State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup: Week of 1/22

Signs of New Life as U.N. Searches for a Climate Accord, New York Times, Jan 24

The recently concluded meeting in Durban, South Africa, which established a new mandate for concluding a binding agreement of some sort by 2015, has given the process new life and hushed many of its critics. Christina Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who leads the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that the crowning achievement of the meeting was the so-called Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which requires the participating 194 nations to develop over the next four years “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, limit temperature rise and help developing countries make the transition to a cleaner energy economy.

Obama steers clear of climate change talk in speech, The Hill, Jan 24

President Obama’s State of the Union address outlines a series of energy proposals aimed at promoting renewable energy, but steers clear of a broad call to tackle climate change. Obama speech makes only one direct reference to climate change. In it, the president acknowledges that a broad climate change bill is politically dead on Capitol Hill and criticizes Congress for failing to pass legislation mandating that a large portion of the country’s electricity come from low-carbon energy sources. In his speech Tuesday, Obama outlined steps aimed at promoting clean energy.

Fracking complicates the climate debate, Reuters, Jan 25

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have laid to rest concerns about peaking oil and gas supplies for a generation, but they have also made the search for comprehensive policies to restrain greenhouse gas emissions more urgent. Policymakers and voters can no longer rely on increasing scarcity, and rising oil and gas prices, to restrain demand and carbon emissions through the market.

How climate change, urbanization are changing disaster aid, Reuters, Jan 26

Asked to rank the factors most likely to intensify humanitarian needs, 28 of 41 aid agencies put the risk of more frequent and destructive climate-related floods, droughts and storms at the top. This was followed by mass displacement due to climate change and environmental damage, urbanization, high and volatile food prices, and the expectation of more failing states. With needs expected to grow and national budgets squeezed by the global financial crisis, some rich donor states are pressing the charities they fund to boost value for money in relief efforts.

Climate Change Debate Brewing in American Classroom, Wall Street Journal, Jan 27

Climate change is the new battleground in science education in middle and high schools in the U.S., Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. State boards of education in Texas and Louisiana have established standards to require the presentation of climate change denial as a valid scientific position, while legislators in Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Kentucky have introduced bills to mandate equal time for climate change skeptics’ views in the classroom, according to OPB. In many ways, the fight over this is just beginning, since new national science standards for grades K-12 are due at the end of the year, and are expected to include climate change.

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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