Category - Environment

Peaceful Paris climate gathering descends into clashes with police

Anti-capitalists take over climate protest to rail against ban on marches imposed after terror attacks on city.

The Guardian, By Karl Mathiesen, November 29

A day of celebration and hope in Paris disintegrated into rioting and clashes with police on Sunday, after anti-capitalists and anarchists hijacked a peaceful event organised by climate activists earlier in the day.

About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to la place de la République, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the terror attacks on 13 November that killed 130 people. Witnesses said floral and other tributes were trampled in the melee.

About 100 protesters were arrested and the gathering was cleared by police using batons and teargas.

Earlier on Sunday, there had been a carnival atmosphere in the square before the climate summit due to begin on the city’s outskirts on Monday. Thousands of shoes, including a pair belonging to Pope Francis, had been symbolically laid in the square to represent a climate march that was cancelled by authorities after the terror attacks.

The Guardian Live Blog: Global climate march 2015: hundreds of thousands march around the world – as it happened

France bows to Obama and backs down on climate ‘treaty’

FT, By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany & Pilita Clark, November 28

Paris / London – France has offered a key concession to the US on the eve of historic climate talks in Paris, saying a new global climate accord will not be called a “treaty” and might not contain legally binding emissions reduction targets.

In a significant climbdown, Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said signatories to the planned deal would still be legally required to meet many of its terms but most likely not the carbon-cutting goals underpinning the agreement.

“The accord needs to be legally binding. It’s not just literature,” Mr Fabius told the Financial Times. “But it will probably have a dual nature. Some of the clauses will be legally binding.”
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Isolation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Part I

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, By James Hansen, November 27

Earlier this year I received a message from a long-time reader of my Communications, who was persuaded of the urgency of the climate problem. As a significant supporter of the Democratic Party, he had the opportunity to meet President Obama, and he was preparing a specific question: would the President be willing to “meet with Jim Hansen”, who, the supporter asserted, understood the problem as well as anyone and has “some viable ways to fix the problem”?

Obama’s response: he had already read my stuff (presumably meaning my book), but would be interested in talking if it were about policy (presumably meaning that he was already convinced about the reality of the science). My response to the supporter was that we should check whether the offer was real after my long-overdue “Ice Melt” paper was submitted for publication.

This summer, after submitting the paper, my supporter tried valiantly, but dolefully reported that he could not get through, the President was too well protected. Not so easily deterred, I reported the matter to Obama’s Science Adviser, John Holdren, and sent him my Ice Melt paper. Holdren responded that it was a valuable paper, but he ignored my request to meet the President.

The Guardian: Naomi Klein: Now Marches Are Banned at the Paris Climate Conference – What’s at Stake

Amazon trees are found to be at risk

AP, By Seth Borenstein, November 22

Washington – A first-of-its-kind examination of the Amazon’s trees found that as many as half the species may be threatened with extinction or heading that way because of massive deforestation. Among the more than 5,000 tree species in deep trouble: the ones that produce Brazil nuts and mahogany.

An international team of 158 scientists found that depending on the degree to which deforestation comes under control in the next 35 years, between 36 and 57 percent of the 16,000 tree species in the tropical rainforest area would be considered threatened. The study is published in Friday’s edition of Science Advances.

The range rests on whether cutting down the region’s forest continues at the rate of the late 20th and early 21st centuries or slows to lesser levels proposed in 2006, study authors said. If deforestation continues at the same pace, nearly 8,700 tree types are in trouble, but the number of species at risk could be as low as 5,500 if nations are able to cut back as planned, said study coauthor Nigel Pitman, from the Field Museum in Chicago.

Paris attacks: State of emergency could restrict public demonstrations during Paris climate talks, By Peter Burton, November 17

What impact will the attacks have on the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin in 12 days?

While already complicated, the talks will now take place within a state of emergency that is threatening to limit public participation.

Events in Paris continue to unfold at a dizzying pace. But in the coming days we will learn a lot by paying attention to how parties use (and abuse) the language of freedom and liberty.

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper Than Thought

Reuters, October 30

Ottawa – New satellite data shows Brazil’s drought is worse than previously thought, with the southeast losing 56 trillion liters of water in each of the past three years – more than enough to fill Lake Tahoe, a NASA scientist said on Friday.

The country’s most severe drought in 35 years has also caused the Brazil’s larger and less-populated northeast to lose 49 trillion liters of water each year over three years compared with normal levels, said NASA hydrologist Augusto Getirana.

Brazilians are well aware of the drought due to water rationing, power blackouts and empty reservoirs in parts of the country but this is the first study to document exactly how much water has disappeared from aquifers and reservoirs, Getirana said.

“It is much larger than I imagined,” Getirana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “With climate change, this is going to happen more and more often.”

Worst Climate Threat You Never Heard of Is Stronger Than CO2

Bloomberg, By Alex Nussbaum, October 29

The biggest global warming battle you’ve never heard of kicks off in Dubai this weekend.

Climate negotiators from across the globe will gather in the Persian Gulf city to debate how to get rid of hydrofluorocarbons — a class of hundreds of artificial chemicals used in refrigerators, air-conditioners, fire suppressants and other widely used products. While less common than greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane, HFCs can be thousands of times more potent, pound for pound, at heating up the planet.

They’re also gaining in popularity as demand for air conditioning, refrigeration and other services is expected to soar in developing countries in coming decades. The result: HFCs are now the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases and projected to rise even more in the future.

A worldwide agreement coming out of the United Nations-run meeting in Dubai to quickly get rid of HFCs may keep the equivalent of 100 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere by 2050 and avoid a half-degree Celsius of warming by century’s end, proponents say. That’s about a quarter of the 2-degrees Celsius (3.6-degree Fahrenheit) limit that scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Burning Hell Coming for Mideast Deserts

Discovery News, By Eric Niiler, October 26

If any place could be described as a living hell, it might be the desert regions of the Middle East. Hot, dry, dusty and arid, these harsh landscapes still manage to support cities populated by tens of millions of people who rely on air conditioning to survive.

Now scientists say that by the end of the century, the effects of climate change will push the region into a zone that surpasses the limits of human survival. They believe that most any outdoor activity will be hazardous.

“This is a significantly more severe type of heat wave than what people have experienced before,” said Elfatih Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Quick! Get the oil out before it gets too hot!

Nature Climate Change: Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability

Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago

Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.

Inside Climate News, By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song & David Hasemyer, September 16

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.
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Northern California Wildfires Prompt Emergency Declaration

New York Times, By Ashley Southall, September 13

Two wildfires in Northern California have devoured more than 100,000 acres of drought-parched land near Sacramento, injuring four firefighters and prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on Sunday.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fires had forced thousands of residents to evacuate, and had damaged or destroyed homes, schools and highways.

A fast-moving fire that started on Saturday spread to 40,000 acres overnight and raged out of control on Sunday, prompting Mr. Brown to declare a state of emergency for Lake and Napa Counties.

More than 1,000 firefighters were dispatched to the blaze, called the Valley Fire, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the state fire agency. Four were hospitalized on Saturday to be treated for second-degree burns.

Los Angeles Times: Residents flee huge California wildfire; governor declares emergency