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News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Top Trump officials are feuding over whether the United States should stay in — or exit — the historic Paris climate agreement. The president, who promised to “cancel” Paris during the election campaign, has faced calls from oil, gas and even some coal companies for the United States to remain a party to an accord endorsed by nearly 200 countries. But many conservatives and climate-change doubters have continued to urge Trump to keep his election pledge and quit the agreement. The White House has suggested that Trump would make his decision about the fate of the Paris agreement by late May, when leaders of the Group of Seven major economies are expected to gather in Taormina, Italy. But a decision could also emerge from a meeting of his top advisers that was postponed Tuesday and could take place as early as next week, according to Republican lobbyists. The meeting — whose new date, for now, remains unclear — was charged with offering recommendations to Trump, the White House said. But spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that while the advisers “wanted to have that conversation,” it had been put off because of “scheduling conflicts,” including several top officials traveling with the president to Wisconsin for an event. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, said last week that he believes the United States should “exit” the deal, which is seen as a key part of President Barack Obama’s legacy. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is also viewed as an opponent of the agreement. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued in his Senate confirmation hearing that the United States should maintain a “seat at the table” in international climate talks. Others, including National Economic Council head Gary Cohn, who held a White House meeting about a possible carbon tax, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are also considered supportive of the deal. At a minimum, said one GOP consultant close to the White House, Trump is likely to cut off contributions that President Obama was making to the Green Climate Fund under the international accord, a key mechanism by which wealthier developed countries are supposed to help developing nations adjust to climate change and adopt clean-energy technologies to cut their emissions. Continued international uncertainty about the Trump administration’s stand has been a source of friction at international summits. At the Group of Seven energy ministerial meeting last week, the United States would not endorse a statement about climate change because the Trump administration has still not laid out a formal policy position. Meanwhile, a number of industry voices have rallied behind the deal. Tillerson’s former company, ExxonMobil, argued to the White House recently that the United States should stay in the agreement and that it does not pose a competitiveness risk to domestic energy industries. On Monday, Cheniere Energy, the United States’ first liquefied natural gas exporter, wrote to David Banks, White House special assistant to the president for international energy and environment, to similarly argue that “domestic energy companies are better positioned to compete globally if the United States remains a party to the Paris Agreement.” Even the major coal company Cloud Peak Energy is now on record supporting the accord. But Trump faces competing pressure to leave it, too. On Tuesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, released an ad urging Trump to jettison the Paris climate deal. The ad includes footage of Trump on the campaign trail, promising to “cancel” the Paris deal. “Mr. President, don’t listen to the swamp,” it goes on to say. “Keep your promise. Withdraw from the Paris climate treaty.” In a statement accompanying the ad’s release, CEI’s Myron Ebell — who headed up Trump’s EPA transition team — said exiting the Paris agreement is an integral part of the new administration’s push to unravel Obama-era environmental regulations. “The Paris Climate Treaty requires the United States to make drastic cuts in fossil fuel energy use by 2025, which will raise energy prices and slow economic recovery from our decade-long slump,” Ebell said. “It also requires us to submit more ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions every five years. Failure to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty will make President Trump’s plans to undo Obama’s climate agenda vulnerable to legal challenges.” One utility industry lobbyist, Michael McKenna, argued in a note that “the fundamental purpose of the Paris Agreement is to drive developed nations toward environmental regimes that are mathematically incompatible with economic growth.” He said the accord allowed other nations to increase their overall emissions. “Mr. Kushner must know that an obviously broken campaign pledge will impair the President’s ability to be reelected,” McKenna wrote. “He probably also knows (or will know) that there is no mechanism — absent withdrawal — that allows the sort of reworking the agreement that some in the Administration have suggested is possible.” The Paris climate accord has been described as a “bottom-up” approach in which individual countries come forward with their own pledges to the international community to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Parties are expected to ramp up ambitions over time, acknowledging that it will take considerable effort to put the world on a path to limit the planet’s warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, as the Paris accord prescribes. With the current Paris pledges alone, the planet is still forecast to warm by 2.6 to 3.1 degrees Celsius (4.68 to 5.58 degrees Fahrenheit), according to one scientific analysis, which would have profound impacts. The administration could try to remain a party to the Paris agreement but revise downward the United States’ ambitious emissions pledge to the world. That is precisely the path recently advocated by Trump campaign energy adviser Kevin Cramer, a congressman from North Dakota. The Obama administration committed to lowering emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. That’s presumably out of the question given Trump’s coal-friendly energy policies, but a more moderate promise may not be. The agreement also requires a lengthy waiting period for any party to exit the accord once it has come into force. Parties cannot withdraw for three years, and then there’s another year’s wait time after that — the length of a presidential term. Some conservatives have argued that the United States can exit more quickly by quitting the broader diplomatic superstructure for addressing the climate problem — namely, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. If the administration does stick with the Paris agreement, Trump energy policy rollbacks and, most importantly, the presumed demise of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would force a less ambitious emissions goal, according to analysts of the United States’ greenhouse gas trajectory. “If the current policy intentions of the Trump administration come into effect, it will be impossible to meet the [nationally determined contribution] that was originally made by the Obama administration,” said Niklas Höhne, a founder of the New Climate Institute and professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “Not that the Trump administration would fully reverse existing trends on renewables or efficient cars, but because it will prevent new policies in other areas planned by the Obama administration from being implemented.” Ellie Johnston of Climate Interactive, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., provided The Post with an analysis showing that the United States could cut its emissions by 3 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025 even without the Clean Power Plan and a number of other planned Obama policies if it adheres to an international accord limiting highly polluting gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. That scenario also assumed that ambitious climate policies continue in California, a U.S. leader in emissions reductions. A pledge to cut emissions by only 3 percent would be sure to draw international scorn — although the United States might not be the only major emitter caught downgrading its ambitions. Brazil, in particular, has seen a recent increase in the rate of deforestation, a major contributor to climate change. Whether or not the Trump administration decides to stay in the Paris agreement, many in the international community are assuming that the U.S. government’s leading role on climate action is over for the foreseeable future. “It’s clear that we cannot expect the same kind of leadership from the U.S. following the change in administration,” Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union’s climate action and energy commissioner, said in an email. “What is clear is that while some look back, the E.U., China and many other major economies look ahead. For us, the Paris Agreement is not a bad deal, it is a good deal. It is not a blast from the past but a promise for a better future.” Cañete said that while climate action from the world’s major economies is “more important than ever,” he remains confident that other countries will keep pushing forward with efforts to slash global carbon emissions, even if the United States is no longer leading the charge. “Not only because we all see climate change as a matter of national and global security, a multiplying factor of social and political fragility, and a root cause for the displacement of people,” he said. “But because that tackling climate change and reforming our energy systems are significant drivers of job creation, investment opportunities and economic growth.” The White House’s climate debate comes even as the planet continues to signal that fast changes are afoot. NASA just photographed a new crack in one of Greenland’s largest glaciers, Petermann, suggesting that the rate of ice loss from the vast ice sheet could continue to grow in coming years, further raising sea levels. And on Monday, scientists published a striking study showing that in Canada’s Yukon territory, the retreat of a glacier had actually caused the rerouting of an entire river — an apparent first when it comes to mega-scale effects of human-caused global warming. More from Energy and Environment: Scientists just found a strange and worrying crack in one of Greenland’s biggest glaciers EPA plans to offer buyouts as part of Trump push to shrink workforce Humans have filled the pristine Arctic ocean with 300 billion pieces of floating plastic For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The U.S. government has sent just seven registered participants to a key United Nations meeting on the Paris climate agreement — a smaller delegation than Zimbabwe’s — underscoring the Trump administration’s deep ambivalence about the historic agreement. White House officials are expected to huddle Tuesday to discuss the fate of the agreement — with business leaders and the international community pressing the United States to stay in the agreement, and President Trump’s conservative allies urging an exit. The meeting in Bonn, Germany, represents the first of two gatherings this week where international partners will pressure the increasingly recalcitrant United States to affirm its role in the agreement of more than 190 nations. Other industrialized nations, such as China, France and Germany, each sent dozens of officials — the French delegation alone had 42 official participants. The United States sent 44 official participants just last year. In Fairbanks, Alaska, on Thursday, the United States will host a ministerial of the eight-nation Arctic Council, an event sure to highlight rapid changes to the fastest warming part of the Earth. In recent days, White House officials have taken an apparent turn away from remaining in the Paris climate agreement, with several administration officials arguing that the accord binds the Trump administration to the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goal promised by the Obama administration, or something even stronger. That interpretation is contested by many legal experts, however, as well as participants in past international climate negotiations. “Having been intensely involved in such negotiations for a long time, there can be no doubt that Paris is utterly nonbinding, and therefore, each country is free to adjust their pledges in accordance with their own national circumstances,” said James Connaughton, who headed up the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, a wave of international and domestic lobbying has intensified, with foreign allies and many corporations calling for the United States to stick with the deal, even as U.S. political conservatives push for a withdrawal — matching a similar tension between internationalists and conservatives within the White House itself. “We strongly hope that the US will stay committed to the Paris Accord,” Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the United Nations, said in an email to The Washington Post. “This is key in itself but also as an illustration of America’s commitment to world affairs.” Delattre said he “underscored this point” in a White House lunch with Trump, when the president met with members of the U.N. Security Council late last month. It has all set the stage for a potentially dramatic decision — precisely the type that Trump seems to enjoy making. The Paris climate agreement, struck at U.N. talks in December 2015, joins the voluntary carbon-cutting pledges of more than 190 countries. The parties to the agreement are expected to increase their ambitions over time, with the goal of eventually setting the world on a course to limit global warming to “well below” a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) rise over temperatures seen in the late 1800s. The Obama administration pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2025 — less than 10 years from now. Yet even this ambitious pledge, combined with those of other nations, is not enough to keep the world within the 2-degree temperature limit, which is why increased ambition over time is central to the agreement. The divide within the White House is between those, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who would have the United States revise its commitment downward, and those like Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who think simply remaining in the deal at all opens the Trump administration up to legal challenges to its domestic energy policies. On Monday, 40 conservative organizations sent president Trump a letter “in enthusiastic support of your campaign commitments to withdraw fully from the Paris Climate Treaty and to stop all taxpayer funding of UN global warming programs.” The groups argue that the United States might consider withdrawing from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, a 1992 Senate-ratified treaty that is the foundation for subsequent U.N. climate deliberations, including the Paris agreement. Meanwhile, Google, Apple and more than 20 other firms took out an ad in the New York Times on Monday throwing their support behind the agreement. “By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth,” the companies’ letter says. “U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets. Withdrawing from the agreement will limit our access to them and could expose us to retaliatory measures.” It is unclear how other nations would react if the United States were to withdraw from the deal, but “retaliatory measures” have certainly been mentioned in the past. Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, has even suggested “a carbon tax at Europe’s borders, a tax of 1 to 3 percent for all the products that come from the United States, if the United States exempts itself from the environmental regulations that we ourselves have imposed on our businesses.” The United States, as the world’s second largest emitter, is central to the Paris accord, both symbolically and also mathematically. Indeed, the country lowering its emissions as promised by the Obama administration could determine whether the world itself is positioned to curb global warming significantly in coming years. According to an analysis by the think tank Climate Interactive, the Paris agreement pledges would shift the world from a path in which global emissions are expected to rise significantly out to the year 2030 (as economies grow and populations boom), onto one in which emissions remain relatively flat over the next 13 years. That’s not enough to hit the 2 degrees Celsius goal, but it is enough to keep global warming at least somewhat under control. However, the group found, 21 percent of that achievement — or about one-fifth of the emissions cuts — depend on the United States. Therefore, if the United States doesn’t hit its promise to the world under Barack Obama, global emissions will keep growing to 2030 at least (assuming other nations do not pitch in with far deeper cuts than proposed so far, deep enough to offset the United States’ failure to contribute). “The United States is contributing 21 percent of the pledged global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ellie Johnston, the climate and energy lead at Climate Interactive. “If the United States doesn’t follow through on its commitment, it will shift more of the burden of climate action to those countries who have polluted the least. It’s unfair by any measure.” White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said that the Trump administration will make up its mind about whether to stay in the Paris agreement before the Group of 7 meeting in Italy at the end of this month.


News Article | May 27, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That's because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. President Donald Trump, who once proclaimed global warming a Chinese hoax, said in a tweet Saturday that he would make his "final decision" this coming week on whether the United States stays in or leaves the 2015 Paris climate change accord in which nearly every nation agreed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. Leaders of seven wealthy democracies, at a summit in Sicily, urged Trump to commit his administration to the agreement, but said in their closing statement that the U.S., for now, "is not in a position to join the consensus." "I hope they decide in the right way," said Italy's prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni. More downbeat was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the leaders' talks were "very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory." In an attempt to understand what could happen to the planet if the U.S. pulls out of Paris, The Associated Press consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analyzed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects. Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold. Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather. "If we lag, the noose tightens," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change. One expert group ran a worst-case computer simulation of what would happen if the U.S. does not curb emissions, but other nations do meet their targets. It found that America would add as much as half a degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius) to the globe by the end of century. Scientists are split on how reasonable and likely that scenario is. Many said because of cheap natural gas that displaces coal and growing adoption of renewable energy sources, it is unlikely that the U.S. would stop reducing its carbon pollution even if it abandoned the accord, so the effect would likely be smaller. Others say it could be worse because other countries might follow a U.S. exit, leading to more emissions from both the U.S. and the rest. Another computer simulation team put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit). While scientists may disagree on the computer simulations they overwhelmingly agreed that the warming the planet is undergoing now would be faster and more intense. The world without U.S. efforts would have a far more difficult time avoiding a dangerous threshold: keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed by just over half that amount — with about one-fifth of the past heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions coming from the United States, usually from the burning of coal, oil and gas. So the efforts are really about preventing another 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) from now. "Developed nations — particularly the U.S. and Europe — are responsible for the lion's share of past emissions, with China now playing a major role," said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. "This means Americans have caused a large fraction of the warming." Even with the U.S. doing what it promised under the Paris agreement, the world is likely to pass that 2 degree mark, many scientists said. But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean "ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water," said the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Kevin Trenberth. Climate Interactive, a team of scientists and computer modelers who track global emissions and pledges, simulated global emissions if every country but the U.S. reaches their individualized goals to curb carbon pollution. Then they calculated what that would mean in global temperature, sea level rise and ocean acidification using scientifically-accepted computer models.


News Article | November 22, 2016
Site: news.mit.edu

Last year, participants in the Paris Agreement on climate change expressed the shared global objective of limiting temperature rise, with each party to the agreement laying out its intended national contributions to addressing climate change. At this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, as the world wondered what a change in administration could mean for U.S. climate policy and — by extension — the momentum for the Paris Agreement, national and civil society leaders repeatedly expressed their commitment to upholding and advancing implementation of the agreement. For MIT, the imperative is as clear as ever. “The Paris Agreement motivated us immensely,” said Maria Zuber, MIT's vice president for research, at a series of conversations hosted by Emerson Collective in Marrakech. “MIT strongly supports the agreement. Collectively, on our campus, we said it is a great starting point — but it’s not enough,” she said. Zuber spoke with Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, and Dan Arvizu, Emerson Collective’s chief technology officer and STEM evangelist, on the role of academic research and innovation in meeting global greenhouse gas reduction targets. She went on to describe the Institute’s efforts to conduct research and develop partnerships that foster climate solutions. These solutions include nature-focused approaches. “Nature-based solutions can play an important part in addressing climate change. Not only can we learn from how natural systems self-regulate, but we can apply that knowledge to designing new technologies and courses of action,” said John Fernández, director of MIT's Environmental Solutions Initiative and a professor of architecture. His initiative is currently exploring partnerships around nature-based climate solutions that protect ecosystems. At the same event, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito discussed the importance of designing systems to solve for multiple problems — such as reducing carbon emissions while also improving quality of life and caring for the environment. “When you think of a complex system like the environment or a city, how do you design for everything in the system so that it’s optimized not just for the one player that has economic value, but for the entire system? That’s the kind of design we need to figure out how to do,” he said, adding: “The people participating day-to-day in the system can be the designers. It’s about bringing science directly into the community and having the community participate in the science.” Robert Stoner, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), expanded on this idea in a breakout discussion on citizen science and education. “The democratization of data with the availability of low-cost measurement technology and access to the Internet creates new opportunities for nonscientists to participate in creating knowledge and using it to improve the world. But [it also creates] potential for that data to be misinterpreted or misused in civil discourse — underscoring the need for scientists to be involved ‘on the playing field’ as interpreters in an ethical and responsible manner,” said Stoner, who is also the director of the Tata Center for Technology and Design. To empower individuals to contribute to climate solutions while employing scientific rigor, MIT’s Climate CoLab has developed a crowdsourcing platform for people around the world to collaborate on creating plans for addressing climate change. At a COP22 side event with Climate Interactive and the Abibimman Foundation, Climate CoLab project manager Laur Hesse Fisher described the online platform and contests, in which participants devise individual climate policies and actions, and integrated national and global plans. Scientific experts analyze and judge the proposals in terms of projects’ feasibility and potential impacts among other criteria. The winners use prize money to help scale their ideas. Fisher encouraged audience members to submit proposals for a contest open through February with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape (A2R). “We’re running a contest to get your ideas and your projects on how the most vulnerable countries can anticipate the climate hazards that they’re going to face,” she said. “We welcome you to submit your idea so that you can be part of this process.” Fisher also spoke at an event with the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance to showcase and discuss existing initiatives and practical examples of approaches intended to accelerate climate action at the urban level, and she held several other events to introduce people to Climate CoLab’s platform. "Climate CoLab shows that new technologies can make new things possible, and that’s what we do at MIT,” said Fisher. “But it’s not only more efficient solar panels or carbon capture technologies — it’s also new ways that the world can work together.” Ahead of and throughout COP22, John Sterman, a professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Climate Interactive team members have worked to bring their interactive climate policy models and tools to Africa. They have conducted workshops on their jointly developed “World Climate” role play throughout Africa and around the world — including sessions with Moroccan business leaders and university students, staff, and faculty. “We’re enabling local scholars, educators, and members of civil society to help their communities learn for themselves about the international climate negotiations, data modeling, and the urgency of emissions reductions for all nations,” said Sterman. MIT and Climate Interactive have also created new tools to support “climate smart agriculture” in Africa, led by Climate Interactive’s Travis Franck SM ’05 PhD ’09, who is also an MIT research affiliate. “Our prototype interactive system dynamics model considers how countries can meet two critical goals: expanding food production to support their growing populations and cutting the greenhouse emissions from the agricultural sector,” said Sterman. He and Franck shared this work in several side events at COP22. Graduate students Arun Singh and Michael Davidson came to Marrakech to advance their international climate research and keep abreast of real-time developments in climate policy. Davidson, who first attended the international climate talks in 2010, researches China’s climate and energy policies related to renewable energy and the electric grid as a PhD candidate with the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and a research associate with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. He arrived in Marrakech just before the U.S. election and witnessed uncertainties arising from the outcome globally and around U.S.-China relations, which had warmed leading up to the Paris Agreement last year, with jointly announced climate commitments that were seen as crucial to the adoption of the agreement. “There are many reasons why it's in the best interests of the U.S. not to withdraw, but now, the big question is, if the U.S. does leave the agreement, who’s going to take up the mantle and drive the implementation process forward? There is a lot of interest in seeing China — but also EU and others — step forward, helping to fundamentally shape the agreement without U.S. input or interests at its center,” said Davidson. He is also examining how the agreement's provisions on tracking countries’ progress toward meeting collective climate goals will take shape, and is among those helping to ensure that it will include robust scientific assessments, working with advisor Valerie Karplus and Henry Jacoby, professors at the MIT Sloan School. Singh, a master’s degree student with IDSS and a fellow with the Tata Center for Technology and Design, is developing an energy-economic model to help inform India’s climate policies and technology choices. He shared his research at a side event and conducted interviews related to his work as a Tata Fellow and research associate of the Joint Program with advisors Karplus and principal research scientist Niven Winchester. During COP22, the U.S., China, and Mexico announced their 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets, with the U.S. and Canada each pledging to reduce emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, and Mexico pledging to reduce emissions 50 percent from 2000 levels by 2050. The U.S. released its plan in a new report, the United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, which cited research by Jessika Trancik, an associate professor of energy studies with IDSS, on the “virtuous cycle” of continued clean energy technology development and deployment “in which ambition drives down costs, in turn eliciting greater ambition.” In an analysis of the three nations’ plans, Sterman said, “Our relentlessly shrinking carbon budget means all nations of the world must offer earlier and deeper cuts than they pledged in Paris, and continue to cut emissions through the end of the century. These midcentury strategies should inspire other nations to be even more ambitious. Warming cannot be limited to ‘well below’ 2 C without stronger midcentury commitments from all other nations.” Speaking with news network France24, Sterman reflected on the overarching sentiments at COP22 in the wake of the U.S. election: “The agenda has changed, but what is interesting is that a large number of the parties — the nations here — are asserting that they will continue to reduce their emissions regardless of what the United States may or may not do under the new administration,” he said. “And the civil society groups that are here, representing every aspect of society in the United States and around the world, are committed to redoubling their efforts to build grassroots support for climate action at the community, municipal, and state level.” At MIT, across the Institute, community members are prepared to keep accelerating climate action in keeping with the Plan for Action on Climate Change. As Zuber said at the Emerson Collective event, “We can’t just talk about this. We have to lead by example.”


News Article | November 22, 2016
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

Last year, participants in the Paris Agreement on climate change expressed the shared global objective of limiting temperature rise, with each party to the agreement laying out its intended national contributions to addressing climate change. At this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, as the world wondered what a change in administration could mean for U.S. climate policy and — by extension — the momentum for the Paris Agreement, national and civil society leaders repeatedly expressed their commitment to upholding and advancing implementation of the agreement. For MIT, the imperative is as clear as ever. “The Paris Agreement motivated us immensely,” said Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research, at a series of conversations hosted by Emerson Collective. “MIT strongly supports the agreement. Collectively, on our campus, we said it is a great starting point — but it’s not enough,” she said. Zuber spoke with Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, and Dan Arvizu, Emerson Collective’s chief technology officer and STEM evangelist, on the role of academic research and innovation in meeting global greenhouse gas reduction targets. She went on to describe the Institute’s efforts to conduct research and develop partnerships that foster climate solutions. These solutions include nature-focused approaches. “Nature-based solutions can play an important part in addressing climate change. Not only can we learn from how natural systems self-regulate, but we can apply that knowledge to designing new technologies and courses of action,” said John Fernández, director of MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative and a professor of architecture. His initiative is currently exploring partnerships around nature-based climate solutions that protect ecosystems. At the same event, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito discussed the importance of designing systems to solve for multiple problems — such as reducing carbon emissions while also improving quality of life and caring for the environment. “When you think of a complex system like the environment or a city, how do you design for everything in the system so that it’s optimized not just for the one player that has economic value, but for the entire system? That’s the kind of design we need to figure out how to do,” he said, adding: “The people participating day-to-day in the system can be the designers. It’s about bringing science directly into the community and having the community participate in the science.” Robert Stoner, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), expanded on this idea in a breakout discussion on citizen science and education. “The democratization of data with the availability of low-cost measurement technology and access to the Internet creates new opportunities for nonscientists to participate in creating knowledge and using it to improve the world. But [it also creates] potential for that data to be misinterpreted or misused in civil discourse — underscoring the need for scientists to be involved ‘on the playing field’ as interpreters in an ethical and responsible manner,” said Stoner, who is also the director of the Tata Center for Technology and Design. To empower individuals to contribute to climate solutions while employing scientific rigor, MIT’s Climate CoLab has developed a crowdsourcing platform for people around the world to collaborate on creating plans for addressing climate change. At a side event with Climate Interactive and the Abibimman Foundation, Climate CoLab project manager Laur Hesse Fisher described the online platform and contests, in which participants devise individual climate policies and actions, and integrated national and global plans. Scientific experts analyze and judge the proposals in terms of projects’ feasibility and potential impacts among other criteria. The winners use prize money to help scale their ideas. Fisher encouraged audience members to submit proposals for a contest open through February with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape (A2R). “We’re running a contest to get your ideas and your projects on how the most vulnerable countries can anticipate the climate hazards that they’re going to face,” she said. “We welcome you to submit your idea so that you can be part of this process.” Fisher also spoke at an event with the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance to showcase and discuss existing initiatives and practical examples of approaches intended to accelerate climate action at the urban level, and she held several other events to introduce people to Climate CoLab’s platform. “Climate CoLab shows that new technologies can make new things possible, and that’s what we do at MIT,” said Fisher. “But it’s not only more efficient solar panels or carbon capture technologies — it’s also new ways that the world can work together.” Ahead of and throughout COP22, John Sterman, a professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Climate Interactive team members have worked to bring their interactive climate policy models and tools to Africa. They have conducted workshops on their jointly developed “World Climate” role play throughout Africa and around the world — including sessions with Moroccan business leaders and university students, staff, and faculty. “We’re enabling local scholars, educators, and members of civil society to help their communities learn for themselves about the international climate negotiations, data modeling, and the urgency of emissions reductions for all nations,” said Sterman. MIT and Climate Interactive have also created new tools to support “climate smart agriculture” in Africa, led by Climate Interactive’s Travis Franck SM ’05 PhD ’09, who is also an MIT research affiliate. “Our prototype interactive system dynamics model considers how countries can meet two critical goals: expanding food production to support their growing populations and cutting the greenhouse emissions from the agricultural sector,” said Sterman. He and Franck shared this work in several side events at COP22. Graduate students Arun Singh and Michael Davidson came to Marrakech to advance their international climate research and keep abreast of real-time developments in climate policy. Davidson, who first attended the international climate talks in 2010, researches China’s climate and energy policies related to renewable energy and the electric grid as a PhD candidate with the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and a research associate with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. He arrived in Marrakech just before the U.S. election and witnessed uncertainties arising from the outcome globally and around U.S.-China relations, which had warmed leading up to the Paris Agreement last year, with jointly announced climate commitments that were seen as crucial to the adoption of the agreement. “There are many reasons why it’s in the best interests of the U.S. not to withdraw, but now, the big question is, if the U.S. does leave the agreement, who’s going to take up the mantle and drive the implementation process forward? There is a lot of interest in seeing China — but also EU and others — step forward, helping to fundamentally shape the agreement without U.S. input or interests at its center,” said Davidson. He is also examining how the agreement’s provisions on tracking countries’ progress toward meeting collective climate goals will take shape, and is among those helping to ensure that it will include robust scientific assessments, working with advisor Valerie Karplus, a professor at the MIT Sloan School affiliated with the Joint Program and MITEI. Singh, a master’s degree student with IDSS and a fellow with the Tata Center for Technology and Design, is developing an energy-economic model to help inform India’s climate policies and technology choices. He shared his research at a side event and conducted interviews related to his work as a Tata Fellow and research associate of the Joint Program with advisors Karplus and principal research scientist Niven Winchester. During COP22, the U.S., China, and Mexico announced their 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets, with the U.S. and Canada each pledging to reduce emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, and Mexico pledging to reduce emissions 50 percent from 2000 levels by 2050. The U.S. released its plan in a new report, the United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization, which cited research by Jessika Trancik, an associate professor of energy studies with IDSS, on the “virtuous cycle” of continued clean energy technology development and deployment “in which ambition drives down costs, in turn eliciting greater ambition.” In an analysis of the three nations’ plans, Sterman said, “Our relentlessly shrinking carbon budget means all nations of the world must offer earlier and deeper cuts than they pledged in Paris, and continue to cut emissions through the end of the century. These midcentury strategies should inspire other nations to be even more ambitious. Warming cannot be limited to ‘well below’ 2 C without stronger midcentury commitments from all other nations.” Speaking with news network France24, Sterman reflected on the overarching sentiments at COP22 in the wake of the U.S. election: “The agenda has changed, but what is interesting is that a large number of the parties — the nations here — are asserting that they will continue to reduce their emissions regardless of what the United States may or may not do under the new administration,” he said. “And the civil society groups that are here, representing every aspect of society in the United States and around the world, are committed to redoubling their efforts to build grassroots support for climate action at the community, municipal, and state level.” At MIT, across the Institute, community members are prepared to keep accelerating climate action in keeping with the Plan for Action on Climate Change. As Zuber said at the Emerson Collective event, “We can’t just talk about this. We have to lead by example.”


News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

Amid whiffs of chemicals and the electric hum of transformers, Kraftwerk Jaenschwalde rises like an ash-colored fortress over a landscape disfigured by decades of open-pit coal mining. The communist-era colossus in eastern Germany is one of Europe's dirtiest power plants, belching 24 million tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the air every year. It could have been closed for good when former owner Vattenfall, a Swedish utility, decided to get rid of its coal assets in Germany to reduce its carbon footprint. But as local officials point out, the lignite industry employs thousands in this region and together with hard coal accounts for more than 40 percent of Germany's power production. "This is the reason why you can't shut down a coal mine or power plant from one day to another," plant spokesman Thoralf Schirmer says. That the fight against climate change ran into that cold hard reality here in the heart of Europe — the world's climate leader — shows how challenging it's going to be to keep the global temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in last year's Paris emissions pact. A growing body of evidence suggests that the power plants, buildings, cars, trucks, ships and planes in use today are likely to emit enough CO2 over their lifetime for the world to miss that target. Coal plants alone could blow the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees C of warming, the lower threshold also mentioned in the agreement, unless they are shut down early. "For 1.5 degrees we would have to start retiring things like crazy and we wouldn't be able to build anything new," says University of California, Irvine, scientist Steven Davis. "Two degrees is starting to look equally bleak." That hasn't quite sunk in amid the fanfare surrounding the Paris Agreement, which entered into force with record pace. Temperatures have already risen by about 1 degree C since the industrial revolution, when countries started burning fossil fuels for energy. In 2010 Davis and others estimated that the world's existing energy infrastructure had locked in 496 billion tons of CO2 emissions if left to operate for their expected lifetime. By 2013, as hundreds of additional power plants had come online in Asia, the number rose to 729 billion tons. "By my latest calculations, we're close to 800 billion tons now," Davis says. That's roughly what's remaining of the so-called carbon budget for 2 degrees, according to recent estimates based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest assessment. That budget is significantly lower for 1.5 degrees. Joeri Rogelj of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, estimated that it's 150 billion tons or somewhat higher, while researchers at the Climate Interactive group said it's about 210 billion tons. There is uncertainty surrounding the estimates partly because it's unclear exactly how sensitive the climate system is to increases in atmospheric CO2 levels. Davis' research shows that, assuming an average lifespan of 40 years, the world's coal-fired power plants will emit 280 billion tons of CO2, exceeding the budget for 1.5 degrees. And that doesn't even count the hundreds more that are under construction or on the drawing board, primarily in China and other Asian countries. "Those things wouldn't be able to operate over their normal 30, 40 year lifespan," says Davis. "Instead they'd need to be closed down after 10 or 15 years. And so it's a matter of paying for that. That's a lot of life in those power plants that we'd basically have to throw away." This is happening in some places like the United States where coal plants are being shut down because of competition from natural gas, which is cheaper and has lower emissions. But not fast enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, as globally more coal plants are built every year than are retired, according to a report this year by environmental groups CoalSwarm, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. The report said there are 7,273 operating coal plants around the world this year, with 719 under construction and more than 1,000 in the planning stages. At U.N. climate talks in Morocco this week, governments and clean energy advocates noted that the world's transition toward a low-carbon economy is well underway, with renewable sources like wind and solar expanding quickly. But global energy demand is also growing, meaning renewables are adding power capacity rather than replacing existing capacity from fossil fuels, said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. "There is a bit of displacement going on in U.S. and in China," he said. "But for emissions to go down you need to not build any more fossil (fuel) infrastructure. And to go down faster you would have to close down existing infrastructure." Very few of the scientific projections count on countries retiring fossil fuels fast enough to meet the Paris targets. Instead they assume the world will find a way to suck vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere in the latter half of the century. The story of Jaenschwalde helps explain why. When Vattenfall, which is owned by the Swedish government, decided to offload its coal plants and mines in Germany, it came under pressure from environmentalists to decommission them instead. But that would have been "financially burdensome," says Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall. "So we decided to divest it," he says, adding that what to do with them is a question for the German government and people. Environmental groups protested the sale of the mines and plants to Czech investors, saying this just means their carbon footprint is passed on to someone else. But there was no appetite among German decision-makers for closing down the lignite industry, which employs 8,000 people in the eastern Lausitz region bordering Poland. The new Czech owners are considering expanding the mines, saying Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power means the demand for lignite power "will remain stable." That's encouraging to Schirmer, a bookish man with a purple scarf. On the other side of the border, he says, Poland is planning to open new lignite mines, meaning Germany could end up importing electricity generated from Polish coal if it shuts down its own mines. He agrees that Germany needs to go "100 percent renewables," but that's still "a long way away" because until energy storage makes a quantum leap, coal power will be needed on days when there's no wind or sunshine. "It wouldn't be wise to sink the ship," he says, "before you even have seen land."


News Article | April 22, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

As over 150 nations assemble to sign the Paris climate agreement in New York on Friday, reams of new analysis are pouring out from the planet’s vital number-crunchers, who look at the fundamental relationship between how much carbon we put in the air and how much the planet’s temperature increases as a result. And it’s adding up to a somber verdict: We seem closer to must-avoid climate thresholds than we thought — and crossing them may have bigger consequences than we recognize. The Paris climate agreement pledges countries to keep the planet’s warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels, and to strive to keep warming as low as 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above those levels. But here are four things you need to know about these targets, based upon four separate new and insightful analyses: 1.5 degrees C isn’t looking so far off lately. An analysis by Climate Central shows that the planet has been right around 1.5 degrees C all year this year, if you take temperatures from 1881-1910 to be the pre-industrial baseline. “The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C, essentially equaling the 1.5°C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December,” the group wrote. February of 2016, Climate Central calculates, was actually slightly warmer than 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels. The news isn’t as bad as it sounds: These have been some super-hot months, and El Nino is at least partly to blame. We’re likely to cool down some as El Nino ends — and we won’t truly have crossed the 1.5C threshold until the globally averaged temperature does over multiple years, so that it becomes the average. That will require far more than a few short months to happen. Still, 1.5C hardly sounds theoretical lately. We already know what it feels like on a temporary basis, and it has coincided with mass coral bleaching, early Greenland melting and much more. 2 degrees C is considerably worse than 1.5. Meanwhile, a new study just out in Earth System Dynamics, by researchers with Climate Analytics, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and several other institutions has found that although 1.5C and 2C may not sound all that different, they actually are, in terms of their impacts. “Before many have argued that there can’t be much difference because temperatures are so close and there’s so much uncertainty,” says Climate Analytics’ William Hare, one of the study’s authors. “But we’ve done an end-to-end uncertainty analysis, using 5 climate models and a state of the art impact assessment … to pull out some of the statistically significant signals.” For instance, the study finds that “virtually all” tropical reefs the globe over are at risk of “severe degradation” at 2 degrees C starting in the year 2050, but that for a 1.5C scenario, that’s only 90 percent, and it actually lessens over the course of the century to 70 percent by its end. In other words, 1.5C just might save some coral reefs. That’s not all the study found. In some regions of the globe, like the Mediterranean, water-availability risks are much worse at 2C than at 1.5C. In others, like parts of Africa, agricultural risks could be considerably higher, to list just a few of the findings. Extreme heat events also show a “substantial increase” in likelihood of occurrence at 2C, according to the study. “There’s a really substantial reduction of risk for areas that are already hot and dry and suffering food and water shortages,” says Hare, if we hold warming to 1.5 rather than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Fast policy moves are needed to achieve either target. Meanwhile, an  by Climate Interactive and the MIT Sloan School of Management finds that the current Paris agreement pledges — made by individual countries as part of the agreement, and supposed to be improved upon over time — would still let the world warm by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. They obviously need to be ratcheted up, then. How fast? The analysis finds that “with each year that countries wait to strengthen their current pledges, the rate at which emissions must decline gets steeper and steeper.” So if we wait for global emissions to peak in 2030, rather than in 2020, then every year after that they will have to decline by 4.6 percent per year, the analysis finds, a number that is “prohibitively fast.” If we peak in 2020, though, then reductions only have to happen at 3.2 percent per year, to stay under 2 degrees C, “a rate that has been achieved by some nations in the past.” Thus, if possible, emissions should peak by 2020. The United States, in this scenario, would have to go from lowering its emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 (its current goal), to cutting them by 45 percent by 2030. Other nations would have to make similarly large improvements on what they are currently promising to do. And even then, due to scientific uncertainty, the planet could still conceivably overshoot 2 degrees, and there is only a 66 percent or greater chance of getting there. Of course, the actual embraced goal of the world is to stay “well below” 2 degrees, a target that suggests prudent avoidance, not walking right up to it and potentially going over. Accordingly, the study also examined what it would take to suppress emissions fast enough to hit 1.5 degrees C. Here we’d have to have global emissions peak in 2020 and then decline by 5.9 percent annually thereafter. The United States, here, would have to get its emissions 60 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030. This is extreme, but then, that’s what it would take. If we want to buy time, we have to save forests. There’s some good news here. According to an analysis by the Woods Hole Research Center, if we stop deforesting the tropics and instead move rapidly to restore these forests, we can buy 10 to 15 years longer to try to stay within 2 degrees C. The reason is that if deforestation abruptly stopped — and stopped contributing to greenhouse gases each year — then forests would start growing back and sequestering carbon: pulling it back out of the air again. A current addition to our emissions would become a subtraction from them. Now that’s smart math. “Proper forest management is the only climate change mitigation technology that is: 1) available immediately; 2) capable of providing negative emissions at the necessary scale; and 3) proven to have additional benefits for the local and global climate,” write the researchers. Yes, that’s right — the world should simply stop chopping down trees immediately. Granted, while it may be theoretically possible to put the brakes on deforestation faster than it is to halt fossil fuel use, it seems unlikely that the underlying (economic) drivers of deforestation will suddenly end, either. So what’s the upshot of it all? This Earth Day, it’s hard to say the planet is in great shape. It is also hard to say that it is beyond saving, or at least, beyond beginning to repair. Rather, what happens next all depends on us.


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

After Tuesday’s U.S. election upset, climate change watchers and wonks are scrambling to assess what it would really mean if Donald Trump, true to his word, ditches or simply fails to participate in the Paris climate change agreement (which he could do through a variety of mechanisms). And it does indeed appear that the consequences for international diplomacy, and for the planet, would be considerable. At the center of the U.S.’s role in that agreement is its ambitious pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2025. Presumably, under Trump, we’d no longer see such significant cuts. Indeed, given Trump’s campaign trail talk about firing up the domestic coal, oil, and gas industries, we might even see our emissions increase. So what would it mean if the U.S. doesn’t hit its Paris target, for whatever reason, due to actions taken (or not taken) under Trump? According to an analysis shared with the Post by the D.C.-based think tank Climate Interactive (based in part on this analysis here), the effect is actually quite substantial. That’s because a large percentage of the full emissions cuts produced by the Paris agreement come directly from the U.S.’s individual promise to take domestic action, said Andrew Jones, co-director of the group. “Pulling out of the Paris agreement matters not just in leadership, but also in a direct impact on the climate,” Jones said. More specifically, Jones explained, Climate Interactive’s analysis finds that the U.S. pledge amounts to the avoidance of 22 gigatons, or billion tons, of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between the years 2016 and 2030. But all of the pledges, by all of the countries, only amount to the avoidance of a little over 100 gigatons. Thus, the U.S.accounts for around 20 percent of the total, which is not surprising, given the size of the country and the fact that it is the world’s second largest emitter after China. So what effect would that have on the Paris agreement as a whole? Noticing that one fifth of its emissions cuts have vanished, Jones said, “I think the rest of the world would be less likely to take action on their own part, and do their own share.” Granted, it is far from certain that a President Trump will be as hostile to the Paris accord as he sounded on the campaign trail — he will have to forge relationships with all these countries that want him to participate in global climate action. “Governing is different than campaigning,” said David Sandalow, a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “The Trump team is about to confront that.  Following through on some of his campaign climate statements would come at a cost in terms of his administration’s foreign policy objectives.” Sandalow added that the U.S. dropping out of the Paris process could be a boon to its other biggest participant in terms of its emissions — China. “If the U.S. withdraws from the Paris Agreement, that would create a strategic opportunity for China,” Sandalow said. “It would gain credibility globally by sticking with its climate plans even as the U.S. withdraws, helping the Chinese government advance its objectives on a range of topics.” Meanwhile, it’s not just that Donald Trump’s victory has upended the move towards global climate action — and will likely set the stage for reversal of Obama climate and energy policies at home as well. The November 8 election also saw the defeat of an initiative in Washington State that would have imposed the nation’s first revenue-neutral carbon tax, assessing a $25-per-ton fee on carbon dioxide emitted in the electricity, transportation, and other sectors and then using that revenue to reduce the state sales tax. Initiative 732, as it was called, actually saw considerable resistance from the environmental left, which felt that revenues from such a measure should be used to advance other social causes, rather than be returned to taxpayers. By the end, a strange bedfellow allegiance had arisen in which some on the left had effectively joined forces with some fossil fuel interests to oppose the carbon tax, even as many climate scientists and economists supported it. The tough politics hurt the measure even in Washington state’s populous and very liberal King County, the home to Seattle, where the initiative barely won a majority. In contrast, King voted for Hillary Clinton by 73.9 percent. Statewide, 58.1 percent of Washington voters ultimately said “no” to the carbon tax initiative. To be sure, in the context of the bombshell election and its broader negative implications for international climate action, the loss in Washington hardly felt significant. “In the scheme of things it doesn’t really count for much, and I would say that even if it had won, because we’re in for many years of backsliding on climate at a time when we really had to ramp it up,” said Charles Komanoff, director of the Carbon Tax Center. Why scientists are so worried about sea-level rise in the second half of this century We’re adding record amounts of wind and solar — and we’re still not moving fast enough For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.


News Article | September 30, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

A team of top scientists is telling world leaders to stop congratulating themselves on the Paris agreement to fight climate change because if more isn't done, global temperatures will likely hit dangerous warming levels in about 35 years. Six scientists who were leaders in past international climate conferences joined with the Universal Ecological Fund in Argentina to release a brief report Thursday, saying that if even more cuts in heat-trapping gases aren't agreed upon soon, the world will warm by another 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) by around 2050. That 1.8 degree mark is key because in 2009 world leaders agreed that they wanted to avoid warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures have already risen about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), so that 2 degree goal is really about preventing a rise of another degree going forward. Examining the carbon pollution cuts and curbs promised by 190 nations in an agreement made in Paris last December, the scientists said it's simply not enough. "The pledges are not going to get even close," said report lead author Sir Robert Watson, a University of East Anglia professor and former World Bank chief scientist who used to be chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "If you governments of the world are really serious, you're going to have to do way, way more." If carbon pollution continues with just the emission cuts pledged in Paris, Earth will likely hit the danger mark by 2050, Watson and colleagues calculated, echoing what other researchers have found. They said with just a few more cuts, the danger level might be delayed by 20 years, In Paris, the countries also added a secondary tougher goal of limiting warming to just another 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (half a degree Celsius) as an aspiration. There "is no hope of us stabilizing" at that temperature because the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere already commits the world to hitting that mark, Watson said. Watson said a few weeks ago he was in Washington at an event with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and former Vice President Al Gore celebrating the accord as a victory. "It struck me that this was naive," Watson said. "This is a real major challenge to stay even close to 2 degrees Celsius." That 2-degree danger mark is on a continuum with harmful effects already being felt now at lower warming levels, Watson said. But he added: "As you go more and more above 2, the negative effects become more and more pronounced, more and more severe." The report wasn't published in a scientific journal. Six outside scientists looked at for The Associated Press and said the science behind it was sound and so were the conclusions. "It is a good summary of what is common knowledge in the climate expert community but not widely appreciated by members of the public and even policy makers," said Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute in Germany. "So indeed it is a useful reminder notice to the world about what is at stake." On Tuesday, scientists at Climate Interactive In Asheville, North Carolina, who weren't part of the report ran a computer simulation using pledges from the Paris agreement and found that dangerous mark arrives around 2051, said group co-director Drew Jones.


News Article | November 11, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Donald Trump has said that one of the top priorities for his presidency would be to remove the United States from international agreements to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, Trump has said he would renege on the historic Paris climate pact. In addition, he has selected Myron Ebell, who is skeptical that human-caused climate change is occurring, to spearhead the transition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the new administration, as reported by ClimateWire. (The EPA is involved in developing the regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas output.) But what would this mean for the world's climate? It turns out that although it's relatively simple to remove the U.S. from its treaty obligations, the impacts of such a move are still not clear, experts say. "If all the nations of the world fully met their Paris pledges, that would lead to avoided cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of about 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide" by around 2030, said John Sterman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management and a senior adviser for the nonprofit Climate Interactive. The United States made up 22 gigatons of that total by 2025, so fully renouncing the pact would mean greenhouse gases would be that much higher. And in the worst case, it could lead to the complete unraveling of the deal, Sterman said. [The Reality of Climate Change: 10 Myths Busted] "It could be worse, because many nations may decide that if the United States won't live up to its agreement, why should they?" Sterman told Live Science. However, the agreement was never binding and will not be enforced with penalties, so it was never guaranteed that all signatories would fulfill their commitments anyway, Sterman said. And in the best case, economic drivers or city or state initiatives could lead the U.S. to slash its emissions regardless of a pact, he added. [6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change] Less than a year ago, President Barack Obama signed the historic Paris agreement. The United States, along with 195 other countries, agreed to make the carbon dioxide emissions cuts necessary to prevent more than a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) rise in global average temperatures above preindustrial levels. In speeches all along the campaign trail, Trump has made it a priority to undo Obama's climate work. The agreement itself allows signatories to remove themselves from the treaty only after four years. "It's kind of designed for someone like Trump in mind," said Michael Wara, an expert on energy and environmental law at the Stanford Law School in California, referring to a leader who wants to get out of the obligations. However, there are ways Trump could actually derail the process sooner. "The Paris agreement has taken effect, but there's still a lot to do to spell out how it's actually going to be implemented," Wara told Live Science. Right now, world leaders are congregating in Marrakech, Morocco, for the Conference of the Parties 22, to figure out this process. "If the U.S. doesn't play ball in negotiating the implementation of Paris, that could be as impactful as U.S. withdrawal," Wara said. For instance, if the E.P.A. is run by a climate skeptic, they could simply scrap rules for regulating carbon dioxide, making enforcement of the goals impossible, he said. Beyond this, the Paris climate agreement is part of a larger treaty, called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was first negotiated in 1992. Trump could potentially remove the United States from the UNFCC within a year with a stroke of a pen. This step would eliminate the requirement that the United States report its emissions levels, Wara said. Early this year, Obama helped craft an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a landmark agreement signed by197 countries in 1989 to protect the Earth's ozone layer. The new amendment aims to phase out production of superpotent warming gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by providing financial incentives to developing countries to cut these gases, but the Senate has yet to ratify it. So a future President Trump could simply decline to take action. That inaction, in turn, could lead developing countries to question whether to bother limiting their HFC emissions. "India, in particular, was extremely nervous about signing onto it," Wara said. Trump could derail the U.S.' climate goals more strongly through other policies, Wara said. "A lot of the key pieces of equipment that are going to be deployed in the next four to five years that could have the effect of reducing emissions — batteries, solar panels, wind turbines — have global supply chains," Wara said. If Trump cancels trade deals and imposes steep tariffs, those products could become more expensive to manufacture, meaning renewable energy would no longer be competitive with other energy sources. For example, plummeting battery costs have made electric cars cost-competitive with conventional vehicles, but that momentum could be derailed by stiff trade penalties, Wara said. On the other hand, there's a small chance that some of Trump's policies could — albeit indirectly — reduce emissions, Wara said. For example, Trump has been a huge proponent of oil and natural gas drilling, and if he promotes that agenda as president, "the coal industry is really in big trouble," Wara said. "It's cheaper to generate electricity with gas than coal, and if we keep up, the coal industry is going away, full stop. It's becoming a shriveled hulk of what it once was."   In the worst-case scenario, where the U.S. proceeds with business as usual, by 2100, the climate could warm by about 8.1 degrees F (4.5 degrees C), and the seas could rise by 6.5 feet (2 meters). "That would lead to a high risk of climate catastrophe," Sterman said. Such extreme warming could lead to water shortages and drought around the world; more heat waves, which could kill hundreds of thousands of people; mass migrations that would dwarf the refugee crisis of the past few years; and devastation that would make Hurricane Sandy look like a sideshow, Sterman said. "It's extremely serious," Sterman said. 8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World

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