Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Tennessee wildfires kill three and force thousands to evacuate

From the Guardian - fire near Gatlinburg, fed by high winds and drought conditions, has destroyed buildings, knocked out power and canceled school classes

"The national guard has been called in to aid with wildfires tearing through forests in Tennessee that have killed three people, according to Sevier County mayor Larry Waters, forcing thousands to evacuate and left many without power on Tuesday, local emergency responders said.

Firefighters were working early on Tuesday to put out a fire that worsened overnight and affected 100 homes near the eastern Tennessee city of Gatlinburg, according to officials.

“If you’re a person of prayer, we could use your prayers,” Gatlinburg’s fire chief, Greg Miller, said on Monday evening.

The fire was fanned overnight by winds up to 87mph and extremely dry conditions due to an ongoing drought across the south, but firefighters were hopeful that an oncoming storm could provide some much-needed relief. However, experts predicted rains on Tuesday from one storm system would not be enough to end the drought."

The full article can be read here.

The first part of this video gives some idea what it is like trying to evacuate!

Standing Rock protesters hold out against extraordinary police violence

From the Guardian - apprehension and distrust pervade North Dakota protest site as promises from state that there are no plans to forcibly remove people does little to assuage fears

Police violence against Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota has risen to extraordinary levels, and activists and observers fear that, with two evacuation orders looming, the worst is yet to come.

A litany of munitions, including water cannons, combined with ambiguous government leadership and misleading police statements, have resulted in mass arrests, serious injuries and a deeply sown atmosphere of fear and distrust on the banks of the Missouri river.

Statements by the US Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota state government that, despite their orders of evacuation, there are no plans to forcibly remove protesters opposing the Dakota Access pipeline have done little to assuage fears.

As the first snows have fallen and more protesters arrive in support, apprehension at the encampments about the coming days is running high.

“We’re going to hope for the absolute best,” said Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation who works with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council. “If they do attempt to remove people forcibly, we are certainly preparing for mass casualties.”

The full article can be read here.

Also from the Guardian:

Standing Rock is the civil rights issue of our time – let's act accordingly

"The US government sent helpers to protect integration efforts in the 1960s. Why not do more to protect the Dakota Pipeline protesters today?

When John Doar died in 2014, Barack Obama, who’d already awardedhim the Presidential Medal of Freedom, called him “one of America’s bravest lawyers”. Without his courage and perseverance, the president said, “Michelle and I might not be where we are today”.

Doar was the federal lawyer sent south by the Kennedy and Johnson justice departments to keep an eye on the explosive centers of the civil rights movement. Those White Houses didn’t do enough – but at least they kept watch on things. Doar escorted James Meredith to classes at the University of Mississippi, and helped calm crowds at the murder of Medgar Evers; he rescued activists from mobs during the Freedom Rides. A figure of history, in other words.

But history is just news from a while ago. Right now, we’re seeing a scene as explosive as the Freedom Rides or the bus boycotts play out in real time on the high plains of the Dakotas. And it’s a scene that desperately needs some modern-day John Doars to keep it from getting any worse.

Representatives of more 200 Indian nations have gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in an effort to prevent construction of an oil pipeline that threatens the tribe’s water supply, not to mention the planet’s climate. It’s a remarkable encampment, perhaps the greatest show of indigenous unity in the continent’s history. If Trump Tower represents all that’s dark and greedy in America right now, Standing Rock is by contrast the moral center of the nation."

Canada approves controversial Kinder Morgan oil pipeline

From the Guardian - Justin Trudeau blocks Northern Gateway pipeline through rain forest - infrastructure will help exports reach Asia and reduce reliance on US

"Canada has approved Kinder Morgan Inc’s hotly contested plan to twin a pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific coast, setting up a battle with environmentalists who helped elect the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

The Liberal government, seeking to balance demands from both greens and the energy industry, said allowing Kinder Morgan to build a second pipeline next to its existing Trans Mountain line will help ensure oil exports reach Asia and reduce reliance on the US market.

Pointing to efforts to impose a minimum price on carbon emissions and plans to phase out coal-fired electricity, Trudeau said his government had begun the shift towards an economy based on clean energy. “But we also know that this transition requires investment and that this will not happen overnight,” he added. “I’ve said many times that there isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it.”

Trudeau also said the government would block Enbridge Inc from building its Northern Gateway pipeline from the oil sands to the Pacific coast. He has long opposed the project, which would run through a rain forest.

Enbridge, however, will be allowed to replace the Canadian segments of its ageing Line 3 from Alberta to Wisconsin. The proposed upgrade had been less controversial than the Northern Gateway project."

The full article can be read here.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Great Barrier Reef scientists confirm largest die-off of corals recorded

From the Guardian - higher sea temperatures have led to the worst bleaching event on record, new study finds, with coral predicted to take up to 15 years to recover

"A new study has found that higher water temperatures have ravaged the Great Barrier Reef, causing the worst coral bleaching recorded by scientists.

In the worst-affected area, 67% of a 700km swath in the north of the reef lost its shallow-water corals over the past eight to nine months, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University study found.

“Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef,” Prof Terry Hughes said. “This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected.”

The southern two-thirds of the reef escaped with minor damage, Hughes said. This part was protected from the rising sea temperatures because of cooler water from the Coral Sea."

The full article can be read here.

South Pacific island ditches fossil fuels to run entirely on solar power

From the Guardian - Ta’u island in American Samoa will rely on solar panels and Tesla batteries as it does away with diesel generators

"A remote tropical island has catapulted itself headlong into the future by ditching diesel and powering all homes and businesses with the scorching South Pacificsun.

Using more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs the tiny island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now entirely self-sufficient for its electricity supply – though the process of converting has been tough and pitted with delays.

Located 4,000 miles from the west coast of the United States, Ta’u has depended on over 100,000 gallons of diesel shipped in from the main island of Tutuila to survive, using it to power homes, government buildings and – crucially – water pumps.

When bad weather or rough seas prevented the ferry docking, which was often, the island came to a virtual stand-still, leaving Ta’u’s 600 residents unable to work efficiently, go to school or leave their usually idyllic paradise.

Utu Abe Malae, executive director of the American Samoa Power Authority, said Tutuila has subsidized Ta’u diesel shipments for decades to the tune of US$400,000 a year – and continually ran the risk of a serious environmental disaster if the delivery ships capsized during the notoriously treacherous journey.

“Shipping diesel has been a long-standing environmental risk, and an inefficient use of taxpayers money,” said Malae.

“We want all of American Samoa to be solar-powered by 2040 – but Ta’u has been the priority and test-run.”

The full article can be read here.

Danny Lyon on why he's naming and shaming 'climate criminals'

From the Guardian - The veteran photographer tackles the effects of climate change in his new book and shares phone numbers of deniers, such as Vice President-elect Mike Pence

"Some may know the US photographer Danny Lyon for late-1960s shots of outlaw motorcycle gangs. Others may be familiar with his photograph of Bernie Sanders as a young protester at a 1962 Chicago University sit-in, which surfaced during this presidential campaign, or Lyon’s record of the marches staged by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which remain some of the most valuable visual representations of the civil rights movement.

This one-time Magnum Photos member has photographed John Lennon, Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, and documented the industrialization of peasant life in China and the lives of homeless children in Bogotá. A travelling retrospective of his work, Message to the Future, just opened at San Francisco’s de Young museum after a successful run at the Whitney earlier this year.

Other, less confrontational septuagenarians might settle for promoting a few classic images in their later years. Not only does Lyon reject this (“There is a show now of my work in a London gallery,” he says. “I have nothing to do with it and no interest in publicizing it”), but he’s applying his type of 60s-style protest tactics to what he regards as today’s most pressing issue: climate change.

Lyon’s new photobook, Burn Zone (available on his site as a free PDF and as a $25 printed book) is, in part, a record of the ecological collapse he has witnessed as an on/off resident within the New Mexico stretch of the Rio Grande valley. Lyon, a New Yorker, arrived in the region back in 1970, “with some marijuana in my pocket and $5,000 from a Guggenheim Fellowship, enough to purchase two and a half acres of irrigated valley land”, as he puts it in Burn Zone.

Living off the grid, the photographer built his own house and grew his own food, until his marriage collapsed in the late 1970s. Heading back east for the next three decades, the photographer has returned to New Mexico in recent years, to find river levels have dropped, the temperature has risen and droughts and wildfires afflict his smallholding."

Monday, 28 November 2016

Neil Young asks Obama to stop 'violent aggression' at Dakota pipeline protest

From the Guardian - musician who has performed at the Standing Rock protest site asked Obama to intervene in an impassioned Facebook post before Trump becomes president

"Neil Young has called on President Barack Obama to intervene in the North Dakotapipeline standoff and criticized the “unnecessary and violent aggression” faced by protesters gathered at the Standing Rock site.

In November, Young spent his 71st birthday performing for those at the Dakota Access pipeline protest site, and on Monday, in a long Facebook post, he requested Obama step in and “end the violence” against protesters.

“The camp grows as winter comes,” he wrote together with the actor Daryl Hannah. “Standing in protection of our most vital life support systems, but also for the rightful preservation of Native American cultural ways and their sovereignty.”

“It is an awakening. All here together, with their non-native relatives, standing strong in the face of outrageous, unnecessary and violent aggression, on the part of militarized local and state law enforcement agencies and national guard, who are seemingly acting to protect the interests of the Dakota Access pipeline profiteers, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars, above all other expressed concerns.”

The full article can be read here.

Shrinking glaciers cause state-of-emergency drought in Bolivia

From the Guardian - Climate News Network: Three main dams supplying water to La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by Andean glaciers and have nearly run dry

"The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought for at least 25 years.

Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.

But the glaciers are now shrinking rapidly, illustrating how climate change is already affecting one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto – where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply – have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled, and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break.

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time."

The full article can be read here.

China risks wasting $490bn on new coal plants, say campaigners

From the Guardian - Carbon Tracker says many plants running at overcapacity but China reluctant to wean itself off coal, fearing unemployment and unrest

"China could waste as much as half a trillion dollars on unnecessary new coal-fired power stations, a climate campaign group has said, arguing that the world’s top carbon polluter already has more than enough such facilities.

China’s rise to become the world’s second largest economy was largely powered by cheap, dirty coal. But as growth slows, the country has had a difficult time weaning itself off the fuel, even as the pollution it causes wreaks havoc on the environment and public health.

Many of China’s giant state-owned coal mining firms are unviable and plagued by overcapacity, but the ruling Communist party is reluctant to turn off the financial taps and risk widespread unemployment, with its potential for anger and unrest.

As of July, China already had 895 gigawatt in coal-fired power stations – representing more than half its electricity generation – said the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative, which argues for limiting carbon emissions using financial data.

The country was operating the coal units at less than half their capacity, the campaign group said on Monday, but “perversely” had another 205GW already under construction and plans for an additional 405GW."

The full article can be read here.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Southern Africa cries for help as El Niño and climate change savage maize harvest

From the Guardian - only half of $600m promised in aid has come

"Two-year-old Zeka screams as a health worker measures the circumference of her arm while another holds her legs and presses her flesh. The nurses agree: Zeka has clear signs of edema, a swelling condition caused by extreme hunger.

“She will live, but she needs to go to hospital. The situation in this area is much worse than when we were here just a few weeks ago.

“It looks like 10% of children here are now malnourished. It will certainly get worse,” said chief health assistant Ane Banda, who is leading a government assessment of rural areas near Nsanje, close to the Malawian border with Mozambique.

“We have not eaten for days,” said Zeka’s mother, who has been living off wild fruit, water lilies and the kindness of neighbours but has been told to attend a food handout in her village the next day.

Malawi is one of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation and in a situation that the UN says needs requires immediate action.

It has been devastated by a combination of a long drought caused by a strong El Niño weather cycle and climate change. Successive maize harvests have failed, leaving communities there and in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere, desperate for food.

The full article can be read here.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Average Arctic temperature in Svalbard 'could end up above freezing for first time in history'

From the Independent:

"The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has seen such extreme warmth this year that the average annual temperature could end up above freezing for the first time on record, scientists have said.

Ketil Isaksen of the Norwegian Meterological Institute said that the average temperature in Longyearbyen, the main settlement in Svalbard, is expected to be around 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) with a little over a month left of the year.

"This is a little bit shocking," Isaksen said. "If you had asked me five or 10 years ago, I could not have imagined such numbers in 2016."

The normal yearly average in Svalbard, an island group midway between the North Pole and continental Norway, is minus 6.7 C (20 F) and the warmest year until now was 2006, when the average temperature in Svalbard was minus 1.8 C (29 F), Isaksen said.

"Svalbard is a very good spot to show what's happening in the Arctic at the moment," he said, noting that each of the past 73 months has been warmer than average.

The rising temperatures in the Arctic are affecting permafrost and snow cover as well as the amount of sea ice, which this year was the second-lowest on record. Isaksen said the sea ice is building up much slower than normal as winter approaches.

"There are still huge areas in the Barents Sea and Kara Sea to the east of Svalbard that are free of ice," he said. "They should normally be ice-covered."

The full article can be read here.

Renewables levy cap on consumer energy bills 'exceeded by £1bn'

From the Guardian - official review finds failures in Levy Control Framework and says overshoot will have to be paid for by households

"Former energy ministers have contributed to an overspend of more than £1bn on renewable power subsidies that consumers will be forced to pay for, a government report has said.

The review by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, published on Friday, says “political unwillingness” to curb support for solar and wind power projects has contributed to the cap on green energy subsidies being breached.

The report concluded that the failure to stay under the cap was partly a result of “group think” at the department and its external consultants. It also blamed a lack of transparency, forecasting being left to junior staff, and “insufficient” monitoring that meant the overspend wasn’t detected until “too late in the day”.

Those weaknesses were compounded, it said in an apparent reference to the then Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey, by “a political unwillingness to withdraw popular schemes even when, as has happened with RO and FIT [two of the renewable energy subsidy schemes], a surge in demand is threatening the overall budget”.

The Levy Control Framework caps the amount of money that the government can levy each year on household energy bills to pay for a series of renewable energy subsidy schemes.

The full article can be read here.

Standing Rock protesters will not follow official directive to leave camps

From the Guardian - Dakota access pipeline protest organizers say they will remain at Oceti Sakowin camp: ‘We are wardens of this land’

"Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters will not follow a government directive to leave the federal land where hundreds have camped for months, organizers said on Saturday, despite state officials encouraging them to do so.

At a press conference, Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers confidently explained that they would stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp and continue with nonviolent protests, a day after Archambault received a letter from the US army corps of engineers that said all federal lands north of the Cannonball river would be closed to public access 5 December over “safety concerns”.

The corps cited the coming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters – who believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites – and police.

“We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they can’t remove us,” said Issac Weston, a protester and Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota. “We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water.”

The full article can be found here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level

From the Guardian - scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean

"Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

The full article can be read here.

Trump’s climate denial is just one of the forces that point towards war

From the Guardian - the failure to get to grips with our crises, by all mainstream political parties, is likely to lead to a war between the major powers in my lifetime

"Wave the magic wand and the problem goes away. Those pesky pollution laws, carbon caps and clean-power plans: swish them away and the golden age of blue-collar employment will return. This is Donald Trump’s promise, in his video message on Monday, in which the US president-elect claimed that unleashing coal and fracking would create “many millions of high-paid jobs”. He will tear down everything to make it come true.

But it won’t come true. Even if we ripped the world to pieces in the search for full employment, leaving no mountain unturned, we would not find it. Instead, we would merely jeopardise the prosperity – and the lives – of people everywhere. However slavishly governments grovel to corporate Luddism, they will not bring the smog economy back.

No one can deny the problem Trump claims to be addressing. The old mining and industrial areas are in crisis throughout the rich world. And we have seen nothing yet. I have just reread the study published by the Oxford Martin School in 2013 on the impacts of computerisation. What jumps out, to put it crudely, is that jobs in the rust belts and rural towns that voted for Trump are at high risk of automation, while the professions of many Hillary Clinton supporters are at low risk.

The jobs most likely to be destroyed are in mining, raw materials, manufacturing, transport and logistics, cargo handling, warehousing and retailing, construction (prefabricated buildings will be assembled by robots in factories), office support, administration and telemarketing. So what, in the areas that voted for Trump, will be left?"

The full article can be found here.

Standing Rock Thanksgiving: a day of mourning, resistance and Jane Fonda

From the Guardian - Native Americans at the North Dakota protest site greet the day with conflicted feelings, while Jane Fonda prepares to serve a 500-person turkey feast

"Native Americans gathered at Standing Rock are approaching this Thanksgiving with deeply conflicted feelings. Do they observe the historically dissonant holiday, mourn the genocide of their ancestors, celebrate the “water protector” movement, or break bread with Jane Fonda?

The actor and fitness guru is part of a delegation to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota that will serve 500 people a Thanksgiving dinner of 30 pasture-raised turkeys from Bill Niman’s ranch prepared by a locavore chef, according to a press release littered with boldface names.

Kandi Mosset, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nation, has mixed feelings about the gesture.

“What is the narrative there? ‘Oh, we want to help the poor Indians on Thanksgiving of all days?’” asked the 37-year-old who has been at Standing Rock since August.

“We’re trying to make people understand that we don’t need celebrities to come and feed us and get a photo op and just leave,” she added."

The full article can be read here.

Obama administration rushes to protect public lands before Trump takes office

From the Guardian - environmental groups hope Utah, Nevada and Grand Canyon will be included in rapid conservation efforts as Trump plans to expand fossil fuel extraction

"Barack Obama’s administration is rushing through conservation safeguards for large areas of public land ahead of Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House, presenting a conundrum for the new president’s goal of opening up more places for oil and gas drilling.

On Monday, the US Department of the Interior banned gold mining on 30,000 acres of land near the northern entrance of Yellowstone national park. This follows announcements last week that barred drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and a brokered settlement that cancelled 32,000 acres of mining leases on Montana land considered by the Blackfeet tribe as “like a church, a divine sanctuary”.

Obama’s administration has also cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in Colorado since Trump’s election win and further executive action is expected before the real estate magnate takes office in January.

Environmentalists expect some level of protection to be placed upon the Bears Ears landscape in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada and the greater Grand Canyon area, in order to bar uranium mining in the region. A permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic is also on the wish list, but is considered less likely."

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thatcher pushed for breakup of welfare state despite NHS pledge

The Guardian - PM declared the health service was ‘safe with us’ but secretly pressed on with radical proposals, archives reveal

Margaret Thatcher secretly tried to press ahead with a politically toxic plan to dismantle the welfare state even after a “cabinet riot” and her famous declaration that the “NHS is safe with us”, newly released Treasury documents show.
The plan commissioned by Thatcher and her chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howeincluded proposals to charge for state schooling, introduce compulsory private health insurance and a system of private medical facilities that “would, of course, mean the end of the National Health Service”.
Some of her cabinet ministers believed they had buried the plan, drawn up by a seconded Treasury official, Alan Bailey, from the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS), at a special cabinet meeting on 9 September 1982. 
Nigel Lawson in his memoirs said the paper of “long-term public spending options” had been buried after what he described as “the nearest thing to a cabinet riot in the history of the Thatcher administration”. In her own memoirs, Thatcher claimed to have been “horrified” by the CPRS paper and insisted that she and her ministers had never seriously considered it. 
The CPRS paper had been partially leaked and she was only able to quell the subsequent furore by famously pledging the “NHS is safe with us” at the October 1982 Tory party conference. Downing Street briefed that the toxic plan had been “shelved”.

Thunderstorm asthma: how seasonal weather can affect human health

From the Guardian - at least four dead and others hospitalised due to weather event scientists broadly agree forces harmful allergens into air

"Melbourne has suffered what appears to be the most lethal episode of thunderstorm asthma on record. With at least four deaths and more patients left in intensive care, the storm has served as a grim reminder that the seasonal weather occurrence can have tragic knock-on effects for human health. “This is an extraordinary event,” said Prof Anthony Seaton, who has worked on thunderstorm asthma at the University of Aberdeen. “I don’t know of any event as severe as this.”

Thunderstorm asthma has been studied for more than 30 years. Since the early 1980s, rapid spikes in sudden asthma attacks have been linked to thunderstorms in the UK, Australia, Italy and the US, but they no doubt occur in other countries. “The evidence for the connection is pretty robust,” said ProfAziz Sheikh, co-director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, a collaboration between 14 universities.

The largest known outbreak of thunderstorm asthma previously coincided with a heavy thunderstorm in London on 24 June 1994. In a 30-hour period which started at 6pm that evening, 640 patients with asthma or other breathing problems overwhelmed hospital emergency departments. Under normal conditions, the staff would have expected only 60 or so asthma patients. More than 100 were admitted, and five ended up in intensive care. In Melbourne, two consecutive thunderstorms saw a five to ten-fold rise in asthma cases in 1992, a report from the city’s Monash medical centre found."

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

'I am sacrificing my life to trigger concern about plastic in India'

From the Guardian - environmentalist Jawahar Kumaran killed himself and left a video protesting about ‘toxic plastic’

"In late October, the streets of the temple town of Thanjavur were abuzz with Diwali festivities, the skies glittering with fireworks. One home, however, was cloaked in darkness.

“We aren’t celebrating Diwali because we are in mourning this year,” said K Kumaran, just back from his 10-hour shift as a security guard at a private college. In the corner of the living room, his wife Vijaya fixes the wick on a flickering oil lamp that stood in front of a framed photograph of their 19-year-old son, Jawahar. “If he was here, my son would have approved of the dark house,” said Vijaya. “He thought firecrackers were polluting, and environmentally disastrous.” Jawahar, a young community activist in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, had killed himself less than a month earlier.

He had left home after breakfast on 10 October, and did not return or call home all day. “At first, we didn’t think it was unusual,” said Kumaran, sighing. Jawahar had been a strenuous activist, often out on protests around the area. Earlier this year, he had gone on a hunger fast; he sat on the road outside a central tourist spot, demanding that city officials confiscate all plastic bags. Before that, he had climbed the Collector’s [government] office building, threatening to jump off unless Thanjavur enforced the plastic ban. On both occasions, it was the police that called Kumaran and Vijaya, asking them to take their boy home after he had been detained. In many other instances, the parents had found out about Jawahar’s public protests through the local Tamil newspapers.

But after a day had passed this time and there had still been no word from their son, Kumaran filed a missing person’s complaint, on Vijaya’s insistence. That evening the police found him; he had drowned in the canal. No one suspected suicide until, on the day of the cremation, a cousin found a video in Jawahar’s phone.

“It was a declaration of suicide,” said the cousin, K Elavaenil. In the self-recorded video, the religious Jawahar wears holy ash on his forehead. Speaking in Tamil he says, “I am sacrificing my life in the hope that it will trigger serious concern about plastic use in India. Since all of my peaceful means of protest failed, I’m forced to choose suicide. To save the lives of millions of people affected by toxic plastic, I don’t think it’s wrong to kill myself.”

The full article can be read here.

Africa's biggest windfarm sparks controversy in the desert

From the Guardian - Morocco’s ambitious plans for wind power in Western Sahara have drawn international praise - but are raising heckles in the disputed territory

"Last week’s Marrakech climate summit shone a light on Morocco’s clean energy plans, which have drawn praise from around the world. At the heart of King Mohammed VI’s ambitions is a windfarm in the country’s south-west region, which, due to an expansion over the summer, has seen off an array of challengers for the title of Africa’s biggest.

Built in just two years and launched in 2015, the Tarfaya complex stretches more than 100 square km across the Saharan desert, its 131 wind turbines grinding out enough electricity to power a city the size of Marrakech every day.

But the renewable energy project is also controversial with some Saharawi – the people who live in the west of the Sahara desert – who complain that it will deepen what they say is the occupation of their land.

The Western Sahara dispute traces back to November 1975, when Morocco oversaw a 350,000-strong “green march” from Tarfaya across the region, as Spain was beginning a haphazard decolonisation. A mass flight of Saharawi refugees and decades of armed conflict followed, as the UN declared the region a “non self-governing territory”.

When UN chief Ban Ki-moon described the situation as an occupation earlier this year, dozens of UN staff were expelled from the country.

Today, Tarfaya is a sleepy concrete village, sparsely surrounded by military checkpoints, camel trains, inlets dotted with flamingos – and 12 waves of turbines that rise from the Saharan sand dunes like a desert circus.

Their performance is a showstopper. Tarfaya annually saves 900 tonnes of CO2 emissions - and around $200m of oil imports. It has brought new transmission lines which, officials say, guarantee power supplies to Saharawi communities, even if many still complain that they are excluded from the green tech industry."

Clouds of filth envelop Asian cities: 'you can't escape'

From the Guardian - This year has seen some of Asia’s worst urban smog episodes in nearly 20 years, as India’s air pollution soars above levels recorded in China

"The winter air in Tehran is often foul but for six days last week it was hardly breathable. A dense and poisonous chemical smog made up of traffic and factory fumes, mixed with construction dust, burning vegetation and waste has shrouded buildings, choked pedestrians, forced schools and universities to close, and filled the hospitals.

Anyone who could flee the Iranian mega-city of 15 million people has done so, but, say the authorities, in the past two weeks more than 400 people have died as a direct result of the pollution, known as the Asian “brown cloud”.

Tehran is far from alone. A combination of atmospheric conditions, geography and the start of the winter heating season regularly traps urban air pollution from October to February across a great swath of Asia. But this year has seen some of the worst smog episodes in nearly 20 years despite cities trying to reduce traffic and factory emissions.

As temperatures drop and people turn to burning waste to keep warm, pollution levels have been 15 to 20 times the World Health Organisation safe levels in three Indian cities – Delhi, Varanasi and Lucknow. Traffic has been banned and construction projects had to be stopped in Beijing as a dense layer of filthy air descended on northern China.

In Kathmandu, in Nepal, and Kabul, Afghanistan, where pollution is regularly trapped in the cities’ valleys, the hospitals have been stretched with people suffering respiratory and cardiac illnesses.

“It is a dreadful situation,” said one Tehrani resident, who asked not to be identified. “You see a lot of elderly people in trouble. People get confused. You get worried about the children. People do not know if schools are going to open. People want to leave but they cannot. The worst thing is you can’t escape or do anything about it.”

The full article can be found here.

Paris climate deal: Trump says he now has an 'open mind' about accord

From the Guardian - asked by the New York Times whether he would pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, the president-elect wavered on his previously stated position

"Donald Trump has said he has an “open mind” over US involvement in the Paris agreement to combat climate change, after previously pledging to withdraw from the effort.

Asked by the New York Times whether he would pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, which has been signed by 196 nations, Trump said: “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.”

The president-elect also wavered on his previously stated position that climate change is a “hoax” and just a “very, very expensive form of tax”.Questioned over the link between human activity and global warming, Trump said: “I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much.” He added that he was thinking about how the issue “will cost our companies”.

Trump’s partial acceptance of the overwhelming scientific view that burning fossil fuels is changing the climate, along with his equivocation over American involvement in the Paris deal, are subtle departures from the position he took during the presidential campaign."

The full article can be read here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

'Extraordinarily hot' Arctic temperatures alarm scientists

From the Guardian - Danish and US researchers say warmer air and sea surface could lead to record lows of sea ice at north pole next year

"The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year, according to scientists.

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

“It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia. This is unprecedented for November,” said research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers university.

Temperatures have been only a few degrees above freezing when -25C should be expected, according to Francis. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” she said."

The full article can be read here.

Brexit vote wiped $1.5tn off UK household wealth in 2016, says report

From the Guardian - Oxfam criticises rising inequality as Credit Suisse finds top 1% of richest Britons own 24% of nation’s assets

"The UK saw $1.5tn (£1.2tn) wiped off its wealth during 2016 after the Brexit vote sent the pound tumbling and the stock market into reverse, according to a survey by Credit Suisse.

A fall in values at the top-end of the property market also contributed to about 400,000 Britons losing their status as dollar millionaires and one of the biggest drops in wealth among the major economies.

But the UK remained third for the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, who own more than £50m in assets, behind the US and China. And the UK’s top 1% of richest people also continued to own 24% of the nation’s wealth, the report said.

Across the globe, the richest 1% own more wealth than the rest of the world put together, continuing the dominance seen in last year’s report. A recovering in the global stock markets in recent weeks is also likely to reverse some of the losses suffered by pension savers and wealthy individuals.

Oxfam said the huge gap between rich and poor was “undermining economies, destabilising societies and holding back the fight against poverty”.

The full article can be read here.

Trump is a threat to the Paris agreement. Can states like California defend it?

From the Guardian - the world is counting on the climate movement in the US to keep action on fossil fuel going. Here is one way we can do that

"There’s no point hiding from it – Donald Trump’s election should give us all concern for our future and the future of our children.

The chances of successfully mitigating climate change and holding global temperature increases to below a manageable 1.5 degree rise has nosedived. Trump, a man who believes that climate change is a “hoax”, wants to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. Even if that ends up taking time, he can decimate US federal agencies engaged in efforts to move to a greener society. He will probably cancel Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and slash federal funding for renewable energy.

It’s not for nothing that Noam Chomsky has said that the Republican party is now “the most dangerous organization in world history.” Their commitment to collaborating in climate change denial – and therefore, the destruction of our futures – is absolute, and they will now control the White House, Congress and the supreme court."

Canada plans to phase out coal-powered electricity by 2030

From the Guardian - environment minister’s goal to make 90% of Canada’s electricity come from sustainable sources starkly contrasts Trump’s pledge to revive US coal industry

"Canada has announced plans to phase out the use of coal-fired electricity by 2030.

The move is in stark contrast to President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to revive the American coal industry.

The environment minister, Kathleen McKenna, said the goal is to make sure 90% of Canada’s electricity comes from sustainable sources by that time – up from 80% today.

The announcement is one of a series of measures Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is rolling out as part of a broader climate change plan. Trudeau also has plans to implement a carbon tax.

Trump, in contrast, has also said he would “cancel” the Paris agreement.

Trudeau told President Obama this past weekend he would miss working with him because he shared so many values."

The full article can be read here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Standing Rock protest: hundreds clash with police over Dakota Access Pipeline

From the Guardian - protesters opposing the controversial pipeline reported being hit with teargas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades during the standoff

"North Dakota law enforcement deployed tear gas and water hoses against hundreds of activists on Sunday night, during a tense bridge standoff amid ongoing protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Protesters also reported being hit with rubber bullets and percussion grenades during the standoff, which took place on a bridge just north of the encampments established by indigenous and environmental activists in opposition to the controversial pipeline.

“They were attacked with water cannons,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux tribe member and founder of the Sacred Stone camp. “It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”

The Morton County Sheriffs Department described the incident as an “ongoing riot” and described the protestors as “very aggressive”. A spokesman for the sheriffs department said that law enforcement was spraying water because protesters were lighting fires on and around the bridge.

At least one person was arrested, according to the Associated Press."

The full article can be read here.

Outcry over lack of cash for flood defences as storm hits south of UK

From the guardian - environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals no funding earmarked for natural flood management despite ministerial pledge

"The government has been accused of being “all talk and no action” on flood defences, as the first named storm of the season brought flooding and power cuts to the south of England.

Storm Angus saw gusts of up to 106mph recorded 23 miles off the coast of Margate, while gusts of 80mph hit Langdon Bay, also in Kent.

While Met Office weather warnings connected with Storm Angus expired at 1pm on Sunday as the storm moved out to the North Sea, a new series of warnings were issued for Monday and Tuesday for heavy rain in south-west England, parts of northern England and Wales.

Andy Page, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said Devon was likely to be most affected. “Although the more persistent rain should clear from Devon by early afternoon, heavy and possibly thundery showers are likely to follow,” he said.

The full article can be read here.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Marrakesh climate conference: Campaigners react with 'extreme disappointment' over lack of progress

From the Independent - ‘This year’s inaction brings us one step closer to a future with a climate that is incompatible with dignified life’

"Campaigners have expressed “extreme disappointment” at the outcome of the United Nations climate change summit in Marrakesh, saying the nations most vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet.

The Paris conference last year was widely regarded as a success, but this was based largely on promises to tackle the problem. Marrakesh was seen as the event at which those pledges would be turned into action.

The planet has already warmed by 1ºC and at Paris it was agreed to try to limit this to as close to 1.5ºC as possible to avoid “severe, pervasive and irreversible” impacts.

Yet environmental campaigners said the Morocco summit was again heavy on rhetoric and light on real progress, with rich countries failing to do enough to help the developing world.

The recent election of Donald Trump, who has previously called global warming a “hoax”, has raised fears that the US’s climate promises could be withdrawn.

Isabel Kreisler, of Oxfam, said not enough money was being given to the world’s poorest countries to help them adapt to changes that are already happening because of global warming.

Climate change is affecting poor states in Africa and Asia much more than the developed world, which built its wealth on the fossil fuels that caused the problem."

The full article can be read here.

Global sea ice shrinking at unprecedented speeds, warns scientist

From the Independent - climate change experts say the repercussions of warmer sea temperatures are already being felt

Global sea ice is retreating at unprecedented speed with its impact already being felt across the globe, a leading scientist has warned.

While ice in the Arctic is close to record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels for this time of year since records began.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University, said rates of ice growth in winter had slowed and rising temperatures were causing it to melt faster in the summer, causing a dramatic reduction in area and thickness.

He warned the global repercussions of the reduction of sea ice were already being felt, long before the ice has fully disappeared.

“As the ice area gets less, you're changing the albedo of the earth, which is the fraction of solar radiation that gets reflected straight away back into space, so you're absorbing radiation which warms the earth quicker creating a feedback effect as the ice retreats,” he told The Independent.

“The only secure way of stopping the sea ice to retreat is stopping warming the climate and that is really by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.”

The full article can be read here.

One in 500 chance humans will be extinct in a year, mathematician claims

From the Independent - a mathematician at the University of Barcelona has estimated there is a 13 per cent chance humanity will fail to see out the 21st Century

"The human race faces a one in 500 chance of extinction in the next year, an expert mathematician has claimed.

Dr Fergus Simpson, a mathematician at the University of Barcelona's Institute of Cosmos Sciences, said there was a 0.2 per cent chance of a "global catastrophe" occurring in any given year over the course of the 21st Century. "

"At a time when at least eight sovereign states are in possession of nuclear weapons (including one whose leader has executed members of his own family), a head-in-the-sand approach appears both dangerous and irresponsible.

"Investigations towards the mitigation of various global risks [...] ought to be pursued with urgency. We may not be able to evade the inevitable altogether, but as with our personal life expectancy, it is within our power to delay it."

Dr Simpson’s hypothesis follows several studies warning of the apocalyptic effects of climate change.

New research published in the journal Science Advances warned that if humans carry on using large amounts of fossil fuels, planet Earth could be on course for global warming of more than seven degrees Celsius within a lifetime, which would have a catastrophic effect on the human population.

The researchers found the climate could be much more sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought, which if true would be “game over" for attempts to prevent dangerous global warming, according to leading climatologist Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University"

The full article can be read here.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

California drought: 36m trees dead since May, raising toll to more than 102m

From the Guardian - survey shows 36m trees have died since May, as record low snowpack and warm temperatures leave trees thirsty and prone to beetle infestation

"The California drought has killed more than 102m trees in a die-off of forests that increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires and other threats to humans, officials said on Friday.

The latest aerial survey by the US Forest Service shows there are 36m more dead trees since May in the state and there has been a 100% increase since 2015.

“These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur and pose a host of threats to life and property,” the US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said in a statement.

California has endured five years of drought marked by a record low mountain snowpack and warm temperatures. The drought has left trees thirsty and prone to infestation by bark beetles."

The full article can be read here.

Global green movement prepares to fight Trump on climate change

From the Guardian - election of a climate sceptic as US president sparks outpouring of donations and a surge in planned protests and court challenges

"The global green movement is preparing for the fight of its life against efforts by Donald Trump to rollback action on climate change, with a surge in fundraising, planned court challenges and a succession of protests.

Environmental activists said the election of a climate change denier as US president, along with the prospect of former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and various oil billionaires holding senior posts, has prompted an “outpouring” of donations.

This week, comedian, John Oliver, used his show to urge viewers to give to the Natural Resources Defense Council, while EarthJustice, a specialist in environmental law, reported a “substantial increase” in donations to wage the expected legal battles ahead. The Sierra Club said it has had 9,000 new monthly donors since election day, more than they had in the year to date.

After spending eight years cheering and occasionally scolding Barack Obama, environmentalists are now moving on to a war footing. Campaigns will be pitched around climate action and protecting national parks, with green groups claiming that public support for these things means that Trump has no mandate to tear them apart."

The full article can be read here.

Obama puts Arctic Ocean off limits for drilling in last-ditch barrier to Trump

From the Guardian - US Department of the Interior says ‘fragile and unique’ Arctic ecosystem at risk if drilling allowed, possibly by pro-fossil fuels Trump administration

"Barack Obama’s administration has ruled out drilling for oil and gas in the pristine Arctic Ocean, throwing up a last-ditch barrier to the pro-fossil fuels agenda of incoming president Donald Trump.

The US Department of the Interior said that the “fragile and unique” Arctic ecosystem would face “significant risks” if drilling were allowed in the Chukchi or Beaufort Seas, which lie off Alaska. It added that the high costs of exploration, combined with a low oil price, would probably deter fossil fuel companies anyway.

“The plan focuses lease sales in the best places – those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict, and established infrastructure – and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” said the interior secretary, Sally Jewell.

“Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”

The full article can be read here.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Shot in the Back at Standing Rock

From the Daily Beast - Elders kept in cages. Demonstrators shot with rubber bullets. What’s happening at Standing Rock isn’t just a protest, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox writes. It’s a character test—one America is failing.

"OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, Standing Rock Reservation—The moral soul of this continent is at Standing Rock, and at the moment that soul is being beaten, maced, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and locked up by a militarized police force acting on behalf of foreign oil companies.

As North Dakota police lock up and abuse peaceful “water protectors,” members of a growing resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline slated to transport oil under the Missouri River, it becomes clear that the fight over the tribal land of Standing Rock is not only the primary battleground for indigenous sovereignty; it is the center of the fight for clean water, to fight climate change, and to ban hydraulic fracturing. At its base, this is a struggle between the people and a government corrupted by corporate power.

Wes “Mekasi” Horinek, an activist with the water rights group Bold Alliance was arrested during a camp raid by local police. He described the atrocities he’s witnessed: “peaceful protesters were hooded, put in stress positions, strip-searched. We were placed in dog kennels with numbers written on our arms for hours. Elders were kept in cages in the basement of the police station for days.”

They’re the type of images that evoke the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib. North Dakota police have been accused of destroying sacred objects—eagle feathers stripped off religious leaders, peace pipes broken, and during an Oct. 27 raid in one of the camps, tribe members were ripped out of sweat lodges and arrested. “Our teepee flaps were forced open with the muzzle end of an M-4 rifle,” remarked Floris White Bull, a prominent activist and the great-grandniece of the legendary Lakota Chief Sitting Bull."

The North Pole is 36 degrees HOTTER than normal as figures reveal Earth is on track for its warmest year on record

From the Mail:

"Temperatures in the Arctic have hit more than 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal as polar night bears down on the region.

In parts of Arctic Russia, experts say the anomalies even went beyond 40 degrees.

The shocking temperates come as the earth is on track for its warmest year on record after October temperatures equaled the third-warmest for the month ever, a U.S. government agency said.

Experts are baffled by the exceedingly high temperatures that are now occurring during a time that brings long periods of darkness, and usually, frigid temperatures.

Though October typically marks the start of a refreezing period, when the ice cover grows thicker and stronger following the summer melt, sea ice in the Arctic has hit a new low.

Data from Climate Reanalyzer shows how temperatures today have climbed upwards of 36 degrees Fahrenheit above the daily average.

In a provisional statement released this week, from the World Meteorological Organization on the status of this year's global climate, scientists predicted that 2016 will be the hottest year on record.

And, the data shows few areas have been hit as hard as the Arctic.

'In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6°C to 7°C [42.8-44.7°F] above the long-term average,' said Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General."

US states vow to push ahead in fight against climate change - with or without President Trump's blessing

From the Independent - 'California will not retreat, California will not go backwards. Our resolve is stronger than ever before'

"Individual US states have reacted defiantly to the surprise election of climate change denier Donald Trump at the UN summit here in Marrakech, saying they will not allow the federal government to derail the progress they have made towards saving the planet.

California has emerged as a global leader in its own right in terms of tackling climate change, and state officials said on Thursday that the Republican’s victory had made them “more determined than ever” to move forwards on climate action.

The President-elect has previously described man-made global warming as a hoax perpetrated by China, and according to reports his transition team is exploring the quickest way to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.

And while local actors like California cannot prevent Mr Trump from scrapping American involvement in the landmark accord, through state laws and international collaboration they are already exploring options to limit the damage."

The full article can be read here.

UK ratifies Paris climate agreement

From the Guardian - Foreign minister, Boris Johnson, signs global pact to cut carbon emissions in London

"The UK has become the 111th country to ratify the Paris climate agreement, which aims to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change by cutting carbon emissions.

The foreign minister, Boris Johnson, who has flirted with climate scepticism, signed the pact in London on Thursday after a parliamentary deadline passed on Wednesday night, with no objections raised.

Speaking at the UN climate summit in Marrakech, Nick Hurd, the industry and climate minister, said: “The UK is ratifying the historic Paris agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all.

“I hope this will send a very strong message of continued international commitment to implement Paris because it is obviously very important to send that signal out.”

The full article can be read here.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Huge deposit of untapped oil could be largest ever discovered in US

From the Guardian - estimated 20bn barrels of oil found in Texas’s Permian Basin, three times larger than the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota, could be worth as much as $900bn

"A huge deposit of untapped oil, possibly the largest ever discovered in the US, has been identified by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in west Texas.

The USGS estimated that 20bn barrels of oil was contained within layers of shale in the Permian Basin, a vast geological formation that stretches across western Texas and an area of New Mexico. The discovery is three times larger than the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota and is worth around $900bn.

The enormous deposit, in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp shale area that includes the cities of Lubbock and Midland in Texas, is the largest continuous oilfield ever discovered by the USGS. The area also includes 16tn cubic feet of natural gas and 1.6bn barrel of natural gas liquids.

“The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS energy resources program."

The full article can be found here.

'Global warming doesn’t care about the election': Nasa scientist warns Donald Trump over interference

From the Independent - senior Nasa scientist suggests he could resign if Donald Trump tries to skew climate change research results

"A senior Nasa scientist has told Donald Trump he is wrong if he thinks climate change is not happening and warned the President-elect that government scientists are “not going to stand” for any interference with their work.

Mr Trump has described global warming as a “hoax” perpetrated by China, vowed to unratify the landmark Paris Agreement and appointed a renowned climate-change denier to a senior environmental position in his transition team.

The science community and environmental campaigners in the US have already begun efforts to persuade Mr Trump that climate change is actually real before he takes office next year.

Dr Gavin Schmidt, the director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, signalled they would have allies among the federal science agencies.

He tweeted a graph including new data from Nasa showing that last month was the second warmest October on record, putting 2016 firmly on course to be the warmest year. “No surprise here, planetary warming does not care about the election,” he wrote."

The full article can be read here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The cost of climate change: World's economy will lose $12tn unless greenhouse gases are tackled

From the Independent - damage caused by rising seas, increased storms and other climate-related problems pose 'a very serious challenge to poverty eradication efforts in the developing world'

"Preventing global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius will mean the world’s economy is at least 10 per cent bigger by 2050 than it would be if action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gases, according to a new report.

The planet’s average temperature has already risen about 1C in about 130 years, with scientists admitting that restricting this to just 0.5C more will be difficult.

However the report – released by the United Nations Development Programme and a group of 43 developing countries which are highly vulnerable to climate change – argued doing so would be worth it.

As a result, the world’s gross domestic product would fall by $21 trillion by 2050, compared to $33 trillion under a ‘business-as-usual’ approach that allows global warming of 2.5 degrees. This saving of $12 trillion (about £9.6 trillion) represents about 10 per cent of global GDP.

It would also “substantially” reduce the risk of the flooding of large parts of the world’s lowest lying land, “with the Greenland ice sheet facing irreversible decline most likely around 1.6C of warming”.

All the ice on Greenland would take some time to melt but would raise sea levels by seven metres once completely gone."

The full article can be read here.

Dakota pipeline operator goes to court after government delays construction

From the Guardian - Energy Transfer Partners accused the Obama administration of being motivated purely by politics and said it would pursue rights to build controversial oil line

"The operator of the Dakota Access pipeline has asked a federal judge to approve immediate construction under the Missouri river just one day after the US government delayed the oil project that has faced international opposition from indigenous groups and environmental activists.

Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the $3.7bn pipeline, accused President Barack Obama’s administration of being “motivated purely by politics” and said it would “vigorously pursue its legal rights” to build under the river that provides the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s water supply.

“Dakota Access Pipeline has waited long enough to complete this pipeline,” CEO Kelcy Warren said in a statement. “It is time for the Courts to end this political interference and remove whatever legal cloud that may exist over the right-of-way beneath federal land at Lake Oahe.”

The company said in court filings that the army’s “intransigence in completing its review has already cost Dakota Access hundreds of millions of dollars” and that additional delays will result in further costs."

The full article can be read here.

John Kerry: We will fight to keep US in the Paris climate deal

From the Guardian - Secretary of state says the outgoing Obama administration is determined to prevent Trump withdrawing the US from the landmark deal

"John Kerry has signalled that the outgoing Obama administration is preparing a fight to ensure that Donald Trump does not withdraw the US from the landmark Paris agreement, to prevent catastrophic climate change.

“This is bigger than one person, one president,” the US secretary of state said in Marrakech, before his last address to the UN climate summit being held there. “We have to figure out how we’re going to stop this.”

President Obama is walking a fine line before leaving office, between an imperative to staunch the threat that climate change poses to US and global interests, and the need to respect the results of last week’s US election.

In a speech that pulled few punches, Kerry made a detailed and often emotional plea to the incoming US president to listen to faith leaders, military chiefs, businessmen, activists and – above all – climate scientists, before abandoning future generations to the ravages of climate change."

The full article can be read here

World could face oil shortage by end of decade, says IEA

From the Guardian - International Energy Agency warns of future instability as low price of Brent crude deters investment in new oilfields

The world could face an oil supply shortage by the end of the decade, triggering large swings in the price of the commodity, the International Energy Agency has warned.

In its annual publication World Energy Outlook, detailing expectations for global energy trends, the IEA warned that the recent low price of oil could have serious ramifications within years.

A barrel of Brent crude has more than halved in price since early 2014 from $112 (£90) to around $44 in mid-November this year, having fallen to $32 earlier in the year amid oversupply.

The full article can be found here.

Big oil v orcas: Canadians fight pipeline that threatens killer whales on the brink

From the Guardian - Conservationists say the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion project poses the greatest risk yet to a killer whale population on the edge of extinction

"On one shore there are snow-capped mountains. On the other side loom towering skyscrapers. These churning waters off the coast of Vancouver are marked by a constant flow of ferries and containers ships – but they are also home to 80 or so orcas.

Known as the southern resident killer whales the group has long had a fraught relationship with the urban sprawl they live alongside, leaving them on the knife’s edge of extinction.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals.

But now the orcas of the Salish sea face what conservationists say is their biggest threat to date: an expansion proposal for a pipeline that would snake from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

Spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, the C$6.8bn ($5bn) Trans Mountain Expansion project is designed to transport Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to international markets."

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

US envoy says climate deal is bigger than any one head of state

From the BBC:

"The Paris climate agreement will survive a Trump presidency says the US special envoy on climate change Dr Jonathan Pershing.

He was speaking before the arrival of ministers and some heads of state in Marrakech on Tuesday.

They are coming to try to take the next steps to tackle global climate change.

But the meeting has been rocked by the possibility that President-elect Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the pact.
Shape and thrust

US lead negotiator Dr Pershing told a packed news briefing that the passion and dedication displayed in the effort to deliver the Paris treaty was strong enough to withstand the impacts of Trump presidency.

“Heads of state can and will change but I am confident that we can and we will sustain a durable international effort to counter climate change,” he said.

Dr Pershing said that he expected personnel from the Trump transition team to start arriving at the State Department in the coming weeks and they would drive the “shape and thrust” of US diplomacy over the next four years.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump sketched a plan to “cancel” the Paris Agreement and withhold US payments to the UN body tasked with stemming climate change."

Completion of Dakota Access pipeline delayed as army calls for more analysis

From the Guardian - army corps of engineers’ call for ‘additional discussion and analysis’ comes amid heightened tensions between activists and the surrounding community

"The US army corps of engineers has completed its review of the Dakota Access pipeline and is calling for “additional discussion and analysis”, further delaying completion of a project that has faced massive opposition from indigenous and environmental activists.

The statement comes amid heightened tensions between Native American activists and the surrounding community over the pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says could contaminate its water supply and destroy sacred sites. On Saturday, a man brandished a gun during a confrontation with protestors and fired his weapon into the air.

The Dakota Access pipeline operator announced on election day that it had completed construction of the pipeline up to Lake Oahe – a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River – and was preparing to begin drilling under the river. But the company still lacks permission from the army corps of engineering to perform the drilling.

Assistant secretary of the army Jo-Ellen Darcy cited the history of “repeated dispossessions” of the Great Sioux Nation in a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the pipeline company. She wrote that the corps wanted to begin talks with the tribe about “potential conditions in an easement” that would allow the pipeline to cross the Missouri River but lessen the risks of a spill."

The full article can be read here.

Birds - Species are dying out, but we don’t have to let it happen

From the Guardian - the return of the bittern and common crane to the Norfolk Broads gives reason for optimism

"In the autumn stillness, I didn’t immediately notice the large brown bird flying low over a golden-brown expanse of reeds at Hickling Broad, Norfolk. It was a bittern, a famously elusive creature that became extinct in Britain as a breeding bird 150 years ago.

The bittern is thriving again, after beginning its comeback in 1911 at Hickling, the largest of the lakes created by medieval peat-diggers, which now form our wildest lowland landscape. Today, Hickling Broad is a wetland of international importance, home to endangered species such as the marsh harrier (rarer than the burgeoning golden eagle), the swallowtail butterfly (only found on the Broads) and the holly-leaved naiad (an aquatic plant so rare that botanists make pilgrimages to admire it).

Hickling is probably one of the 10 most important nature reserves in the land, so it was a shock last month when half was put up for sale. People feared a developer would ruin it with a new “ecotourism” marina; but luckily an offer by its current tenants, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, has been accepted. This small charity has launched an urgent appeal to raise £1m to complete its purchase.

It is no coincidence that, alongside the bittern, the common crane also first returned to Britain near Hickling. This large and lovely bird began breeding again on adjacent marshes tended by a local farmer and self-confessed “craniac”, John Buxton; this year a record 48 pairs bred across the country.

These revivals show that reserves such as Hickling are not simply fragments where we witness the death throes of endangered species: they are creative places of recovery, where the natural dynamism of wild things enjoys free and glorious expression."

2016 will be the hottest year on record, UN says

From the Guardian - World Meteorological Organisation figures show global temperature is 1.2C above pre-industrial levels and will set a new high for the third year running

"2016 will very likely be the hottest year on record and a new high for the third year in a row, according to the UN. It means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been this century.

The scorching temperatures around the world, and the extreme weather they drive, mean the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, published on Monday at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the global temperature in 2016 is running 1.2C above pre-industrial levels. This is perilously close to to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the Paris climate agreement last December.

The El Niño weather phenomenon helped push temperatures even higher in early 2016 but the global warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities remains the strongest factor."

The full article can be read here.

Monday, 14 November 2016

We can fix climate change, but only if we refuse to abandon hope

From the Guardian - new discoveries are being made and solutions found, and each hopeful action will help stop the planet burning. Let’s defy the pessimists and the deniers

"When it looked like the news couldn’t get any worse, it did: worse in a way that dwarfed our petty elections and clueless, pendulum analyses, worse in a way that dusted the present with the irrelevance of history. In the journal Science Advances, five of the world’s most eminent climatologists warned of the possibility that warming may be significantly worse than we thought. Previous consensus was that the Earth’s average temperature would go up by between 2.6C - life-altering but manageable - and 4.8C - cataclysmic. Now, the range suggested by one projection goes up to 7.4C, which is “game over” by the 22nd century.

It relates to the US because their incoming president has promised actively, determinedly to bring about the worst-case scenario, acting on the now familiar, pre-enlightenment logic that because it’s beyond the limits of his intellect to comprehend it, climate change doesn’t exist. But it relates to, or rather clarifies, things on a deeper level.

Rational American citizens are, post-Trump, going through the same grief trajectory as many of us did after Brexit: the debate is all fierce conjecture about how they lost, whom they failed to listen to, whose anger had been ignored and by which people for how many decades. But underneath that is a profound crisis of civic engagement – a deep, agonising question: what is the point? If reason doesn’t matter, if truth doesn’t, if solidarity is for wimps, if experts are charlatans, what’s the point of getting involved in this circus?

Paul Krugman identifies it as a creed of quietism, conceding: “It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it, so why not just make your own garden grow?” Ultimately, he chooses engagement to save the soul: “I don’t see how you can hang on to your own self-respect unless you’re willing to stand up for the truth.” The American journalist Nancy LeTourneau took it one step further and tried to find a positive in the powerlessness, via Gandhi: “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.”

The full article can be read here.

Half of UK electricity comes from low-carbon sources for first time ever, claims new report

From the Independent - Britain reaches green turning point as electricity was completely coal-free for nearly six days over the last quarter

"More than half of the UK’s electricity has come from low-carbon sources for the first time, a new study has found.

The research from energy company Drax, which operates a biomass power station, found electricity from low-emission sources had peaked at 50.2 per cent between July and September.

It comes after the Government announced plans that would see Britain's coal-fired power stations probably close by 2025.

Drax has launched a new quarterly report in collaboration with Imperial College London on trends in the UK energy market.

The first edition published today, showed that in the last quarter, for the first time ever, more than half of the UK’s electricity was generated from low-carbon sources including UK nuclear, imported French nuclear, biomass, hydro, wind and solar.

The report said: "Britain’s electricity was completely coal-free for nearly six days over the last quarter.

"Coal plants have been pushed off the system by competition from gas, nuclear and renewables. 5 May 2016 was a historic day, the first time since 1881 that Britain burnt no coal to produce its electricity."

The full article can be read here.

Global carbon growth stalls as US coal continues to slump

From the BBC:

"Declining consumption of coal in the US last year played a significant role in keeping down global emissions of carbon dioxide, according to a new report.

The Global Carbon Project annual analysis shows that CO2 emissions were almost flat for the third year in a row, despite a rise in economic growth.

The slowdown in the Chinese economy since 2012 has also been a key factor limiting carbon.

Experts believe it is too early to say if global CO2 emissions have peaked.
Impact of recession

The annual output of carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels increased by about 3% per annum through the first decade of this century.

Thanks to the global recession, emissions started to slow down in 2010. However they have now stalled for the past three years at around 36.4bn tonnes of CO2.

China's rapid economic expansion, which saw two new coal fired power stations being built every week, drove the global rise in CO2 over the past 16 years.

But there has been a sharp slowdown in coal use since 2012, driving Chinese CO2 emissions down 0.7% in 2015 according to this study, and a further 0.5% in 2016.

"It is hard to say whether the Chinese slowdown is due to a successful and smooth restructuring of the Chinese economy or a sign of economic instability," said Glen Peters, from the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) in Oslo, who co-authored the study."

The full article can be found here.

"Nevertheless, the unexpected reductions in Chinese emissions give hope that the world's biggest emitter can deliver much more ambitious emission reductions."