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Alongside her husband, Doug, Kris McDivitt Tompkins bought up vast swathes of Patagonia to save it from developers. Now, a year after Doug’s sudden death, she explains how their shared vision is close to reality
She was young, spirited and rich. It was the 1970s and Kris McDivitt seemed to come straight from California central casting; the glamorous ski-racing daughter of an oil-industry man who made her fortune as the first CEO of what was to become the billion-dollar outdoor clothing company Patagonia.
And then in 1993, aged 43, Kris McDivitt unexpectedly fell in love with Doug Tompkins, the adventure-junkie rock-climber and deep green environmentalist who had co-founded not one but two giant outdoor-clothing companies, North Face and Esprit.Continue reading...
Freshwater fish are out of sight and out of mind for most of the British public. And so are the dedicated band of fishery scientists who look after a resource that indicates the health of our rivers and lakes, and supports angling. Such an individual was my friend John Gregory, who has died aged 67, after a lifelong career in fisheries management.
John was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. His father, Tom, was an engineer at Rolls-Royce in Derby and his mother, Jenny, worked in the local hospital. After graduating in biological sciences from the University of East Anglia, and getting married to Lynden Stratten in 1971, John spent two years as a fisheries officer in the Solomon Islands.Continue reading...
Leaked documents reveal EU pledge to carry out tests deleted from draft as governments come under pressure from carmakers
Plans for independent checks of how much pollution new cars emit are being killed off by EU member states, according to leaked documents seen by the Guardian.
After the Dieselgate scandal, the European commission proposed empowering its respected science wing, the Joint Research Centre, to inspect vehicles separately from national authorities, which are paid by the car manufacturers they regulate.Continue reading...
Climate News Network: Three main dams supplying water to La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by Andean glaciers and have nearly run dry
The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought for at least 25 years.
Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.Continue reading...
Canada has made significant progress in its climate policy, but has further yet to go
The Paris Agreement was ratified globally in November. This is unprecedented amongst international agreements for how quickly it has come into force. The Agreement allows each country to decide how it will tackle climate change, and requires as of 2020, regular reporting on progress. Countries of the world have officially embarked in a global race to implement ambitious climate policies that contribute to reducing green-house gas emissions at the planetary-scale.
This process is not unlike the Olympics games where countries get together to compare their strengths and performance. If Canada wants to be a medalist in 2020, domestic climate policies must rapidly be adopted to accelerate the low carbon transition. In this context, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) – a network of 60+ scholars from across Canada – produced Rating Canada’s Climate Policy; a progress report on Canada’s climate actions over the past year. We analysed climate decisions made in Ottawa in 2016 in relationship to the 10 policy orientations that we proposed previously in our position paper entitled Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars.Continue reading...
Carbon Tracker says many plants running at overcapacity but China reluctant to wean itself off coal, fearing unemployment and unrest
China could waste as much as half a trillion dollars on unnecessary new coal-fired power stations, a climate campaign group has said, arguing that the world’s top carbon polluter already has more than enough such facilities.
China’s rise to become the world’s second largest economy was largely powered by cheap, dirty coal. But as growth slows, the country has had a difficult time weaning itself off the fuel, even as the pollution it causes wreaks havoc on the environment and public health.Continue reading...
Coal-fired power plants should be closed in orderly fashion to ensure energy supply is not disrupted
A Senate report has recommended that Australia should move completely away from coal-generated electricity within 10 years, citing economic factors as the primary drivers.
It comes about a month after the unplanned closure of Hazelwood, Australia’s dirtiest coal station, and before the expected unplanned closure of several others around the country.Continue reading...
Stamford, Lincolnshire Rock you grasp, fighting its cold indifference. Trees you take hold of, hoist yourself into, embrace, balance on
At the end of last winter I noticed this tree: a slim, high horse chestnut on the edge of my town. In summer its leaves gave it an hourglass shape. September ignited it. October, I showed my daughter its spiky conker capsules and the flawless autumn-shine of what was inside. In November’s first weeks I saw more of the sky through its branches each visit, its presence emaciating, the clarity of its skeleton crisping with every wintering day.Continue reading...
Miniature monkeys at Symbio wildlife park in Helensburgh, south of Sydney. Three pygmy marmosets, including one that was only four weeks old, were stolen late last week. Two Sydney brothers have pleaded guilty to transporting and intending to sell them. Two of the three monkeys have been recovered but a third, 10-year-old Gomez, is still missingContinue reading...
Ta’u island in American Samoa will rely on solar panels and Tesla batteries as it does away with diesel generators
A remote tropical island has catapulted itself headlong into the future by ditching diesel and powering all homes and businesses with the scorching South Pacific sun.
Using more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs the tiny island of Ta’u in American Samoa is now entirely self-sufficient for its electricity supply – though the process of converting has been tough and pitted with delays.
On the night Donald Trump won the US election, one of the many jubilant supporters featured in the media coverage was 67-year-old Doug Ratliff of Richlands, Virginia. An owner of struggling shopping malls in a region hit hard by coal closures, he said Trump “gives people hope” that these ailing industries can be brought back to health.
But the reality is that Trump won’t be able to do it – any more than he can stop the rising seas flowing over vulnerable coastal areas of Florida, one of the states that helped to elect him president.
King Canute Trump and his aides can deny the veracity of climate change or threaten to shut down NASA’s climate programs all they want, but they are largely powerless to stop the global processes now under way to remove fossil fuels from global and local economies.
As the graph below shows, global economic growth has decoupled from growth in greenhouse gas emissions.
European nations such as Denmark, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK are now showing “absolute decoupling” – that is, their fossil fuel use is declining while their economies continue to expand. The UK – the birthplace of coal-fired power two centuries ago – will switch off its last coal power station in 2040.
America and Australia have been slower to decouple, but both have shown absolute declines in coal use since 2005 and 2009 respectively, while still growing economically. China is rapidly decoupling (in absolute terms with coal) while India is relatively decoupling.
The reality is that the world has learned to grow economically in the 21st century without needing fossil fuels to do it. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has assessed the trends in prices for different fuels and predicts that coal and gas-based power will go from 57% in 2015 to 31% in 2040, while renewables will go from 11% to 56% of power. This is without subsidies.
Already the world’s financiers have decided that renewables are a better deal than fossil fuels, which are riven with political uncertainties, volatility and declining competitiveness. BNEF’s analysis shows that new investment in renewables passed fossil-fuel-based power in 2005 and is now running at twice the rate.
Is this being driven by politicians, perhaps as a result of the Paris Agreement signed by nearly every government in the world, which took effect earlier this month?
Probably not. Apart from a few long-term goals, you could not say that governments have controlled this market in the past decade. What is actually happening is that they are now recognising the growing market for clean energy and in most cases simply trying to help it along where they can.
Rooftop solar, in particular, has become a dramatic market success story, with Australia leading the world in its recent growth. In Perth, for example, the resources boom led huge numbers of households to invest in solar photovoltaics, which are now available at roughly half the cost compared with the United States. As a result, 25% of houses in Perth have solar panels – a combined total of 550 megawatts, which effectively makes them the biggest power station in Western Australia.
This was not a government plan; it was ordinary householders seeing a good deal provided by smart new Australian businesses. WA Energy Minister Mike Nahan was initially somewhat sceptical, but as a good market economist he now says that the government just needs to get out of the way. Solar panels are well on the way to hitting 70% of households. Along with batteries going through the same dramatic price spiral, no extra fossil fuel power stations are now being envisaged.
It’s a similar story in Australia’s eastern states, where coal plants like Hazelwood are being phased out and the National Electricity Grid is absorbing solar at similarly high growth rates. The same story is being played out across the globe.
Businesses are also becoming their own utilities, as shown by high-tech companies like Apple, which are becoming energy “prosumers” that generate their own solar power and then sell excess back to the grid. The 24 largest current buyers of renewable power – a group that includes Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Ikea, Equinix, Mars, Dow, WalMart and Facebook – have bought 3.6 gigawatts of renewable energy since the beginning of 2015. That’s enough to power about half the state of Connecticut.
How or why would Donald Trump want to stop this?Turning back the tide
Governments, including Trump’s, can try to stand in the way in a bid to force the economy back to a nostalgic past based on coal. But if they do, the lower levels of government, especially the cities of the world, will drive the agenda forward in tandem with businesses that are already riding high in the green economy.
California has driven much of the climate change agenda in the United States, since its Climate Act of 2006 required all cities to develop a climate action plan. San Francisco is moving to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and has mandated all buildings to install solar panels. The city expects paybacks within five years for everyone making the investment.
For all Trump’s pledges to bend trade to his will, he cannot stand in the way of market forces as strong as this. His place in history will be likened to the last Roman emperor standing on top of the wall in Constantinople as the invading horde bears down on the decaying city.
People in climate science and innovation, solar entrepreneurs and businesses will simply shift to those cities that want to be competitive in the 21st century. Many of them will still be in the United States – maybe even in Richlands, Virginia, assuming they don’t want to be left in the past.
Peter Newman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.