“2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics” – New York Times, 16 January 2015

Climate change skeptics might no longer have a leg to stand on, as it has now been reported that 2014 has been the hottest year since weather patterns were first recorded in 1880.

The previous warmest year was 2010; the 10 hottest years on record have taken place after 1997, generating intense heat waves across the western US coast and extreme cold fronts across the eastern US coast. This is further proof that climate change is spurred by human activity and will have a disastrous impact on the Earth.

Moreover, 2014 didn’t have a prominent El Niño — or the warming of the Pacific Ocean that sends excessive heat into the atmosphere — which is odd. It’s easy to imagine that now the effects of climate change have gotten to the point where the world doesn’t need an extra push to reach excessively hot temperatures.

Climate skeptics assert that global warming stopped in 1998, the year of the last extremely strong El Niño. That year was also the warmest year on record in the 20th century. The hottest years have occurred after 1998, in 2005, 2010, and 2014; climate skeptics’ insistence is unjustified at this point.

Human activity continues to take a toll on our environment, causing temperatures to increase, killing flora and fauna, and making sea levels increase. Records for 2014 have been released from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a Japan-based agency. A British group is also slated to issue their findings in a few weeks.

Interestingly, satellite temperature readings indicate that 2014 wasn’t the hottest year, though they do reveal that last year was very close. Satellites study atmospheric temperatures and not temperatures on the surface of the earth, which accounts for the disparity.

Though climate change seems to be old news at this point, any headway on the matter has been recent. Last year, 300,000 marched in New York City in hopes to mobilize the issue; and last month, almost 200 nations met in Lima, Peru to discuss a global accord to combat the effects of climate change.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 19, 2015

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“Sun Powers a Peruvian Energy Shift” – Wall Street Journal, 9 December 2014

Peru President Ollanta Humala has introduced a rural electrification program in his country that embraces renewable energy sources, namely solar power. In Peru’s Cajamarca state, 3,900 homes have been given solar panels, which have drastically bettered these Peruvians’ day-to-day lives. President Humala’s goal is to grant panels to two million people across the Andean highlands and Amazon rain forest by 2018. Additionally, using renewables, like solar power, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

But the program is a bold effort; Peru’s landscape can be quite challenging. The rain forest, for instance, has high humidity and heat, which would effect the panels’ performance. Overall, many of the places will be difficult to get to, due to thick jungle and mountainous terrain.

The panels consist of 100-watt systems, an amount that only powers a few lights, a cellphone charger, radio, and TV. That might not be enough for the rural families, who each pay $3.40 a month for the system. Another issue is distrust — many remote communities are suspicious of both foreigners and new technology.

The US might also have a stake in President Humala’s program: if the program is successful, there could be room for US renewable energy companies to invest in Peru. Peru is a great contender for the technology, due to the enormous amount of sunshine it receives and its open-minded government. According to the US Commerce Department, Peru’s renewable energy market could grow to $13 billion by 2020, which encompasses $1.6 billion in solar power.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 17, 2015

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“A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure” – New York Times, 14 December 2014

Last month, almost 200 nations gathered in Lima, Peru to agree on a global pact to reduce fossil fuel emissions, one of the primary causes of climate change. The deal — called the Lima Accord — shows huge progress in global effort to fight the effects of climate change: it’s the first time that these nations will make a unilateral effort to curb the use of oil, gas, and coal.

However, the Lima Accord is not lawfully mandatory. If it were legally binding, then the nearly 200 nations wouldn’t have agreed to the deal — not even the US. Instead, the hope is that global peer pressure will be the impetus to move the accord forward. At this point, every nation has agreed to place limits on its carbon emissions.

According to the accord, each nation will have to introduce carbon-cutting domestic legislation by either March or June. Laws will delineate how each country will curb emissions after 2020. These proposals are known to the UN as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” which will be included in an upcoming climate deal in Paris in 2015.

But because the Lima Accord has no requirements, countries could conceive of feeble plans that wouldn’t drastically combat the effects of climate change. Countries also have the choice of not even offering a plan — and if they don’t submit a plan, there are no fines or retribution.

Again, the accord relies on peer pressure and a method called “name-and-shame.” Each countries’ plan will be posted to the UN’s site as public information. If the countries’ plans are made public and some are found to be weak in comparison, then the shame of such a weakness will hopefully push that country to strengthen its plan.

The biggest worry comes with the top three polluters: the US, China, and India. While President Obama has tried to make climate change a vital element of his second term, his legacy really depends on what happens after his term is over. He has vowed to reduce emissions by at least 28 percent by 2025, which can be attained if tailpipe and power plant emissions regulations are passed. Unfortunately, most Republican White House contenders are staunch opponents of Obama’s climate change policies and likely don’t care about global urgencies.

China has been pushed to seek methods of reducing emissions due to discord among its citizens, as citizens disapproved of China’s worsening air quality. The country has now eclipsed the US as the number one polluter — President Xi Jinping has promised that China’s emissions will spike in 2030 and then fall. In order to ensure that target, the country is enacting a national cap-and-trade structure where polluters will have to purchase greenhouse gas emissions.

Because curbing emissions can be costly, it is a difficult burden for developing nations. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast aside any efforts towards reversing climate change, instead focusing on economic growth and poverty, which could mean building new coal power plants. However, India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has stated that the country will offer a plan in June.

Other countries that climate change policy observers are following are Russia and Australia. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin doesn’t believe that humans cause climate change, and Australia has phased out its Department of Climate Change, and also revoked a carbon tax.

While we have a majority of the countries on board with the deal, there are a few important strays that will determine whether or not the Lima Accord is indeed productive.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 15, 2014

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“Pentagon unveils plan for military’s response to climate change” – Los Angeles Times, 13 October 2014

In addition to its climactic effects — growing temperatures and increasingly volatile natural disasters — global warming will soon also test global stability, and test the US military’s ability to handle new demands, including food and water deficits, widespread disease, and conflicts over supplies.

Last month, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presented a plan for the US military to combat the probable outcomes of climate change in what the Pentagon calls, “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.” According to the report, the US Military faces more challenges, such as, “Coastal military installations that are vulnerable to flooding will need to be altered; humanitarian assistance missions will be more frequent in the face of more intense natural disasters; weapons and other critical military equipment will need to work under more severe weather conditions.”

Hagel has also assessed the situation with representatives from Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago; and took part in the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, which brought together 34 nations for two days. The UN is sponsoring another event in Peru in December to further discuss the effects of climate change. Hagel strongly believes that all the nations of the Americas should take part in the upcoming event, since climate change can incite more epidemics than just Ebola, and strengthen terrorism.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 15, 2014

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