Deregulation and climate change result in growing number of Americans breathing polluted air

CNN reports:

More Americans are breathing air that will make them sick, according to the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report.

The country had been making progress in cleaning up air pollution, but during the Trump administration, it has been backsliding, the report says. Deregulation and climate change are largely to blame.

President Donald Trump made a pledge in his 2017 State of the Union address to “promote clean air and water,” but his administration has reversed or proposed rollbacks to major air pollution protections, emissions standards and drilling and extraction regulations. He’s also slashed the EPA budget; the current proposal is to cut the budget by a third. [Continue reading…]

To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again

Bill McKibben writes:

Because I am concerned about inequality and about the environment, I am usually classed as a progressive, a liberal. But it seems to me that what I care most about is preserving a world that bears some resemblance to the past: a world with some ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between; a world where people are connected to the past and future (and to one another) instead of turned into obsolete software.

And those seem to me profoundly conservative positions. Meanwhile, oil companies and tech barons strike me as deeply radical, willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, eager to confer immortality.

There is a native conservatism in human beings that resists such efforts, a visceral sense of what’s right or dangerous, rash or proper. You needn’t understand every nuance of germline engineering or the carbon cycle to understand why monkeying around on this scale might be a bad idea. And indeed, polling suggests that most people instinctively oppose, say, living forever or designing babies, just as they want government action to stabilise the climate.

Luckily, we have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement. Obviously, they are not the same sort of inventions: the solar panel (and its cousins, the wind turbine and the lithium-ion battery) is hardware, while the ability to organise en masse for change is more akin to software. Indeed, even to call nonviolent campaigning a “technology” will strike some as odd. Each is still in its infancy; we deploy them, but fairly blindly, finding out by trial and error their best uses. Both come with inherent limits: neither is as decisive or as immediately powerful as, say, a nuclear weapon or a coal-fired power plant. But both are transformative nonetheless – and, crucially, the power they wield is human in scale. [Continue reading…]

Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70tn climate impact, study predicts

The Guardian reports:

The release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate global warming and add up to $70tn (£54tn) to the world’s climate bill, according to the most advanced study yet of the economic consequences of a melting Arctic.

If countries fail to improve on their Paris agreement commitments, this feedback mechanism, combined with a loss of heat-deflecting white ice, will cause a near 5% amplification of global warming and its associated costs, says the paper, which was published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.

The authors say their study is the first to calculate the economic impact of permafrost melt and reduced albedo – a measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed – based on the most advanced computer models of what is likely to happen in the Arctic as temperatures rise. It shows how destabilised natural systems will worsen the problem caused by man-made emissions, making it more difficult and expensive to solve. [Continue reading…]

Earth Day founder thinks we’re close to political breakthrough on climate

Joe Romm writes:

Denis Hayes, the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day, in April 1970, said on Monday that the upcoming 50th anniversary next year will be “the largest, most diverse action in human history.” The goal is to engage three billion people around the world with a focus on climate change.

Thanks to a resurgence in youth-led climate activism, Hayes told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that “2020 will be for climate what 1970 was for other environmental issues.”

The mobilization of young people demanding aggressive policies to address climate change has made Hayes especially optimistic that next year will be a watershed moment for the movement. From global school strikes led by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to the Green New Deal, led by the youth-based Sunrise Movement and 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), young people across the globe are making it clear they will not accept inaction. [Continue reading…]

We’re losing the war on climate change

John D. Sutter writes:

For years now, people like environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben have been screaming from the treetops that we need a World War II-scale mobilization to fight the scourge of climate change.

They’re right, of course. And on Earth Day — that 24-hour sliver of the calendar when we talk about the fact that humans exist on, and because of, a living planet — it’s clear not only that we are losing this war but that we still are failing to recognize it’s taking place at all.

I mean, yes, I’ve met Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who is “schooling world leaders” on climate policy and who started a global school walkout movement. I’ve read the Green New Deal and seen the videos of young people demanding that US reps adopt it. Just this month, protesters in London shut down parts of the city in their calls for a reckoning. It’s true that clean energy sources keep getting cheaper. Electric cars are more popular than ever.

But the scale of the outrage in no way matches the magnitude of this disaster, which, like WWII, threatens to cripple or even obliterate human life on the planet as we know it. [Continue reading…]

Global wealth gap would be smaller today without climate change, study finds

The New York Times reports:

Climate change creates winners and losers. Norway is among the winners; Nigeria among the losers.

Those are the stark findings of a peer-reviewed paper by two Stanford University professors who have tried to quantify the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions on global inequality. It was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Global temperatures have risen nearly 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the start of the industrial age, and the study was aimed at quantifying what effect that increase has had on national economies and the global wealth gap.

Poor countries lost out, while rich countries, especially those who have racked up a lot of emissions over the last 50 years, the study found, have “benefited from global warming.” [Continue reading…]

Our zero-emission future

Jeffrey D. Sachs writes:

The solution to human-induced climate change is finally in clear view. Thanks to rapid advances in zero-carbon energy technologies, and in sustainable food systems, the world can realistically end greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century at little or no incremental cost, and with decisive benefits for safety and health. The main obstacle is inertia: politicians continue to favor the fossil-fuel industry and traditional agriculture mainly because they don’t know better or are on the take.

Most global warming, and a huge burden of air pollution, results from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and gas. The other main source of environmental destruction is agriculture, including deforestation, excessive fertilizer use, and methane emissions from livestock. The energy system should shift from heavily polluting fossil fuels to clean, zero-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar power, and the food system should shift from feed grains and livestock to healthier and more nutritious products. This combined energy-and-food transformation would cause net greenhouse-gas emissions to fall to zero by mid-century and then become net negative, as atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by forests and soils.

Reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, followed by negative emissions, would likely secure the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5º Celsius relative to Earth’s pre-industrial temperature. Alarmingly, warming has already reached 1.1ºC, and the global temperature is rising around 0.2ºC each decade. That’s why the world must reach net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. The shift toward clean energy would prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from air pollution, and the shift to healthy, environmentally sustainable diets could prevent around ten million deaths per year. [Continue reading…]

Flight attendants know the real job killer isn’t the Green New Deal. It’s climate change

Sara Nelson writes:

“Pretty much everyone on the plane threw up” is not a sentence most travelers want to hear.

But that’s a direct quote from the pilots’ report after United Express Flight 3833 operated by Air Wisconsin hit extreme turbulence on approach to Washington, DC, in 2018.

Extreme turbulence is on the rise around the world. It isn’t just nauseating or scary — it’s dangerous.

In June 2017, nine passengers and a crew member were hospitalized after extreme turbulence rocked their United Airlines flight from Panama City to Houston.

A few weeks ago, a Delta Connection flight operated by Compass Airlines from Orange County, California, to Seattle hit turbulence so sudden and fierce, the flight attendant serving drinks — and the 300-pound drink cart — was slammed against the ceiling of the plane. The flight attendant’s arm was broken and three passengers were hospitalized.

In my 23 years as a flight attendant and president of our union representing 50,000 others, I know firsthand the threat climate change poses to our safety and our jobs. But flight attendants and airline workers have been told by some pundits that the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s environmental proposal, will ground all air travel.

That’s absurd. It’s not the solutions to climate change that kills jobs. Climate change itself is the job killer. [Continue reading…]

Extinction Rebellion and Attenborough put climate in spotlight in the UK

The Guardian reports:

With Extinction Rebellion making headlines and Sir David Attenborough broadcasting The Facts on BBC One, climate change has gone mainstream this Easter. A nation has been watching protesters glue themselves to trains, turn London’s roads into gardens and actively invite arrest in their hundreds.

As a media strategy it is working. How did glueing yourself to a train highlight climate change, Radio 4’s Today presenter Nick Robinson asked Dr Gail Bradbrook, an Extinction Rebellion co-founder. “It gets you on the Today programme,” she replied.

For Chris Packham, an environmental campaigner and BBC presenter, this is welcome progress, marking a long-awaited moment when news bulletins lead daily on global warming.

He, like others, has detected a recent change in the BBC’s coverage. Attenborough’s much heralded programme, broadcast on Thursday, was part of a series of hard-hitting documentaries by the corporation, along with a forthcoming programme on human population growth presented by Packham. “They [the BBC] are certainly making sure they are moving away from criticism levelled at them in the last few years of only showing a rose-tinted view of the natural world,” Packham said.

Demonstrators dancing down Oxford Street or planting shrubbery on Waterloo Bridge attract headlines, which in turn influence programme-makers, he believes. “So I think there is a change, yes. The BBC has got its fingers on the pulse.”

From the start Extinction Rebellion has made it easy for the media. Through its “Declaration of Rebellion” on Halloween, its “Blood of our Children” stunt in Downing Street and strip protest in the Houses of Parliament, it has made and nurtured key contacts at media organisations in the buildup to this week’s direct action. [Continue reading…]

How people around the world view climate change

Pew Research Center reports:

Majorities in most surveyed countries say global climate change is a major threat to their nation. In fact, it’s seen as the top threat in 13 of 26 surveyed countries, more than any other issue the survey asked about.

People in Greece express very high levels of concern, with 90% labeling climate change a major threat (similar to the 88% there who cite the condition of the global economy). People in South Korea, France, Spain and Mexico also express strong concerns. Eight-in-ten or more in each of these countries say climate change is a major threat.

Americans are less likely to be concerned about climate change, with 59% seeing it as a serious threat. About as many people in the United States cite climate change as point to ISIS (62%) and North Korea’s nuclear program (58%). Americans most frequently cite cyberattacks as a major threat.

People in Russia (43%), Nigeria (41%) and Israel (38%) are the least likely to say climate change is a major threat to their nation. [Continue reading…]