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Here’s How Paris Climat 2015 Went

Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian
Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian

Then at 7.16pm, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, returned abruptly to the stage, flanked by high-ranking UN officials. The last-minute compromises had been resolved, he said. And suddenly they were all on their feet. Fabius brought down the green-topped gavel, a symbol of UN talks, and announced that a Paris agreement had been signed. The delegates were clapping, cheering and whistling wildly, embracing and weeping. Even the normally reserved economist Lord Stern was whooping.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Can The World’s Mayors Save The World?

Photograph: WITT/SIPA/REX Shutterstock, via The Guardian
Photograph: WITT/SIPA/REX Shutterstock, via The Guardian

In the industrial northern suburbs of Paris, 195 countries are locked in talks to reduce national climate emissions. They sweat it out 24/7 in anonymous, hangar-sized buildings, protecting their interests, giving away as little as possible – exhausted by the 20-year struggle to make even marginal cuts.

Meanwhile in Paris’s palatial Hôtel de Ville, 450 mayors from around the world have been listening to movie stars like Leonardo di Caprio and Robert Redford. The mayors are confident, quaff the best wine and congratulate themselves on committing their cities to doing far more to combat climate change than any central governments could ever hope.

The contrast between local and national politicians in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference has been stark. What it shows is that much of the power to reduce climate emissions lies now with cities, not national governments. In the last few weeks, dozens of cities have lined up to announce targets that far surpass anything that countries can hope to do.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Let’s Use the Internet of Things to Fight Climate Change

Jack Townsend, via Grist
Jack Townsend, via Grist

…we have an incredibly powerful tool for sustainability right at our fingertips, and we don’t even realize it. In fact, you’re using it right now. It’s literally at your fingertips!

It’s the internet — that little old thing that has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives in just a matter of decades. Most people use the web as a vehicle for communication, expression, and learning, but really, it’s a vast piece of infrastructure that we could be deploying in the fight for sustainability, right alongside solar panels and urban farms.

A 2013 study from a think tank that researches market-based solutions to climate change found that using internet-connected sensor networks (aka the Internet of Things — check out our video explainer here) to do things like match energy output with demand, improve the efficiency of internal heating systems, better regulate water use, and route vehicles around traffic could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by as much as nine gigatons by 2020. That’s the equivalent of the 2010 emissions of India and the U.S. combined.

Read the rest on Grist.

What We Could Actually Achieve at Paris Climat 2015

Workers install a heliostat for Unit 1 with mountains reflected in its mirrors. Photo by JAMEY STILLINGS via The New Republic.
Workers install a heliostat for Unit 1 with mountains reflected in its mirrors. Photo by JAMEY STILLINGS via The New Republic.

RIGHT NOW, we’re in a car, hanging on for dear life as we hurtle around a mountain bend. If we don’t hit the brakes soon, we’re going to lose control, crash through the guardrail, and careen into the abyss. We’ve been fully warned about the danger ahead, but now here we are, testing our fate.

Already, the effects of climate change are clear and significant. Last year was the hottest in recorded history, and it’s all but certain that 2015 will set a new record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wildfires in the West this year have consumed a massive eight million acres of land and counting, while superstorms like Katrina and Sandy are becoming stronger and more frequent. But that’s just the beginning. By the end of the century, the planet will become unrecognizable. The western United States will face Dust Bowl-like conditions that will persist for more than 30 years. As the oceans rise, island nations like the Maldives could disappear completely, while millions of people in Miami, New York, and Bangladesh will be forced from their homes. Looking further out, over the next several hundred years, the melting ice caps could cause sea levels to surge up to 200 feet, high enough to sink a ten-story building.

Read the rest on The New Republic.

The PR Push for Paris Climat 2015

Michel Euler/EPA, via The Guardian
Michel Euler/EPA, via The Guardian

France has launched an unprecedented diplomatic drive to shepherd nations big and small towards a major climate change deal, ahead of a Paris summit next month that is the next major make-or-break moment for the movement against global warming.

Every one of France’s ambassadors, in embassies and consulates around the globe, has been educated on the demands of climate change, and instructed in how to communicate the messages to the governments they deal with, ahead of the summit, which starts on 30 November.

Ambassadors have been holding public events, private meetings, talks with their diplomatic counterparts, businesses, NGOs and even schoolchildren.

At home, the outer walls of the foreign ministry, a stately 19th-century edifice on the banks of the Seine, are covered in a series of banners declaring, in several languages, the messages of Paris Climat 2015. Even the Eiffel Tower, further down the riverbank, has been pressed into service, lit up at night with climate slogans.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

Does de Blasio Know Something about Food that You Don’t Know?

by Ross Miranti

Foodies of many stripes have welcomed the election of democrat Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City for his progressive views on issues such as food justice, food security, and local food. But there is one important food issue de Blasio supports that does not get much attention from food activists: global food production has an enormous impact on the climate.

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As city councilmember in 2009, de Blasio sponsored a resolution on New York City’s ‘Foodprint,’ citing the many ways that food contributes to global warming: packaging, shipping, and, above all, the emissions from livestock production, which, as stated in the resolution, accounts for more emissions than all transportation combined. In collaboration with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and with the support of NGOs and other city councilmembers, the resolution called on the city to adopt climate-friendly food policies that include “financial and technical support, a public awareness campaign regarding the city’s food consumption and production patterns, and greater access to local, fresh, healthy food.”

The resolution was non-binding but shows that local policy-makers are aware of the connection between food and climate change and recognize the need to reform the city’s food system. It was similar to Chicago city council’s ‘Green Food’ resolution, which received unanimous support earlier in 2009, both in its content and in that neither resolution has been translated into policy change.

Though there is a global consensus that climate change is manmade and demands immediate attention, the role of food in global warming is not widely recognized – for example, Al Gore did not mention the issue in his film An Inconvenient Truth, though he has since spoken about the need to reduce meat consumption. In this sense, perhaps the value of these city-level resolutions is their power to raise awareness about the food-climate issue and to link global warming to local lifestyles. While it is somewhat promising to see the food-climate debate taken up in New York City, there are many obstacles to overcome if local and global food systems are to be sustainable and climate-friendly.

First, while the UNEP, FAO, and environmental specialists from the World Bank Group recognize that livestock is responsible for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions (14% -51% of total manmade emissions in carbon equivalent), their policy recommendations tend to be limited to either making livestock less carbon intensive or adapting food production to climate change. While both of these are important steps, the rising global consumption of animal-based foods caused by population growth and economic development will increase livestock numbers to 100 billion land animals yearly by 2050 (up from the current 60 billion), bumping up demand for agricultural land 70%. Therefore, any realistic strategy to mitigate food emissions must also look at reducing the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy and increasing the consumption of climate-friendly, plant-based proteins.

Second, while there is some policy debate of the food-climate issue at the highest international food and environmental agencies and in large cities such as New York and Chicago, this debate is not occurring at the national level. Countries are the most important players in climate policy because they have ultimate authority over individual regions and municipalities in their territory and they are the ones who comprise international organizations such as the UN. Even though introducing the issue into national policy debate would not mean automatic policy change – and we have seen the unwillingness of countries to take any substantive climate action that might compromise their economies – it is an important first step towards any future reform of food systems.

While a climate-friendly food system capable of nourishing the growing world population seems like a remote dream, it is possible if 1) the food-climate issue becomes mainstreamed into climate debates at the local, national, and international levels, 2) the policy response focuses on real alternatives that entail the increased consumption of climate-friendly foods, and 3) countries actively and earnestly implement such policies domestically.

For those of us in New York City who are concerned about the issue of food and climate change, the election of de Blasio offers an exciting opportunity to lobby the city to pursue greener food policies and to raise awareness of food’s role in climate change. As one of the hubs of culture, finance, and global policy, New York has the opportunity to make an impact not only through changing the consumption habits of its 8.3 million residents, but also through serving as an example for other cities and perhaps even those who run the show in Washington.

 

Ross is interested in the impacts the global livestock sector has in terms of sustainability, food security, climate change, and animal welfare. In addition to organizing a conference on this issue at the New School in 2012, he has done work in this area with organizations such as Humane Society International, Brighter Green, and, most recently, Waterkeeper Alliance. For more of Ross’s writings on the food-climate issue, visit www.thecostofdiet.wordpress.com