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Internet Television

Taking cues from Chromecast, Sharp turns TVs into art displays 08 January 2015, 00.14 Internet Television
Taking cues from Chromecast, Sharp turns TVs into art displays
One of the features Sharp had on display at its CES booth looked vaguely familiar: Sharp’s 2015 TVs automatically display a series of works of art and great-looking photos when not in use, which the company is calling
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Online outlets showed Hebdo images but offline media didn’t. Why? 08 January 2015, 00.14 Internet Television
Online outlets showed Hebdo images but offline media didn’t. Why?
As the world struggled to understand the violence in Paris, where 12 cartoonists and other staff at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo were gunned down by Islamic extremists, media outlets were faced with a challenge: Should
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Neil Young: Pono won’t be a hardware company for long (video interview)
Neil Young’s high-definition audio startup Pono just started selling its Pono player, but the music legend told me during an interview at CES in Las Vegas Wednesday that he sees Pono getting out of the hardware business
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Tesco sells Blinkbox to TalkTalk and may offload Dunnhumby 08 January 2015, 00.14 Internet Television
Tesco sells Blinkbox to TalkTalk and may offload Dunnhumby
The British supermarket giant Tesco is, to put it mildly, having financial difficulties. On Thursday it unveiled a range of measures that it hopes will help dig it out of its hole. These include the sale of Tesco Broadband and
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Deezer buys mobile-focused Muve Music from Cricket / AT&T 08 January 2015, 00.14 Internet Television
Deezer buys mobile-focused Muve Music from Cricket / AT&T
Paris-based music streaming service Deezer has acquired Muve Music, the mobile-focused music service from Leap Wireless. Leap is a virtual mobile operator better known for its Cricket service, which was itself acquired by
Read More 599 Hits 0 Ratings

Earth News Reports

Top 7 WTF Fashion, Beauty Stories of 2015 (Vote for the Most Deplorable)
From toxic fire retardants in popular nail polishes to the brutal treatment of alligators that are skinned to make Hermès Birkin bags, here are seven stories that eroded our faith in humanity. Above, three years after a
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Green Transportation | Inhabitat - Green Design, Innovation, Architecture, Green Building
Welcome to Inhabitat, your online guide to the best green design ideas, innovations and inspiration to build a cleaner, brighter, and better future. Get the free Inhabitat Newsletter
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Top 7 Bizarre Eco-Fashion Stories of 2015 (Vote for the Weirdest)
Leave a Comment Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Please note that gratuitous links to your site are viewed as spam and
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Top 7 Recycled Fashion Designs of 2015 (Vote for the Most Creative!)
No failures of the imagination here. From sneakers made from recycled ocean plastic to salvaged "Sheltersuits" that convert from weather-resistant jackets into sleeping bags for the homeless, here are seven closed-loop designs
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The best of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
The best of the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards
Grand prizes for photography always give us the chance to discover spectacular, touching, or beautiful photos. Too often, the photos are a bit too serious, making us hope for something a bit lighter to handle. The Comedy
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Qwerkywriter: a tablet keyboard that looks like a mechanical one 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
Qwerkywriter: a tablet keyboard that looks like a mechanical one
There is a reason why vintage products are so popular nowadays, there is some physical relation with it that can’t compare to the experience we have with electronic products. Qwerkywriter perfectly catches on this trend
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Top Web Design Trends to Watch for 2016 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
Top Web Design Trends to Watch for 2016
That’s right, folks, we’ve followed an amazing set of design trends through 2015, and now we’re selecting our pick to watch for 2016. And just as in graphic design and fashion, there are usually some
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Phoreus Cherokee, a typeface to modernize the Cherokee language 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
Phoreus Cherokee, a typeface to modernize the Cherokee language
With only 10’000 people still speaking the Cherokee language, it is becoming urgent for them to save one of the few remains of what was once a great nation. There are no magic methods to save a language, but a graphic
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These Victorian-era Christmas cards were dark and funny 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
These Victorian-era Christmas cards were dark and funny
When you think of the Victorian era, you probably get serious images popping in your head. There is a good reason for that, photos from that period of time required that people stood still to get a clear image. If you do a
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A 3D printed shoe made from collected ocean plastic waste 29 December 2015, 23.09 Green Architecture
A 3D printed shoe made from collected ocean plastic waste
The fact that you don’t see ocean plastic waste on a daily basis doesn’t make it less of a terrifying problem for the future of the planet’s ecosystem. If you are not convinced, just do yourself a little
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Horoscope by Question Kit


Future News Reports

Obama's War Against US Energy Independence:  Give Away Oil Rich Alaskan Islands to Russia!
  By Joe Miller The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab
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OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials 08 April 2012, 02.33 Administrator Energy
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials Visit for further information OSBIT Power (OP), Siemens Wind Power and Statoil have successfully completed offshore
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North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost 12 January 2012, 02.01 Administrator Energy
North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost
        North America’s EV charging infrastructure may soon see significant improvements, thanks to a recent agreement between Eaton Corporation and Coulomb Technologies. Under the deal, Eaton’s Level II and
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Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source? 28 May 2011, 01.34 Administrator Energy
Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source?
      Have scientists already unknowingly discovered the source for all atomic energy reactions, and could the discovery of the gravitomagnetic field be the ultimate energy source?  What if our understandings on how
Read More 7451 Hits 1 Rating
Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation 25 September 2011, 16.27 Administrator Energy
Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation
Physicists wary of junking light speed limit yet Physicist Antonio Ereditato poses before presenting the result of an experiment, which found a subatomic particle, the neutrino, seemed to move faster than the speed of
Read More 4276 Hits 1 Rating
STEORN ORBO  FREE ENERGY:  What's Next a Self Charging Unit for your Electric Car?
Steorn's Free Energy Orbo -- From Permanent Magnets to Solid State Systems   My associate, Hank Mills composed this for PESN, Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:17 Steorn is a small company based in Dublin, Ireland. For
Read More 6122 Hits 1 Rating
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field 16 January 2011, 09.17 Administrator Energy
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy  from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field
Cold Fusion "In Bologna we did it" By Ilaria VENTURI, La Republica News, Bolona, Italy For the first time in Italy, in front of experts, the process was carried out using nickel and hydrogen. It 's the way to achieve
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Abu Dhabi Media Zone to generate renewable energy through its façade
Eco Factor: Sustainable development to generate renewable solar energy. Bernard Tschumi Architects have re-imagined their master plan for the new Abu Dhabi Media Zone, by incorporating several environmentally-friendly
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Change The World!

Latest Published Articles



Arsenic Contaminates India's Groundwater PDF Print E-mail

Sustainable development is a tricky thing. At least 140 million people in Asia are drinking arsenic-contaminated water, and the ever-expanding use of groundwater wells—a growing population needs water to drink, and farmers need it to grow crops to feed them—has been making the situation worse. Pumping out this water has changed the courses of underground streams, so previously clean water now flows through arsenic-laden sediments, and wells that used to be pure in villages once healthy suddenly pump out death. The naturally occurring arsenic kills human cells, leading first to skin scarring and then, as it slowly builds up in the body, to brain damage, heart disease and cancer.

Arsenic-laced groundwater has been found in at least 30 countries, from Argentina to China, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as parts of Canada and the U.S., but the problem is particularly bad in India and Bangladesh as irrigation expands. Scientists have recently been trying to map the underground landscape in an attempt to pinpoint safer places to sink the wells.  But so far the subterranean flow changes and rates of chemical reactions have been outpacing the predictive ability of the maps. Alexander van Geen, a geochemist at Columbia Univeristy's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and other scientists discuss the problem and related issues of groundwater management in the video below.

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Microbeads, Marine Debris, Regulation and the Precautionary Principle PDF Print E-mail

A small, one could say, micro-sized miracle took place earlier this month as the United States Congress enacted the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015. This legislation requires that manufacturers remove the beads, largely used in cosmetics, from their products by July 2017. These beads are too small to be stopped by sewage treatment plants and, once in the waters, attract toxic chemicals and find their way into fish that eat them as if they were food. We in turn eat the fish and unknowingly ingest the toxics. The miracle is that the U.S. Congress passed a piece of environmental law. According to John Schwartz of the New York Times:

"A bill to protect the environment was introduced in the House in March. In early December, the House passed the bill. A week later, the Senate passed it as well, without changing a word and by unanimous consent, just before Congress left town on Friday. That is the strangely charmed life of the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which sailed through Congress in an age when most legislation plods."

As Mr. Schwartz' piece indicates, there were many good reasons that the law was passed. First, many large manufacturers were already dropping their use of the microbeads, having learned of its environmental impact. Second, a number of states had already enacted statewide bans and others were considering them. But the state laws were inconsistent and would make doing business difficult for cosmetic firms. National legislation was better for business. Business lobby groups and the cosmetics industry supported the national ban and so there was really no significant opposition to it from anywhere.

Microbeads are a small part of the much larger problem of marine debris. As more people consume more products that are made of substances that do not biodegrade easily, if at all, the volume of plastics that end up in our waterways continues to grow. The cost of cleaning up the oceans is impossible to quantify, and communities near the water are spending more and more money trying to clean their beaches and prevent trash from entering the water in the first place. Last spring I advised a group of Columbia students in our MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program who worked for our local environmental agencies to quantify the costs of preventing trash from entering the waterways in New York and New Jersey. The group surveyed municipalities along the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and learned that "these municipalities spend $59,063,285 dollars a year on marine debris waste management activities. This translates to a per capita cost of $6.16, and $75,407 per square mile."

The problem of marine debris is large and grows every day. Writing in National Geographic Laura Parker observes:

"The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. Scientists call these statistics the "wow factor" of ocean trash. The tallies, published last year in three separate scientific papers, are useful in red-flagging the scope of the problem for the public. But beyond the shock value, just how does adding up those rice-size fragments of plastic help solve the problem? Although scientists have known for decades about the accumulating mass of ocean debris and its deadly consequences for seabirds, fish, and marine animals, the science of sea trash is young and full of as-yet unsolved mysteries. Indeed, until scientists learn more about where ocean trash is, how densely plastic accumulates in different ocean ecosystems, and how it degrades, they can't really calculate the damage it's causing. There are still big, basic questions: As it degrades, do plastic toxins seep into the marine environment? If so, how and in what amounts?"

We know that there is a lot of junk in the ocean, but our knowledge of its environmental impact remains superficial and requires additional observation, data collection and analysis. We also need a new approach to introducing new technologies into economic production. Except for new drug and medical technologies which must be tested before they are allowed to be sold, other new technologies are introduced first and only regulated after damage is proven. The introduction of drugs conforms to the precautionary principle, the introduction of other technologies conform to what we could call the reactionary principle: react after the fact and only if the damage is beyond question.

We are all like the canary that used to be lowered into the mine to see if the air was poisoned. If the canary came back dead, the miners were not allowed into the mine. If it came back alive the miners could go to work. In a more crowded world with more and more technology being developed that can damage living fauna, flora and beings, we need to understand the full impact of the new technologies we are developing. This requires a deeper understanding of earth systems science and a deeper understanding of the main and side effects of all new technologies.

The critique of prior testing of new technology is that it would inhibit innovation and the development of new technologies. It might do that, and inhibiting damaging technologies would be a good thing. There are already a number of constraints on innovation such as unimaginative management, inadequate finance, and inadequate institutional capacity. Adding a regulatory hurdle would slow things down a bit, but it would also reduce the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. In the case of microbeads, sewage treatment plant operators could have commented before the technology was ever used, and the same substitutes that will now replace the beads could have been used from the start. How many other easily replaceable technologies are now in use and damaging the planet? We don't know and have no way of easily finding out.

While policy attention is focused on large, world-scale issues such as climate change, the planet continues to die the death of a thousand cuts. We ignore the day-to-day destruction that derives from an economic paradigm that has not yet internalized the need to assess the environmental impacts of new technologies and products. It is clear that the hunger for economic growth and wealth pushes business and governments to ignore environmental impacts that are considered an inevitable byproduct of development. But this fails to account for the costs that will inevitably be borne when the damage must be cleaned up. A more careful production process with pollution control technologies may cost more in the short run, but it saves money in the long run. And to the degree that businesses are convinced that they must adhere to environmental standards to avoid sanctions, they will push their engineers and production managers to develop innovative methods of controlling environmental impacts.

End of pipeline effluent standards and end of smokestack emission standards are necessary to ensure environmental quality. But so too is prior testing of new technologies and products before they are permitted into the marketplace. While some toxic substances degrade and pose little long-term harm to ecosystems, others are highly persistent and find their way up the food chain and can affect human health. The success of the microbead legislation is important and indicates that it is possible for the United States Congress to find common ground and ban unneeded toxics. The deeper change needed is far tougher and is a long way off. We need to spend more money to better understand the impact of technology on the natural environment and human health. And we must ensure that new technologies are only introduced after we have assessed their impact on the planet.

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Why the Freakishly Warm Weather? PDF Print E-mail

No weather event has a unique cause. Every weather event, this one included, has multiple factors that conspire to make it what it is.

The atmosphere is always twisting and turning around, chaotically, with a mind of its own. Any truly extreme event results in large part from that effectively random behavior. For that reason, the specifics of individual extreme events are not predictable far ahead of time -- weather forecasting, which is the science of predicting this chaotic component, generally doesn't work for periods beyond a couple of weeks.

But the climate sets the stage, pushing things in one direction or another and influencing the odds that an extreme event of a given type will occur.

By making the whole planet warmer, human emissions of greenhouse gases increase the odds of a warm event like this one -- or its more dangerous hypothetical summer counterpart. If we define the event by specifying a fixed threshold -- some number of degrees above average for some number of days, say -- the global warming that we've already had makes that threshold more likely to be crossed.

Or we can look at it another way: If the specific weather situation -- the configuration of the high and low pressure systems, the jet stream, and so forth -- were to have been in the the same state 200 years ago as today, it would have still been warm, but it wouldn't have been quite as warm as today.

Besides human influence, the climate also fluctuates naturally. The most important natural fluctuation this winter is El Niño, a change in the state of both the ocean and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific that comes every few years or so. The coming and going of El Nino events happens on a pace much faster than that of human-induced climate change, but still much slower and steadier than the day-to-day weather, so it makes sense to think of it as another factor gently nudging the weather in one direction.

In addition to human-induced climate change, the big El Niño currently in place is very likely a significant factor in the present eastern warmth, because of the way it pushes the jet stream around. That's why a warm December was predicted well ahead of time (though not to the extreme that has happened); we knew through the fall that the El Niño would still be in place now, and what its effects on the U.S. tend to be.

El Niño doesn't drive the bus by itself any more than global warming does. There's still a lot of wiggle room for the atmosphere to do its own thing. That's very apparent in the Pacific Northwest, where I am now. Normally an El Niño makes it dry here, but instead it's been the rainiest December in history. So the atmosphere's own variability must be important as well. Each of these factors is present, and likely playing some role in the specific event we see transpiring now.

But just saying that every possible cause matters to an extreme weather event isn't very satisfying. Which cause matters the most, by how much and in what sense? Can we measure these various influences on the weather with numbers?

In principle, we can. There is now a growing scientific research area that attempts to do this called "extreme event attribution." Attribution studies try to quantify the influence of specific causes (including, but not limited to human-induced climate change) on some individual weather events, rather than just the larger patterns that climate science has historically been about. The National Academy of Sciences is currently performing a study on this relatively new and rapidly evolving field. (Full disclosure: I'm on the committee that is performing the study.)

This warm event is still ongoing, so attribution studies haven't been done on it yet. But they will come. The science is reaching the point where we can make real scientific statements about the factors influencing individual weather events like this one, with numbers and statistical confidence intervals and multiple lines of evidence.

So is the current eastern warmth due to human-induced climate change? How about the massive El Niño event that is currently underway in the tropical Pacific? Or is it just an extreme random fluctuation of the weather?

Detailed answers have to await the research to be done. But the basic, general answer, glib but likely true, is: Yes.

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COP21: Historic Agreement Reached PDF Print E-mail

  • In a historic moment, all the world’s countries came together to signal that it’s game over for fossil fuels

  • By supporting such an ambitious deal, governments have shown unity with the world’s most vulnerable

  • For world leaders, the hard work begins now. A Paris agreement is not the end point, but rather a tipping point for the climate movement

195 countries reached across traditional divides today to unite behind the greatest moral challenge of our time and seal the deal on a historic climate accord.

The Paris Agreement is an inclusive, ambitious, science-based deal that recognizes the urgency and scale of action required to address climate change, and hastens the transition from dirty to clean energy that is well underway.

The Paris Agreement heralds the end of the fossil fuel era, giving the world the tools to drive emissions to net zero, to protect the world’s poor and vulnerable, and to address the desperate pollution situation in India and China.

People have been peacefully marching on the street for years, while diverse groups like faith, health, parents, unionists, Indigenous peoples, cities, businesses and investors among others have long called for climate action. Civil society will continue to put pressure on leaders – starting today and ramping up in the next few months – to ensure real world change continues to accelerate. In the spirit of this global response to the global climate crisis, the Paris agreement puts forth a new imperative to make a real and lasting difference.

Get the detailed background on what was achieved here.

Key points

In a historic moment, all the world’s countries came together to signal that it’s game over for fossil fuels. Faced with the fundamental shift already taking place in the world’s economy and no longer able to ignore the growing calls for climate action, 195 governments have, today, used their collective strength to protect the public and forge a legally binding agreement tackle the growing threat of climate change. This includes a commitment to a long-term goal to bring emissions down to zero and a regular review of national commitments every five years to get us there.

By supporting such an ambitious deal, governments have shown unity with the world’s most vulnerable. As the impacts of climate change hit home in communities around the world, from Chennai to the Philippines to the UK, the voice of vulnerable communities has been heard in Paris like never before, and the new agreement recognises their needs and concerns. It keeps the door open to limiting warming to 1.5DegC, while setting a bar for increasing support for the most vulnerable people, including scaling up finance.

For world leaders, the hard work begins now. While Paris marks the beginning of the new era for climate action, there is far more to be done by governments to further accelerate the transition to a 100 per cent renewable future and ensure that communities can adapt and are protected from climate impacts. All eyes are now on nations to use the commitments enshrined in the Paris agreement to urgently speed up the ongoing energy transition at a national level, and come back to the table and increase their climate commitments as soon as possible.

A Paris agreement is not the end point, but rather a tipping point for the climate movement. Everyone has is at risk from a warming planet, and scaling up action early will bring benefits for us all. As the gavel goes down on the UN climate talks, people from all walks of life are already pushing harder to keep fossil fuels in the ground – choosing instead a just transition to a future powered by renewables. As the transition gets stronger and faster in a post-Paris world, citizens around the world will continue to hold governments and corporations accountable as they work to make the spirit of the agreement part of the fibre of life.

Our full brief on the what Paris delivered

Our team from have pulled together a full brief on the outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference:


Check it out to find an in-depth overview of COP21’s outcome – analysis on what’s in the new accord and what it means; quotes from our partners and peers; and a number of links to resources to better understand what’s happened and what comes next.



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COP21: Day 11 and Optimism PDF Print E-mail

Reviewing The Agreement Press Brief A review of the Draft Agreement was conducted just before midnight to highlight the development of the text in relation to the demands of the people. Photos by; Joel Lukhovi | Survival Media Agency (CC)

Reviewing The Agreement Press Brief
A review of the Draft Agreement was conducted just before midnight to highlight the development of the text in relation to the demands of the people.
Photos by; Joel Lukhovi | Survival Media Agency (CC)

  • Latest draft text is ambitious, but significant work remains

  • Ministers negotiating through the night to deliver a new global climate deal

We’re rolling this quick update out at just past 2 am on Friday morning. COP21, the Paris Climate Change Conference is still underway, with ministers once again working through the night to usher in a new global climate agreement.

The latest draft agreement shows significant progress since yesterday – our Climate Trackers rolled out an infographic documenting the changes.

There are many important impacts of this deal, but three stand out particularly:

195 Countries, the world, has committed to tackling climate change and they have all done it together. Almost every country made a contribution in the run up to this meeting and that spirit of constructive co-operation has pervaded this meeting.

The developing countries have made it clear for years that this agreement needs to reflect the fact that the developed countries, and the fossil fuels they have burned, have caused most of this problem to date.

But every country now acknowledges that all countries, big and small, rich and poor, have to act if we are to avoid further dangerous interference with the climate system.

On that basis it is vital to all parties that the deal is Fair if it is to be legitimate and sustainable, and we see the building blocks of a fair deal in this text.

It’s ambitious

The long term goal as expressed here sets the objective for the reduction of greenhouse gases to zero this century. That means 100% clean energy by mid century. The fossil fuel era end here in Paris. It will take some years to complete the transition, but this deal will massively accelerate the growth of clean energy infrastructure, scaling the technology we already have and driving further innovation.

Everyone has won something significant in getting this far

and that was the only way this agreement was ever going to be reached. It’s fair, fairly ambitious and creates the platform we need for the final Paris Agreement.

Grist that caught our eye

Marshall Islands Minister, Tony De Brum, offered a reaction to the text that helps capture the sense of ambition within in the coming hours:

“There is a clear recognition that the world must work towards limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that it would be much safer to do so.  With this, I would be able to go home and tell my people that our chance for survival is not lost.”

“The language on emissions neutrality sends a clear signal that the world will rapidly bend the emissions curve and phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century.  Governments and businesses across the world would know that renewable energy is unquestionably the new game in town.”

Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe brought the health perspective:

“This new Presidents’ text takes us one step closer to a Paris Agreement which could secure this future, protecting the public from the impacts of climate change – the defining health issue of this century. A strong agreement in Paris must bolster community resilience, strengthen our health systems, and help tackle inequalities.”

Speaking at a press briefing Friday evening, Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the WRI’s Climate Program, warned that work to finalize the will be difficult:

“At this critical summit, the negotiations must be exceptional. The big question is which leaders are going to step forward to grasp this moment and make the agreement both fair and ambitious? Ten days ago leaders came to Paris calling for a strong climate agreement. Now those leaders need to start picking up the phone and work together to turn those words into action.”

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COP21: Day 10 and a New Text PDF Print E-mail

  • Steam-lined text released Wednesday, retaining options for a credible pathway to 1.5ºC

  • US to double grant-based support for adaptation in developing country’s by 2020

  • Ministers work through the night with a new draft due out early Thursday afternoon

The movement for a strong Paris outcome is gathering support from across the spectrum as COP21, the climate summit enters its last few days. Civil society groups, including trade unionists, youth, gender, and Indigenous peoples united today for a sit-in inside the summit venue, calling for an ambitious Paris deal that delivers on emissions reductions as well as finance and support for the most vulnerable and justice for impacted people.

A new text was released on Wednesday afternoon. The latest draft contains options that could anchor the majority of countries’ calls for limiting climate change to 1.5ºC and options for a credible pathway to deliver – speeding the renewable energy revolution, scaling-up ambition, climate finance and climate resilience over time – are still on the table.

Many of our partners commented, calling on countries to choose the strongest possible options in COP21’s final hours. Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Advisor, Christian Aid said:

“The next 24 hours are critical. This is where the real negotiations will begin. We really need countries to fight to keep in the high ambition options on climate finance, the long term decarbonisation goal and a ratchet mechanism to ensure the agreement evolves to meet the needs of a changing world.”

With lots of work ahead, COP President Laurent Fabius announced that parties would work through the night and release a new draft early Thursday afternoon.

News, links & useful grist that caught our eye

In Paris, the US announced plans to double its grant based climate finance for adaptation by 2020, encouraging other countries to follow suit. According to The Hill, back in Washington, President Obama is working the phones. He’s called a number of heads of state, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday to discuss the progress.

IndyACT called out the continued obstruction of Saudi Arabia in an advertisement in Wednesday’s Financial Times, making the case that “it is in the economic interest of Saudi Arabia to diversify its economy, and reduce its dependence on the fossil fuel trade. Any shock in the energy market, such as the current low oil prices, will heavily impact the Saudi’s economy.”

In addition to the sit-in that brought together civil society from across the spectrum, a number of additional actions added pressure for a fair and ambitious Paris outcome. Survival Media has pictures of the house-sized polar bear Greenpeace dragged into Le Bourget to support their call for ‘Climate Action Now.’ and a ‘Fossil Free Culture’ action at the Louvre Museum.

Today’s Fossil of the Day award went to Argentina and Australia. Both countries are supportive of the 1.5ºC degree goal – which is a good thing. Unfortunately, both governments have played a different game on the domestic front – making moves Tuesday in support of their respective coal industries.



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Fighting climate change requires more than soothing fantasies PDF Print E-mail

By ,

On climate change, curb your enthusiasm. It’s not that the recent international conference in Paris didn’t take significant steps to check global warming. It did. Nearly 200 countries committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from preindustrial times was reaffirmed. The trouble is that what’s being attempted is so fundamentally difficult that even these measures may be wildly unequal to the task.

What’s being attempted, of course, is the wholesale replacement of the world economy’s reliance on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) for four-fifths of its energy. To be sure, the shift is envisioned to take decades, four or five at a minimum. Still, the vast undertaking may exceed human capability.

Hence, a conundrum. Without energy, the world economy shuts down, threatening economic and social chaos. But the consequences of climate change, assuming the scientific consensus is accurate, are also grim — from rising sea levels (threatening coastal cities) to harsher droughts (reducing food supplies).

It’s useful to split the discussion into two parts. On the existence of human-driven warming, I accept the dominant scientific view, mainly because I’m not technically qualified to dispute it. But I have doubted that, without major breakthroughs in energy technology, we can do much about warming. The addiction to fossil fuels will triumph.

Paris confirms that view. Rather than show how much progress we’ve made, it demonstrates how little maneuvering room we have. Consider some estimates from IHS, a consulting company. In 2012, it reports, the world generated 45 gigatons of greenhouse gases, up 50 percent since 1990. Without new policies, that total would rise to 60 gigatons by 2030, IHS projects. But the national pledges made in Paris would hold the 2030 total to 50 gigatons. That’s good news, right? Well, not exactly.

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would require that emissions in 2030 drop to 35 gigatons, reckons IHS. So even with the Paris pledges, we’re about 40 percent above the goal. Moreover, IHS thinks that some pledged cuts won’t materialize. They are political gestures or depend on unproven technologies. There are no enforcement mechanisms.

Renewable energy — mainly wind and solar power — is supposed to rescue us. Quite likely, it won’t.

True, renewable energy is expanding rapidly in the United States. In the next two years, the solar industry expects to double its installed U.S. capacity. In 2014, wind generation was up 51 percent from 2011, according to government figures. Moreover, costs are said to have fallen sharply. The wind industry puts its decline at 60 percent over the past four years; the solar industry reports a 70 percent drop since 2009.

But these achievements need to be qualified. For starters, renewables’ rapid growth comes off a tiny base. As a result, wind supplied only 4.4 percent of U.S. electricity in 2014. Solar’s contribution was smaller, about 1 percent; for 2020, the industry’s target is 3.5 percent. Global figures are lower. The Economist magazine puts renewables’ share of world energy production at 1 percent . The fact that wind and solar are heavily subsidized in the United States, through tax breaks, suggests that recent cost reductions haven’t yet made renewables competitive with other energy sources.

Another handicap is physics: Wind and solar generate electricity only when the sun shines or the wind blows. They need backup power supplies. This hasn’t been (so far) a big problem in the United States, because we have many “base” power plants — typically fueled by coal and natural gas — that can provide backup. Developing countries are another story. Seeking to reduce their poverty, they need more bulk power, says Robert Bryce, an energy expert at the Manhattan Institute. They have favored coal.

Despite Paris, we haven’t acknowledged the difficulties of grappling with climate change, whose extent and timing are uncertain. We invent soothing fantasies to simplify matters. The notion that the world can wean itself from fossil fuels by substituting renewables is one of these. The potential isn’t large enough.

Actual choices are harder. For example, Bryce argues that only an expansion of nuclear power could replace significant volumes of fossil fuels. But greater reliance on nuclear poses its own dangers, including the disposal of atomic waste, operational accidents and vulnerability to terrorism.

It’s true that technological breakthroughs could change this. We know what’s needed: cheaper and safer nuclear power; better batteries and energy storage, boosting wind and solar by making more of their power usable; cost-effective carbon capture and storage — making coal more acceptable by burying its carbon dioxide in the ground.

We have been searching for solutions for decades with only modest success. We need to keep searching, but without meaningful advances, regulating the world’s temperature is mission impossible.

Read more from Robert Samuelson’s archive.

Read more on this topic: Curbing global warming: Mission impossible? Michael Gerson: We need a miracle on climate change George F. Will: The Paris agreement is another false ‘turning point’ on the climate Charles Krauthammer: Legacy or bust Charles Krauthammer: The new socialism

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