The Eco News Roundup brings stories and commentary about issues related to climate change, renewable energy and the environment.
LE BOURGET, France — With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.
The deal, which was met with an eruption of cheers and ovations from thousands of delegates gathered from around the world, represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change.
Traditionally, such pacts have required developed economies like the United States to take action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries like China and India from such obligations.
The accord, which United Nations diplomats have been working toward for nine years, changes that dynamic by requiring action in some form from every country, rich or poor.
A group of 195 nations reached a landmark climate agreement on Saturday. Here is what it means for the planet, business and other areas.
LE BOURGET, France — The Paris climate-change conference was supposed to be about the needs of big countries and what they are willing to do to slow the warming of Earth’s atmosphere. But in the end, the two weeks of sometimes round-the-clock negotiations focused at least as much on some of the smallest, most defenseless nations whose very existence could hinge on the outcome of the talks.
The result, it now appears, could be a tougher set of policy goals than anyone originally thought could emerge from the conference. A newly released draft agreement, to be voted on Saturday, pledges the world to limit global warming to “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,” but also to “pursue efforts” towards a far more challenging and aspirational goal to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”
The global climate summit in Paris forged a landmark agreement on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.
After four years of fraught U.N. talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, imperiled island states against rising economic powerhouses, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared the pact adopted, to the standing applause and whistles of delegates from almost 200 nations.
“With a small hammer you can achieve great things,” Fabius said as he gaveled the agreement, capping two weeks of tense negotiations at the summit on the outskirts of the French capital.
Hailed as the first truly global climate deal, committing both rich and poor nations to reining in rising emissions blamed for warming the planet, it sets out a sweeping, long-term goal of eliminating net manmade greenhouse gas output this century.
“It is a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. negotiations in Paris.
As pollution from burning fossil fuels continues to heat the atmosphere, the world’s glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate. Scientists widely agree that this meltwater has been a major factor in raising global sea levels about seven inches over the 20th century.
The movement of all that water is affecting the Earth’s rotation, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.
“If you are melting glaciers from high latitudes—in Alaska, Greenland, or Iceland—you move mass away from the pole, toward the equator, which slows the Earth down,” said Jerry Mitrovica, the study’s lead author and a Harvard geophysicist who specializes in studying sea level change. “The change in the distribution of the mass from the poles to lower latitudes also causes the rotation to wobble slightly, because it’s being redistributed unequally.”
As world leaders hold climate talks in Paris, research shows that land surface temperatures may rise by an average of almost 8C by 2100, if significant efforts are not made to counteract climate change. Such a rise would have a devastating impact on life on Earth. It would place billions of people at risk from extreme temperatures, flooding, regional drought, and food shortages.
The study calculated the likely effect of increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases above pre-industrialisation amounts. It finds that if emissions continue to grow at current rates, with no significant action taken by society, then by 2100 global land temperatures will have increased by 7.9C, compared with 1750.
Cleaning up the water left over from mining operations can literally take generations – 25 to 50 years on average – leaving billions of gallons of the precious resource locked up and useless. Now, a University of Florida researcher has figured out how to trim that time dramatically – to just two to three hours, a potential boon to mining companies, the environment and global regions where water is scarce.
“I think the ability to save water is going to be really big, especially when you’re talking about China and other parts of the world,” said Mark Orazem a distinguished professor of chemical engineering in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.
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Photo Credit: 21st Annual Conference of Parties, Paris