December, 2016

December 31, 2016


 (Michael Dwyer/AP)

(Michael Dwyer/AP)

It wasn’t entirely bad news. Here are five positive environmental stories from 2016.

By Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney

When it comes to the environment, 2016 brought a steady stream of grim news.

The year will almost certainly hold the prize for the hottest in recorded history, eclipsing the records set in 2015 and 2014. Researchers tracked how Antarctic ice sheets continue to melt and how the Arctic continues to warm. Coral reefs are dying. Air and water problems keep surfacing around the globe. Some scientists are predicting that sea levels will rise even more than expected in coming decades, while others are linking extreme weather events to the changing climate and detailing how environmental and climatic factors are fueling the spread of Zika and other devastating diseases.

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December 30, 2016




Ontario set to tackle climate change with cap-and-trade launch on Jan. 1


On the first day of the new year, Ontario will launch its cap-and-trade system on carbon in a bid to vault the province to the front lines of the battle against climate change.

It is the centrepiece of the Wynne government’s Climate Change Action Plan, meant not only to meet tough targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions but to spark a sweeping transition to a low-carbon society by changing the way Ontarians get around, heat their homes and run their businesses.

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December 29, 2016


Hotter Days Will Drive Global Inequality

By David Rotman

Rising temperatures due to climate change will strongly affect economic growth around the world, making some countries richer and some poorer.

Extreme heat, it turns out, is very bad for the economy. Crops fail. People work less, and are less productive when they do work.

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December 28, 2016


Is global warming still happening if it’s really, really cold outside? A scientific explainer on climate change

By Tristin Hopper

It’s probably the single most persistent and annoying question that is asked of atmospheric scientists: “If the planet is really warming, why is it so cold outside?”

It’s become such a trope of editorial cartoons that there’s a Tumblr page collecting them all, and the sentiment has become a social media staple. “What a night of climate change!” read a tweet by Kellie Leitch’s campaign manager Nick Kouvalis after a particularly heavy snowfall.

“The only upside of it being so cold outside is that it proved global warming is nothing but a leftist lie,” reads a typical Twitter post, one of thousands flooding the internet on Monday from a cold-battered North America.

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December 27, 2016


 Photograph: Daniel Beltra

Photograph: Daniel Beltra

Why cutting soot emissions is ‘fastest solution’ to slowing Arctic ice melt

By Fiona Harvey

Reducing wood-burning, gas-flaring and global diesel emissions would be ‘quick win’ in combating irreversible climate change, scientists say.

World leaders should redouble efforts to cut soot emissions because it is the cheapest and fastest way to combat climate change, climate scientists and advocates have told the Guardian.

Deposits of soot – unburned carbon particles – have stained parts of the Arctic black, changing the ice from a reflector of sunlight to an absorber of heat, and accelerating the melting of ice and snow, which itself is starting to alter global weather patterns.

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December 26, 2016


Alex Lang/Flickr

Alex Lang/Flickr

Solar power is now the cheapest form of energy in almost 60 countries


We just hit a major turning point.

It’s official: solar became the cheapest source of new energy in lower-income countries this year, giving both companies and governments alike another reason to ditch coal and gas for renewables.

Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) show that the average price of solar energy in almost 60 countries dropped to US$1.65 million per megawatt during 2016, just below wind at US$1.66 million per megawatt.

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December 25, 2016


(Kari Kohvakka)

(Kari Kohvakka)

Stockholm’s Ingenious Plan to Recycle Yard Waste


Discarded Christmas trees will be transformed into plant food, biofuel, and carbon sinks—but that’s just the beginning.

Does your heart bleed a little when you see an abandoned, balding Christmas tree wasting away on the curb? If so, your holiday cheer might last a little longer knowing that a project taking root in Stockholm could make those withering pines truly useful to the very end.

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December 24


 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Obama Blocked Trump from Drilling the Arctic and Atlantic With This Obscure Law


December 21 President Obama used his executive power to protect huge portions of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from oil and gas exploitation. The White House announced that 98 percent of federally controlled Arctic waters, totaling 115 million acres, along with 3.8 million acres of underwater canyons off the Atlantic coast, would be permanently off-limits to fossil fuel drilling leases.

The outgoing president has noticeably hustled to shield the environment from a less conservation-minded administration, but some worry it’s not enough. Earlier this year, President Obama issued a five-year ban on oil and gas leases in the Atlantic Ocean. (He previously supported drilling there.) And while the decision was welcomed by environmental groups, many also feared the offshore drilling blueprint would eventually be undermined by Trump’s own, fossil fuel-friendly plan.

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December 23


Five reasons to be optimistic about climate change

By Jon Goldin-Dubois

Recent accomplishments have paved a way forward for more environmental progress.

We will solve the challenge of climate change in our lifetimes. It’s a daring assertion, especially given President-elect Donald Trump’s stated and contradictory positions on climate change and environmental protections. But the transformation toward a zero-carbon economy is already happening on the state and local level. And as 2016 comes to a close, here are five reasons to be optimistic about our ability to reduce carbon emissions:

1. A recent study led by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado concludes that the United States can achieve to 80 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, without any new storage or breakthrough technologies.

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December 22


Alex Wong / Getty

Alex Wong / Getty

Bill Gates says investing in clean energy makes sense even if you don’t believe in climate change

By Ina Fried

Bill Gates is an optimist. That said, he believes getting a desired outcome means taking on significant risk, making a big investment and having a long-term view.

That is the approach Gates took at Microsoft by choosing to license, rather than sell, his computer operating system to IBM.

And it’s the same approach Gates is using in his latest project: The $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund announced on Monday. The effort, which also has funds from Alibaba’s Jack Ma and venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and John Doerr, aims to fund only energy companies that show the potential to make a meaningful difference in climate change.

“If you can make electrons cheaper than someone, that is one of the biggest markets in the world,” Gates told Recode on Monday.

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December 21




9 Little Things You Can Do To Fight Climate Change Every Single Day


From buying better bulbs to making eco-friendly food choices, your daily choices matter.

We all—well, most of us—are worried about the health and future of our planet. While misinformation abounds, most scientists agree that climate change is real and human beings are the catalyst.

But recognizing there’s a problem and taking steps to correct it are two very different things. So how can you do your part to turn the tide on climate change?

“The biggest most-effective thing people can do is to use their voice to push local, state, and federal government officials to implement system-wide changes,” says Aliya Haq, deputy director of the Clean Power Plan Initiative at the non-profit National Resources Defense Council.
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December 20


GE: Why grids don’t need to rely on “synchronous” generation

By Giles Parkinson

GE, the world’s biggest industrial group and the largest supplier of energy machinery, says the world no longer needs to rely on so-called “synchronous” generation provided by coal and gas plants to ensure the stability and reliability of electricity grids.

“The days of relying solely on synchronous generation for everything are over,” says Nick Miller, senior technical director for GE Energy Consulting, adding that alternatives such as inverter-linked solar can perform many of the same functions, and much more efficiently.

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December 19


Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio: climate fight is US history’s ‘biggest economic opportunity’

By Reuters in New York

Tackling climate change is the “biggest economic opportunity” in the history of the US no matter who holds political office, the Hollywood star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio said on Friday.

“There are a few very prominent people that still deny the overwhelming conclusions of the world’s scientists that climate change is largely human-caused and needs immediate urgent attention,” he told a United Nations awards ceremony.

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December 18


Rural communities in Cambodia find ways to overcome impacts of climate change

By United Nations Environment Programme

Fruit trees pepper the homesteads, fish swim among the rice stalks in paddy fields, and stout chickens run around the village of Chiork Boeungprey, located within Boeungper Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia.

Villagers here plant rice and cashew trees, raise livestock and carry out odd jobs for a living. They also protect a 2,000 ha patch of forest — one of 27 such Community Protected Areas (CPA) within the wildlife sanctuary — that provides them with a sustainable supply of resin and other non-timber forest products.

Over the past few years, the villagers began noticing changes in the climate, which brought more extensive flooding and drought, reducing their crop yields, forcing them to strip their forests to provide things like firewood.

“The seasonal rainfalls have changed and the heat waves are getting hotter,” said Sieng Houy, a farmer in the village.

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December 17


 (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

(Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Chinese Consumers Adopt Greener Lifestyle

By Charlotte Middlehurst

For the last two years, Helen Ni has hosted low-carbon technology workshops for local kids and their parents. The informal gatherings take place at her ground-floor apartment in the Shanghai suburb of Minhang, close to Jiaotong University, one of the country’s foremost electric vehicle research centers.

Most classes take place outside on the beige-tiled patio, which stands out against her neighbor’s for its big wooden planters and brown ceramic pots that burst with greenery.

For many of the children, it’s their only opportunity to learn about planting while actually getting their hands dirty. They thrust their tiny fingers into the soil with glee while Niexplains what organic farming is and how you turn food waste into compost. In the corner of this unassuming rectangular space, there’s an aquaponics system to grow lettuce and flowers without the use of soil.

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December 16





Field of steam: How Kenya has become a geothermal superpower


(CNN)Kenya is a global superpower of the flower trade, and Oserian, one of the largest fair-trade flower farms in the country, is a major reason why.

The company’s 200-hectare site on Lake Naivasha produces 700,000 flowers each day, which are exported across the world.
Oserian is also leading change in the country’s energy sector, by running its operation largely on geothermal power. The company pipes steam from the ground to heat a water recirculation system that maintains its mighty greenhouses.

“Before we had the geothermal power we had to have a lot of backup generators and we were using a lot of diesel,” says Alasdair Keith, Engineering Manager of the Oserian Development Company. “Our electrical savings are probably $750,000 a year compared to before.”

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December 15


Institutions Representing $5 Trillion Pledge to Divest From Fossil Fuels

By EcoWatch

The scope of global fossil fuel divestment has doubled over the past 15 months, with institutions and individuals controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledging to divest. The announcement comes on the first anniversary of the Paris agreement on climate change.

“One year after the adoption of the historic Paris climate agreement, it’s clear the transition to a clean energy future is inevitable, beneficial and well underway, and that investors have a key role to play,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“I commend today’s announcement that a growing number of investors are backing a shift away from the most carbon intensive energy sources and into safe, sustainable energy. Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do—and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet and ensuring no one is left behind.”
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December 14


Photo: Via Nature Communications

Photo: Via Nature Communications

The dream of unlimited clean energy is close to being reality

By Mike Wehner, BGR

Humans need energy because that’s the only thing that powers our smartphones, and without them we’d have to actually talk to our relatives at family gatherings, so it’s a pretty big deal that we have an energy plan for the future.

The sun is a great source of energy, but it’s just too far away. So scientists have been working on a way to create an energy source like the sun, but here on the surface of our planet. Somehow, it’s actually working.

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December 13


Germany unveils zero-emissions train that only emits steam

By Tom Embury-Dennis

Germany is set to introduce the world’s first zero-emission passenger train to be powered by hydrogen.

The Coradia iLint only emits excess steam into the atmosphere, and provides an alternative to the country’s 4,000 diesel trains.

Lower Saxony has already ordered 14 of them from French company Alstom, and more are likely to be seen around the country if they are judged a success, reports Die Welt.

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December 12


How Are Vulnerable Countries Adapting to Climate Change?
Frequently Asked Questions

By Jo-Ellen Parry, Anika Terton


How are vulnerable countries managing the impacts of climate change?

The International Institute for Sustainable Development recently undertook a standardized review for the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia, providing a baseline picture of national adaptation policy and practice in developing countries. What follows is an overview of the trends that emerged from that review—along with our key takeaways. For a more detailed discussion our findings, read our briefing note.


We examined adaptation action in 15 African and Asian countries. These countries are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and are among the least ready to respond to its impacts.

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December 11


Little Things You Can Do To Help Stop Global Warming

By Rebecca Hovel

It’s crucial we talk about global warming and understand our effects on the environment now more than ever. With a president-elect that once, despite all scientific evidence, declared global warming was a Chinese hoax, it’s important to inform yourself about what exactly global warming is. So, what is it exactly? Global warming is the gradual heating of Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere.

Basically, the planet’s climate (its weather conditions) constantly changes over time. The earth has gone through warming periods before. But over the last 50 years, the amount of warming happening is occurring quicker than it ever has in the past. Many scientists worry it’s happening more rapidly because of the human species and how we live every day. OK, so then where’s the evidence?

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December 10
Source: Wattway

Source: Wattway

Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built on Four Continents Next Year

By Anna Hirtenstein

Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.

A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, owned by the French engineering group Bouygues. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

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December 9


Mayors Unite to Fight Climate Change From City to City


Climate change has started to rear its ugly head in small ways—sea water flooding in city streets, native plants dying and discouraging ecotourism, persistent droughts—and city mayors are fighting back.

An international coalition of mayors recently formed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, a group of about 7,100 city mayors from six continents to take greater action to avoid climate impacts and demonstrate how local action can impact the global stage, according to a release.

“The leadership of cities is more important than ever in the fight against climate change. This group’s diverse experience from cities on every continent will help support local action and speed global progress,” said Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and Co-Chair of the initiative, in a release.

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December 8


Role-Playing Action on Climate Change


IF YOU WERE NARENDRA MODI, how fast would you pledge to cut India’s greenhouse gas emissions? How would you protect India’s economic development? What would you demand in return? What if you were Barack Obama? Vladimir Putin?

“World Climate,” a live-action role-playing simulation of the UN climate change negotiations, asks just those questions—and has proved useful not only in classrooms across the world, but for Nobel-winning scientists, EU policymakers, oil executives, and the US State Department, all of whom have participated in the simulation since its White House debut in 2015.

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December 7


picture-alliance/AP photo/M.Meija

picture-alliance/AP photo/M.Meija

‘Protecting forests is the best way to fight climate change’


With the Cancún Declaration adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit, DW talks to an indigenous leader on how native peoples are defending the Earth’s forests – and through that, biodiversity and climate.

At the 13th meeting of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13), representatives from more than 190 nations are discussing conservation in Cancun from December 4 to 17.

Already on Saturday (03.12.2016), delegates agreed to adopt the Cancún Declaration to ramp up efforts to protect the world’s biodiversity.

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December 6


EPA boss: Room for hope on climate change
Full panic mode may be premature


(CNN) – If you’re concerned about climate change, you’re likely in full panic mode right now.

Consider three recent news items:

• US President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and has suggested he might scrap many Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

• The head of Trump’s EPA transition team is basically a fossil fuel industry mouthpiece.

• And, thanks partly to our addiction to fossil fuels, this year is expected to be the hottest on record — again. That has real consequences all around the world, from Louisiana, where floods linked to man-made warming killed 13 people; to India, where farmers were committing suicide amid searing drought; Canada, where wildfires evacuated a city; and Alaska, where the indigenous village of Shishmaref voted to relocate because the coast is melting.

Climate change is happening now. We’re causing it. And frankly, it’s terrifying.

But — and this is a critical “but” — there’s still room for hope.

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December 5


How to have a sustainable holiday season and help make the world a better place

By DBS Bank

The planet needs our help

According to the United Nations, less than 3 percent of the Earth’s water is drinkable, one in nine people in the world today are undernourished and some 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills.

But by doing our part and starting at home, we can all make a difference. From deep economic chasms and climate volatility to increased needs in the fields of health, food systems and more, making positive changes to help create a better world is more important than ever.

During the busy holiday season, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget what’s really important.

We can all do our part to help transform the world. By selecting products from sustainably minded companies and seeking out charitable initiatives to incorporate into the holiday season, we can work together to help end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

So this year, consider others in your holiday plans by seeking out gifts, decor inspiration and more that help to make the world a better place.

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December 4


Fusion power: Unlimited, free energy that harnesses the power of the Sun

By Stewart Prager , Michael C. Zarnstorff

For centuries, humans have dreamed of harnessing the power of the sun to energise our lives here on Earth. But we want to go beyond collecting solar energy, and one day generate our own from a mini-sun.

If we’re able to solve an extremely complex set of scientific and engineering problems, fusion energy promises a green, safe, unlimited source of energy. From just one kilogram of deuterium extracted from water per day could come enough electricity to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

Since the 1950s, scientific and engineering research has generated enormous progress toward forcing hydrogen atoms to fuse together in a self-sustaining reaction – as well as a small but demonstrable amount of fusion energy. Skeptics and proponents alike note the two most important remaining challenges: maintaining the reactions over long periods of time and devising a material structure to harness the fusion power for electricity.

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December 3


India just fired up the world’s largest solar plant to power 150,000 homes

By Cat DiStasio

Things are heating up in India, where one of the world’s top polluting countries has unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant. The 648-megawatt project in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu stole the title from California’s 550MW Topaz Solar Farm, making it the largest solar power plant located on a single site. India’s newest solar plant, which was built on a speedy timeline of just eight months, is largely self-maintaining, with a host of solar-powered robots that clean the solar panels, keeping efficiency rates high and human effort to a minimum.

India has been working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and install more renewable energy projects to help slash air pollution. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project, funded by Adani Power and running since September 21, contributes to that aim in a significant way. Once the plant is fully operational, it is expected to generate enough energy to power 150,000 households. The $679-million solar power facility contains 2.5 million individual solar cells and spans across 1,270 acres in southern India. Al Jazeera posted a short video (embedded above) that appears to contain drone footage of the expansive solar power project from various angles.

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December 2


Tesla Just Powered a 600-Person Island With Renewable Solar Energy

By Dr. Mohamed J. Al-Hassan

When you live on a remote island, scarcity is a recurring theme; from food to power to accessibility. The island of Ta’u in American Samoa knows this all too well. Located 4,000 miles (6,400 km) from the west coast of the United States, the island is no stranger to power rationing and outages.

To demonstrate their capabilities, Tesla and Solar City installed a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid that can supply nearly 100 percent of the island’s power needs from renewable energy, providing a cost-saving alternative to diesel, removing the hazards of power intermittency and making outages a thing of the past.

The microgrid – 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and 6 megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks – was implemented within just one year from start to finish.

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December 1


(Reusters/Mike Blake TPX Images of the day)

(Reusters/Mike Blake TPX Images of the day)

This is where Obama’s hugely ambitious climate policies were headed — before Trump came along

By Chris Mooney

The White House Wednesday unleashed a detailed 111-page document outlining a “mid century strategy” to massively slash U.S. carbon emissions by the year 2050, reducing them 80 percent “or more” below their 2005 levels. Just to give some sense of scale, the long-term impact of the plan would be larger than the effect of instantly taking all cars off U.S. roads.

The breathtaking “deep decarbonization” document, timed for the ongoing Marrakech, Morocco climate meetings, is meant to build upon the U.S.’s existing pledge to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, which represents the country’s commitment under the newly operative Paris climate agreement. But it comes at a time when a burst of doubt has been thrust into this entire process by the election of Donald Trump, who has pledged to “cancel” the Paris deal, expand carbon intensive coal burning, and who does not accept the underlying science of climate change.

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(View or download The White House Mid Century Strategy now)