January 15 2020

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden who initiated the Fridays for the Future campaign, was named Time's Person of the Year (the article is well worth reading). Greta was targeted on Twitter by the President of the United States. His cyberbullying reveals vulnerability and immaturity that are both pitiful and terrifying at once if you're curious why this occurs, check out the Mayo Clinic concept of narcissistic personality disorder). We already know how history looks at Thunberg and Trump, and it's not going to go well with the President. Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL, proposes this 2020 resolution, "Be like Greta. Meet the humour of derision. Weakness and power. Self-knowledge vulnerability. Narcism with vision. Cruelty to mankind."

InsideClimate News discusses important observations from climate research over the last decade. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that developments are happening faster than previously predicted. This will test our ability to respond effectively and make our political inaction even more troubling.

The Los Angeles Times reports on a recent study showing increased ocean acidification on the western coast of North America. Using the sedimentary record of shells left by tiny sea creatures known as foraminifera, scientists have recorded how stronger upwelling periods that carry more carbon-rich waters to the surface combine with carbon dioxide dissolving into the ocean to cause more acidification in our area.

The Guardian article forecasts life in 2050 with continuing global warming (adult beverage recommended). The author pays tribute to the previous article written in 2004 on 2020, which proved to be remarkably prescient. The Washington Post has an excellent article about the "Climate Change Insolvency" that has struck PG&E, and the problems facing the business to keep the lights on for northern Californians.

The Guardian reports on the horrifying fire season in Australia that the military's response was needed and that the climate emergency was bolstered by the national political debate. I strongly recommend the New York Times, op-ed, that Australia commit climate suicide. Climate scientist Michael Mann explains his experience in Australia, where he's beginning a sabbatical, adding that Australians don't need to look to the future to understand climate change.

The New York Times reports that people are angry at Prime Minister Morrison's downplay of the role of global warming in the wildfire crisis. A bookshop in a fire-ridden town in New South Wales has a sign that says, "Post-Apocalyptic Fiction has been moved to Current Affairs."

InsideClimate News reports on the likelihood that the eastern Australian forests have reached a turning point where they cannot recover from burning, and some may not be able to rebound in the new climate (the article also has an amazingly cute photo of a koala at a rehab center). Similar measures from other locations indicate that intense fire regimes are coming much faster than scientists expected. This has led many scientists to fear that wildfires would lead to a major net release of greenhouse gases, further exacerbating climate change.

Natural biological processes that extract carbon from the environment are a vital part of the solution to climate change. Anthropocene Magazine reports on a recent study that concludes that limiting deforestation, advancing reforestation, altering agricultural practises, reducing food waste and shifting towards plant-based diets might provide 30% of the emission reductions needed to achieve the ambitious 1.5°C global temperature goal.

The Trump Administration has suggested removing the need to consider climate change (or other "cumulative impacts") while drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), reports the New York Times. The justification for this move – that large projects have been postponed for decades – is not backed by facts. Most projects receiving federal funds do not need an EIS, and the total EIS needed for 1% of federal projects is 4.5 years on average. It is no surprise that Trump cannot differentiate between informed decision-making and excessive delay.

This rule change is clearly an attempt to address concerns that conflict with Trump's ideological and rapacious agenda. The Federal Judge in Montana just sent the Trump Administration back to the drawing board in an attempt to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, noting that in support of its decision, it "simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change." Indeed the EPA Science Advisory Board, despite being full of Trump's appointees, has just announced that EPA's "negglects established science" in three m. For example, in its review in support of the plan to loosen auto emission standards, the administration "finished up with this result that essentially violated introductory economics." The New York Times reports that Trump sought to cut back or abolish 95 environmental protections. As these efforts are ideological rather than objective, 68 legal challenges culminated in 64 losses for the Trump administration.

President Trump, of course, is undeterred by reality and evidence: in Hershey, PA, he told his followers that the sea level will rise one-eighth of an inch in the next 250 years, which is wrong by a factor of at least 300, and possibly much much more. At least he's consistent: we've seen more than 15,000 presidential lies since the inauguration day.

InsideClimate News reports that many farmers and members of Congress are increasingly interested in techniques that enable farmers to improve (and pay for) carbon storage in soils, after a very wet winter delay in planting and a major loss in the agricultural sector. No-till practises and winter cover crops are examples of strategies that improve soil health and carbon sequestration. For years, soils on farms using these techniques have drained faster this winter, enabling these farmers to plant crops, whereas those using more traditional techniques have not been able to plant.

The New York Times op-ed explores how America could run on carbon-free energy by 2030, a key component of resolving the climate crisis. The authors note that we will need to develop wind and solar capacity three to four times faster than the overall annual speed we have achieved so far (in 2012 for wind turbines and in 2016 for solar panels). Using rural electrification and the interstate highway system as examples of what America can achieve if we commit to a big public investment goal, they conclude that political will is the key to achieving that goal.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2 per cent in 2019, according to a report in InsideClimate News, primarily due to the substitution of coal-fired electricity with natural gas and renewables. While this is a positive step, this reduction is not enough to fulfil the US pledge under the Paris Accord, and reductions in transport and industry would be difficult to achieve without federal leadership.

The Boston Globe editorial calls on Americans to vote in 2020 with climate change as their highest priority, and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) outlines her contribution to climate action in The Hill op-ed. The Washington Post op-ed explains how political changes to climate change are taking place in the U.S., and calls Trump's denial of duty his biggest loss of duty. Grist's article offers a heartening viewpoint on the importance of the international youth movement for climate change. In Time, Bill McKibben describes an important move towards sustainability in the banking and finance environment.