Washington, DC, United States
Washington, DC, United States

Time filter

Source Type

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 | 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 30, 2016
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

MIT Climate CoLab’s Laur Hesse Fisher (third from right) speaks at a Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance COP 22 side event on Nov. 15. Photo: Emily Dahl/MIT Energy Initiative. An MIT research initiative is harnessing the power of crowds and online collaborative tools in support of fulfilling global Paris Agreement climate goals. MIT Climate CoLab presents an innovative approach at the UN international climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco. By Jennifer Perron | MIT Climate CoLab MIT’s Climate CoLab, founded and directed by Professor Thomas Malone of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, presented its work and innovative approach in a series of events earlier this month at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, Morocco (COP22). Climate CoLab’s team was on the ground in Marrakech to strengthen and build new collaborations with the international community in support of the 2015 Paris international climate agreement, and to showcase the role crowds and online collaborative tools can play in supporting implementation of the Paris Agreement goals. Of the project, Malone said: “It’s now possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people, all over the world, at a scale, and with a degree of collaboration, that was never possible before in human history.” Amid notable milestones in international climate cooperation this fall — including the early legal entry into force of the Paris Agreement, a recent international accord on reducing global hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and another on reducing emissions from the aviation sector, COP22 was still awash with reminders of the stark scientific realities that further near-term action is needed to combat the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Among them, a new United Nations’ Environmental Program 2016 Emissions Gap Report, released immediately prior to COP22, projected that 25 percent greater global emissions cuts are needed prior to 2030. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently urged the global community, “We are still in a race against time. We need to transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future.” Climate CoLab’s Laur Hesse Fisher presents at a COP 22 side event Nov. 14. Photo: Emily Dahl/MIT Energy Initiative.   Climate CoLab is pioneering a crowd-based methodology to help meet this challenge. The project was highlighted during several events at COP22, including two official UN side events, and a featured interview with the UNFCCC Climate Change Studio. “What if we could harness all of the ingenuity and intelligence of everybody that’s at COP22, and also everybody that couldn’t be here today, to continuously work together on climate change solutions? What could be possible?” said Laur Hesse Fisher, Climate CoLab project manager, during the interview. “New digital collaboration tools enable that,” she continued. On Monday, Nov. 14, Climate CoLab co-hosted an official side event with collaborator Climate Interactive and the Abibimman Foundation, entitled “Meeting the Paris Goals through Decision-Maker Tools and Climate Education.” Panelist Andrew Jones, Climate Interactive’s co-director, started the session with the premise that we need large-scale engagement in order to adequately address this challenge: “We don’t need 10,000 experts, we need 1 billion amateurs doing all they can, effectively, to make change.” The role of non-state actors and open transparent stakeholder engagement processes were featured throughout COP22. On Nov. 15, Hesse Fisher joined a panel of collaborators from various international organizations, including Climate Policy Institute, Climate-KIC, the Global Environmental Facility, ICLEI, and many others, organized by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance. Addressing an audience of government officials, academics, non-profit advocates, and others, the panelists discussed the role of innovation platforms and tools in helping finance climate action. World flags eave outside the UNFCCC COP22 conference venue in Marrakech, Morocco on Nov. 8. Photo: Jennifer Perron/Climate CoLab. Additionally, building on last year’s launch of a partnership with the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative: Absorb, Anticipate, Reshape (A2R), Climate CoLab was featured in an A2R brochure distributed at A2R Initiative COP22 events, for its new contest on “Anticipating Climate Hazards,” which seeks proposals on early warning systems and climate preparedness responses. Of the collaboration, Malone said, “To contend with the most pressing impacts of climate change, it is clear that now more than ever before, we need ideas and contributions of as many people as possible to address climate change.” As focus turns to accelerating countries’ implementation of their emissions reductions targets and adaptation strategies put forward under the Paris Agreement — also known as “nationally-determined contributions” or “NDCs” — Climate CoLab is exploring how this online collaborative approach of stakeholder engagement and expert-validated climate planning including assessment could prove valuable to countries. Building on themes of open engagement and enhancing transparency, Malone remarked, “We believe it’s possible to open up the national and international climate planning processes to anyone around the world who wants to participate.” As Fisher said, this approach provides “new ways that the world can work together.” Reprinted with permission of MIT News Original Post


News Article | November 29, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The election of global warming doubter Donald Trump came at a time when the planet was just poised to start collectively acting on the problem — leading to confusion and even defiance at a recent global climate change meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. Yet largely missing from the picture, amid the tumult of an unexpected electoral outcome, was any clear sense of just how much climate damage a Trump administration can really do. In part, that’s understandable: Providing an answer to this question is simultaneously very complicated and very speculative. We don’t know yet what policies Trump is actually going to pursue (he seems to waver on these things), nor can we firmly say yet how the world will respond to those actions. Moreover, there are limits to how much a U.S. president matters on global climate policy. We aren’t the world’s largest emitter any more. And technological and market trends operating globally right now are pushing the United States and the world towards burning less coal (and burning more natural gas) and investing more in renewables and electric vehicles. Some U.S. state-level policies are doing the same. In a recent commentary piece here, MIT’s Jessika Trancik makes the case that so much change is already in motion in the energy and transportation sectors that Trump really can’t do all that much harm, even if he successfully reverses many Obama climate policies. Still, it is worth trying to examine the consequences of what the world truly fears: That the United States, starting with Trump but perhaps continuing beyond his presidency, might doggedly refuse to participate in global climate action. And recently, analysts with Climate Interactive, a think tank that conducts analysis of our possible future climate pathways, shared an analysis with the Post that at least provides a good starting point for thinking about this problem. “The way that we broke this down was that there are two impacts,” explained Andrew Jones of Climate Interactive. “One of them is, what is the impact of U.S. emissions on the climate? That is, the biogeochemical question. What is the direct impact?” “The second is, what is the impact via global engagement, global leadership,” he continued. The resulting analysis isn’t so much about the global consequences of Trump’s election but about the potential consequences of a recalcitrant U.S. generally, thumbing its nose at the world not just now but throughout the century. Trump’s election could push things in this direction, but the true impact would very much depend on the rest of the world’s response to his presidency and policies, and most of all upon his long-term legacy, and how long any tension between the U.S. and the rest of the world lasts. After all, if Trump is just a climate policy speed-bump, a temporary U.S. domestic anomaly, then yeah, he doesn’t matter very much. “We ran scenarios in which U.S. action was delayed four or eight [years] and then resumed reductions,” said Jones. But then the U.S. went on to meet a hugely ambitious goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by the year 2054 or 2058 (rather than 2050, as the Obama administration currently envisions). In this situation, with such strong cuts coming just a bit later, “the effect of the delay was negligible,” Jones said. But let’s consider what would happen if instead, Trump turns out to be a trendsetter, the beginning of a retreat from international climate cooperation led by the United States. How a rogue U.S. could doom global climate policy Recall that in activating the Paris climate agreement, the globe has committed to keeping the planet’s warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels, of which about 1 degree of warming has already happened. So, let’s say that we have about 0.9 degrees to go, and the question is whether we will break through that boundary by the year 2100. Doing so would put the planet within a range of warming widely considered “dangerous” (although when you see the Great Barrier Reef with a 400 mile stretch of mostly dead coral at only 1 degree, it’s fair to wonder whether “dangerous” isn’t already here). All analyses show that unless emissions patterns change, we’ll blow way past 2 degrees. They also show that if the U.S., China, and every other country honors its current Paris pledges out to the year 2025 or 2030, we still won’t be on the right course. Much tougher cuts would have to happen and they would have to begin relatively quickly. And emissions would have to keep going down, and down, and down all through the century, eventually nearing or even reaching zero. This will be exceedingly hard to pull off. Global emissions would have to stop growing and start declining by the year 2035. By 2050, major countries like the U.S. would have to have brought their emissions down radically — in the U.S.’s case, by 80 percent or more below its 2005 levels. That’s a goal the Obama administration recently laid out, despite little hope that a Trump administration would stick with the plan. In this context, the Climate Interactive team explored a series of thought experiments. For instance, they said, imagine that every other country in the world does its part to get the world to 1.9 degrees Celsius in 2100, but the U.S. totally fails to meet the targets expressed by the Obama administration, and instead follows a kind of worst-case scenario of ever-rising emissions through the entire century. This isn’t a very likely scenario, with U.S. emissions actually showing signs of decline lately. But again, let’s just use it as a beginning. In this case, the analysis shows, the U.S. would indeed tip the planet over the edge into the range of “dangerous” climate change. “If all countries but the U.S. reduce emissions to stay within Paris limits, but the U.S. follows its reference scenario, that’s one of the worst-case scenarios for the U.S., [then] temperature in 2100 would go from 1.9 to 2.3,” Jones said. Here’s the result, according to Climate Interactive: But it gets far worse if the United States were not only to completely cancel its climate engagement and just keep on burning fossil fuels, but also cause the world to lessen its commitment, too. Suppose the United States follows this worst-case path and instead of doing everything that they can, other countries correspondingly lower their own ambitions and only do about 50 percent of what they need to do. This would lead to a planetary warming of 2.7 degrees C, the analysis found, by century’s end. Neither of these scenarios seems very likely, however. With the U.S.’s emissions already trending downward, due to market forces and technological change, it seems reasonable to expect that even under Trump, the country may manage to lower its emissions somewhat, even if it probably won’t meet its Paris goal without stronger effort. Beyond that, emissions could continue to tick downward, even if not as fast as the Obama 2050 goal would envision. It also seems reasonable that other countries might fail to meet their own targets out to the middle of the century — after all, hitting them is just plain difficult — whether because they are responding to Trump or simply because they fail for other reasons. A middling scenario of trying, but just not hard enough So now, imagine that the United States only achieves 50 percent of what’s needed and the rest of the world only hits 50 percent. That’s a bad news scenario as well. “If the entire world (including the U.S.) decarbonizes only halfway of what’s required to keep warming within the Paris limit of ‘below two degrees C,’ then expected global temperature would miss the Paris limit of 2.0°C and warm to 2.5°C,” said Jones. Here’s how it looks: There are a few things to note here. First, in none of these scenarios is the world anywhere close to holding warming to 1.5 degrees C, an even safer limit that many scientists believe will soon be out of reach — if it isn’t already. Second, it’s clear that what the United States does matters, but it matters most in the context of what other countries do — and that in judging U.S. action, we have to look at that action across the entire century. This is, again, why Trump alone can’t doom the climate, unless he starts some kind of grand wave of climate isolationism or long-term inaction. Therefore, based on this analysis — and Climate Interactive aren’t the only number crunchers out there — here is what we can say about a Trump presidency and the planet. It’s basically all about legacy and influence. Knocking the United States off of the Obama administration’s trajectory of lowering emissions, and doing so for only four years, is not that big of a deal if the rest of the world races ahead anyway, and if the United States rejoins the action in four or even eight years, muddling along without much emissions growth, or even emissions declines, in the meantime. But if there is a longer-term reversal of progress, and if it poisons the international mood that currently favors action, that’s where you start to worry. Oh, and one more thing: Let’s remember most of all that staying below 2 degrees is extraordinarily difficult even without Trump. That’s why middling pathways like the one above representing some U.S. and global action, but not enough, sound pretty realistic right now. In these possible worlds, the planet may not totally cook, but its change would still be sweeping. The gist is that keeping climate warming under control was exceedingly hard before the 2016 U.S. election and will probably be still harder after it — but we still need to focus on the long term, and consider the entire the globe.


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

On Nov. 5, the landmark Paris climate change accord was effectively set into international law, with 96 countries all over the world formally ratifying the agreement. But with this global milestone comes a looming uncertainty: now that known climate change denier Donald Trump has been elected as the new President of the United States, what will happen to the goals set by his predecessor? Several green groups that gathered at the United Nations climate talk in Morocco believe that it would be "a disaster" if Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate change accord, which took two decades to negotiate. "Pulling out of the Paris agreement matters not just in leadership, but also in a direct impact on the climate," said Andrew Jones of think-tank Climate Interactive. The United States is one of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions worldwide, only second to China and followed by India. It would also be an issue if Trump acts on his word to use public land for oil, coal and gas extraction, the groups said. During his campaign, Trump has vowed to revive the country's coal industry and increase oil and gas drilling, despite numbers revealing that the use of natural gas caused the decline in coal, according to The Guardian. Trump also plans to disregard former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which was the previous administration's major policy designed to lower carbon emissions in the country. The plan involves cutting down carbon emissions from the power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels in the next 15 years. An analysis from Lux Research estimated that greenhouse gas emissions under Trump's administration would increase by 16 percent by the end of his second term, compared with that under Clinton's presidency. Experts believe the potential surge in carbon emissions can push the planet toward a perilous climate change, as well as discourage other countries from reaching the necessary reduction in emissions. David Sandalow, a fellow at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, said if Trump withdraws the country from the climate change agreement, it would potentially create a strategic opportunity for China. He said the East Asian country would gain credibility for sticking with its plans even as the United States backs away. Meanwhile, environmental groups are urging the president-elect to pay attention to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and aligning with the interests of the world. May Boeve, head of 350.org, said no political affiliation or belief can change the truth that "every new oil well and pipeline" pushes the world nearer to catastrophe. "The new president must protect the people he serves from climate chaos," added Boeve. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


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


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.

Loading Climate Interactive collaborators
Loading Climate Interactive collaborators