State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup – Week of 9/19

Denver to Barcelona: Global Cities and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, ScienceDaily

ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology is publishing a new study in October identifying which cities are producing the greatest levels of greenhouse gases. Denver was number one on the list, followed by Los Angeles, Toronto, Cape Town, and Bangkok. Researchers identified high electricity and heating use and reliance on automotives for personal transportation as factors contributing to the emissions ratings. Analyses like can hopefully help municipal governments establish strategies to limit their carbon footprints, much like PlaNYC and New York City’s pledge to lower greenhouse emissions 30% by 2030.

China Makes its First Commitment to Climate Change Targets, guardian.co.uk

The U.N. Summit on Climate Change this week brought together leaders from hundreds of countries to address the stalling negotiations towards an international treaty. President Hu Jintao took the opportunity to announce China’s first commitment to a greenhouse gas reduction. Although the reduction, “a notable margin” by 2030 (from 2005 levels), isn’t a concrete target, it demonstrates China’s willingness to engage on this issue. President Obama spoke of the need for international action, but also made no specific goals or concessions, thus failing to inject momentum into the negotiations as Copenhagen looms in December.

India challenges the U.S. by Agreeing to Impose Limits on Carbon Emissions, TimesOnline

Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister of Environment, announced that legislation was in the works that would eventually limit India’s carbon footprint. India has traditionally been resistant to pledging emission reductions but this announcement is a significant shift as it shows readiness to cooperate. India’s commitment puts pressure on the U.S. to make similar pledges as Copenhagen draws near.

Recession Barely Dents Eco-Debt, BBC

The New Economics Foundation has created a new marker of humanity’s consumption: “ecological debt day”. This is defined as the day every year by which the world has already consumed an equivalent full year of sustainably consumed natural resources. This year ecological debt day fell on September 25th, exactly one day later than last year. So while emissions may have dipped slightly in 2009 due to decreased industrial activity associated with the economic recession, our unsustainable consumption has barely been affected.

China’s Plan to Rule the Sun, Forbes

Since May, China has announced over nine gigawatts of planned solar construction in addition to the eleven gigawatts currently under construction. The latest installation, a Manhattan-sized field in Inner Mongolia, will be the largest single solar facility in the world once it comes on-line in 2020. In an unexpected move, China hired First Solar, an Arizona-based thin-film solar panel producer, to provide the panels. Given China’s well-established solar industry, their willingness to open their energy market to foreign companies will give them political leverage during the international negotiations in December. 

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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