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All new Volvo models will be electric, plug-in, or hybrid by 2019

The beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine? […]

Decision making in the Anthropocene

By Kevin Noone, Stockholm University and Bjørn K. Haugland, DNV GL. Imagine this: After a long, productive day you go to bed knowing that not one of our neighbors anywhere on the planet is going to bed hungry. The planet’s ecosystems – on which our prosperity is based – are healthy, resilient and unpolluted. The injustices of the past that were rooted in intolerance and a lack of respect for and appreciation of diversity have been largely eliminated. You are heading for bed in a world in which justice is the norm for all, not just for the well off. Sound good? Perhaps utopian or even naïve? Still, even though we have yet to achieve anything like it, who wouldn’t want to go to bed in such a world […]

Ozone hole could close by mid-century

Proving once again that mankind can reverse the effects of our mistakes if we just take firm and fast action […]

Hoffice project lets people share their homes as free co-working spaces

Leery of renting an expensive co-working space? The Hoffice project gets people to share their under-utilized home spaces as co-working spaces — for free. […]

Cities Can Lead, Cities Want to Lead — Let Them!

Prospects for the Paris Climate Summit in a few weeks are much, much brighter than for any climate gathering since Kyoto in 1997. Three main factors are driving Paris towards success: China’s decision, partly driven by its air pollution crisis, to become a major advocate of change both domestically and globally has upended the politics of North vs. South. The dramatic fall in the price of clean energy options like wind and solar has made climate progress seem like an enticing economic opportunity, not a burdensome shared sacrifice. And the opening up of the Paris process to the first responders to climate risk – cities and their leadership – has disrupted the ability of nation state negotiators to just stand pat. Cities, after all, already contain half the world’s population and are the source of 70% of its emissions. By 2040 their population share will be over 70% and they will emit about 90% of all climate pollutants. So they clearly have to drive the solution. And because they are also the focus of the worst heat waves, the most damaging sea level rise, and the biggest natural disaster burdens, they are powerfully motivated to curb climate disruption. Finally, in a world where clean energy is suddenly cheap, the real conflict of interest is between fossil fuel producers (who want high prices for coal and oil as long as possible) and energy consumers, who want cheap, clean energy today if possible. And with few cities, the economies of the world’s big cities are tied to energy consumption, not fossil fuel production. So while oil and coal interests can tie down national governments and prevent them from decarbonizing quickly, cities want to get on with the job – and they are. City governments don’t yet control all of their own emissions. But they do generally manage three sectors – buildings, transportation, and waste – which are responsible for about 1/3 of urban climate pollution. A study by the Stockholm Institute found that by 2050 cities adopting economically profitable, emission reducing solutions in these three sectors could cut global emissions by 8 GT of CO2 a year – for comparison , the 2030 climate pledges currently on the table from all the world’s sovereign nations add up to Y GT. So the city capacity is very consequential. A study by the New Climate Economy also found that cities could save $17 trillion with these measures. Cities are also poised to save 1GT even before 2020 – and early progress is the most valuable climate progress. Cities are already leading the day. On Friday, the White House celebrated the collective work of more than 100 US cities in their commitments to the Compact of Mayors, a coalition of cities pledging to undertake transparent, data-driven approaches to reduce city-level emissions, lower climate change risk and work to complement national and international efforts to protect our climate. But cities can do far more if properly empowered. In the US, for example, some cities control the source of their electricity, and where they do, they are moving rapidly to lower carbon sources. Omaha, Nebraska, owns its own power, and has committed to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, far more than the 30% Obama Clean Power Plan target. In six UN states, including California, Illinois and Ohio, cities can choose their own electricity providers. So far 1300 cities, with 5% of the US population, have taken advantage of this, including such behemoths as Chicago and Cincinnati. And in every case the city gets cheaper power, and cleaner, lower carbon electrons. US cities are leading the way. Electricity is not the only climate pollution source that cities need to be empowered to tackle. In many countries, cities are hampered by the lack of authority to issue bonds to pay for low carbon infrastructure like mass transit to building retrofits, even when such infrastructure is wildly profitable and would enable cities to cut taxes. Other cities in the emerging world have permission to borrow, but haven’t been given the necessary financial tools to qualify for a credit rating – so they can’t borrow affordably. Once Lima Peru got a credit rating, it built a rapid transit system that is transforming the face of the city. Many cities lack the authority to insist that cars and trucks coming in burn clean fuels in clean engines – the resulting pollution problems not only disrupt the climate but also impose enormous health burdens on urban residents. Paris has been forced to consider banning diesel cars from the city, but has no influence over the lax, shoddy regulations that the member states in the European Union have established over vehicle emissions, as revealed in the last Volkswagen scandal. When Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York and tried to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in Manhattan with congestion pricing, the state legislature blocked him. And his efforts to encourage hybrid taxes in NYC’s yellow cab fleet were hampered by federal rules and regulations. So the key to unlocking the full potential of city climate leadership is to empower cities with the policy levers to clean up not only buildings and transit, but electricity, fuels and vehicles – if every city had the strongest tools that are currently available only to a few, the world’s climate prospects would glow far more brightly. Cities can lead. Cities want to lead. Let them! — 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. […]

The Tide May Be Turning on Climate Change

At the eleventh hour when the gloomy spectre of failure was descending upon the Climate Change Conference that will begin in Paris within a few weeks, a miracle has happened. Just weeks ago I was predicting that COP 21 would be a failure just like all the other preceding international conferences on the environment over the last 45 years. But things have changed radically and just within the last few months. Now I believe there is a glimmer of hope, and with some push from some strong world political leaders, there is now a real chance for progress. I am being cautious here. There have been absolutely no breakthroughs on an international level concerning environmental and conservation issues ever before, not a single one of any significance. Stockholm 1972 was a failure. Rio 1992 was a failure. Kyoto 1997 was a failure. Copenhagen 2009 was a failure. Lima 2014 was a failure. Now however, there is a small chance that Paris 2015 could be a success, or at least the real beginning of something that can evolve into a success. It appears that with France leading the conference that the European Union will stand strong. China is moving in a positive direction and the USA under Barack Obama, despite the resistance of a Republican Congress, recognizes the gravity of the situation. And of course the Pacific Island nations have a vested interest in seeing progress as they watch the water levels slowly rise. What has changed and changed significantly are the positions held by Australia and Canada. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the very hostile climate change denier who declared that coal was good for humanity and climate change was “crap,” has been ignobly ousted by his own party, replaced by a more intelligent and reasonable Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. This means that Australia will at least listen. However the recent election in Canada was in fact a climate change revolution. Prime Minster Stephen Harper, the darling of the fossil fuel industry, was turfed out in a dramatic turnaround with the election of a young and “with it, gets it” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canadian scientists were immediately un-muzzled and Canada has created the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change under a very progressive Catherine McKenna. The tide has turned from a notoriously aggressive climate change-denying Canadian regime to a government that is taking the problem very seriously. President Francois Hollande now has the opportunity to host a conference that could for the first time address the real threats to our environment and if it does so, this will be the most important conference in the history of humanity. Why? Because if this conference fails, the consequences will be unpleasantly profound for the future of all humanity. ____________ Captain Paul Watson is a co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and a former national director of the Sierra Club in the United States. He is in Paris for COP 21. — 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. […]

Arctic Tipping Points Can Ripple Around the World

Recently, I was invited to Anchorage, Alaska, by the U.S. State Department to join Barack Obama, John Kerry and other world leaders to discuss Arctic resilience in the context of rising impacts from climate change. The Arctic is one of the last remaining wildernesses. The unforgiving conditions ensure it remains sparsely populated. As a result, some of the most dramatic changes on the planet are occurring far from view. Here communities, from the Alaskan Yupik to the Greenland Inuit native tribes, have developed and adapted resilient societies for millennia. But now the Arctic is changing faster than ever before in modern history, as a result of human-caused climate change and ecosystem degradation. More worryingly, we are seeing the first signs that the Arctic is approaching tipping points that, like toppling dominos, are likely to lead to a cascade of events that will affect us all. Without dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases, by the end of the century much of the Arctic is predicted to be more than five degrees warmer than today, and in places nine or 10 degrees. There will be no sea ice in the summer months leading to other abrupt, potentially irreversible, ecological and physical changes — sea ice this summer has already dropped well below the long-term average. The Arctic Ocean will become more acidic, corroding anything with a shell. The stability of the Greenland ice sheet — which contains enough water to raise sea levels globally by at least six meters — will be in doubt. The so-called Atlantic thermohaline circulation, including the Gulf Stream and its warm waters that ensure a mild northern-European climate, is in jeopardy. And the melting permafrost is already buckling buildings, roads and pipelines and may lead to a large release of methane, a gas more than 20 times as potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. In fact, the Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified 16 potential “regime shifts” or tipping points in the Arctic, ranging from collapse of salmon stocks to a complete transition of the Inuit way of life. Twelve of these regime shifts will be difficult to reverse in a human lifetime. The reason is that feedbacks change, which causes systems to self-reinforce warming. In the case of Greenland, for example, when ice melts, the surface changes color from white, which reflects almost all incoming solar heat back to space, to a darker water surface, which absorbs heat. These changes indicate the importance of understanding resilience in vast ecosystems like the Arctic and how to create societies that can cope with inevitable shocks. Resilience is the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, which will be launched at the end of the month at the UN General Assembly in New York. Goal 9 focuses specifically on resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and innovation. But resilience is often misunderstood. It is not only about rolling with the punches and recovering from shocks. A resilient system, be it a city or planet, is where diversity is encouraged, connectivity is managed and new information is absorbed and used. This renewal and capacity to live with change is the foundation to weather the storm and bounce back stronger and more flexible than before. We now know our globally connected society can expect faster changes and more shocks cascading through ecosystems and economies, where a small change in the ecology of the Arctic or the economics of the U.S. subprime housing market can ripple around the world. In a matter of decades, we have become a big world on a small planet. We now have enough scientific knowledge to show that the stable, healthy biosphere that we have taken for granted for more than 10,000 years has reached a tipping point, where humans now dominate and its future state is, ironically, less predictable. We will need resilient infrastructure in the Arctic to weather the expected changes. But in the lifetime of the goals, we also need to monitor closely this fragile ecosystem. This is a critical period of transition. We need to reduce the combined pressure of warming, ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing. As myself and colleagues argue in the Earth Statement, the priority is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to zero by 2050 and halt biodiversity loss. However, this means the race to find oil in the Arctic is a dead end. Recent research analyzing remaining fossil-fuel reserves concluded “Development of resources in the Arctic…[is] …incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 °C.” The Arctic will warm further and we can expect more dramatic changes in the north — emphasizing why the new global goals are universal — wealthy northern nations will be hit hard by environmental change. Investment in resilient infrastructure will be necessary to adapt. But we also need to focus our best minds on innovations — both social and technological — to provide solutions that are cognizant of the complex interconnections and cascading global effects that must somehow be managed. The 17 goals mark a paradigm shift for humanity. They are a remarkable achievement emerging from the largest summit in UN history, Rio+20, and the result of the biggest consultation the UN has undertaken. They recognize the very real existential threat we face as a species and the new responsibility we must shoulder. But also the interconnections: if we fail on one, we risk failing them all. Our new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Planetary Boundaries launched on September 14 provides the essential knowledge to understand why the research community is so concerned, but also how, if we act now, we can end poverty and safeguard our future and the future of Earth’s life-support system. This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development — including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post’s commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What’s Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 9. To find out what you can do, visit here and here. — 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. […]