Climate change is "unequivocal" and rapidly intensifying, and some of the changes already in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, finds the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Aug. 9. The IPCC Working Group I report, "Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis," was approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC, having been prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries. The report concludes that human influence has warmed the planet at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe—including heatwaves, droughts, and tropical cyclones.
The government of Greenland announced July 23 that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory "wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis... The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain." While no oil has been found yet, the US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory's lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to achieve independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark.
In snap elections April 6, Greenland's indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland's south, has divided the territory's political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the "potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths," adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resources owns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals.
International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced May 28. The next summit, officially dubbed the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year's summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. Instead, critical decisions were put off for COP26. This means a full two years will have passed before any progress can be made. (STV)
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Aug. 8, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the "rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil," risks "jeopardizing food security for the planet." According to the report, about a quarter of the Earth's ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation, such as soil erosion and desertification. The effects of global warming have led to "shifts of climate zones in many world regions," further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: "The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases."
President Trump announced his decision June 1 to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate, signed by 195 nations and formally joined by 147, including the US. The United States now joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world not supporting the accord. Nicaragua, it should be noted, failed to join because the terms of the accord are not binding, and it was therefore considered too weak. Syria is consumed by internal war, and was iced from the negotiations by restrictions on its envoys traveling to the talks. The agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, came into force on Nov. 4, 2016, just days before Trump was elected. Each country sets its own commitments under the accord. The United States, second-largest emitter on the planet after China, had committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. It also commited up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries to address climate change by 2020. (ENS, June 2; NYT, June 1; WP, May 31)
For the first time in history, governments around the world have agreed to legally binding limits on global temperature rises as the Paris Agreement (PDF) on climate change became effective on Nov. 4. All governments that have ratified the accord are now legally obligated to cap global warming levels at 2 C above pre-industrial levels—regarded as a limit of safety by scientists. But environmentalists and other groups have said the agreement may not be enough. According to Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth: "The Paris agreement is a major step in the right direction, but it falls a long way short of the giant leap needed to tackle climate change. Far tougher action is needed to rapidly slash emissions." Greenpeace also agreed that while the agreement is a major step forward, it needs stronger force. Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, further pointed out that governments would need to take measures to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable countries get adequate financing to tackle climate change problems..
The Pentagon announced plans March 15 to add 14 missile interceptors to its anti-missile system in response to recent nuclear posturing of North Korea. The new interceptors would augment 26 already deployed at Ft. Greely, Alaska, with four others deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the system is plagued with technical failures. The last successful hit against a target was in December 2008; test launches have failed to hit their targets since then. The Pentagon is said to have discovered a flaw in the guidance system of the newest Raytheon-made model. (LAT, March 16; Bloomberg, March 15) The ABM Treaty, which barred anti-ballistic missile systems during the Cold War, was pronounced effectively dead in the Bush years