CC9C. 2020-What Are Governments Doing About Climate Change?

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Staying current for Chapter 9

Articles from 2020

Stay current index page for Chapter 9

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2020-12-21. Climate Change Legislation Included in Coronavirus Relief Deal. By Coral Davenport, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — In the waning days of the 116th Congress, lawmakers have authorized $35 billion in spending on wind, solar and other clean power sources while curtailing the use of a potent planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators…. [

2020-12-18. The Debate over the United Nations’ Energy Emissions Projections. By Kate Wheeling, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: A new study finds the economic factor driving the divergence between emissions trajectories in climate assessments and reality. …There is no question that climate change is reshaping Planet Earth and that things are getting ugly as global warming progresses. The debate now centers on just how bad things will get. But there are still major uncertainties when it comes to modeling future climate. Chief among them: How much more carbon dioxide will humans emit, and how sensitive is the climate system to all those emissions anyway?…To account for those uncertainties, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created several baseline scenarios, known as Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), to describe just how much warming might result from a range of carbon emissions. …The most extreme model, RCP 8.5—sometimes called the business-as-usual scenario—describes rampant burning of fossil fuels, a global average temperature increase of nearly 5°C, and mean sea levels roughly a meter higher than they are today. But climate and energy experts disagree over how likely it is that this high-emissions scenario will come to pass. A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters found that the emissions trajectories in climate assessments from the IPCC overshot actual energy emissions over the past 15 years. …Economic growth and emissions have grown more or less in tandem since the Industrial Revolution began, and the high-emissions scenarios rely on continued economic growth. But many economists are now questioning whether the high growth rate of the past century can continue throughout the present one. “What if it’s just inevitable that growth is going to slow almost to a halt in this century in developed countries for a bunch of reasons that have very little to do with the environment?” Aging populations, debt, plateauing rates of educational attainment, urbanization, and women entering the workforce have all been shown to slow economic growth and could continue to do so in the coming years. …not many people on the environmental side of climate discussions were paying attention to this economic debate, despite its clear implications for global warming models. …For one thing, RCP 8.5 predicts that coal use will increase sixfold by the end of the century, although current data suggest that global coal use peaked in 2014…. [

2020-12-15. Fed Joins Climate Network, to Applause From the Left. By Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is joining a network of central banks and other financial regulators focused on conducting research and shaping policies to help prepare the financial system for the effects of climate change. The Fed’s board in Washington voted unanimously to become a member of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, it said in a statement on Tuesday. The central bank began participating in the group more than a year ago, but its formal membership is something that Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for and that Republicans have eyed warily. …The network exists to help central banks and other regulators exchange ideas, research and best practices as they figure out how to account for environment and climate risk in the financial sector. While the Fed had participated informally, its decision to join as a member is the latest sign of its recognition that the central bank must begin to take extreme weather events into account as they occur with increasing frequency and pose a growing risk to the financial system — whether doing so is politically palatable or not. “The public will expect that we do figure out what are the implications of climate change for financial stability, and that we do put policies in place,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said this month at a Senate hearing. “The broad response to climate change on the part of society really needs to be set by elected representatives — that’s you. We see implications of climate change for the job that you’ve given us, and that’s what we’re working on.”…. [

2020-12-11. The Paris climate pact is 5 years old. Is it working? By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: When world leaders celebrated reaching a landmark climate change agreement in Paris in December 2015, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe were illuminated with green floodlights and the message “Accord de Paris c’est fait!” (the Paris agreement is done!). Now, five tumultuous years later, a new slogan might be “travail en cours” (work in progress). That will be the implicit message sent tomorrow when nations gather—virtually—to look back on what the Paris agreement has achieved in its first half-decade and, more importantly, to unveil new pledges to further cut planet-warming emissions. Although analysts say the pact has helped make progress toward its goal of preventing average global temperatures from increasing by 2°C above preindustrial levels, the effort is also shadowed by ample evidence that many countries aren’t living up to the promises they made in 2015. And even if nations had kept those promises, some researchers forecast that global temperatures would rise by 2.6°C by the end of the century, underlining the need for stronger action. If a grade is awarded to the Paris pact “based on whether we have any prospect of meeting a 2°C target, from that point of view, it’s probably a D or an F,” says Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist and policy expert at Princeton University. But at the same time, he says, the pact has made a “real difference” by helping make climate change “a top concern of all countries.”…. []

2020-12-04. Denmark becomes first major oil-producing nation to set deadline to end extraction. By Florian Elabdi, Rick Noack and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post. Excerpt: COPENHAGEN — Denmark on Friday became the first major oil-producing nation to announce an end to state-approved exploration in the North Sea, with the aim of phasing out all extraction by 2050…. []

2020-12-02. Pace of climate change shown in new report has humanity on ‘suicidal’ path, U.N. leader warns. By Andrew Freedman, The Washington Post. Excerpt: This year will be one of the three hottest on record for the globe, as marine heat waves swelled over 80 percent of the world’s oceans, and triple-digit heat invaded Siberia, one of the planet’s coldest places. These troubling indicators of global warming are laid out in a U.N. State of the Climate report published Wednesday…. []

2020-11-23. Biden names John Kerry as presidential climate envoy. By Brady DennisSteven Mufson and  Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post. Excerpt: ‘America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,’ Kerry tweeted after the announcement…. []  

2020-11-23. The Most Important Climate Legislation Has Already Passed. By Justin Guay, Greentech Media. Excerpt: one of the most powerful pieces of climate change legislation the Biden administration will need has already been passed: the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation, known for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other public safeguards against financial wrongdoing, also empowers key agencies including the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit systemic risks to financial stability. The largest systemic risk of them all, climate change, is driven by reckless investments in fossil fuels, exactly the kind of speculative activities Dodd-Frank was designed to bring to a halt …For investors, one of the greatest risks is losing money on coal, oil and gas infrastructure that is forced into early retirement due to the inevitable policy response to climate change and a resulting clean energy transition (referred to as “transition risk”). However, even absent a concerted climate policy, the U.S. has seen a wave of bankruptcies across the oil and gas industry, and the continued secular decline of the coal industry despite desperate attempts to reverse its fortunes…. [

2020-11-10. Trump to put climate change denier in charge of key U.S. report. By Scott Waldmann, E&E News. Excerpt: President Donald Trump’s administration is focused on promoting climate denial even as it counts down the president’s final days. The Trump team is preparing to appoint a climate denier to head development of the National Climate Assessment for the next two months, …. On Friday, the administration quietly removed Michael Kuperberg from his job as executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP), …. Meanwhile, planning has been underway for weeks to appoint the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s David Legates, a climate change denier recently named as deputy assistant Commerce secretary…. Legates is a geologist from the University of Delaware and an affiliate of the Heartland Institute, which exists to muddy the public’s understanding of climate change. He has said burning more fossil fuels would benefit humanity and that policy to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a regulatory scheme that runs counter to market principles…. []  

2020-11-04. U.S. Quits Paris Climate Agreement: Questions and Answers. By Lisa Friedman. The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Au revoir, Paris Agreement. …Ever since 2017, when President Trump announced his intention to abandon the pact, he’s spoken about withdrawal as if it was a done deal. In fact, however, pulling out of the Paris Agreement has been a lengthy process. On Nov. 4, 2019, the earliest possible day under United Nations rules that a country could begin the final withdrawal process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filed paperwork to do so. It automatically finalized a year later. So, as of Wednesday morning [Nov 4], the United States is officially no longer a part of the group of nations pledging to address climate change. …Who’s still in, and what are they doing? Almost every country in the world. Of the 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, 189 went on to formally adopt the accord. Initially Nicaragua and Syria withheld their support from the pact but both eventually joined the agreement. As of Wednesday, in addition to the United States, the countries that originally signed but have not formally adopted the Paris Agreement are: Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen. So far, no other country has followed the United States in renouncing the Paris Agreement. At one point President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil threatened to do so but he later reversed course. …Is the U.S. withdrawal final? No. Any future president could opt back in…. [

2020-10-30. How Scientists Can Engage to Solve the Climate Crisis. By Raleigh L. Martin, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Policymakers need scientists. Here’s how one geoscientist contributed to a U.S. congressional report that’s already churning out legislation—and real action. …The gap between scientific consensus and political action on the unfolding climate crisis can be frustrating. For decades, geoscientists have been warning about the dangers of unmitigated climate change. Synthesis documents, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2018 Global Warming of 1.5°C report, express the consensus scientific view that immediate and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions are needed to avert climate catastrophe. But translating this alarm into tangible policy action can feel daunting when some political leaders continue to deny the science of climate change. To counter this pessimism, I offer here a motivating example of science-driven work by the U.S. Congress to solve the climate crisis, and I describe ways in which scientists can be partners in advancing climate action…. [

2020-10-29. Fleet of robotic probes will monitor global warming’s impact on microscopic ocean life. By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: A single drop of seawater holds millions of phytoplankton, a mix of algae, bacteria, and protocellular creatures. Across the world’s oceans these photosynthesizing microbes pump out more than half of the planet’s oxygen, while slowing climate change by capturing an estimated 25% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released from humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. But the scale of this vital chemistry is mostly a guess, and there’s little sense of how it will change as temperatures rise. …Soon, 500 drifting ocean floats studded with biogeochemical sensors will deliver answers. Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it will spend $53 million to fund the new floats, marking the first major expansion of the Argo array, a set of 4000 floats that for 15 years has tracked rising ocean temperatures. …In addition to standard Argo measurements of temperature and salinity, the new floats will have sensors measuring oxygen, sunlight, particles, chlorophyll (a gauge of phytoplankton abundance), nitrate (a key nutrient), and pH (acidity). Researchers will be watching that last reading closely, because acidity reflects both the ocean’s uptake of CO2 and its pernicious effect. When the gas dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid that eventually splits into bicarbonate and hydrogen ions, the latter increasing the water’s acidity. Ecologists are concerned that acidification, already 30% worse in surface waters than preindustrial times, will make it more difficult for some phytoplankton, corals, bivalves, and many other species to assemble their shells of calcium carbonate…. [

2020-10-29. Jury duty for global warming: citizen groups help solve the puzzle of climate action. By Cathleen O’Grady, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Until recently, Sue Peachey, an apartment building manager in Bath, U.K., didn’t think much about climate change. …She never imagined the U.K. Parliament asking for her advice on climate policy. But last year, a letter arrived in her mailbox inviting her to do just that, by joining the United Kingdom’s first ever climate assembly. …The assembly was more than a focus group or a town hall meeting: It was an experiment in handing political power to a random but representative set of citizens. Last month, it produced its final report, and its recommendations will shape debates in Parliament.The U.K. Climate Assembly is one of a growing number of similar gatherings popping up across Europe, many of them charged with addressing climate change and other science-heavy issues. A citizens’ assembly in Ireland that deliberated from 2016 to 2018 led to …a government plan to quadruple its carbon tax by 2030. This year in France, an assembly made 149 climate policy recommendations, and President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to push for 146 of them, including making “ecocide” a crime an …including climate goals in the French constitution. Spain, Denmark, and Scotland have announced their own upcoming climate assemblies, although they have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. …Advocates say these carefully designed “minipublics” can break political stalemates by bringing together citizens to hear evidence and deliberate. They point to evidence of high-quality policy created by fresh and diverse perspectives, and to behavioral research showing the power of guided deliberation to change minds and reduce polarization. …Letting ordinary people determine climate policy might seem risky, but “if climate scientists have learned anything over the last couple of decades, it’s that they can’t just do the science and expect it to speak for itself,” says John Dryzek, a political scientist at the University of Canberra who wants to use the approach to tackle another fraught science issue. …RANDOMLY ASSIGNING CITIZENS to positions of political power has a history stretching back to ancient Greece, where the Athenians used the practice to select magistrates and members of their representative Council of Five Hundred…. [
2020-10-26. Japan’s New Leader Sets Ambitious Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050. By Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue and Hikari Hida, The New York Times. Excerpt: TOKYO — Japan will be carbon neutral by 2050, its prime minister said on Monday, making an ambitious pledge to sharply accelerate the country’s global warming targets, even as it plans to build more than a dozen new coal-burning power plants in the coming years. The prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, laid out the goal during his first major policy speech since taking office in September…. []  See also article in The Washington Post.

2020-10-22. U.S. cities struggling to meet lofty climate goals. By Peter Behr, E&E News. Excerpt: Most major U.S. cities that have signed on to the climate fight with pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions are failing to meet their goals or haven’t even started to track local progress, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution. The report, “Pledges and Progress,” looked for climate policy and actions in the nation’s 100 most populous cities, finding that two-thirds have made commitments to address citywide emissions.President Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate accord after he took office sparked a strong response at the local level. Mayors joined governors, business leaders and academics in taking the “We Are Still In” pledge to help meet targets for cutting emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The pledge now lists 3800 signers. “At their best, the plans have exemplified the hope that ‘bottom-up’ actions could add up to a powerful approach to climate mitigation, especially given rollbacks in federal policy under the Trump administration including the government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” the report said. But the Brookings analysis found that actions taken by cities aren’t matching up with their pledges to address climate change. Among the 100 largest cities, only 45 set specific targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions during the past decade and inventoried emissions levels within city boundaries as baselines for measuring progress…. [

2020-09-14. Climate change denialist given top role at major U.S. science agency. By Scott Waldman, E&E News/Science Magazine. Excerpt: A controversial researcher who rejects climate science was hired by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a senior position, in a move suggesting the Trump administration is asserting growing influence over the study of rising temperatures. David Legates, a geography professor at the University of Delaware, has a long history of questioning fundamental climate science and has suggested that an outcome of burning fossil fuels would be a more habitable planet for humans…. [
2020-03-02. A Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research
. By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times. Excerpt: An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. …The wording … inaccurately claims that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming. In Interior Department emails to scientists, Mr. Goklany pushed misleading interpretations of climate science, saying it “may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason;” climate modeling has largely predicted global warming accurately…. []

2020-01-17. U.S. appeals court tosses children’s climate lawsuit. By Jennifer Hijazi, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “reluctantly” ruled in favor of the government in the kids’ climate case today, thwarting the young people’s historic legal fight while acknowledging the “increasingly rapid pace” of climate change. The arguments presented by the 21 young people in Juliana v. United States proved too heavy a lift for Circuit Judges Mary Murguia and Andrew Hurwitz, who found that the kids failed to establish standing to sue….  

2020-01-05. To Fight Climate Change, One City May Ban Heating Homes With Natural Gas. By Mike Baker, The New York Times.

2020-01-03. Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times.