Posts with «climate change» label

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 Heat.gov 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 Heat.gov 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 Heat.gov 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.

Pinterest will ban climate misinformation

Pinterest has a history of banning content it sees as harmful before other online platforms, and that approach is now extending to climate change issues. The social site is rolling out a policy that bans climate misinformation, including climate change denial, false claims about solutions to climate change, misrepresentations of scientific data and "harmful" bogus statements on natural disasters and other extreme weather. It'll likely disappear if it contradicts the well-supported scientific consensus, in other words.

An update to Pinterest's ad guidelines also "explicitly" bans marketing material that promotes climate change misinformation and conspiracy theories. The policies were built with the help of expert groups that include the Climate Disinformation Coalition and Conscious Advertising Network.

The company claims to be the first major internet platform with "clearly defined" policies barring false climate change claims for both content and ads. That's true to at least some degree. Facebook mainly labels misinformation and reduces its spread, while Twitter aimed to "pre-bunk" falsehoods during COP26 but stopped short of banning them. YouTube, meanwhile, doesn't let climate change deniers monetize videos.

The timing is apt, at least. A just-released UN report indicates the world has three years to level CO2 emissions if it wants to avoid environmental catastrophes, and that those emissions must drop by a quarter by 2030. Pinterest isn't basing its stricter policies on that report, but it clearly shares the view that a unified public stance based on accurate information is necessary to limit global warming.

We have three years to curb emissions to avoid climate catastrophe, UN report finds

The world needs to cut carbon emissions by a quarter by the year 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, according to the latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Governments and industries must make sure to level carbon emissions by 2025. Even then, the world will need to invest in CO2 removal factories and other technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the sky. With all these measures in place, the world can still expect a bare minimum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next few decades, still, a grim outcome that will eviscerate most of the world’s coral reefs and make many low-lying regions uninhabitable.

The lead author of the report, Sarah Burch, tweeted that even the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is unlikely, a sentiment that other climate scientists have expressed. In order to reach that goal, virtually every industry and country would have to make rapid emissions cuts.

“The average annual greenhouse gas emissions over the last 10 years were THE HIGHEST IN HUMAN HISTORY. We are not on track to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees,” tweeted Burch.

But the report also expressed a few reasons to be optimistic. First, governments and the private sector at the very least know what they need to do as far as curbing their energy use. The question remains whether stakeholders will actually stick to their emissions targets and make the drastic changes needed to avoid the worst case scenario.

“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” wrote IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla in the report.

Second, even though average annual global greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 to 2019 were the highest in human history, the rate of growth has slowed. Countries have adopted policies that have decreased deforestation and ramped up the use of renewable energy. The costs of solar, wind energy and lithium ion batteries have also decreased by 85% over the past decade, making it a more viable option than ever before.

The report warned that by 2050, solar and wind power will need to supply the majority of the world’s energy. And the report also echoed the consensus shared by most climate scientists that the world must immediately and rapidly curb its use of fossil fuels. “Coal has to go. Coal without carbon capture and storage has to go down by 76% by 2030. That’s… really fast,” noted Burch.

But attaining global consensus to cut down on fossil fuels is easier said than done. China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, increased its domestic coal use in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which ramped up energy commodity prices. Leaders in the EU and US have expressed concerns that global demand for coal will only increase, with countries needing to burn more coal due to higher natural gas prices.

New SEC rules require would companies to disclose climate goals and emissions

Public companies would be required to disclose greenhouse gas emissions they produce under new rules proposed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The move is part of the Biden government's push to identify climate risks and cut emissions as much as 52 percent by 2030. The SEC's three Democratic commissioners voted to approve the proposal, while Republican commissioner Hester M. Peirce voted against it.

"I am pleased to support today’s proposal because, if adopted, it would provide investors with consistent, comparable, and decision-useful information for making their investment decisions, and it would provide consistent and clear reporting obligations for issuers," said SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

Under the new rule, companies would need to explain how climate risks would affect their operations and strategies. They'd be required to share the emissions they generate and larger companies would need to have those numbers confirmed by independent consulting firms. They'd also need to disclose indirect emissions generated by supplies and customers if those are "material" to their climate goals. 

The SEC proposed rule changes that would require registrants to include certain climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports.

— U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (@SECGov) March 21, 2022

In addition, any companies that have made public promises to reduce their carbon footprint would need to explain how they plan to meet those goals. That includes the use of carbon offsets like planting trees, which have been criticized as being a poor substitute for actually slashing emissions, as Greenpeace said in a recent report

The SEC already allows for voluntary emissions guidance, but the new rules would make it mandatory. Many companies like Ford already share emissions date from factory production as well as vehicle fuel usage. However, "there are lots of companies that won't do it unless it's mandatory," task force chief Mary Schapiro told The Washington Post ahead of the report's release. 

After the proposed rule is published on the SEC's website, the public will have 60 days to comment. The final rule will likely head to a vote in several months, and would be phased in over several years. The ruling will likely be challenged in court by Republicans in states like West Virginia, along with business groups, on the grounds that climate change is not a material issue for investors in the near future. 

However, experts have warned that time is of the essence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued a report stating that many of the impacts of global warming are "irreversible" and that there's only a brief window of time to avoid the worst. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it a "damning indictment of failed climate leadership." 

Facebook failed to spot climate misinformation from some of its worst denialist offenders

Facebook may be failing to tag a large amount of climate misinformation posted on its site, a study released today indicates. Researchers from the Center for Counter Digital Hate analyzed 184 exceptionally popular stories from what it identified to be the top ten publishers of climate change denial content in the world (a list that includes Russian state media, The Daily Wire, Breitbart and others). It found that roughly half (50.5 percent) of the stories failed to trigger Facebook’s information labels designed to flag coverage on climate change. Stories from such heavily trafficked news outlets should be the easiest targets for fact-checkers, suggesting that much more climate misinformation is evading Facebook’s screening.

Last year Facebook (which has since rebranded as Meta) promised to flag climate change coverage in a number of countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US. Such posts would be marked with an informational label that would direct users to the platform’s “Climate Science Information Center”, which contains information that debunks myths on the climate. The study’s authors began their research following Facebook’s May 2021 announcement that it would tackle climate change denial propaganda, and all articles included in the analysis were posted after that date.

Independent fact-checkers also flag climate change stories that are false, and Facebook adds a warning label and reduces distribution. "When they rate this content as false, we add a warning label and reduce its distribution so fewer people see it. During the time frame of this report, we hadn't completely rolled out our labeling program, which very likely impacted the results,” Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAllister told NPR.

Facebook has made multiple efforts to scrub misinformation posted on its platform over the past few years, for topics like the 2020 presidential election, the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines. But as Engadget and other outlets have covered, a large amount of misinformation is still able to clear Facebook’s algorithms without proper labeling.

But nearly a year later, Facebook’s review system on climate change content is still missing the mark. I was able to post a number of different climate change stories on Facebook without hitting its algorithms, including articles entitled “Why the West Coast Heat Wave Has Nothing To Do With Climate Change” from The Federalist and “Alarmists: Global Warming Causes ‘Unprecedented Cold’ in Tajikistan”, published in Breitbart.

Facebook hasn’t been specific on what type of outlets or information is eligible for an info label. Engadget has reached out for comment, and will update when we hear back.

While there’s some evidence that suggests efforts by social media platforms to tag misinformation and hoaxes has worked to stop their spread, a large amount of misinformation still slips through the cracks. And unfortunately, additional research indicates that the absence of these warnings (the lack of a climate information label, for instance) increases the "perceived accuracy" of content.

Biden administration forms Buy Clean Task Force to decarbonize federal procurement

On Tuesday, the Biden administration established the country’s first-ever Buy Clean Task Force. The organization will work with federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Transportation, to source low-carbon construction materials from American factories. In part, it will do so by producing recommendations on incentives and technical assistance the federal government can provide to domestic manufacturers to better report and reduce their emissions. It will also help the government identify materials it should use as part of federally funded projects, and establish pilot programs to purchase those materials.

“Focusing on industry is a really big deal,” according to David Hart, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia. He told The New York Times the federal government had previously “neglected” to address greenhouse gas emissions produced by the “difficult and important” industrial sector. Part of the issue was that there was no single agency tasked with pushing companies that produce steel, aluminum, concrete and other important building materials to reduce their impact on the environment.

To that point, the US industrial sector is responsible for approximately one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. As the single largest consumer in the world, with an annual budget of approximately $650 billion to spend on goods and services, the federal government has a lot of buying power it can use to incentivize industrial players to change how they go about producing those essential materials.

With its landmark climate change legislation stuck in political gridlock, the Biden administration has turned to executive action to try and meet the president’s ambitious goal to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. For instance, it recently announced new measures to clean up and harden the US power grid by investing money in transmission line upgrades and smart grid improvements. Those efforts have put forward meaningful climate policy, but the scale of the climate crisis demands support from all parts of the federal government, not just the executive branch.