Climate Change – Challenges and Common Cause
2016 was a very mixed year for the world versus climate change. In October we hit an unfortunate milestone when the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii measured in excess of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stated that it was likely to stay that way “for the indefinite future”. These high levels of carbon dioxide will make it more difficult to curb global warming and contributed to the diminishing arctic sea ice that also set records in 2016. (photo – Morocco World News)
Then in the last several days it was announced that 2016 was the hottest year in recorded history, (see the BlueOcean.net article) smashing records set in 2014 and 2015. So we need some good news in the war against climate change. Also read our new post Ocean Warming Faster: New Research Shows.
the Paris Accord was one of many International Agreements signed in 2016
In November the World witnessed 96 countries coming together in Paris to ratify an agreement that brings into law the intention to seriously combat global warming. The 96 countries joining the accord, account for just over two-thirds of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. More countries are expected to join in over the next weeks and months.
Historic for the World
United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon praised the participating countries as “historic for the world” but cautioned that “We are still in a race for time. We need to transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future.”
Scientists and policymakers concurred that this is only a first step of a complex process of transitioning away from fossil fuels. “Climate change is a marathon, not a sprint” states David Sandalow of the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy.
The countries that signed the agreement have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro power with the goal of limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees. These countries also must develop climate action plans that address these issues. See BlueOcean.net article: Impressive Progress made in US renewable Energy)
Kigali Accord on Hydrofluorocarbons
An agreement reached on October 15th, 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda aims to cap and reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a key contributor to greenhouse gases. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State called it a “monumental step forward” in the battle against Climate Change. Developed countries, including the United States, are committed to begin in 2019, while more than 100 developing countries, including China, will take action starting in 2024, a delay that has been criticized by some groups as starting too slowly. Unfortunately a small group of countries including India will not start until 2028, pleading that their economies need this extra time. (photo- Frank Van, I-stock)
Background of HFCs is Not Good
Over the last decade the use of HFCs has dramatically increased due to the growth of air conditioning in the developing world. Since HFCs gases are many times more destructive than carbon dioxide, scientists worry that their increased use will undermine the progress of the Paris accord in controlling emissions. All the more reason that President Obama praised the agreement, calling it “an ambitious and far reaching solution” to a “rapidly growing threat to the health of the planet.”
Obama said of the Kigali and Paris accords “together these steps show that…we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure and more free than the one that left to us.”
“Compromises had to be made” Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency said “but 85% of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development said its the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement”.
Cap on Global Aviation Emissions
October also saw a global agreement to limit carbon emissions by international aviation. Only hours after the signing of the Paris Accord, the aviation agreement was struck in Montreal and could be a huge win for the environment. Over the last several decades the dramatic growth of air travel has contributed to air pollution and global warming. Between 1990 and 2006 the European Union saw an 87% increase of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, and this is expected to continue, despite efficiencies expected from new engine designs and aerodynamics. Improvements in operation efficiency, alternative fuels and ending the incentives to fly, like frequent flyer miles may all play a part in reducing aviation emissions.
End to Coal-fired Power Plants
6 major, developed countries including Canada, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland recently announced their intention to phase-out all of their coal-fired power plants. Canada announced an end of all coal by 2030 replaced by an investment in solar and wind. France’s plan is more ambitious with a total phase out by 2023 and Germany anticipates eliminating 50% of its coal use by 2030. (photo – Sciencetopia)
See the BlueOcean.net article: Cash Cows Clash over Last Ditch Effort to Dig Australian Coal
Read the BlueOcean.net article: Great Barrier Reef was a Poster Child for Ocean Warming and Dirty Fuel in 2016
What will the US do?
The US gets about 33% of its total power generation from coal and although its demand is being reduced (six major coal mining companies filed for bankruptcy in 2016) the “huge” unknown is what will Donald Trump do? Claiming to want to “bring back coal jobs” it is uncertain that he can really do this, since most power companies are moving away from coal and many more jobs are now being created in renewable energy. Tesla alone employs over 30,000 workers or 50% of the total employed mining coal.
See the BlueOcean.net article: Tesla’s Astonishing Transition in 2016 is Ocean-Friendly
Breaking News: see our latest update on Trump’s attempts to slash environmental programs and the EPA, read: Trump Attacks EPA and Marine Protected Areas
Unprecedented Ice Melt
Paris climate agreement officially went into effect
Kigali Agreement to limit hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
cap carbon dioxide emissions from international flights
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!