The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
When Japan dramatically slashed its plans last week for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, from 25 percent to just 3.8 percent compared to 2005 figures, the international reaction was swift and damning.
Britain called it “deeply disappointing.” China’s climate negotiator, Su Wei, said, “I have no way of describing my dismay.” The Alliance of Small Island Nations, which represents islands most at risk of sea level rise, branded the move “a huge step backwards.”
The decision was based on the fact that Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors—which had provided about 30 percent of the country’s electricity—are currently shuttered for safety checks after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, despite the government trying to bring some of them back online. That nuclear energy is largely being replaced by fossil fuels.
Aid agencies are still digging through rubble in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which was just one of many record-smashing oceanic storms to spring up in the last decade. Insurance adjusters have already pegged Haiyan’s price tag alone—counting damage to homes, businesses, and farms—at $14.5 billion. Today, as politicians and policy wonks dive into a second week of UN climate talks in Warsaw, the Philippines’ lead delegate has called for developed nations whose industrial emissions drive climate change to foot the bill for disasters like this. It could be one hell of a bill: Natural disasters altogether have cost the world $3.8 trillion since 1980, according to a new report from the World Bank.
As we reported this week, some of the world’s richest nations are lagging behind on their climate protection pledges. Most often, these commitments follow the formula: “We aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions X percent below year Y levels by year Z.” It seems like a straightforward proposition, but have you ever wondered where those numbers come from? The answer is a scientific concept known as the carbon budget, and like a teenager with her first credit card, we’re well on our way to blowing right through it.
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
The growing fracking industry is “yielding gushers” of campaign donations for congressional candidates—particularly Republicans from districts with fracking activity—according to a new report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The report, “Natural Cash: How the Fracking Industry Fuels Congress,” examines data compiled by MapLight covering a period spanning from 2004 to 2012. In that time, CREW finds, contributions from companies that operate hydraulic fracturing wells and fracking-related industry groups rose 180 percent, from $4.3 million nine years ago to about $12 million in the last election cycle.
Environment and development groups together with young people, trade unions and social movements walked out of the UN climate talks on Thursday in protest at what they say is the slow speed and lack of ambition of the negotiations in Warsaw.
Wearing T-shirts reading “Volverermos” (We will return), around 800 people from organisations including Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, the Confederation and ActionAid, handed back their registration badges to the UN and left Poland’s national stadium, where the talks are being held.
“Movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. This will be the first time ever that there has been a mass withdrawal from a COP,” said a WWF spokesman.
Among the most impressive ecological findings of the past 25 years is the ability of invasive plants to radically change ecosystem function. Yet few if any studies have examined whether ecosystem impacts of invasions persist over time, and what that means for plant communities and ecosystem restoration. UC Santa Barbara’s Carla D’Antonio, Schuyler Professor of Environmental Studies, has conducted one of the only long-term studies of plant invader impacts that spans two decades. Returning to the same grass-invaded field sites in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that she used in her 1990-1995 studies, D’Antonio, along with postdoctoral scholar Stephanie Yelenik, gathered new data that shed light on mechanisms regulating exotic plant dominance and community change through invasion. The findings are published online today in Nature.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels are set to rise again in 2013, reaching a record high of 36 billion tonnes – according to new figures from the Global Carbon Project, co-led by researchers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The 2.1 per cent rise projected for 2013 means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 61 per cent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol. Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia led the Global Carbon Budget report. She said: “Governments meeting in Warsaw this week need to agree on how to reverse this trend. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees. Additional emissions every year cause further warming and climate change.” Alongside the latest Carbon Budget is the launch of the Carbon Atlas – a new online platform showing the world’s biggest carbon emitters more clearly than ever before.
The flight season timing of a wide variety of butterflies is responsive to temperature and could be altered by climate change, according to a UBC study that leverages more than a century’s worth of museum and weather records. Researchers from UBC, the Université de Sherbrooke and the University of Ottawa combed through Canadian museum collections of more than 200 species of butterflies and matched them with weather station data going back 130 years. They found butterflies possess a widespread temperature sensitivity, with flight season occurring on average 2.4 days earlier per degree Celsius of temperature increase.
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