Climate change
November 30, 2019

The White House may be carving out its own path when it comes to climate change, but Washington will still be involved at an upcoming international climate summit in Madrid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is leading a Democrat-only congressional delegation consisting of 13 House members and one senator to Madrid's COP25 summit. "One of the goals we have is to make sure that all of those who are in the Paris Accord know that the Democratic majority in the Congress of the American people are very concerned about the climate issue, understand that we have to set goals and have a plan on how to achieve them, and to talk about some of the things that we have done," Pelosi told Bloomberg Environment before departing for Spain.

The Democrats attending reportedly range from members of Congress who support the Green New Deal to those who want to approach Washington's environmental policy more cautiously in the hopes of hammering out legislation alongside Republicans.

President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was brought to light in 2016 at the COP25 summit in the French capital. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the U.S. had begun formal proceedings to leave the accord, though it won't become official until after the 2020 presidential election. Trump isn't expected to make an appearance in Madrid, but the administration is sending a small delegation of diplomats to represent Washington, CBS News reports. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

November 25, 2019

Even as countries rush to cap or limit their emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have reached a record high — again.

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization said Monday that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide reached a record-breaking 407.8 parts per million in 2018. That surpassed the previous high, which was set the year before, and the WMO was feeling pretty pessimistic going forward.

"There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, adding that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5 million years ago.

Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program Inger Andersen said the WMO's findings "point us in a clear direction" and that "we face a stark choice" to "set in motion the radical transformations we need now" or "face the consequences" of climate change. A report from the UNEP on the emissions gap will be released Tuesday. Read the WMO's full statement here. Tim O'Donnell

September 19, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and other presidential candidates shared their climate change plans on Thursday during MSNBC's Climate Forum 2020.

The two-day event at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service kicked off Thursday morning with a question-and-answer session between students and the candidates. Twelve presidential candidates are participating, with Thursday's lineup consisting of Sanders, Yang, Castro, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), author Marianne Williamson, former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).

Castro said his $10 trillion climate plan consists of a public-private partnership that will result in 10 million new jobs and the United States having net zero emission within the next 30 years. Ryan is calling for a forceful climate police that focuses on bringing manufacturing jobs back to hard hit rural and industrial areas. Delaney said he would re-enter the Paris climate agreement and promote global development of clean technologies.

Sanders declared that "unlike Trump, I do believe in science," and said one of his first acts as president would be to sign an executive order prohibiting fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Williamson said people need to push back against corporations and lawmakers who are tight with the fossil fuel industry.

Yang feels that action should have been taken two decades ago, and wants to see corporations taxed on their carbon production. Bennet said he would give lawmakers nine months to pass climate change legislation, and if they didn't do it he would turn to executive orders. He also discussed the importance of talking about the economy and jobs and how they tie in to climate change, so people don't fall for President Trump's scare tactics. "We can't lose an economic debate to a climate denier," he said. Catherine Garcia

August 28, 2019

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has anchored near Coney Island, she tweeted Wednesday morning. The 16-year-old set sail from the U.K. on Aug. 14, and has since been documenting her transatlantic journey on Twitter and with a live tracker.

Thunberg is visiting the U.S. for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which is to take place in September. To avoid the emissions that come with air travel, she sailed on the Malizia II, a 60-foot, emissions-free yacht powered by solar panels. Thunberg equated life on the boat to "camping on a roller coaster."

The trip took longer than expected after they encountered rough seas near Nova Scotia.

The Swedish teen gained global attention last year after skipping school in protest to call on adults to do more about climate change — a move that is now emulated by students around the world each Friday, reports NPR.

In addition to the UN summit, Thunberg plans to attend a climate conference in Chile this December. Read more at NPR. Taylor Watson

August 19, 2019

Iceland held a funeral Sunday for its first glacier lost to climate change. About 100 people hiked two hours to the top of a volcano for the ceremony, marked with poetry, moments of silence, and a plaque bearing a note for future humans. Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson, who actually pronounced the Okjokull glacier dead about a decade ago, formalized the extinction on Sunday, warning that Iceland won't have any more masses of ice in 200 years. Okjokull — now just Ok, without the Icelandic word for glacier — used to cover six square miles.

"We see the consequences of the climate crisis," Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said. "We have no time to lose." Former Irish president Mary Robinson agreed: "The symbolic death of a glacier is a warning to us, and we need action." The plaque the mourners installed reads: "This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it."

Not all glaciers die so peacefully, though, and Iceland isn't the only area affected. Saturday's NBC Nightly News showed some dramatic footage of Alaska's Spencer Glacier in its apparent death throes. Watch that below. Peter Weber

July 29, 2019

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student whose school-skipping protests to highlight the existential need for big action on climate change have inspired tens of thousands of European teens to join her "school strikes," is coming to spread her message to the U.S., she said Monday. Thunberg will attend United Nations climate summits in New York in September and Chile in December, but she had struggled for months to come up with an ecologically appropriate form of travel.

Airplanes are big polluters but so are cruise ships, and smaller boats are dangerous to sail through August's active hurricane-prone Atlantic waters. "Taking a boat to North America is basically impossible," she told The Associated Press, except aboard the high-speed racing yacht she will travel on, accompanied by a filmmaker, her father, Svante, and Pierre Casiraghi, the grandson of the late Grace Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier III. The 60-foot yacht, Malizia II, runs on solar panels and underwater turbines to generate zero carbon emissions. "I haven't experienced anything like this before," Thunberg told AP, giggling. "I think this will be a trip to remember."

Thunberg said she plans to appear at the U.N. and take part in several climate protest in New York, but she thinks meeting President Trump would be "just a waste of time" because "I have nothing to say to him." Trump "obviously doesn't listen to the science and the scientists," she reasoned. "So why should I, a child with no proper education, be able to convince him?" Peter Weber

July 24, 2019

Almost all scientists agree that climate change is being caused by humanity's affect on our world — but the general public isn't quite so convinced. Skeptics often say that even before humans were the reigning species on Earth, the average temperatures on the planet tended to fluctuate between warmer and colder periods. But a pair of new studies basically takes the wind out of that argument, finding solid proof that the climate change we're experiencing now is a direct result of human activity.

The studies, published on Wednesday in Nature and Nature Geoscience, both investigated our current climate and compared it to previous warm periods in the Earth's history. The first study concluded that while certain regions of the Earth have experienced fluctuations in climate before, modern climate change is the first time that the entire planet has warmed — at least in the last 2,000 years.

The second study, meanwhile, assessed the intensity of modern climate change. It found that, even during warm periods in the last 2,000 years, never before has the temperature risen so swiftly as it is now. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global temperatures have risen about two degrees, NBC News explained — and it could rise over five more degrees by the end of this century. That might not seem like a lot, but it's much faster than any other warming event in the last 2,000 years.

The conclusion? "We cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent" to modern climate change, said Scott St. George, a geographer at the University of Minnesota, in a letter published alongside the two studies.

If there's any hope of reversing the effects of climate change, "it's time for everybody to wake up and make changes now," said Jennifer Hertzberg, a paleoclimatologist not involved in the research. Read more at NBC News. Shivani Ishwar

June 12, 2019

A new study has found that the Pentagon emits more greenhouse gasses in one year than several industrialized countries, including Sweden and Portugal.

The Defense Department is the world's single largest consumer of oil, and in 2017, the Pentagon released 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, the study states. "If it were a country, it would have been the world's 55th largest greenhouse gas emitter," writes study author Neta Crawford, a political scientist at Boston University.

Most of the Pentagon's energy consumption is related to maintaining 560,000 buildings at 500 military installations and the jet and diesel fuel used to move soldiers and weapons. Crawford said the military has been using more efficient vehicles, and it would make a huge difference if the Pentagon started rethinking certain missions and whether they are necessary. "There is a lot of room here to reduce emissions," Crawford said. Catherine Garcia

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