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CLIMATE SCIENCE
At climate talks, it's America alone more than America first
By Jerome CARTILLIER
Washington (AFP) Oct 30, 2017


Concentration of CO2 in atmosphere hits record high: UN
Geneva (AFP) Oct 30, 2017 - The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has hit a new high, the UN said Monday, warning that drastic action is needed to achieve targets set by the Paris climate agreement.

"Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800,000 years," the World Meteorological Organization said.

"Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Nino event," it said.

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the UN weather agency's annual flagship report, tracks the content of dangerous gasses in the atmosphere in the post-industrial era (since 1750).

Researchers have "reliable, direct measurements" of C02 concentrations rates going back 800,000 years using air bubbles preserved in ice in places like Greenland and Antarctica, the head of WMO's atmospheric environment research division, Oksana Tarasova, told reporters in Geneva.

But by studying fossilised material the WMO also has rough estimates going back even further.

Using those measures, the report found that the last time Earth experienced similar CO2 concentration rates to today was three to five million years ago, when the sea level was up to 20 metres (66 feet) higher than now and the planet was 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer.

- 'There is hope' -

WMO chief Petteri Taalas told reporters that "there is hope" to reverse the worrying concentration rates but underscored that the time to act was now.

"Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement," Taalas said in a statement.

The historic agreement approved by 196 countries two years ago is facing renewed pressure following US President Donald Trump's decision to quit the accord.

But nations are set to press on with the task of implementing it at climate talks in Bonn next week.

"The numbers don't lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed," the head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in a statement, reacting to the new report.

"What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency."

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin tracks concentrations of gasses in the atmosphere, rather than emissions with data compiled from a monitoring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Facing 195 other countries who have chosen a different path, the task of US negotiators at upcoming climate talks in Bonn is unenviable.

Donald Trump has vowed to exit the Paris Climate accord, just not yet, leaving US policy in limbo for the next three years until Washington can officially leave.

So, it falls to Thomas Shannon -- a respected career diplomat -- to this week lead a delegation into talks aimed at implementing an agreement the US is set to abandon.

"It is a strange situation, I don't think I have seen anything like it in my almost 30 years of following this process," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based non-profit working on environmental issues.

The Trump administration says it will still turn up, hoping to protect America's interests and put "America first."

Rather ambitiously, Washington wants to handcuff its biggest geopolitical rivals to their commitments.

A White House official told AFP it wants "to ensure the rules are transparent and fair, and apply to countries like China and other economic competitors to the United States."

But Shannon and his team might find themselves on shaky ground.

Ben Rhodes, a former aide to president Barack Obama, believes Washington has abandoned any leverage it once had.

"The rest of the world has no incentive to make concessions to the US since we are now entirely isolated," he told AFP.

"My expectation is that the rest of the world will simply continue within the Paris framework and wait and see what happens in the US in 2020.

"The danger is that other countries are less ambitious in their own commitments and implementation plans because they have the excuse of the US leaving," he added.

- Next election -

Many delegates will be hoping that by a November 4, 2020 deadline -- one day after the next presidential election -- Trump either backs down or a new president has embraced the agreement.

Either scenario is entirely possible.

The White House has given itself ample wiggle room, saying the United States intends to withdraw "unless the president can identify terms that are more favorable to American businesses, workers, and taxpayers."

That leaves open a broad range of possibilities that would not wreck the deal, including scaling back Obama's national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.

But for now, the most supportive American voices come from outside the administration -- in the cities, states and companies, many of whom will likely implement their requirements regardless.

Billionaire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is on the front line of the Paris accord's cheerleaders, determined to help meet US commitments whatever the position of the White House.

"That's kind of a new plot here," said Meyer. "You did not have that kind of force in place when president Bush announced he was withdrawing from Kyoto in 2001."

The key question is whether they can keep the flame alive for another three years.

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Study reshapes understanding of climate change's impact on early societies
New Haven CT (SPX) Oct 26, 2017
A new study linking paleoclimatology - the reconstruction of past global climates - with historical analysis by researchers at Yale and other institutions shows a link between environmental stress and its impact on the economy, political stability, and war-fighting capacity of ancient Egypt. The team of researchers examined the hydroclimatic and societal impacts in Egypt of a sequence of t ... read more

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