News Briefs

 

  • In a legal first, a Paris court has found the French government guilty of not adequately addressing the climate crisis. It was convicted of “non-respect of its engagements.” According to Jean-Francois Julliard, the director of Greenpeace France, one of the plaintiffs, “The decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their courts.” Over 2.3 million people signed a petition to make the state responsible “for ecological damage and its detrimental health and social effects.”

 

  • There’s been a lot of pipeline news in recent months. President Biden has canceled further construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and activists hope that he’ll shut down the Dakota Access line next. In December, Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, revoked the easement for Line 5, a major pipeline that for fifty years has carried oil through the Straits of Mackinac, citing an “unacceptable risk” of a disastrous spill in the Great Lakes. Meanwhile, Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, has approved a replacement for Line 3 in the north of the state, but construction continues to be met with intense resistance from Indigenous peoples and other local activists, who have been fighting the pipeline for seven years. 

 

  • The Pew Research Center reported last year that 79% of Americans now support prioritizing renewable sources of energy over fossil fuel production. That’s up from 65% four years ago. In spite of our extreme political polarization, very large majorities favor action on climate reduction programs, with half of Republicans in support. When in comes to the question of human agency, however, the division remains stark. 72% of Democrats believe humans are “contributing a great deal” to climate change, while only 22% of Republicans do. 89% of Democrats think the government is doing too little to combat climate change, compared to only 35% of Republicans.

 

  • Perhaps you have young children or grandchildren and you’ve wondered how to talk to them about climate change and other environmental problems. Check out Cool the Climate, a delightful website full of activities for kids. It’s the creation of cartoonist Denis Thomopoulos, based here in Ojai, and it’s endorsed by UNICEF.

  • With the Arctic warming at twice the rate of lower latitudes, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost a staggering 532 billion tons in 2019, double the average amount recorded since data collection began in 2003. That's equivalent to one million tons lost per minute. If the entire ice sheet were to melt, the sea level would rise by six meters. A study from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany says that it’s not yet clear the process is irreversible, while another, by researchers at Ohio State University, claims the ice sheet “has melted to a point of no return.” According to Ian Howat, the study co-author, “[It] is now in this new dynamic state, where even if we went back to a climate that was more like what we had 20 or 30 years ago, we would still be pretty quickly losing mass." It should be added that it would take centuries for the ice sheet to melt entirely. Sea levels are expected to rise over three feet by 2100, according to the IPCC, though the state of California is anticipating a higher figure, and estimates vary a great deal.

 

  • The top 1% cause twice as much carbon pollution as the bottom 50% of humanity. This is according to a new report from Oxfam entitled "Confronting Carbon Inequality" based on a study from the Stockholm Environment Institute. Researchers looked at 25 years of data, from 1990 to 2015, a critical period for carbon emissions increases. The richest 1% were responsible for 15% of emissions during this period, more than twice the percentage of the bottom half (7%). The top 10% caused 52% of emissions.

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