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Climate


10 Feb 2016: Supreme Court Suspends
Obama's Coal Plant Emissions Cuts

The U.S. Supreme Court voted Tuesday to put on hold new federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from coal-fired

A coal-fired power plant
power plants, until a legal challenge by more than two dozen states and interest groups is complete. It is the first time the Supreme Court has granted a request to halt a regulation before its review by a federal appeals court. The 5-4 vote along ideological lines is a blow to the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, its strategy to combat climate change. Those challenging the regulations claim the new rules, which are to be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, would have a devastating economic impact. The White House says it expects the regulations to survive legal challenges. The plan, designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is the main tool for the U.S. to meet CO2 reduction targets pledged at the December climate talks in Paris.
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09 Feb 2016: Ice-Free Arctic Trade Route
Unlikely For Decades to Come, Study says

Despite the impact climate change is having on Arctic sea ice, it will be decades before big cargo ships will be able to take an ice-free shortcut

Russian tanker making its way through ice.
across the Arctic Ocean, according to a new report from the Arctic Institute. In recent years, countries have been vying for access to possible Arctic shipping lanes in the belief that use of the passage was more imminent and would contribute to shorter travel times and associated cost savings. But given the Arctic’s short sailing season, continuing treacherous ice conditions, the high costs associated with armoring cargo ships to withstand the ice, as well as low fuel prices, the Institute predicts that such crossings won’t become commercially viable until at least 2040. Until that time, shipping between Europe and Asia will continue to use the Suez Canal. Arctic shipping has decreased in recent years, from 1.3 metric tons in 2013 to 300,000 tons in 2014.
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05 Feb 2016: Rising Temperatures Skewing
Gender Balance of Sea Turtles, Study Says

Rising global temperatures may be skewing the gender makeup of marine turtles, according to

Loggerhead sea turtle
new research from Florida State University. The gender of marine hatchlings is influenced by the temperature of the sands in which they incubate, with warmer temperatures producing more females. “It's worrying that you could have an extreme skew in gender one way," said Mariana Fuentes, an assistant professor of oceanography at FSU. "Any changes in population structure can have real repercussions.” The scientists examined 25 years worth of data for 21 loggerhead turtle nesting beaches along the Brazilian coast, but the results are pertinent to other regions since temperature-dependent sex determination affects all turtles.
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01 Feb 2016: Lab-raised Caribbean Coral
Grown in the Wild for the First Time

Caribbean coral colonies bred in a lab, using in-vitro fertilization, have for the first time been raised to sexual maturity in their

Elkhorn coral
natural marine habitat, according to findings published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. Offspring of endangered elkhorn coral were reared from gametes collected in the field and successfully reattached to a reef a year later, where they have grown in size considerably according to researchers from SECORE International. Over the past four decades, an estimated 80 percent of all Caribbean corals have disappeared. The elkhorn coral’s decline is so severe that it was the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006. Due to its large size, branching shape, and preference for shallow waters, the coral is particularly effective at protecting shorelines from incoming storms, as well as providing a critical habitat for many reef organisms. Scientists hope this success will be an important step in helping restore endangered reefs.
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29 Jan 2016: European Summers Hottest Since
Roman Empire, Tree Ring Analysis Finds

For the past three decades, Europe has been experiencing its warmest summers since the days of the Roman Empire, according to a study published in the Environmental Research Letters Journal. The study, compiled by 40 academics, concluded that average summer temperatures have been 1.3 degrees Celsius hotter than they were 2,000 years ago. Heat waves also occur more often and last longer. The temperature figures were calculated by analyzing the tree ring analysis of three pine species found in Austria, Sweden, and Finland, as well as climate modeling and historical documents. The report says that summers were particularly warm between Roman times and the third century, before cooling until the 7th century. Temperatures warmed up again during medieval times, then dropped again from the 14th to 19th centuries. The recent warming, however, is unprecedented and cannot be explained by natural variability, but is directly related to manmade climate changes, the scientists said.
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27 Jan 2016: Rush to Electric Vehicles
Is Worsening Air Pollution in China

The push by the Chinese government and the country’s automakers to expand production of electric vehicles is actually worsening air pollution and carbon emissions because most of China’s electricity is still produced by coal-fired power plants, new studies show. Thanks to government incentives, production of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles is expected to grow six-fold to two million cars and trucks by 2020. But studies by researchers at Tsinghua University show that electric vehicles charged in China with coal-fired power produce two to five times as many particulates and other pollutants as gasoline cars. The Tsinghua studies call into question the government policy of promoting deployment of electric vehicles while the vast majority of the country’s electricity still comes from coal. “International experience shows that cleaning up the air doesn’t need to rely on electric vehicles,” said one analyst. “Clean up the power plants.”
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25 Jan 2016: Massive Transformation to Clean
Energy in the U.S. is Possible, Study Says

A rapid and affordable transformation to wind and solar energy within 15 years is possible in the U.S., according to a new study by NOAA

Map showing U.S. wind energy potential
and University of Colorado Boulder researchers published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This energy transformation could slash greenhouse emissions by as much as 78 percent below 1990 levels, the study said. One of the biggest issues with weather-related power generation is its inherent intermittent nature, leading utilities to rely on gas-fired generators and other reserves during cloudy or low-wind periods. The solution to this problem is to scale up renewable energy generation systems to match the scale of weather systems, the scientists said. The model partially depends on significant improvements to the nation’s outdated electrical grid, including the creation of new, high-voltage direct-current transmissions lines.
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20 Jan 2016: 2015 Was the Hottest Year
on Record, U.S. Government Scientists Say

Last year was the hottest year globally — by far — breaking a record set in 2014, according to a report released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During 2015, the globally averaged land and sea surface temperatures were 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. December, in particular, was the hottest month ever recorded. According to the report, the record warmth was broadly spread around the world and contributed to significant global climate anomalies and events. NOAA and NASA do separate analyses of global temperatures, and the results they released today show 2015 as the warmest since global record-keeping began in 1880.
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19 Jan 2016: Ocean Absorption of Manmade
Heat Doubles Since 1997, Study Says

The amount of manmade heat absorbed by the world’s oceans has doubled since 1997, according to a study

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
released yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Scientists have long known that the oceans absorb more than 90 percent of manmade heat, but the study’s figures give a new and more accurate accounting for that process over a period of 150 years. According to the study, the oceans absorbed 150 zettajoules of energy between 1865 and 1997 — and an additional 150 zettajoules in just the past 18 years. “The changes we’re talking about, they are really, really big numbers,” said co-author Paul Durack, an oceanographer at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. “They are nonhuman numbers.” Put in perspective, the amount of energy absorbed by the oceans since 1997 is the equivalent to a Hiroshima-sized bomb being exploded every second for 75 years.
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15 Jan 2016: Northeast U.S. Waters Warming
Faster than Previously Thought, NOAA says

The ocean waters off the Northeastern United States may get even warmer, and this warming may occur twice as quickly as previously thought,

The Gulf of Maine is warming rapidly
according to a new study by researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The findings, based on four global climate models, suggest that ocean temperatures in that region will rise three times faster than the global average. “Prior climate change projections for the region may be far too conservative,” said Vincent Saba, a NOAA fisheries scientist and lead author of the study. The Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than nearly 100 percent of the world’s oceans, likely due to a northerly shift in the Gulf Stream. Scientists have been studying the warming’s impact on the area’s marine ecosystem.
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11 Jan 2016: Scientists Warn of Biodiversity
Impacts of Major Hydropower Projects

Hydropower is considered by many to be a key ingredient to reducing carbon emissions and meeting global climate goals,

The Belo Monte dam under construction in the Amazon
but it comes at a great cost to biodiversity, particularly in tropical rainforests, according to a new report published in the journal Science. “Far too often in developing tropical countries, major hydropower projects have been approved and their construction begun before any serious assessments of environmental and socioeconomic impacts had been conducted,” says the report's lead author Kirk Winemiller, an aquatic ecologist at Texas A&M University. The dam-building rush, with more than 450 dams planned for the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong river basins alone, impedes tropical fish migration and vastly expands deforestation due to road construction, according to the authors. Other concerns include development of previously inaccessible terrain, as well as methane emissions from newly built reservoirs.
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08 Jan 2016: Study suggests most nitrogen
found in oceans comes from natural sources

The world’s oceans are less affected by human activities then previously suggested by atmospheric models when it comes to increased

Graph of various nitrogen sources found in oceans
nitrogen levels, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The majority of nitrogen found in the oceans comes from the oceans themselves instead of human pollution blown off shore, which contradicts most models, the researchers say. That’s both good news and bad news. On the plus side, “People may not be polluting the ocean as much as we thought,” says Meredith Hastings, associate professor at Brown University, one of the study’s co-authors. Excess nitrogen can throw aquatic ecosystems out of balance and lead to large algal blooms that can be deadly for sea creatures. However, nitrogen also stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, which increases the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus mitigating carbon emissions to some extent.
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04 Jan 2016: More Than Half of Power Plants
Could be Hampered by Climate Change

More than 60 percent of the world's power plants could be hampered by changes in climate and water distribution by the middle

Canada's Toba Montrose hydroelectric project
of the century, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants — nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants that convert heat to electricity — rely on freshwater from rivers and streams to produce energy and effectively cool equipment. Together, these types of power plants produce 98 percent of the world's electricity, the researchers note. Changes in climate that lead to water shortages and increased water temperatures will affect electricity generation in some regions more than others, says lead researcher Michelle Van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She notes that adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible — such as switching from freshwater cooling to air or seawater cooling — could mitigate the decline.
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04 Jan 2016: More than Half of Power Plants
Could be Hampered by Climate Change

More than 60 percent of the world's power plants could be hampered by changes in climate and water distribution by the middle
Toba Montrose hydroelectric project

Canada's Toba Montrose hydroelectric project
of the century, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants — nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants that convert heat to electricity — rely on freshwater from rivers and streams to produce energy and effectively cool equipment. Together, these types of power plants produce 98 percent of the world's electricity, the researchers note. Changes in climate that lead to water shortages and increased water temperatures will affect electricity generation in some regions more than others — the U.S., southern South America, southern Africa, and parts of Europe are particularly vulnerable, says lead researcher Michelle Van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She notes that adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible — such as switching from freshwater cooling to air or seawater cooling — could mitigate the decline.
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04 Jan 2016: How Science Can Help to Halt
The Western Bark Beetle Plague

Tens of millions of acres of pine and spruce trees have died in western North America in recent
Diana Six
Diana Six
years as a result of bark beetle infestations spawned by a hotter, drier climate. University of Montana entomologist Diana Six has been working to understand why the genetics of some individual trees enable them to survive even as whole forests around them are turning brown and perishing. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Six explains the root causes of the beetle infestations, discusses why U.S. Forest Service policies may be making the problem worse, and describes why the best hope for Western forests will come from the trees’ capacity to genetically adapt to a new climate regime. Read the interview.
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23 Dec 2015: Congressional Tax Credits
Expected to Further Boost U.S. Renewables

The renewable energy sector in the United States is finishing 2015 on a high note as Congress has voted to approve significant extensions for tax credits for renewable energy, and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has reported a surge in wind power installations. Ending uncertainty about the fate of tax credits for the wind and solar industries, Congress has voted to extend investment tax credits for solar power and production tax credits for wind energy through 2022 and 2020, respectively. Renewable energy companies and analysts praised the extensions, saying that, coupled with rapidly falling prices for wind and solar energy technologies, the tax credits virtually guarantee a boom in the production of renewables in the U.S. Earlier this week, the AWEA said U.S. wind energy production has reached a milestone, with 50,000 turbines providing a generating capacity of 70 gigawatts — enough to power 19 million homes.
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18 Dec 2015: Marshes Likely More Resilient
To Sea Level Rise Than Thought, Study Says

Marshes may be more resilient to climate change and associated rises in sea level than previously thought, according to recent research

An aerial view of Venice showing elevation by color
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows that as levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase, more CO2 gets taken in by marsh plants. This spurs higher rates of photosynthesis and plant growth, causing marsh plants to trap more sediment above ground and generate more organic soil below ground, the researchers explain. The process can increase the rate of soil accretion nearly enough to allow marshes to keep up with rising sea levels. In fact, the researchers say, it may increase a marsh's threshold for water inundation by up to 60 percent. "Essentially, we found it's a self-rising mechanism marshes use to build themselves up," said Marco Marani, a researcher at Duke University who helped conduct the study.
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17 Dec 2015: Severe Toxic Algal Blooms
Likely To Double in Lake Erie with Warming

The number of severe harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie will likely double over the next century, according to research from

Sampling lake water during a toxic algal bloom
Ohio State University. As soon as 2050, toxic algal blooms like the one that cut off Toledo's drinking water supply in 2014 will no longer be the exception, but rather the norm, the researchers say. Although several states and Canadian provinces have agreed to significantly cut nutrient runoff into the Great Lakes, the study suggests that nutrient reductions alone might not be enough to stop the toxic blooms. That's because factors associated with climate change — less winter snow, heavier spring rains, and hotter summers — supercharge the blooms, the researchers explain. "Those are perfect growing conditions for algae," said Noel Aloysius, a member of the research team. "We can reduce phosphorus by 40 percent, but the algae won't suffer as much as you might hope."
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16 Dec 2015: Five Questions for Bill McKibben
On the Paris Climate Agreement

Activist Bill McKibben was a visible presence during the climate conference in Paris, urging for strong action. Yale Environment 360
Bill McKibben
e360 Five Questions
caught up with McKibben, the founder of 350.org, after an agreement was reached and asked him five question about Paris and the road beyond. While the Paris accord “didn’t save the planet,” McKibben says, “it may have saved the chance to save it – that is, it didn’t foreclose the possibility. Actually getting anywhere will now require massive organizing to hold leaders to their promises.”
Read more.
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14 Dec 2015: Accelerating Rock Weathering
Could Help Reduce Atmospheric CO2 Levels

Speeding up the naturally occurring process of weathering rocks to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere could help to

Weathered limestone cliffs in Yorkshire, England
stabilize the climate and avert ocean acidification caused by greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change. As rainwater and other environmental conditions naturally break down rocks on the earth's surface, carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere. The process converts CO2 to bicarbonate, a mineral that chemically binds CO2 and is washed away through rivers to the oceans. By modeling the large-scale effects of weathering — which is driven largely by precipitation, vegetation, and soil microbes — the researchers found methods for accelerating this CO2-removal system. Such a strategy could significantly counteract anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions, they say, slowing ocean acidification and protecting delicate ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs.
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12 Dec 2015: Landmark Agreement on Climate
Is Reached in Paris to Cap Warming

Climate negotiators meeting in Paris have achieved a deal that could change the world. The Paris Agreement commits the

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other leaders
international community to capping global warming to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C." To achieve that, the agreement requires the world to "reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible" and "to undertake rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with best available science." The intention is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century. "This agreement is a turning point," said Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Center.
Read more.
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11 Dec 2015: NASA Detects Carbon Monoxide
Plume as Indonesian Forest Fires Burn

This fall tens of thousands of fires in Indonesia released clouds of particulate matter and toxic gases over the region — a

Enlarge

Carbon monoxide plumes detected over Indonesia
process that repeats itself year after year as property owners clear their land of debris for farming. This year, however, saw significantly more fires than usual, and many of those fires escaped their handlers and burned uncontrollably for weeks or months. The fires produced a massive plume of carbon monoxide (CO) — a toxic gas that affects both human health and the climate — that could be detected by NASA satellites. “The 2015 Indonesian fires produced some of the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide that we have ever seen with MOPITT,” the satellite technology that detected the gas, said Helen Worden, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Typically, CO concentrations in that region are roughly 100 parts per billion. Some parts of Borneo, however, saw CO levels of nearly 1,300 parts per billion in September and October.
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10 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: An Unexpected Move
Toward Global Target of 1.5 Degrees

It is the big surprise of the Paris talks: the growing acceptance of a call from small nations most vulnerable to climate change

Johan Rockström
for the conference to declare warming should be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Even a few months ago, this seemed unimaginable. Two degrees was the only target on the table. But here it has gained momentum with more than 100 nations, including the U.S. and the EU, agreeing it should be in the final agreement. With more than a day of talks remaining, inclusion is far from a done deal. But it has strong support. A 1.5-degree target “looks much more scientifically justifiable,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Institute.
Read more.
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09 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: U.N. Climate Talks
Could Hasten the Demise of Coal

Is Paris the beginning of the end for coal? Coal burning is declining fast in both of the world's two largest carbon dioxide emitters,

China’s air pollution is pushing it away from coal.
China and the U.S., with resulting declines in emissions for both countries. The fuel looks incompatible with a world that warms by no more than two degrees C, bringing calls for its rapid phaseout as the global economy is "decarbonized." But, with or without a deal in Paris later this week, will the calls be heeded? Has the demise of King Coal been greatly exaggerated? The smart money in Paris is betting that, despite the embrace of coal by some developing countries such as India and Turkey, the dirty fossil fuel’s days are numbered. "The inevitable conclusion we can draw on the future of global thermal coal is that it has none," an energy analyst said in Paris.
Read more.
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08 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Amid Optimism, Key
Issues Remain on Negotiating Table

The centerpieces of a potential climate deal in Paris are the 180 national emissions pledges for the period up to 2030, which

Delegates draft text for the proposed agreement.
were submitted ahead of the conference. What is at issue now are the rules for their implementation, including funding of pledges from poor nations, and whether a procedure can be agreed for upgrading them later to give the world a chance of meeting its two-degree Celsius temperature-rise target. To do all that in the final few days of the conference, negotiators are considering a 48-page draft text that contains numerous brackets, which denote alternative options and text yet to be agreed on. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he expected the final deal to include a review of emissions targets every five years to determine how they are playing out and to allow for increasingly ambitious goals that could secure the two-degree target.
Read more.
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07 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — How ‘Landscape
Carbon’ Can Be Part of a Solution on Climate

A group led by the World Resources Institute has unveiled plans in Paris for a grand restoration of Africa's landscapes that includes

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister
replanting forests and reviving soils. The group, which includes the World Bank and the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development are seeking $2 billion a year to restore 100 million hectares of Africa by 2030 — an area three times the size of Germany. The plans were announced to some 3,000 delegates attending a Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Sunday. "We need landscape restoration for development and for climate," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister. Some African countries said they are already at work. Ethiopian ministers told the forum they had restored a million hectares of farm soils in the drought-hit Tigray region and elsewhere in the past 20 years, through terracing, irrigation and other activities.
Read more
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07 Dec 2015: Soaring Global CO2
Emissions May Have Peaked, Data Show

CO2 emissions in 2015, at 35.7 billion tons, are likely to be exactly where they were two years ago, according to a new study

Global CO2 emissions are projected to fall in 2015.
published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The flat-lining emissions trajectory is the result of China's recent sharp decline in coal burning and the global surge in renewables like wind and solar power, said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, who led the analysis. The study estimates China's emissions have fallen by 3.9 percent this year. Le Quéré said she does not believe the world has yet hit "peak emissions." Continued rapid industrial expansion by countries such as India that still rely on coal for energy means further rises probably lie ahead, she said. But the evidence is growing that peak emissions may be closer than previously imagined.
Read more.
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04 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Global Financiers Hop
Aboard the Zero-Carbon Bandwagon

Outside the conference hall where the Paris climate negotiations are taking place, a large crowd gathered in the bright sun on

Bank of England governor Mark Carney
Friday morning, chanting for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels. Yards away, a meeting of financiers and bankers got under way in which a central demand was for, well, much the same thing. Something strange has happened here. The masters of the financial universe are out in force insisting that, though they may not be waving placards or chanting slogans, they are part of the solution. Free markets could deliver a zero-carbon world, they say. And Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and a leading player in the global financial system, announced the creation of a task force to develop a carbon-disclosure system that could force companies to reveal how heavily their businesses are invested in fossil fuels. He said it could become standard business practice around the world — carbon footprinting for financiers.
Read more.
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03 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — Regular Reviews
Of Carbon Emission Cuts Likely to Be Adopted

An important point of contention at the Paris climate talks — whether to regularly review nations’ pledges on emissions cuts, in

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres
the hopes of stimulating further reductions — may be close to being resolved. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres says there is a growing consensus that emissions-reduction pledges should be reviewed every five years, a stance supported by the U.S., China, and the European Union. Other nations, such as India, have been reluctant to commit to such reviews. Figueres, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and other top officials at the Paris talks are urging delegates to begin resolving issues such as emissions-pledge reviews, as the 50-page draft climate treaty now contains four to five alternative versions of disputed points. Fabius has given negotiators until Thursday night to deliver a streamlined draft and has set a deadline of noon Saturday to come up with a close-to-final draft.
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03 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: Is India the Main
Stumbling Block at Climate Talks?

By some measures India has offered a lot to the Paris neogitations. Its pledge on future emissions includes perhaps the

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
most ambitious renewable energy program in the world, with 175 gigawatts of green power, including 100 megawatts of solar panels, by 2022. But many nonetheless see India as the biggest single threat to curbing CO2 emissions in the next few decades. The problem is coal. The speed of India's current industrialization is so fast that, even with a huge surge in solar energy, it still plans the world's fastest rate of construction of coal-fired power stations. India's continued reliance on coal will increase its CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2030. And that addiction to coal is making enemies among countries that India would normally count as its friends – poor nations most at risk from climate change.
Read more.
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