Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

July 9, 2019 by  
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Somewhere in the world, there is a climate disaster unfolding every week. According to the leading disaster risk reduction adviser for the United Nation’s secretary general, climate related disasters are affecting thousands of people every week, whether or not they get media coverage. The U.N.’s adviser, Mami Mizutori, told reporters that governments need to adjust their policies to not only prioritize but mandate disaster-resilient infrastructure immediately. According to Mizutori, a 3 percent budget increase for all new infrastructure projects could cover the additional cost of making such projects resilient to storms, floods and other climate-related crises. That 3 percent rise in spending equates to a total of $2.7 trillion USD by 2040. While anything in the trillions might seem like a lot of money to the average person, when it is spread around the world’s nearly 200 countries across 20 years, the price tag is actually quite modest. In comparison, the U.N. estimates that these climate disasters cost the world at least $520 billion USD every year, so it seems logical to invest a little into reducing not only that cost but also the loss of lives. Related: Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars “Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for,” warned Mizutori. “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough.” Most of the discussion about climate change at the international level revolves around reducing carbon emissions per nations’ Paris Climate Agreement commitments. While mitigation is important, curbing future emissions to reach a target and limit global warming does nothing to reduce the suffering of those impacted yesterday and today. According to the World Bank, there will be 143 million people displaced by climate-related incidences by 2050, and that’s only counting those from Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Low-cost, nature-based adaptation strategies are promising, such as restoring mangrove forests that protect coastal residents from sea-level rise, erosion and flooding. In order to adequately address the scale of these disasters though, a combined natural and built infrastructure approach will be necessary. According to Mizutori, these resilient solutions will require not only international collaboration but unlikely partnerships within governments as well. For example, most governments have separate departments for the environment and for infrastructure, but progressing toward resilience will require unprecedented collaboration at a scale that matches the unprecedented threat of climate change. Via Eco News and The Guardian Image via Jim Gade

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Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

Paris bans up to 60% of cars amidst record heat wave

June 28, 2019 by  
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As France suffers through a record heat wave, air pollution rates intensify. The solution? A Parisian car ban for less eco-friendly automobiles — as much as 60 percent of total vehicles in the city — until the hot weather breaks. The car ban has been creeping up on Parisians since 2017, when Paris issued a system of “Crit’Air” colored stickers with numbers ranging from 0 to 5. The worst polluters, diesels made in the year 2000 or earlier, get the 5 ranking and have been banned from central Paris since July 2017. This July, the ban extends to cars with level 4 stickers: diesel cars registered from 2001-2005, pre-2004 motorbikes and trucks from 2006-2009. These vehicles aren’t allowed within Paris’ A86 ring road area weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Related: Amsterdam announces plan to ban all polluting cars by 2030 But during this hot weather, level 3 vehicles are temporarily banned from A86. This affects 60 percent of Parisian drivers. Only hydrogen or electric vehicles, petrol cars registered after 2006 and diesels from 2011 or later can legally drive during the heat wave. Hydrogen and electric cars warrant a green sticker with the coveted 0 ranking. Many drivers are upset. Some are risking the fines — €68 for cars and motorbikes and up to €135 for trucks. “You have to face reality, which is the increase in air pollution when there is a heat wave, like the one we are experiencing at the moment,” France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, François de Rugy, told the French press. Other anti-air pollution measures include offering more free residential parking to encourage public transport usage and significantly reducing speed limits on motorways. Christophe Najdovski, deputy transport director for the city of Paris , told the French press, “The quality of the air is improving in Ile-de-France, but we want to speed up the process. It’s a question of public health .” Via Reuters Image via Pedro Szekely

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These cities in red and blue states are accelerating clean energy

June 5, 2019 by  
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Movement from Albuquerque to Orlando is making an impact despite U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

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These cities in red and blue states are accelerating clean energy

Study estimates sea level rise two times worse than worst-case scenario

May 22, 2019 by  
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Sea level rise is a serious threat, but a new report argues that it may be far worse than even the current worst-case estimates. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, estimates that there is a 5 percent chance the sea level will rise between 2 feet and 7.8 feet within the next century. This is more than twice what was recently predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although 5 percent might seem like a small probability, the researchers are quick to point out that is a one in 20 chance, and this should not be ignored by governments and infrastructure planners. Scientists focused their research on predicting the impact of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica if the world warms by 5 degrees. Under the Paris Agreement, 185 countries pledged to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, but radical changes would have to be made and sustained in order to come close to this ambitious goal. “We should not rule out a sea-level rise of over 2 meters if we continue along a business-as-usual emissions trajectory,” Jonathan Bamber, lead author from the University of Bristol,  told USA Today . According to the researchers’ predictions, such a rise in sea levels would be globally catastrophic. Coastal cities like Miami and New York are especially vulnerable, as are major agricultural areas like the Nile Delta. Small islands in the Pacific and Caribbean would be devastated, and an estimated 187 million people would be displaced. To put this into perspective, about 1 million people have been displaced by the Syrian refugee crisis. Bamber said , “What we decide to do collectively as a species politically, globally, over the next decade is going to determine the future of the next generations in terms of the habitability of the planet and what sort of environment they live in.” Via EcoWatch , CNN and USA Today Image via NASA

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Study estimates sea level rise two times worse than worst-case scenario

Words matter: The Guardian announces updated climate crisis language

May 22, 2019 by  
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Words matter, and last week The Guardian announced it will start using more appropriately strong words that reflect the magnitude of the climate crisis. Instead of “climate change,” which editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said sounds passive and gentle, staff writers will now use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency”. “What scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity,” Viner said in a statement sent to all Guardian staff. “Increasingly, climate scientists and organizations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in.” Related: Ireland declares a climate emergency, promises action Recent reports about the urgency of reducing carbon emissions and the loss of biodiversity also helped motivate the change to take a stronger stance on the climate crisis. The Guardian will also use “wildlife” instead of “biodiversity” and “fish populations” instead of “fish stock.” The Guardian has also decided to discontinue the misleading use and recognition of “climate skeptics” who will now be called “climate science deniers.” A  skeptic is “a seeker of truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions.” However, in today’s climate skeptics can more accurately be described as those who deny overwhelming scientific evidence. Writers at the BBC have also been advised to give less airtime to climate science deniers, a position which is no longer widely accepted as an alternative and balanced side to climate debates. The Guardian recently began including the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on their daily weather reports. The change is the first time that weather reports symbolize not only how weather is predicted to impact human activity on a certain day but also how humans are impacting the weather. “Wording around climate really does matter, and though The Guardian’s changes are technically small, they may help reinforce the importance of climate reporting in the minds of both readers and newsroom staff,” Laura Hazard Owen from think tank Nieman Labshe wrote of the change. Via The Guardian Image via brontiN biswaS  

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

May 20, 2019 by  
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The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution. Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 “There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council,  said . The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years. Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects. Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually. India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases . Via CleanTechnica Image via DoshiJi

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

Studio NAB proposes rebuilding Notre Dame with a greenhouse and apiary

May 2, 2019 by  
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After a devastating blaze consumed the Cathedral of Notre Dame’s wooden roof and iconic central spire, architects around the world have been putting forth their visionary ideas for rebuilding the Parisian landmark. One such architectural firm is Paris-based Studio NAB , which has made headlines with its proposal to modernize the 13th-century cathedral with a massive educational greenhouse and apiary. Dubbed “In Green For All of Us,” the design builds on the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s hopes that the cathedral rehabilitation be “adapted to issues of our time.” Rather than simply restore the Cathedral of Notre Dame back to its former state, Studio NAB has suggested recreating the original silhouette with new materials. Instead of timber-frame construction, the new roof and spire would be constructed from gold-painted steel with large glass panels. The rooftop greenhouse would be used to provide professional training for the poor and education for the general public on topics of urban agriculture , horticulture and permaculture. “On this fire and in the period of crisis that the country and the world are currently going through, we are lucky to build a place of reference where conservation, enrichment of an exceptional heritage and taking into account societal challenges in ecology and equal opportunities,” the architects explained. “Protecting the living, reintroducing biodiversity , educating consciences and being social, are all symbols, faithful to the values of France and those of the church, that we could defend and promote for this project.” Related: SUPERFARM design envisions an urban vertical farm that is energy self-sufficient Inspired by the nearly 200,000 honeybees that survived the fire on Notre Dame’s lower roof, Studio NAB wants to transform the central spire into a glass-walled apiary with a larger number of hives capable of producing honey for sale. In homage to the roof’s original framework — nicknamed “the forest” after its many ancient timbers — the architects will also reuse salvaged wood as planters and other structures within the greenhouse. + Studio NAB Renderings via Studio NAB; photos via Wikimedia ( 1 ,  2 )

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Studio NAB proposes rebuilding Notre Dame with a greenhouse and apiary

Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

May 2, 2019 by  
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Poachers are taking advantage of a fashion trend to turn Tibetan antelope into expensive scarves. It takes four Tibetan antelopes to make the single opulent wrap known as a shahtoosh, and the hunt is decimating the antelope populations. These scarves, once used as dowry items in India, are seeing an increase in demand by Westerners willing to pay upward of $20,000 a piece. Over the past century, conservationists have measured a 90 percent drop in antelope numbers, mostly due to increasing wool demands . Experts believe there was once a million antelope that roamed the Tibetan landscape, but their numbers fell to around 75,000 in the 1990s. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife According to National Geographic , population numbers started to recover in the 2000s after China enacted tough laws against trading the antelope wool, but the demand for shahtoosh has increased poaching over the past 10 years. Since 2010, border agents in Switzerland have confiscated 295 scarves, which represent the deaths of more than 1,000 Tibetan antelopes. In light of the alarming numbers, officials are asking for other countries to keep a close eye on shahtoosh trafficking with the hope of curbing some of the fashion demand. It takes a trained eye to identify a shahtoosh. The biggest key in properly locating a shahtoosh is looking for antelope guard hairs. These long pieces of hair are difficult to remove in the manufacturing process and are easy to identify under a microscope. Once it is determined that a scarf is a shahtoosh, the owner is fined a few thousand dollars, and the piece of clothing is confiscated. The shahtoosh trade appears to be less of an issue in the United States, at least on the surface. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confiscated a single shahtoosh, though it is possible that the material has simply flown under the radar. Either way, experts do not believe Tibetan antelopes will be able to make sustained recoveries until the demand for the luxurious scarf is significantly reduced. Via National Geographic Image via McKay Savage and Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

Fund managers worth $10.2 trillion urge oil firms to align with Paris Agreement goals

May 1, 2019 by  
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A new survey of leading fund managers reveals a large majority want oil majors to adopt Paris Agreement-compliant strategies.

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Fund managers worth $10.2 trillion urge oil firms to align with Paris Agreement goals

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