December 14, 2011 | 9:11 AM
Clean Energy Reality: Reducing Pollution, Saving LivesThere are many reasons to support a transition to clean energy, but for the military, one reason is particularly urgent: Clean energy saves lives.
December 13, 2011 | 8:03 PM
After Durban: Closer to solutions, but a long road ahead[caption id="attachment_5705" align="alignright" width="160" caption="© 2007 Flickr/Álvaro Canivell CC BY-NC-SA 2.0"][/caption] In the early hours of Sunday, climate change negotiators from 195 countries brokered a deal that brought the world one step closer to coordinated international action to solve the climate crisis. Here's the breakthrough they achieved: We finally have the promise that all countries, not just developed nations, will play an active role in the fight against global warming through a single international treaty. Member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) spent two weeks in Durban, South Africa, negotiating how nations should address climate change; specifically, who should reduce carbon pollution, by how much, and how fast. At times, it seemed like the positions of different countries were so irreconcilable that the talks would collapse. The European Union, several developing countries, and less developed countries (including African nations and small island states that are at the most risk from climate change) wanted the Kyoto Protocol (the UNFCCC's only legally binding agreement now in effect) to be extended beyond its current expiration date of December 31, 2012. However, other nations like the U.S., Canada, Russia, Australia and Japan objected on the grounds that the Kyoto Protocol does not require any action from rapidly growing economies like India or China -- the latter of which is the world's biggest emitter of carbon pollution. Eventually, negotiators were able to produce a compromise: the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Under this deal:
- The EU agreed to be bound by a second period of obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (which will now have an extended life from 2013 to 2020).
December 13, 2011 | 9:54 AM
A very Inconvenient YouthOver the last few months we've introduced you to some of our outstanding Climate Presenters from around the world. Today, we would like you to meet one of our youngest and most active Presenters, Corey Husic. Corey is a high school student from eastern Pennsylvania and a member of Inconvenient Youth, a group of young climate activists personally trained by our Chairman, former Vice President Al Gore, to give presentations about climate change. After travelling to Cancun, Mexico, to attend last year's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Corey followed up with a trip to Durban, South Africa, this month to experience COP 17 and to meet with climate groups from around the world. We caught up with Corey to ask him a few questions. Why did you decide to become an Inconvenient Youth Presenter? When I learned about the opportunity to become an Inconvenient Youth presenter, I saw this as an experience to gain more tools that would be necessary to continue educating others about climate change and the importance of protecting the natural environment. Inconvenient Youth also provided a community of concerned youth who are willing to share ideas and work together towards fighting climate change and educating the public about this crisis. Without this communication, the effort will go nowhere quickly, and the work will be harder than necessary. Tell us about the most memorable presentation you've ever given. The most memorable presentation that I've given was to a high school environmental science class. During the actual presentation, many students had great questions and were involved in the discussion.
December 12, 2011 | 2:03 PM
Some news from Durban you haven't heard[caption id="attachment_5670" align="alignright" width="240" caption="© 2011 Flickr/UNclimatechange cc by 2.0"][/caption]For the past two weeks, negotiators from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa to discuss the next steps on a global climate treaty. Extending the negotiations by two extra days, delegates agreed on a path forward toward a global agreement with legal force that will apply to all countries in the years ahead. They also made progress on a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. We will be posting additional blog entries that outline the specifics of the agreement and the broader context. These are significant steps, but the science makes it clear that we need to do far, far more. 2010 marked the largest increase in global carbon pollution in recorded history, and global temperatures could rise by nearly 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In the face of this stark reality, we all have a lot of work to do. While the new agreement in Durban is not nearly sufficient to meet the challenges and opportunities that the climate crisis demands, it is important that the negotiators continued to forge ahead and laid new ground for further global action. But I'd also like to share with you another positive perspective from Durban that happened outside of the formal negotiations. Away from the spotlight, tens of thousands of activists gathered in one place to share their strategies for building the climate movement. These citizen leaders included members of our own Climate Presenter Corps, who have been trained by former Vice President Gore to engage audiences about climate change. One of them was Jeunesse Park, a Climate Presenter who was our South Africa representative for 24 Hours of Reality. Jeunesse gave several climate presentations in Durban, participated in a civil society march, and attended the World Climate Summit for businesses.
December 12, 2011 | 12:18 PM
Arctic fish: living on thin ice?About half of the millions of tons of seafood caught in the U.S. every year comes from Alaska, one of the most rapidly warming parts of the country. That warming, according to a new report from NOAA, is having “profound and continuing” effects on Alaska’s ocean habitat.
December 12, 2011 | 9:20 AM
Meet a Climate Scientist: Brian HelmuthThis is the second in an occasional series about the scientists who work with The Climate Reality Project. You can read the first post here. Today's featured climate scientist is Brian Helmuth, who took part in the panel discussions during our Canberra, Seoul and Beijing events during 24 Hours of Reality. He is the Director of the Environment and Sustainability Program at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. In his research, Dr. Helmuth explores the impacts of climate change on marine life. He also works with K-12 teachers to develop educational materials about science. Brian recently sat down to answer a few questions for us. A few excerpts: How is climate change affecting marine organisms? I think it is worth mentioning that I never set out to be a "climate scientist." I started studying coral reefs as an undergraduate. In 1998, I returned to a site that I had been working at in Belize, after an anomalous warming event. It was truly devastating. What was once beautiful coral had turned into oozing algae. Since that time I've seen other organisms impacted in similar ways -- mussel beds with mussels literally cooked in their shells, for example. I think some of the most interesting organisms that are being affected are often the ones that no one has ever heard of, however. There are creatures called pteropods in the Southern Ocean that truly look like little alien creatures. How can we do a better job teaching students about climate change, or science in general? I've tried to include at least one K-12 teacher in every research project that I've undertaken, and this summer we took four elementary school teachers with our team
December 09, 2011 | 1:42 PM
Once again: For scientists, there is no climate change debateHere's a line that's worth repeating: "The vast majority of climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is happening." Because while you, a regular reader, may be familiar with this fact, many Americans still aren't. In fact, survey results show that almost every other American doesn't know the truth: The scientific community overwhelmingly acknowledges the reality of climate change! Why does this matter so much? A new study finds that people are less likely to say climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it, if they erroneously believe that experts haven't agreed on the science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who think along these lines are less likely to support policies to address climate change. After reading this study, I thought it might be worthwhile to outline just how one-sided the climate change debate really is within the scientific community. So here it goes: According to a recent survey, 97% of top climate scientists (those who have published 20 peer-reviewed papers or more) agree that our climate is changing due to human activities. Moreover, the study found that the few dissenters had substantially less experience than those who were convinced. And many other peer-reviewed studies have turned up very similar results. One even concluded: "The debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes."
December 08, 2011 | 9:32 AM
Clean Energy Reality: If you like airplanes, cell phones and the Internet, say yay for investment in clean energy!This is the second in a series of blog posts to give you the facts about clean energy. To read the first post, click here. [caption id="attachment_5565" align="alignright" width="240" caption="© 2008 Flickr/solarguy100 cc by 2.0"][/caption]Last week marked the start of an independent review of U.S. Department of Energy's loans to 28 clean energy projects around the country. These projects are entrepreneurial business ventures that use innovative technology - and most of them are going strong. The default rate under the program is less than 4%, far lower than the Small Business Administration's 12% default rate. But after just two of these loans have failed (less than 2% of the total loaned amount), some have suggested it's just not worth it for us to invest any more on clean energy. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The truth is, an investment in clean energy is an investment in the future. Let's just take a quick look at our lives, and ask where some of our favorite modern conveniences came from. Guess what - they started with investment from places like the military, the space program and national agencies like the Department of Energy. For example:
- Cell phones: At the heart of a cell phone is the humble microchip. When first invented in 1958, the price of a microchip was staggeringly high, making its commercial future uncertain. However, the military and the space program bought enough first-generation microchips to drive the price down by 50 percent in just a few years, making microchips affordable for private companies. Radiotelephony techniques (two-way communication) used in cell phones also received early public funding. It was the Defense Navigation Satellite System (NAVSTAR) satellite program that first developed the GPS technologies that give your smart-phone so many capabilities.