China and California sign deal to work on climate change without Trump

Governor Jerry Brown says president’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement will be only a temporary setback

China and California have signed an agreement to work together on reducing emissions, as the state’s governor warned that “disaster still looms” without urgent action on climate change.

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, spoke to reporters at an international clean energy conference in Beijing about Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, saying it would ultimately prove to be only a temporary setback.

For now, he said, China, European countries and individual US states would fill the gap left by the federal government’s decision to abdicate leadership on the issue.

“Nobody can stay on the sidelines. We can’t afford any dropouts in the tremendous human challenge to make the transition to a sustainable future,” Brown said. “Disaster still looms and we’ve got to make the turn.”

Brown later held a closed-door meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which the two pledged to expand trade between California and China with an emphasis on so-called green technologies that could help address climate change, Brown said. Trump’s announcement last week that he wanted to pull out of the Paris accord did not come up, according to the governor.

“Xi spoke in very positive terms,” Brown told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any desire to get into verbal battles with President Trump.”

Trump’s decision drew heavy criticism within the US and internationally, including in China, which swiftly recommitted itself to the agreement forged with the administration of the former US president Barack Obama. Trump argued that the Paris agreement favoured emerging economies such as China’s and India’s at the expense of US workers.

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Chinese president Xi Jinping meets visiting California governor Jerry Brown to discuss a climate deal. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

 

Tuesday’s agreement between California and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology effectively sidestepped Trump’s move, bringing about alignment on an issue of rising global importance between the world’s second-largest economy — China — and California, whose economy is the largest of any U.S. state and the sixth largest in the world.

Brown signed similar collaboration agreements over the past several days with leaders in two Chinese provinces, Jiangsu and Sichuan.

Like the Paris accord, the deals are all non-binding. They call for investments in low-carbon energy sources, cooperation on climate research and the commercialisation of cleaner technologies. The agreements do not establish new emission reduction goals.

The US has long been a major player in the clean energy arena, driving innovations in electric cars, renewable power and other sectors of the industry. California, with some of the strictest climate controls in the nation, has been at the forefront of the sector.

China in recent years overtook the US as the world leader in renewable power development. But it has also struggled to integrate its sprawling wind and solar facilities into an electricity grid still dominated by coal-fuelled power plants.

At the same time, Chinese leaders face growing public pressure at home to reduce the health-damaging smog that blankets many urban areas.

China is by far the world’s largest user of coal, which accounts for almost two-thirds of its energy use and has made it the No 1 emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Communist party leaders pledged that greenhouse gas emissions would peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact, and start to fall after that. They have cancelled the planned construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plan to invest at least $360bn in green energy projects by the end of the decade.

The nation’s consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third consecutive year, but rebounded slightly in 2017. It could meet its 2030 target a decade early.

Published in The Guardian 7 June 2017

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How Climate Change Denial Set the Stage for Fake News

I wasn’t worried when the newspaper I worked for started publishing “climate skeptics.” I should have been

Written by  and published in The Walrus the 1st of May 2017

The website truetrumpers.com recently ran an image of a hospitalized senior citizen along with the following garbled caption: “BREAKING: This is 78 years old Trump supporter who was beaten by Muslim refugees in Ohio. Trump going to support them all do you support this?” It’s a painfully obvious example of the sort of fake news that spreads deliberate misinformation in exchange for easy clicks. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, media watchdogs have been naming and shaming these sites; meanwhile, new tools being rolled out by Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia promise to filter out this sort of nonsense from our news feeds.

But even if these groups succeed, it will not completely solve our fake-news problem—because some of the most damaging misinformation on the web is spread in subtler ways. While it is a simple thing to fact-check whether refugees beat an old woman in Ohio, it is not so easy to correct misapprehensions caused by faux-authoritative articles about vaccines, GMOs, or the purported benefits of organic food. In part, this is because the science behind such issues is complicated. But it is also because misleading articles on scientific subjects often appear in otherwise respectable publications. In 2010, for instance, Bret Stephens wrote in the prestigious Wall Street Journal that “global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.” This was fake news, yet the article is still up there on their web site. And Stephens himself has just been named as a columnist for The New York Times. Even before Donald Trump came around, there were certain subjects that always lent themselves to fake news—and the mainstream media was a willing partner.

Some years ago, I attended a fundraising dinner in New York City for a well-known conservative magazine that I then contributed to regularly as a book reviewer. As a mere Canadian, I considered it a great honour to hob-knob with America’s right-wing brain-trust—this being the era when conservative American punditry was still defined by the respectable likes of Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks.

At my table were several wealthy donors, who seemed understandably disappointed not to be seated with a more well-known contributor. But their eyes brightened when I said that I worked at the National Post. They told me that they knew the newspaper well, and that they regularly visited the web site to surf their favourite columnists. Then they recited, from memory, the headlines of several recent articles—all variations on the idea that man-made climate change is a hoax. “Your newspaper is very brave,” one of them told me. “We don’t have many real newspapers in the United States that are willing to tell the truth like that.”

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Señor Codo

When I think about the origins of what we now call “fake news,” I come back to this story. The Post is, in just about every other respect, a scrupulously fact-based newspaper. And over its lifetime, it has been home to numerous award-winning journalists who have broken huge stories—from the early days of Shawinigate to its recent scoop about a former Vice Canada editor allegedly running a global smuggling operation out of his office. It’s a newspaper that I continue to read and trust.

But there always was an unwritten rule at the Post that when it came to global warming, all bets were off. As with the Wall Street Journal and other conservative media, global-warming denialism turned the Post into a weird hybrid: a beefy entrée of genuine information, with a 1 percent garnish of fake news—a situation that persists to this day. And since many conservatives have an enormous hunger for respectable-seeming news sources that confirm their ideologically motivated skepticism of environmentalism, this tiny slice of fake fare accounted for a massively disproportionate share of our most popular stories. Like other journalists in the newsroom, I would complain to Post brass about these stories—sometimes even doing so publicly, on Twitter. But it was quietly understood that this niche was simply too popular to give up. And as I learned in New York, climate-change denialism truly did give us an international profile.

Besides: How much harm could this fake climate news do? We were telling readers the truth in every other area. We didn’t promote bogus anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, or suggest that George W. Bush blew up the Twin Towers, or question the birthplace of Barack Obama. So was it really the end of the world if we published fake news on this one specific subject? If the Wall Street Journal could do it, why not us?

The fake-news climate columns we were running didn’t look like conspiracist propaganda. They often came with all sorts of impressive looking graphs and tables, and many were written by people who seemed to have some sort of scientific credential—even if they generally weren’t actual climatologists, and even if the data and arguments they were presenting had never passed peer review at a mainstream scientific publication. I reasoned that the people who write and read these articles were true believers who were never going to be convinced by science anyway. So what was the harm in letting them use the Post to babble at one another about “Climategate”?

What I didn’t realize then was that the (largely successful) effort to sow confusion about climate change could never be contained within that one narrow pseudoscientific silo. That’s because one of the core dogmas of the global-warming denial movement—whose adherents now include the President of the United States—is that both the media and the international scientific community are both completely corrupt. I say “dogmas” because, absent the presumption of such corruption, there is simply no way to explain why every prestigious scientific body and A-list media outlet in the Western world acknowledges the truth that the world is getting hotter, and that the main reason for this is the production of greenhouse gasses by human activity.

In this particular sense, climate denialists are very similar to, say, Obama Birthers, or anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists—who also believe that the entire mainstream media is a bought-and-paid for subsidiary of some global puppet-master. Indeed, that is why there are so many conspiracy theorists who come to inhabit all of these conspiratorial sub-categories simultaneously (such as Trump himself, or his friend Alex Jones). Once you have popularized and legitimized the idea that the most respectable intellectual and political institutions in our society are lying to us about something so fundamental as our climate, the wall between truth and fiction starts to vanish.

Out of the climate denial movement emerged all sorts of useful basic strategies that would become broadly applicable to other fake news campaigns on the right. For instance, since no layperson can really understand the vastly complicated business of modeling the earth’s climate, denialists have come to rely on isolated factoids and mantras that they can understand, and which traffic well in 140 characters or less: Ice has gotten thicker in some parts of Antarctica. The earth has always exhibited natural variation in temperature from year to year. Snippets of email from a hacked University of East Anglia server, removed from context, suggest statistical foul play. Through the groupthink of the conservative internet silo, every Rebel or Breitbart fan you meet is armed with the same canon of “smoking gun” denialist lines. Put enough of these together, and you can hold your own in any dinner-party debate. Of particular note: Unlike the creationists of yore, climate deniers give the appearance of engaging in rigorous scientific analysis—even if they’ve never heard of Boyle’s law or the Stefan–Boltzmann constant.

Finally, global warming deniers were smart enough to realize that, at root, most of us trust people, not numbers. And since global warming is complicated, even the most well-informed lay activist is occasionally going to say or do something that exposes them to the claim of hypocrisy or ignorance within the environmentalist movement. Go back and read the climate denial columns of Ezra Levant, Rex Murphy and Conrad Black over the last decade or so. You will find little discussion of the technical fine points of solar irradiance and thermal inertia, but much sneering about the fancy international conferences where David Suzuki and Al Gore hold court. By this fashion, the denialists gradually have deftly turned the debate over a scientific subject into a referendum on the moral character of sanctimonious globetrotting leftists. Columnist Mark Steyn was especially passionate about this tactic, and even went so far as to compare one of the world’s most acclaimed climate scientists to a pedophilic sex criminal—an act of journalistic lunacy that has tied him up in libel litigation for the last five years.

There is a direct line between the right-wing campaign to discredit legitimate science and the post-truth atmosphere that suffuses virtually every aspect of Donald Trump’s political cult. Trump and his acolytes don’t have to engage intellectually with the mainstream media, because they already have decided the media is dishonest and corrupt. (Indeed, 76 percent of US Republicans—compared with 6 percent of Democrats—now agree with the statement “journalists and the media are the enemy of the American people.”)

I don’t know when—or even if—the era of fake news will end. But if we do get our societal sanity back, we should guard it more preciously. What this means is that we cannot afford to treat any important arena of public discourse as somehow beyond the realm of fact. To adapt George Orwell, unless you insist that two plus two makes four—not just usually, but always—you’re never far from the shrieking la-la-land of a late-night Donald Trump Tweetstorm.

Farewell, giant pine: Climate change kills a champion at Washington Park Arboretum

One of the state’s biggest pines is headed for the saw, after climate change and bugs weaken a champion at the Washington Park Arboretum

Written by  and published in The Seattle Times the 13 May 2017

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The state’s champion pitch pine towers over David Zuckerman, manager of horticulture at the Washington Park Arboretum. The tree has died and must come down. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

It saw the flight of Boeing’s first jet; the World’s Fair, the founding of Microsoft. It survived the eruption of Mount St. Helens, witnessed the state’s centennial, and the confession of the Green River Killer.

But after 72 years, Pinus rigida 212-45-C, the state’s champion pitch pine, has died and will be cut down at the Washington Park Arboretum.

The cause of death was climate change: steadily warming and drier summers, that stressed the tree in its position atop a droughty knoll. Red turpentine beetles, catching the scent of stress chemicals emitted by the tree as it struggled, bored in.

The beetles chewed and fed on the tree’s phloem, conduits just below the bark for the tree’s life-giving juices. Just as damaging, the beetles were vectors for fungus that plugged up other conduits carrying water into the tree. It wasn’t long before arborist Clif Edwards, making his usual rounds, noticed something amiss in the pinetum, the collection of pines at the arboretum.

“I saw this big orange (tree) canopy in the sky, got closer to investigate, and got the not-so-good answer,” Edwards said.

He alerted other experts at the arboretum, who confirmed by the plethora of exit holes about the size of the point of a crayon that the tree was badly infested with beetles. Now the tree must be removed before the infestation spreads to other trees in its grove, noted David Zuckerman, manager of horticulture for the arboretum.

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Since 2005, the arboretum has lost some 40 pine trees in just this way, as warming average temperatures combine with summer’s drought to stress trees. The arboretum has not in the past irrigated its collection of pines. But staff will begin pouring on the TLC with mulch and water this season to help its collection of stressed pines, Zuckerman said.

But for this big old pine, it’s too late. With its witchy, stark bare branches and bronze dead needles, it stands apart in the surging green of spring. It’s studded with a bumper crop of cones, each the size of a chicken egg, hard as a stone, and covered with sharp prickles. Trees near death typically put on a large crop of seeds, a desperate bid to persist into future generations.

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A close-up look at the tree shows exit holes drilled by the beetles that have killed it, along with the pitch produced by the tree to try to heal its wounds. The 72-year-old giant will be cut down sometime this month. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

The tree’s yellowed accession card, marked with pencil and scanned for preservation in the arboretum’s digital archives, tells of its life and times. First stratified, or readied for germination by cooling a few weeks after the seeds arrived, the seed for the big pine was planted in flats on May 17, 1945, and transplanted to the nursery at the arboretum in September 1946. On April 16, 1948, it was planted atop the knoll in the prime spot in the pinetum.

In 2004, in a flurry of taxonomic activity, its name was changed from pinus nigra to pinus rigida. And all the while, the tree grew steadily on.

The tree outdistanced all others in its class, becoming the state champion in Washington of its species, at more than 70 feet high with a bigger-than-35-foot crown spread and nearly 6 feet around at its trunk at breast height.

The pitch pine’s rugged form and spiny cones belie a gentle presence. At the arboretum, this pine was graced by a bench in its shade, with a placard advising “peace” on its back. The ground in front of the bench is worn smooth by years of visitors’ feet, and the tree is just steps from the incantations of an active nest of a Cooper’s hawk and red-breasted nut hatch.

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The state’s champion pitch pine, 72 years old and more than 70 feet tall, must be removed so that the beetles that killed it won’t endanger the rest of the pine grove around it at the Washington Park Arboretum. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Visitors seem to know what is happening; someone inscribed a small purple heart in magic marker on the tree’s bark, the ink still fresh and bright from a recent visit. For the tree’s suffering is evident, in the sawdust heaped by chewing beetles at its feet, and the frass pushed out of their homes, deep within the tree’s sap wood, staining exit holes drilled all through its bark.

The tree has fought back nobly; gobs of hardened pitch, produced by the tree to seal its wounds, mound in golden heaps all over its trunk. But it was not enough.

And so the next stop for this tree is the Cedar Grove composting facility, the only way to safely and quickly dispose of the big logs that this tree will soon become.

Every last bit of the tree will be removed, even grinding the stump. Its tag — already removed, leaving the bare hook bereft in the tree’s bark — will be recycled, and the tree’s epitaph recorded in the arboretum’s saddest ledger: its Dead Plant Report.

In an arboretum boasting more than 21,000 trees, shrubs and vines in its collection, each one, for those who care for them, is an individual. Zuckerman and Ryan Garrison, plant-health specialist at the arboretum, were quiet Friday, as they examined the pine and made plans to cut it down later this month.

“I try to look on the bright side,” Zuckerman said. This pine is survived by two others on the knoll from the same gift of seeds from the New York Botanical Garden. “And this will make space for a new plant,” Zuckerman said. “Something that does not need summer water.”

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

No seeds were lost but the ability of the rock vault to provide failsafe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change

Written by  and published on TheGuardian the 19th of May 2017

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

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The Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault was built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters. Photograph: John Mcconnico/AP

 

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”

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Plastic boxes containing plant seeds inside the international Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen, Norway. Photograph: Jens Buttner/dpa/Alamy

 

The vault’s managers are now waiting to see if the extreme heat of this winter was a one-off or will be repeated or even exceeded as climate change heats the planet. The end of 2016 saw average temperatures over 7C above normal on Spitsbergen, pushing the permafrost above melting point.

“The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?” said Aschim. The Svalbard archipelago, of which Spitsbergen is part, has warmed rapidly in recent decades, according to Ketil Isaksen, from Norway’s Meteorological Institute.

“The Arctic and especially Svalbard warms up faster than the rest of the world. The climate is changing dramatically and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going,” Isaksen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

The vault managers are now taking precautions, including major work to waterproof the 100m-long tunnel into the mountain and digging trenches into the mountainside to channel meltwater and rain away. They have also removed electrical equipment from the tunnel that produced some heat and installed pumps in the vault itself in case of a future flood.

Aschim said there was no option but to find solutions to ensure the enduring safety of the vault: “We have to find solutions. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. We are doing this for the world.”

“This is supposed to last for eternity,” said Åsmund Asdal at the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, which operates the seed vault.

Watch video https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/environment/video/2015/may/20/svalbard-seed-vault-world-crop-varieties-video“>here.

Full tilt: giant offshore wind farm opens in North Sea

Gemini windpark off the coast of the Netherlands will eventually meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people, according to its owners

Article published in TheGuardian the 9th of May 2017

Dutch officials have opened what is being billed as one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, with 150 turbines spinning far out in the North Sea.

Over the next 15 years the Gemini windpark, which lies some 85km (53 miles) off the northern coast of the Netherlands, will meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people.

 

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The Dutch government has committed to getting 14% of energy from renewables by 2020. Photograph: AFP/Getty

 

At full tilt the windpark has a generating capacity of 600 megawatts and will help supply 785,000 Dutch households with renewable energy, according to the company.

“We are now officially in the operational stage,” the company’s managing director Matthias Haag said, celebrating the completion of a project first conceived in 2010.

The €2.8bn ($3bn) project is a collaboration between the Canadian independent renewable energy company Northland Power, wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Wind Power, Dutch maritime contractor Van Oord and waste processing company HVC.

It was “quite a complex” undertaking, Haag said, “particularly as this windpark lies relatively far offshore … so it took quite a lot of logistics”.

Gemini would contribute about 13% of the country’s total renewable energy supply and about 25% of its wind power, he added.

It would help reduce emissions of carbon-dioxide emissions, among the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, by 1.25m tonnes, the company says.

The Netherlands remains dependant on fossil fuels which still make up about 95% of its energy supply, according to a 2016 report from the ministry of economics affairs.

The Dutch government has committed to ensuring 14% of its energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020, and 16% by 2023, with the aim of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Gemini “is seen as a stepping stone” in the Netherlands and has “shown that a very large project can be built on time, and in a very safe environment”, Haag said.

UAE plans to drag an ICEBERG from Antarctica to provide drinking water for millions

 

The UAE is at serious risk of droughts over the next 25 years due to its climate One iceberg could provide enough for one million people over five years         An eco-firm plans to tow them around 5,500 miles (8,800 km) to harvest water

Article written by Tim Collins and published on MailOnline the 5th of May 2017 

Encouraging life to bloom in the middle of a desert is no easy task.

But one company in the United Arab Emirates has come up with a bizarre plan to provide drinking water for the state’s citizens.

The firm intends to haul icebergs from Antarctica to the gulf coast in order to harvest its billions of gallons of fresh water.

The National Advisor Bureau, headquartered in Masdar City, Abu-Dhabi, plans to source the massive blocks of ice from Heard Island, around 600 miles (1000 kilometres) off the coast of mainland Antarctica.

It will then transport them around 5,500 miles (8,800 km) to Fujairah, one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.

One iceberg could provide enough for one million people over five years, according to the company.

And the scheme could begin as early as the start of 2018.

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An average iceberg contains more than 20 billion gallons of water. Upon arrival at a specially constructed processing facility (artist’s impression pictured), workers will ‘mine’ the icebergs for their water supplies

 

The firm’s director says they have already travelled the transportation route and used simulators to check the feasibility of the scheme, according to reports in Gulf News.

Speaking to the site about what he is calling the UAE Iceberg Project, Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi said: ‘Our simulator predicts that it will take up to one year [to tow an iceberg to UAE].

‘We have formulated the technical and financial plan. Towing is the best method. We will start the project in beginning of 2018.

‘We want it mainly for the water. It could also be good for tourism and the weather.’

The UAE is one of the most arid countries and one of the top 10 most water-scarce in the world, due to its extremely arid climate, which receives less than four inches (100 mm) of rainfall per year.

Despite that, it consumes more water than double the global national average putting the country at severe risk of droughts over the next 25 years.

The Plan

The National Advisor Bureau plans to harvest icebergs from Heard Island, around 600 miles (1000 kilometres) off the coast of mainland Antarctica.

It will then transport them around 5,500 miles (8,800 km) to Fujairah, one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.

The UAE is one of the most arid countries and one of the top 10 most water-scarce in the world, at severe risk of droughts over the next 25 years.

An average iceberg contains more than 20 billion gallons of water.

Upon arrival at a specially constructed processing facility, workers will ‘mine’ the icebergs for their water supplies.

One iceberg could provide enough for one million people over five years, according to the company.

An average iceberg contains more than 20 billion gallons of water, according to the Abu Dhabi-based company.

They take a long time to melt as 80 per cent of their mass is underwater, while the white ice above reflects sunlight and deflects its heat.

Upon arrival at a specially constructed processing facility, workers will ‘mine’ the icebergs for their water supplies.

Blocks of ice will be chipped off and placed in giant tanks, before being filtered and processed.

‘This is the purest water in the world’, Mr Al Shehi added.

He also claims the iceberg’s presence could provide a more moist micro-climate in the area, perhaps even prompting rainfall.

And the project may prove a boost for tourism if it proves a success, with people travelling to see the unusual sight of an iceberg off the coast of the Arabian Gulf.

 

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The firm will source the massive blocks of ice from Heard Island, around 600 miles (1000 kilometres) off the coast of mainland Antarctica. It will then transport them around 5,500 miles (8,800 km) to Fujairah, one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE

 

Finland voices concern over US and Russian climate change doubters

New chair of Arctic council calls for Paris treaty on global warming to be respected amid fears of commitment downgrade

Article written by  and published in TheGuardian the 11th of May 2017

Finland, the new chair of the Arctic council, has appealed to climate change scientists to fight the threat of the US and Russia tearing up commitments to combat global warming.

The Nordic country takes up the two-year chairmanship of the body, increasingly a forum where arguments about climate change play out, at a ministerial meeting on Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will represent the Trump administration.

The meeting is due to set targets to reduce black carbon in the Arctic, a pollutant that traps atmospheric heat, but comes amid fears the US is poised to downgrade its commitments made at the 2015 Paris conference on climate change.

Harri Mäki-Reinikka, the Finnish ambassador for northern policies, called for the Paris treaty to be respected.

“We hope there will be no deals over the heads of others – these are very global issues. Arctic conditions are changing. If the temperatures are two degrees higher globally that can be four degrees higher, or even six degrees in the Arctic,” he said.

 

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Arctic scientists have previously warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap could have catastrophic consequences around the world. Photograph: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty

 

“What is even more worrying is that ice and snow are melting faster than we estimated, and that will change the composition of the waters and even the sea level might be rising. If we have two countries, Russia and the US, not sharing the view that climate change is happening or is manmade or how much it is manmade, it is very difficult to proceed.”

Mäki-Reinikka said “a month ago Putin said climate change is not man made” but recent reports of bubbles of methane gas forming in Siberia, potentially putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, could mean “a vicious circle of climate change and global warming will be faster, and the Paris climate change agreements will need to be stronger”.

Russian scientists have mapped out 7,000 dirt-covered mounds in Siberia, which have mysteriously taken shape in the otherwise flat tundra landscape. Some are slowly filling up with pressurised carbon dioxide and methane, with some on the verge of exploding.

Efforts are under way by some British climate experts to persuade senior Russian scientists to think again about climate change.

A debate is still raging within the US administration about whether Donald Trump should stick to his campaign commitment to abandon the Paris treaty.

Another member of the Arctic council, Norway, has also been putting pressure on Trump with its environment minister, Vidar Helgesen, this week saying that climate change was now seen by military planners as a serious international security challenge.

There are eight member states on the council and about $400bn (£310bn) is being invested in the region, with the majority of that sum from Russia.