State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup – Week of 7/12

Solar-Powered Light Promises Safe, Kerosene-free Lighting for Millions, The Denver Post

A Denver-based inventor has taken an idea for a solar-powered light bulb and scaled up to a model designed to make electric light available for millions of people around the world, whose main lighting is produced by kerosene lamp. The bulb is powered by four small photovoltaic panels, and regulated by a microchip. A single charge can last up to four hours, and the bulbs have a lifespan of five years. Production on the bulbs is lean – for more developed nations like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan the bulb will cost $15 per bulb. In places like Ethiopia, where demand is higher but a $15 bulb is unaffordable, the bulb will sell for $6. A move away from carbon-spewing kerosene and fuel lamps is important, as the UNFCCC estimates that they emit nearly 190 millions tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, or the equivalent of 1.3 millions barrels of oil per day.

IPCC Warns Its Scientists to Avoid the Media, The Guardian

Last week IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri contacted the working groups of the IPCC report, admonishing them to “keep a distance from the media” in any interviews regarding IPCC work. Instead, Pachauri recommended that researchers redirect questions to their working group’s co-chairs or the IPCC secretariat. The letter was not without controversy among scientists, however. Climate modeler Ben Kirtman of the University of Miami was among those protesting the letter, calling it “extremely poorly worded” and “poorly timed.” Indeed, Pachauri’s letter was released two days before Sir Muir Russell’s inquiry into the climategate scandal reprimanded scientists for “failing to display the proper degree of openness.” Kirtman instead argued that Pachauri should “have simply reminded researchers that they don’t formally represent the IPCC… Most of my colleagues recognize that the world is watching … We are trying to carry on and be as objective and transparent as humanly possible.”

Interactive Climate Map from Google Shows the Future of Climate Change, The Telegraph

Google Earth, in conjunction with the U.K.’s Foreign Office and Department of Energy and Climate Change, has released an addition charting how the world would be affected by a 4C increase in global temperatures. Illustrating anything from rising water levels to crop yields, the map is designed to make climate predictions more accessible to the general public. Due to be regularly updated, the map links through to video interviews with various scientists who specialize in particular fields of climate change. Ed Parsons from Google stated that “this is a great example of the benefits of using the latest web technology to visualize scientific information and promote better understanding of the potential impacts of climate change.” The map is available here: .

Stanford Climate Scientist Stephen Schneider Dies at 65, Mercury News

Leading climate scientist and Nobel Laureate Stephen Schneider passed away last week of a fatal heart attack while flying from a scientific meeting in Stockholm. Schneider, whose prolific career spanned forty years, was an outspoken climate change activist whose work spanned everything from public policy to advising utility companies to his core research on climate change. He was a frequent contributor and guest on national television, and frequently sparred with climate change skeptics. Schneider received his doctorate from Columbia University in mechanical engineering and plasma physics in 1971, and founded the prominent journal Climatic Change during his tenure at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Chinese Cities Find Bus-Only Lanes an Alternative to Subways and Cars, The New York Times

In February, Guangzhou finished construction and opened its BRT – Bus Rapid Transit – line running through the heart of the city: 14-miles of dedicated and separated bus lanes servicing dedicated bus stops, in a system akin to an above-ground subway. Before the BRT was completed, Guangzhou was plagued by severe congestion. Dedicated bus lane systems have been tried in other cities – most notably, Sao Paolo – but the Guangzhou BRT presented new achievements upon its opening. It is the largest BRT project in China, and handles roughly 800,000 trips per day, the world record for BRT. Cheaper and faster to construct that rail or subway, the BRT has become a success for the rapidly-expanding southern city, and is proving to be an environmental boon: the UN Environmental Program estimates that the Guangzhou BRT reduces about 20,000 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent of the emissions of 4,000 cars.

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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