21 Nov 2016:
Canada to Phase Out
Nearly All Coal-Fired Electricity by 2030
Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has announced that the country will eliminate virtually all coal-fired power plants
by 2030, which would mean that 90 percent of Canada's electricity would come from carbon-free sources of energy by that time. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, McKenna said that four provinces still burn coal for electricity — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. They will either phase out coal use or will be allowed to temporarily keep some coal-fired power plants open if equivalent CO2 emissions reductions are achieved in other sectors, McKenna said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal Party took power a year ago, ran on a platform of reducing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energy. Roughly 60 percent of Canada’s electricity is generated using hydropower, and analysts predicted that the Liberal government’s announcement Monday will stimulate the development of wind, solar, and other renewable forms of energy.
18 Nov 2016:
Nations Have “Urgent Duty” to
Carry Out Paris Accord, UN Conference Says
As the UN climate conference in Marrakech neared completion, nearly 200 nations, including the United States, reiterated their commitment
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Marrakech.
Paris agreement, saying that the world has “an urgent duty” to respond to global warming. In the joint statement, known as the Marrakech Action Proclamation
, delegates pledged to stand with nations hit hardest by climate change, reduce emissions to meet a 1.5 degree C temperature goal, and mobilize $100 billion for resiliency work. “We welcome the Paris Agreement, its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals… in the light of different national circumstances,” the announcement said, “and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation.” Also this week, 47 countries on the front lines of climate change, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica, pledged to go 100 percent renewable and carbon neutral
in coming decades to “help trigger increased commitments from all countries” to reduce greenhouse gases.
16 Nov 2016:
Hundreds of U.S. Businesses Call
For Continued International Climate Action
More than 360 U.S.-based businesses, including some of the world’s largest multinational corporations, sent a letter
Delegates at UN climate meetings in Morocco.
U.S. and world leaders this week asking them to continue to support the Paris climate agreement and speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. "Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the group said. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond.” The statement, presented at United Nations climate meetings
in Marrakesh, Morocco this week, was addressed to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. President Barack Obama, Congress, and world leaders. Signatories include major conglomerates such as General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, Nike, Kellogg, Unilever, Starbucks, and DuPont, as well as more than 50 other companies and investors with annual revenues exceeding $100 million.
Interview: Are Trees Sentient?
Certainly, Says German Forester
In his bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees
, German forester Peter Wohlleben argues
that to save the world’s forests from climate change and other threats we must first recognize that trees are “wonderful beings” with innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Wohlleben discusses how trees live in families, have an inborn memory of events like previous droughts, and possess the capacity to make decisions and fight off predators. Wohlleben has been criticized for anthropomorphizing trees, but he maintains that to succeed in preserving our forests in a rapidly warming world, we must start to look at trees in an entirely different light. Read the interview.
15 Nov 2016:
For Third Year in a Row, Carbon
Emissions Flat as Global Economy Grows
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels stayed flat in 2015 and are projected to increase by only 0.2 percent in 2016 — marking three years in a row that emissions have been decoupled from global economic growth, according to a new analysis
by scientists at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project
. The three-year slowdown is largely due to China’s declining coal usage, the study said, which helped the country reduce emissions 0.7 percent in 2015 and a projected 0.5 percent in 2016. But the scientists warned that emissions simply staying flat is not sufficient to combat climate change. “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth… but it is not enough,” Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia who led the data analysis, said in a statement. “Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.”
14 Nov 2016:
2016 Temperatures Measure
1.2 Degrees C Above Pre-Industrial Levels
This year is on track to become the hottest year on record, with global temperatures measuring 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 F) above pre-industrial levels,
Global temperature rise over the last century.
according to the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO). Global temperatures this year will likely beat the previous record, 2015, by 0.2 degrees Celsius
, setting a new high for the third year in a row. “Another year, another record,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement released at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech. By the end of 2016, 16 out of 17 hottest years on record will have been in this century, with 1998 as the outlier, the WMO said. Warming in Arctic regions has been particularly extreme this year, with temperatures in parts of Arctic Russia soaring to 6 degrees C to 7 degrees C (10.8-12.6 degrees F) above the long-term average. Many others parts of the Arctic have experienced temperatures 3 degrees C above average.
11 Nov 2016:
Just 1 Degree C of Warming Has
Altered Nearly Every Aspect of Life on Earth
Climate change has already impacted nearly every aspect of life on earth, according to a new study
in the journal Science
A bearded seal near Monaco Glacier, Svalbard.
Warming global temperatures have altered everything from entire ecosystems down to the individual genes of species. Some 80 percent of key ecological processes examined by the scientists show signs of change and distress. The disruptions could lead to unpredictable fisheries yields, reduced agricultural productivity, worsening pests and disease outbreaks, and “point toward an increasingly unpredictable future for humans,” the authors wrote. "There is now clear evidence that, with only a ~1 degree C of warming globally, very major impacts are already being felt," said lead author Brett Scheffers
, an ecologist at the University of Florida. "Species' physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are rapidly moving to keep track of suitable climate space, and there are now signs of entire ecosystems under stress."
10 Nov 2016:
A New Initiative to Study
The Microbiome of Sub-Saharan Africa
Scientists have begun the first large-scale survey of microbial life in sub-Saharan Africa, analyzing 1,000 Ziploc bags of dirt from 10 countries, the journal Nature reported
. The three-year initiative, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), hopes to improve understanding of Africa’s diverse microbial biome in an effort to stave off the worst climate change impacts and improve agricultural practices. The project is being led by ecologist Dan Cowan at the University of Pretoria and will involve sampling soils in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and South Africa. The scientists will first analyze DNA to identify bacteria in the soils before looking into soil fungi in the next phase of the initiative.
Interview: At Standing Rock Protest,
A Battle Over Fossil Fuels and Land
For more than eight months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been leading a protest to stop an oil pipeline from
Kyle Powys Whyte
potentially threatening its drinking water and sacred sites. In many ways, the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is a traditional fight over Native American land rights. But as indigenous rights expert Kyle Powys Whyte sees it, the demonstration also points to the important role tribes have played in opposing fossil fuel energy projects in recent years. “Almost everywhere you go, tribes have taken direct action to protect their health and their cultures and their economies from the threats, as well as the false promises of, extractive industries,” he says. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Powys Whyte talks about the long history of coal and oil and gas development on native lands and why Standing Rock has become a lightning rod for opposition to fossil fuels.
Read the interview.
09 Nov 2016:
Could Dying Puffins in the Bering
Sea Spell Trouble for Other Marine Life?
Starting in mid-October, hundreds of tufted puffins began washing up dead on islands in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.
A tufted puffin on St. Paul Island in Alaska.
The birds weren’t sick, but were in an “advanced state of starvation,” National Geographic reported
. While the deaths are alarming, scientists are also concerned about them being a harbinger of bad news for other marine species in the northern Pacific Ocean. Record-warm water temperatures in the region earlier this year may have shifted or reduced critical ocean food sources — small fish and zooplankton called copepods — affecting not only the puffins, but also dozens of other marine species, from seals to salmon to crab. “Clearly something very weird is going on,” said Julia Parrish, a biologist at the University of Washington. “It is basically every year now we’re getting some huge mass-mortality event… And the forage fish that everything depends on are taking it in the shorts.”
07 Nov 2016:
New Delhi Air Pollution
Reaches Highest Level in 20 Years
Indian officials declared an emergency in New Delhi over the weekend as the capital city entered its second week with air pollution levels
Children play in the heavy smog in New Delhi.
as high as 30 times above World Health Organization guidelines, several news outlets reported
. Construction sites have been closed, operations at a coal-fired power station halted, diesel generators stopped, and officials are preparing to reinstate traffic restrictions, all to reduce smog levels across the city, which have reached their highest levels in 20 years. Officials say field burning on nearby farmland and fireworks from the recent Diwali festival helped worsen the smog conditions. Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, advised people to “stay home as much as they can [and] work from home,” The Guardian reported
. Indian business groups said 5 to 10 percent of the workforce in the city and surrounding areas had called in sick over the past week.
04 Nov 2016:
Scientists Attempt to
Create 3D Models of All Life on Earth
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have launched a new initiative to create 3D models
of all of the world’s living organisms.
A cane toad.
Biologist Duncan Irschick invented a 30-camera array, the “Beastcam,” that captures high-resolution, full-color images of an animal’s body from all different angles. Using those photographs, Irschick and his colleagues have already created 3D models of sharks, scorpions, toads, and lizards. They plan to focus next on capturing frogs and sea turtles. The initiative, known as Digital Life
, is partnering with scientists, zoos, and non-profits to gain access to species, including those that are endangered or threatened, and providing 3D models at no cost via an open access website. “Digitally preserving the heritage of life on Earth is especially important given the rapid decline of many species,” said Irschick. “This technology can recreate organisms in a way that has never been done before.”
03 Nov 2016:
Even With Paris Pledges, World
Could Warm As Much as 3.4 Degrees C By 2100
Global temperatures could rise as much as 3.4 degrees C (6.1 degrees F) this century even if nations achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets set forth in the Paris climate agreement, according to a new report
from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Emissions for 2030 are projected to be 54 billion to 56 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is nearly 25 percent — or 12 billion to 14 billion tons of CO2 — higher than levels needed to hold global warming to 2 degrees C by 2100. The new UNEP report comes just one day before the Paris climate agreement officially enters into force, and a few days before the next UN global climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. “The world must urgently and dramatically increase its ambition to… have any chance of minimizing dangerous climate change,” the UNEP said
02 Nov 2016:
Diapers Made from Jellyfish?
Company Utilizes Super-Absorbent Qualities
Jellyfish populations around the world are on the rise, driven by rising ocean temperatures, increasing acidity, and overfishing.
A giant jellyfish.
But a start-up company in Israel has found a way to harness these booming jellyfish populations, using them to create biodegradable diapers and feminine hygiene products, The Guardian reported
. The company, Cine’al
, was created by University of Tel Aviv scientist Shachar Richter, who discovered that the flesh of jellyfish can absorb large quantities of liquids. By breaking down jellyfish bodies and adding antibacterial nanoparticles, Richter and his company have created a super-absorbent material they call “hydromash” that can be used in medical bandages, tampons, pads, and diapers. Americans currently throw away an estimated 40 million diapers every day, each of which can take years or decades to break down in landfill. The hydromash material takes only 30 days to biodegrade, the company says. Cine’al plans to have products ready for market in the next 18 months, according to The Guardian
31 Oct 2016:
300 Million Children Breath
Pollution Six Times Worse Than Limit
Approximately 2 billion children live in communities where outdoor air pollution exceeds World Health Organization limits,
Global air pollution levels.
according to a new report by UNICEF
, the United Nations children’s aid group. That number includes 300 million children in areas with pollution levels six times higher than international guidelines. The pollution — caused by vehicle emissions, fossil fuels, dust, and burning waste — is a major contributing factor to the deaths of around 600,000 children under the age of five each year, the report warned. In South Asia, 620 million children live in areas with unsafe air pollution levels, followed by Africa with 520 million children, and East Asia and the Pacific region with 450 million children. The report comes just one week before world leaders converge in Marrakesh, Morocco for a United Nations meeting to discuss climate change and other related environmental issues, including air quality.
28 Oct 2016:
Nations Create World’s Largest
Marine Protected Area Near Antarctica
Two dozen nations and the European Union have agreed to set aside 600,000 square miles of ocean for protection near Antarctica,
Adelie penguins in the Southern Ocean.
creating the world’s largest marine park
. The international agreement, which took more than five years to broker, will protect a large portion of the Ross Sea, located in the Southern Ocean. Scientists estimate that the Southern Ocean generates 75 percent of nutrients in the world’s oceans; it is also home to more than 10,000 species. Commercial fishing will be banned in the new marine park for 35 years, though scientists will be able to catch limited krill and other species in designated research zones. "The Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet — home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement
26 Oct 2016:
At Least 74,000 Americans Live
Near Oil and Gas Wells on Public Lands
A new online tool
mapping active oil and gas wells on U.S. public lands shows that at least 74,000 people in six states
Map showing population and oil and gas wells.
live within a half-mile of drilling sites. That close proximity puts these people at increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems from natural gas leaking from the wells, said the Wilderness Society, which together with Earthworks helped create the tool. In Wyoming, for example, 15,869 oil and gas facilities
operate on public land, and some 4,000 people live within a half-mile of them — the range that airborne pollutants from wells, such as benzene, can easily travel. The mapping tool is being released at a time when scientists, environmental groups, and policymakers are ramping up calls to reduce and regulate natural gas leaks
from drilling and storage sites.
Photo Essay: How Pollution Is
Devastating an Indonesian Lake
More than 1,500 tons of fish suddenly turned up dead in Indonesia’s largest lake earlier this year, a mass asphyxiation caused by high pollution levels. The event threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of fish farmers and the drinking water for thousands of people, and it shed light on the rapidly declining conditions in Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake. In a photo essay for Yale Environment 360
, Binsar Bakkara visits the lake he grew up on to chronicle the destruction. View the photos.
24 Oct 2016:
Pope Francis’ Call for Climate
Action Fails to Sway Many Americans
A direct call to action by the Pope has apparently failed to inspire people to be concerned about climate change, according to a new national survey
public policy researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Last year, Pope Francis release a 200-page papal letter entitled “Laudato Si
,” or “Be Praised,” that urged 1.1 billion Catholics to address climate change and live more sustainably. The new survey, published in the journal Climatic Change
, found those who had heard of the encyclical — both Catholics and non-Catholics — were no more concerned about global warming than those who hadn’t. Those who knew about the encyclical were also more politically polarized
in their acceptance or denial of climate change. The scientists used data from 1,381 20-minute phone interviews one week before the encyclical’s release and two weeks after it was published.
21 Oct 2016:
Scientists Report Finding DNA
Mutations That Caused Snakes to Lose Legs
A mutation in the DNA of some reptiles about 150 million years ago switched off the gene responsible for forming limbs — leading to the
A green tree python.
creation of modern day snakes, according to two studies published week. The findings were discovered by two independent teams of researchers, which reported their results separately in the journals Current Biology
. Some snakes, including pythons and boas, still have tiny leg bones inside their bodies, remnants of this evolutionary history; but most species lost their legs starting about100 million years ago. The scientists traced the mutation back to a docking site for proteins, known as an enhancer, situated in front of the Sonic hedgehog
gene, which controls limb development. They found that the enhancer is simply switched off, not broken. When the missing DNA was fixed and the modified enhancer was put in mice, they grew legs like normal
The Moth Snowstorm: Finding
True Value in Nature’s Riches
It is the blizzard of moths that Michael McCarthy remembers most vividly. As a boy, his family would take summer nighttime drives to the English coast,
and the car headlights and windshield would soon be so splattered with moths they would have to stop to clean them off. “That phenomenon has gone,” says McCarthy. “It’s disappeared because there has been a horrendous crash in moth numbers in the U.K.” His recent book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
, offers a defense of the natural world rooted in the joy and spiritual nourishment it provides. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, McCarthy, a British journalist, talks about the loss of wildlife; how the decline in species abundance, as opposed to extinctions, is overlooked; and why he thinks putting a monetary value on so-called ecosystem services is too limiting. “You can say mangrove swamps are worth so many billion dollars,” he says. “But what about birdsong? How much is birdsong worth?”
Read the interview.
19 Oct 2016:
Can We Turn CO2 into a Useable
Fuel? Scientists Say They Have Found a Way
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee report that they have found a way to convert carbon dioxide into ethanol
, a usable fuel. The team used a spiky nanotechnology-based catalyst made out of carbon, copper, and nitrogen. When they applied voltage to the catalyst, CO2 dissolved in water turned into ethanol, with a yield of 63 percent. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material works,” said Adam Rondinone, the Oak Ridge scientist that led the research. Because the materials are relatively cheap and the reaction can happen at room temperature, the researchers say the technique could be scaled up to store renewable energy as ethanol, for example, or to convert CO2 emissions into fuel. Finding new ways to use CO2 “in order to displace a fossil feedstock,” the scientists wrote in the study
, “is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future.”
18 Oct 2016:
September Breaks Monthly Temp
Record, Continuing World’s Warming Trend
September was the warmest September since modern record keeping began around 1880, measuring 0.91 degrees Celsius higher than the 1951-1980
Temperature anomalies in September 2016.
average, according to new data
by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. According to NASA, “11 of the past 12 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 have set new monthly high-temperature records.” Or as the website Climate Central
put it, “September [is] an exclamation point on a string of hot months.” The new temperature data nearly guarantees that 2016 will be named the hottest year on record, measuring about 1.25 degrees Celsius above the late 19th century average, according to climate scientist Gavin Schmidt
, the director of GISS. NASA’s temperature data is collected by 6,300 meteorological stations scattered across the globe, a buoy-based data system in the oceans, and research centers on Antarctica.
17 Oct 2016:
UN Warns Climate Change Could
Put 122 Million More People into Poverty
Between 35 million and 122 million more people could be living in poverty by 2030 as climate change impacts food production
A farmer in India during a recent heat wave.
and small-scale farmers’ incomes across the globe, according to a new report
by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The report, which examines food security and crop production and prices under various climate scenarios, says that without “widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries, and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated.” There are an estimated half-billion small-scale farms
across the globe, managed by 2.5 billion people. These farms provide over 80 percent of the food consumed in the developing world, including southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. "There is no doubt climate change affects food security," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We cannot assure any more that we will have the harvest we have planted."
14 Oct 2016:
Is There Too Much Emphasis
Being Placed on Carbon Capture Technology?
The world is placing too much credence on being able to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a process known as “air capture
,” according to an article in the journal Science
this week. “Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble,” wrote the article’s authors
, Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the University of Manchester in the U.K, and Glen Peters, a scientist at CICERO, a climate research organization in Norway. “There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise,” and assuming otherwise is “a moral hazard par excellence,” they wrote. Carbon capture technologies are a key component of the Paris climate agreement, with many of the modeling scenarios assuming the technology will be operating on a large scale later this century, reported Climate Central
13 Oct 2016:
Scientists Creating “Super Grass”
To Cut Methane Emissions from Cows
Danish scientists are developing a grass that will cut down how often cows burp and pass gas — reducing the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas,
Dairy cows in Europe.
they release into the atmosphere. Collaborating with international seed company DLF, the scientists are working to create a “super grass” that is easier for cows to digest, thereby reducing the amount of gas that builds up in their stomachs, several media outlets reported
. Global emissions of methane — which is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period — have been on the rise since the 1980s. Livestock, specifically cows, are thought to release an estimated 90 million tons of methane into the atmosphere annually. The new, nearly $2 million research collaboration between the University of Aarhus in Denmark and DLF hopes to develop the new grass by 2024, at the latest.
12 Oct 2016:
First Bees in the U.S. Get
Protection Under Endangered Species Act
Seven species of yellow-faced bees found on the islands of Hawaii have been officially listed as “endangered"
A yellow-faced bee.
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) — making them the first bees in the nation to be given protection under the Endangered Species Act. The seven species, which include Hylaeus anthracinus, H. assimulans, H. facilis, H. hilaris, H. kuakea, H. longiceps
, and H. mana
, pollinate some of Hawaii’s most threatened plants and live in a variety of Hawaiian ecosystems, from the coast, to dry forests, to subalpine shrublands, reported Mongabay
. Scientists and conservation groups had been petitioning FWS to protect the bees for more than five years
, citing habitat degradation, predation, and rapidly declining population numbers. The federal agency released the new rule late last month. The rule also gave protection to three additional animal species and 39 plant species, all from Hawaii.
11 Oct 2016:
European Union Could Require
New Homes to Have Electric Car Chargers
Starting in 2019, all new or refurbished homes and apartment buildings in Europe will be required to have electric vehicle recharging stations
Electric car charging stations in Berlin.
built on the premises, according to a draft directive from the European Union. The new rule, to be published by the end of the year, is meant to help nations curb transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, cut air pollution, and reach climate targets. Norway and the Netherlands, for example, both plan to phase out diesel engine vehicles by 2025, according to The Guardian
. “This kind of market stimulus is not just positive, it is mandatory if we want to see a massive rollout of electric vehicles in the near future,” said Guillaume Berthier, head of electric car sales for automaker Renault. “The question of how you recharge your car when you live in an apartment within a city is a very important one.”
10 Oct 2016:
Trump Proclaims at Debate
That ‘Coal Will Last for 1,000 Years’ in U.S.
At the second 2016 U.S. presidential debate, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump clashed over energy policy and climate change
, with Trump
saying the energy industry is “under siege” from Obama administration regulations and vowing that “clean coal” will continue to power the U.S. for a thousand years. While both pledged to help beleaguered coal miners, Trump doubled down on his support for fossil fuel production while Clinton said the U.S. must gradually decouple its economy from coal, oil, and natural gas. “I support moving towards more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can because I think we can be the 21st-century clean-energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses,” she said.
07 Oct 2016:
Scotland to Generate Some of
World’s First Kite-Driven Power in 2017
The United Kingdom will begin harnessing energy from kites flying 450 meters above ground as early as next year. Developed by UK-based Kite Power Solutions
A kite-powered wind energy generator.
the system is composed of two 40-meter wide kites that rise and fall in tandem, spooling a tether line to turn a turbine. A test site was previously built in Essex
, and a 500-kilowatt system will be built near Stranraer, Scotland on the West Freugh air force station. Because the kites are lighter than wind turbines, they can more easily be built offshore and reach higher altitude winds, which are faster and more consistent. The technology, which companies hope could revolutionize global renewable energy strategies, is also being tested
in Switzerland and Italy, among other countries.