January, 2016

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


January, 2016


  • Don't Count on Coal Bankruptcies to Reduce America's Supply Glut: The glut — at least 100 million tons, according to Bloomberg Intelligence — threatens to depress prices for years, prolonging a global rout in an industry that has already eliminated more than 26,000 jobs.
  • What You Need to Know About Zika And Climate Change: A number of factors have had to line up for the Zika virus — a disease that’s been associated with birth defects — to spread so far and wide so quickly, but chief among them is heavy rain and heat. Climate change could play a future role in this virus’ — as well as other mosquito-borne illnesses — spread as it creates conditions more favorable to the mosquitoes that transmit it.
    • “The literature on dengue fever and climate change is instructive,” Amy Vittor, a doctor who studies mosquito-borne diseases at the University of Florida, said. “Dengue uses the same mosquito vector. If you have an increase in temperatures, you may see an increase in range of mosquitoes and the spread of virus. However, in some areas where vector is thriving, you might have a decrease because it gets too warm.”
    • A 2013 study showed that West Nile virus season in the U.S. could become longer as temperatures warm. It also showed, however, that warming could cook mosquitoes out of some of their current range.
  • Soil productivity cut by climate change, making societies more marginal: studies


  • Better power lines would help U.S. supercharge renewable energy, study suggests:
    • Analysts have long argued that nations aiming to use wind and solar power to curb emissions from fossil fuel burning would first have to invest heavily in new technologies to store electricity produced by these intermittent sources—after all, the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing. But a study out today suggests that the United States could, at least in theory, use new high-voltage power lines to move renewable power across the nation, and essentially eliminate the need to add new storage capacity.
    • The bigger hurdle to realizing the study’s vision of a national grid, however, may be persuading policymakers, utilities investors, and landowners that it’s a good idea, says Susan Tierney, a former U.S. assistant secretary of energy under President Clinton who’s currently an energy consultant at the Analysis Group in Boston. “The problem is not rooted in technology, but rather in the way that the U.S. power system is organized legally, politically, economically, and culturally,” she says. Utilities and politicians are sometimes loath to depend on distant power producers, for example, and communities often fight the construction of large power lines.



  • Can re-engineering the family ranch help it survive climate change?:
    • As a kid on his family’s Montana ranch, Erik Kalsta performed a daily chore: He’d walk 500 paces from his house to a white shed, where an instrument panel recorded the height of the nearby Big Hole River. Then he’d march home and call in the measurement to a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist. Over time, the data points created a long-term history of the river’s ebbs and flows. On a warm day last February, Kalsta, now 48, sat in the kitchen of the same home, wearing wire-rim glasses, a silvering goatee and a lightweight Patagonia sweater. He pointed out the window at the stream gauge, which is now automated. Kalsta’s success as a rancher depends on snow and rain, and 92 years of stream data tell him that runoff patterns are changing. “This is that early spring pulse that’s been coming earlier and earlier,” he says, glancing towards the swollen river. It’s become normal for snow to begin melting into the river in March instead of April. But in 2015, it started rising in February. That’s a problem, because it means that the water’s availability might be out of sync with the growing season or the times he can legally draw from the river to irrigate. “This is kind of scary,” Kalsta admits. “(But) we’ve still got time to turn this thing around.”
  • Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai fuel cell cars are coming, but they won't be cheap: Honda announced this week that its Clarity Fuel Cell sedan will cost $60,000 – the same price as the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Tucscon Fuel Cell. Hydrogen cars produce only water vapor as they run, and technological advances could help bring their prices down.
    • For automakers and would-be owners of hydrogen fuel cell cars, it’s a self-reinforcing problem: Why build hydrogen fuel stations when so few cars will use them? Why buy a hydrogen fuel cell car when there are so few places to fill up?
    • That tension may be resolved soon, however. Last year Toyota began working with several energy companies to create a string of hydrogen stations along the East Coast of the US, and the Japanese government plans to support the installation of a network of hydrogen stations in the country by 2020.
  • Why the rains failed – and why they may return: Traditionally the Sahel – a semi-arid strip of land, south of the Sahara Desert – is one of Africa’s most productive crop regions. But during the 1980s this region, which stretches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, became better known for drought and famine. Thankfully the region has become wetter again, and now new research indicates that the return of the rains is most likely a beneficial side-effect of global warming.
  • US tribes oppose massive pipeline expansion in Canada: Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project would nearly triple pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of crude oil a day. It would carry oil from Alberta's oil sands to the Vancouver area to be loaded on to barges and tankers for Asian and U.S. markets. The project would dramatically increase the number of oil tankers that ply Washington state waters.
  • Tony Abbott's climate claims debunked: researcher dissects 2013 statement: Sophie Lewis was so annoyed about the way science was ignored in the political debate about climate change she went to work to disprove the myths
    • The first way to understand Abbott’s claim is that in any system, the longer you wait, the more often you will see records fall. But Lewis points out that the exact opposite is true. In a system without any sort of trend, such as a random string of temperatures, the first one will be a record-breaker, by default. The second one will have a 50% chance of being a record-breaker. The third has a one in three chance of being a record breaker … and so on. In a very long temperature series, you should see very few records being broken, and they will break less often over time.
    • Last week, temperature figures showed 2015 was officially the hottest year on record. Before that, 2014 was the hottest year on record. And scientists are expecting 2016 to once again win the dubious honour.




  • French wind industry sees deregulation driving strong growth: The French wind industry expects strong growth in 2016 due to deregulation but a long-awaited third tender for offshore wind turbines may not happen before year end, an industry group said. France Energie Eolienne (FEE) said new wind turbine installations in 2015 had been virtually flat at 1073 megawatt (MW), compared with 1042 MW in 2014 and about 700 MW in 2013. Total wind capacity in France now stands at 10,293 MW."We expect at least 1,100-1,200 MW in 2016 thanks to simplification measures taken by the government," FEE Chief Executive Sonia Lioret told Reuters on Thursday.
  • Climate Change Raises a Troubling Question: Who Gets to Eat?: Global warming's threat to the global food supply gets worse the more the world warms, researchers tell federal regulators.
    • Wednesday's briefing drew on a peer-reviewed study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released during the Paris Climate Conference last month. That report, "Climate Change, Global Food Security and the U.S. Food System," concluded that the effects of climate change on food will strike urban and rural populations in wealthy and poor nations alike. While the threat depends on many factors, its impact will increase by mid-century, according to the report. Under the least-optimistic scenarios — based on high carbon emissions and low international cooperation to combat climate change — agricultural yields could fall by as much as 15 percent, and food prices could rise more than 30 percent by 2050.
  • How climate change could worsen the spread of Zika virus and other infectious diseases: Although Zika has not yet been detected extensively in the United States, except in a few isolated travel-related incidents, its new presence in South America — and, recently, Puerto Rico — has scientists guessing that it's only a matter of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that "because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries."


  • Coal is dying. Who’s going to pay for the cleanup? You are!: This week, The Wall Street Journal reports, Arch Coal Inc. became the latest coal company to file for bankruptcy — and they did it with $4.5 billion in debt. Arch joins Walter Energy, Patriot Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources, which all filed for Chapter 11 last year. But what’s to be done with all those defunct coal plants? From the mountains of West Virginia to high deserts of Arizona, there are over 600 coal plants across the country, and when these companies go belly up, they leave behind a big mess. Someone has to clean it up. But who?
  • Carbon dioxide causing 'intoxication' of ocean fish sooner than expected:
    • For this work the team has developed an algorithm to predict future carbon dioxide levels and have launched a challenge for others to help in the next phase of the research. "We are challenging other scientists with innovative predictive approaches to download the data set we used … to see if they can beat our approach," Dr McNeil said.
    • The UNSW scientists utilised a global database of seawater carbon dioxide concentrations from the past 30 years, allowing them to predict that by 2100, creatures in up to half the world's surface oceans could be affected by hypercapnia. The findings come just days after an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report found the world's oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight) by 2050. The New Plastics Economy report outlined an alternative approach to reducing the flow of plastics into natural ecosystems and dissociating plastics from fossil feed stocks.
  • The world's 62 richest billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population, according to a new report from Oxfam International: The wealthiest have seen their net worth soar over the five years ending in 2015. Back in 2010, it took 388 mega-rich people to own as much as half the world]:
    • The anti-poverty group, whose leader co-chaired the forum last year, wants to call even more attention to the widening wealth divide. The top 62 saw their net worth rise by more half a trillion dollars between 2010 and 2015, while the 3.6 billion people in the bottom half of the heap lost a trillion dollars. Each group has $1.76 trillion. "Wealth is moving rapidly to concentrate at the tippy, tippy top of the pyramid," said Gawain Kripke, the director of policy and research at Oxfam America.
    • The income gap between the richest and poorest is also growing. The poorest 20% of the world — who live below the extreme poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day — barely saw their incomes budge between 1988 and 2011, while the most prosperous 10% enjoyed a 46% jump. wealth_disparity.png?1453484986
  • Court Rejects a Bid to Block Coal Plant Regulations: In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration’s signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts.


  • The oceans are heating up more rapidly than we thought. Why that matters: The deep ocean has warmed as much in the past two decades as it did in the previous 100 years, researchers found.
    • It has long been acknowledged by the scientific community that more than 90 percent of the heat energy from burning fossil fuels goes into the world's oceans rather than the ground or atmosphere, and that ocean temperatures have gone up in recent years. But a new study culled data from the 1870s British research ship Challenger's archives, and from modern underwater monitors and computer models to create a timeline for just how much man-made heat has been buried in the oceans over the last 150 years. The researchers found that the sea absorbed the same amount of heat from the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1865 to 1997 as it did between 1998 and 2015. The actual amount of heat energy absorbed was 150 zettajoules over the course of 132 years, and 150 zettajoules over the next 18. A zettajoule is a practically incomprehensible amount of energy. Exploding one atomic bomb the size of the one that dropped on Hiroshima every second for a year would release a total of just 2 zettajoules.
  • There is something odd and ominous afoot in Greenland. Did a huge melt water pulse occur 1-16-16?:
    • After the last ice age, glacial melt caused sea levels to rise rapidly by 120 meters. Large expanses of land that were once migratory paths and habitations for prehistoric civilizations gradually submerged through a series of catastrophic floods and mega-tsunami. (Meltwater Pulse 1A and 2B are discussed in the video at the bottom of this story.) If this event in Greenland is the start of another Meltwater Pulse we are effed.
    • We are in so much trouble and it is only January. 2016 is going to be a disastrous year for the Greenland ice sheet.
    • Meltwater Pulse 2B


  • Obama administration set to announce moratorium on some new federal coal leases: The Obama administration is preparing to announce sweeping changes in the way federally owned coal is mined and sold in the United States, including a moratorium on some new coal leases and a review of how taxpayers are compensated for coal taken from government lands, according to officials and activists briefed on the plans.


  • Coal Company Backing Longview Export Terminal Declares Bankruptcy: Arch Coal is a 38-percent shareholder in the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which would export 44 million tons of coal annually through a terminal in Longview, Washington. Arch owns mines in Colorado, Wyoming and five other states. Officials with Arch Coal say the company’s mines will stay open and the bankruptcy won’t affect its employees. Millennium CEO Bill Chapman said in a statement Monday that the company is still committed to the export project.
  • Company Behind Methane Leak Is Ordered to Offset the Climate Damage: California governor’s state-of-emergency declaration includes requirement that gas utility pay to fully mitigate the leak's emissions of methane.
    • California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Southern California Gas Co. to pay for a mitigation program to offset damage to the world's climate from a massive methane leak at an underground natural gas storage facility in Los Angeles.
    • "The California Air Resources Board, in consultation with appropriate state agencies, shall develop a program to fully mitigate the leak's emissions of methane by March 31, 2016," the governor ordered. The program "shall be funded by the Southern California Gas Company, be limited to projects in California, and prioritize projects that reduce short-lived climate pollutants," Brown said in the proclamation. The leak, in the Aliso Canyon, is the largest known emissions source of its kind and comes during a growing realization of the magnitude of methane emissions associated with the oil and gas industry and the critical role that the gas plays in global warming, said Mark Brownstein, vice president of the climate and energy program at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
  • Antarctic icebergs have surprise role in slowing warming: study: The rare Manhattan-sized icebergs, which may become more frequent in coming decades because of climate change, release a vast trail of iron and other nutrients that act as fertilisers for algae and other tiny plant-like organisms in the ocean.
  • The solution for the melting polar ice caps may be hiding in the rainforest: Reducing carbon emissions is truly important to mitigating climate change. But in the meantime, it’s faster and cheaper to save and regrow tropical trees
  • The Teflon Toxin: Dupont and the Chemistry of Deception
    • We know, too, from internal DuPont documents that emerged through the lawsuit, that Wamsley’s fears of being lied to are well-founded. DuPont scientists had closely studied the chemical for decades and through their own research knew about some of the dangers it posed. Yet rather than inform workers, people living near the plant, the general public, or government agencies responsible for regulating chemicals, DuPont repeatedly kept its knowledge secret. Another revelation about C8 makes all of this more disturbing and gives the upcoming trials, the first of which will be held this fall in Columbus, Ohio, global significance: This deadly chemical that DuPont continued to use well after it knew it was linked to health problems is now practically everywhere.
    • A man-made compound that didn’t exist a century ago, C8 is in the blood of 99.7 percent of Americans, according to a 2007 analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as in newborn human babies, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. A growing group of scientists have been tracking the chemical’s spread through the environment, documenting its presence in a wide range of wildlife, including Loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, polar bears, caribou, walruses, bald eagles, lions, tigers, and arctic birds. Although DuPont no longer uses C8, fully removing the chemical from all the bodies of water and bloodstreams it pollutes is now impossible. And, because it is so chemically stable — in fact, as far as scientists can determine, it never breaks down — C8 is expected to remain on the planet well after humans are gone from it.
    • Because of its toxicity, C8 disposal presented a problem. In the early 1960s, the company buried about 200 drums of the chemical on the banks of the Ohio River near the plant. An internal DuPont document from 1975 about “Teflon Waste Disposal” detailed how the company began packing the waste in drums, shipping the drums on barges out to sea, and dumping them into the ocean, adding stones to make the drums sink. Though the practice resulted in a moment of unfavorable publicity when a fisherman caught one of the drums in his net, no one outside the company realized the danger the chemical presented. At some point before 1965, ocean dumping ceased, and DuPont began disposing of its Teflon waste in landfills instead.
    • DuPont employees knew in 1979 about a recent 3M study showing that some rhesus monkeys also died when exposed to C8, according to documents submitted by plaintiffs. Scientists divided the primates into five groups and exposed them to different amounts of C8 over 90 days. Those given the highest dose all died within five weeks. More notable was that three of the monkeys who received less than half that amount also died, their faces and gums growing pale and their eyes swelling before they wasted away. Some of the monkeys given the lower dose began losing weight in the first week it was administered. C8 also appeared to affect some monkeys’ kidneys.
    • WHILE SOME DUPONT SCIENTISTS were carefully studying the chemical’s effect on the body, others were quietly tracking its steady spread into the water surrounding the Parkersburg plant. After it ceased dumping C8 in the ocean, DuPont apparently relied on disposal in unlined landfills and ponds, as well as putting C8 into the air through smokestacks and pouring waste water containing it directly into the Ohio River, as detailed in a 2007 study by Dennis Paustenbach published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.
    • Faced with the evidence that C8 had now spread far beyond the Parkersburg plant, internal documents show, DuPont was at a crossroads. Could the company find a way to reduce emissions? Should it switch to a new surfactant? Or stop using the chemical altogether? In May 1984, DuPont convened a meeting of 10 of its corporate business managers at the company’s headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, to tackle some of these questions. Results from an engineering study the group reviewed that day described two methods for reducing C8 emissions, including thermal destruction and a scrubbing system. “None of the options developed are … economically attractive and would essentially put the long term viability of this business segment on the line,” someone named J. A. Schmid summarized in notes from the meeting, which are marked “personal and confidential.” The executives considered C8 from the perspective of various divisions of the company, including the medical and legal departments, which, they predicted, “will likely take a position of total elimination,” according to Schmid’s summary. Yet the group nevertheless decided that “corporate image and corporate liability” — rather than health concerns or fears about suits — would drive their decisions about the chemical. Also, as Schmid noted, “There was a consensus that C-8, based on all the information available from within the company and 3M, does not pose a health hazard at low level chronic exposure.”
    • When contacted by The Intercept for comment, 3M provided the following statement. “In more than 30 years of medical surveillance we have observed no adverse health effects in our employees resulting from their exposure to PFOS or PFOA. This is very important since the level of exposure in the general population is much lower than that of production employees who worked directly with these materials,” said Dr. Carol Ley, 3M vice president and corporate medical director. “3M believes the chemical compounds in question present no harm to human health at levels they are typically found in the environment or in human blood.” In May 2000, 3M announced that it would phase out its use of C8.
    • In 1989, DuPont employees found an elevated number of leukemia deaths at the West Virginia plant. Several months later, they measured an unexpectedly high number of kidney cancers among male workers. Both elevations were plant-wide and not specific to workers who handled C8. But, the following year, the scientists clarified how C8 might cause at least one form of cancer in humans. In 1991, it became clear not just that C8-exposed rats had elevated chances of developing testicular tumors — something 3M had also recently observed — but, worse still, that the mechanism by which they developed the tumors could apply to humans.
    • As the secrets mounted so too did anxiety about C8, which DuPont was by now using and emitting not just in West Virginia and New Jersey, but also in its facilities in Japan and the Netherlands. By the time a small committee drafted a “white paper” about C8 strategies and plans in 1994, the subject was considered so sensitive that each copy was numbered and tracked. The top-secret document, which was distributed to high-level DuPont employees around the world, discussed the need to “evaluate replacement of C-8 with other more environmentally safe materials” and presented evidence of toxicity, including a paper published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine that found elevated levels of prostate cancer death rates for employees who worked in jobs where they were exposed to C8. After they reviewed drafts, recipients were asked to return them for destruction.
    • In 1999, when a farmer suspected that DuPont had poisoned his cows (after they drank from the very C8-polluted stream DuPont employees had worried over in their draft press release eight years earlier) and filed a lawsuit seeking damages, the truth finally began to seep out. The next year, an in-house DuPont attorney named Bernard Reilly helped open an internal workshop on C8 by giving “a short summary of the right things to document and not to document.” But Reilly — whose own emails about C8 would later fuel the legal battle that eventually included thousands of people, including Ken Wamsley and Sue Bailey — didn’t heed his own advice. Reilly clearly made the wrong choice when he used the company’s computers to write about C8, which he revealingly called the “the material 3M sells us that we poop to the river and into drinking water along the Ohio River.” But the DuPont attorney was right about two things: If C8 was proven to be harmful, Reilly predicted in 2000, “we are really in the soup because essentially everyone is exposed one way or another.”
  • Part 2: The Case Against DuPont:
  • Part 3: How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA:


  • Pope inspires clergy to join environmental movement: A papal encyclical aimed at caring for the environment has given clergy a renewed imperative for responsible action
    • “The pope, from his religious and political positions, opened up the floodgates this past year,” Schneekloth said. “Now that the pope has said it’s a moral issue, it’s given everybody permission to talk about it.”
    • “Caring for the earth is a religious value, and environmental stewardship is a moral responsibility,” said Rachel Anderson, the synagogue’s social action chair. Guardianship of the earth is ingrained in Jewish tradition through the Torah, because Genesis states that humans are inherently of the earth, formed “of the dust of the ground.”
    • The Quran explicitly prohibits waste of any kind – water, food or the bounties the earth provides…. Qazi said he would like to see an even more concentrated effort toward stewardship, including green energy initiatives addressed at last August’s International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Turkey. Muslim leaders from nearly two dozen countries issued a declaration, which aligned with Francis’ encyclical. The declaration was based on moral principles fundamental to Islamic law and designed to energize the Muslim community as environmental stewards.


  • Will trade trump climate pact?: TransCanada’s lawsuit over Keystone XL is the tip of the iceberg: Protections in two new trade deals could undermine limits in the freshly minted Paris climate pact, as investors safeguard 'expected profits'
  • NOAA: U.S. posts second-hottest year on record:
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the annual average temperature in the contiguous United States last year was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is 2.4 degrees above the average in the last century. The only warmer year in the United States since record keeping began in 1895 was 2012, which clocked in at an average of 55.3 degrees, NOAA said.
    • [Bernie] Sanders, who introduced legislation last month to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions and put a price on carbon pollution, said the data about the changing climate is irrefutable. "The debate is over. Fifteen of the last 16 years have been the hottest ever recorded. Climate change is real and is caused by human activity," he said in a statement. "This planet and its people are in trouble. Unless we get our act together, we will see in years to come more droughts, more floods and more extreme weather disturbances."
    • America was really damn hot last year, scientists confirm:
      • “December [2015] currently is the only month that holds both the title for wettest and warmest month” since NOAA began keeping this data, said Crouch. Two things acting in unison helped create those conditions. A strong phase in what’s known as the “Arctic Oscillation” — a seesaw pattern of differences in Arctic atmospheric pressures that has a big impact on North America — and El Niño, which typically results in hotter and wetter conditions in the East.
      • The annual average temperature across the United States was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit last year. That’s 2.4 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. NOAA confirmed that 2015 was the 19th consecutive year that national temperatures remained above that average. Every state saw hotter than average annual temperatures. Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Florida all experienced their hottest year ever recorded.
  • Scientists say humans have now brought on an entirely new geologic epoch: A group of 24 geoscientists on Thursday released a bracing assessment, suggesting that humans have altered the Earth so extensively that the consequences will be detectable in current and future geological records. They therefore suggest that we should consider the Earth to have moved into a new geologic epoch, the “Anthropocene,” sometime circa 1945-1964.
    • their statement: The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene
    • The current era (at least under present definitions), known as the Holocene, began about 11,700 years ago, and was marked by warming and large sea level rise coming out of a major cool period, the Younger Dryas. However, the researchers suggest, changes ranging from growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to infusions of plastics into marine sediments suggest that we’ve now left the Holocene decisively behind — and that the proof is already being laid down in polar ice cores, deep ocean sediments, and future rocks themselves. “In a way it’s a thought experiment,” said Naomi Oreskes, a geologically trained Harvard historian of science and one of the study’s authors. “We’re imagining what a future geologist will see when he or she looks at the rock record. But it’s not that difficult a thought experiment to do, because so many of these signals are already present.”
    • More momentous geological demarcations have often been based upon major changes in the composition of life on Earth — the Cambrian explosion, say, or the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, the paper notes that there are also signs that we may be at the beginning of what some have termed the “Sixth Great Extinction” in all of Earth’s history. “Current trends of habitat loss and overexploitation, if maintained, would push Earth into the sixth mass extinction event (with ~75% of species extinct) in the next few centuries, a process that is probably already underway,” the paper said.
  • Why 2016 could be the year of green energy: The past 12 months saw the fossil-fuel divestment movement reach critical mass, witnessed a U.S. president put his political capital behind climate action, and marked the first time a sitting pope released an encyclical devoted to the issue of climate change — in effect, turning climate action into a moral obligation for the world’s billion-plus Roman Catholics. Without question, the defining moment was the Paris climate summit in December, when 196 countries got together in an unprecedented show of unity and pledged to effectively decarbonize the global economy in the second half of the century. They also committed to holding global warming to “well below” 2 degrees C, the point at which many scientists believe climate change is likely to become an unmanageable, unimaginable threat to humanity. “We are entering into the low-carbon age,” said French President Francois Hollande after the deal was approved. He called it a pivotal moment for a “powerful, irreversible movement.”
  • After 40 years, India set to re-open commercial coal mining to private firms : India has an ambitious plan to double its coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes a year by 2020, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to bring power to 300 million people who live without electricity, and give a boost to manufacturing. It would also support the government's efforts to develop eastern parts of the country, which are resource-rich and hold most of India's coal reserves but have lagged the western states in development. State-owned Coal India is on track to produce 1 billion tonnes a year by the end of this decade, and India is counting on private firms to produce the remaining 500 million tones - which may prove a tough target to achieve.
  • Another reason fracking sucks: Study links fracking to even more health problems: A new study from the Yale School of Public Health links the chemicals used in fracking with potential reproductive and developmental problems. This isn’t exactly new — we’ve known for some time that fracking is connected with lowered sperm counts, as well as premature births and a host of other health issues. This particular study, however, raises concerns about wastewater in particular, which the researchers found is even more toxic than the chemicals used in fracking.
  • John Kerry on Climate Change: The Fight of Our Time: The secretary of state discusses the challenges that lie ahead at the United Nations Climate Summit
    • In the climate wars, however, Kerry is a forgotten soldier. Al Gore won all the glory (and the ridicule), and President Obama has the muscle. But the truth is, no one has done more in the trenches of this battle than Kerry. He has been in the fight since the first Earth Day, in 1970, and has not let up since, participating in practically every climate conference and U.N. climate meeting in the past 30 years. It helps that he is from an environmentally conscious state like Massachusetts, but his interest in climate change has been anything but politically expedient – he did not shy away from talking about it when he ran for president in 2004, even when pollsters told him it was foolish.
    • As secretary of state, Kerry was one of the prime movers behind last year's historic U.S.-China deal, in which China agreed to significant carbon reductions and which helped break the bottleneck in U.N. climate negotiations. (I traveled for several days with Kerry in China last year while he was working on a trade agreement with the country, and was astonished by how he opened every meeting, no matter what the subject or who the Chinese officials were, with a few words about the urgency of climate change.)
      • To most people, climate change is an environmental issue. It's something that affects trees and frogs and weather. Why should Americans think about climate change as a security issue? Because it is. Sixteen members on the board of the Center for Naval Analysis, who are all flag officers – generals, admirals, three-star, four-star, retired – have all said this is a major threat multiplier.
  • Goyder's Line moving south with climate change, SA scientists say, forcing farming changes: Climate change is moving a line drawn across South Australian maps 150 years ago to indicate the northern boundary of the state's good agricultural land, scientists have said.


What went on: 2015

What went on: 2014

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