News Article | May 8, 2017
In the Brazilian city of São Paulo, more than 80 experts, including dozens of climate scientists, gathered back in March for a giant planning meeting. As part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the group from 39 different countries were starting their work on a major report that will tell governments and policymakers what kind of impacts they can expect when global warming reaches 1.5C. That report is scheduled to be ready in late September 2018 and will assess in detail what’s known about the impacts 1.5C of global warming could have on societies, ecosystems and efforts to reduce poverty. But new research published in a leading scientific journal suggests that just eight years after that report is published, the world might have already reached that 1.5C target – or at least one definition of it (some senior scientists disagree with some of the assumptions in the paper – read on for those important caveats). Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the research looks closely at the influence of a mechanism in the climate known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). “The IPO is like the long-term version of El Niño – it’s like El Niño’s uncle,” says Ben Henley of the University of Melbourne and the research’s lead author. When heat gets trapped in deeper layers of the Pacific Ocean, this is known as a negative phase of the IPO. Since about the year 2000, the IPO hit this negative phase, which tends to slow down the rise in global temperatures that’s being caused by humans burning too many fossil fuels and cutting down forests. But around 2014, scientists say that this IPO started to shift, possibly towards a positive phase that would act like an accelerator on global warming. Henley and his colleague Andrew King, also at the University of Melbourne, wanted to know how quick global temperatures might reach 1.5C, relative to where they were between 1850 and 1900. According to the paper, the “rate that global temperatures approach the 1.5C level is likely to be significantly quicker, or slower, depending on the IPO”. After using the latest computer models of the climate and allowing for the added greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Henley and King looked to see what the coming decades have in store depending on the phase of the IPO. If the IPO turns positive, then the average across the models shows that global temperatures hit 1.5C in around 2026. If the IPO was to turn negative, then this delays the 1.5C threshold by five years or so. Henley told me: “Policymakers have to be aware of just how quickly we are approaching this level. But that doesn’t mean that the target is not a sensible thing to have. “While we might overshoot 1.5C, stabilising global temperatures at that level still remains a worthwhile goal.” The paper also gives other projections for breaching 1.5C based on different assumptions and different models. For example, if you wait until global temperatures go above 1.5C over a five-year average period, then some models suggest that if the IPO stays negative for longer, the 1.5C breach doesn’t happen until around the year 2040 (but this is an outlier in the paper). Associate Professor Julie Arblaster, a climate scientist at Monash University who was not involved in the research, told me the research “highlights the role of natural or internal variability in the climate system in hitting climate targets”, Arblaster pointed to one study published last year in the journal Nature Communications that suggested the switch to a positive phase of the IPO might have already happened. She added: “Other things may also impact the timing of course, such as a large volcanic eruption, but this study helps by providing an estimate of the contribution of the climate system’s internal variability in hitting that target.” Henley told me a key motivation for doing the sums on the 1.5C target was to help policymakers understand what kind of timeframe they have to work with. When countries were negotiating for a new global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the impacts of climate change, many smaller and less developed countries were worried that a 2C global warming target was setting the bar way too high. Some scientists also shared this concern. So there was a push to have a 1.5C target included in the text of the deal. Article 2 of the Paris agreement states that countries agree to keep global warming “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels” but to also pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C … recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. Bill Hare is an Australian climate scientist and founder of scientific consultancy group Climate Analytics. Hare is a veteran of the United Nations climate talks. In an email, Hare said the paper showed “that very ambitious near-term mitigation is required to limit warming to 1.5°C and this analysis underscores this”. But Hare and his colleagues also had some reservations about the paper’s conclusions. Hare said the IPCC’s interpretation of when you can say that 1.5C target is breached was based on much longer time periods than the Henley and King paper. He also said the assumption in the paper that greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise under a “business as usual” scenario didn’t reflect how countries were taking action under the Paris agreement. Using more optimistic scenarios could bring temperatures down by as much as 0.2C by 2030. Joeri Rogelj of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, also pointed out that the convention in UN climate negotiations was to refer to targets in terms of longer time frames of 20 or 30 years. He thought the paper’s assumptions that emissions would remain high were “not compatible” with the agreements countries had made in Paris, but he did agree that the paper demonstrated how urgent the issue was. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, is a senior lead author on a chapter of the special report that will look at the impacts of 1.5C global warming on humans and natural environments. Hoegh-Guldberg, who was not speaking from an IPCC perspective, told me the research would “wake some people up to the fact that exceeding 1.5C will happen within the next decade, give or take a couple of years”. “One unknown that’s associated with the study is the effect that anthropogenic climate change might be having on these long-term climate patterns themselves. Some research groups have provided compelling evidence that patterns associated with El Niño, for example, may actually be amplified by warming.” He added: “Many scientists have increasingly pointed to the unmanageable ecological and human impacts as average global surface temperatures exceed 1.5°C, and great economic and environmental costs that are likely to be associated. “Unfortunately, past inaction means that we will exceed 1.5C no matter what we do. The key issue, however, is what we do next. “People speak of overshoots as being one of the scenarios that we are likely to face. This is not an escape clause as the overshoot is likely to be catastrophic.”
News Article | May 16, 2017
The changing face of coal use in both China and India is likely to reduce the projected global carbon emissions growth by approximately two to three billion tonnes by 2030 compared to forecasts made a year ago, according to a new briefing by the Climate Action Tracker. In a new Climate Action Tracker (CAT) Update published on Monday, the combined work of Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and the New Climate Institute explained that “positive developments” in China and India’s use of coal are likely to reduce the projected global carbon emissions by between two to three billion tonnes by 2030, as compared to CAT’s predictions a year ago. Further, the “highly adverse rollbacks” being made by US President Donald Trump “are unlikely to have a major impact on global emissions by 2030.” Specifically, CAT believes that both China and India look set to “overachieve” their Paris Agreement climate pledges. China’s coal consumption has been in decline for awhile now, three consecutive years (2013–2016) and many believe that this trend will only continue. Earlier this year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the country’s total energy consumption had increased by 1.4% in 2016, but that the country’s coal consumption had declined by 4.7%. Meanwhile, India’s government has stated that it believes some of its planned coal-fired power plants will be unneeded. Additionally, the country is implementing policies to boost renewable energy capacity and reduce coal imports, which CAT believes could “see a significant slowing down in the growth of CO2 emissions over the next decade.” “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping—or even slowing—coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought by many to be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these countries,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics. “Recent observations show they are now on the way toward overcoming this challenge.” Meanwhile, while there is still significant cause for concern over the current policy moves being made in the US by its new President, CAT does not believe that these changes will have a significant impact on global emissions levels by 2030. “The highly adverse rollbacks of US climate policies by the Trump Administration, if fully implemented and not compensated by other actors, are projected to flatten US emissions instead of continuing on a downward trend,” explained Prof Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute. Specifically, the developments we are seeing in China and India are set to significantly outweigh any negative moves we see in the US. “In the last ten years, the energy market has transformed: The price of renewable energy from wind and solar has dropped drastically,” said Yvonne Deng of Ecofys, a Navigant company. “Renewables are now cost-competitive and being built at a much faster rate than coal-fired power plants.” Check out our new 93-page EV report. Join us for an upcoming Cleantech Revolution Tour conference! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | May 22, 2017
China and India are lowering their use of coal and are likely to cut their projected emissions of carbon dioxide, says a new analysis. By 2030, both nations are now expected to have CO emissions below the levels they pledged to in the Paris Agreement on climate change, says the analysis by Climate Action Tracker. This consortium of three research organizations keeps tabs on countries’ progress toward limiting their greenhouse gas emissions. China’s consumption of coal declined slowly between 2013 and 2016, and this trend is expected to continue, the analysis says. India, meanwhile, in 2016 announced cancellation of plans to build several huge coal-fired power plants. This change will significantly slow India’s anticipated CO emissions growth during the next decade, the analysis concludes. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping—or even slowing—coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought by many to be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these countries,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics. The Berlin-based group is part of the consortium that coproduced the analysis. Climate Action Tracker also considered policy changes proposed by U.S. President Donald J. Trump. If fully implemented, Trump’s planned climate-related regulatory rollbacks would halt the U.S.’s current decline in CO emissions, bringing them to a steady level by 2030, the analysis finds. The developments in India and China would result in 2 billion to 3 billion fewer metric tons of CO emissions a year by 2030. These decreases would “significantly outweigh” the potential increases in the U.S. under Trump’s plans, estimated at 0.4 billion metric tons annually by 2030, the analysis says.
News Article | May 22, 2017
It has been a remarkable month for global resolve on tackling climate change. The most conspicuous indicator has been the crescendo of corporate CEOs and global investors calling on President Donald Trump to support the Paris Climate Agreement. Dozens of iconic CEOs from Dow Chemical Company, General Electric, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America took out full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal urging strong support for keeping the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. Just days before, more than 200 global investors, collectively managing $15 trillion in assets, sent a letter to the President and other G20 world leaders calling for the same action. The growing number of high-profile voices is remarkable and heartening, to be sure, and we hope the President is listening. But the climate momentum we are seeing close to the ground is perhaps even more important, showing that no matter the political winds in Washington, the low-carbon transition is inevitable and irreversible. Let’s start with China and India, the world’s two most populous countries. This month, new research showed that both countries are on track to beat their carbon emission goals under the Paris Agreement. Greenhouse gas pollution from both countries is growing more slowly than they predicted a year ago and the difference is substantial - roughly 2 to 3 billion tons annually by the year 2030. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping - or even slowing - coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle,” Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, one of the research consortium members, told InsideClimate News. “Recent observations show they are now on the way to overcoming this challenge.”
News Article | May 15, 2017
The U.S. will fall far short of its Paris climate goals, thanks to the environmental policy rollbacks carried out under the Trump administration, a new analysis suggests. The news comes as President Trump is still considering a formal withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, with a possible decision expected after the Group of Seven meeting later this month. But China and India are on track to overachieve on their climate pledges, the analysis adds, meaning their efforts may help make up for shortcomings in the U.S. The study was released Monday by the Climate Action Tracker, a joint project among nonprofit organizations Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute and climate consulting agency Ecofys that monitors government action on climate change. [Trump will punt decision on the Paris climate agreement until after the G-7, Spicer says] China and India “are going to slow the global growth in CO2 emissions significantly, the United States’ actions under President Trump will offset that a bit, but not sufficient to actually stop that slowing of the global growth of emissions,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics and a senior scientist with the organization, at a Monday news conference to introduce the new findings. Under the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. pledged to lower its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2025. To meet that goal, the analysis points out, the federal government would have had to implement the full climate action plan outlined by the Obama administration — which involved a variety of carbon-cutting strategies, including the expansion of clean energy, energy efficiency programs and more advanced transportation technology, and most of all, the Clean Power Plan. As of the end of the Obama administration, the full climate action plan had yet to be fully rolled out. But if all currently implemented environmental policies were to remain in place, including the Clean Power Plan, the analysis suggests that the U.S. would only manage to reduce emissions 10 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2025. Without the Clean Power Plan, the study puts this number at just 7 percent below 2005 levels. Under the Trump administration — which has already canceled the implementation of Obama’s climate action plan, rolled back a number of environmental regulations and placed a hold on the ongoing lawsuit surrounding the Clean Power Plan — the assessment suggests U.S. emissions will likely stop declining altogether and flatline instead. Coming to this conclusion was a challenge, according to Niklas Höhne, a founding partner at the NewClimate Institute and a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, because the future of U.S. environmental policy under Trump remains so uncertain. “The Trump administration has said that they want to take away and roll back policies that have already been implemented, and the question is whether that will really happen,” he noted at the news conference. The Clean Power Plan, for instance, is facing a likely demise. And the future of other policies, such as the stringent fuel economy standards implemented under the Obama administration, remain even less sure. The Trump administration has reopened a review of the standards at the urging of the automobile manufacturing industry and other critics — meaning it may or may not decide to weaken or repeal them at a later date. But the analysis concludes that if these climate policies are removed, and they’re not adequately compensated for by other local-level efforts — an outcome that, for now, appears likely — “emissions could, in our best estimate, be kind of flat for the next few years, and the U.S. would be on a path definitely to fail to meet its” Paris goal, Höhne said. But the analysis finds that China and India are both on track to exceed their goals under the Paris agreement, meaning they may be able to largely pick up the U.S.’s slack. Under the Paris agreement, China has pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030 and increase the non-fossil fuel share of its energy consumption to around 20 percent. And India has pledged to boost its non-fossil fuel energy share to at least 40 percent by 2030. Now, new developments in both countries’ energy landscapes have put them ahead of the game in terms of meeting their goals. Largely thanks to a decrease in coal consumption in both countries, the analysis suggests that annual emissions from the two countries combined are on track to be about 2 billion to 3 billion tons lower in the year 2030 than previous estimates have indicated. This is more than enough to outweigh the actions of the Trump administration, which the analysis suggests will likely make a difference of about 400 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030 compared to what they would have been otherwise. In India, a new draft energy plan released late last year significantly reduced the country’s plans for additional coal capacity through the year 2027 — cutting the plans from about 230 additional gigawatts of coal capacity to just 50 gigawatts. The plan suggests that by 2027, more than half the nation’s electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources. And China — the world’s greatest consumer of coal and emitter of greenhouse gases — has now seen three consecutive years of declining coal consumption. “It is unclear whether these last three years are merely a pause in a steady growth or whether this is a sign of China having reached its peak in coal consumption,” said Yvonne Deng, a managing consultant at Ecofys. “But if it is a peak, and if coal consumption continues to decrease at a similar rate, then this could lead to emissions in 2030 being around one to two gigatons lower than our estimate last year. And combining these effects of these two reductions in emissions from decreasing coal use in India and China, we estimate that CO2 emissions in 2030 could reduce by around two to three gigatons.” The actions of other governments — particularly the European Union — will also remain significant factors in the future of global emissions. And previous analyses have pointed out that even if all participating nations lived up to their pledges under the Paris agreement, it would likely still not be enough to keep global temperatures within 1.5 to 2 degrees of their preindustrial levels, the globally determined climate goal established at Paris. In fact, one recent study indicated that the world is on track to blow past the 1.5-degree goal within the next 15 years. To prevent this from happening, the Paris agreement encourages nations to continually strengthen and update their own pledges — the exact opposite of what is happening in the U.S. “We are always saying that countries need to ramp up their ambition, so increase their ambition, and in the U.S. it’s going in the wrong direction,” Höhne said.
News Article | May 16, 2017
Stop me if you've heard this one: The U.S. shouldn't act to cut its planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions because it would harm the economy while China and India are building coal plants and emitting whatever they want. That is an argument that opponents of climate action, mainly in the Republican Party, have used for decades in order to oppose measures to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It's one that President Donald Trump himself has made, as has his Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, in recent months. But increasingly, it's not based in reality. SEE ALSO: 9-year-old girl seeks clean air for her generation, sues Indian government over pollution Two new reports show that China and India are moving faster than expected to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and pollution woes, while scaling up renewable energy resources. The speed and extent of the actions in these two developing nations are hugely consequential for what happens to global emissions during Trump's presidency, since the U.S. is backing away from its leadership position on this issue. According to an analysis released at a round of United Nations climate talks in Bonn on Monday, China and India could more than compensate for the United States' failure to meet its proposed emissions cuts under the Paris Climate Agreement. What's changing is China and India's coal use. Experts from Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and the New Climate Institute, which together run the Climate Action Tracker, say that global carbon emissions are likely to be about 2 to 3 billion tonnes lower in 2030 compared to previous forecasts. This could offset Trump's climate change rollbacks, such as killing the EPA's Clean Power Plan and trying to revive the moribund coal sector. The Trump effect on the climate would only cause an uptick in carbon emissions of about 0.4 billion tonnes of carbon, the group found. “The highly adverse rollbacks of U.S. climate policies by the Trump Administration, if fully implemented and not compensated by other actors, are projected to flatten US emissions instead of continuing on a downward trend,” said Niklas Hohne, of NewClimate Institute, in a press release. According to the Tracker, which keeps tabs on countries' commitments and whether they are living up to them, China’s coal consumption decreased from 2013 through 2016, with a slow decline expected to continue. This is partly related to an economic slowdown, in addition to policies put in place by the central government in Beijing. Coal is one of the dirtiest forms of energy, pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Burning less coal has the benefit of lowering carbon emissions. In India, plans for more coal-fired power plants may be canceled since the country is making headway at dramatically expanding its solar power capacity. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping — or even slowing — coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought by many to be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these countries,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, in a statement. “Recent observations show they are now on the way toward overcoming this challenge.” While the U.S. remains undecided on whether it will remain a part of the Paris Agreement, the global energy market is still moving quickly ahead, favoring renewable energy to such an extent that in more areas it is cost competitive with coal and other fossil fuel sources. This has played a role in slowing and even reversing coal's expansion in China and India. Trump’s #climate policies would see US CAT rating downgraded from “medium” to “insufficient” - briefing https://t.co/p2NzBmhi82 #unfccc #1o5 pic.twitter.com/nzcMUexGox The results of the Climate Action Tracker's report are bolstered by findings from a Center for American Progress analysis of China's coal consumption. The report makes clear that the argument that China's emissions would outweigh any progress made in the U.S. is, at best, outdated, and more accurately a zombie argument. As David Roberts writes at Vox, China is taking on coal head on by shutting down older, more heavily polluting plants in favor of newer, more efficient facilities and renewables. It is also planning for a non-coal future based on renewables. "In short, while the US dithers along in a cosmically stupid dispute over whether science is real, China is tackling climate change with all guns blazing. The US, not China, is the laggard in this relationship," Roberts wrote. It's unclear if anyone will be able to successfully convince Trump and his team that China is beating the U.S. on transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient future early enough for the administration to decide to remain part of the Paris Agreement. It's more likely that for now, at least, the mantle of climate change leadership has been passed to Asia. WATCH: This might be the cutest and tiniest smartphone ever
News Article | May 28, 2017
Fair-weather friend? China’s Xi Jinping carries the hopes of many beyond his own country when it comes to climate change: Getty Earlier this year Donald Trump received a personal letter urging him not to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. If the US pulled out, the letter said, it would lose a seat at discussions and could not make a case for “the most cost-effective greenhouse gas reduction options”. Another voice in his ear said the US would weaken its own hand by “basically uninviting itself” from a number of negotiating tables. Those urging Mr Trump to stick with the agreement made by Barack Obama were not long-haired greenies or earnest activists. Rather, they were the chief executives of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil company, and Royal Dutch Shell. For they see the danger of the world’s most powerful nation not being present. Trump, apparently does not. During his election campaign, the Republican candidate dismissed climate change science as a “hoax” and suggested it had been invented by the Chinese. Having got it in the ear last week from G7 leaders urging him to stick with the accord, Trump’s aides said his thinking on the topic was evolving. Then once he was back in Washington, it was reported Trump had told three associates he planned to pull out of the agreement after all. Trump believes sticking with Obama’s emissions targets will hurt business; climate experts say the implications of Trump’s decision are of an existential scale. The Associated Press recently spoke to two dozen climate scientists and consulted a computer model designed to predict the potential impact of climate change. It found that Trump’s move would make a bad situation markedly worse and make it harder to stop the world crossing a perilous global temperature threshold. The calculations suggested it would result in the release of an additional three billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, melting ice sheets more quickly, raising sea levels and triggering more extreme weather. “If we lag, the noose tightens,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. In another development, Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement would cede the US’s lead on confronting climate change to other nations, most notably China and India. For many years, the world’s two most populous countries were seen as a block to progress on any global deal, insisting that developing nations should not be held to the same rules as countries in the West which, which had for decades benefited from CO2-emitting industrialisation. But things have changed. China, which along with the US produces 44 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide, agreed to talks with Obama that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement. Obama said the US would cut emissions immediately, with a target of 28 per cent by 2025, while Xi Jinping said China would seek to ensure its emissions peaked by 2030 and then fell. Since then China has stepped up its game. Earlier this year, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Xi said the Paris accord was hard-won. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations,” he said. India, the world’s third largest overall producer of carbon dioxide – though not per capita – has also made striking progress. The nation expects to get 40 per cent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022, eight years ahead of schedule. Indeed, according to data released recently at a UN climate meeting in Germany, China and India should both easily exceed the targets they set for themselves in the 2015 Paris Agreement. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping – or even slowing – coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought by many to be necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these countries,” said Bill Hare, of climate science not-for-profit Climate Analytics. “Recent observations show they are now on the way toward overcoming this challenge.” European leaders were little short of furious with Trump over his climate change stubbornness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said discussions “had been very difficult, and not to say very unsatisfactory”. French President Emmanuel Macron felt the need to underscore the severity of the situation by shaking Trump’s hand with such intensity that his knuckles went white. He later said it was “a moment of truth” designed to show that he was not a pushover. None of this appears to have mattered to Trump. He seems set to pull the US out of an agreement most others nations consider essential to the planet’s survival. The best hope may now lie with the very people Trump once mocked as hoaxers.
News Article | September 22, 2016
Earlier this year, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sparked the ire of scientists and climate activists when he vowed to “cancel the Paris climate agreement” once in office. Now, hundreds of U.S. scientists have addressed this threat in an open letter warning of the perils of such action. Signed by 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences, the letter explicitly refers to “the Republican nominee for President” and notes that “such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.” The letter, published online Tuesday, coincides with Climate Week in New York — a gathering of governments, businesses, scientists and activists hosting dozens of events aimed at advancing the conversation around fighting climate change — as well as a gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. And while organizers have noted that they did not intentionally time the letter’s publication this way, it nevertheless has added to ongoing conversations this week about the world’s climate future. During his opening address to the general assembly, in fact, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated the importance of bringing the Paris Agreement into full force this year. In order to take effect, the agreement must be ratified by at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, 60 countries representing 48 percent of global emissions, including the U.S., have signed on. Thirty–one of these joined en masse Wednesday. [The world is getting awfully close to putting the Paris climate deal into action] Experts expect even more countries may jump on board. But without continued U.S. cooperation in the future, the letter writers argue, the entire agreement could be in jeopardy. “The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would really set back all of our efforts to deal with climate problems,” said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT and one of the letter’s organizers. “American leadership is such an essential thing trying to solve climate problems.” He added that “if the administration that withdraws from the Paris Agreement is also going to withdraw from efforts to develop clean energy, then the U.S. will lose its leadership position in developing clean energy, and that’s perhaps one of the worst things that will happen.” Ben Santer, another organizer and a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, pointed out that a withdrawal could send a poor message to other countries that have not yet committed to the agreement, suggesting that climate change “isn’t a real problem, this isn’t a serious problem — you shouldn’t care about it either.” Santer said such outcomes could fundamentally shake the international community’s ability to meet the most difficult task laid out in the Paris Agreement, — the goal of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of their pre-industrial levels. Prior to the Paris Agreement, the international community had focused on a goal of keeping temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. At Paris, the threshold was narrowed to “well below” 2 degrees, and the agreement also explicitly mentioned 1.5 degrees as an aspiration. Ways of meeting this more stringent goal has been one of the central conversations at this year’s Climate Week. “The US is the second largest global emitter of global warming gases but its actions still rank first in terms of influence on the course of action taken by other countries,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate expert at Princeton University, in an email to The Washington Post. “If we withdraw, or even slow our implementation of the EPA regulations, other countries will take note and their own ambition in tackling climate change will likely decrease. Then the prospect of attaining 1.5 or 2 degrees or even 3 degrees would fade like a pipe dream.” On Monday, Oppenheimer participated in a panel event hosted by nonprofit climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics discussing both the importance and the feasibility of reaching the 1.5-degree target. There, he and other presenters noted that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees has considerable consequences in terms of climate impacts. At the event, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a physicist with Climate Analytics and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, pointed to a recent paper he co-authored, suggesting that the gap between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees could mean substantial differences in the number of extreme heat and precipitation events around the world, water availability in certain regions such as the Mediterranean and even the ability of coral reefs to adapt to their changing environment. And while scientists have debated how close we actually are to reaching that 1.5-degree threshold, many experts have indicated that it’s still theoretically possible to meet the mark. The problem is that recent analyses suggest the carbon-cutting pledges submitted by individual nations to the Paris Agreement are still not enough to get us there. This means that it’s imperative for nations to not only remain committed to the accord, but to actually step up their game even more. “At present, a 1.5 [degree] limit appears to be a very difficult to achieve, not impossible but requiring focused efforts by governments and individuals to rapidly reduce utilization of fossil fuels through a combination of technological and lifestyle changes on an unprecedented scale,” Oppenheimer said by email. And therein lies the importance of continued U.S. involvement and leadership in the agreement. “I believe scientists have a responsibility…to set the record straight and to speak out clearly and forcefully and say this is what we know we with confidence, this is why we should care about it and here are the likely outcomes if we do nothing,” said Santer, the letter organizer. “And the likely outcomes are very serious for all of us.” Think California’s current drought is bad? Past incarnations have lasted hundreds of years Scientists may have solved a key riddle about Antarctica — and you’re not going to like the answer What the ‘sixth extinction’ will look like in the oceans: The largest species die off first For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Research institute Climate Analytics estimated that the EU's carbon budget, which is how much carbon dioxide it can emit to stay under two degrees Celsius, is at 6.5 gigatonnes by 2050 (AFP Photo/LOIC VENANCE) Brussels (AFP) - The European Union must close all 315 of its coal-fired power plants by 2030 in order to meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement, a research institute said Thursday. The goal set at the December 2015 Paris conference to maintain average temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels requires the gradual closure of EU coal plants, Climate Analytics said. "The long-term temperature goal adopted under the Paris agreement... requires a rapid decarbonisation of the global power sector and the phaseout of the last unabated coal-fired power plant in the EU by around 2030," the report said. Climate Analytics estimated that the EU's carbon budget, which is how much carbon dioxide it can emit to stay under two degrees Celsius, is at 6.5 gigatonnes by 2050. The institute said the EU will exceed the budget by 85 percent by then if it continues with current emissions rates at coal plants. It said there were 315 coal plants across the 28-nation bloc, and that 11 newly announced plants would raise EU emissions to almost twice the levels required to limit temperature rises. "We find the cheapest way for the EU to make the emissions cuts required to meet its Paris Agreement commitments is to phase out coal from the electricity sector, and replace this capacity with renewables and energy efficiency measures," said Paola Yanguas Parra, a lead author of the report. Parra said Germany and Poland had the most work to do as they were together responsible for 54 percent of emissions from coal.
News Article | November 10, 2016
Founder and CEO of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare speaks during a press conference, at the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) - Donald Trump's election as U.S. president muddies the outlook for efforts to cut greenhouse gases and could mean U.S. emissions stay flat until 2030, compared with deep cuts planned by President Barack Obama, scientists said on Thursday. Republican Trump, who has called climate change a hoax and is expected to favor the coal and oil industries, opposes last year's Paris Agreement by almost 200 nations to combat global warming. In the past year "national climate policies have made little progress, and the road ahead looks even less clear after the results of the U.S. presidential elections," three European scientific groups said in a report of global trends. "If President Trump abandons current policies as he has threatened to do, we estimate that in 2030, U.S. emissions will be similar to what they are today," said Niklas Hoehne, of NewClimate Institute, one of the research groups. Obama promised in Paris to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels. U.S. data show emissions were down 9 percent in 2014, compared to 2005. A Climate Action Tracker compiled by the researchers, issued at U.N. talks on climate change in Marrakesh, projected that existing policies including Obama's would lead to a warming in global temperatures of 2.8 degrees Celsius (5.0 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times by 2100. That is fractionally above a projected 2.7C (4.9F) rise in average surface temperatures estimated a year ago, largely due to technical revisions. Current policies need to be ratcheted up to achieve a goal set in Paris of limiting global warming to "well below" 2C (3.6F) by curbing a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases blamed for causing downpours, heatwaves and rising seas, the scientists said. It was too early to say how Trump's policies might affect the global outlook, they added. His election "would increase our (global) temperature estimate, but there are huge uncertainties," Hoehne said. Still, the study said a shift to renewable energies was likely to continue thanks to factors such as falling prices of solar power and wind power and improved ranges for electric vehicles. "Provided political leaders globally maintain their commitment to action, these tailwinds mean we should be able to ride through the turbulence that a climate skeptic in the White House could bring," said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.