Cold Case Forensic Crime Scene Finger Prints
New NASA Satellite Maps Show Human Fingerprint on Global Air Quality
 

Using new, high-resolution global satellite maps of air quality indicators, NASA scientists tracked air pollution trends over the last decade in various regions and 195 cities around the globe. The findings were presented Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

"These changes in air quality patterns aren't random," said Bryan Duncan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the research. "When governments step in and say we're going to build something here or we're going to regulate this pollutant, you see the impact in the data."

Duncan and his team examined observations made from 2005 to 2014 by the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA's Aura satellite. One of the atmospheric gases the instrument detects is nitrogen dioxide, a yellow-brown gas that is a common emission from cars, power plants and industrial activity. Nitrogen dioxide can quickly transform into ground-level ozone, a major respiratory pollutant in urban smog. Nitrogen dioxide hotspots, used as an indicator of general air quality, occur over most major cities in developed and developing nations.

The science team analyzed year-to-year trends in nitrogen dioxide levels around the world. To look for possible explanations for the trends, the researchers compared the satellite record to information about emission controls regulations, national gross domestic product and urban growth.

"With the new high-resolution data, we are now able to zoom down to study pollution changes within cities, including from some individual sources, like large power plants," said Duncan.

Previous work using satellites at lower resolution missed variations over short distances. This new space-based view offers consistent information on pollution for cities or countries that may have limited ground-based air monitoring stations. The resulting trend maps tell a unique story for each region.

The United States and Europe are among the largest emitters of nitrogen dioxide. Both regions also showed the most dramatic reductions between 2005 and 2014. Nitrogen dioxide has decreased from 20 to 50 percent in the United States, and by as much as 50 percent in Western Europe. Researchers concluded that the reductions are largely due to the effects of environmental regulations that require technological improvements to reduce pollution emissions from cars and power plants.

China, the world's growing manufacturing hub, saw an increase of 20 to 50 percent in nitrogen dioxide, much of it occurring over the North China Plain. Three major Chinese metropolitan areas -- Beijing, Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta -- saw nitrogen dioxide reductions of as much as 40 percent.

The South African region encompassing Johannesburg and Pretoria has the highest nitrogen dioxide levels in the Southern Hemisphere, but the high-resolution trend map shows a complex situation playing out between the two cities and neighboring power plants and industrial areas.

"We had seen seemingly contradictory trends over this area of industrial South Africa in previous studies," said Anne Thompson, co-author and chief scientist for atmospheric chemistry at Goddard. "Until we had this new space view, it was a mystery."

The Johannesburg-Pretoria metro area saw decreases after new cars were required in 2008 to have better emissions controls. The heavily industrialized area just east of the cities, however, shows both decreases and increases. The decreases may be associated with fewer emissions from eight large power plants east of the cities since the decrease occurs over their locations. However, emissions increases occur from various other mining and industrial activities to the south and further east.

In the Middle East, increased nitrogen dioxide levels since 2005 in Iraq, Kuwait and Iran likely correspond to economic growth in those countries. However, in Syria, nitrogen dioxide levels decreased since 2011, most likely because of the civil war, which has interrupted economic activity and displaced millions of people.

To view and download high-resolution air quality maps, go to

For more on NASA’s research into nitrogen dioxide, and air quality data for 195 cities, visit

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.cole@nasa.gov

Ellen Gray
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-286-1950 / 301-502-4064
ellen.t.gray@nasa.gov
Last Updated: Dec. 14, 2015
( Editor: Karen Northon: NASA)

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Posted: December 17, 2015

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COP21: Encouraged by Climate Talks, Ban Ki-moon Urges Negotiators to ‘Make Final Decisions for Humanity’

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President of the UN climate change conference (COP21), brief the press in Paris. UN Photo/Mark Garten

11 December 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that he is encouraged by progress of the talks at the UN climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, where the negotiations under way are perhaps the most significant and complex ever attempted.

“I’d like to take this moment to highlight, commend and appreciate the strong commitment and engagement of ministers, negotiators and all the staff who are engaged in this very difficult negotiation,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference, alongside French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, at the Paris-Le Bourget site.

For almost two weeks, government representatives have been working to reach a new universal climate change agreement to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius.

“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation [...] is the most important for humanity,” he continued. “Very limited hours remain.”

The UN chief said there are still several outstanding issues, such as differentiation, the level of ambition and climate financing, but that thanks to many years of negotiations the parties already have “very good solutions.”

“This morning we have a much cleaner, streamlined text,” Mr. Ban explained. “This is a good basis for further negotiations. Many brackets have been dropped and only a few brackets remain.”

Reminding that even though as Secretary-General of the UN he is not engaged in negotiations, he said he is urging negotiators to make their decisions based on a global vision.

“This is not a moment of talking about national perspective. Good global solutions will help good local solutions,” he stressed, appealing to all countries to “make final decisions for humanity.”

Right before the press conference, Mr. Ban and Minister Fabius, who is also President of COP21, met to discuss the latest developments and to prepare for the adoption of the agreement, now expected tomorrow.

“We’ve worked a lot these past days,” said Mr. Fabius at the press conference. “This morning we finished our collective work at 6am, and now I’ll be holding consultations with all the groups.”

“Let me simply tell you that we are almost there, that I’m optimistic, that the preparations towards this ambitious agreement have been good, and that following these consultations, tomorrow morning at 9 I will be able to present a text to all parties, which I’m sure will be approved and will be a big step forwards,” the French Minister added.

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Posted: December 12, 2015

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COP21: Mission Innovation

Summary: 

President Obama joins world leaders in announcing “Mission Innovation” to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation to address climate change.

Today in Paris, President Obama and French President Hollande, along with a wide range of other top global leaders, will announce “Mission Innovation,” an initiative to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation to address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers, including in the developing world, and create additional commercial opportunities in clean energy. 

Through the initiative, 20 countries are committing to double their respective clean energy research and development (R&D) investment over five years. These countries include the top five most populous nations – China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. They stretch across five continents. And when you add all partner countries together, they represent 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from electricity, and more than 80 percent of the world’s clean energy R&D investment.

They also represent the myriad ways we create and use energy. The Mission Innovation members include some of the largest oil and gas producers – the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Norway and Indonesia – as well as many with high penetration of renewables in their power sectors, such as Canada, Norway, Denmark, Brazil and Chile.

We know that large scale penetration of clean energy technologies will require that smart investment by governments is followed by smart private-sector investments. That is why Mission Innovation is complemented by a separate private sector-led effort that has pledged to invest extraordinary levels of private capital in clean energy, focusing on early-stage innovations. This parallel initiative – spearheaded by Bill Gates – includes a coalition of over 28 significant private capital investors from 10 countries, and will be called Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Members of these initiatives recognize a crucial reality: we need to accelerate the development of clean energy solutions to match the urgency of tackling climate change. We need an all-in, all-sector approach to transform global energy markets to address this challenge, and new technologies will play a critical role in this transformation.

Our climate imperatives, coupled with the world’s need for energy and electricity, mean that we don’t have the luxury of decades to develop and deploy new technologies.

Mission Innovation responds to the urgency of climate change, the opportunity of technological innovation, and the international imperative to tackle this problem in a global way. And we're stepping up our game through the initiatives announced today.

Today’s announcements build on a sustained commitment from the President to unlock clean energy R&D funding and call on the private sector to do its part.  Day-in and day-out, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under the leadership of Secretary Ernest Moniz, is centrally focused on clean energy innovation.  In October, Secretary of State John Kerry brought investors together at a Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum to develop better pathways to sustainable development in new and emerging markets, including finding new ways to accelerate collaboration across borders and sectors. Earlier this summer, Vice President Biden announced $4 billion in independent commitments by major foundations, institutional investors, and others to fund innovative solutions to help fight climate change, including technologies with breakthrough potential to reduce carbon pollution. The Administration has also taken a series of executive actions that will further encourage private-sector investment in clean energy innovation, including:

  • Launching a new Clean Energy Investment Center at the DOE to make information about energy and climate programs at the Department and other government agencies accessible and more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors;

  • Facilitating investments by charitable foundations, in clean energy technologies and other potentially mission-aligned sectors, through new Treasury Department guidance on impact investing;

  • Improving financing options from the U.S. Small Business Administration for private investment funds seeking long-term capital, including early-stage investors in capital-intensive clean energy technologies; and

  • Clarifying when pension funds may choose economically targeted investments, with new guidance from the Department of Labor regarding consideration of environmental, social, and governance factors for retirement plan investing.

We have already made incredible strides in driving down the costs of key clean energy options. The cost of LED lights has dropped 90 percent since 2008, large-scale solar by 60 percent, and wind and battery prices declined by over 40 percent. And with decreasing costs has come greater deployment. Since 2008, we’ve gone from 400,000 LED lightbulbs to more than 78 million installed, wind energy production has tripled, and solar has increased more than twenty-fold.

But we know we must continue to do more. Accelerating clean energy innovation is essential to achieving the goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to below 2˚C and building on the individual climate policies now put forward by more than 180 countries as part of the Paris Climate Conference process. The influx of private and public capital from these two initiatives will make a real difference in meeting this challenge.

Paul Bodnar is the National Security Council's Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change, National Security Council. Dave Turk is Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Climate and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Posted: December 11, 2015

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COP21: 350.org Says: Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground. Transition to 100% Renewable Energy

The critical fight of the Paris climate talks will be in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Things here got off to a remarkable start, as many world governments aligned around a very ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, thanks to the bold demands of leaders on the front lines of the crisis.

But now that optimism is starting to fade as ministers back off from making the hard commitments it will take to get there.

Keeping these new promises requires setting a date by which we will stop digging up and burning coal, oil and gas which cause climate change -- but after over two decades of procrastination, world governments are considering waiting another lifetime for action.

The draft text circulating now in Paris proposes a global energy transition 'over the course of the century', which is too far-off, and too vague to send a strong signal. We need to transition off fossil fuels by 2050 -- at the very latest. That will only happen if countries sign an ambitious deal now, and commit to reviewing their currently-inadequate national pledges for action on a regular basis.

Talks are moving rapidly towards a final deal here in the next 24 to 48 hours. Can you tweet your negotiators in Paris to tell them to set a long term goal for a just transition by 2050 at the latest, and pledge to keep upping their ambition every 5 years?

This is about survival for millions and millions of people facing rising seas, deepening drought and superstorms. Delaying the transition to renewable energy until the end of the century would make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 C.

Youth here in Paris often make the point that world governments have been talking about action longer than they've been alive. The draft text could mean that today's youth are born into a world waiting for climate action, and go their entire lives without seeing the age of fossil fuels come to an end.

The global climate movement has struggled to move world governments from words to action here in Paris. In the next 24 to 48 hours, we'll find out if world governments have heard the demand for action echoing in the streets: Keep fossil fuels in the ground. Transition to 100% renewable energy. No more empty promises.

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Posted: December 11, 2015

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Major Partnership Launched to Save Precious Peatlands

Sumatran tiger - Sembilang National Park
 

In the wake of Southeast Asia’s worst summer haze crisis on record, a pioneering five-year conservation project designed to achieve sustainable, landscape-level protection for South Sumatra’s globally important peatland and coastal lowland habitats was today unveiled at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Paris.

Speaking at a GLF Launchpad panel event, running alongside the United Nations COP21 climate summit, His Excellency Governor Alex Noerdin announced plans to establish the South Sumatra Eco-Region Alliance, which will be supported by an integrated landscape project overseen by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The partnership will focus on issues of deforestation, peatland degradation, wildfires and associated climate change impacts in the Sembilang-Dangku landscape of South Sumatra – the peat swamp forests of which provide vital habitat for approximately 15 percent of Indonesia’s surviving Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Harnessing tools including ZSL’s Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT), this partnership aims to ensure the collaborative management of a complex forestry, peatland and agricultural system, ultimately connecting the entire landscape to safeguard these iconic and Critically Endangered animals.

Speaking at the event, Governor Alex Noerdin commented: "I am proud to announce the formal launch of the South Sumatra Partnership for Landscape Management Support Project. Given the global significance of our province’s peatland and coastal forest landscapes, both in terms of biodiversity and climate change, it is essential that we act now to ensure their protection for future generations.

"By convening this group of world-class partners, spearheaded by conservation experts from ZSL in partnership with national government, civil society and industry, we hope to devise and implement solutions at a landscape level that represent a new benchmark in Indonesia’s commitment to environmental stewardship."

This year’s Southeast Asian haze crisis was largely attributed to the burning of peat swamp forest in countries including Indonesia for oil palm cultivation and timber extraction. As well as generating globally-significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, these damaging practices also severely impact on remaining habitat for vulnerable species including the Sumatran tiger.

Part-financed by the British and Norwegian governments, with additional seed funding from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the South Sumatra Eco-Region Alliance will adopt a ‘public-private-people’ model that stresses collaboration between government, private sector and local populations, to implement sustainable solutions to pressing environmental issues including deforestation, peatland degradation, wildfires and biodiversity loss. Other key stakeholders include IDH - The Sustainable Trade Initiative, Deltares, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and Daemeter Consulting, alongside multi-industrial Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation Programmes for ZSL said: "The forests of Indonesia have hit global headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months, with wide-ranging wildfires and the resulting haze across much of Southeast Asia arguably representing the defining environmental crisis of 2015. Finding solutions to the many ecological challenges facing Indonesia should be viewed as a global conservation priority."

"We’re delighted to be working in close collaboration with the Governor of South Sumatra Province and partner organisations including IDH, SNV, FPP and APP to ensure protection for these critical landscapes as well as vulnerable species like the Sumatran tiger, creating innovative new blueprints for their long-term protection," he adds.

The collaboration will initially focus on six key project strands, including collection of scientific data to underpin the development of province-wide policies and landscape management mechanisms. The outcomes from this pilot project will, it is hoped, help form a blueprint for future initiatives at both national and regional levels.

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Posted: December 11, 2015

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COP21: A Downpayment on Disaster?
Laura Humes



The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is on the frontline of climate change: Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN
 


PARIS, 8 December 2015 (IRIN) - Anote Tong, president of the small Pacific island nation of Kiribati, is something of a celebrity at the climate change talks taking place in Paris. Kiribati is quite literally on the frontline of climate change. Rising sea levels have already engulfed large areas of the island. Nearly a quarter of the country’s population has had to move, and a majority of the remaining residents will almost certainly be forced to move in the coming decades.

“What we need is a boost from the international community to lift us out of the water,” Tong who cringes at the term ‘climate refugee’, told delegates. He is advocating for “migration with dignity”, and for the people of his country to have options about when and how they will move.

Rather than waiting for the situation on low-lying islands like Kiribati to become critical, Tong and other leaders of similar states are pushing for the final agreement that emerges from Paris to include measures that would facilitate migration as an adaptation to climate change threats – from gradually rising seas to swift and catastrophic storms – and build capacity to cope with natural disasters and displacement. It is an approach that will need significant financial support from the international community and many of the discussions currently taking place in Paris centre around how that support will be delivered.

It also requires a fundamental shift in humanitarian funding from the usual reactive approaches to ones that anticipate future disasters and displacement. Representatives of humanitarian organisations attending COP21 worry that the draft agreement does not reflect this. At the moment, the only reference to displacement in the text is under the heading of “loss and damages”: an after-the-fact approach aimed at providing compensation to nations affected by climate-related disasters that result in forced migration.

Getting ahead of the curve

A number of delegates view the reactive model as inadequate, with one representative from the German Red Cross stating he was “very concerned” not to see disaster risk reduction addressed at all in the latest draft agreement.

Humanitarian organisations like the Red Cross have led the charge at COP21 for more proactive financing measures. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is developing a new forecast-based financing mechanism that calculates the probability of climate-related disaster risk, then weighs the cost of anticipatory adaptation measures against the social and humanitarian costs of inaction. Funds are released once forecast levels are passed, but are also available between disaster cycles to help communities build resilience.

IFRC piloted this approach for the first time in Uganda last month. After forecasting significant flood risk, the Uganda Red Cross distributed nearly 5,000 preparedness items, such as water purification tablets, jerry cans and soap, which helped prevent a disease outbreak and decreased the cost of a humanitarian response after flooding occurred. IFRC hopes to pilot 15 other forecast-based financing programmes later this year, building off the momentum generated at COP21.

Participants at COP21 have also highlighted several existing frameworks that might be used to address human mobility in the face of climate change. Legal approaches like the Sendai Framework, adopted earlier this year, include monetary support and loans from international financial institutions to bolster disaster risk reduction – one way of reducing the likelihood of forced displacement. Meanwhile, the Nansen Initiative has outlined a protection agenda for people displaced across borders by climate change and disasters. It was recently endorsed by 110 states.

The best of both worlds

Professor Walter Kaelin, the envoy of the chairmanship for the Nansen Initiative, said that access to funding could be a key outcome of COP21 if financing mechanisms integrated the existing loss and damages framework with new adaptation-based approaches. “We need to not get caught up in a battle of either/or and embrace both,” Kaelin told IRIN.

Multilateral financing mechanisms are also being discussed at COP21. A G7 Initiative on Climate Risk Insurance, known as InsuResilience and adopted in June, aims to provide 400 million people with insurance coverage against the impacts of climate change in vulnerable and developing countries by 2020.

Additionally, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), established by the UNFCCC, this week announced several new national contributions that move it closer towards a goal of mobilising $100 billion per year in funding by 2020. The GCF aims to scale up investments in resilience and sustainable development, particularly in least-developed countries and small island developing states. Although none of the initial eight projects to receive funding from the GCF deal directly with displacement, many aim at building communities’ capacities to adapt to changing environmental conditions that threaten livelihoods and can drive migration.

What deal will be struck?

Moving into week two of the negotiations in Paris, it remains to be seen whether human mobility will be addressed in the final agreement itself, or if financing for adaptation and resilience will occur primarily through outside initiatives.

Delegates acknowledge that although a global deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions would do the most to mitigate further climate change-related displacement, migration is an undeniable component of adapting to a changing planet.

Koko Warner of United Nations University views COP21 as a unique opportunity to address migration, but predicted that the most likely outcome relating to displacement will be an ambitious mechanism for loss and damages.

While discussions continue about developed nations assuming more responsibility, in part by contributing to new financing mechanisms, voices from countries most affected by climate change like that of Kiribati’s President Tong retain the moral high ground. “I keep hearing that it’s about the poor,” he told journalists. “It’s not really about the poor, it’s about the rich.”

IRIN News

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Posted: December 10, 2015

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Naomi Klein and Jeremy Corbyn Join Global Unions at COP21 Event

Author Naomi Klein and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP: Photo Credits: Their websites

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is among trade unions meeting at COP21 in Paris tonight to discuss the global climate crisis and the role of unions in addressing it.  

Speakers will include social activist and author Naomi Klein  (of 350.org and leader of the UK Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn. The ITF is co-sponsoring the event as a member of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED). 

Chair of the ITF's climate justice working group Asbjørn Wahl is heading up the ITF team at COP21. He said:“This is an opportunity for trade unions and their allies to come together and really thrash out what our next steps are on tackling climate change. 

“Massive expansion of public transport is one of the most important measures if we want to avoid the devastating and immediate impact of climate change. More investment in sustainable public transport will not only reduce emissions and pollution, it would also create jobs and promote social equality.  

“A solution to climate change isn’t a nice to have. There has to be real progress in this area and quickly.”

More information

The event to take place on Monday 7 December, 6:00pm – 8:30pm (GMT +1 hour) at the Salle Olympe de Gouges in Paris.

Follow coverage on twitter: @ITFglobalunion #COP21 #unions4climate and via the ITF climate change blog

Access more on the work of the ITF and affiliated unions around climate justice.

For further: Gemma Walker at ITF

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Posted: December 8, 2015

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COP21: Yoday is About Action by All Sectors of Society: Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio meet on the margins of the UN climate change conference in Paris, France. 5 December 2015. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

5 December 2015 – As the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) marked “Action Day” with dozens of events happening throughout its sprawling venue in the north-east of Paris, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the purpose of the occasion was to highlight solutions the world “so urgently” needs.

“Today, as never before, the stars are aligned in favour of strong, concerted action on climate change,” Mr. Ban told non-state actors and top governments officials, including French President François Hollande, in his remarks wrapping up the day.

“The pace of climate action is quickening. Governments, cities, the private sector, investors, and the public at large increasingly understand the grave risks posed by climate change,” he added, noting “tangible benefits” to be gained by early action, including economic growth, new markets, job creation, cleaner air and improved health.

Climate negotiators have been in Paris since the opening of the conference last Monday, seeking to adopt a new, universal climate change agreement, expected to set the international policy framework needed to scale up climate action by all sectors of society.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General had a busy schedule meeting with a delegation of United States' Senators on the state of the discussions so far at the conference, as well as French and international parliamentarians at the country's National Assembly, to whom he highlighted the key role they play in supporting an effective national and global response to climate change.

Prior to this, Mr. Ban attended an event focused on the Arctic, where he has been several times during his almost ten-year tenure as leader of the world body.

“[The Secretary-General] has been using his Office to remind the world that our planet is changing at an unprecedented rate” Bob Orr, a UN Special Advisor on climate change, told the UN News Centre in an interview.

“He has been to every part of the globe that shows how quickly things are changing. At the Arctic event today, the head of the Norwegian Polar Institution noted that this past month of November, the average temperature in the Arctic was six to eight degrees centigrade above what it has traditionally been. This shows a level of change which is staggering and scary,” Mr. Orr warned.

Paying a visit to COP21 today on “Action Day” was American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who became a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change one year ago. The Secretary-General and Mr. DiCaprio met this afternoon and discussed the importance of acting now to protect future generations.

“Nature does not negotiate with human beings,” the UN chief told Mr. DiCaprio. “As human beings who have caused the climate change phenomenon, we just have to adapt to the Nature—we do not have any negotiating power with [it].”

In response, Mr. DiCaprio crossed his fingers and held them up. “We're all like this about Paris,” he said.

Finally, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the organizer of the conference – said “Action Day” announced the submission of a new draft agreement that will feed negotiations continuing next week.

“One more step in writing of history,” said a message tweeted by Christiana Figueres.

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Posted: December 6, 2015

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COP21: In Paris, Mayors and Celebrities Join UN Launch of Report on Boosting Investment towards Climate Smart Cities

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of the City of Paris and Michael R. Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, co-host the Climate Summit for Local Leaders on the margins of the UN climate change conference. 4 December 2015. Photo credit: @Cities4Climate

4 December 2015 – Proven innovative policies and mechanisms are unlocking investment for much-needed climate-smart infrastructure in cities, according to a new report launched today at Paris City Hall by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international partners.

“Your efforts enable your citizens to reduce their carbon footprint, breathe cleaner air and live more healthy lives,” Mr. Ban told mayors and local leaders from all regions of the world during an event of the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, taking place on the margins of the UN climate change conference (COP21).

Celebrities attending the event included Leonardo diCaprio, Robert Redford and Sean Penn, advocates for climate action who support UN efforts towards building a sustainable future.

Since the beginning of the week, governments have been meeting to adopt what is hoped will be an ambitious global climate change agreement to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius. The UN chief said mayors and local leaders “are essential to this effort.”

“You know, from the ground up, how important it is to translate words into action,” he told them. “Your example can inspire national governments to act more boldly.”

The UN chief is also underlining that the recommendations of The State of City Climate Finance can help unlock the capital needed to make major investments for climate action in cities: “We know these solutions can work – they just need to be scaled up. I urge governments, banks and the international community to act on these practical recommendations.”

The report makes five recommendations for mobilizing investment in low-emission, climate-resilient urban infrastructure. It analyzes the obstacles that many cities face in obtaining the financing they need, including uncertainty over regulatory and tax policies, lack of expertise in project development, lack of control over infrastructure planning, high transaction costs and lack of proven funding models at the city and regional level.

According to the UN, urban areas account for over 70 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions, and the world's cities produce almost half of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Cities are also on the front lines of climate impacts and urgently need to build resilience, with more than 80 per cent of the overall annual global costs of adaption to climate change estimated to be borne by urban areas, according to the World Bank.

“There is no way that we get to two degrees or to 1.5 degrees without building and living in, and transporting ourselves around cities in a very different way than we do today,” Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's Special Envoy for Climate Change, told the UN News Centre in an interview.

“At the same time cities are growing. In the next 30 years another two billion people will move into cities, and so we have to find a way to help cities get the financing necessary to become livable, green, clean, competitive, job-rich cities,” she added.

The study, which led to the report, was issued by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, a coalition of over 40 banks, governments and civil society organizations launched by Mr. Ban at the Climate Summit he convened in September 2014 in New York.

The aim of the Alliance is to accelerate investment in low-emission, climate resilient infrastructure in cities, and to close the investment gap in urban areas over the next fifteen years. Alliance members are now reportedly working on a plan to help translate the report recommendations into action.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General gave opening remarks at a “Compact of States and Regions” event, a group which was also launched just over a year ago. Mr. Ban said the world needs “more Governors, Premiers and Chief Ministers to invest in low-emission and climate-resilient development.”

“Today, the Compact is launching a new global initiative called Regions Adapt in which its members commit to develop climate adaptation plans and report on their progress,” he explained. “Then there is the Under2MOU. In this, 57 state and regional leaders have raised the bar still further. They are committing to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.”

Mr. Ban noted that “it could be a game changer” and described this commitment as one of the most ambitious ones made to date from states and provinces worldwide.

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Posted: December 5, 2015

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COP21: UN Joins France and Private Sector Partners for Action on Electro-mobility

In Morroco, people wait to board the tram providing service between Rabat and Salé cities. Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel (file)

3 December 2015 – Recognizing that transportation has the highest growth of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of any industrial sector, transport representatives at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) presented 10 initiatives today that aim to reduce these emissions and build more sustainable transport systems.

Among the events was the launch of the Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change & Call to Action. Endorsed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Energy Agency, as well as Tesla Motors and Michelin Nissan-Renault, it reportedly builds on commitments from companies, cities, States and associations that have undertaken decisive efforts towards sustainable transport electrification.

“Of course I think the sector of transport is one of the most important to succeed in fighting climate,” Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy told the UN News Service.

“So I announced three concrete initiatives,” she explained. “First, an open bid about less expensive electric cars – less than 7,000 dollars [per car]; second, an initiative for towns to build a plan of mobility inside the cities; and third, roads with positive energy which [would see thruways] covered with panel and would solve the problem between agriculture areas and road areas.”

With energy-related CO2 emissions expected to jump from one quarter of total energy-related emissions today to one-third by 2050, the actors that are part of the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) are underlining that significant changes can be made in transport to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

The LPAA was launched one year ago at the the previous UN climate change conference in Peru, and aims to strength climate action beyond COP21.

The effort comes as demand for public and freight transport is projected to grow rapidly, especially in emerging and developing countries. Yet, projections reveal a 50 per cent reduction of transport CO2 emissions compared to a “transport-as-usual” scenario can be achieved by 2050, without hampering sustainable economic growth.

Moreover, according to the International Energy Agency, if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees or less, at least 20 per cent of all road vehicles (cars, two and three-wheelers, trucks, buses and others) must be electric-powered by 2030, in conjunction with the low-carbon production of electricity and hydrogen.

Other announcements today at COP21, which centered around the themes of ‘Transport’ and ‘Building,’ included new efforts to stabilize emissions from the aviation industry by 2020. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said it has received 74 action plans to advance the implementation of mitigation measures by States, which accounts for 80.6 per cent of global CO2 emissions from international flight.

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Posted: December 4, 2015

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350.org The Science of Climate Change

What is 350.org and What It is Doing About Climate Change

''350.org is building a global climate movement. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are coordinated by a global network active in over 188 countries.

The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.

We believe that a global grassroots movement can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice. That movement is rising from the bottom up all over the world, and is uniting to create the solutions that will ensure a better future for all.''

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“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from [current levels] to at most 350 ppm.”
Dr. James Hansen

That’s Dr. James Hansen talking, former head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Dr. Hansen is one of the most respected climatologists in the world, and when he says that climate change is incompatible with human civilization, we think human civilization ought to sit up and take notice.

That “350 ppm” is where 350.org gets its name. “PPM” stands for “parts per million,” which is simply a way of measuring the ratio of carbon dioxide molecules to all of the other molecules in the atmosphere. Many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments agree with Dr. Hansen that 350 ppm is the “safe” level of carbon dioxide.

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

So far, we’ve experienced about 1 degree (Celsius) of warming, and the impacts are frightening. Glaciers everywhere are melting and disappearing fast, threatening the primary source of clean water for millions of people. Mosquitoes, who like a warmer world, are spreading into lots of new places, and bringing malaria and dengue fever with them. Drought is becoming much more common, making food harder to grow in many places. Sea levels have begun to rise, and scientists warn that they could go up as much as several meters this century. If that happens, many of the world’s cities, island nations, and farmland will be underwater. Meanwhile, the oceans are growing more acidic because of the CO2 they are absorbing, which makes it harder for animals like corals and clams to build their shells and exoskeletons. All around the globe, we’re stacking the deck for extreme weather — like hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, and droughts — which exacerbates conflicts and security issues in regions that are already strapped for resources.

The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists had previously thought. In the summer of 2012, roughly half of the Arctic’s sea ice went missing (some scientists estimate that the total volume of summer sea ice loss may be as high as 80%). The entire Arctic region is undergoing drastic changes, threatening vital habitat for countless species (yes, including polar bears) and the livelihoods of many indigenous communities. This is also bringing us closer to dangerous tipping points, like the breakdown of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from quickening permafrost melt.

This is the science of climate change. While much of the details are still being studied, one thing is no longer up for debate: our climate is changing profoundly and rapidly, and human activity is the cause.

Our History

350.org was founded by a group of university friends in the U.S. along with author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public.

When we started organizing in 2008, we saw climate change as the most important issue facing humanity — but climate action was mired in politics and all but stalled. We didn’t know how to fix things, but we knew that one missing ingredient was a climate movement that reflected the scale of the crisis.

So we started organizing coordinated days of action that linked activists and organizations around the world, including the International Day of Climate Action in 2009, the Global Work Party in 2010, Moving Planet in 2011, and Climate Impacts Day in 2012. We held the “world’s biggest art installation” and “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” We figured that if we were going to be a movement, then we had to start acting like one. Click here to watch videos of these global mobilisations. 

Today, 350.org works in almost every country in the world on campaigns like fighting coal power plants in India, stopping the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S, and divesting public institutions everywhere from fossil fuels. All of our work leverages people power to dismantle the influence and infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry, and to develop people-centric solutions to the climate crisis.

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Sources & Resources:

A Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Nature 461, 472-475 (24 September 2009); doi:10.1038/461472a; Published online 23 September 2009.

Hansen, James, et al. Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? Submitted April 7, 2008. NASA climate scientist James Hansen’s paper about the 350ppm target. Be sure to also explore Dr. Hansen’s “Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions” program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

The IPCC 5th Assessment Report. The latest report by the Nobel-prize winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by the world’s leading climatologists.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Link to the official UNFCCC website with information about the UN climate policy process.

Baer, Paul, Tom Athanasiou and Sivan Kartha. “The Right to Develop in a Climate Constrained World: The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework.” An important policy framework for how to mitigate climate change while ensuring an equitable path to development for the Global South.

( This material have been taken from 350.org and published here for greater awareness)

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Posted on: December 2, 2015

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COP21 Monday, November 30 Paris

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The Earth, The World, The Humanity Calls On Principle 21 in Paris COP21 : It is Not a Matter of Debate But a Matter to Have the Courage to Accept Science and Choose to Act Accordingly

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached yet another new record high in 2014, continuing a “relentless rise” which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.

A parched field in Kenya where drought has been especially devastating to sub-Saharan agriculture. Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

All UN Agencies Bring Their Muscles Together on the Eve of COP21

27 November 2015 – In the weeks leading up to the United Nations climate change conference (COP21), which begins in Paris on Monday and aims to reach a new universal climate agreement, many of the Organization’s agencies and programmes announced their latest climate-related findings, bringing to light new data, major concerns, and underlining existing and potential opportunities to preserve the planet.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached yet another new record high in 2014, continuing a “relentless rise” which is fueling climate change and will make the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.

Just days later, the agency shared more “bad news for the planet,” warning that 2015 is likely to be the warmest year on record, breaching the symbolic and significant milestone of 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era.

In addition, data from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) revealed that over the last 20 years, 90 per cent of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.

Echoing this message was the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which underlined that natural disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades, increasing the damage caused to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries and putting them at risk of growing food insecurity.

The World Food Programme (WFP) further insisted that without “ambitious action” to address the causes and consequences of climate change, hunger cannot be eradicated. During the global gathering in Paris, the agency will launch its Food Security Climate Resilience (FoodSECuRE) Facility, a new tool that will help respond to climate disasters before they occur based on climate forecasts.

Ahead of COP21, the World Bank said “climate-smart” development can keep 100 million people out of poverty. According to the Bank’s latest findings, the poorest people are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks, and they lose much more of their wealth when they are hit.

Noting the significant impact climatic activities have on African people and countries, the Bank also unveiled a $16 billion business plan to boost the continent’s climate resilience, outlining actions required to maintain and protect its growth and poverty reduction goals.

Raising awareness on groups most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said youngsters will bear the brunt. More than half a billion children reportedly live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and 160 million in high drought severity zones, leaving them highly exposed.

Recalling that indigenous peoples own, occupy or manage up to 65 per cent of the Earth’s land surface – and that their voices must be heard in Paris – the UN Development Programme (UNDP) expressed significant concern regarding the exclusion of their issues from national plans to combat climate change. Formally called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, these will form the basis of the agreement expected to be reached at COP21.

Meanwhile, the important role that nuclear power could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was the focus of a new report released by the UN International Atomic Energy (IAEA). It highlighted that nuclear power is one of the major low-carbon energy sources currently available, and many countries believe that it can help them to address the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies while curbing emissions.

From the UN entity organizing the conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – came a set of best practice climate policies from across the world. ‘Climate Action Now’ was introduced in Bonn, Germany, as a solutions guide, revealing a “wealth of existing opportunities” to immediately scale up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, according to a report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the implementation of the national target plans will limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but a new climate agreement can encourage further action that will be necessary to limit global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius by 2100.

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Posted on : November 28, 2015

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Timelapse Animation Shows Glacier in Motion

Panmah and Choktoi glaciers Copyright F. Paul, The Cryosphere, 2015 & USGS/NASA. Using 15 images from Landsat, the animation compresses 25 years of change into just 1.5 seconds to reveal the complex behaviour of the surging glaciers in the Panmah region of the Karakoram mountain range in Asia. Glaciers are shown in pale blue, snow in light blue to cyan, clouds in white, water in dark blue, vegetation in green and bare terrain in pink to brown.

Animations that compress 25 years of satellite images into just one second reveal the complex behaviour and flow of glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range in Asia.

Frank Paul, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, used images from 1990 to 2015 captured by three different Landsat satellites to create timelapse sequences of four regions in the central Karakoram: Baltoro, Panmah, Skamri–Sarpo Laggo and Shaksgam.

This mountain range is home to some of the highest peaks in the world, including the famous K2.

While timelapse films using daily photographs from cameras stationed at glacier fronts are available for some glaciers, they show only changes over a few days to a few years and only for a small part of a glacier.

Since global change is having a direct effect on the environment and society at large, it is more important than ever to understand exactly what is happening to our planet so that informed decisions can be made – as will be highlighted even more at the upcoming COP21 conference on climate change.

Satellites are the only realistic means of observing changes systematically over a long period of time, particularly in remote regions such as this mountain range.

The study was carried out through ESA’s Climate Change Initiative which treats glaciers as an ‘essential climate variable’. The initiative has assembled comprehensive datasets going back decades for scientists to understand exactly how these sensitive components of our environment are changing.
Baltoro glacier

Published today in The Cryosphere journal, these new animations provide a novel look at glacier dynamics, revealing changes over a much longer time and at a much larger scale than ever before.

Since 25 years of satellite coverage is compressed into one second, speeding up glacier movement by some 800 million times.

Dr Paul said, “The most interesting insight is to really see how the glaciers flow and how the individual parts of the glaciers such as the tributary streams interact.”

The animations show that they are not actually retreating, but are advancing or surging and flowing into each other.

“From a scientific point of view, the key motivation for this research was to understand the highly variable behaviour of the glaciers in the Karakoram.

“We have known about this for over 50 years, but still have a very limited scientific understanding of what is going on there. The animations are a very practical way to get a better overview and follow the changes through time,” added Dr Paul.

The timelapse view makes it easier for the human eye to follow glacier flow and detect changes. The Baltoro animation, for example, highlights how fast and steadily the glacier is flowing without changing the position of its front, while the Panmah image sequence shows several surging glaciers flowing into each other.

These changes would be hard to observe by other methods, such as by comparing side-by-side images of a glacier taken at different times.

“The side-by-side comparison is a very tedious thing as the brain cannot freeze-frame and virtually overlay the images,” Dr Paul explains.

As detailed in The Cryosphere, Dr Paul created the animations in simple gif format using satellite images freely available from the US Geological Survey. For each animated gif, he used 7–15 false-colour satellite images, with glaciers shown in light blue to cyan, clouds in white, water in dark blue, vegetation in green and bare terrain in pink to brown.

“I like the idea of applying an ‘old-school’ and very simple file format, along with freely available software, to do something that is difficult to achieve with other formats or commercial software.”

He believes that animated satellite images could also find use as educational tools, helping the wider public understand glacier dynamics.

“But most importantly, anybody can create these animations. Everything required to do it – both images and software – is freely available, so I recommend trying this at home.”

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Posted on : November 27, 2015

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Children will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change – UNICEF Report

A woman and her baby amid debris and other destruction caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Photo: UNICEF/Jeoffrey Maitem

24 November 2015 – More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and 160 million in high drought severity zones, leaving them highly exposed to the impacts of climate change, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report released ahead of the 21st United Nations climate change conference, known as COP21.

According to the agency, of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Of those living in high drought severity areas, 50 million are in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty.

“The sheer numbers underline the urgency of acting now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, in a press release.

“Today’s children are the least responsible for climate change, but they, and their children, are the ones who will live with its consequences. And, as is so often the case, disadvantaged communities face the gravest threat,” he continued.

Climate change means more droughts, floods, heatwaves and other severe weather conditions. UNICEF is underlining that these events can cause death and devastation, and can also contribute to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. This can reportedly create a vicious circle according to the agency – a child deprived of adequate water and sanitation before a crisis will be more affected by a flood, drought, or severe storm, less likely to recover quickly, and at even greater risk when faced with a subsequent crisis.

The report, Unless we act now: The impact of climate change on children, finds that the vast majority of the children living in areas at extremely high risk of floods are in Asia, and the majority of those in areas at risk of drought are in Africa.

Meanwhile, world leaders gathering in Paris for COP21 – held from November 30 to December 11 – will seek to reach agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which most experts say is critical to limiting potentially catastrophic rises in temperature.

“We know what has to be done to prevent the devastation climate change can inflict. Failing to act would be unconscionable,” said Mr. Lake. “We owe it to our children – and to the planet – to make the right decisions at COP21.”

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Posted on : November 25, 2015

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New UN Report on Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A new report packed with best practice climate policies from across the world was released today by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), revealing a wealth of existing opportunities to immediately scale up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while powering up ambition to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Science tells us that there is one path for us to be able to have a stable planet and a safe stable economy, and that is to get onto a below 2 degree path – that is fundamental – and policy is actually following science as it should,” said Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaking to reporters in Bonn, Germany.

Less than two weeks away from the UN climate conference in Paris, widely known as COP21, she announced that 168 countries, covering almost 90 per cent of global emissions, have now submitted their national climate targets, known as INDCs.

“These do make a huge dent in the projected increase in temperature that we would have by the end of the century, so if these INDCs are fully implemented then we would no longer be on a track of 4 or 5 degrees, we would be on a track of anywhere between 2.7 and 3 degrees, which is a much, much better projection in temperature rise,” Ms. Figueres continued, but warned that this is not yet two degrees or below 2 degrees, which is what some countries still need for their survival and safety.

Introducing the new UNFCCC report— Climate Action Now – A Summary for Policymakers 2015, Ms. Figueres said it is a “solutions” guide. It explains how nations can deploy a wide range of proven policies and utilize existing initiatives to meet the common challenge of climate change and sustainable development.

It also highlights both national and international cooperative actions while underling the vital role of non-State actors such as companies, cities, regions and provinces in realizing bigger reductions in current and future emissions.

UNFCC further described the report as providing, at the request of governments, a straightforward, inspiring go-to-reference to assist ministers, advisors and policymakers pursuing climate actions now and over the years and decades to come.

The findings spotlight how effective policies across six key thematic areas not only reduce emissions rapidly but also advance goals in 15 other critical economic, social and environmental areas.

“Under the UNFCCC, governments have, over the past few years, led a significant effort during a series of technical expert meetings to identify and scope out the policies that lead to effective climate action – this report is the fruit of that effort,” Ms. Figueres explained.

“It underlines the myriad of remarkable transitions that are already occurring nationally and internationally in areas ranging from renewable energy to transportation and land use. In doing so it provides governments and their partners with the blueprints and tool-kits to cost-effectively catalyze action now and take the Paris agreement to the next level of long term ambition,” she added.

She also noted that the “remarkable reality” revealed in this report is that the very policies that deal most effectively with climate change also offer a ready-made portfolio of actions that can equally assist the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by UN Member States in September.

Meanwhile, responding to questions from the press on how the recent attacks in Paris could affect the conference, the Executive Secretary said the UN is still addressing how security around the many events planned can be increased, and that she thinks “this should be a call for personal prudence” on the part of everyone.

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Posted on : November 21, 2015

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Greenland's Glaciers Losing 5 Billion Tonnes of Ice a Year

Zachariae Isstrom Glacier, Northeast Greenland holds enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 46 cm

Greenland ice calving Image Allen Pope–National Snow and Ice Data Centre

One of Greenland’s glaciers is losing five billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean, according to researchers. While these new findings may be disturbing, they are reinforced by a concerted effort to map changes in ice sheets with different sensors from space agencies around the world.

It is estimated that the entire Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland holds enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 46 cm.

Jeremie Mouginot, from the University of California Irvine in the USA and lead author of the paper published in the journal Science, said, “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years.

“The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.”

As one of the first regions to experience and visibly demonstrate the effects of climate change, the Arctic serves as a barometer for change in the rest of the world. It is therefore critical that polar ice is monitored comprehensively and in a sustained manner.
Greenland ice calving

The value of international organisations joining forces to understand aspects of our planet such as this cannot be underestimated.

These current findings are a prime example of how different satellite observations and measurements from aerial surveys are being used from various space agencies including ESA, the Canadian Space Agency, NASA, the German Aerospace Center, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Italy’s space agency, ASI.

Over the last nine years the Polar Space Task Group has been coordinating the collection of radar data over Greenland and Antarctica.

ESA radar observations going back to the ERS and Envisat satellites through to Sentinel-1A were used in the new study.
Sentinel-1 monitoring motion
Access the video

In addition, the group relied heavily on data from Canada’s Radarsat-1 and -2, Germany’s TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X, Japan’s ALOS and Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed to ensure a continuous record of ice-sheet changes through to the launch of Sentinel-1A.

Using these many sources, scientists determined that the bottom of Zachariae Isstrom is being rapidly eroded by warmer ocean water mixed with growing amounts of meltwater from the ice sheet surface.

Dr Mouginot said, “Ocean warming has likely played a major role in triggering the glacier’s retreat, but we need more oceanographic observations in this critical sector of Greenland to determine its future.”

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Posted on: November 14, 2015

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Annual Antarctic Ozone Hole Larger and Formed Later in 2015

The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, said scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

On Oct. 2, 2015, the ozone hole expanded to its peak of 28.2 million square kilometers (10.9 million square miles), an area larger than the continent of North America. Throughout October, the hole remained large and set many area daily records. Unusually cold temperature and weak dynamics in the Antarctic stratosphere this year resulted in this larger ozone hole. In comparison, last year the ozone hole peaked at 24.1 million square kilometers (9.3 million square miles) on Sept. 11, 2014. Compared to the 1991-2014 period, the 2015 ozone hole average area was the fourth largest.

This false-color image shows ozone concentrations above Antarctica on Oct. 2, 2015. Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

“While the current ozone hole is larger than in recent years, the area occupied by this year’s hole is consistent with our understanding of ozone depletion chemistry and consistent with colder than average weather conditions in Earth’s stratosphere, which help drive ozone depletion,” said Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The ozone hole is a severe depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica that was first detected in the 1980s. The Antarctic ozone hole forms and expands during the Southern Hemisphere spring (August and September) because of the high levels of chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere. These chlorine- and bromine-containing molecules are largely derived from man-made chemicals that steadily increased in Earth’s atmosphere up through the early 1990s.

“This year, our balloon-borne instruments measured nearly 100 percent ozone depletion in the layer above South Pole Station, Antarctica, that was 14 to 19 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) above Earth’s surface,” said Bryan Johnson, a researcher at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. “During September we typically see a rapid ozone decline, ending with about 95 percent depletion in that layer by October 1. This year the depletion held on an extra two weeks resulting in nearly 100 percent depletion by October 15." 

The ozone layer helps shield Earth from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and suppress immune systems, as well as damage plants. The large size of this year’s ozone hole will likely result in increases of harmful ultraviolet rays at Earth’s surface, particularly in Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere in the coming months.

Ozone depletion is primarily caused by man-made compounds that release chlorine and bromine gases in the stratosphere. Beginning in 1987, the internationally agreed-upon Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has regulated these ozone-depleting compounds, such as chlorine-containing chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigerants and bromine-containing halon gases used as fire suppressants. Because of the Protocol, atmospheric levels of these ozone depleting compounds are slowly declining. The ozone hole is expected to recover back to 1980 levels in approximately 2070.

This year, scientists recorded the minimum thickness of the ozone layer at 101 Dobson units on October 4, 2015, as compared to 250-350 Dobson units during the 1960s, before the Antarctic ozone hole occurred. Dobson units are a measure of the overhead amount of atmospheric ozone.

The satellite ozone data come from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite, launched in 2004, and the Ozone Monitoring and Profiler Suite instrument on the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, launched in 2011. NOAA scientists at the South Pole station monitor the ozone layer above that location by using a Dobson spectrophotometer and regular ozone-sonde balloon launches that record the thickness of the ozone layer and its vertical distribution. Chlorine amounts are estimated using NOAA and NASA ground measurements and observations from the Microwave Limb Sounder aboard NASA’s Aura satellite. These satellites continue a data record dating back to the early 1970s.

Related Links

Audrey Haar
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Monica Allen
NOAA Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research
 

(Last Updated: Oct. 29, 2015 : Editor: Karl Hille: NASA)

Posted on: October 31, 2015

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Editorial

Fires are Raging Beyond Reach Beyond Care?

'A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far'', writes George Mobiot in his piece, Indonesia is burning. So why is the world looking away? in The Guardian

And fire is devouring large chunks of the Amazon as we write and it appears there is nothing to be done about any of it. As if no one has to care and think about the consequences of such things as fire burning our ecology. A fire does not just burn a forest; it kills every living creature (including humans if they are there) living in the visible and invisible ecology of that area that forms part of the eco-grid in which we are essentially a part of and tied to and whatever happens to this 'eco-grid' directly and fundamentally affects us and the earth on which we live.  Read on