Climate change may have "serious, pervasive and irreversible" impacts on human society and nature, according to a draft U.N. report due for approval this week that says governments still have time to avert the worst.
Delegates from more than 100 governments and top scientists meet in Copenhagen on Oct 27-31 to edit the report, meant as the main guide for nations working on a U.N. deal to fight climate change at a summit in Paris in late 2015.
They will publish the study on Nov. 2.
After six years of administrative delays and internecine fighting, environmentalists’ last best chance to kill the Keystone XL could come during a 60 day window after next month’s election and before the new Congress gets sworn in.
The Obama administration controls the approval process for now, but if Republicans win control of the Senate, as expected, they plan to fast track legislation to greenlight the controversial pipeline. That gives opponents one more chance to try to convince the president to reject the pipeline before the landscapes shifts against them, which could happen if Republicans control both chambers of Congress come January.
The amount of coal being burned by China has fallen for the first time this century, according to an analysis of official statistics.
China's booming coal in the last decade has been the major contributor to the fast-rising carbon emissions that drive climate change, making the first fall a significant moment.
The amount of coal burned in the first three-quarters of 2014 was 1-2% lower than a year earlier, according to Greenpeace energy analysts in China. The drop contrasts sharply with the 5-10% annual growth rates seen since the early years of the century.
"The significance is that if the coal consumption growth we have seen in China in the last 10 years went on, we would lose any hope of bringing climate change under control," said Lauri Myllyvirta at Greenpeace East Asia. "The turnaround now gives a window of opportunity."
Such a turnaround would potentially have a large impact on the biggest coal exporting countries such as Indonesia and Australia, which have profited from China’s demand for the fuel.
At the UN climate change summit in New York in September, China said it would start to reduce the nation's huge carbon emissions "as early as possible."
Myllyvirta warned that year-to-year fluctuations in energy use and industrial prediction could see coal burning grow again in future. "It may not be the peak yet, but it is a sign that China is moving away from coal." Climate scientists say that global carbon emissions need to peak by 2020 and rapidly decline to avoid dangerous climate change.
Myllyvirta said the greatest significance of the current drop in coal use was that economic growth had continued at 7.4% at the same time, although that is a lower rate than in recent years. "The Chinese economy is divorcing coal," he said. By contrast, the tripling of the Chinese economy since 2002 was accompanied by a doubling of coal use.
Hundreds of scientists around the world are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end "burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists."
The call was made in an open letter drafted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that represents U.S. scientists and uses science to advocate for environmental sustainability.
The letter was signed by more than 800 scientists outside Canada from 32 countries, at institutions ranging from Harvard Medical School in the U.S. to the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Earth is on pace to tie or even break the mark for the hottest year on record, federal meteorologists say.
That's because global heat records have kept falling in 2014, with September the latest example.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.72 degrees Celsius). That was the hottest September in 135 years of record keeping.
It was the fourth monthly record set this year, along with May, June and August.
NASA, which measures temperatures slightly differently, had already determined that September was record-warm.
A major crude oil spill discovered near here Monday that stopped just shy of Caddo Lake has already killed dozens of fish and some reptiles and will keep cleanup crews and regulatory agencies on site likely for months to come.
"I would call it a significant size spill," Bill Rhotenberry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's federal on-scene coordinator said of the oil that leaked in a rural Caddo Parish bayou from a Mid-Valley Pipeline.
The pipeline's owner, Sunoco Logistics, roughly estimated 4,000 barrels of crude oil had flowed into Tete Bayou when control operators noticed a drop in pressure around 8 a.m. Monday. The line, stretching 1,000 miles from Longview, Texas, to major oil refineries in Ohio and Michigan, was shut down within 20 minutes, Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has corrected a controversial claim that small amounts of global warming could have overall positive economic impacts, after Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, pointed out that it was based on inaccurate information.
The final version of the IPCC's report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was published without fanfare on the web this week, including a chapter on Key Economic Sectors and Services.
The final draft of the chapter, which was published in April, featured a section on the aggregate economic impacts of climate change, containing the statement: "Climate change may be beneficial for moderate climate change but turn negative for greater warming."
But the version published this week omits the statement because it was based on faulty data.
The statement had been inserted into the draft report at a late stage in the preparation process, and after it had been sent to independent reviewers, including Ward, for comment.
An unrestrained global fracking boom that unleashes plentiful and cheap gas will not tackle global warming by replacing coal and cutting carbon emissions, according to a comprehensive analysis that takes into account the impact on the rest of the energy supply.
Burning natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide released by coal, and shale gas proponents argue that gas can therefore be a “bridge” fuel, curbing emissions while very low carbon sources such as renewable and nuclear energy are ramped up.
But a new analysis published in the journal Nature shows that a gas boom would cut energy prices, squeezing out renewable energy, and is likely to actually increase overall carbon emissions. The researchers conclude that only new interventions, such as a long-sought international climate change deal or significant global price on carbon pollution, would be effective in tackling warming.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addressed the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas on Monday, unveiling a comprehensive plan for how the U.S. military will address the effects of climate change.
Rising global temperatures, increasing sea levels and intensifying weather events will challenge global stability, he said, and could lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease and disputes over refugees and resources.
The Pentagon's "2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap" describes how global warming will bring new demands on the military.
A surprising hot spot of the potent global-warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern U.S., according to satellite data.
That result hints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, which is also called natural gas.
The higher level of methane is not a local safety or a health issue for residents, but factors in overall global warming. It is likely leakage from pumping methane out of coal mines. While methane isn't the most plentiful heat-trapping gas, scientists worry about its increasing amounts and have had difficulties tracking emissions.