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The GOP’s Drift From Reality

It is unfair to paint either of America’s principal political parties with a broad brush. There are many different viewpoints and values within the ranks of Republicans and Democrats. It is very fair, however, to judge the parties by the actions of their leaders and the reactions of their rank and file. If grassroots Republicans allow their leaders to remain in power, they must share the blame or the credit for their leaders’ actions. The Republican Party’s official position on global climate change is a prominent example. In the past decade, the Party has developed an inverse relationship between reality and ideology. In other words, as climate change has become more damaging and climate science more certain, the official party line has become more adamant that global warming doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. […]

From Global to Local: the Future of Non-State Climate Action

Last month, I woke up in Marrakech, Morocco, attending the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), to the news that Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidential Election. […]

Business Leaders Are Shouting, Climate Change Mitigation Is An Economic Decision!

DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L’Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, VF Corporation, and Unilever. What does this list of companies bring to mind? A diverse set of global enterprises? Companies focused on a single type of product? […]

Awareness of the Ivory Crisis is Taking Shape

In recent years, African nations with large elephant populations such as Kenya, Mozambique, and the Republic of Congo have made powerful statements by publicly burning their stockpiles of ivory confiscated from poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers. At the CITES Conference of the Parties this past October, 182 governments around the world agreed to a resolution calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets. […]

You can wave goodbye to this global warming goal

You can wave goodbye to this global warming goal

By on Apr 20, 2016comments

Cross-posted from

Climate CentralShare

Global leaders are meeting in New York this week to sign the Paris climate agreement. One of the expressed purposes of the document is to limit warming to “well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.”

A Climate Central analysis shows that the world will have to dramatically accelerate emissions reductions if it wants to meet that goal. The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48 degrees C, essentially equaling the 1.5 degrees C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December.

February exceeded the 1.5 degrees C target at 1.55 degrees C, marking the first time the global average temperature has surpassed the sobering milestone in any month. March followed suit checking in at 1.5 degrees C. January’s mark of 1.4 degrees C, put the global average temperature change from early industrial levels for the first three months of 2016 at 1.48 degrees C.

Climate Central

Climate Central scientists and statisticians made these calculations based on an average of global temperature data reported by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But rather than using the baselines those agencies employ, Climate Central compared 2016’s temperature anomalies to an 1881-1910 average temperature baseline, the earliest date for which global temperature data are considered reliable. NASA reports global temperature change in reference to a 1951-1980 climate baseline, and NOAA reports the anomaly in reference to a 20th century average temperature.

NASA’s data alone showed a February temperature anomaly of 1.63 degrees C above early industrial levels with March at 1.54 degrees C.

Calculating a baseline closer to the pre-industrial era provides a useful measure of global temperature for policymakers and the public to better track how successful the world’s efforts are in keeping global warming below agreed-upon thresholds.

A similar adjustment can be applied to some of the temperature change projections in the most recent IPCC report.

The IPCC AR5 Working Group 1 Report contains projections of future global surface temperature change according to several scenarios of future socio-economic development, most of which are presented using a baseline of 1986 to 2005. The IPCC chose this baseline in order to provide its readers a more immediate base of comparison, the climate of the present world, which people are familiar with. But these representations may suggest that the Paris goals are easier to reach than is true.

The IPCC’s presentation of these scenarios was not designed to inform the discussion about warming limits (e.g., 1.5 degrees C, 2 degrees C goals of the Paris COP21 agreements). But the Panel does provide a way to make its projections of future warming consistent with discussions about targets.

IPCC estimates, using the best and longest record available, show that the difference between the 1986-2005 global average temperature value used in most of the Panel’s projections, and pre-industrial global average temperature, is 0.61 degrees C (0.55-0.67). Neglecting 0.61 degrees C warming is not trivial, and makes a significant difference for the assessment of the goals established in Paris. In fact, 0.61 degrees C amounts to about half the warming already experienced thus far.

To capture this warming and display the IPCC warming time series relative to the pre-industrial period, Climate Central adjusted a well known IPCC projection (SPM7(a)) to reflect a 1880-1910 baseline. This adjustment has a significant effect on the dates at which the 1.5 and 2 degrees C thresholds are crossed, moving them up by about 15-20 years.

If current emissions trends continue (RCP8.5) we could cross the 1.5 degrees C threshold in 10 to 15 years, somewhere between the years 2025-2030, compared to 2045-2050 when a 1985-2005 baseline is used.

The dramatic global hot streak that kicked off 2016 doesn’t mean the world has already failed to meet the goals in the Paris agreement. Three months do not make a year, and it is unlikely that 2016 will exceed the 1881-1910 climate-normal by 1.5 degrees C. This year is also in the wake of a strong El Niño, when higher-than-average temperatures would be expected.

And of course, exceeding the 1.5 degrees C threshold for even an entire year would not mean that global temperatures had in fact risen to that point, never (at least within our lifetime) to drop back below it as it’s too short of a time frame to make that determination.

But the hot start for 2016 is a notable symbolic milestone. The day the world first crossed the 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold for atmospheric carbon dioxide heralded a future of ever increasing carbon dioxide. So too, do the first three months of 2016 send a clear signal of where our world is headed and how fast we are headed there if drastic actions to reduce carbon emissions are not taken immediately.


On Dec. 12, 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change approved the Paris Agreement committing 195 nations of the world to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.” The pact commits the world to adopt nationally determined policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions in accord with those goals.

The 2 degrees C goal represents a temperature increase from a pre-industrial baseline that scientists believe will maintain the relatively stable climate conditions that humans and other species have adapted to over the previous 12,000 years. It will also minimize some of the worst impacts of climate change: drought, heat waves, heavy rain and flooding, and sea-level rise. Limiting the global surface temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C would lessen these impacts even further.

1.5 and 2 degrees C are not hard and fast limits beyond which disaster is imminent, but they are now the milestones by which the world measures all progress toward slowing global warming. And yet it is surprisingly difficult to find objective measures that answer the question, where are we today on the path toward meeting the 1.5 or 2 degrees C goals?

Every month NOAA and NASA update their global surface temperature change analysis, using data from the Global Historical Climate Network, and methods validated in the peer-reviewed literature (Hansen et al. 2010; NCDC). The monthly updates are posted on their websites, and made available to the public along with the underlying data and assumptions that go into their calculations.

These calculations are enormously useful for understanding the magnitude and pace of global warming. In fact, they are the bedrock measurements validating the fact that our planet is warming at all.

But none present their results in comparison to a pre-industrial climate normal.

Methods and Results

The NASA and NOAA monthly updates are presented as anomalies, or as the deviation from a baseline climate normal, calculated as an average of a 30-year reference period, or the 20th century average; they do not represent an absolute temperature increase from a specific date. NASA presents their results in reference to a 1951 to 1980 average temperature, NOAA in reference to a 20th century average temperature.

The NASA results, calculated by Goddard Institute for Space Studies, are published monthly on the NASA/GISS website (GISTEMP). NOAA methods and monthly updates are published via the National Centers for Environmental Information here.

Climate Central used data from NASA and NOAA to create an 1881 to 1910 climate normal for the months of January, February, and March. We then compared the reported monthly 2016 anomaly for each of these months to this “early-industrial” baseline reference period. These anomalies were then averaged to produce a mean monthly NASA/NOAA anomaly for each month. The results are presented below.

The NASA anomaly is considerably higher than the anomaly reported by NOAA. This reflects the fact the NASA’s calculations are tuned to account for temperature changes at the poles, where there are far fewer monitoring stations. NOAA relies only on historical station data and makes no adjustment to account for sparse records at the poles, where warming has been more rapid relative to non-polar regions.

Climate Central



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Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Recognizing the Fundamental Link Between Women and Biodiversity on International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day — a time to stop, reflect, appreciate and champion women around the globe. Women are leaders, professors, engineers and farmers, they are core to human existence. Women also make up make up significant majorities of the world’s poorest populations and produce more than half of the food that is grown, yet their voices are rarely heard when decisions are made on biodiversity and the environment. For many women, biodiversity is the foundation of their livelihoods, their cultural beliefs and even their basic survival. In addition to the obvious ecological services that biodiversity provides, collection and use of natural resources is of critical importance. Women around the world predominate as wild plant gatherers, guardians of biodiversity, plant domesticators, herbalists and seed custodians. Often however, the indivisible link between women and biodiversity goes ignored or undervalued. Although nature is important to all humankind, women and men rely on it in diverse ways, have differentiated knowledge about it, and unequal access to and control over natural resources. For example, 15 states in India adopted forest protection resolutions that restricted firewood collection within the programme for Joint Forest Management. As a result, women had to walk an average of 10 kilometres to gather firewood in non-restricted areas. Failing to adhere to restrictions resulted in severe penalties — with women accounting for 90 percent of the people punished. Recognizing women’s roles as primary land and resource managers is central to the success of biodiversity policies, however data shows us that in many places this is not occurring. For instance, in recent IUCN Environment and Gender Index (EGI) analysis, women comprise only 31.6 percent of focal point positions to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), a global agreement addressing all aspects of biological diversity. Additionally, acknowledging the roles and needs of both women and men within national reports and management plans is key to effective inclusion and, therefore, effective conservation, sustainable use, and management of protected areas — but keywords relating to gender equality were mentioned in only 16 percent of Ramsar Convention National Reports and only 1 percent of World Heritage Convention State of Conservation Reports analyzed, leaving much to be desired in terms of gender equality in regards to wetlands and protected areas. IUCN’s Global Gender Office (GGO) is committed to addressing these types of data gaps, as well as facilitating gender-responsive polices and initiatives by assisting countries in strengthening their capacity to address gender considerations in conservation. For example, a partnership was established between IUCN and the CBD, to review, train, provide guidance and convene stakeholders on mainstreaming gender into Parties National Biodiversity strategies. In Mexico City this past February, over 65 women and men working on issues related to gender and biodiversity in Mexico came together to share experiences and provide input into the development of a gender-responsive National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). We believe that this kind of innovative work, and by building the capacity of countries and relevant partners, both women and men will be equally taken into account in biodiversity conservation efforts under the CBD, and the full and effective contributions of women will be encouraged. In Zambia, where GGO recently engaged in the process to develop a Climate Change Gender Action Plan (ccGAP), women are acknowledged as having indigenous knowledge in the management of agricultural and forest systems and preservation of the plant genetic material for many indigenous and local food crops. For example, Zambia included references to women in its 2014 3rd National Report to the CBD, noting gender as a cross-cutting issue. In its second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2025), women are noted as stakeholders, and the need for addressing gender is likewise noted. It is encouraging to see issues of gender equality and biodiversity being highlighted not just at the international stage but also at national and local levels — and ensuring women have equal opportunities as programme stakeholders and beneficiaries will be a critical next step to implementing these valuable commitments. Biodiversity is fundamental to human existence — for both women and men, young and old. The problems we face in conserving and sustainably using the earth’s resources are too immense and too complex to be solved without the full and active participation of women. Efforts must be increased to involve women in biodiversity policy and planning, ascertain their access to resources and services, and ensure benefits are equitably shared among all stakeholders. To move towards gender equality in the biodiversity sector, it is essential that better gender-specific data is collected and shared, as exemplified by the EGI NBSAP data. This will raise awareness on the potential wealth of women’s contributions to conservation and sustainable natural resource management, ultimately leading to a more just and sustainable world for all who inhabit it. To learn more about GGO’s work, or to explore further issues related to gender and the environment, please visit the GGO website and follow us on Twitter. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Can the WTO Take a Lesson from the Paris Climate Playbook?

As readers will know from my previous entry at this blog (“Paris Agreement — A Good Foundation for Meaningful Progress”, December 12, 2015), I was busy with presentations and meetings during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris last December. However, I did have time to reflect on the process that was leading to the then-emerging Paris Agreement, including a series of discussions with my Harvard colleague — Professor Robert Lawrence, a leading international trade economist — who was back in Cambridge. He and I realized that negotiators in a very different realm — international trade — could benefit from observing the progress that was being made in the international climate policy realm in Paris. This led to a co-authored op-ed that appeared in the Boston Globe on December 7, 2015 (“What the WTO Can Learn from the Paris Climate Talks”). For many years, climate negotiators have looked longingly at how the World Trade Organization (WTO) was able to negotiate effective international agreements. But ironically, the Paris climate talks and the WTO negotiations, which were set to take place the following week in Nairobi, lead to the opposite conclusion. Trade negotiators can now emulate the progress made in the climate change agreements by moving away from a simplistic division between developed and developing countries. For years, global climate change policy was hobbled by this division. Readers of this blog will be familiar with this issue. In the Kyoto Protocol, only developed countries committed to emissions reductions. Developing countries had no obligations. The stark demarcation made meaningful progress impossible, partly because the growth in emissions since the Protocol came into force in 2005 has been entirely in the large developing countries. Even if developed countries were to eliminate their CO2 emissions completely, the world cannot reduce the pace of climate change unless countries such as China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia take meaningful action. The WTO negotiations, launched in 2001 in Doha, have remained at an impasse because of similar problems. They are tied up because nearly all the obligations assumed by WTO members depend upon whether they claim to be developed or developing. And since countries are allowed to self-designate, countries such as Singapore, South Korea, and the Gulf oil states seek to be treated the same as Ghana, Zambia, and Pakistan. When developing countries accounted for a relatively small share of world trade, it was easy to grant all of them special treatment. But it has become impossible for developed countries to agree to additional liberalization without meaningful market-opening concessions by the large emerging economies, which will account for the majority of world trade growth in the future. Even though some have already liberalized unilaterally, many of these countries avoid making concessions at the WTO by claiming treatment as developing nations. In the climate arena, the big break came in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, when countries agreed to achieve an outcome that was applicable to all parties. In Paris, the countries of the world adopted the Paris Agreement, which includes: bottom-up elements in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — national targets and actions that arise from domestic policies and circumstances; and top-down elements for oversight, guidance, and coordination. Now all countries are involved in protecting the climate system “on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” Whereas the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol covers countries (Europe and New Zealand) that account for no more than 14 percent of global emissions (and zero percent of global emissions growth), INDCs submitted for the Paris agreement cover 186 countries, representing 96 percent of global emissions. This dramatic, path-breaking expansion of the scope of participation is the key reason for optimism about the Paris Agreement. In the trade sphere, a similarly nuanced approach with differentiated responsibilities that reflect different capabilities could be adopted by the WTO. Instead of all countries having to subscribe as either developed or developing countries, the WTO could finally move beyond the North-South divide that is embodied in almost every draft proposed in the current Doha round. The climate talks have shown that simplistic classifications of countries are a prescription for impasse. Robert Lawrence and I concluded that unless the WTO learns this lesson, it may become increasingly irrelevant, as coalitions of the willing turn to regional agreements to make what progress they can on international trade liberalization. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]