Posts with «climate change» label

COP27 conference approves historic climate damage fund for developing nations

Following two weeks of negotiations that felt doomed to go nowhere, the COP27 climate conference delivered a breakthrough deal to help developing nations cope with the often catastrophic effects of climate change. The Washington Post reports dignitaries agreed to create a “loss and damage fund” in the early hours of Sunday morning after two extra days of negotiations. The Alliance of Small Island States, an organization that includes countries whose very existence is threatened by climate change, called the agreement “historic.” However, as with the Glasgow Climate Pact that came out of last year’s COP26 conference, the consensus is that COP27 failed to deliver the action that is desperately needed to meet the demands of the current moment.

For one, the conference failed to see nations agree to new and stronger commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. According to The Post, China and Saudi Arabia were strongly against language calling for a phaseout of all fossil fuels, as were many African nations. Alok Sharma, the chair of COP26, said (via a clause on energy was "weakened, in the final minutes.”

The conference also left many of the most important details related to the loss and damage fund to be sorted out by a committee that will need to answer some difficult questions in the coming months. Among the issues that need to be decided on is how much the United States, historically the greatest emitter of greenhouse emissions globally, should pay out to vulnerable countries. The conference also ended without a clear commitment from China to pay into the fund.

The committee now has a year to draft recommendations for next year’s climate meeting in Dubai. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said governments took “an important step towards justice,” but fell short in pushing for the commitments that would ultimately protect the world’s most vulnerable people from the worst effects of climate change. "Our planet is still in the emergency room," Guterres said. "We need to drastically reduce emissions now and this is an issue this COP did not address."

The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is turning to the metaverse to preserve its culture

With global temperatures expected to rise as much as 2.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the island nation of Tuvalu says it has no choice but to build a digital version of itself. On Tuesday, Simon Kofe, the country’s foreign minister, told the COP27 climate summit Tuvalu would look to the metaverse to preserve its culture and history amid rising sea levels (via Reuters).

“As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation. Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people. And to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we’ll move them to the cloud,” Kofe said in a video that sees the camera slowly zooming out to reveal that he’s in front of a greenscreen recreation of his home.

At last year’s COP26 summit, Kofe famously addressed the conference standing knee-deep in seawater to highlight the existential threat climate change poses to island nations like Tuvalu. In his latest address, the metaverse is framed as a potential home for all countries if there's not a global effort to address the problem.

“Only concerted global effort can ensure that Tuvalu does not move permanently online and disappear forever from the physical plane,” he said. “Without a global conscience and a global commitment to our shared well-being, we may soon find the rest of the world joining us online as their lands disappear.

Tuvalu is an archipelago consisting of nine islands located between Australia and Hawaii. It’s home to approximately 12,000 people. Climate scientists anticipate the entire country will be underwater by the end of the 21st century.

To achieve the 1.5C target put forward by the Paris Agreement and avoid significantly worse climate outcomes, the world has eight years to reduce annual global emissions by a further 45 percent, compared with projections based on current policies. To limit the rise in temperatures to under 2C, an extra 30 percent reduction in emissions is needed.

UN initiative will use satellites to detect methane emission hotspots

The United Nations is betting that satellites could help the world catch up on emissions reductions. The organization has unveiled a Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) that, as the name implies, will warn countries and companies of "major" methane emission releases. The technology will use satellite map data to identify sources, notify the relevant bodies and help track progress on lowering this output.

The initial MARS platform will focus on "very large" energy sector sources. It'll gradually expand to include less powerful sources, more frequent alerts and data from animals, coal, rice and waste. Partners in the program, such as the International Energy Agency and UN's Climate and Clean Air Coalition, will provide help and advice. The information also won't remain a secret, as the UN will make both data and analyses public between 45 to 75 days after it's detected.

The system will get its early funding from the US government, European Commission, Bezos Earth Fund and the Global Methane Hub. Both Bezos' fund and GMH are backing related efforts, such as studies on spotting and counteracting agricultural methane emissions.

This is the first publicly available system of its kind, the UN claims. It will theoretically lead to faster, more targeted methane emissions reduction than you see today. That could be crucial in the years ahead. The UN warned at the COP27 conference that Earth was nowhere near limiting global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius from the Paris Agreement. As human-released methane is both a major contributor to climate change (about 25 percent, the UN says) and quick to leave the atmosphere, an effective use of MARS could help get environmental strategy back on track.

As you might imagine, though, MARS will only work if governments and businesses cooperate. There's not much point to alerts if emissions contributors ignore them. An oil company might be reluctant to spend the money need to fix its flaring, for instance. The UN can point out a problem using this system, but it can't require action.

UN warns there's currently 'no credible pathway' to keep temperature rise under 1.5C

The United Nations has issued another stark warning that, under current policies, the planet is falling far short of the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That's the threshold scientists say we have to remain under in order to mitigate extreme, life-threatening weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and tropical storms. Under current policies, the UN suggests we're nowhere close to meeting that climate change target and that there's "no credible pathway to 1.5C in place."

The UN laid out the dire state of affairs in a report it released just a week before the start of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt. It said that pledges made by national policy makers since COP26, which was held in Glasgow last year, "make a negligible difference to predicted 2030 emissions" and that progress over the last 12 months has been "highly inadequate." In fact, the report suggests that current active policies will lead to a 2.8C rise in global temperatures by the end of the 21st century and that implementing pledges that have been made will only limit the rise to between 2.4C and 2.6C. Even that would require perfect implementation of plans, with wealthier countries helping poorer ones to enact them.

"In the best case scenario, full implementation of conditional NDCs [nationally determined contributions], plus additional net zero commitments, point to a 1.8C rise," Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said. "However, this scenario is currently not credible."

The 13th edition of the Emissions Gap Report argues that major societal and infrastructure changes are required. It lays out the necessary actions for sectors including electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings, along with the food and financial systems. The report notes that, in order to get on course to meet the 1.5C goal, we'd need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a further 45 percent by 2030, compared with projections based on current policies. To limit the rise in temperatures to under 2C, an extra 30 percent reduction in emissions is required.

"Is it a tall order to transform our systems in just eight years? Yes. Can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by so much in that timeframe? Perhaps not. But we must try," Andersen wrote. "Every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to species and ecosystems, and to every one of us."

President Biden signs Inflation Reduction Act to limit climate change

President Joe Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The sweeping $750 billion legislation includes $369 billion in investments toward climate and clean energy programs. Following months of infighting, House and Senate Democrats passed the bill along party lines last week after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia struck a compromise deal on Biden's Build Better Back framework. According to one estimate by Princeton University’s Zero Lab, the bill could reduce US greenhouse emissions by about 6.3 billion tons through 2032. The $369 billion set aside by the bill represents the most significant investment to combat climate change in US history. 

"This bill is the biggest step forward on climate ever, and it's going to allow us to boldly take additional steps toward meeting all of the climate goals we set out when we ran," Biden said before signing the bill. "It includes ensuring that we create clean energy opportunities in frontline and fenceline communities that have been smothered by the legacy of population and fight environmental injustice that has been going on for so long." 


White House launches a website to help people cope with extreme heat

President Biden's administration is backing up its funding for heat disaster prevention with a website to keep people informed. Fast Companynotes the White House has launched a website to help the public and authorities understand the dangers of extreme heat and reduce the health risks. The 11-agency collaboration offers maps for current and expected temperature spikes across the US, prevention guidance and data-driven tools.

Among the resources are a CDC-made Heat & Health Tracker that shows both historic and predicted trends. You'll see how much hotter your area has become over the decades, for instance. Other tools help you understand the effects of extreme heat on vulnerable groups, or aid communities seeking funds for city heat maps. The Biden administration has already been using the data to guide $50 billion in federal spending, White House climate advisor David Hayes said.

The debut comes just as the US (and many other parts of the world) grapples with particularly severe heat waves, and is part of a larger strategy to deal with the realities of climate change. Temperatures are expected to keep climbing, and this could help planners mitigate the dangers. In his most recent initiatives, President Biden sent $2.3 billion to FEMA for climate-related disaster "resilience," expanded low-income energy help to include efficient air conditioning and proposed wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The website is also consolation of sorts. The Supreme Court recently curbed the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to enforce the Clean Air Act. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin also thwarted efforts to include climate change measures in a federal spending bill. While won't compensate for those losses, it potentially draws more attention to climate issues.

Climate change has Seville so hot it's started naming heat waves like hurricanes

The city of Seville is trying something new to raise awareness of climate change and save lives. With oppressive heat waves becoming a fact of life in Europe and other parts of the world, the Spanish metropolis has begun naming them. The first one, Zoe, arrived this week, bringing with it expected daytime highs above 109 degrees Fahrenheit (or 43 degrees Celsius).

As Time points out, there’s no single scientific definition of a heat wave. Most countries use the term to describe periods of temperatures that are higher than the historical and seasonal norms for a particular area. Seville’s new system categorizes those events into three tiers, with names reserved for the most severe ones and an escalating municipal response tied to each level. The city will designate future heat waves in reverse alphabetical order, with Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega to follow. 

It’s a system akin to ones organizations like the US National Hurricane Center have used for decades to raise awareness of impending tropical storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. The idea is that people are more likely to take a threat seriously and act accordingly when it's given a name. 

"This new method is intended to build awareness of this deadly impact of climate change and ultimately save lives," Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, the think tank that helped develop Seville’s system, told Euronews. Naming heat waves could also help some people realize that we're not dealing with occasional “freak” weather events anymore: they’re the byproduct of a warming planet.

Biden's latest climate change actions expand offshore wind farms

President Biden is still unveiling measures to combat climate change, and his newest efforts are aimed at preventing environmental crises. The President has outlined a string of executive actions that, notably, include the first "Wind Energy Areas" in the Gulf of Mexico. The 700,000 acres will allow for enough potential offshore wind power to supply over 3 million homes, according to the administration. The Secretary of the Interior, meanwhile, will further work on wind power along the mid-to-southern Atlantic Coast as well as the Florida Coast.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has unveiled $2.3 billion in funding to bolster resilience against heat waves, wildfires and similar climate change-related disasters. New guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services expands the use of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for air conditioning, community cooling centers and other resources to fight extreme heat.

As in the past, Biden characterized his efforts as useful for the economy, not just the environment. The wind power projects should create jobs, while the FEMA and Health Department initiatives could minimize the damage from natural disasters. These events disproportionately hurt minorities and underserved communities, he said, and they also put critical infrastructure at risk.

Biden has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The White House has also devoted billions of dollars to clean energy projects, planned a national EV charging network and fought to reverse the purchase of gas-powered Postal Service vehicles.

This isn’t as extensive a response as some expected. The Washington Post reported that Biden considered declaring a climate emergency this week, though press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed he is still open to the idea. Biden is far from alone in failing to treat the warming climate with urgency, though. Congress has struggled to pass climate-related legislation given Senate opposition from Republicans and Democrat holdout Joe Manchin. These executive moves could help Biden advance elements of his climate agenda despite the legislative roadblock.

Twitter bans climate change denial ads

On Earth Day, Twitter announced a ban on ads that promote climate change denial. It said misleading advertising that contradicts scientific consensus on the crisis won't be permitted on the platform under its policy on inappropriate content.

"We believe that climate denialism shouldn’t be monetized on Twitter, and that misrepresentative ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis," leaders from the company's sustainability team wrote in a blog post. "We recognize that misleading information about climate change can undermine efforts to protect the planet."

Twitter says it will assess whether climate change ads break the rules based on reports from authoritative sources, such as the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The company added that, in the months ahead, it will share more details about its "work to add reliable, authoritative context to the climate conversations happening on Twitter."

This move builds on some other measures Twitter is taking to address climate change. By the end of 2022, Twitter aims to only be using carbon-neutral power sourcing at its data centers. It also joined the EU climate pact earlier this year. Among other things, Twitter committed to switch to renewable electricity at its leased operations in the bloc and to increase its investments in carbon-removal tech.

Instagram brings its fundraiser tool to Reels

Instagram is rolling out the option to create and donate to fundraisers through Reels. Users in more than 30 countries can now add a link for people to donate to more than 1.5 million nonprofits. The fundraiser tool has been available in Stories and on livestreams for the past couple of years.

The feature was announced as part of Meta's Earth Day efforts. Meta says that more than 4 million people have donated over $150 million through Instagram and Facebook to support environmental protection and nonprofits fighting against climate change. The most popular environmental causes, based on the overall number of donors, are The Ocean Cleanup, World Wildlife Fund and (one that's close to my heart) Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Most donations made on Instagram last year were under $20. Meta covers the payment processing fees for charitable fundraisers, so every penny that users donate goes to nonprofits.

Elsewhere, Meta announced that it's adding more features to its Climate Science Center. It will highlight actions people can take in their day-to-day lives to combat climate change. The center will also shine a spotlight on data visualizations showing country-level emissions. The Climate Science Center is now available in 150 countries.

Across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger, Meta has released stickers and profile frames to help people show their support for environmental causes. In addition, the company revealed the nine organizations that will receive funding from a $1 million grant program to help them fight climate misinformation. Meta also announced the Sustainability Media Academy, a project to help Asia-based journalists build expertise and develop authority on sustainability issues.