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Environmental Issues and Protection
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  • Less ice, more fire: Why shrinking glaciers could mean more volcanic eruptions
    Print section Print Rubric:  Why shrinking glaciers could mean more volcanic eruptions Print Headline:  Less ice, more fire Print Fly Title:  Volcanology and glaciology UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How—and why—to end the war in Yemen Fly Title:  Less ice, more fire Main image:  Hot to trot Hot to trot AT THE end of the last ice age, around 11,700 years ago, Earth’s climate began warming rapidly. As the planet heated up, its vast glaciers fell back. Almost immediately afterwards (in geological terms, at least) volcanic activity surged. That was nothing new. The geological record has plenty of evidence of big glacial retreats that are followed by more frequent volcanic eruptions. Glaciers, in other words, seem to suppress volcanoes, which, by the same token, flourish in their absence. This, at least, is the case for really big climatic swings. What ...

  • Calculating behaviour: The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economics
    Print section Print Rubric:  The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economics Print Headline:  Calculating Print Fly Title:  Environmental policy UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Calculating behaviour Location:  WASHINGTON, DC Main image:  20171118_USP504.jpg CLIMATE economists refer to it as “the most important number you’ve never heard of”. The social cost of carbon (SCC) tries to capture the cost of an additional ton of carbon-dioxide pollution in a single number—around $47 in present dollars. Using it, more than $1trn worth of benefits have been calculated in economic-impact assessments that accompany environmental regulations. But now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed by ...

  • Negative-emissions technology: What they don’t tell you about climate change
    Print section Print Rubric:  Stopping the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not enough. It has to be sucked out, too Print Headline:  What they don’t tell you Print Fly Title:  Negative-emissions technology UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Negative-emissions technology Main image:  20171118_LDD002_0.jpg TWO years ago the world pledged to keep global warming “well below” 2°C hotter than pre-industrial times. Climate scientists and campaigners purred. Politicians patted themselves on the back. Despite the Paris agreement’s ambiguities and some setbacks, including President Donald Trump’s decision to yank America out of the deal, the air of self-congratulation was still on show among those who gathered in Bonn this month for a follow-up summit. Yet the most damaging thing ...

  • Sucking up carbon: Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the air
    Print section Print Rubric:  Cutting emissions will not be enough to keep global warming in check. Greenhouse gases must also be scrubbed from the air Print Headline:  Sucking up carbon Print Fly Title:  Combating climate change UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Sucking up carbon Location:  BONN Main image:  20171118_FBP001_5.jpg SWEDEN’S parliament passed a law in June which obliges the country to have “no net emissions” of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2045. The clue is in the wording. This does not mean that three decades from now Swedes must emit no planet-heating substances; even if all their electricity came from renewables and they only drove Teslas, they would presumably still want to fly in ...

  • Huffing and puffing: Germany is missing its emissions targets
    Print section Print Rubric:  As climate talks open in Bonn, Germany’s green credentials suffer Print Headline:  Huffing and puffing Print Fly Title:  Climate-change policy in Germany UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump Fly Title:  Huffing and puffing Location:  BERLIN THE PR arm of Germany’s environment ministry has had a busy autumn. Over the past two weeks, colourful posters advertising the government’s global initiatives against climate change have gone up all over the country. In Bonn, where thousands of delegates gathered this week for the COP23 round of international climate-change talks, journalists are being encouraged to tour the area’s green projects. Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister, opened proceedings by pledging additional funds to help developing countries adjust to global ...

  • New Green advocates: Climate-change lawsuits
    Print section Print Rubric:  The battle against global warming is increasingly being waged in courtrooms Print Headline:  New green advocates Print Fly Title:  Lawsuits against climate change UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Do social media threaten democracy? Fly Title:  New Green advocates Main image:  20171104_IRP001_0.jpg IN FEBRUARY a tribunal in Kirkenes, in Norway’s far north, ruled that oil extraction in the Barents Sea was illegal. The courtroom—an auditorium sculpted from 190 tonnes of ice, pictured above—and the verdict were fictitious, staged as part of a festival. But the legal question is real. On November 14th a district court in Oslo, Norway’s capital, will begin hearing the case that inspired the theatrics. Greenpeace and another pressure group, Nature and Youth, allege that by issuing licences to explore for oil in the Arctic, ...

  • Above boards: Scott Pruitt seeks to weaken independent scientific review at the EPA
    Main image:  TWO days ago, October 23rd, three scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were to present at a conference on the health of the Narragansett Bay estuary (pictured). They were to unveil a 500-page report, which found that “stressors associated with climate change are increasing rapidly”—but the agency abruptly cancelled the presentation without explanation. Critics pointed to it as the latest example of meddling and muzzling by the agency’s new leadership. Scott Pruitt, the industry-friendly administrator, is sceptical of the scientific consensus on climate change. The agency has also furiously scrubbed references to climate change from its website, and encouraged the creation of a “red team” to play devil’s advocate to established climate science. Mr Pruitt is set to continue his campaign against science he does not much like, by upending several critical advisory boards that the EPA relies on for independent scientific advice.Mr Pruitt is expected to announce today that scientists who currently receive research grants from the EPA will be barred from sitting on important committees like the Science Advisory Board, which reviews the scientific evidence used to undergird environmental regulations. The professed aim is to prevent conflicts of interest. But the proposal ...

  • Up in smoke: Scott Pruitt signs a measure to repeal the Clean Power Plan
    Main image:  TIE off and collar open, Scott Pruitt unveiled his plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan to loud applause in Hazard, Kentucky, a sleepy coal town in the state’s mountainous south-east. “The war on coal is over,” said Mr Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on October 9th. The next day, in Washington, DC he signed a rule aimed at rescinding the Obama-era policy, which seeks to curb carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels. But far from being the end of the Clean Power Plan, Mr Pruitt’s announcement is an opening salvo in a battle which could last for years.The plan, which was drawn up more than three years ago, has never gone into effect. Just days after it was finalised, energy companies marshalled an impressive legal offensive, even recruiting Mr Obama’s mentor at Harvard Law School to claim that his protégé  was “burning the constitution”. A federal court delayed implementing it until the EPA, now under new management, could issue a revised plan. Mr Pruitt’s move is also likely to prompt legal action. The attorneys-general of New York and Massachusetts have already announced plans to sue the agency. That could spell years of regulatory uncertainty for energy firms; a greener candidate could occupy the White House before the ...

  • Germany’s Greens: “I don’t want the last car made in Germany to end up in a museum”
    Main image:  LAST week I caught up with Cem Özdemir, lead candidate of Germany's Green Party, to talk about his country’s future. The latest polls put his party at about 8%. Mr Özdemir’s perspective matters, for two reasons.First, the polls suggest that Angela Merkel may have to choose between another “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPD)—who are fed up with governing with her—and a three-way coalition with the centre-left Greens and the right-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). In the latter scenario (called “Jamaica” as the colours of the parties match those of country’s flag) Mr Özdemir might well become Germany’s foreign minister. That would make him the second Green to hold that job after Joschka Fischer and the first Turkish-German to hold any major government rank (his father moved to Germany from Tokat, north-east of Ankara).Second, Mr Özdemir is actually willing to discuss the big challenges facing Germany. Whether or not you agree with him, this is welcome in an election campaign marked and marred by the big parties’ inability to talk what Germans call Klartext, or frank sense, about the big issues. How should the Euro zone advance? What are Germany’s international responsibilities? How can the country’s business model be made fit for the future? How can the country’s car industry get ...

  • Climate change: There is still no room for complacency in matters climatic
    Print section Print Rubric:  Changed estimates of how much carbon dioxide can still be emitted to meet climate targets leave no room for complacency Print Headline:  Breathing space Print Fly Title:  Carbon budgets UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Jeremy Corbyn: Britain’s most likely next prime minister Fly Title:  Climate change Main image:  20170923_STD001_0.jpg IN JUNE Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief who helped broker the Paris agreement in 2015, warned that the world has “three years to safeguard our climate”. It was a hyperbolic claim, even then. New research makes it seem even more of one today. An analysis published in Nature Geoscience on September 18th, by Richard Millar of Oxford University and his colleagues, suggests that climate researchers have been underestimating the carbon “budget” compatible with the ambitions ...