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News articles on environmental politics

Mongabay.com news articles on environmental politics in blog format. Updated regularly.









Is the US sinking climate change talks at Copenhagen?

(12/16/2009) While it's difficult to know what's truly going on inside the Bella Center at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a pattern seems to be emerging of the United States being unwilling to compromise on, well, anything.


Climate change protestors vowing 'people's assembly' beaten back with batons, tear gas in Copenhagen

(12/16/2009) Some 1,500 protestors attempting to enter the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where officials are trying to put together an international deal to combat climate change, were beaten back by police with batons and tear gas.


Pope Benedict: environmental crisis requires review of world's economic model

(12/15/2009) Pope Benedict XVI has released a message linking world peace with preserving the environment for the World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1st 2010. In it Benedict calls for a "long-term review" of the world's current economic model, including "[moving] beyond a purely consumerist mentality" and encouraging a more "sober lifestyle".


"Nature does not negotiate," warns UN head on arrival in Copenhagen

(12/15/2009) With talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ailing significantly—but by no means hopeless—the UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, arrived today announcing: "We do not have another year to negotiate. Nature does not negotiate."


Rich logging countries open logging loophole in plan to reduce deforestation

(12/15/2009) While one tropical forest policy group saw hopeful signs emerging in the most recent revision of the negotiating text on the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism at climate talks in Copenhagen, activist groups are warning that there remains a substantial logging loophole for developed countries.


Well-known climate change denialist labels activists in Copenhagen 'Hitler Youth'

(12/15/2009) Prominent climate change denialist and past advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Viscount Christopher Monckton, has persisted in labeling protestors in Copenhagen 'Hitler Youth' despite little historical connection.


Progress made on two key REDD issues in Copenhagen

(12/15/2009) Negotiators in Copenhagen have made progress on two key issues for the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism, reports a forest policy group.


Climate change causing irreversible acidification in world's oceans

(12/15/2009) A new study from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has synthesized over 300 reports on ocean acidification caused by climate change. The report finds that increasing acidification will lead to irreversible damage in the world's oceans, creating a less biodiverse marine environment. Released today the report determines that the threat to marine life by ocean acidification must be considered by policymakers at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.


African nations return to the negotiating table after walkout in Copenhagen

(12/14/2009) African nations that staged a walkout during negotiations at the Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen have returned to the table, according to the BBC. African nations accused industrial nations of attempting to throw out the Kyoto Protocol.


Unilever suspends palm oil contract after supplier found to be destroying rainforests

(12/12/2009) The world's largest user of palm oil, Unilever, has suspended its $32.6 million contract with the Indonesian group Sinar Mas after an independent audit proved that Sinar Mas is involved in the destruction of rainforest, reports Reuters. The audit was conducted early this year after a report by Greenpeace alleged that Sinar Mas was engaged in deforestation and the draining of peatlands, both of which release significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia, in part for oil palm plantations, has also added pressure on many many endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.


New poll: 70 percent of Americans agree that global warming is occurring

(12/11/2009) A new poll, taken in the midst of the scandal involving hacked emails from climate change scientists, shows that a significant majority (70 percent) of Americans agree with climatologists that the earth is warming.


Canada's reign of shame in Copenhagen

(12/11/2009) In the first five days of Copenhagen, Canada has won a lot of awards. Only these are not positive awards for good and constructive behavior, but so-called 'fossil awards' given to the countries that most impede progress at Copenhagen by the environmental organization, Climate Action Network (CAN).


REDD may miss up to 80 percent of land use change emissions

(12/11/2009) The political definition of 'forest' used in REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) threatens to undermine the program's objective to conserve ecosystems for their ability to sequester carbon, according to a new analysis by the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for Tropical Forest Margins. In an analysis of three Indonesian provinces using REDD proposals for carbon accounting, ASB found that REDD may miss up to 80 percent of the actual emissions due to land use change. The carbon accounting problems could be fixed, according to ASB, by expanding REDD's purpose from reducing emissions linked to deforestation (considering the problematic definition of forests) to reducing emission from all land use changes that either release or capture greenhouse gases, including but not limited to forests.


Cheat sheet on climate finance

(12/11/2009) The Global Canopy Project has released a cheat sheet on proposals for financing climate change mitigation.


US provides 3 billion in subsidies for Exxon-mobil project in Papua New Guinea

(12/10/2009) While officials from around their world are working night-and-day to come up with an international agreement to combat climate change in Copenhagen, the US Export-Import Bank confirmed it will subsidize a natural gas project in Papua New Guinea to the tune of 3 billion dollars—a record for the bank.


Obama on global warming and forest protection

(12/10/2009) President of the United States, Barack Obama, was in Oslo, Norway this morning accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in part for promising to bring the United States to the negotiating table on climate change—something he has recently done.


1700 UK researchers sign statement standing behind global warming science

(12/10/2009) 1,700 British scientists have signed a statement put out by the Met Office declaring that they have the "utmost confidence" in the science behind climate change. The statement and signatures comes after emails by prominent climate change researchers were stolen from the University of East Anglia. Critics say that the emails show that the researchers have hidden and manipulated evidence. However, many scientists, including those who sent the emails, contend that statements in the emails have been taken out of context by climate change deniers and the media.


US think-tank: islands affected by global warming should wait for trickle-down money

(12/09/2009) Poor island nations threatened by rising seas should wait for money through trickle-down economics, according to the founder of the US Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Washington-based free-market think tank believes that curbing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change will be too costly to the US and global economies.


Cattle company bulldozing UNESCO site, threatening uncontacted natives

(12/09/2009) A Brazilian ranching company is bulldozing land within UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, home to the only uncontacted natives outside of the Amazon in South America. While the UNESCO status provides no legal protections to the area, it is meant as an international marker to protect the tribe of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and the forest they inhabit.


Islands and African nations present toughest treaty yet to combat global warming

(12/09/2009) Led by the small island state of Tuvalu, developing nations particularly vulnerable to climate change have put forward the most ambitious plan yet to mitigate climate change. Their move has split them from usual partners, such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, who are concerned about the economic consequences of the proposal.


Gore, Moon, and Rasmussen attempt to regain trust after 'Danish Text' leak in Copenhagen

(12/09/2009) The head of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon; the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen; and American climate change leader, Al Gore, all attempted to downplay the leak of the 'Danish Text' which has riled developing countries due to portions of its content, such as allowing a climate fund to be controlled by the World Bank, seemingly overturning the Kyoto principle whereby developed countries are held responsible for climate change, and setting higher emission per capita standards for industrialized countries over developing countries even in forty years time.


Developed countries plan to hide emissions from logging

(12/09/2009) While developing countries in the tropics have received a lot of attention for their deforestation emissions (one thinks of Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia), emissions from logging—considered forest cover change—in wealthy northern countries has been largely overlooked by the media. It seems industrialized countries prefer it this way: a new study reveals just how these countries are planning to hide forestry-related emissions, allowing nations such as Canada, Russia, and the EU to contribute to climate change without penalty.


Nuclear option in Copenhagen?

(12/09/2009) On the first day of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment and Climate Change, surprised many by calling for a 'nuclear option'. The option would allow a document to be ratified by 75 percent of the conference's nations, rather than the usual consensus required. It is thought the nuclear option would give more power to developing countries, since they far outnumber wealthy nations at the conference.


Bangladesh tops list of most vulnerable countries to climate change

(12/09/2009) According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh is the most vulnerable nation to extreme weather events, which many scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change. From 1990 to 2008, Bangladesh has lost 8,241 lives on average every year due to natural disasters. In addition, rising sea levels also threaten millions of Bangladeshis.


Leaked document in Copenhagen seen as sidelining poor countries

(12/08/2009) A document leaked late in the day at Copenhagen has threatened to further divide developing nations from wealthy countries during the conference in Denmark. The document, labeled as the 'Danish-text', is seen by many as sidelining poor countries by handing over climate financing to the World Bank, requiring developing countries to cut total emissions, and in forty years time still allowing wealthy countries to emit more than developing per capita.


Canada, not Copenhagen, hit by protests over climate policy

(12/08/2009) While tens of thousands of protestors have gone to Copenhagen to call on world governments to do more to fight against climate change, the most surprising protest on the first day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen occurred thousands of miles away: in Canada.


Oil sands pollution in Canada worse than industry and government claim

(12/07/2009) Canada's tar sands have been internationally criticized as one of the world's largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, but the energy-intensive extraction of oil also has a less-noted impact on the local environment. A new study shows that the Alberta's oil sands are likely releasing more PACs (polycyclic aromatic compounds) into nearby Athabasca River and its tributaries than the industry-funded and government-supported Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) has reported.


Europe says US and China emission targets don't go far enough

(12/07/2009) At a press conference during the first day of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the European Union has stated it will not raise its emissions cuts from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2020 (over 1990 levels) unless the US and China go further in their cuts.


Profile of the carbon footprint of the global poor: the challenge of alleviating poverty and fighting global warming

(12/07/2009) Two of the world's most serious issues—poverty and climate change—are interconnected. With a rise in one's income there usually comes a rise in one's carbon footprint, thereby threatening the environment. Wealthy nations have the highest per capita carbon footprints, while developing nations like India and China—which are experiencing unprecedented economic growth—are becoming massive contributors of greenhouse gases. However, it is those who have the smallest carbon footprint—the world's poor—who currently suffer most from climate change. Food crises, water shortages, extreme weather, and rising sea levels have all hit the poor the hardest.


Copenhagen and Brazilian Megalomania

(12/07/2009) When people think about preserving the Amazon rainforest, captivating animals may come to mind such as the jaguar, toucan or manatee. But while wildlife must be safeguarded there are now other urgent reasons to protect the jungle. The seriousness of the problem was recently brought home to me when I visited the Amazonian city of Manaus.


Email scandal may be turning against climate change deniers

(12/07/2009) It may be that climate change scientists and policymakers have simply had enough, and it may be that the emails which were hacked did not reveal the massive conspiracy that they were supposed to, either way climatologists and politicians have gone on the offensive against claims that the hacked emails from the East Anglia's Climate Research Unit are evidence that climate change is a conspiracy or hoax.


Obama administration about to declare carbon dioxide a danger to the public, allowing regulation

(12/06/2009) The day before talks start in Copenhagen on a new international treaty to combat climate change, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States is set to declare carbon dioxide a 'public danger' as soon as Monday.


James Hansen says Copenhagen approach "fundamentally wrong" would be better to "reassess"

(12/03/2009) James Hansen, one of the world's foremost climatologists, told the Guardian today that he believes the Copenhagen talks are flawed to the point where failure of the talks may be the best way forward. "The approach that is being talked about is so fundamentally wrong that it would be better to reassess," Hansen said.


Has Canada become the new climate villain (yes, that's right, Canada)?

(12/02/2009) In 2007 American delegates to a climate summit in Bali were booed outright for obstructing a global agreement on climate change. Then in a David versus Goliath moment they were famously scolded by a negotiator from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad. "If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way," Conrad told the American delegates. However, much has changed in two years: the United States, under a new administration, is no longer the climate change pariah. The US has recently announced emissions cuts, negotiated successfully with China on the issue, and will be attending—Obama included—the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen next week. Obama and his team probably don't need to worry about being booed or remonstrated this time around, but that role may instead go to Canada.


Brazil to push for 10% limit on REDD carbon offsets

(12/02/2009) Brazil will propose limiting the amount of carbon an industrialized country can offset via a proposed forest conservation initiative to ten percent of their emissions, reports Bloomberg.


World leaders falling over themselves to show up at Copenhagen

(12/01/2009) If you’re a world leader and you won’t be in Copenhagen next week you might feel out of the loop. Currently 98 heads of state have agreed to attend the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen—nearly half of the 192 member nations of the UN.


World requires radical new economic models to fight poverty and mitigate global warming

(11/30/2009) A new report calls for a radical re-envisioning of current economic models in order to tackle poverty, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and solve other environmental problems. The report was crafted by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and was supported by The Working Group on Climate Change and Development, which includes a wide variety of well-known groups, including environmental, religious, and anti-poverty organizations.


What would the Dalai Lama do?: spiritual leader speaks out on climate change

(11/30/2009) The Dalai Lama has given up taking baths in favor of showers and makes certain all lights are off when he leaves a room to help lower his carbon footprint, he told a crowd of reporters in Sydney Australia today.


Zoos call for deeper emission cuts to save life on Earth

(11/30/2009) To save species around the world zoos say deeper emission cuts are needed than governments are currently proposing. Over 200 zoos worldwide have signed a petition calling on governments to set the target of atmospheric carbon below 350 parts per million (ppm) far lower than most government targets.


Guyana expedition finds biodiversity trove in area slated for oil and gas development, an interview with Robert Pickles

(11/29/2009) An expedition deep into Guyana's rainforest interior to find the endangered giant river otter—and collect their scat for genetic analysis—uncovered much more than even this endangered charismatic species. "Visiting the Rewa Head felt like we were walking in the footsteps of Wallace and Bates, seeing South America with its natural density of wild animals as it would have appeared 150 years ago," expedition member Robert Pickles said to Mongabay.com.


No-shows among South American leaders at Amazon summit

(11/27/2009) A summit between South American leaders to devise a plan to save the Amazon, failed to come up with a "common stance" on deforestation, as five of the eight invited leaders failed to show up to the meeting, reports Al Jazeera.


Reforestation effort would lower Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent

(11/25/2009) A study by Britain's Forestry Commission found that planting 23,000 hectares of forest every year for the next 40 years would lower the island nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, according to reporting by the BBC.


The US will set emissions target, but is this a turning point for success at Copenhagen?

(11/24/2009) Today may mark a turning point for a successful negotiation at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen or it may just be another blip in the up-and-down news cycles that have preceded the summit for months.


Global warming will increase likelihood of civil war in Africa by 55 percent

(11/23/2009) There have been many warnings by policymakers that rising temperatures in Africa could lead to civil conflict, however a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to uncover empirical evidence for these warnings and quantify them. The results—that higher temperatures increased the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent—took aback even the researchers.


Deforestation emissions should be shared between producer and consumer, argues study

(11/19/2009) Under the Kyoto Protocol the nation that produces carbon emission takes responsibility for them, but what about when the country is producing carbon-intensive goods for consumer demand beyond its borders? For example while China is now the world's highest carbon emitter, 50 percent of its growth over the last year was due to producing goods for wealthy countries like the EU and the United States which have, in a sense, outsourced their manufacturing emissions to China. A new study in Environmental Research Letters presents a possible model for making certain that both producer and consumer share responsibility for emissions in an area so far neglected by studies of this kind: deforestation and land-use change.


Oil palm workers still below poverty line, despite Minister's statements

(11/19/2009) On October 19th, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told parliament that oil palm harvesters and rubber tappers are living above Malaysia's national poverty line, according to a story in the Malaysian Insider. But now representatives of the workers are saying Dompok lied.


Using fish as livestock feed threatens global fisheries

(11/18/2009) Fish doesn't just feed humans. Millions of tons of fish are fed every year to chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish even in the midst of rising concerns over fish stocks collapses around the world. Finding an alternative to fish as livestock feed would go a long way toward preventing the collapse of fish populations worldwide according to a new paper in Oryx.


Oceans' ability to sequester carbon diminishing

(11/18/2009) A new study—the first of its kind—has completed an annual accounting of the oceans' intake of carbon over the past 250 years, and the news is troubling. According to the study, published in Nature, the oceans' ability to sequester carbon is struggling to keep-up with mankind's ever-growing emissions. Since 2000 researchers estimate that while every year the oceans continue to sequester more anthropogenic carbon emission, the overall proportion of carbon taken in by the oceans is declining.


Record year for CO2 emissions, even with economic slowdown

(11/17/2009) 8.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide was emitted into the earth's atmosphere in 2008, a growth of 2 percent despite the economic crisis. This averages out to each person contributing a record high of 1.3 tons of carbon, according to a report in the journal Nature Science. While the global recession slowed the growth of fossil fuel emissions for the first time this decade, it did not lower emissions altogether.


Holding the Global North Responsible for Climate Change: What Would Lord Russell Do?

(11/16/2009) If Lord Bertrand Russell were still alive today, he would most likely be appalled by the Global North’s glaring inaction on climate change. One of the twentieth century’s most eminent philosophers, Russell was also an outspoken critic of war and irrationality. In 1966, just as the United States was ramping up the war in Vietnam, Russell helped to establish a novel legal tribunal which condemned war crimes committed in South East Asia.



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