The Morning News A couple reasons to be optimistic about climate change. No, seriously.
Isarauen. Credit: Hannes Mauerer.

Climate deniers are in trouble over heavy-handed tactics again.

A federal appeals court okayed climate scientist Michael Mann's defamation suit, finding that a reasonable jury would believe that the National Review's accusations of academic fraud, peppered with comparisons to child molesters, were baseless and harmful to his career.

As we head into an administration where harassment of scientists seems likely, a path through the courts against intimidation could prove essential. Reminds us of the time the Heartland Institute built billboards comparing climate scientists to bin Laden and the Unabomber, and promptly lost funding. 

Dec 24, 2016

Why some companies are supporting transparency about climate impacts (and some aren't)

Investors are zeroing in on the use of information known as environmental and social governance (ESG) data to identify risks that might not be captured on standard balance sheets.

One such risk is climate: none of the world's oil or gas companies disclose the potential emissions from their fossil fuel reserves even though world regulatory frameworks (and scientific reality) necessitate that a significant portion of those reserves remain in the ground. Cognizant of this, Exxon earlier this year took a huge financial hit and wrote down almost a fifth of its reserves.

Now a board of the world's bankers advising the G20 is encouraging member countries to adopt financial disclosure rules for companies to report their climate risk. Some firms are actually pretty amped about this.

Dec 17, 2016

Golden State satellites?

In response to the possibility that Republicans may cancel funding for NASA's atmospheric sciences missions (which provide the bulk of climate data), Jerry Brown says California will "launch its own damn satellite." 

Gauging purely on the size of the California economy, they should be able to do it. Spain, with a GDP about $1 trillion lower, is set to shortly launch its first earth observation satellite

Reminder: California's ambitious climate leadership is now arguably the most important policy experiment underway in the United States today.

Dec 16, 2016

Looking at the bright side of certain doom

Stephen Hawking isn't wrong to say that this is the most dangerous time in our planet's history. Sure, we might nuke ourselves to oblivion before the waters finish rising, but in the long run, few threats to human existence are as certain and damaging as environmental destruction. 

So, in totally contrary form, here are some reasons to be optimistic about climate action, starting with the historic reversal of the Dakota Access Pipeline as the Army Corps of Engineers admitted it could not go on as planned. Behind their reasoning: A pipeline leak posed an unacceptable threat to drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. Here are the last 30 years of spills, leaks, and explosions, mapped.

While stopping the pipeline's route under the Missouri River may not prevent oil from coming to market, it's a victory for the human right to water won after the largest congregation of Native tribes in over a century (over 280). 

The next battles begin today, as Canada's first nations are appealing to Prime Minister Trudeau to reject pipelines on similar grounds.

Dec 5, 2016

One of the nation's first climate evangelists argues solar will win the price wars and globalization will make us keen to avert the worst of warming. 

Someone in China has a very big scorecard

Five years ago, pessimists (and people who wanted to see climate action delayed) peddled the notion that China's carbon pollution would be so great over coming decades that there was no point in trying to stop them. Today, China is poised to take the mantle of climate leadership. They basically laughed at reporters who asked if Trump's win would lead the country to vacate its climate goals. 

Few in the United States are aware of the depth of these commitments, which will wrest international leadership from the United States as we head towards a global clean energy economy. The country will put a nationwide carbon price in place this year, is the world's largest investor in clean energy, and has worked to curb its coal emission, which began to decline this year, after national outcries over pollution became a political liability for the Communist Party

Dec 5, 2016

Who is this year's environmental hero? Big business.

It happened quietly, but the passage in October in Kigali of an international treaty to limit hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—which are potent greenhouse gases—should "abate global warming by up to 0.5° C." That deal went through, perhaps surprisingly, with lots of support from refrigerant companies, which is encouraging news to the climate champions who argue that America's next big steps on carbon reduction will be driven by business, not government. 

The half degree Celsius saved by Kigali could be huge, for example by spelling the difference between life and death for coral reefs. Canada has already drafted actions to draw down HFC use.

Dec 5, 2016
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