Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Laurence COUSTAL | Heat waves have become more frequent in Portugal, say experts

PARIS (AFP) – Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? –

The Iberian peninsula encompassing Portugal and Spain is experiencing a warmer, drier June than usual, explains Thomas Curt, a researcher at France’s Irstea climate and agriculture research institute.

Added to that, the country has vast expanses of highly inflammable plants, including forests of pine and eucalyptus trees.

“Hotter air is synonymous with drier and more inflammable vegetation,” said Curt. “The more the mercury climbs, so does the risk of fires and their intensity.”

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than the global average over the past half century, according to a 2014 review of climate change impacts on Portugal.

Heat waves have become more frequent, and annual rainfall slightly less, said the review published in the journal WIREs Climate Change.

More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected in future, accompanied by a “substantial increase” in fire risk — “both in severity and in length of the fire season,” it said.

– Does global warming boost forest fire risk? –

“It is certain — we are experiencing a rise in temperatures,” said Curt.

The Northern hemisphere summer has lengthened over the past 50 years from July-to-August, to June-to-October now — meaning a longer fire risk season.

There has been an increase in major fires of more than 100 hectares, and so-called “megafires” of more than 1,000 hectares, the researcher added.

“It is truly a growing problem everywhere in the world, and notably in Mediterranean Europe.”

These mega blazes remain rare — only about 2-3 percent of all fires — but are responsible for about three-quarters of all surface burnt.

“Many analyses of climate change show that these major fires will become more and more likely,” said Curt.

– What to do? –

In the short term, reinforce firefighting capacity, deploy patrols, set up watchtowers to raise the alarm, and ban fire-making everywhere.

Over the longer term, human settlements and green areas will need to be substantially redesigned, experts say.

Some forest will have to be cut back, undergrowth cleared, and residential areas moved further from scrubland and forest borders, to reduce the risk to life and property.

“The focus of efforts should shift from combating forest fires as they arise to preventing them from existing, through responsible long-term forest management,” green group WWF said.

“Responsible forest management is more effective and financially more efficient than financing the giant firefighting mechanisms that are employed every year.”

In the yet longer term, added Curt, “of course, we need to curtail global warming itself.”

by Laurence COUSTAL

Beijing: U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry calls for cooperation on clean energy between U.S. and China

June 8, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | US Energy Secretary Rick Perry (left) shakes hands with China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli in Beijing on June 8, 2017

BEIJING (AFP) – 

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for Sino-US cooperation on clean energy during a visit to Beijing Thursday, a week after President Donald Trump’s much-criticised withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.

Trump’s decision has jolted the international community and could put China, the world’s top carbon emitter, in a position to fill the leadership void on curbing global warming.

But Perry said the United States was still eager to work with China on developing clean energy technology such as liquefied natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power.

“We have extraordinary opportunities to be partners to work on clean energy issues,” Perry said during a meeting with China’s number seven, Zhang Gaoli, on the sidelines of a ministerial-level clean energy meeting in Beijing.

The relatively low-level reception was a contrast to the red carpet Beijing rolled out for California governor Jerry Brown earlier this week.

Brown met for almost an hour with Chinese President Xi Jinping and they signed a memorandum of understanding on developing clean energy.

Brown has vowed to step into the vacuum left by Trump’s exit from the Paris accords, and has mounted a vigorous PR campaign on behalf of his state’s leadership on environmental issues during his week long tour of China.

Beijing has said it will stick with the agreement despite the US withdrawal and is seeking to reach out to American states that share its determination.

California, which has the world’s sixth-largest economy, is one of a handful of American states that have pledged to continue fighting climate change regardless of action at the federal level.

The state — which has some of the worst air pollution in the country — has dramatically slashed its harmful emissions in the last decade.

It has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Before setting off for China, Brown pledged California would resist Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris deal, describing the move as “misguided and insane”.

Don’t Count on China as Next Climate Crusader — Plus China Looks to Capitalize on Clean Energy as U.S. Retreats

June 6, 2017

After the U.S. cajoled Beijing for years to go green, roles have reversed—up to a point

Chinese women wear air-pollution masks in a Beijing park. China has pledged to abide by the Paris accord on climate change as the U.S. prepares to exit.

Chinese women wear air-pollution masks in a Beijing park. China has pledged to abide by the Paris accord on climate change as the U.S. prepares to exit. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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June 6, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

BEIJING—For years, a wide spectrum of groups in the U.S. lectured, cajoled and entreated China to go green.

Multinationals and nonprofits teamed up with Chinese environmental groups to promote eco-friendly causes; Coca-Cola restored forests in the upper Yangtze. U.S. labs offered scientific support. Academics collaborated on research. The former Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, championed China’s disappearing wetlands, a haven for migratory birds.

The well-funded effort amplified voices within China demanding the government take action. It was, says Orville Schell, a longtime China watcher and environmentalist, “the most effective missionary work in the past couple hundred years.”

So it’s an irony of historic proportions how the roles have reversed: China, the world’s worst polluter by far, is now a convert on climate change while the White House under Donald Trump has turned apostate.

In pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate-change agreement, Mr. Trump has repudiated a signal accomplishment of the Obama presidency: persuading Beijing to become a partner in the effort to prevent the planet from heating up to the point of no return. Without China’s support, the Paris deal might have fallen apart.

Mr. Paulson issued a statement saying he was dismayed and disappointed. “We have left a void for others to fill,” he said.

Can China step in?

When it comes to the environment, China is still torn by conflicting priorities. It has installed more solar and wind capacity than any other nation—and plans to invest another $360 billion in renewable energy between now and 2020.

The economy is rebalancing away from heavy industry and manufacturing toward much cleaner services and consumption.

Coal consumption has declined for three straight years. On current trends, many scientists expect that China will reach peak carbon emissions well before its target date of 2030 under the Paris accord.

Yet Beijing remains committed to rapid growth. And coal is still king.

Just ask the residents of Beijing. Whenever economic policy makers set out to boost growth, spending flows to new real-estate and infrastructure projects, the steel mills around the capital fire up their coal furnaces—and commuters reach for their face masks.

This winter was particularly hard on the lungs. A spending splurge meant that Beijing’s average pollution levels last year were double the national standard set by the State Council.

America’s absence from the Paris accord weakens the global fight against climate change, while strengthening China’s position in clean technologies of the future. No doubt, the Chinese heavy-industry lobby—dominated by state enterprises and their growth-hungry local government sponsors—will put pressure on the government to relax green targets. But Beijing seems eager to seize the moral high ground. President Xi Jinping has vowed to “protect” the climate-change agreement.

Li Shuo, a climate and green-energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia, thinks that “China will just carry on” with its cleanup measures. In his judgment, it’s not a question of whether Chinese leaders will take the U.S. withdrawal as an excuse to backslide but “how far they will overachieve.”

By 2020, every Chinese coal-fired power station will be required to achieve an efficiency standard so high that not a single U.S. plant could meet it today, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has scrapped the Obama-era Clean Power Plan to curb power plant emissions.

The divergence on climate change represents a remarkable moment. For much of the past four decades China has pursued go-for-broke industrialization, heedless of the cost in human health. U.S. critics who lamented the damage to the planet often were told off for their imperialist attitudes. One commentator compared Western pressure on poor countries over climate change to the “guns, cannons and warships” of a previous era.

Then Beijing’s political calculus shifted. Urban residents rebelled at the smog, and when protests threatened social stability the government began to embrace a green agenda.

That said, among Communist Party leaders the fear of environmental protests is matched by apprehension about the consequences of slower, more planet-friendly development. They have staked their credibility on China catching up to, and overtaking, America.

President Xi proclaims “supply-side reform,” by which he means shutting down overcapacity in heavily polluting state industries.

On the other hand, his monumentally ambitious Silk Road plan to build trading infrastructure from Asia to Europe via the Middle East and Africa will prolong the life of some of the heaviest emitters making steel, glass, aluminum and cement—and export the country’s carbon problem.

Much of the $62 billion that China has pledged to invest in Pakistan is for relatively inefficient coal-fired power plants.

China may be going green, but it’s not there yet. On the environment as in trade, another area where Mr. Trump seems determined to abandon America’s global leadership, don’t look to China to supply the crusading zeal.

Write to Andrew Browne at andrew.browne@wsj.com

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Has Trump sidelined Rex Tillerson?

June 3, 2017

BBC News

Last month when Rex Tillerson tried to translate “America First” into foreign policy terms for a bemused audience of State Department employees, he probably didn’t expect it would come to mean “America Alone.”

The secretary of state was, by all accounts, a member of the “Remain Campaign” lobbying against a US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

So President Trump’s “Climate Brexit” was a blow to him – in an ironic twist the fossil fuel company he used to head supports the accord while the government he now represents does not.

It was also a blow to the State Department, and to diplomacy.

How much of a personal setback is not clear because on this, as on other issues, Tillerson kept a low profile.

Twenty-four hours after the decision, the only comment he’d made was an aside at a photo-opportunity. He declared that the US would continue its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and appealed for partners to keep things “in perspective”.

Tillerson had previously said the US should “maintain its seat at the table” on international climate conversations, a sensible position for the nation’s top diplomat and one that he reportedly maintained in White House debates on the Paris Agreement.

But publicly he showed none of the passion demonstrated by his predecessor, John Kerry, who powered negotiations on the deal. It seems the president’s daughter, Ivanka, took the lead in fighting the corner for the Remainers. And the role of super-engaged interlocutor apparently fell to the climate change sceptic in the administration, Environment Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who spoke at the Rose Garden ceremony.

Mr Tillerson did not attend, whether out of resignation or as an everyday-act-of-resistance, we don’t know. A State Department official said only that he was in his office and “maintained his schedule, preparing for his trip today to Australia and New Zealand”.

No doubt Pruitt (and his ally, White House adviser Steve Bannon) had an easier task than Tillerson, given that he was preaching to a president sympathetic to his economic and nationalist arguments.

But the results are another professional blow to the secretary of state. He’s already facing a proposed budget cut that looks to gut his department. And the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has even less diplomatic experience than he does, has forged a parallel foreign policy track from the White House.

Clearly, the Paris withdrawal was also bad news for the State Department, which has yet to issue a statement.

Where it once straddled the front lines of global climate negotiations, it’s now been dropped off the map.

The US does remain a member of the UN framework for climate change issues, the UNFCCC, but those meetings have become mostly about the Paris Agreement.

Finally, it’s a rejection of a monumental diplomatic effort by more than 190 countries over many years to strike all the balances that needed to be struck.

“We have now slapped every country in the world in the face,” says Todd Stern, the US Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration.

“We’ve said we know this matters to you a lot, we know this is a huge potentially epic issue for the world, we know that some of you are particularly vulnerable, but we drop out. It’s the worst way you could treat other countries.”

To be fair, this is not entirely untravelled ground – remember George W Bush’s decision against ratifying the 1997 Kyoto climate change treaty.

But it is more starkly isolationist, and this is a different Washington – in private chats, international diplomats from across the global spectrum complain that normal channels for getting and giving information at the State Department and White House are still unstaffed. They struggle to find the people who can listen to their concerns or tell them what’s going on.

So while this will not break alliances, it could be more difficult to pick up the pieces and say we can still be friends.

Follow Barbara on Twitter

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40138740

Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt beat Kushner, Tillerson and Ivanka on Paris Agreement

June 2, 2017
President Trump sided Thursday with the members of his administration who wanted the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and against influential voices who wanted him to stay or renegotitate it from within.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had become a leading voice for withdrawing completely from the climate pact. He was the only Cabinet member to speak Thursday after Trump’s appearance in the Rose Garden.

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist, was one of Pruitt’s top allies in the West Wing as factions battled internally over the future of the Paris accords. He sat in the front row as the president announced his decision.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had advocated for remaining in the deal, arguing the U.S. should not give up its seat at the table by exiting the deal. He was absent from the Rose Garden ceremony. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had voiced support for renegotiating the terms of the agreement, which Trump pledged to do Thursday — but in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal, not as an alternative to it.

“So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said at the White House. “And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and Jared Kushner, her husband and a top White House adviser, both reportedly pushed for Trump to remain in the deal. Neither attended Trump’s speech on Thursday, although the White House said their absence was not related to the fact that the president decided against their advice when it came to the Paris agreement.

Various White House aides and lawmakers had split themselves among the three camps as internal debates dragged on for weeks longer than initially anticipated. Twenty-two Republican senators — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — sent Trump a letter urging him to ditch the deal last month.

Trump aligned himself with the conservative critics of the Paris Agreement in the end, consistent with his campaign promises last year. This group includes free-market activists who disapprove of resolving environmental problems through heavy-handed government regulations, Republicans from energy-producing states and climate change skeptics.

But in his remarks explaining his decision, the president said it all came down to “America first.”

“As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens,” Trump said. “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

Many of Trump’s arguments for ending U.S. participation in the deal drew heavily from the nationalist, populist wing of his administration.

“The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement,” he said. “They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

“A cynic would say the obvious reason for economic competitors and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is so that we continue to suffer this self-inflicted major economic wound,” the president continued. “We would find it very hard to compete with other countries from other parts of the world.”

That, Trump said, was unacceptable to him.

“No responsible leader can put the workers and the people of their country at this debilitating and tremendous disadvantage,” he asserted.

“The fact that the Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries should dispel any doubt as to the real reason why foreign lobbyists wished to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement,” Trump added. “It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States.”

Trump then told the audience to applause, “That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry.” He tied the accord to unfair trade deals and “lax contributions to our critical military alliance” as part of a broader pattern of the United States being outmaneuvered and cheated by foreign governments.

“At what point does America get demeaned?” Trump asked. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers.”

The president vowed to protect the coal country states that voted for him last year, protesting, “The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America.”

“I love the coal miners,” Trump said at one point in an aside.

“And the mines are starting to open up, having a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places,” Trump said.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he declared. Critics pointed out that Trump actually lost Pittsburgh in November, but his win in Pennsylvania helped seal his Electoral College majority.

Trump will likely face pressure, even from inside his administration and especially his family, to show his commitment to environmental protection in other ways. He described himself as “someone who cares deeply about the environment” on Thursday.

But on the Paris Agreement, Trump listened to administration officials who advised him to keep a campaign promise and spoke up for a critical group of his working-class voters.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” Trump vowed. “They won’t be.”

Great Barrier Reef can no longer be saved, Australian experts concede

May 30, 2017

‘In our lifetime and on our watch, substantial areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are experiencing major long-term damage’

By Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent

The Independent Online

The Great Barrier Reef – a canary in the coal mine for global warming – can no longer be saved in its present form partly because of the “extraordinary rapidity” of climate change, experts have conceded.

Instead, action should be taken to maintain the World Heritage Site‘s ‘ecological function’ as its ecological health declines, they reportedly recommended.

Like coral across the world, the reef has been severely damaged by the warming of the oceans with up to 95 per cent of areas surveyed in 2016 found to have been bleached.

great-barrier-reef-bleaching.jpg
A scientist examines bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef near Orpheus Island (AFP)

Bleaching is not always fatal but a study last year found the “largest die-off of corals ever recorded” with about 67 per cent of shallow water coral found dead in a survey of a 700km stretch.

Now experts on a committee set up by the Australian government to improve the health of the reef have revealed that they believe the lesser target of maintaining its “ecological function” is more realistic.

In a recent communique, the expert panel said they were “united in their concern about the seriousness of the impacts facing the Reef and concluded that coral bleaching since early 2016 has changed the Reef fundamentally”.

“There is great concern about the future of the Reef, and the communities and businesses that depend on it, but hope still remains for maintaining ecological function over the coming decades,” it said.

Great Barrier Reef at ‘terminal stage’ after latest coral bleaching data

“Members agreed that, in our lifetime and on our watch, substantial areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are experiencing major long-term damage which may be irreversible unless action is taken now.

“The planet has changed in a way that science informs us is unprecedented in human history. While that in itself may be cause for action, the extraordinary rapidity of the change we now observe makes action even more urgent.”

It recommended that reducing greenhouse gas emissions “must be central to the response”.

“This needs to be coupled with increased efforts to improve the resilience of the coral and other ecosystems that form the Great Barrier Reef. The focus of efforts should be on managing the Reef to maintain the benefits that the Reef provides,” it added.

While the committee’s communique did not expressly give up hope that the reef could be saved in its current form, the Guardian reported that two experts on the committee, speaking anonymously, revealed they had recommended introducing the goal of maintaining “ecological function” at a recent meeting.

And the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority explained what that would mean.

“The concept of ‘maintaining ecological function’ refers to the balance of ecological processes necessary for the reef ecosystem as a whole to persist, but perhaps in a different form, noting the composition and structure may differ from what is currently seen today,” the authority said.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who sits on the expert panel, told the newspaper they were trying to manage reefs in a “rapidly changing world”.

“So managing to restore the reefs of the past – the way they were prior to the big insults of the 80s, 90s and 2000s … maybe we need to be looking at this in a different sense,” he said.

“What are the key ecological functions? Essentially, what roles do they play that are important to humans?”

The expert committee’s views could lead to the reef being declared a World Heritage Site “in danger”, a finding that the Australian government has resisted.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/great-barrier-reef-dying-coral-bleaching-global-warming-australia-climate-change-a7761351.html

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Europe’s resolve on fighting climate change seems to be flagging

May 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Céline SERRAT | The European Union took on emissions-cutting targets that analysts say are too low to stay under the ceiling for average global warming set in the Paris pact — no more than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels

PARIS (AFP) – The 28-member European Union, the third-largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases after China and the United States, has long been held up as the poster child of efforts to save Earth’s climate.

But after years of taking the lead in talks for a global climate pact, and making tough policy and investment choices to lessen fossil fuel reliance at home, the bloc’s resolve now seems to be flagging, analysts say.

Europe is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions.

As the world’s nations meet in Bonn to negotiate a rulebook for executing the climate-rescue Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 to limit emissions from burning oil, coal, and gas, here is a look at Europe’s role.

– History –

Having been at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution that sparked the large-scale carbon dioxide pollution of Earth’s atmosphere now blamed for global warming, Europe took the lead hundreds of years later in shifting to cleaner energy generated by sources such as the Sun, waves and wind.

It was instrumental in passing, and keeping alive, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, despite opposition from the United States and other developed countries.

Europe also created the first, still the biggest, carbon market in a bid to incentivise companies to pollute less.

The Emissions Trading System limits emissions and allows companies to trade in allowances not used.

– Then what happened? –

The carbon market, which covers about 40 percent of Europe’s industrial emissions, has proven ineffective, critics say, and needs urgent reform.

Carbon allowances were too generous, resulting in a carbon price too low to encourage savings.

The bloc also took on emissions-cutting targets that analysts say are too low to stay under the ceiling for average global warming set in the Paris pact — no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

The EU pledged to reduce its own emissions by 20 percent by 2020 over 1990 levels — a goal it is on course to exceed.

With three years to go, the target has already been met even if five countries — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Ireland — are not on track to achieve their national goals.

The European Environment Agency expects the bloc will reach 24 percent in 2020.

This goes to show that the target was too “modest” to begin with, according to Celia Gautier of the Climate Action Network, a grouping of NGOs.

By 2020, Europe also seeks to boost energy efficiency (less fossil fuel input for the same energy output) by 20 percent, and ensure that 20 percent of energy consumed is from renewables.

According to Eurostat, an agency of the European Commission, renewable energy consumption in Europe was already 16.7 percent in 2014.

“In the wake of the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, the EU’s climate policy effort appears to be slowing, and it has not effectively responded” to an aspirational 1.5 C lower limit also written into the pact, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a tool created by think-tanks to measure countries’ progress.

– What’s next? –

Europe’s medium- and long-term ambitions are even more problematic.

It is targeting a 40-percent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 over 1990 levels, which the CAT says is “significantly behind what is achievable and necessary”.

And it is not on track to meet even that — currently steering for 30-39 percent.

According to the CAT, Europe needs to reduce emissions by about two percent per year to achieve a 45-50-percent cut by 2030 — a trajectory more in line with the Paris accord’s objectives.

But emissions are projected to slow only between 0.5 percent and 1.3 percent per year.

Europe is not alone — the CAT says all major emitters, the US, China, India and Russia included, need to do much more for the world to stay under 2 C.

– Further ahead –

For 2050, the EU bloc has set its sights on a 80-95-percent reduction from 1990, which the CAT says would require “significant acceleration”.

According to Climate Analytics, a policy institute, 300 coal-fired power stations have to close in Europe by 2030, if the Paris goals are to be met.

Half of Europe’s coal emissions come from Germany and Poland, the rest mainly from Bulgaria and Czech Republic — countries with relatively smaller reduction goals than their richer European peers.

“To achieve total decarbonisation of the global economy by the second half of the 21st century (as mooted in the Paris Agreement), Europe must, as an industrial leader, be among the first to achieve it,” said David Levai, a researcher at the IDDRI research institute in Paris.

by Céline SERRAT

Tillerson Talks Climate Change at Arctic Meet — “We are going to make the right decision for the United States,” said Tillerson.

May 16, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement recognising the landmark Paris climate accord at a meeting of Arctic nations in Alaska on Thursday, but said President Donald Trump was not rushing to decide whether to leave or weaken U.S. commitments to the pact.

Trump’s efforts to dilute U.S. climate policies have made the country an outlier on the issue and put Tillerson in an awkward position at a meeting of the Arctic Council.

The council meets every two years to tackle climate change and other problems facing the North. The Arctic is warming at a faster pace than any other part of the world, forcing native villagers on coasts and rivers in the region to move to higher ground as permafrost and glaciers melt and seas rise.

Global warming also puts stress on wildlife such as walruses and polar bears as they lose their habitat area.

 Image result for Tillerson, Arctic Council, photos
Secretary Tillerson making remarks at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting

The Arctic agreement Tillerson signed with foreign ministers from the other seven nations of the council, including Russia, Canada and Norway, made only a passing reference to the Paris pact. It noted “entry into force” of the pact and its implementation and called for global action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Still, Tillerson’s signing of the document surprised a source close to the State Department. “We’d heard … that there would likely be a significant U.S. effort to redline or even remove entirely the Paris and climate language,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks.

Tillerson signed the agreement at a dinner the council members ate together on Wednesday night after hours of debate before the meal, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told Reuters. The ministers stressed to Tillerson the business benefits, as well as the advantages to the environment and Arctic natives, of taking action on climate, Samuelsen said. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil is one of Trump’s advisers who supports staying in the agreement.

“He was happy about it; he seemed to be satisfied. We all were because it’s a big step,” Samuelsen said.

A local tribal leader also pressured Tillerson to act at a celebration of the council on Wednesday. “We the tribes ask you to listen to our land. It’s telling us to implement promises to slow the change,” Chairman Victor Joseph of the Tanana Chief Conference said before Tillerson was introduced at the celebration.

It was unclear how much influence the Arctic agreement, signed late on Wednesday and made public on Thursday, would influence Trump’s decision.

Tillerson told the council the Trump administration was reviewing how it will approach climate change but was not going to rush to make a decision on Paris. “We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view,” said Tillerson. “We are going to make the right decision for the United States,” said Tillerson.

Trump is expected to make a decision on Paris after a Group of Seven summit at the end of May.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini, whose country will chair the council for the next two years, praised U.S. leadership in the Arctic Council, but added that the Paris pact is an important tool in fighting climate change.

Arctic warming is thawing permafrost and melting sea ice, causing damage to infrastructure but also opening up new oil reserves, shipping routes and access to fisheries – intensifying a decades-long race for Arctic resources.

Adding pressure on Trump, scientists from the United States and other Arctic nations issued a report ahead of the meeting warning that the warming could lead to trillions of dollars worth of damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure this century..

The council also signed an agreement on sharing science and data on the Arctic, an effort led by Russia and the United States, and addressed Arctic search and rescue and communications.

Trump’s administration has already reversed Obama-era bans on offshore drilling in certain parts of the Arctic, a turn that could intensify competition for resources in the region with major oil producer Russia.

Russia has beefed up its military presence in the Arctic to levels not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union, as global interest in the region’s oil, gas and rare earth metals heats up.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish)

US cities, states mobilize against climate change without Trump

May 11, 2017

AFP

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / by Jean-Louis SANTINI, with Mariette LeRoux in Bonn, Germany | In Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed a law setting out more than $200 million in investment annually for renewable energy

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 

Even as President Donald Trump steers the United States away from actively fighting climate change, a number of American cities and states are continuing to pursue renewable energies to reduce their carbon footprint.

Around three dozen states — even some headed by Republicans — have established policies that require power companies to expand the amount of renewable energy they produce in the coming decade.

Beyond the traditional Democratic and pro-environment bastions of California and New York, even states headed by Republican governors including Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Iowa have decided to invest massively in clean energy.

“I think the surprise to me is how Republican governors appreciate there are opportunities for economic development for investment for innovation by embracing new technologies, both energy efficiency and clean energy, and in spite of the Trump administration turning their back and in fact trying to put up barriers,” said Dick Munson, head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s energy program in the Midwest.

In Illinois, Republican governor Bruce Rauner recently signed a law, struck with the help of the majority Democratic legislature, setting out more than $200 million in investment annually for renewable energy.

“That is probably the most extensive clean energy legislation in the country,” Munson told AFP.

– Large mobilization –

In Ohio, governor John Kasich, who lost his battle for the Republican party’s nomination in the presidential race last year to Trump, vetoed a bill that would have weakened the state’s clean energy efforts.

And in the highly conservative state of Texas, former governor Rick Perry, also a Republican who became Secretary of Energy under Trump, has aggressively pursued wind energy, before saying he would advise Trump to stay in the Paris climate accord.

Texas “produces more wind power per year than every other state of the nation,” said Munson, making up a quarter of US wind capacity and 12.7 percent of Texas’s energy needs.

With more turbines under construction, wind will soon furnish 16 percent of Texas’s electricity.

Wind made up 5.6 percent of US energy production last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The leadership of cities and states when it comes to green energy offers “most definitely a pathway to meet our Paris commitment even if the Trump administration is uncooperative or hostile,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Beyond Coal Campaign at the Sierra Club.

– Energy transition –

“We are not building any new coal fired power plant in this country,” she added.

Since 2010, 175 coal plants have closed, leaving 270 in operation which produce about 30 percent of US energy.

Natural gas provides 33.8 percent of US needs, nuclear 19.7 percent and renewable energy — including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal — 15 percent.

The clean energy revolution means these methods make good business sense, she added.

And with the abundance of natural gas in the United States, coal is increasingly less competitive. Another 73 coal plants are projected to close by 2030, despite Trump’s support for this polluting fossil fuel.

“States and cities in the US is where we make decisions about how we get and produce our electricity,” Hitt said.

“Those decisions are not made in Washington and there is not a lot that Trump can do to change these decisions.”

More than 200 cities and counties in the United States are now part of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), a UN-led network of over 1,500 cities, towns and regions committed? to building? a sustainable future.

“The commitment of mayors and governors in the US to climate action has never been stronger than today,” said Gino van Begin, secretary-general of ICLEI, on the sidelines of a conference in Bonn, Germany, to advance implementation of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The global deal signed by more than 190 countries aimed to limited global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is unstoppable,” he added.

“My understanding is that already the US economy also has started to begin to decouple from carbon.”

In the past decade, US gross domestic product increased 10 percent while the carbon emission decreased nine percent, he said.

by Jean-Louis SANTINI, with Mariette LeRoux in Bonn, Germany

Warning over coral bleaching on Great Barrier Reef

April 10, 2017
Warming oceans have led to bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef
Warming oceans have led to bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef
Coral bleached for two consecutive years at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has “zero prospect” of recovery, scientists have warned, as they confirmed the site has again been hit by warming sea temperatures.

Researchers said last month they were detecting another round of mass bleaching this year after a severe event in 2016, and their fears were confirmed after aerial surveys of the entire 2,300km long bio-diverse reef.

Last year, the northern areas of the World Heritage-listed reef were hardest hit, with the middle-third now experiencing the worst effects.

“Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss,” said James Kerry, a marine biologist at James Cook University.

“It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offer zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

It is the fourth time coral bleaching has hit the reef after previous events in 1998 and 2002.

Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef

“The combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 kilometres, leaving only the southern third unscathed,” said Terry Hughes, head of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, also at James Cook University.

“The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures driven by global warming.

“This year, 2017, we are seeing mass bleaching, even without the assistance of El Nino conditions,” he added, referring to the natural climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean.

The Barrier Reef is already under pressure from farming run-off, development and the crown-of-thorns starfish.

It was also recently hammered by Category four Tropical Cyclone Debbie, which barrelled through the region last month, mostly affecting southern parts which largely escaped the bleaching.

The extent of the destruction wrought by Debbie is not yet known, although scientists have said damage could range from minor to severe.

Hughes warned rising temperatures could see more bleaching events.

“One degree Celsius of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years,” he said.

https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0410/866565-coral-bleaching/

See also:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39524196

“Since 1998, we have seen four of these events and the gap between them has varied substantially, but this is the shortest gap we have seen,” Prof Hughes told the BBC.

.

.A graphic showing damage to the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017

“The sooner we take action on global greenhouse gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels to renewables, the better.”
ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR CORAL REEF STUDIES

See also:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-terminal-stage-australia-scientists-despair-latest-coral-bleaching-data

‘Zero prospect’ of recovery as Great Barrier Reef corals suffer bleaching for second successive year
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/04/10/zero-recovery-corals-back-to-back-australia-bleaching/

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