The Montreal Protocol, arguably the world's most successful environmental treaty, rapidly reduced CFC use around the globe -- and, in doing so, put us on the path to save the ozone layer from threatened annihilation. But the treaty had an unintended consequence. Many manufacturers switched from CFCs to HFCs, which we now know to be especially potent greenhouse gases.
So now we have to put out that fire. And on Thursday, the EPA took a major step toward doing just that, issuing new draft rules that would limit the use of the chemicals.
Fancy spending a summer in Kuwait City? That's what scientists project summers will resemble in Phoenix by the end of the century. And summertime temperatures in Boston are expected to rise 10 degrees by 2100, resembling current mid-year heat in North Miami Beach.
Thanks to this nifty new tool from Climate Central, you can not only find out what temperatures your city is expected to average by 2100 -- you can compare that projected weather to current conditions in other metropolises.
Pope Francis issued a rousing lamentation about the "sin" of environmental destruction over the weekend. But is that message getting through to his Catholic flock? And are other Christians stepping up to protect God's green earth?
It isn't just oil companies that are pushingthe U.S. to drop its near-total ban on crude oil exports. European Union negotiators are trying to convince America to not only end the ban but agree to a "legally binding commitment" that would guarantee both oil and gas exports to its members.
The Washington Post got its hands on a secret E.U. document describing negotiations related to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The free-trade agreement could affect $4.7 trillion in trade between the U.S. and Europe -- and energy supplies are at the forefront of the European negotiators' minds.
So far, it seems that U.S. negotiators have been stonewalling the bid for such a legally binding commitment. "The U.S. has ... been hesitant to discuss a solution for U.S. export restrictions on natural gas and crude oil in the TTIP through binding legal commitments," the document says.
Negotiations began Tuesday at the World Trade Organization on a free-trade agreement that would free "environmental goods" from the shackles of tariffs and other protectionist measures. Such measures have been put in place around the world to protect domestic manufacturing industries and jobs from cheaper imports. They can increase the price of the products compared with, say, if they were all made in Vietnamese sweatshops.
The WTO talks in Geneva are a big deal -- they involve the United States, China, the European Union, and 11 other countries. They could affect $1 trillion worth of trade every year.
So why aren't environmentalists shouting, "Hallelujah?"
Because it's a ruse.
"These negotiations are less about protecting the environment than they are about expanding free trade," Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program, told Grist. "Of course we support the increased use of, and trade in, environmentally beneficial products. But we have really serious concerns about the approach that the World Trade Organization is taking."
Like climate change, California's cap-and-trade program is an evolving and growing beast. Since its official launch last year, power plants, cement producers, glass manufacturers, and some other heavy industries operating in the Golden State have been required to reduce carbon emissions and pay for the privilege of polluting the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases. In January of 2015, the program is due to expand to affect suppliers of natural gas and motor fuels, helping to further slow global warming and raise billions more dollars for climate and environmental programs.
But, whoa, hold up there, you crazy Left Coasters. Including gasoline in the program would slightly raise gas prices and provide financial support for alternatives, such as electric-vehicle charging stations and solar panels. And that's the last thing Big Oil and its pals want.
ClimateWire reports that oil companies and big business groups have been pushing state lawmakers to exempt gasoline from the cap-and-trade program, pointing out that Californian motorists would be burdened with increased prices at gas pumps. And it seems that some lawmakers have been listening carefully. Last week, Assemblymember Henry Perea (D) amended legislation in such a way as to exempt motor fuels from the program for an additional three years.
"The cap-and-trade system should not be used to raise billions of dollars in new state funds at the expense of consumers who are struggling to get back on their feet after the recession," Perea said in a press release.
Congress could get in the way of Obama's efforts to clean up power plants -- not just here at home, but abroad.
A year ago, when President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan, he declared that the U.S. would stop funding most coal projects in other countries. “I’m calling for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity,” Obama said in his big climate speech. In December, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which helps American firms access markets abroad, changed its lending guidelines to conform with Obama’s edict.
But now pro-coal members of Congress are moving to block the new guidelines. The Hill reports:
We already knew that the tar-sands operations have been dousing northern Alberta with mercury and other forms of pollution. Now university scientists have collaborated with the First Nations to test the pollution levels in hunted animals found downstream from the tar-sands sites. Here are some lowlights from their findings, which were included in a report published on Monday:
The last time NASA tried to launch a satellite to measure carbon dioxide levels from space, within minutes the $273 million project plopped into the Southern Ocean (oops). Tomorrow they’re giving it another go. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 will blast off at 2:56 a.m. PDT from the Vadenburg Air Force Base in California. This time, it’ll hopefully make it to 438 miles above the planet, where it will be in a prime position to obsessively watch Earth breathe.
Which sounds stalker-esque, but don't get too creeped out. OCO’s main goal is to figure out where, exactly, atmospheric CO2 currently comes from -- and, more mysteriously, where it ends up. While fossil fuel emissions have tripled since the 1960s, levels of atmospheric CO2 have risen by less than a quarter (but unfortunately that's still enough to cause big global change). That’s because somehow our oceans and plants have, on average, been able to keep pace with absorbing half of the total atmospheric CO2. But scientists still don't know a lot about the dynamics of how this is happening, which leaves them wondering: How long can we expect these carbon sinks to keep sucking the stuff down?