State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Climate News Roundup: Week of 3/27

Warming Brings Unwelcome Change to Alaska Villages, Anchorage Daily News, Mar. 27

The changing climate is leading to health concerns in some Alaskan villages. In the Chukchi Sea village of Kivalina, beavers have colonized the Wulik River, the main source of fresh water for the Inupiat Eskimo villagers. This is a concern as beaver feces carry Giardia, a parasitic protozoa which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting in infected persons. Warming temperatures have also led to the thawing of ice cellars in both Kivalina and another village, Point Hope. This can cause stored meat to be unsafe to eat and can attract scavengers such as polar bears.

Aircraft Contrails Stoke Warming, Cloud Formation, Reuters, Mar. 29

A new study has found that aircraft condensation trails, or the white lines of vapor that are left behind planes, “may be causing more warming today than all the aircraft-emitted carbon dioxide (CO2) that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the start of aviation.” This is primarily because these contrails, as well as the cirrus clouds that can form around them, trap heat radiating back from Earth’s surface. But while CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for decades after being emitted, these contrails dissipate rapidly. These findings may help inform future jet engine design as well as greenhouse gas emissions penalty levels.

World Bank Would Restrain Finance for Coal Power in Energy Strategy Draft, Bloomberg, Mar. 30

In a new draft energy strategy, the World Bank considers limiting its financing of coal-fired power plants. Under the plan, only the poorest countries, or those that get all of their World Bank funding from the International Development Association, could receive support for new coal power projects. The report also emphasizes the “tremendous potential” for hydropower. Zachary Hurwitz, a policy coordinator at International Rivers, expressed concern that this will result in support for large dams, a solution that he deems “risky and inappropriate.” Hurwitz instead advocates for market-ready renewable technologies such as wind and non-dam kinetic hydropower.

Republicans Get Inconvenient Replies at Climate Hearing, NY Times, Mar. 31

Largely in response to his own doubts about the quality of existing temperature data, Berkeley physicist Richard Muller heads a research effort that uses new methods to estimate temperature trends over land. An initial analysis reveals a global warming trend very similar to that previously reported, leading Muller to state, “I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.” While the research is yet to be peer reviewed and published, the results of this initial analysis have been released and presented at a March 31st Congressional hearing.

Japan Has No Immediate Plan to Review 2020 Climate, Reuters, Apr. 1

The recent nuclear crisis in Japan has led to an increased need for fossil fuels to meet the country’s power needs. The Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto stated at a news conference that the government would like to maintain its greenhouse gas emission reduction pledge of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.  The Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, on the other hand, stated earlier this week that the viability of this target should be addressed at a later time.

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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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