21 september 2013

Amsterdam, 21 September 2013

Dear friends,

The international agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons has not only spared the Syrian people the risk of many deaths by collateral damage (and the world the danger of another U.S.-led Middle East war), it has been a blessing in disguise to the climate action movement.

The August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria confronted international public opinion for nearly a month with serious questions: Should the “good nations” intervene to protect the people of Syria from their government? Should military action always have a UN sanction or should individual nations have the right to intervene on humanitarian grounds? Should a military response be limited to “surgical strikes”, or should the murderous regime be “taken out” altogether by fully supporting the other side in the civil war? If the latter, how to prevent an equally murderous regime of Islamic jihadists from taking over? These questions preoccupied both policy makers and NGO activists, putting many activists in full anti-war protest mode.

That was in itself good to see, but the anti-war movement seemed to pre-empt the growing U.S. protest against fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline At a global level, it distracted public attention from the many signs that our planetary future is menaced more by carbon emissions and their extreme weather consequences than by local warfare in the Middle East.

In fact, two important events that have happened while I’ve been writing this newsletter may not have occurred if the Syria chemical weapons crisis were still unresolved: President Obama’s new EPA guidelines to severely limit carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants (last item under III below), and Greenpeace’s action against Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling (last item under IV below).

Now that the diplomatic path to eliminating chemical weapons has been taken, let’s look at the balance sheet of the last ten weeks for stopping the oncoming climate catastrophe. [To make accessible our previous newsletter (July 3d) to those of you who have forgotten or trashed it, we’ve posted it in our “Documents” rubric.] What strikes us in reviewing the climate news is the interaction between disasters (extreme weather, pollution [from fracking in the U.S., coal in China] and nuclear), popular protests and public demands for government action.

If you consult our “Breaking News” rubric for July, August and the first half of September, you’ll find some 85 listings, and about fifteen others in our renovated “Op-ed” section for the same period. Let me organize these for you. The bulk of the summer’s climate news, detailed below, falls into the categories of I) extreme weather, II) renewables and nuclear matters, III) actions by governments (particularly the U.S. and the Chinese) to limit carbon emissions, and IV) climate action militancy.

Apart from these, you’ll also find articles on the scientific analysis of the climate problem (especially the new IPCC report that will be published this fall) and think pieces on climate-related issues, like the interview with Dan Kahan on how ideology shapes perceptions of climate change. Reports from the international negotiations front are largely absent, since this newsletter falls between the Bonn meetings of last June and the December 2013 Conference of the Parties in Warsaw.

Here’s the article index:

I – 20 articles on extreme weather (floods, droughts, heat waves), rising temperature effects and scientific discussion of weather links to climate change. These include:
• 2-7 Wildfires in U.S. West linked to climate change.
• 4-7 World Meteorological Organization reports 2000-2010 hottest decade ever.
• 5-7 Central Europe unprepared for recent floods.
• 5-7 Marshall Islands under water.
• 12-7 After flooding in Calgary and Toronto, Canada prepares for extreme weather.
• 14-7 New York to spend $19B to prevent recurrence of Sandy.
• 15-7 Implementation of Obama’s climate plan spurred by extreme weather, shifting public opinion.
• 18-7 Rising temps causing rapid melt of arctic ice.
• 24-7 and 5-8 On methane danger from Arctic melt.
• 10-8 Extreme weather changing minds about climate change in Iowa.
• 13-8 105 degree heat in Shanghai leads to water shortage.
• 15-8 Asian heat waves may become global norm.
• 19-8 Heavy rain, floods, landslides in China leave over 100 dead.
• 23-8 Manila under water after record Asian storms.
• 28-8 Japan – Extreme heat, torrential rain, landslides, flooding, speed up measures to adapt to climate change.
• 31-8 Climate change getting into media in U.S. and Australia through extreme weather.
• 2-9 Pacific Islands Forum dominated by fears about climate change, flooding.
• 5-9 US East Coast Endangered by sea level rise.
• 14-9 Colorado: Unprecedented rainfall, flooding linked to climate change.

II –17 articles on renewables, biofuels and nuclear plants. Progress in replacing carbon energy by renewables (particularly in Germany, China and the U.S)
• 4-7 Giant offshore wind farm replaces coal plant in UK.
• 12-7 Fukushima reactor leaking into sea.
• 12-7 EU parl.-– biofuels do more harm than good.
• 15-7 Peru to bring solar power to 2 million poor.
• 16-7 Germany’s green energy boom leading to early closure of coal, gas power plants.
• 17-7 Nuclear power too costly to compete, U.S. plants being closed down.
• 18-7 India unveils plans for massive concentrated solar power.
• 25-7 Despite renewables growth, world on course to catastrophic warming.
• 27-7 EU and China settle solar panel trade dispute.
• 3-8 French nuclear plant operator switching to renewables.
• 4-8 Deutsche Bank predicts huge increase in US solar power by 2016.
• 10-8 Fukushima nightmare continues.
• 13-8 Solar PV installations accelerating rapidly.
• 23-8 Stanford energy expert – Solar power and electric vehicles to end fossil by 2030.
• 2-9 New radiation leaks in Fukushima. Disaster only beginning.
• 6-9 Germany’s transition to renewables, a view from India. Part I
• 6-9 Germany’s transition to renewables, a view from India. Part II
• 6-9 Germany’s transition to renewables, a view from India. Part III
• 16-9 Charms and challenges of Germany’s renewables revolution.

III 18 articles on actions by governments (particularly the U.S. and the Chinese) and global institutions to limit carbon emissions.
• 3-7 European Parliament strengthens moribund emissions trading system.
• 3-7 EPA stops research on fracking.
• 3-7 US Dept. of Energy supports carbon capture & storage.
• 4-7 Eur. Investment Bank, Norwegian pension fund, Rabobank and US church restrict carbon investments.
• 5-7 Strong Obama speech on climate raises hopes of Keystone veto.
• 6-7 Obama climate speech resonates in India.
• 7-7 Obama’s climate speech signals messaging shift.
• 10-7 U.S. and China agree on emissions curb.
• 17-7 World Bank limits financing of new coal plants.
• 18-7 India unveils plans for massive CSP.
• 24-7 Australia’s new carbon tax.
• 25-7 New climate advocates in U.S. Senate.
• 27-7 Obama gives more signs of Keystone veto.
• 30-7 EPA reports fracking caused methane leak into water supply.
• 10-8 Obama’s climate program viewed as defining his second term.
• 27-8 With emissions trading, Chinese carbon emissions could peak in 2023.
• 12-9 China to ban new coal-fired power plants in 3 regions.
• 20-9 U.S.EPA mandates stringent emissions limits for new coal plants.

IV 24 Reports of climate militancy and institutional action, directed against fracking, oil drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline, and especially against coal-fired power plants on several continents (both divestment pressure and non-violent obstruction).
• 4-7 Foes of fracking block shale exploitation in New York.
• 9-7 EU Climate Commissioner asks development banks to divest from carbon projects.
• 10-7 Friends of the Earth details lies, interest conflict, in State Dep’t. pipeline report.
• 12-7 Hundreds protest in China against uranium processing plant.
• 13-7 Chinese uranium processing plant cancelled after protests.
• 14-7 Climate activist investors shifting investment patterns away from carbon.
• 15-7 Greenpeace activists occupy French nuclear plant site.
• 28-7 Carbon divestment campaign hits Australia.
• 3-8 210 arrested at oil refinery protest in California.
• 6-8 Global struggle over coal investment.
• 6-8 The Nation on the new climate radicals. Part I
• 6-8 The Nation on the new climate radicals. Part II
• 12-8 Keystone protesters block State Department entrance.
• 13-8 In India, protest at annual meeting of company importing Australian coal.
• 14-8 China coal power project halted after public protest.
• 18-8 Engelhardt, Solnit and McKibben on the new climate movement. Part I
• 18-8 Engelhardt, Solnit and McKibben on the new climate movement. Part II
• 19-8 Fracking protests across the UK.
• 24-8 Sierra Club leads Seattle coalition against coal export to Asia.
• 27-8 Washington march for racial justice emphasizes climate action as well as voting rights.
• 9-9 Climate activists prepare to use new IPCC report.
• 12-9 Michigan citizens groups fight fracking.
• 16-9 Schellnhuber and 11 other Earth League scientists warn of 4-degrees warming.
• 19-9 Climate activist plans ad campaign against Keystone XL.
• 20-9 30 Greenpeace activists arrested at protest against Gazprom Arctic drilling.

4C will focus its news rubrics in the coming months on national and international protests against coal and shale gas, and on the new IPCC report. Stay tuned, friends.

From Amsterdam,
Arthur Mitzman, coordinator, Concerned Citizens against Climate Change

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