Greta Thunberg: ‘We need public pressure, not just summits’

Published44 minutes agoShareRelated Topics caption,Watch: Greta Thunberg says she’s ‘completely different’ in private

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has told the BBC that summits will not lead to action on climate goals unless the public demand change too.

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of the COP26 climate summit, she said the public needed to “uproot the system”.

“The change is going to come when people are demanding change. So we can’t expect everything to happen at these conferences,” she said.

She also accused politicians of coming up with excuses.

The COP26 climate summit is taking place in Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, from 31 October to 12 November.

It is the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015. Some 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.

Ms Thunberg, who recently launched a global series of concerts highlighting climate change called Climate Live, confirmed she would be attending COP26. She said her message to world leaders was to “be honest”.

“Be honest about where you are, how you have been failing, how you’re still failing us… instead of trying to find solutions, real solutions that will actually lead somewhere, that would lead to a substantial change, fundamental change,” she told the BBC’s Rebecca Morelle.

“In my view, success would be that people finally start to realise the urgency of the situation and realise that we are facing an existential crisis, and that we are going to need big changes, that we’re going to need to uproot the system, because that’s where the change is going to come.”

More on Climate Change bottom strapline

COP26 climate summit – The basics

  • Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing problems. Governments must promise more ambitious cuts in warming gases if we are to prevent greater global temperature rises.
  • The summit in Glasgow is where change could happen. You need to watch for the promises made by the world’s biggest polluters, like the US and China, and whether poorer countries are getting the support they need.
  • All our lives will change. Decisions made here could impact our jobs, how we heat our homes, what we eat and how we travel.

Read more about the COP26 summit here.

More on Climate Change bottom strapline

Ms Thunberg did not believe that UK plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions to reach a target of net zero by 2050 were sufficient, or that the UK was a climate leader.

“Unfortunately there are no climate leaders today, especially not in the so-called global north. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t suddenly decide that now we’re going to take the process seriously,” she said.

Speaking about the targets for reaching net zero – which means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – she said that it was a “good start”, but cautioned that it “doesn’t really mean very much in practice” if people continued to look for loopholes.

Kevin Mtai
Image caption,Kevin Mtai will be one of many activists attending COP26

COP26 will be attended by climate activists from across the world.

Kevin Mtai, a climate justice campaigner from Kenya, told the BBC that inclusivity at the summit was important.

“I hope this climate conference is going to be an inclusive conference, to include all voices in the talks. They need to use indigenous people in the talks, marginalised people in the talks, people from the most affected areas,” he said.

“It’s very important for people from the global south to speak for themselves, not other parts of the globe to speak on their behalf. Because we are the ones who have been affected by climate change, so it’s very important we can hear from our own people, with our own ideas, our own voice.”

From her home in Sweden, Ms Thunberg also spoke about her own role as a campaigner.

“I don’t see myself as a climate celebrity, I see myself as a climate activist… I should be grateful because there are many, many people who don’t have a platform and who are not being listened to, their voices are being oppressed and silenced.

“I’m a completely different person when I’m in private. I don’t think people would recognise me in private. I’m not very serious in private. I appear very angry in the media, but I am silly in private.”

When asked about why she sang a Rick Astley hit at the launch of Climate Live, she said that it was a climate movement in-joke. She has previously taken part in the internet phenomenon “rick-rolling” by tweeting out what she said was a link to a new speech, but actually linked to the music video for the song.

“Why not? I mean we have internal jokes within the climate movement, where we always rickroll each other.”

More on climate change top strapline

Poll: More than two-thirds of Republicans say climate change is ‘not an emergency’

Andrew Romano·West Coast CorrespondentFri, October 22, 2021, 11:51 AM·5 min readIn this article:

As President Biden pushes Congress to pass his climate agenda just days before world powers gather in Scotland to hash out a new international accord, more than two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) continue to insist that climate change is “not an emergency,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Coming on the heels of a summer that featured record-setting heat waves, wildfires and floods — all exacerbated by climate change — the result is a stark example of how U.S. politics imperils global progress on the issue.

The survey of 1,704 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Oct. 19 to 21, found that nearly all Democrats (78 percent) and a plurality of independents (45 percent) view climate change as “an existential threat that must be addressed now with major legislation.”

Yet less than one-quarter of Republicans (24 percent) agree. Instead, more than 6 in 10 believe, falsely, that global warming is either “not a real threat” (38 percent) or a threat that “the government has already done enough to address” (24 percent).

The poll underscores the challenge facing Biden as he aims to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to half of 2005 levels by the end of the decade and set an example for other countries to follow. Both the public at large and all but one Democrat on Capitol Hill — centrist West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — favor Biden’s plan to transition the economy to sustainable sources of energy. But Republicans do not.

Joe Biden
President Biden speaking about his infrastructure plan during a recent visit to Scranton, Pa. (Susan Walsh/AP)

In little more than a week, leaders and representatives from nearly every country in the world will gather in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has called the conference the world’s “last best hope” of keeping global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels in an effort to avert a cascade of devastating consequences for the planet.

recent review of 88,128 scientific papers on climate change since 2012 has concluded that 99.9 percent of the studies agree that humankind’s burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the rise in global temperatures.

Yet even that fact is disputed by Republicans. According to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll, more Republicans continue to believe that human activity is not causing climate change (47 percent) than believe it is (34 percent). In contrast, just 4 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents deny the role of human activity in global warming.

The same pattern persists on issue after issue: A huge majority of Democrats and a substantial plurality of independents take climate change seriously and support the kind of major legislation Biden has proposed — while Republicans remain the outliers. The result is a consistent 15-to-20-point advantage for climate action among Americans at large. For instance:

● 48 percent of Americans favor cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030; just 27 percent are opposed.

● 48 percent favor limiting greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered cars and coal-fired power plants; just 30 percent are opposed.

● 43 percent favor a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions by rewarding utilities that switch to renewable energy and requiring utilities that continue to burn coal and oil “to pay more over time.” That is the $150 billion cornerstone of Biden’s clean energy plan, which Manchin has forced the administration to abandon. Just 27 percent are opposed.

● 45 percent favor “a program that requires polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit” if it includes “a rebate for families making less than $400,000 per year” to offset potential price hikes on “gasoline, electricity or home heating fuel” — a description of the “carbon tax” plan Democrats floated as an alternative to Biden’s clean energy proposal. Just 25 percent are opposed.

● And 45 percent say a major effort to address climate change would be “good for the economy because it will create new industries and jobs,” while just 31 percent say it would be “bad for the economy because it will destroy existing industries and jobs.”

Icebergs which calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier
Icebergs that calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier floating near Ilulissat, Greenland. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

There are limits to how much Americans are willing to personally spend to combat global warming. Without a rebate, support for a carbon tax falls (to 36 percent) and opposition rises (also to 36 percent). When asked to select “changes you would be willing to make” to help solve the problem, far more say they’d be willing to buy an electric car or solar panels with a government rebate (35 percent and 42 percent, respectively) than without (15 percent and 18 percent). And the most popular changes are the ones that require others to pay more, such as raising taxes on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year (42 percent) or on corporations earning more than $5 million (40 percent). Very few Americans are ready to pay more for gas (14 percent) or meat (15 percent).

The message seems to be that government, not individuals, should bear the brunt of climate action — which is why Biden has proposed rebates for most Americans, along with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Yet while a majority of Democrats (73 percent) and a plurality of independents (40 percent) agree with the president that “the U.S. cannot afford to wait any longer to pass major climate change legislation,” most Republicans (59 percent) say “the U.S. cannot afford to pass major climate change legislation right now.”

With additional reporting by David Knowles.

After Manchin nixes clean energy budget provision, youth climate change activists go on hunger strike in front of White House

Ben Adler·Senior Climate EditorThu, October 21, 2021, 10:14 AM·3 min readIn this article:

  • Joe ManchinUnited States Senator from West Virginia
  • Joe BidenJoe Biden46th and current president of the United States

Five young activists began a hunger strike in front of the White House on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to preserve the most important measures to combat climate change in President Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure investment proposal.

The protest arose in response to recent news that Democrats are reluctantly scrapping a plan that would have set a national standard for utilities transitioning to clean energy sources, in order to win the support of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat from a coal- and gas-heavy state whose vote is key to passing the budget bill in the evenly divided Senate.

The strikers, who are working with the youth-led Sunrise Movement, are demanding that Biden’s full climate agenda be included in the forthcoming budget reconciliation package. They gathered Wednesday morning across the street from the White House on the sidewalk next to Lafayette Park, and they intend to sit there in folding chairs, holding placards, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until their demands are met.

The only flaw in their plan? It isn’t the White House’s occupant who needs to be persuaded.

Five young activists began a hunger strike in front of the White House on Wednesday. (Hunger Strike for Climate Justice)
Five young activists began a hunger strike in front of the White House on Wednesday. (Hunger Strike for Climate Justice)

“Joe Biden made these campaign promises, and we worked really hard on his campaign and to get him elected so that he could stop the climate crisis on these promises that he made,” Ema Govea, an 18-year-old high school student from Santa Rosa, Calif., told the Guardian. “I won’t let Joe Biden send a message to the world that he’s willing to give up on climate because I know that the American people, and young people across the country and across the world, are terrified but they’re ready to fight.”

Biden and his allies in Congress would dispute the notion that removing the Clean Electricity Performance Program from their legislation is to “give up on climate.” Congressional Democrats and environmental experts are currently trying to devise alternative paths, such as investing in reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions, that could help reach the president’s goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Story continues:

Is the UK’s green plan enough to halt climate change?

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analystPublished1 day agoShareRelated Topics

Storm causes large waves to hit coastal pier
Image caption,Climate change is contributing to extreme weather including storms and flooding in the UK

On Tuesday, the government set out a number of plans aiming to put the UK on course to achieve its climate goals. Funding for green cars, an end to gas boilers and tree-planting are some of the key announcements. But are they enough?

Let’s not be ungenerous: the government’s great over-arching green strategy is, on the face of, it a remarkable achievement.

Previous governments have theoretically espoused the need to live in harmony with the planet – but none has laid down a roadmap as to how that would be achieved.

It is especially important as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to welcome world leaders to Glasgow for the vital climate conference known as COP26.

Mr Johnson will brandish his sheaf of eco-documents at delegates and offer a challenge: My friends – if we can do it, you can do it.

But huge uncertainties remain:

  • Are the government’s new initiatives potent enough to transform the UK into a near zero emissions economy?
  • Who will pay?
  • And (I really don’t want to ask this) are the government’s carbon-cutting targets ambitious enough to protect a natural world that already appears in angry rebellion.

Let’s tackle one and two because they’re both sides of the same question.

Mr Johnson, for instance, has gained widespread credit for his global leadership in calling a halt to petrol and diesel cars and to gas boilers for home heating.

The cars announcement has triggered a competitive rush in international car makers who’ve been preparing for this moment for decades. Motorists can just slip behind the wheel and drive away.

Boilers is a different issue. Heat pumps are expensive and a hassle to fit. The Treasury has agreed to subsidise them at £5,000 a time but the total pot for installations is far too low to make a difference – just 30,000 boilers a year for three years, a trifling number that’s not remotely high enough to kick-start an entire industry.

The business department BEIS wanted to offer more support, but the Treasury ruled it out.

What’s even worse, from an environmental standpoint, is the lack of funding to help people insulate their homes – because heat pumps simply won’t work unless homes are well-coddled.

So, the heat pumps policy looks like an illusion unless someone sorts out the finances.

That brings us on to question number two – who will pay for the strategy overall?

The Chancellor’s own document, the Net Zero Review, accepts that the costs of inaction on climate change outweigh the costs of action. This is a significant conclusion.

But there’s a sharp warning from the Treasury about the knock-on effect of the electric car revolution: it leaves an annual £37 billion black hole in its finances because fuel duty will evaporate.

Substitute taxes such as road pricing would not fill the gap, Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned, saying that people might face additional taxes or spending cuts.

Next year the Treasury will launch a review of how the green revolution can be funded fairly across society – this theme is regularly raised by members of the public.

The report warned that additional borrowing would be ruled out because it would be unfair to the future generations saddled with the bill.

That means innovative sorts of financing will be needed to fund that difficult but essential work to upgrade homes.

That could include loans from energy firms or conditions on mortgage lending. No details are provided. caption,WATCH: The BBC’s Nick Beake meets young climate activists trying to stop Norway drilling for oil and gas

And finally the third question – are the new policies tough enough to help rein back climate change? The prime minister hopes to persuade others to help him freeze temperature rise at 1.5C.

When that target was first mooted, scientists considered it the threshold to dangerous climate change. After a year of freak weather events with just 1.1C warming the climate is heating faster than our attempts to control it.

That’s what infuriates environmentalists so much. They say every lever in society must be pulled to face a global threat.

And they are contemptuous of a clutch of government policy areas that will allow emissions to actually grow.

These include building the £120bn rail project HS2, with all its energy-intensive concrete; construction of £27bn worth of roads; allowing the continued sale of gas guzzling SUVs; allowing aviation to grow even though the public wants it curbed; and allowing mining for oil, gas and coal drilling in defiance of international advice.

Any one of these issues could undermine the PM as he touts his green revolution in Glasgow.

UN climate report: Africa’s rare glaciers to disappear within two decades

BY JORDAN WILLIAMS – 10/19/21 08:38 AM EDT

A new report from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warns that Africa’s rare glaciers will disappear within two decades.

The report released Tuesday warned that the current retreat rates of Africa’s glaciers — Mount Kenya, the Rwenori Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro — are higher than the global average. If it continues, the mountains would be deglaciated by the 2040s.  

Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, the report found, which would make it the first entire mountain range to lose glaciers because of human-induced climate change.

The WMO made the findings in The State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report, which details how Africa is disproportionately vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.

The report was done in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) through the Africa Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), and other international and regional scientific organizations.

The WMO’s report stated that Africa is witnessing increasing weather and climate variability, which leads to disasters and disruption of economic and ecological systems. In 2020, the region saw continued warming temperatures, accelerated sea-level rise and climate events like floods and droughts.

By 2030, up to 118 million “extremely poor people,” those living on less than $1.90 per day, would be exposed to droughts, floods and extreme heat in Africa if adequate measures are not put in place, the report said.

The report further found that climate change could further lower gross domestic product in sub-Saharan Africa by up to 3 percent in 2050. 

Adaption costs in sub-Saharan African are estimated to be between $30 billion to $50 billion each year over the next decade to avoid even higher costs of additional disaster relief. 

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement that enhanced climate resilience is an “urgent and continuing need.”

“Investments are particularly needed in capacity development and technology transfer, as well as in enhancing countries’ early warning systems, including weather, water and climate observing systems,” Taalas continued.

The fight against climate change goes beyond reducing CO2 emissions

The Secret Negotiator

An insider talks about efforts to cut methane, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases but which has had little attention

Cows standing in the meadow at a dairy farm
Cows are one of the biggest producers of methane, but also have huge economic and cultural value in many countries. Photograph: Robin Utrecht/Rex/Shutterstock

Sat 16 Oct 2021 03.00 EDT

While global climate efforts have tended to focus on the fight against carbon dioxide, many other threats that attract less attention are just as dangerous to our planet.

Negotiations over these more granular issues take place away from the limelight. But the policies and agreements that emerge are some of the most vital steps in the fight against climate change.

Over the past few weeks, one of these issues our team has focused on has been methane reduction. Methane, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases, has accounted for nearly a third of global heating since the pre-industrial era. Yet efforts to combat it have been half-hearted.

On Monday, my country chose to join the fight to reverse this trend. We became one of 24 new signatories to the Global Methane Pledge, initiated by the US this year. The pledge, which is outside the traditional UN framework on climate change negotiations, committed its signatories to a 30% cut in methane emissions by the end of this decade.Advertisement

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Methane is up to 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, though it breaks down faster. Making urgent and drastic cuts will therefore have an immediate impact on reducing global temperatures.

Among the negotiating teams of climate vulnerable countries such as mine, however, scepticism is still rife. While the goals of the pledge are admirable, actions are needed to convince those of us most at risk that these efforts will pay dividends.

The international community has a recent history of lagging behind on some of its most celebrated pledges. The $100bn annual target for climate finance for poor countries, for instance, from 10 Cops ago, has still not been reached. Progress on the Paris agreement’s key commitments is mostly lagging around the world.

The only way forward is for the developed world to take immediate action and lead by example. The developing world is more than willing to commit to action, but it is a significant challenge. In our country, as in many others, methane is the principal source of emissions. Cows, which produce methane, have enormous economic and cultural value to many of our nations. Furthermore, rapid urbanisation results in huge increases in waste production, which also releases methane.

The only way forward is for the developed world to take the lead, share technology, and provide financial assistance. Then we can decouple economic development from methane, and strive towards a cleaner future. While there are barriers to cutting emissions in the developing world, we are more than willing to work with our international partners to overcome them. The security of our people is at risk, after all.

While the past week has demonstrated the potential of international collaboration to produce positive outcomes, there is far more to be done. For one, only 33 countries have signed on to this pledge. Major emitters – including China, India and Russia, which are among the top methane emitters – cannot shy away. For another, not enough financial support has been pledged to achieve the targets.

The negotiations around the methane pledge have been similar to the overall negotiation process. The demands from the climate vulnerable ring out as clear as ever: urgent action, global collaboration, and increased financial support are the only routes to a stable future. As Cop26 looms, these demands must be heard, understood, and acted upon by the developed world.

  • Every week we’ll hear from negotiators from a developing country that is involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations and will be attending the Cop26 climate conference.

It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the climate. But we’ve got two big things on our side

Bill McKibben

One is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy. The other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action

Whitelee, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, in east Ayrshire and south Lanarkshire.
‘Vested interest is slowly shifting towards the ever-larger renewable sector.’ Whitelee, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, in east Ayrshire and south Lanarkshire. Composite: Guardian

Fri 15 Oct 2021 04.00 EDT


So many things have broken the wrong way since the Paris climate accords were agreed in mid-December of 2015. Within eight weeks Donald Trump had won his first presidential primary, an insane comet streaking across the night sky, trailed by outliers like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. The world has endured opéra bouffe distractions like Brexit, and the true paralyzing emergency of the pandemic. up for our weekly environment newsletter, Green Light.

And yet here we are, staggering and stumbling towards the real follow-up to Paris, starting 31 October in Glasgow. The international order, such as it is, is held together with baling wire and duct tape: China (its housing market cratering) and the US (between rebellions) are spitting at each other, India half-lost in its ugly experiments with repression, Europe Merkelless. The global south is ever more rightly angered by the failure of the north to deliver on its necessary pledges for climate finance – and to pay for the increasingly obvious damage that global warming has inflicted on nations that did nothing to cause it. But somehow all these players must stitch together a plan for dramatically increasing the speed of a global transition off fossil fuel – and if they don’t, then Paris will forever be the high-water mark of climate action. (And the actual high-water mark of rising seas will jump upward.)

At least no one remains in the dark about the importance of the work: since Paris we’ve endured the hottest heatwaves, the biggest and fastest storms, the highest winds, the heaviest rains; we’ve watched both the jet stream and the Gulf Stream start to sputter. The physical world, once backdrop, is now foreground, a well-lit stage on which the drama will play out.

And to make the theater interesting, there are two things that have broken the right way, two things that will have to be the bulwark of progress in Glasgow.

The faster we move towards true renewable energy, the more money we save, and the savings are measured in many trillions of dollars

One is the continuing astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy and the batteries with which to store it. This trend was evident by the time of Paris, but still new enough that it was hard to trust it: we still thought of wind and sun as expensive, a sacrifice. We now understand that they are miracles, both of engineering and economics: last month an Oxford team released an (undercovered) analysis that concluded: “Compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will probably result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars – even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.” That is, the faster we move towards true renewable energy, the more money we save, and the savings are measured in “many trillions of dollars”.Advertisement

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And the second lucky break is the continuing astonishing growth in the size of citizens’ movements demanding action. Again, this was already evident in Paris: 400,000 people had marched on the UN the year before demanding action, and as Barack Obama said at the time, “we cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.” He’d been able to slink back from Copenhagen in 2009 with no agreement and pay no political price; by Paris that had changed. But it’s changed even more in the six years since, particularly since August 2018 when Greta Thunberg began her first climate strike. There are thousands of Thunbergs now scattered across the planet, with millions of followers: this may be the biggest international movement in human history.

Those two strengths go up against the equally powerful bulwarks of the status quo: vested interest and inertia.

The first, the fossil fuel lobby, has suffered damage in recent years: a global divestment campaign, for instance, has put $15tn in endowments and portfolios beyond its reach, and it builds little now without resistance. People increasingly see through the fossil fuel lobby’s attempts at greenwashing. But it maintains its hold on too many capitals – in the United States, the Republican party is its wholly owned subsidiary, which makes progress halting at best. And the planet’s financial superpowers – Chase, Citi, BlackRock and the rest – continue to lend and invest as if there was nothing wrong with an industry that is literally setting the Earth on fire.Forget net zero – let’s have a ‘fossil freedom day’Mark LynasRead more

As for inertia, it’s a deep obstacle, simply because the climate crisis is a timed test. Without swift change we will pass irrevocable tipping points: winning slowly on climate is simply another way of losing. Every huge forest fire, every hurricane strike, every month of drought heightens public demand for change – but every distraction weakens that demand. Covid could not have come at a worse time – indeed, it very nearly undid these talks for the second year in a row.

So, that’s the playbill. We have two big forces on each side of the drama, behemoths leaning against each other and looking for weakness to exploit. In the wings, old hands like John Kerry, the US climate envoy, push and probe; if the US Senate actually passes a serious climate plan before Glasgow, his power will increase like some video game character handed a magic sword. If the price of gas keeps rising in Europe, perhaps that weakens chances for a breakthrough.

We know which side will win in the end, because vested interest is slowly shifting towards the ever-larger renewable sector, and because inertia over time loses ground to the movements that keep growing. But we don’t know if that win will come in time to matter. Glasgow, in other words, is about pace: will it accelerate change, or will things stay on their same too-slow trajectory? Time will tell – it’s the most important variable by far.

  • Bill McKibben is the Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, Vermont, and leader of the climate campaign group

Elon Musk says ‘do not worry too much’ about methane, the gas used in SpaceX rocket fuel that accounts for 20% of global greenhouse emissions

Hannah Towey Oct 8, 2021, 1:01 PM

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk 
  • Elon Musk once again voiced his support for a carbon tax at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting. 
  • He said the policy “is really needed,” and would benefit Tesla, but hurt ultimately SpaceX. 
  • Musk said “do not worry too much about methane,” the gas responsible for 20% of greenhouse emissions. 

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Elon Musk endorsed a carbon tax at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, a position he’s held since 2015, even though implementing one could impact his spaceflight ambitions.

Earlier this year, Musk said he suggested the policy to the Biden administration but was told it was too “politically difficult.” 

“Can there be a carbon tax? I mean, what the hell?” Musk told shareholders, adding that while the tax would benefit Tesla, it would ultimately hurt SpaceX. 

He added that people should not “worry too much about methane,” the gas responsible for 20% of global greenhouse emissions. According to the EPA, methane is 25 times as strong as carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere.

It’s also the gas used to fuel SpaceX’s Starship rocket, which Musk hopes to send to Mars. In January, Tesla announced plans to drill near a Texas launchpad for natural gas. 

“Methane quickly breaks down into CO2,” Musk said. “Methane is not a stable molecule, CO2 is extremely stable.”

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Significantly reducing methane emissions would “have a rapid and significant effect on atmospheric warming potential,” the EPA says. According to the agency’s Global Methane Initiative, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have doubled over the last two centuries. 

Since SpaceX is among the first companies to use liquid methane and oxygen as fuel, there is not enough research available to calculate exactly how methane-fueled rocket engines may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2019 report by The Center for Space Policy and Strategy.

With Musk’s $100 million investment in carbon-capturing technologies, it may be possible for SpaceX to continuously recycle gas released by its rockets into the atmosphere. 

“We try very hard to do the right thing in all respects. We do not always succeed,” Musk said at the meeting. “But if you’re looking for a company where we say, is that company really trying to do the right thing? That is Tesla.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the fuel mixture used by SpaceX. It is liquid methane and oxygen.

Antarctica’s last 6 months were the coldest on record

By Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist

Updated 12:30 PM ET, Sat October 9, 2021

(CNN)In a year of extreme heat, Antarctica’s last six months were the coldest on record.”For the polar darkness period, from April through September, the average temperature was -60.9 degrees Celsius (-77.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a record for those months,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said.The last six months is also the darkest period at the South Pole, which is where the name polar darkness (also called polar night) comes from. Here, the sun sets for the last time around the spring equinox, and does not rise again until near the autumn equinox six months later.

For the entire Antarctic continent, the winter of 2021 was the second-coldest on record, with the “temperature for June, July, and August 3.4 degrees Celsius (6.1 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than the 1981 to 2010 average at -62.9 degrees Celsius (-81.2 degrees Fahrenheit),” according to a new report from the NSIDC.

“This is the second-coldest winter (June-July-August months) on record, behind only 2004 in the 60-year weather record at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station,” the NSIDC said.”The unusual cold was attributed to two extended periods of stronger-than-average encircling winds around the continent, which tend to isolate the ice sheet from warmer conditions,” the NSIDC explained. “A strong upper-atmosphere polar vortex was observed as well, leading to a significant ozone hole. The ozone hole appears to have peaked as of this post, with initial measurements reporting that it is in the upper quartile (top 25 percent) of ozone reduction events since 1979.”Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “Meanwhile in China” Newsletter.close dialog

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Stay updated on extreme weatherSign up for email alerts from CNN meteorologists and reporters in the field.Sign Me UpBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.Even in the austral summer months of November through February, it never really gets “warm” at the South Pole. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which sits at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,300 feet), has an average monthly temperature in the austral summer of -28°C (-18°F).

The National Science Foundation, which runs the US Antarctic program, points out the winter temperatures have had minimal impact in science support from the South Pole, since most of the deep fieldwork occurs in the austral summer. However, the polar environments are still challenging.”Everyone adapts to the cold differently, and today’s gear makes it much safer than in the days when Shackleton and the other explorers had little specialized gear; they had only wool socks and leather shoes to protect their feet!” a NSF spokesperson said. “All of NSF’s US Antarctic Program (USAP) participants are given extreme cold weather gear and are trained in how to recognize the dangers of extreme cold.”One extremely cold winter is intriguing from a record keeping standpoint, but one season alone does not change the long-term progression, which is rapid warming.

Weather versus climate

It is important to understand weather is different from climate. Weather is what happens over shorter periods of time (days to months), such as the seven-day forecast. Climate is what happens over much longer periods of time, such as several years, or even entire generations.”One such example is a cold snap, which can happen due to sudden changes in atmospheric circulation and may not be linked to climate change,” says Tom Slater, Research Fellow at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds. “Texas is a good example of this; even though parts of it experienced extreme cold weather earlier this year when air from the Arctic was pushed south, looking at the long-term change in temperature tells us that Texas is 1.5 degrees warmer on average now than it was 100 years ago. That’s climate.”Scientists also agree that since the 1950s extreme cold snaps do occur, but climate change is bringing far more heat records than cold records.”In other words, while the globe may be warmer than average as a whole, some areas will still observe colder temperatures and even severe cold outbreaks,” says Zack Labe, Climate Scientist at Colorado State University. “This regional variation is due to the influences of the oceans, mountains, deserts, ice sheets, and other geographic features that all affect our weather and climate. It’s also from changes in weather patterns that are related to the position of the jet stream (storm track), which can vary from day-to-day or even month-to-month.”So, this recent winter stretch from June-August is definitely interesting from a research standpoint, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect what Antarctica is doing in the long term.

Antarctica just registered its hottest temperature ever

Antarctica just registered its hottest temperature everOne great example of this is while June-August of this year may have been quite cold, February of the previous year recorded the new all-time record high for the Antarctic continent. On February 6, 2020, the Esperanza Research Station recorded a high temperature of 18.3°C degrees (64.9°F). This broke the previous record for the Antarctic region (continental, including mainland and surrounding islands) of 17.5°C (63.5°F) recorded in March 2015 at the same station.”There were thousands upon thousands of these penguins just in distress because they were so overheated and there was no snow,” Camille Seaman, a photographer who has traveled to Antarctica, told CNN in August. “They were looking for any little patch of snow or ice to lay on.”

Polar opposites

What is happening at one pole, does not mean it is happening at the other.Thanks to the extreme cold near the South Pole, Antarctic sea ice extent has been above average the last few months, peaking in late August when it reached the 5th highest in the satellite record.

Antarctic sea ice extent has been above average for the past several months, culminating in late August when extent was the 5th highest in the satellite record. Since peaking on September 1, sea ice extent has declined steeply. Read more:— National Snow and Ice Data Center (@NSIDC) October 6, 2021

However, ice near the North Pole has done quite the opposite.The summer of 2021 was relatively cool near the North Pole compared to many recent years, according to the NSIDC, which allowed September’s ice extent to be the highest since 2014.However, while it may sound good, keep in mind the last 15 years (2007 to 2021) have had the 15 lowest September ice extents on record.Arctic sea ice extent for September averaged 1.90 million square miles (4.92 million square kilometers), which made it the 12th lowest in 43 years of record keeping.

Literally everywhere else is warming

What is happening at Earth’s poles, does not mean it is happening across the globe equally.”Although global temperatures have risen by about 1.1 degrees in the past 150 years on average, different parts of the globe have warmed at different rates due to natural variations in the climate system such as cloud cover, land cover and atmospheric circulation patterns,” Slater said.“Earth’s poles have warmed faster than anywhere else, primarily due to melting ice and snow. Although Antarctica has had a cold winter this year, over the past few decades the most northerly parts of Antarctica have warmed five times faster than the global average — that’s faster than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere.” scientists take note of the changes occurring at Earth’s poles, the bigger danger lies in the more populated continents where people live and work.”As a climate scientist, I am particularly alarmed at how extreme heatwaves, such as the one which impacted the Pacific Northwest this summer, are projected to become more common in the future,” Labe said. “But right now we have a big opportunity. We can help reduce the severity and frequency of future extreme heatwaves (and overall climate change) by systematically reducing our consumption of fossil fuels.”

The impact to humans and animals takes center stage in the climate crisis.”Extreme heat and humidity can pose severe health risks to people who have to endure them — on average the world now experiences an extra 14 days a year with temperatures of 45 C than 40 years ago,” Slater says. “That’s why I hope we will see nations enhancing their commitments to tackling climate change at COP26 in just a few week’s time.”

California fires may have killed hundreds of giant sequoias

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October 8, 20219:30 AM ET


Flames burn up a tree as part of the Windy Fire in the Trail of 100 Giants grove last month in Sequoia National Forest, Calif.Noah Berger/AP

LOS ANGELES — Northern California wildfires may have killed hundreds of giant sequoias as they swept through groves of the majestic monarchs in the Sierra Nevada, an official said Wednesday.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Christy Brigham, head of resource management and science for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

The lightning-caused KNP Complex that erupted on Sept. 9 has burned into 15 giant sequoia groves in the park, Brigham said.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze in sometimes treacherous terrain. On Wednesday afternoon, four people working on the fire were injured when a tree fell on them, the National Park Service reported.

The four were airlifted to hospitals and “while the injuries are serious, they are in stable condition,” the report said. It didn’t provide other details.

The KNP Complex was only 11% contained after burning 134 square miles (347 square kilometers) of forest. Cooler weather has helped slow the flames and the area could see some slight rain on Friday, forecasters said.

The fire’s impact on giant sequoia groves was mixed. Most saw low- to medium-intensity fire behavior that the sequoias have evolved to survive, Brigham said.Article continues after sponsor message

However, it appeared that two groves — including one with 5,000 trees — were seared by high-intensity fire that can send up 100-foot (30-meter) flames capable of burning the canopies of the towering trees.

That leaves the monarchs at risk of going up “like a horrible Roman candle,” Brigham said.

Two burned trees fell in Giant Forest, which is home to about 2,000 sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is considered the world’s largest by volume. However, the most notable trees survived and Brigham said the grove appeared to be mostly intact.

Firefighters have taken extraordinary measures to protect the sequoias by wrapping fire-resistant material around the bases of some giants, raking and clearing vegetation around them, installing sprinklers and dousing some with water or fire retardant gel.

However, the full extent of the damage won’t be known for months, Brigham said. Firefighters are still occupied protecting trees, homes and lives or can’t safely reach steep, remote groves that lack roads or even trails, she said.

To the south, the Windy Fire had burned at least 74 sequoias, Garrett Dickman told the Los Angeles Times. The wildfire botanist has recorded damage as part of a sequoia task force preparing and assessing trees in the fire zone.

In one grove, Dickman counted 29 sequoias that were “just incinerated,” he told CNN.

“There were four of those that had burned so hot that they’d fallen over,” he said.

The 152-acre (395-square-kilometer) fire was 75% contained.

Giant sequoias grow naturally only in the Sierra Nevada. The world’s most massive trees, they can soar to more than 250 feet (76 meters) with trunks 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter and live for thousands of years.

The trees need low-intensity fire to reproduce. Flames thin out the forest of competitors such as cedars, clearing away shade, and the heat causes the seedlings to open. But fire officials say recent blazes have been much more intense because fire suppression efforts left more undergrowth that’s turned bone dry from drought, driven by climate change.

Last year’s Castle Fire in and around Sequoia National Park is estimated to have killed as many as 10,600 giant sequoias, or 10% to 14% of the entire population.

While some groves may have received only patchy fire damage and will recover, every burned giant sequoia is a loss, Brigham said.

“When you stand by a tree that big and that old, 1,000 to 2,000 years old, the loss of any is a heartbreak,” she said. “You can’t get it back, it’s irreplaceable.”

California fires have burned more than 3,000 square miles (7,800 square kilometers) so far in 2021, destroying more than 3,000 homes, commercial properties and other structures. Hotter and drier weather coupled with decades of fire suppression have contributed to an increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires, fire scientists say. And the problem is exacerbated by a more than 20-year Western megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.