Welcome to this edition of the Fresh Air Brief, a service of the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA). Each week we bring you an overview of trending climate news and upcoming meetings, events, and issues that our our partners & peers are tracking. Here's a peek at what you'll find below:
Arctic Ministerial wraps up in Sweden
South Korea's carbon trading scheme to be world's most ambitious
Climate change has shifted the location of the Earth's poles
What our partners & peers are focused on this week
In this section, you'll find a summary of what's hot in the climate movement this week
Arctic Ministerial wraps up in Sweden
The Arctic Council Ministerial wrapped up in Kiruna Sweden today with foreign affairs ministers from Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Russia and the US signing the Kiruna Declaration. While the Declaration gave mention to a number of the issues our partners identified as priority deliverables, early analysis shows that the outcome fell short of expectations. According to a press release from EarthJustice “the Arctic Council had been expected to launch talks on a legal instrument to facilitate coordinated regional action to reduce black carbon emissions. They didn’t.” According to EarthJustice:
Ministers signed a regional agreement on oil spill preparedness and response to help overcome barriers to cooperation if there is a major spill and map especially sensitive ecological areas that will need greater response capacity in the event of a spill. But the Council failed to take action to launch talks on oil spill prevention, even though it is widely accepted that we don’t have the technology or response capacity to clean up a spill in Arctic conditions.The Ministerial meeting also decided to grant observer status to China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, who are seeking influence in the region. The European Union also was tentatively granted observer status but must first address several questions about its bid, including concerns about its ban on Canadian seal exports.RTCC also reported on the story.
“While the agreement on oil spill preparedness is important and we are encouraged by the progress made on that front, there is no denying that the Arctic Council failed to act to slow Arctic warming and melting and prevent oil spills—the two most urgent items on their agenda.”
Governments backtracking on new measures to reduce shipping emissions in IMO talks
WWF is among our partners closely watching the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) this week as the organization hosts its regular round of environmental talks in London. Governments were expected to launch efforts to introduce a market-based mechanism to reduce emissions in the shipping sector. However, looks like the focus is shifting instead to a US-led proposal to re-enforce existing energy efficiency measures. According to Mark Lutes, from WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, “our key concern is which countries support it [efficiency] as an alternative to a market based mechanism and emission targets and which understand it as a complement.” John Parnell has more at RTCC.
Aviation emissions negotiations short on progress needed to hit September target date
Another round of negotiations to forge a global agreement to curb airline emissions also kicked off this week in Montreal. Meetings held under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have a few short months to hammer out a deal in order to ensure that the European Union no longer needs to apply its own emissions trading system to global airlines. According to ICAO officials speaking with Reuters, the 17 countries tapped to expedite a global agreement are bogged down by questions about whether states or airlines would be responsible to pay for their emissions; how to account for a country's aviation emissions and whether less-developed countries should have different goals than rich states. Transport & Environment is closely tracking the progress.
Canada’s tar sands lobby tour turns sour amidst protests
Canada’s top government brass are on a world tour to downplay the harmful impacts of tar sands oil. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in New York City to speak at the Council on Foreign Relations and is expected to use the platform to counter tar sands critics. Across the Atlantic, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is in Brusselstrying to convince EU decision makers not to label tar sands oil as a ‘highly polluting fuel.’ In Brussels, Kent was met by a slew of protesters enraged by the Canadian government’s attempts to interfere in European affairs. Similar concerns are following Harper in the United States. More on our Tree Alerts website.
Rockefeller Foundation launches $100 fund to help cities deal with climate-related disaster
The Rockefeller Foundation marked the centennial of its founding with the announcement this morning of a $100 million global disaster-preparation fund aimed primarily at helping cities handle climate-related or man-made disasters. The New York nonprofit said the centerpiece of the effort would be the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, a grant-based plan to provide money, expertise and technical assistance to selected cities world-wide.
Oxford students and alumni to protest over Shell Earth sciences funding
Campaigners, students and alumni of the University of Oxford in the UK are protesting a new partnershipbetween the Oxford and Shell – fearing that the collaboration and the growing trend of oil companies funding, and thus influencing, the research agenda of universities undermines undermines the university's credibility and conflicts with its work on climate change. This latest oil company protest is part of a bigger effort on the part of campaigners to revoke the fossil-fuel industries social license to influence policy around the world. The Guardian has more.
Study Finds 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature
A new survey conducted by a team of volunteers at Skeptical Science has definitively confirmed the scientific consensus in climate science literature - 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers agree that global warming is happening and human activities are responsible. Lead author John Cook also created a short video abstract summarizing the study.
Important news stories and blog posts catching our eyes
In this section you'll find a summary of recent and relevant news showing up in blogs and headlines
South Korea's carbon trading scheme to be world's most ambitious
South Korea is preparing to introduce the world's most ambitious emissions trading scheme, potentially paving the way for carbon costs as high as $90 a tonne for many of the country's key industries. Estimates of the costs and impacts of the scheme are summarized in a recently released white paper has been produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in cooperation with Ernst & Young Korea. Business green has a good summary.
Climate change has shifted the location of the Earth's poles
Increased melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and other ice losses worldwide have helped to move the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. Scientific American has more.
Greenland’s Ice Loss May Slow, But Coasts Still At Risk
There's rare good news from the intersection of glaciers and climate change. The flow of Greenland’s glaciers toward the sea may have increased significantly in the past decade, but a new report finds that rate of increase is unlikely to continue. “The loss of ice has doubled in the past 10 years, but that doesn't mean it's going to double again in the next ten years,” said lead author Faezeh Nick, a glaciologist at the University Centre in Svalbard, in Longyearbyen, Norway, in an interview. A new, sophisticated computer model, makes the worst-case scenario of sea level rise — an increase of 6 feet or so, on average, by 2100 — look less likely to play out. Climate Central and Climate Desk have more.
Cutting Down Amazon for Agriculture Could Cut Yields
New research into changes in land use in the Amazon found that deforestation will not just reduce the capacity of the Amazon's natural carbon sink. It will also cause climate feedbacks that will decrease the productivity of pasture and soybeans. Climate News Network, Science Daily and Scientific American have more details.
Cutting emissions can curb massive loss of everyday species
Cutting carbon emissions can help to reduce the massive loss of species which is projected for the 21st century, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. More than half of common plant and a third of animal species are threatened with a “dramatic decline” as a result of climate change and the impacts this has on their habitats. But scientists from Britain, Australia and Columbia studying close to 50,000 species said this damage would be greatly reduced if emissions were scaled down in time. We've gathered a number of useful resources on the study at our TreeAlerts website.
World Bank to support large-scale hydropower projects, touting need to check emissions
Apparently not taking lessons from controversy over the Belo Monte damn in Brazil, the World Bank is making a major push to develop large-scale hydropower, something it had all but abandoned a decade ago but now sees as crucial to resolving the tension between economic development and the drive to tame carbon use. At the same time, the loss of tropical rain forests is likely to reduce the energy output many of those large hydroelectric projects. A recent study aimed at linking deforestation to tropical rain warns that by 2050 as much as 40 percent large hydroelectric power projects in the tropics could be lost because of the reduced rainfall caused by regional deforestation.
Scientists steel production technology that could cut 5% of global emissions
A breakthrough in steel production – which is responsible for 5% of emissions globally - could have disruptive effects on the industry and on trajectory of global warming. MIT researchers working on a grant to identify ways of producing oxygen on the moon for future lunar bases stumbled upon an emissions-free oxygen-creating process that makes steel as a bi-product. They've refined their process to yield metal of exceptional purity, zero-emissions and potentially lower cost. What's more, it could also be adapted to carbon-free production of other metals and alloys like nickel, titanium and ferromanganese, with similar advantages. Science Daily has more.
Siberian crater reveals glimpse into our future
A remote meteorite that crashed into Siberia 3 million years ago is giving us a glimpse of how sensitive the earth's climate is to atmospheric CO2 concentrations. New research published in the journal Science digs into the climate record preserved in sediments of the Siberian meteorite crator, now called Lake El'gygytgyn. According to the authors, "One of our major findings is that the Arctic was very warm in the middle Pliocene and Early Pleistocene [~ 3.6 to 2.2 million years ago] when others have suggested atmospheric CO2 was not much higher than levels we see today. This could tell us where we are going in the near future. In other words, the Earth system response to small changes in carbon dioxide is bigger than suggested by earlier climate models." Science Daily,RTCC and the Guardian have good summaries. Also, the lead author discussed the study in this video.
Norway's tar sands involvement counters government commitments to keep warming in check"
Norway's State-owned oil company Statoil is defending its involvement in the Canadian tar sands despite the government’s commitment to the 2°C limit on global warming. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted warming of 3.6°C on a scenario where the carbon intensive oil sands are fully exploited. Energiogklima has more.
Extreme weather forced nearly 30 million people from their homes in 2012
A new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). reveals that 32.4 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2012 by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3 million were displaced in rich countries, with the USA particularly affected. 98% of all displacement in 2012 was related to climate- and weather-related events. Reuters has the press release. Download the full report here.
Coal plant emissions might play role in state suicide numbers
In some strange science news, there's evidence suggesting a correlation between environmental pollution and increased suicide rates. A study in the US looked specifically at the relationship between air pollution and emissions from coal-fired electricity plants. It found that for each additional coal-fired electricity plant per county surveyed, there were about two additional suicides per 100,000 population annually per county. According to the author, "This study raises interesting questions about suicide rates in counties where coal-fired electrical plants operate and suggests that the quality of air can affect people suffering from different mood disorders." More here.
Carbon dioxide in atmosphere did not break 400 ppm at Hawaii site
After headlines around the world reported on atmospheric CO2 levels stabilizing at 400ppm for the first time in millions of years, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revised its 9 May reading saying the daily average remained fractions of a point below the level of 400 ppm, at 399.89. Whether it's 400 or 399.89 this week, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the rate at which they are increasing is unprecedented. The Guardian publishedthis illustration to give the number context.
In this occasional section we highlight new projects, blogs & digital tools
This week we're giving a shout out to Kevin Gurney and his team of climate science resarchers at Arizona State who created an online game to help map and document fossil-fuel emitting power plants around the world. To do it, he and the students in his lab built Ventus, a website where anyone anywhere can enter what data they can about the world's power plants including precise location, fuel type and electricity generation. This video explains more about the project.
Resources, opportunities & upcoming events
In this section we share resources and tips for opportunities and events that we think you'll find useful
13-16 May - 65th session of the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (London)
The meeting is expected to cover energy efficiency regulations and a market-based mechanism to reduce emissions in the shipping sector. More here.
14-16 May - "Destination Green" ICAO Symposium on Aviation and Climate Change (Canada)
The ICAO Symposium on Aviation and Climate Change, “Destination Green” is the fourth in this series of critical environment-related events which aim to foster a dialogue amongst participants on environment and aviation, leading to the 38th Session of the ICAO Assembly in September 2013. Learn more here.
16 May - International Tree Call on the Carbon Bubble and Divestment (Global)
We're hosting a call with three experts on carbon and finance will discuss the best way to effectively communicate the key points about the rise of the carbon bubble and the divestment campaign. James Leaton (Carbon Tracker), Julian Poulter (Asset Owners Disclosure Project) and Phil Arouneu (350.org) will lead a virtual panel discussion which is open to all Tree members. Reach out to the Tree Team for dial-in information (email@example.com)
16 May - "Do the Math" movie screens around Europe (Europe)
350.org's documentary showcasing the fossil fuel divestment movement will be screened in venues across Europe to build momentum for its regional divestment campaign. To get involved, host a screening, or hold a party see here,
18-20 May - Our Land, Our Water, Our Future - Beyond Coal and Gas conference (Australia)
Communities from around Australia will gather for three days of workshops and discussion in Kurri Kurri Australia. The conference aims to help them learn from one another how to oppose the expanding fossil fuel extraction industry in Australia, and what is coming next. More details here.
21 May - Christiana Figueres hosts a Twitter Q&A on urban poverty & climate (Global)
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres hosts an online conversation on how climate change creates a stimulus for adaptation and mitigation action to improve and transform some of the most vulnerable urban communities today. Learn more here.
29 May - Climate Change in the Visual Story Lab (Global)
Resource Media’s Liz Banse will share the latest research about how the brain processes images and how you can apply that knowledge to your climate communications in a live Climate Access webinar on “Climate Change in the Visual Story Lab.” Learn more and register here.