that the climate system has not likely seen in probably the past 2.5 million years.” In Australia, 2015 is likely to fall into the top 10 warmest years on record, all of which have occurred this century. Dr Braganza said that record breaking hot weather was now six times more likely than it was early last century. Meanwhile, the oceans continue to warm at an alarming rate. “About 90% of the additional heat from the advanced greenhouse effect goes into warming the oceans,” he said. This is particularly worrying as any change to sea temperature is potentially very significant in terms of impacts on Australia’s weather, from droughts to flooding rains. Dr David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne, said that there was little doubt as to the cause of the warming. “It is now all but certain that 2015 will be the hottest year since record keeping began. “The new record high global temperature in 2015 is mainly due to human-caused global warming, with smaller contributions from El Niño and from other natural climate variations,” Dr Karoly said. According to calculations by Karoly and colleagues as part of the World Weather Attribution Project coordinated by Climate Central, temperatures will likely reach around 1.05℃ above pre-industrial temperatures. Of this, about 1℃ can be attributed to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, about 0.05ºC-0.1ºC to El Niño, and about 0.02ºC to higher solar activity. The numbers don’t quite add up to 1.05℃ due to uncertainties and natural variability. The World Meteorological Organization statement comes as world leaders are set to meet in Paris next week to begin the next round of negotiations on taking action against climate change.
  11. World leaders gathered today in Paris for COP21, a UN summit aimed at reaching a new international climate deal that can avert the worst effects of global warming. French President François Hollande opened the 21st annual Conference of Parties (COP21) summit by stating that the “future of the planet, the future of life” was at stake. “The challenge of an international meeting has never been so great,” Hollande said. Delegates and leaders from 195 countries – along with members from scientific groups, the private sector, indigenous leaders, environmental activists and labour groups – will attend the important UN climate change conference that will take place between November 30 and December 11. Although, the heads of state will only be present during the beginning of the summit. During these crucial days the delegates will work towards a new international climate change agreement that can replace the Kyoto protocol, which is the world’s only legally binding climate change agreement. The Kyoto protocol initially only covered rich and developed countries who are required to cut emissions by 2020 when the treaty expires. The protocol now covers only a handful of countries, including Australia and the member states of the European Union. The United States signed but never ratified the Kyoto protocol. It’s therefore crucial that a new global climate treaty, and one which includes all nations such as China which is currently the world’s biggest polluter, is reached and agreed on in Paris. The delegates will try to reach a deal that will limit global warming to safe levels, i.e. the 2-degrees Celsius target that world leaders have endorsed. In order to keep global temperatures below 2-degrees Celsius, substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed. If no action is taken and no agreement is reached at the Paris summit, the UN has said that the world will be on track for a +3 degrees increase in global temperatures. Scientists are warning that we are already halfway to that critical point as the world has already warmed 1 degree Celsius compared to pre–Industrial Revolution temperatures. But the truth is that the 2-degrees target is not really a safe level and scientists and environmental groups – as well as several heads of state – are calling for emission reductions that will stop global temperatures to increase beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. Countries most at risk from climate change, such as several island states and poorer developing countries, want to see a more ambitious climate agreement. But the likelihood that the rich and developed nations will agree to such reductions are highly unlikely. This question, about developed nations obligations and their historic responsibility, along with the question of economic assistance to developing nations will surely – and yet again – cause a rift between the delegates at the climate summit. Speaking at the opening ceremony today in Paris, President Barack Obama said that the US recognised its responsibility to help limit global warming. “As the leader of the world's largest economy and the second largest emitter […] the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” Obama said. Similar speeches from world leaders could be heard during the 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen – and that summit ended in a failure. But things are different this time around. More nations are now feeling the effects of global warming, the science on climate is clear and on point, and renewable energy technologies are improving while their costs are drastically decreasing. And this time around, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the US, are both supportive of a new climate deal. But there are still several worrying obstacles ahead. While China may be more positive of a climate change agreement this time around, the commitment from India, the world’s third biggest emitter, remains uncertain. The US and EU also has different stances on how much of the new climate agreement should be legally binding – Obama and the US government are pushing for less as a legally binding treaty would be difficult to pass in the US Senate. So far, more than 170 nations – representing 97 percent of the world’s total emissions – have submitted climate pledges to the UN ahead of the climate summit in Paris. But those pledges are currently too weak and will, according to analyses, result in a 2.7 to 3.3-degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures. Despite all of this the hopes and expectations are high on the Paris climate summit to make substantial progress in the fight against climate change. And hopefully it won’t end in a whimper this time, as it did in Copenhagen back in 2009.
  12. As the country continues to endure the effects of climate change, wildfires are hardly a new phenomenon on the West Coast. For drought-ridden California, however, the blazes have now caused massive destruction and at least one death. And with 700,000 acres burned so far this year, there's no end in sight for the inferno. For firefighters and victims, the numbers behind the blazes represent an uphill battle. The largest of the disasters are the Valley fire and the Butte fire, which have burned 67,000 and 71,660 acres, respectively. The former is 15 percent contained, the latter 37 percent, and at least 23,000 people have been displaced by both combined. In total, at least 751 homes have been destroyed. It was the Valley fire that caused one death - Barbara McWilliams, a 72 year-old woman with multiple sclerosis who couldn't get out of her home, according to fire officials. The Valley fire, located in Lake County, began on Sept. 12, while the Butte fire, in Jackson and Amador County, started Sept. 9. And these, while the largest and most fearsome, are only two of a dozen currently ripping through the Golden State. Workers fighting the fires hope that rain today might bring some relief. Though an end to the state's ongoing drought is not yet in the cards, the cool weather system could play a part in further containing some of the blazes. Veteran firefighter Bob Cummensky, part of the initial team that fought the Valley fire in Middletown, remarked, "It's such a beautiful area, and it's changed forever. This [town] is my best friend's home." Though he has fought fires for nearly five decades, he said he's never seen anything of this magnitude. The fire's expansion in every direction, and the challenging topography across which it has spread, have not made matters easier. "It's a 100-year fire in a 100-year drought. It goes against everything I've ever learned about fire behavior." The fire is certainly abnormal; its smoke has even created a rare type of cloud called a pyrocumulus, which was photographed Sept. 11 by climate scientist Peter Gleick and tweeted as he flew past it at 30,000 feet. These clouds also create a new problem, because they can trigger firestorms, which may produce lightning that can, in turn, start another fire. It's an unpredictable situation that has kept officials on the defensive. "We've had wildfires in California since the beginning of time," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services. "But what we're seeing now that's different is the extreme rapid spread of the fires, and extreme volatility." Middletown was amongst the hardest-hit areas in Lake County, with phrases like "completely devastated" and "everything's gone" reverberating throughout the community. And the fire, which has burned far more than just forest land, has a decidedly urban bent: an apartment complex with more than 100 units was reduced to ash; flames licked at power lines and melted street signs; and shells of burned out cars conjured up images of apocalyptic disaster films. California Gov. Jerry Brown once again tied the problem to climate change, stating, "There is no doubt that we need to de-carbonize our modern economy. We have sharpened what the debate is because there are vast amounts of officials who say it isn't true. This will smoke it out. Fires are not political. Climate change is not political. It is real. This is serious stuff. Firefighters need to be careful, but so do people. It's going to get worse." Specifically, however, the wildfires were exacerbated by the drought, which in turn was caused by the output of greenhouse gases that are contributing to global warming. The trees killed so far by the drought - of which there were at least 12 million - were more prone to ignite, and a heavy presence of bark beetles, which further decimate trees, helped make conditions that much worse. Scott Stephens, a fire science professor at UC Berkeley, said forests have also grown denser over the last 100 years, forcing trees to compete for increasingly limited amounts of water and rendering them more susceptible to bark beetle infestations. It also means that when a small fire starts, it spreads from one tree to another more quickly and rapidly spins out of control. "If this drought continues for another two years or longer, I expect this mortality to move throughout the state," he remarked. "Forests that once burned frequently with low to moderate intensity fires are the most susceptible." Joe Casola, deputy director of the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group, explained that on the West Coast, this year's combination of warm winter weather, low snowpack, hot summer, and outbreak of relentless brushfires is "a good preview of what climate models tell us will soon be commonplace. These are the conditions we're likely to be facing several decades from now and going forward."
  13. As President Obama visits Arctic Alaska, the first president to do so, he is speaking about the many impacts that climate change is already causing there, from rising seas to melting permafrost collapsing homes. Because the arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet, climate change is a bigger issue for Alaska, for residents of towns close to the water, for tribes dependent on traditional fishing for their livelihood, for rapidly melting glaciers. As part of his trip, Obama gave an opening address to the GLACIER Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. He stated that the U.S. recognizes its role in creating the problem and responsibility to take part in solving it. He noted that no nation is moving fast enough, and condemned leaders who gamble by taking no action on the dire future due to climate change are "not fit to lead." Obama faces severe criticism during the trip from environmental groups who accuse him of hypocrisy, since at the same time he is calling for action to address climate change, his administration has just given final permission to Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic. During his trip, native groups and allies rallied to demand no drilling in the Arctic. Shell's plans have been confronted by many activists, the kayaktivists in Seattle to bridge danglers in Portland, both trying to stop Shell ships and rigs from being able to leave port to go to the Arctic. Groups are mounting petition campaigns and public relations efforts to organize opposition to Shell's plans (sign one petition here.) The record of the Obama administration on environmental issues, while mixed, stands in contrast to the previous, George W. Bush administration. Obama's positive steps include major support for developing renewable energy in the stimulus bill, efforts by the EPA to regulate new and existing power plant carbon emissions, increased mileage standards for cars and trucks, the agreement with China on projected reductions in emissions, and many more. Negative actions include support for major increases in fracking, in offshore oil drilling, and refusing to kill the Keystone XL pipeline (which has also not been approved). The administration faces opposition from the right, in Congress and elsewhere, for the plan of the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as pollution harmful to human health. Republicans in Congress continue efforts to defund the EPA, to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, to undercut any climate agreements, to deny the basic science of climate change, and more. Obama's current tour is part of the run-up to UN-sponsored climate negotiations to take place in December in Paris. The agreement signed between the US and China on carbon reductions has increased expectations that this conference will have more concrete results than many previous UN conferences on climate. In addition to these government-to-government negotiations, there is a growing movement to divest from fossil fuel corporations, which just had a big victory in California. A growing factor on the world stage is the efforts of Pope Francis and other important religious leaders to add a moral dimension to how the issue is framed, and to bring their not inconsiderable political capital to bear on the negotiations. Each particular battle is but one part of the longer struggle to transform our energy economy, our economy as a whole, how things are produced, packaged, and distributed. The direction of these struggles is ultimately to challenge the system, but in the meantime, we need all the allies, temporary or partial though they are, to make changes right now. These current battles lay the basis for future, more basic victories. Obama has moved U.S. policy into the column of those tackling climate change, though in an uneven and partial way. But winning smaller victories now is key to winning more later.
  14. Islamic leaders from 20 countries yesterday called for rapid transition from a world economic order based on fossil fuel to one powered by renewable energy. Wael Hmaidan, international director of Climate Action Network (CAN), described the declaration adopted by 60 prominent Islamic scholars and religious leaders at the two-day International Islamic Climate Change Symposium as a potential "game changer." "It challenges all world leaders, and especially oil producing nations," Hmaidan said, "to phase out their carbon emissions and supports the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy as a necessity to tackle climate change, reduce poverty and deliver sustainable development," according to a CAN report. As part of a worldwide groundswell, the declaration urges governments to deliver a new international climate agreement in Paris this December that guarantees limiting global warming above pre-industrial levels to 2, but preferably 1.5, degrees Celsius. The declaration makes the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for the 1.6 billion Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action. The declaration is in sync with the much lauded Encyclical by Pope Francis released two months ago. For its part, the Vatican has enthusiastically endorsed the Islamic declaration. "The climate crisis needs to be tackled through collaborative efforts, so let's work together for a better world for our children, and our children's children," declared Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema. Speakers at the Symposium included three senior UN officials, scientists, NGO leaders and academics. Also attending were religious leaders from many other faith traditions. Pope Francis' activism, especially since the release of his Encyclical in June, has energized people of faith who have long advocated for the environment. Since June, the World Council of Churches, Unitarian Universalists, Union Seminary, and the Episcopal Church have all divested from fossil fuels. As of Aug. 13, 403 rabbis had signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption and to seek eco-social justice. In a related action, in July more than 180 evangelical Christian leaders signed a letter backing President Barack Obama's plan to reduce carbon emission from power plants. The Climate Change Symposium Declaration urged "well-off nations" and oil producing states to "re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world's poor." Among other notable demands, the declaration called on the people of all nations and their leaders: "To set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality."Prioritize adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.The declaration further called on the corporations, finance, and business sector: "To shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;"Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;"Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives."
  15. For climate change activists who were looking to shore up the three-legged stool of support for arguments supporting the science of climate change and hoping to shape policies to mitigate climate change impacts, it was an extremely pleasant surprise that a fourth leg was added to the climate change education and advocacy stool. Thank you Pope Francis! Those three legs included the science community, grassroots and environmental organizational support and advocacy, and the political community and process. But now we have another powerful support beam to shore up efforts to educate, advocate and broaden support. Religion. Pope Francis has conveyed a moral, ethical, spiritual, and communal message that cleverly, but deliberately uses logic, facts, and scientific reasoning to support education, policies and actions on climate change. It has the further potential to reach a distant audience who was either indifferent or skeptical because religion has often been used by climate change deniers as an excuse as to why we "shouldn't worry, God will take care of all." Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment or "On Care For Our Common Home" has revealed that religion, all along, was really intertwined with scientific study and findings with respect, to the planet that sustains all of life as we know it. The pope's weight and gravitas on climate change is more than raising awareness to the flock, and potentially bringing around 1.2 billion Catholics, or neutralizing some of the denier's religious arguments against recognizing climate change. Pope Francis' statement on the conditions, and actions needed on climate change is a marriage and consummation of morality and science. And frankly it's just plain exciting that a pope recognizes the moral crisis that faces humankind that's tied up in politics and economics. Of course this pope has been refreshingly turning heads since his tenure started. Pope Francis is connecting the dots of climate change through science, economics, and calling for a moral and just response, not simply proportional. Francis has put our entire economic model and ethos on trial. His encyclical on protecting the earth has as many references to science as religion and condemns our economic activity and lack of proper urban planning as a primary source of the devastation we're unleashing on our planet. In bringing it home to the masses, the pope reminds us that it's the poor and working class that will bear the burden of climate change impacts. Drought in some places, flooding in others lead to dislocation, famine and war. We're already seeing those impacts and scenarios play themselves out in places like Syria, over 1 million Syrians have been forced to relocate due to drought impacts on crop yields, turning Syria from a commodity exporter to importer that led to huge escalations in food prices and exacerbated by negligent and harsh responses from the Bashar al-Assad government, fueling the Syrian Civil War. These conditions and realities surrounding global warming haven't been lost on institutions like the U.S. Defense Department, which late last year issued a report stating that climate change was a "threat multiplier," which could create civil unrest, the spread of disease, and destabilize susceptible places and regions, and poses an "immediate risk" to national security. When you have both the U.S. Defense Department and the pope agreeing on the science and impacts of global warming, you would think you have something irrefutable. But here we go again. The nonscientists, intent on undermining the truth and any responsible action and responses to climate change, are still on the move. Fox News minions have already declared the Pope the "most dangerous person on the planet." And Fox's Republican Party field of presidential candidates is only too proud and happy to carry that message into the presidential primaries. Jeb Bush said the pope should really just butt out of politics (except when church and state stand side by side on other social matters dear to Republicans) and matters of science. Bush said it's "arrogant" to raise the scientific consensus of global warming. Bobby Jindal, another Republican presidential candidate and climate change denier who previously had warned his own party of being the "stupid party," now seems quite prophetic about the likes of Jeb Bush, himself, and pretty much the entire Republican presidential field and party followers when it comes to climate change. And that makes perfect sense. Pope Francis is appealing to a higher power or reason, logic, and enlightenment views to address the most pressing challenge that humans have faced in their existence. Francis' scathing and insightful statements on our economic model and philosophy are consistent with this environmental encyclical. Unfettered capitalism, driven by greed, selfish interests, disdain for the poor, disrespect of the planet, the pillaging of natural resources benefitting the very few, coupled with the lack of heart, mind, and will to realize that we have not only the responsibility, but the means to correct this ill that, would not only preserve humanity, but ensure it thrives in an egalitarian way, will be memorialized in failure, that this current generation failed to recognize and act to save the human population. The pope wonderfully summarizes the policy aspects of climate change and an optimistic way forward. "We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels - especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas - needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the less harmful alternative or to find short-term solutions. But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition. In recent decades, environmental issues have given rise to considerable public debate and have elicited a variety of committed and generous civic responses. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities." As Pope Francis inspires us to think through how humans act upon the world and themselves both justly and unjustly, he at last has brought a voice into the discussion around climate change that is merging the voices of science, religion, and politics. He reminds us that humans have socially created and engineered religion and politics, while science ultimately rules. Maybe the pope is saying that God is nature, or the environment. Regardless, we have a powerful moral figure who brings science and enlightenment thinking into a problem that has the ability to destroy us or compel us to come together to realize our finest moment.
  16. Megan Bonetti | Australia: Brisbane Recently I had a conversation with a close friend on climate change. The discussion captivated me with the multilayered tensions of the global north and capitalist ideologies that doggedly influence the very present concern of global warming and relating social policy. Amongst a general catch-up I queried my friend’s thoughts on climate change issues. His stark and unexpected response, “we evolve, we move on.” …Excuse me? I admired the honesty. His was a real-world response of neo-liberal thought. It was brutal and it was heartless. At least he had the guts to say what many are thinking (Cook, 2014). The social worker in me petitioned him with the human impacts: African farmers encumbered by draught (Dube et al., 2013; Kurukulasuriya et al., 2006; Mayer, 2013), Pacific Islanders inundated by sea water (IPCC, 2014; PIANGO, 2014, Duvat, 2013), people leaving their homelands due to ever-increasing health and environmental dangers (National Geographic, 2015; UNHCR, 2011). Again, he fires back with “survival of the fittest” rhetoric. Unfortunately the climate movement has failed to gain the widespread appeal needed to pass significant climate policy and practical reform (Bullard & Müller, 2012). Industrial giants continue to produce and pollute and people like my friend; devalue the real catastrophe that is climate change (Amnesty International, 2014, 2015; Cook, 2015). While global aid organisations declare humanitarian catastrophe as a result of manmade pollution, industrial conservatives spin myths of global evolution and adaption (IPCC, 2014; Cook, 2014; UNFCCC, 2015). Local, national and global repetition of climate change catastrophe does not seem to be creating a civilizational wake up call. Moreover messages delivered in the language of fires, floods, droughts and extinction must not be blatant enough to be convincing (Klein, 2014; McKinnon, 2014). So if individuals, like my friend, and carbon emitters like, AGL energy aren’t listening, what can we do (CER, 2015, Garnaut, 2011)? Upon hearing my friend’s response to climate change I felt the need to blame him and many like him for their self-righteous ideologies that have significantly impacted the global poor (Böhm, 2012). However, history shows that the human race is really good at pointing blame. Years earlier I too was reluctant to participate in the climate conversation. The debate seemed wonky with excessive jargon. Yet I was unwittingly converted from the influences of a conservative upbringing to that of a less traditional “tree-hugger.” So, how did this happen? There was no halogen light-bulb moment nor was I convinced by the volatile debate and environmental doom. For me, it was the slow unpacking of climate change in a tangible context. This was influenced through a community of people who impacted my values on sustainable living and more importantly did not guilt trip me if I put glad-wrap in the recycling bin. Studies have shown that many individuals and communities feel disempowered or ignorant when discussing climate change, so in response there is silence (Szarka, 2013). Researchers suggest that protecting the rights of those disadvantaged by climate change will only occur when a non-judgemental culture of education and awareness is fostered in the discussion (Sasser, 2014; Smith, 2011). Only when climate change becomes an accessible conversation rather than a heated debate will key stakeholder’s sit-up and listen (Head et al., 2014; Luers, 2013). A movement for positive change in the environment will spread only when people, like my friend, can drop their defences and feel empowered to enter the conversation (Abney-Korn et al., 2013). REFERENCES Abney-Korn, K., Cassiman, S., & Fleetham, D. (2013). While we were sleeping: From dystopia to global awakening. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 12(1-2), 80-97. doi:10.1163/15691497-12341244 Amnesty International. (2014). Five Countries Vulnerable to Climate Change. Retrieved from Amnesty International. (2015). Nigeria: Hundreds of Oil Spills continue to Blight Niger Delta. Retrieved from Australian Government. (2015). Clean Energy Regulator: National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting. Retrieved from Böhm, S., Misoczky, M. C., & Moog, S. (2012). Greening capitalism?: A marxist critique of carbon markets. Organization Studies, 33(11), 1617-1638. doi:10.1177/0170840612463326 Bullard, N., & Müller, T. (2012). Beyond the green economy: System change, not climate change. Development, 55(1), 54-62. doi:10.1057/dev.2011.100 Cook, J. (2015). Explaining Climate Change Science & Rebutting Global Misinformation. Retrieved from Dube, S., Scholes, R. J., Nelson, G. C., Mason-D'Croz, D., & Palazzo, A. (2013). South African food security and climate change: Agriculture futures. Economics, 7(35), 0_1. Duvat, V. (2013). Coastal protection structures in Tarawa Atoll, Republic of Kiribati. Sustainability Science, 8(3), 363-369. Retrieved, April 29, from Garnaut, R. (2011). Garnaut Climate Change Review – update 2011: Australia in the Global Response to Climate Change. Retrieved from Head, L., Adams, M., McGregor, H. V., & Toole, S. (2014). Climate change and Australia. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(2), 175-197. doi:10.1002/wcc.255 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Summary for Policy makers- Climate Change 2014: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Retrieved, March 1, from Klein, N. (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate Change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Kurukulasuriya, P., Mendelsohn, R., Hassan, R., Benhin, J., Deressa, T., Diop, M., Dinar, A. (2006). Will african agriculture survive climate change? The World Bank Economic Review, 20(3), 367-388. doi:10.1093/wber/lhl004 Luers, A. (2013). Rethinking US climate advocacy. Climatic Change, 120(1), 13-19. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0797-1 Mayer, A. (2013). Climate change already challenging agriculture. Bioscience, 63(10), 781-787. doi:10.1525/bio.2013.63.10.2 McKinnon, C. (2014). Climate change: Against despair. Ethics & the Environment, 19(1), 31-48. doi:10.2979/ethicsenviro.19.1.31 National Geographic. (2015). Education: Climate Refugee. Retrieved from Pacific Islander Association of Non-governmental Organisations. (2014). The Pacific Score on the Millennium Development Goals. Retrieved, April 29, from Sasser, J. S. (2014). The wave of the future? youth advocacy at the nexus of population and climate change. The Geographical Journal, 180(2), 102-110. doi:10.1111/geoj.12023 Seabright, M. (2010). The role of the affect heuristic in moral reactions to climate change. Journal of Global Ethics, 6(1), 5-15. doi:10.1080/17449621003701410 Smith, B. (2011). Doom, gloom and empty tombs: Climate change and fear. Studies in Christian Ethics, 24(1), 77-91. doi:10.1177/0953946810389120 Szarka, J. (2013). From climate advocacy to public engagement: An exploration of the roles of environmental non-governmental organisations. Climate, 1(1), 12-27. doi:10.3390/cli1010012
  17. Taking the First Step

    In today’s world, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about the ramifications of our actions. Even though we are “connected” through the developments in technology such as the internet, our so-called “flat world” isn’t all that flat when it comes to addressing the consequences that do not directly affect us, on a personal and individualized level. Living as an Indian in the United States, the “West” as people back home would call it, I understand that I have been given a privilege, that many are not able to experience. Recently, in a commencement speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of my long time standing idols, this “privilege” was aptly addressed. Adichie stated that privilege is often blinding, and sometimes results in us not being as aware of the circumstances that surround those who have not been extended similar opportunities. This couldn’t be truer. As I sit in my air-conditioned home in Boise, Idaho, reading the latest in environmental policy making, I often forget to think about the people who are actually going through the effects of climate change – like the people in India, my home, who are dropping like flies due to a recent heat wave like none before. It’s easy to be a by-stander, watching the world go by, and shirk off responsibility. The truth is though; we all have a responsibility – a responsibility to change, to inspire, and to TRY (even if we fail) to be better. It’s not simply up to world leaders to help save the world from the inevitable reality of climate change; it’s up to all of us, to take small steps in our everyday lives that will ensure a cleaner and healthier world. This is something that I, from my position of privile, sometimes forget. And so today, I am taking the first step (albeit a small one) to live a greener and cleaner life – I urge you all to take it with me. Even if it’s a small personal change, let this act as a gateway to bigger and better lifestyle decisions. Start turning off the air-conditioner when you don’t need it. Or maybe, use online coupon codes instead of printing out coupons. Have a separate recycling trash can, and take it to your local recycling center over the weekend. If you aren’t ready to alter a significant part of your lifestyle, the acts of spreading awareness can go a long way. Volunteer at a local NGO that supports the environment. Shop at a farmers’ market. Write out your thoughts and opinions and start a blog. Spread awareness about non-invasive technologies in examining subsurface hazards. Learn about the key players in environmental policy making. Really, the possibilities are endless. I truly believe that with a concerted effort, we all can make a difference. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most prominent leaders of my home-country once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. So go forth, and make a change.
  18. Now Antarctica goes down the drain

    It was believed that maybe, we humans have just managed to preserve some parts of our world from global warming. Covered in ice and inaccessible for most part of the year, some believed that Antarctica was one part of the globe which was untouched by human proliferation and that it would, at least, stay cold and steady for a few more years. How wrong we were. Like all other places, Antarctica too has been affected owing to the harsh consequences of climate change. According to a new research, a group of glaciers which were once stable, have started melting rapidly since 2009. The glaciers along the Southern Antarctic Peninsula were believed to be stable between 2003 and 2009. However, new satellite observations reveal that the area suffered a sudden destabilization in 2009 and the change in conditions is now responsible for the melting of glaciers. It is believed that these glaciers are now shedding around 56 billion metric tons of ice annually which is enough to raise sea water levels by roughly 0.16 millimeters. The research points out that the warm ocean water is melting the underside of the ice which is undermining the region’s stability and causing the sudden decline. And the conditions are supposed to be so bad that even if the warm ocean water goes away, the ice will continue to melt until a new equilibrium is reached. The report says that, “The melting and weakening of ice shelves reduce their buttressing effect, allowing the glaciers to flow more quickly to the sea.” This is quite scary considering the rate at which it will contribute to the rise in sea levels.
  19. What are countries really bringing to the negotiating table when the world meets to thrash out a greenhouse deal in Paris this year? The stakes are high – the hoped-for deal at the 2015 summit will be the first since the landmark Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and could commit countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. Throughout the year, countries will submit draft contributions known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. These may be baselines and targets (such as 40% below 1990 levels by 2030), but may also take other forms. Contributions will be submitted through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change here. To read an explainer of INDCs and how they fit into a global climate deal, click here. The Conversation will be tracking these contributions as they are submitted through the interactive map below. Click on countries to view contributions and other climate stats. Notes: This map was compiled with the assistance of Pep Canadell, Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project. Emissions (all greenhouse gases): total greenhouse gas emissions within a country, expressed in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). This excludes emissions from land use, land use change, and forestry. Source: EDGAR Emissions per capita (all greenhouse gases): total greenhouse emissions within a country for each person, expressed in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Source: EDGAR Emissions growth (CO2 only): growth in total carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel 2010-2011. Source: Global Carbon Project Emissions transfer (CO2 only): fossil fuel emissions minus consumption emissions (carbon dioxide emissions generated elsewhere in the production of goods and services consumed within a country). A negative value shows that a country “outsources” some of its carbon dioxide emissions to other countries, and a positive value means the country is exporting more carbon in goods and services than it imports. Source: Global Carbon Project
  20. Many observations have shown that sea level rose steadily over the 20th century – and at a faster rate than over the previous centuries. It is also clear from both satellite and coastal observations that seas have risen faster over the past two decades than they did for the bulk of the 20th century. More recently, several studies have shown that the flow of ice and water into the oceans from Greenland and West Antarctica has increased since 1993. This raises an interesting question: has the rate of sea-level rise changed since 1993, when satellite observations began to give us a more complete picture of the global oceans? Our new research tackles this question by comparing satellite observations of sea level with those measured at the coast by tide gauges. We use this comparison to determine small biases in the satellite data that have changed over time. Understanding how the land supporting the tide gauges is moving becomes an important part of these comparisons. We found three important results. First, the seas really have risen faster since 1993, relative to the slower rate over previous decades as evident in the tide gauge data. Second, comparison of the coastal and satellite measurements reveal small differences in the early part of the satellite record from 1993 to 1999. After allowing for land motion at the tide gauges, the first six years of the satellite record marginally overestimates the sea-level trend. Our revised estimate of global mean sea-level rise for the satellite era (1993 to mid-2014) is about 2.6-2.9 mm per year (the exact value depends on how we estimate land motion) – slightly less than the previous estimate of 3.2 mm per year. Satellite altimeters measure sea level by measuring the time it takes a radar pulse to make a round-trip from the satellite to the sea surface and back. NOAA/STAR Third, previous estimates of the rate of rise from satellite data that didn’t incorporate the careful comparison with coastal sea-level measurements, as we have done in our recent study, showed a slower rate of rise over the past decade relative to the one before. Our revised record is clearly different and suggests that the rate of rise has increased, consistent with other observations of the increased contributions of water and ice from Greenland and West Antarctica. However, sea level varies from year to year, as water is exchanged between the land and oceans (for example during the Australian floods associated with the 2010-11 and 2011-12 La Niña events), and as a result the observed increase in the rate of rise over the short satellite record is not yet statistically significant. Strikingly, our estimate of the increase in the rate of rise is consistent with the projections of future sea level published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Currently, these projections forecast a rise of up to 98 cm by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue unabated (and even more if parts of the Antarctic ice sheet collapse). If the world makes strong cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the rise by 2100 is projected to be significantly less, somewhere between 28 cm and 61 cm. Coping with the impacts The increasing rate of sea-level rise is not good news for our coastal population, nor for the natural and built environment in the coastal zone. The world is currently not on track to achieve the lower range of projected sea-level rise. And of course, sea-level rise will not stop in 2100 – as in the current century, the magnitude of future sea-level rise will be linked to our greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing rates of sea-level rise will place increasing stress on the coastal margin. Extreme sea level events will become more frequent. Inundation and erosion will affect our infrastructure, affect ecosystems and, in some regions, displace populations. Adaption in the coastal zone will occur – this adaption can be either planned or forced upon us by the natural environment. Information on regional sea level changes and their projections are needed to underpin adaptation and mitigation strategies. It is important that agencies in Australia and worldwide consider the impact of accelerating sea levels and provide communities with advice and planning directions that are commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. Failure to consider these issues will mean painful and costly impacts, particularly during extreme events. Continued monitoring of sea level is essential Despite progress, our understanding of sea-level change is incomplete, particularly when it comes to forecasting contributions from the ice sheets. Currently, observed sea-level rise is consistent with the most recent projections. Continuing to know where sea level is tracking relative to projections is important for planning and early warning of any rate of rise that differs from current projections is vital. Australia relies on other countries for launching and maintaining satellite missions such as those used in our study. We provide an important contribution to the long-term monitoring of altimeter data that spans several different missions and space agencies – this is why long-term government support via Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System is so valued.
  21. As drought-stricken California struggles to meet the mandatory water use restrictions Gov. Jerry Brown announced earlier this month, the governor is urging a sharp increase in fines for the worst violators, and moving to help local water agencies conduct environmental reviews more quickly. On Apr. 28, Brown called for legislation to sharply increase fines up to a maximum $10,000 for the worst violations of the conservation orders. The current maximum fine is $500 per day. Also under Brown's proposal, wholesale and retail water agencies, as well as city and county governments, will be able to issue penalties. They could enforce both local water restrictions and restrictions ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board. Monetary penalties would go toward local conservation efforts. In a separate action, Brown directed state agencies to help local water agencies cut the amount of time needed to comply with state-required environmental reviews. The proposed new penalties come amid continuing debate about Brown's unprecedented April 1 executive order mandating that over 3,000 urban water districts in the state cut their water use by an overall 25 percent this year compared with 2013. The order also directs the state to provide financial help to homeowners shifting to drought-resistant landscaping, and rebates for new water-efficient appliances. The order focuses mainly on urban water uses like lawns, parks, public medians and golf courses, which take up less than a quarter of water use by people in the state. "I would hope that we don't see this in some punitive way, but that we see the challenge ... the climate is getting warmer, the weather is getting more extreme and unpredictable, and we have to become more resilient, more efficient and more innovative," the governor said then. A major bone of contention is the omission from the April 1 order of any mandatory or voluntary conservation targets for agriculture, which uses nearly 80 percent of water not designated for environmental conservation. Instead, irrigation districts were told to develop drought management plans and monitor groundwater levels, and the State Water Resources Control Board was told to go after illegal and wasteful water users. In exempting agriculture from cutbacks, Brown has sided with farmers who say they have already suffered four years of drought as well as sharp cutbacks by state and federal water providers, resulting in more land left fallow and lower income for the agriculture industry. Thousands of farm workers have also been put out of work. Many water and conservation experts say agriculture should be included in the cutbacks. An often-cited issue is increasing pumping of groundwater, which in some Central Valley areas has already caused the land to sink measurably. Until 2014, California was the only western state not regulating groundwater withdrawals, and the new regulations don't become fully effective until 2022. Another issue is planting of highly profitable but water-guzzling crops like almonds. Many farmers also continue to use flood irrigation rather than the much more efficient drip irrigation. Some environmentalists also call for limiting water use on land used to raise crops for animal feed. The debate takes place against the background of an antiquated allocation system that gives priority, and lower rates, to holders of "senior" water rights - those claimed before California established a permit process in 1914 - with holders of "junior" rights claimed after that time receiving less. Though California is the country's largest agricultural producer and employs over 400,000 people, the industry accounts for just 2 percent of the state's gross domestic product. Meanwhile, cities facing the sharpest cutbacks are pleading for exemptions because they have invested in recycled or desalinated water, or face great demands for water during extreme summer temperatures, or rely on local sources rather than state resources. Also sharply debated is the governor's failure to include the oil and gas industry in his mandatory restrictions. Environmentalists estimate that more than two million gallons of fresh water are used daily to stimulate oil wells through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and related processes. The oil industry contends that such drilling produces more water than oil, and much of that water is provided to farmers. But environmentalists also point out that earlier this year, California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources required oil companies to shut down 12 wastewater wells in the Central Valley because they are located close enough to underground wells for drinking or agricultural water to threaten contamination. Another 176 wells are undergoing investigation, and over 2,500 more wells are in areas that were never approved for wastewater injection. Zack Malitz of the social action organization CREDO told Reuters earlier this year, "Gov. Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the law and poison our water. Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest users of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest."
  22. As California continues to endure historic drought conditions, this and strong Santa Ana winds are two factors contributing to vicious and more frequent wildfires. Dry conditions are expected to continue this week, and in the southern part of the state, the National Weather Service has predicted conditions that will cause fires to quickly grow out of control. One such brushfire occurred on Apr. 18, forcing mandatory evacuations near LA and having scorched 1,020 acres by Apr. 20, when it was 55 percent contained. And the worst, experts say, could be yet to come. The Apr. 18 incident was the result of an unattended cooking fire, and was, of course, exacerbated by the arid conditions, growing from 30 to 175 acres in just three hours. Even as evacuation orders have been lifted and the wildfire is now 60 percent contained, heavy, low-lying smoke is still expected to cling to surrounding areas throughout the early part of this week, causing potential visibility and breathing issues on roadways, according to CalFire. Fires like this are a problem, said meteorologist Brett Rathbun, who remarked, "The excessive drought across California can cause fires to spark even easier because the ground is so dry and lacks moisture." "We don't know when the drought will end," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board. "Californians need to step up. We don't even know if it will rain much in the next year." After four years of steadily worsening drought, as climate change continues to rear its ugly head, it's time for Californians to "make real lifestyle changes," which means, above all, adhering to water restrictions. But even such measures won't stop the problem of wildfires, especially if conditions continue to become drier. And according to Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, that's exactly what's going to happen. He said, "Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we've seen in probably the last 1,000 years." And rain won't save us, added Noah Diffenbaugh, a climatologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. That's because the hotter weather means whatever water falls to the ground is going to evaporate that much more quickly. "We're on the cusp in California of having every year be a warm year, which means that when low precipitation does occur, there's going to be a much higher risk that that low precipitation produces drought." "There are a lot of opportunities to deal with these potentially significant droughts in the future," said Cook. "But we just need to be a little bit proactive about it and we need to plan ahead." In particular, said Diffenbaugh, issues like California water policy, water management, and infrastructure need to be changed to accommodate the climate that exists today. Those systems "were built in an old climate," he noted. "And the reality is, we're in a new climate." Howard Kunreuther, professor of operations and information management at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, said this megadrought could serve as a harsh wake-up call to Californians, including Angelinos, who might become more aware of the importance of water conservation. "People forget how water is used in many different ways," he said. "The minute you bring up a point like that, people pay attention, and recognize that the things they do today could be beneficial for things that happen in the future that they hadn't really thought about." Part of the problem, he noted, is that, while another enormous wildfire "is not necessarily going to happen tomorrow, it could happen a few months from now. But it isn't on people's agenda to think about it, and they normally don't think about the water tied into the forest fires." You can "start constructing scenarios as to what could happen," but "how do you get those people to take those scenarios seriously?" "This isn't something that's going to be solved overnight," he concluded. "But taking steps along the lines of conserving [water] will be a way to deal with [the drought]. The more people do that, the more they will benefit."
  23. During what is now California's worst drought in at least 1,200 years, agencies are ambivalent over how to convince Angelenos to cut water usage. Potential options include everything from educating residents to rationing, fines, and threats. While a recent executive order was issued by Gov. Jerry Brown requiring a 25 percent cut in water use from 2013 levels, communites are left to struggle with how exactly to achieve that goal. Part of the solution may be getting the wealthy to cooperate with working class people. Retired resident Dorothy, 65, has lived in LA's Palms neighborhood for 11 years. She told the People's World, "For people who have a decent salary, life is quite comfortable. But we do have a big problem with the water. Unless we cut consumption by a quarter or even a third, we could end up with a real disaster. And so far, many people are not doing their part to save water, despite what they say. They're just going about business as usual. And bottled water and those types of solutions are sometimes out of reach for the poor." The woman, who emigrated from Germany, said she never ceases to be amazed by how people come along to make a quick buck off of every crisis. She referred to the recent trend of lawn-painting companies - organizations that dye the dried lawns of the upper class a healthy shade of green to keep up appearances. One such company is LawnLift, started by 45 year-old mortgage broker Jim Power, who said, "Most homeowners have no clue how to water their lawns" anyway. According to the LA Times, Escondido resident Sean McDaniel, holding his two pet poodles and gesturing at his emerald lawn, said, "I painted the lawn two days ago." One can buy a 32 oz. bottle of this lawn paint from LawnLift's website for the not-so-low price of $45.95. "It's all well and good that the wealthy are having their lawns painted green," Dorothy remarked, "but that's not a solution." Newsha Ajami, director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford University's Water in the West program, said communities need to employ a wide range of conservation measures, rather than just expecting residents to act on their own. She said that levying fines for wasting water is likely a fast way to change behavior. "You need to quickly get to the point," she said. Jonathan Parfrey, a former LA Department of Water and Power commissioner and executive director of Climate Resolve, added, "We need to soak the rich for soaking their lawns. You gotta price water accordingly so it gets their attention." One extreme, said Beverly Hills resident Daniel Fink, could be curbing lawn-watering entirely for a while. "California is in the fourth year of the worst drought, and has about a year's worth of stored water left," he said. "But one wouldn't know it looking at all the still-green lawns. We have to stop watering our lawns. The water just isn't there anymore. I know that would be unpopular, but is it better to wait until the taps run dry?" This drought, Dorothy lamented, "is one example of how we're all going to suffer from climate change."
  24. Hello Greenblog folk, I just wanted to tell you about a short documentary i've made about Ireland and Climate Change, looking at how one small country contributes to and is vulnerable to climate change, it features some of Ireland's leading climate change scientists and activists and has some strong reviews from Irish national media such as the Irish Times and RTE. More info and the film here and it's on YouTube here cheers,Alan