State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup – Week of 10/18

WWF: We Have Until 2014 to Stop Global Warming, Popular Science

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) publishes a new report concluding that by 2014 the world must fully embrace low-carbon technologies. By “embrace” they mean a minimum growth of 22% in green industries, which they estimate could translate into a 63% reduction in emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels. If this rapid investment is not secured, the carbon concentration in our atmosphere would cross 475 parts per million – a threshold at which rapid climate change becomes much more likely. Currently the level of CO2 and CO2 equivalents in the atmosphere is 463 parts per million.

CEOs No Longer Refute Climate Change, Reuters

Members of the Business Council, a collection of executives from the top 120 US companies, have agreed that climate change is occurring and that the threat is real. Company executives agreed that the science was real and that adaptation and mitigation requires a global, united effort. Insiders say that this is a significant development for the council, where arguments over climate change have raged for decades.

Beijing’s Air is Cleaner, But Far From Clean, The New York Times

Beijing’s air has steadily gotten cleaner, say city officials. Relying on a detailed pollution index, government researchers have concluded that the 12-month period through September, 2009 has been the cleanest year since 1998. Despite improvements in quality, Beijing’s air still fails World Health Organization’s standards – in 2008 pollution levels were six times the WHO threshold for cleanliness – and was criticized by the international community during the Olympics as being unsafe. However, the ongoing improvement in air quality is an encouraging sign that municipal mitigation techniques, such as hybrid buses and new-car emissions standards, make a difference.

Costly New Nuclear System May Cut Waste, Arms Risk, Reuters

A new wave of nuclear reactors, dubbed Generation IV Reactors, are expected to be ready for deployment in 10-15 years, say industry giants GE Hitachi, Areva, and Toshiba-Westinghouse. Many critics of nuclear power point to the largely unresolved issue of nuclear waste: what do we do with it? The new technologies provide ways to potentially mitigate this concern. Generation IV Reactors utilize a technology known as closed fuel cycles, whereby spent nuclear fuel is repeatedly re-processed, greatly diminishing the final volume of waste. Although at this stage Generation IV technologies are prohibitively expensive, experts maintain that eventually these re-processing processes will be deployed on an industrial scale.

India-China Climate Deal, BBC

Two of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and India, have agreed to work together to reduce emissions and promote sustainable development. This cooperative effort comes at a crucial time as the United Nations Copenhagen Conference is barely a month away. However, both countries continue tomaintain that limiting emissions will stunt economic growth and that this responsibility should mainly fall on developed countries who bear the historical responsibility for stocks of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

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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