Compromise met at the COP26, some say it isn’t enough


Via Flickr.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | November 15, 2021

After two weeks in Glasgow, 200 countries adopted a document regarding climate policies and action at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The agreement includes agreements to reduce fossil fuel and coal subsidies, specifically calling for a “phase down.” John Kerry, U.S. special envoy for climate change, called fossil fuel subsidies the insanity at the meeting, calling for the rapid phase out of their use immediately.

The U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres said more work needs to be done when it comes to the climate crisis. In a video address, he said the planet is fragile and “hanging by a thread,” as the world gets closer to a “climate catastrophe.”

Alongside other decisions, more than 100 world leaders—including the U.S. and China—committed to ending deforestation in the next nine years. COP26 President Alok Sharma told NBC News that this year’s summit was still an important stepping stone when it comings to climate change and global warming.

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive,” he said. “But its pulse is weak, and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

Climate activists, like Greta Thunberg, said the real conversation and work regarding climate change continues outside of meetings with governmental officials.

WHO sets tougher regulations for air quality


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 28, 2021

The World Health Organization set new standards for air quality guidelines for the next 15 years on Sept. 22.

The standards are set for policymakers across the world to lower pollutants that impact air quality. According to the Associated Press, more research and monitoring has cleared up previous questions regarding the impacts pollutants have on the health of human beings and animals. The United Nations health agency said 90 percent of the global population currently live in environments with at least one harmful type of pollutant.

Pollution of the air is concerning to global health advocates, as it becomes comparable to smoking tobacco. The guidelines are not legally binding, and they ask policy makers to focus on reducing the concentrations of six pollutant. The concerning pollutants include two types of particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

Some of the guidelines also encourage individuals to do their part to improve air quality by changing their behaviors through reducing use of plastics and using public transportation instead of driving cars. Air pollution is decreasing in several countries and has over the past few years, especially in Europe and North America. The change of guidelines could see improvements across many other continents.

Joe Biden has a New Goal of Cutting Down Methane Emissions


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Josie Taylor | September 27, 2021

The United States and European Union are working on a pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 17, 2021. He urged countries around the world to join before the U.N. climate summit later this year. 

Cutting out methane would be beneficial for both slowing climate change and for the health of every citizen. There is less methane in the atmosphere than there is carbon dioxide, however it is a much more potent greenhouse gas when it comes to warming the planet. Methane also causes unhealthy air pollution. 

Methane emissions have been going up very quickly recently, and research shows they need to drop by almost half by 2030 to meet the Paris climate agreement goals. This means that the entire world needs to cut methane emissions. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it also contributes to surface ozone, which is a toxic air pollutant. Reducing methane improves air quality, while reducing the effects of climate change. Another benefit is that the results are almost immediate. 

Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, UN Rights Chief Warns.


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Josie Taylor | September 16, 2021

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned the UN of what she called the biggest challenge to human rights- climate change. She said on Monday climate change, pollution, and nature loss are severely affecting human rights, while countries across the globe fail to take the necessary action. 

“As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era,” Bachelet said at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The UN has many goals they hope to reach by 2030. These goals include ending poverty, ending hunger, access to clean water worldwide and more. All of these issues are directly impacted by climate change. 

Bachelet said that climate change is putting people in extremely vulnerable situations, and it is “murdering” people. Not only are people dying directly from climate disasters, they are hungry from droughts and homeless from fires. All of these should be considered human rights violations, according to Bachelet.

United Nations Summit on Emerging Diseases and Deforestation Will Occur Next Month


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Maxwell Bernstein | September 2, 2020

A UN summit on biodiversity is scheduled for next month in New York City, where conservationists and biologists will discuss a strong link between deforestation and the emergence of novel diseases such as Covid-19, according to The Guardian

Land-use change, the process where humans transform natural land, is linked to 31% of emerging infectious diseases including HIV, Ebola, and Zika virus, according to Iowa Environmental Focus.

Proportions of animals that host pathogens that are detrimental to human health is anywhere from 21-144% higher in human-disturbed areas than non-disturbed habitats, according to Iowa Environmental Focus

“It is estimated that tens of millions of hectares of rainforest and other wild environments are being bulldozed every year to cultivate palm trees, farm cattle, extract oil and provide access to mines and mineral deposits,” The Guardian said. 

U.N. climate negotiations end with key issues unresolved


Photo from UNclimatechange, on flickr

Tyler Chalfant | December 17th, 2019

The 25th annual Conference of the Parties concluded in Madrid on Sunday, and activists as well as participants largely consider the United Nations negotiations to be a failure. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said on Twitter that he was “disappointed with the results” of the conference. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

The talks were meant to conclude on Friday, but stretched on to be the longest ever in a quarter century. Delegates left with neither a commitment from the world’s largest polluters to adopt new carbon emissions targets next year, nor a set of rules for global carbon markets. Article 6, which sets up the international trade of emissions cuts and other forms of international cooperation, remains the last aspect of the Paris climate agreement to be resolved, and could “make or break” the entire agreement. 

As the United States is the only country in the world backing out of the Paris climate agreement, this was the last chance, at least for some time, for U.S. delegates to participate in climate negotiations. The U.S., along with Australia, Brazil, China, and India, was singled out as among the major polluters blocking several actions, including more ambitious climate targets for 2020. 

Other issues pushed into next year’s conference in Glasgow include:

  • How to support countries affected by the irreversible effects of climate change
  • An agreement on common timeframes for national climate pledges
  • The establishment of common metrics for converting non-carbon dioxide emissions into carbon dioxide equivalents to be reported
  • Recommendations for climate action in agriculture

Rise in natural gas drives increase in global carbon emissions


Tyler Chalfant | December 10th, 2019

As representatives from nearly 200 countries meet to discuss limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a study released last week shows that global fossil emissions have risen for a third year in a row. This rise is largely due to an increase in the use of natural gas that has outpaced the decline of other fossil fuels, including coal.

The growth in emissions largely comes from China and India. While emissions in North American and European countries are gradually declining, these countries still consume 5 to 20 times as much oil per capita as China and India. Therefore, as car ownership and air travel in Asia increase, global oil consumption is expected to rise.

This prediction is part of a larger trend. Natural gas, often viewed as a cleaner “bridge fuel” used to replace coal and other fossil fuels, as well as renewables, are being used to provide new energy to new consumers, not just replacing other fossil fuels. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel globally, but has been presented by energy companies as a long-term solution. 

As coal has declined in recent years, the U.S is projected to see a 3.5% rise in natural gas use in 2019. The University of Iowa has increased natural gas use, rising 61% between 2014 and 2018, as the primary means of displacing coal in its power plant. When University President Bruce Harreld declared a climate crisis on Monday, he said that the university wants to substitute natural gas as well and move towards biomass.

Because of these trends in oil and natural gas use make it likely that we will see another increase in carbon emissions in 2020. One major obstacle to meeting the goal of a 2 degrees Celsius increase limit, set in the Paris Climate Agreement, is establishing international carbon markets, an issue that could be decided in Madrid this week. 

Monday’s U.N. Summit highlights progress and stagnation for climate urgency


Greta Thunberg
A photo of Greta Thunberg from Creative Commons. 

By Julia Poska | September 29, 2019

At the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, international government officials, business leaders and change-makers gathered to promote efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at present and in coming decades.

The United Nations website touts achievements from this summit, including increasing participation in programs like the “Powering Past Coal Alliance.”

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced his country’s launch of the new “Climate Ambition Alliance” at the conference, as well. Sixty-five countries and the European Union, as well as numerous cities, businesses and investors signed-on to achieve net‑zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Others have indicated intention to ramp up current efforts in the next year.

Several U.S. states, cities, businesses and investors were among the early signers, but the nation as a whole has not joined the alliance. New York Times reporters Somini Sengupta and

Star teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg noted her disappointment with world leadership’s overall lack of urgency during a speech to the assembly.

“How dare you? ” Thunberg said, accusatorially. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

That same day, Thunberg and 15 other youth activists filed an official complaint to the United Nations, CNN reports. The children alleged that Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey collectively violated a human rights treaty by taking inadequate steps to curb emissions.

U.N. official pushes for faster, better climate efforts


United_Nations_Headquarters_-_panoramio
The United Nations headquarters in New York City (wikimedia.commons).

Julia Poska| September 13th, 2018

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on global leaders to ramp up their Paris Accord commitments and to do it soon in a speech he gave September 10 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” he said, as quoted in Al Jazeera.

Guterres pointed to record-breaking temperatures and devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Maria as evidence that climate change is outpacing human efforts to reduce it. He called on leaders outside of national government, like industry leaders and local officials, to take initiative as well.

The U.N Paris Accord, signed by almost 200 countries, aims to keep global temperatures at least 2 degrees Celsius below a pre-industrial baseline by the end of the century.  2020.  As of right now, many countries are not on track to meet these targets. Even if the Accord met its full potential, many critics argue the reductions it outlines would not actually meet the 2 degree mark.

Guterres spoke of the agreement, saying “What we still lack, even after the Paris Agreement, is leadership and the ambition to do what is needed,” as quoted in the New York Times. He asked leaders to step up and meet their Paris Accord promises to show citizens of their countries they “care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands.”

The next U.N climate summit, COP24, will be held in Poland this December. At this summit, world leaders who have heeded Guterres’ warning will have the opportunity to announce plans to increase their fossil fuel emission reduction targets.

Mock climate change negotiation set for April 21st


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A mock climate negotiation is coming to Iowa City, challenging participants to keep climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (MIT technology review)

Jenna Ladd | April 12, 2018

Iowa City area residents have the opportunity to understand what it might be like to be a part of the United Nations climate change negotiations.

On Saturday, April 21,  the public is invited to participate in a World Climate Simulation. Created by Climate Interactive, nearly 900 of these simulations have taken place in 75 countries. The role-playing exercise assigns each participant a delegate position with a nation, interest group or negotiating bloc. During the mock international climate change negotiating meeting, participants are tasked with negotiating climate policy that would keep climate change below 2˚C over preindustrial temperatures. Meanwhile, the event facilitator, acting as a UN leader, uses the C-ROADS interactive computer model to demonstrate the climate implications of any number of climate policy proposals. The C-ROADS simulation is based on current climate change science.

Climate Interactive details the learning outcomes of the activity. They write, “During the event participants must face the climate science, engage in the drama and tensions of global politics, test their ambitions against a climate-modeling tool used by actual climate negotiators, and then reflect on how the experience challenges their assumptions about climate action.”

Iowa City’s simulation will take place from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Iowa City Public Library on April 21st. Interested parties are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible. More information about this event and the link to register can be found here.