COP23: Turning Points and Takeaways
The 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP23) international climate meetings in Bonn, which concluded last week, left many feeling “positive and cautiously optimistic.” The meetings established rules to help lower global emissions, but those rules won’t be finalized until the group meets next year. Indigenous groups had mixed feelings about the gathering; language out of Bonn with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples was much weaker than many hoped for. While the United States’ official delegation carried the Trump administration’s pro-coal message, many other Americans came to Bonn with very different objectives. Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee were among the U.S. state and local leaders in Bonn, demonstrating that the level of American commitment to climate action doesn’t end with the federal government.
Acting on climate in action, despite US’ inaction
At the Bonn climate talks, nations big and small stood nearly united behind a single goal: to move global climate action forward, with or without the United States’ formal commitment. A number of US states have made public their own contributions to climate action. Most recently, coal-country’s Virginia has launched a plan to cut emissions by 30% by joining the east coast carbon market. No fewer than 15 states have now joined a global alliance to phase out coal by 2030.
From China to Colorado, renewables rule
China, the world’s biggest solar market, is poised to install a record amount of solar this year. It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that a new survey shows that 93% of Chinese respondents think a fully renewable-energy world is important. The survey also found that 82% of respondents from the world’s 13 wealthiest countries agree that a fully renewable-energy world is important. In Mexico, the price of solar just reached its lowest level ever, showing that renewable energy isn’t just clean, but affordable too. In the U.S., New York City’s public housing authority is looking into leasing its roofs for solar projects that could power thousands of homes. In Colorado, the City of Breckenridge has voted to have all town buildings completely powered by renewable energy by 2035. US utilities continue to increase their investments in renewable energy, despite the federal government’s waning commitment to clean energy.
Frightening changes… and opportunities to change course
You’ve heard of hurricanes, but have you heard of “medicanes?” Temperatures in the Mediterranean have become warm enough to support the type of hurricanes storms more commonly found in the Caribbean. These events are so unprecedented that there’s no official forecasting center dedicated to studying them. Another type of storm becoming more baleful: thunderstorms. A new study says that North American summer thunderstorms will be wilder, thanks to global warming, soaking entire cities or large portions of states. Global warming is also wreaking havoc on our oceans and waterways, from increased outbreaks of toxic algae, to wiping out kelp forests, an important component of diverse coastal ecosystems.
As the world warms, scientists are monitoring two of Antarctica’s largest and fastest-melting glaciers. If these glaciers melt entirely, they have the capacity to unleash 11 feet of global sea level rise. It will only take three feet of sea level rise to flood places like Miami and New York City; one can only imagine what 11 feet would do. Peruvian glaciers are also receding, drying up over 100,000 acres of farmland they have supported for decades with meltwater. With each of these impacts come many threats to human health and our way of life. Among them, researchers claim that increasing temperatures are especially dangerous for pregnant women, and are linked to increased incidences of stillbirth, premature birth, and other negative pregnancy outcomes.
Increasing awareness and adapting to extremes
Due to increased extreme weather, more Americans are worried about climate change than ever before. A record 22% are very worried about it, and 63% of Americans are at least somewhat worried. NASA researchers say New York City should be especially worried about climate change; if two major glacier systems in Greenland melt, the city could be under water. Other parts of the world are more threatened by other ice masses, according to a new tool that allows you to see how individual coastal cities could be impacted by different glaciers or ice sheet melts. Because of these varying threats, not only are scientists looking into ways to reduce carbon output, but to also remove the carbon we’ve already emitted. Carbon engineering -- the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere -- has the potential to be a trillion dollar enterprise.
In Brief: Problems XL
Nebraska regulators have approved the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but not without issue. Regulators approved an alternate route for the project, opening up questions as to whether the project will proceed, and if so, how. The pipeline has already drawn negative PR and public criticism from its recent spill in South Dakota -- a 5,000 barrel spill that is projected to take two months to clean up.