CliMates Pilot Episode of CTI: Climate trend investigation

Attention all climate non-enthusiasts! We have an important message for you today.

What do prohibitive laws against drive-texting, increased number of divorces, reluctantly quitting smoking or not being able to drink your favorite red wine from Bordeaux have in common? The answer is climate change, its causes, its impacts, and its penetration of society that can be as unpredictable and gruesome as a Mike Tyson boxing match or a Miley Cyrus concert.

We have heard numerous times about the severe consequences of natural disasters – i.e. Sandy and Typhoon Parma – rising sea level – ask inhabitants of Tuvalu – and heightened global temperatures – was anyone in D.C. this summer?

Indeed, we have already witnessed these costly effects of climate change. Because climate change has not waited for an end to the mule-like recalcitrance of the international community in its implementation of meaningful policy in order to manifest itself. It cares as little about how long we will take to really address the problem as it does about the borders that separate our nation states. The debate over the science is clearly over: climate change is more and more evident, is and will be affecting us all in many ways.

And yet climate change is still not a popular issue to discuss, nor to tackle. Many politicians still avoid it. The press is often failing to cover it, climate-focused sections are being shut down all over the world (Le Monde, NYT). Most importantly, public opinion is in agreement with fighting climate change, but without demonstrating nor demanding the required sense of urgency. We still feel too far away from the issue, in time and in space.

Well, the distance most of us feel from the impacts and, more importantly, the solutions to climate change is much smaller than it appears. It’s time to look in your rear view mirrors because all of us have already been victims of some effect of climate change. And until society makes the adjustments so that we get pulled over and ticketed, it’s going to get worse.

Once every two weeks, in this blogstream, we will bring to you a discussion on one of society’s hot topics and explain why climate change either has or will have an impact on it. We will make an unexpected link between this anthropogenic phenomenon and some societal issue that maybe is more endearing to the public eye than a large thermal map highlighting the travels of hot air around the Caribbean islands. Alright that’s a bad example, as you like the Caribbean and the increased number of hurricanes may very well have made your winter break trip in 2011 to the Bahamas your last.

Don’t worry, the beaches in northern Sweden have cocktail serving walruses.

So there you have it. Non climate-related trends are actually climate-related trends, and the trends you thought were regular societal trends are climatic and anthropogenically induced trends, albeit unwillingly and subconsciously. And you thought Mitt Romney’s position on climate change was difficult to follow.

In any case, this serious issue deserves more attention, so we invite you to trendily think outside the box with us.


World Leaders Must Promote New Meaning of Progress

Author: Henri Landes, currently works on environmental and housing policy at the French Socialist Party. He also teaches environmental studies at Sciences Po Paris, where he graduated with a Master in Environment, Sustainable Development and Risks. French-American, born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, Henri studied history and German at the University of California, Davis, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa. He then played two years of professional tennis on the futures circuit before pursuing graduate studies.

On Tuesday the 25th of June, President Barack Obama delivered a convincing speech on the urgency to act against climate change. His skillful rhetoric and inspiring optimism hopefully persuaded any Americans that still questioned the need to address the issue – politicians of the opposition especially.

After many years of reluctance, the United States should finally “officially” launch itself into the climate change fight, and should do so with an international perspective. Obama’s speech was undoubtedly a strong statement, notably taking into account a complicated international context of economic crisis, and a domestic one of divided politics. However, I would have liked to hear some newer ideas on how to mitigate climate change, as well as a connection drawn between climate change and a global socio-economic crisis.  

With regards to international solutions, Obama primarily stressed ending public financing for coal factories – unless carbon capture is included – trade of clean technologies and both bilateral and international cooperation to increase renewable energy development. As much as these are necessary, these solutions are all relatively consensual and old news in the world of climate activists. Few argue that we need to continue using the dirtiest energy source, and market based solutions for renewable energy upscale already have several success as well as failure stories (the second due in most cases to ineffective regulation and poor investment strategies, i.e. solar energy in France).

Market based solutions to climate change have been the United States’ trademark in international negotiations, to the dismay of developing countries who have looked to the US and other historical polluters for leadership in setting binding greenhouse gas reduction targets and in proposing regulatory measures. These market-based solutions are in my view largely insufficient to tackle climate change, and must be completed with others. The recent curve of global greenhouse gas emissions and climate trends of the past few years are ample proof (storms and flooding in South-East Asia, drought in Africa and in the US, etc.). We are currently on a path of roughly 4 degrees of global warming by 2060, and the next IPCC report in the fall will reveal much more troubling information.

Climate change is a problem of unprecedented nature, and it brings us to a turning point. It has been caused by certain aspects of our economic model of production and consumption, at both national and international levels. The inability of the world economy to effectively internalize the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation and natural resource depletion is undisputed. Lire la suite

Barack Obama’s Climate Speech: A counter-article

Author:  Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb

Barack Obama’s speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, June 25th marked an anticipated political event and set important guidelines for climate change legislation for the United States moving forward. Barack Obama has been dealt a very difficult hand since becoming President of the United States in January 2009th. An economic crisis of unprecedented proportion and a science-denying, climato-septic Republican-led Congress has made his political margin of maneuver to deal with climate change policy extremely limited.

In 2009, the American Clean Energy  and Security Act of 2009 which would have established an ambitious cap and trade system for the United States passed the House of Representatives but died on the Senate floor. Everything went downhill from there, the 2010 Republican Legislative victory temporarily sealed the fate of significant greenhouse reductions legislation to be passed in Congress. In fact, in 2011,the House of Representatives was deemed to be the « most anti-environmental house in the History of Congress »[1] as House Republicans voted a record 191 times to weaken environmental regulations including 27 votes to block action on climate change legislation and this in a year which saw record drought, flooding and wildfires.  The only way Obama could possibly influence climate policy was through direct executive action during that span such as setting limit on car exhaust for US car manufacturers to produce cars that average of 35.5mpg by 2016 for example[2]. Good-willed but woefully inadequate political initiatives for a country that contributes to close to 20% of worldwide Co2 emissions annually  and whose citizens emit around 17.2 tons of Co2 per capita per year.

Fast forwarding to June 25th speech now, which despite its clear benevolence, perspired of political opportunism,  as Obama had carefully avoided the slippery slopes of climate change talks for the past two year yeas, a politically dangerous topic in the United States that Obama was electorally « wise » enough to avoid during his election year. Now comfortably settled into a second term with nothing to lose moving forward and after 4 years of climate inaction, the 44rth U.S. president could courageously roll up his sleeves and attack the most serious topic our generation and our children will face this coming century.

Obama’s speech in some ways was a milestone and establishes coherent guidelines in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and launching a war on coal, the urgency of elaborating climate adaptation plans in the United States and the importance of re-imitating climate talks at the UN level.  It is a necessary document which hopefully will launch the country into a new dynamic of increased renewable energy use, cleaner consumption and increased awareness about the impending climate threat. However, upon further study, it falls well short of the mark and of launching a necessary global impulsion, a push that the United States could and should embrace to lead the way into a cleaner and more sustainable 21st century. Lire la suite

Forward On Climate Rally: 50,000 People Say No To Tar Sands And Make History In The US

Author: Chloe Maxmin
Harvard College, Class of 2015
Founder, First Here, Then Everywhere :
Twitter: @chloemaxmin

On February 17th, I was part of history. 50,000 people from around North America traveled to Washington DC for the Forward on Climate rally–the largest climate rally in US history. We protested the Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of tar sands oil.

Tar sands exploitation was recently identified as one of 14 « carbon bombs. » A mixture of clay, sand, water, and bitumen (a hydrocarbon that can be processed into crude oil), tar sands is extracted from under Canada’s Boreal Forest. It is a gooey tar-like substance that must be diluted with toxic carcinogenic chemicals to get through a pipeline. Compared to conventional oil, it is 70 times more viscous, 20 times more acidic, and has three times the spill rate. Producing crude from tar sands also emits three times more greenhouse gas emissions than producing conventional oil. If fully exploited, the combustion of these fossil fuel reserves would cause global temperatures to rise between 5 and 6 degrees Celsius--a level of warming that the World Bank deemed un-adaptable. According to climate scientist James Hanse, « Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. »


What’s more: the extraction of tar sands has devastating effects on local communities, especially First Nation peoples. Chemicals from the extraction site contaminate local water sources, endangering drinking water and affecting wildlifein the region. These communities continue to live traditional lifestyles, living off of the land and depending on  Lire la suite

Be Kind, Rewind

« We live in an agnostic age, no more great visions for society, all in small steps »
Ian McEwan, Saturday.

Complication and apathy

The so-called article before your eyes, with no substance except for yours truly’s mesmerising opinion, is about denouncing smart minds and weak hearts; glorifying stubbornness and fervour over leniency and patience. It’s for a good cause: so much energy is spent developing the mind that we forget about developing the heart.

For example, climate change is not even close to being straightforward: complex terms and convoluted justifications always intrude in on the debate. The irritated and frustrated, even demoralised, people involved have made fighting climate change so complicated that we could probably add it to the list of things that would obviously save lives but will occur only after it is too late (the US arms ban is already on it).

I don’t necessarily believe the main obstacle is those who impede all action, out of an unwavering belief or utter self-interest. For every naysayer, there is an actor who is exhorted to act for change. The main obstacle can actually be found in those who have been entrusted with the mission to act and, time after time, simply do not. These have the ability to sap hopes, concern and determination from the hearts of many. The result is a Silent Majority of people shrouded in apathy.

What would Winston do?

The leaders of the world are all a bright bunch and perhaps they are just too smart. What they lack to me is brawn to go with those brains. What happened to the fierce fighters in the arena? Those who always try and never back away when faced with political calculations or failure?

We have all heard of times when leaders were quite the opposite of (a)pathetic.: think about past figures, anyone from Mandela to Ghandi or Shaquille O’Neal (alright not this last one). Out of pure nationalism (that I dare hope you will forgive me for), I sometimes think of Winston Churchill (and yes Great Britain rocks some good Olympic Games!).

What would he think of current international shenanigans? What would Winston do? This man of defiance and wits does belong to another era and yes, he may not have cared about fighting climate change. But were he still around, he would definitely not have dilly-dallied forever. Negotiations would have been shaken up, diplomatic feathers would have been ruffled, and the scene would be different. A BBC article I once read, about another topic, stated that “This is the kind of mentality we need. Not a short-term goal, catering to the continuously shifting political whim, but a long-term plan where each step is achievable and sustainable.”


My point therefore is that it is as much about intellect as it is about guts. The former needs the latter in order to drive the point home, and without it we are but smart sheep.

Perhaps climate change is too difficult a threat to pin down precisely, maybe now is not the time to address such issues. On the other hand, we have never been so aware of the imminent danger of climate change as we are now, never been part of such a strong international community as we are at present and if our moment is not today, tomorrow won’t look good either (quick reminder: 1940 probably did not seem like the right time to defy the Nazis …).

Imagine what today can do with a few billion bold hearts and minds! We could mitigate, adapt, develop and protect. We might even be able to bring Freddy Mercury back (and God knows we need him). We, the people, youth, students, CliMates, we have to be the decision makers and the innovators who believe! Time to place brawn with brain power, determination with pragmatism and prove sharp savvy can come with blunt boldness.

by Jonathan Clarke

Young & Unafraid

Today we face, as humanity, one truly global threat. A threat that is total in the geographical, thematic and musical sense of the term. In effect, all regions of the world, all aspects of life (security, health, education…) and particularly all musical genres (from rock to rap, via folk/indie skat) are bound to be affected. True story.

It is therefore a threat that should bring people from all walks of life together, stronger than ever before. Younger, not so young(er), R&B-loving Ghanaians as much as the Merengue-listening Colombians… But enough with the silly musical anecdotes, this unity has yet to be witnessed, and that is no laughing matter.

For all of you that still wonder what the hell I am going on about, it’s not about cats taking over the internet, Christopher Walken’s stare, or yet another recommended diet from women’s magazines. The threat I am jabbering on about is climate change.

The force is strong with this universal threat. Despite the disheartening green-washing or the annoying green-bashing that has occurred, climate change has taken centre stage along with financial and social concerns amongst global leaders. Yes, they do meet at least twice a year to discuss it, or as some pessimists might say: have coffee, disagree and then jet home.

Nevertheless, whatever doubt there may remain concerning humanity’s responsibility, however much people grow frustrated about it, the fight against climate change is here to stay. Wrestling with climate change is inside the mind of a great and growing number of people, be it as a force for good, a nuisance or otherwise. It is no longer dismissed or forgotten. Even Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), the billionaire, genius, philanthropist, playboy (not necessarily in that order) from the last Avengers movie underlines that his new towering building’s greatest accomplishment is not that it is, in fact, towering over New York City, but completely energetically self-sufficient.

And there you have it. A comic book comparison done well. Not only is no-one surprised that such a fact is of significant importance, in the movie industry or in the world audience, but it also shows what great opportunity lies ahead.

As many people, in an attempt to stun you with overused knowledge, have probably already told you, the word “crisis” in Chinese symbols is made of both danger and opportunity. Climate change is no different. The danger is great, yes. But the opportunity that has arisen is far greater for humanity. We have before us now, the opportunity to finally get together and confront a common threat united.

What more binding threat than climate change, which does not discriminate, pick and choose or make any exceptions. Whether or not we agree upon its source, it is happening, and we must learn to adapt and mitigate it (unless you happen to be Canada). It is therefore a challenge we should not fear, but accept to change and confront.

Because humanity is only waking up to this, we (and I do include all generations, from Obama and students to your granny and Christopher Walken) are all the same: fresh, and young in the face of danger, perhaps too optimistic but full of energy in the face of opportunity.

It is a question of point of view. You can decide to have a headache over climate change negotiations or come up with innovative ideas to change the current unsustainable paradigm. This small step/giant leap is already happening (CliMates anyone?). So, yes, it is an innocent and naïve thought, but from where I’m looking, the greatest challenge will unveil the best in humanity.

To everyone, to all generations and especially the next, and to melting ice caps and droughts, we are all young and unafraid to find solutions. We are the people who move forward, with open eyes and open minds, gritted teeth and dashing smiles. We are of those that have made the world advance; we are united, bold and resolute. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Once Upon A Time…

Presented with the opportunity to write an article in a blog, my initial excitement soon gave way to doubt…

I just did not know what to write about, either because too many ideas flew by or none at all.

Thankfully (or not, depending entirely on your reaction after you read these lines), I attended a very interesting talk the other day. And one important lesson I took away from that lecture, was the importance of good storytelling. Whether it be true or made-up, long or short, a good story can captivate an audience and get people interested in any topic, however unappealing (of course there are only so many people interested in the social behaviour of wombats, but you get my drift).

What I will attempt to do, if ever I am able to write more articles, will be to concoct stories, some truer than others, some will have precious few links to climate change, others may be plain outrageous. But if they ever happen to enable the wonderful and intellectually-stimulated reader to escape for a mere second, then I guess it will be worth it. Sorry for the atrocities then…

The first thing I would like to write about is possibly the longest story ever told. I am not talking about Ted Mosby’s story about how he met his children’s mother, even though that’s been going on for eight years. No, the present anecdote is paradoxically as old as time and known to all.

People have heard many a different tale about the world. They generally involve dinosaurs, apes, a snake and an apple, arches, unicorns or even unicellular micro-organisms. Despite the various interpretations, they all translate into one single tale: yours, mine, and ours. And whichever way it has been told until now, we are at a chapter in the story where humanity is inevitably, globally, without exception, confronted with the same future possibilities that range from a happy story-line to witnessing a premature end, possibilities for us to head towards or steer clear of.

In many ways, humanity has always been able to write its own story, and despite the chaos, differences and suffering along the way, we have avoided the tell-tale (see what I did there…) sad ending. But today, we can and should decide how the rest of the story unfolds. We know what we have to write. Whatever you believe in, wherever you are from, however old you may be, the pen is in our hands. There is no shying away from it: it is a privilege and a duty.

Don’t get me wrong, we got this far, we can continue a fair while. The world is not going to end either, its story will go on, and the planet will keep rotating around its star, a lump of rock in the galaxy. Only it won’t be the world we know unless we live on it and we should make sure it keeps rotating with us on board; make sure our planet is more than a just empty rock floating in space. Make sure we are not going to ruin our own story.

This time, if we want to ensure continuing adventures in this world, humanity is going to have to lock heads together and act together, all 7 billion (and counting) of us. It is a time to be old and wise, but also young and free. It is a time to act. We haven’t done enough in the past and the future is quite simply running out of printing paper for our story. Not only is now the appropriate time to unite on a sustainable path, but we have all the tools to successfully do so. We have the luxury of being able to strongly influence how the rest of our story will unfold.

As a matter of fact, it’s up to you to write your part in this story, a story where we are the protagonists for as long as the world is our stage. No stage, no play to enact, no story to tell, what a shame…

Pick up your pens. What kind of story does humanity want to start writing? Ultimately, we can only write the following sentence today, but it has the power to set the tone for the rest of the legend. So… End of Act III, Beginning of Act IV, Curtains Open….