Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report on the state of climate science.
The latest report from the UN-sponsored body spoke of humanity's "unequivocal" contribution to climate change. Media headlines followed with phrases like "code red", "catastrophe", "frightening", "hell", paired with images of burning forests.
Humans may be screwed, but here's why I'm still optimistic about Earth's future.
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The scoop: Two billionaires flew into space this week, neither of which contributed to scientific research. We want to know... how much carbon does a space plane emit?
Key talking points:
- traditional rocket fuel depletes the ozone, but bezos used a liquid form of hydrogen and oxygen that is more sustainable.
- one atmospheric scientist reported that bezos's rocket emitted nothing more than "water and some combustion products".
Bottom line on billionaires in space: It's not necessarily a climate problem, but the world is in no shape to spend that much money on vanity projects.
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The report: A 2016 study of over 8,000 threatened or near-threatened species found that over-exploitation and agricultural activity posed a much greater threat to biodiversity than climate change.
Why it matters: Climate change is long-term and abstract. But it also gets all the breaking news coverage. In reality, harsh trends like deforestation and poaching pose immediate threats to wildlife. They need urgent attention, too.
These tangible problems deserve similar attention to carbon emissions. Most ESG funds pour cash into (trendy) clean energy while critical species face extinction from other causes.
Sustainable suggestion: Environmental solutions should be more well-rounded. How can we work more cooperatively with intersecting threats like wildfire risk mitigation and ecological restoration, for example.
A forestry organization may want to clean-up deadwood to prevent harsher wildfires, but a conservation group will sue them for cutting down a sacred forest. A conservation group may want to support hunting an invasive species , but an animal rights group will publicly condemn them.
Organizations with differing philosophies should work more closely through coalitions and associations to understand their perspectives.
Bottom line: Climate change is important, and intersects with basically every ecological issue. Not arguing we should take it less seriously. But that behemoth threat will be much easier to manage if we knock off smaller issues that we see, touch and feel.
We need smarter farming, more responsible animal agriculture, accountability for commercial hunting, fishing and logging. We need more stringent land protection in sensitive areas of the developing world. It's as important as climate change.
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The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.
Why Paris no bien:
- It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
- It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).
Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures
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What to know
- Wealthy countries are perpetuating climate issues, but the strongest impact is felt in poorer nations.
- Between 1850 and 2011, developed countries accounted for 79% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
- Developing countries in South Asia, Africa, The Caribbean and Latin America are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves but have limited resources to recover or avert these crises,leading to poverty and conflict.
- By 2050, there could be 140 million climate change migrants.
Why it Matters
- Climate change and social justice are inextricably linked
- As we work towards a more sustainable planet, we need to focus on solutions that also address global inequality as a contributing factor.
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How environmental policy works
- Congress enacts laws that enable federal agencies to create environmental regulations
- Under the President’s guidance, the EPA Administrator sets national standards
- State and local governments create and implement the actual policies
- State-level policies can support investment in green energy.
- Local officials set water policy to provide residents access to clean water.
Why your vote matters
- By electing city council members, state congresspeople and representatives who champion environmental policies, voters can make their environmental concerns heard.
The bottom line
- If voters prioritize climate change, politicians will too.
- Though you may feel your vote doesn’t matter in elections, it does.
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The scoop: Given recent developments in fiscal policy, there is a compelling case to be made for a green stimulus package.
The proposal: Create millions of family-sustaining career-track green jobs, deliver strategic investments, Expand public and employee ownership, Make rapid cuts to carbon pollution
Bottom line: The Green Stimulus plan must decidedly advocate for ambitious measures and well-reasoned policies to correct the egregious destruction of American land and improve workers’ conditions nationwide. We must follow suit after several European countries’ green stimulus packages; the world is watching.
Big picture Did you know that 44 nations could disappear under the sea within your lifetime? Pacific Islanders face a desperate need for climate action.
What to know Back in 2017, I had the privilege to attend as a student observer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) International Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany.
The most striking presentation involved a group of representatives of the SIDS (small island developing states). The Pacific Climate Warriors spoke about the urgency of their daily and ever-present struggle against climate change.
A 2008 UN report found that the response of island nations to climate change is largely project-based, ad hoc, and heavily dependent on external resources. Australia and New Zealand have contributed financial support to adaptation efforts.
Bottom line For Pacific Islanders, climate action is more than just a school project, it is an existential threat.
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