Climate Central

Climate Central is a nonprofit science and media organization created to provide clear and objective information about climate change and its potential solutions.
  1. By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

    The Arctic ice cap melted to hundreds of thousands of square miles below average this summer.

    Sunset in the Arctic Ocean over melting sea ice.
    Credit: NASA/flickr

    Climate change is pushing temperatures up most rapidly in the polar regions and left the extent of Arctic sea ice at 1.79 million square miles at the end of the summer melt season.

    This is the time when it reaches its lowest area for the year, before starting to grow again as winter approaches. The 2017 minimum was 610,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average and the eighth lowest year in the 38-year satellite record.

    Scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said the rate of ice loss this summer had been slowed by cool mid-summer weather over the central Arctic Ocean. The record minimum came in 2012, when the ice area fell to 483,000 square miles below the 2017 extent.

    Arctic sea ice extent in 2017.
    Credit: NSIDC

    Ted Scambos at NSIDC said the Arctic sea ice had set a record for the smallest winter extent earlier in 2017 and was on track to be close to the 2012 record minimum until July. But a cloudy and cooler than normal August slowed the melting.

    “Weather patterns in August saved the day,” Scambos said. The fast shrinking Arctic ice cap is increasingly thought to have major impacts on extreme weather patterns much further south, due to its influence on the jet stream. Floods, heatwaves and severe winters in Europe, Asia and North America have all been linked to the Arctic meltdown. “It’s bound to have an impact on global climate,” Scambos said.

    The 2017 sea ice level fits with an overall steady decline over the decades, but one that varies from year to year, Scambos said. “It’s not going to be a staircase heading down to zero every year,” he said. “[But] the Arctic will continue to evolve towards less ice. There’s no dodging that.”

    Rod Downie, head of polar program at WWF, said: “From space, the loss of Arctic sea ice is the clearest and most visible sign of climate change, and human beings are responsible for most of it. We are engineering our planet and its climate.”

    “That’s not good for the people of the Arctic who depend upon sea ice for their traditional way of life and for people across the world who depend on a stable climate,” he said. The Arctic could be virtually free of ice in summer within people’s lifetimes, he warned, and called for more action on climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

    Reprinted with permission from The Guardian.

  2. By Bhavya Khullar, Ensia

    The list of environmental problems that the world faces may be huge, but some strategies for solving them are remarkably small. First explored for applications in microscopy and computing, nanomaterials — materials made up of units that are each thousands of times smaller than the thickness of a human hair — are emerging as useful for tackling threats to our planet’s well-being.

    Scientists across the globe are developing nanomaterials that can efficiently use carbon dioxide from the air, capture toxic pollutants from water and degrade solid waste into useful products.

    Pollution-absorbing nanosponge.
    Credit: Rice University News

    “Nanomaterials could help us mitigate pollution. They are efficient catalysts and mostly recyclable. Now, they have to become economical for commercialization and better to replace present-day technologies completely,” says Arun Chattopadhyay, a member of the chemistry faculty at the Center for Nanotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati.

    Harvesting CO2

    To help slow the climate-changing rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, researchers have developed nano-carbon dioxide harvesters that can suck atmospheric carbon dioxide and deploy it for industrial purposes.

    “Nanomaterials can convert carbon dioxide into useful products like alcohol. The materials could be simple chemical catalysts or photochemical in nature that work in the presence of sunlight,” says Chattopadhyay, who has been working with nanomaterials to tackle environmental pollutants for more than a decade.

    Ion beam “slice and view” showing the interior porous structure of the entangled nanotube network.
    Credit: Science Reports

    Many research groups are working to address a problem that, if solved, could be a holy grail in combating climate change: how to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it into useful products. Chattopadhyay isn’t alone. Many research groups are working to address a problem that, if solved, could be a holy grail in combating climate change: how to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it into useful products. Nanoparticles offer a promising approach to this because they have a large surface-area-to-volume ratio for interacting with carbon dioxide and properties that allow them to facilitate the conversion of carbon dioxide into other things. The challenge is to make them economically viable. Researchers have tried everything from metallic to carbon-based nanoparticles to reduce the cost, but so far they haven’t become efficient enough for industrial-scale application.

    One of the most recent points of progress in this area is work by scientists at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum and the Lille University of Science and Technology in France. The researchers developed a nano-carbon dioxide harvester that uses water and sunlight to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into methanol, which can be employed as an engine fuel, a solvent, an antifreeze agent and a diluent of ethanol. Made by wrapping a layer of modified graphene oxide around spheres of copper zinc oxide and magnetite, the material looks like a miniature golf ball, captures carbon dioxide more efficiently than conventional catalysts and can be readily reused, according to Suman Jain, senior scientist of the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun in India, who developed the nano-carbon dioxide harvester.

    Jain says that the nano-carbon dioxide harvester has a large molecular surface area and captures more carbon dioxidethan a conventional catalyst with similar surface area would, which makes the conversion more efficient. But due to their small size, the nanoparticles have a tendency to clump up, making them inactive with prolonged use. Jain adds that synthesizing useful nanoparticle-based materials is also challenging because it’s hard to make the particles a consistent size. Chattopadhyay says the efficiency of such materials can be improved further, providing hope for useful application in the future.

    Cleansing Water

    Most toxic dyes used in textile and leather industries can be captured with nanoparticles. “Water pollutants such as dyes from human-created waste like those from tanneries could get to natural sources of water like deep tube wells or groundwater if wastewater from these industries is left untreated,” says Chattopadhyay. “This problem is rather difficult to solve.”

    An international group of researchers led by professor Elzbieta Megiel of the University of Warsaw in Poland reports that nanomaterials have been widely studied for removing heavy metals and dyes from wastewater. According to the research team, adsorption processes using materials containing magnetic nanoparticles are highly effective and can be easily performed because such nanoparticles have a large number of sites on their surface that can capture pollutants and don’t readily degrade in water.

    Chattopadhyay adds that appropriately designed magnetic nanomaterials can be used to separate pollutants such as arsenic, lead, chromium and mercury from water. However, the nanotech-based approach has to be more efficient than conventional water purification technology to make it worthwhile.

    In addition to removing dyes and metals, nanomaterials can also be used to clean up oil spills. Researchers led by Pulickel Ajayan at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have developed a reusable nanosponge that can remove oil from contaminated seawater.

    The technology shows promise, but it’s not yet ready for prime time.

    “While the nanosponge is a good material to deal with oil spills, these results are confined to the laboratory,” says Ashok Ganguli, director of the Institute of Nano Science and Technology in Mohali, Punjab, India. “Large-scale synthesis is required if we have to remove oil from seawater which is spread over several miles.” Although scientists have yet to successfully synthesize nanomaterials for cleaning oil spills at a scale large enough for practical application,  “this may become possible with more research and industry partnerships,” Chattopadhyay says.

    Accelerating Digestion

    Another area being explored for application of nanomaterials is in managing organic waste, which can pollute land and water if not handled properly. “Farms and food industry generate humongous amounts of biodegradable waste, and we must find ways to manage it efficiently,” says Debjyoti Sahu, a professor of engineering at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Karnataka in India.

    One of the oldest methods to treat biodegradable waste is to dump it into tanks called digesters. These are full of anaerobic microbes that consume the material, converting it into biogas fuel and solids that can be used as fertilizers. But anaerobic digestion is slow.

    Recent research showed that adding metal oxide nanoparticles to a food waste digester doubled the amount of biogas fuel produced compared to the digester without it.“Nanoparticles can accelerate the anaerobic digestion of the sludge, thus making it more efficient in terms of duration and enhanced production of the biogas,” says Kamalakannan Kailasam, scientist with the Institute of Nano Science and Technology, in Mohali, India.

    Recent research showed that adding metal oxide nanoparticles to a food waste digester doubled the amount of biogas fuel produced compared to the digester without it.

    “Iron oxide nanoparticles are nontoxic, and they should be added to sludge waste to enhance the rate of its degradation,” says Sahu.

    Safety First

    While nanoparticles have potential to solve environmental problems, the small size that makes them useful for environmental cleanup also raises special concerns about health and persistence in the environment.

    “The long-term effects of using nanomaterials have not been evaluated yet,” says Chattopadhyay.

    The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and others are funding research to evaluate the potential effects of engineered nanoparticles on health and the environment. Researchers are also creating models to predict nanomaterials’ transport and fate in the environment as well as their potential effects on humans. If concerns that have been raised can be adequately dealt with, nanomaterials could play a big role in helping us cope with environmental challenges in the years ahead.

    Editor’s note: Bhavya Khullar produced this feature as a participant in the Ensia Mentor Program. Her mentor for the project was Jessica Marshall

    Reprinter with permission from Ensia.

  3. By Richard Luscombe, The Guardian

    If Florida gleaned anything from Hurricane Andrew, the intensely powerful storm that tore a deadly trail of destruction across Miami-Dade County almost exactly 25 years to the day that Hurricane Harvey barreled into the Texas coastline, it was that living in areas exposed to the wrath of Mother Nature can come at a substantial cost.

    At the time the most expensive natural disaster ever to hit the U.S., Andrew caused an estimated $15 billion in insured losses in the state and changed the way insurance companies assessed their exposure to risk for weather-related events.

    South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta  points to a someone who may need help on August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas after flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
    Credit: The National Guard/flickr

    Many of the lessons that Florida has learned since 1992 have parallels in the unfolding disaster in Texas, experts say, and what was already a trend toward factoring in environmental threats and climate change to land and property values looks certain to become the standard nationwide as Houston begins to mop up from the misery of Harvey.

    “The question is whether people are going to be basing their real estate decisions on climate change futures,” said Hugh Gladwin, professor of anthropology at Florida International University, who says his research suggests higher-standing areas of Miami are becoming increasingly gentrified as a result of sea level rise.

    “In any coastal area there’s extra value in property, [but] climate change, insofar as it increases risks for those properties from any specific set of hazards — like flooding and storm surge — will decrease value.”

    Miami Beach in particular has become a poster child for the effects of climate change, with some studies making grim predictions of a 5 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century and others suggesting that up to $23 billion of existing property statewide could be underwater by 2050.

    To counter those effects and preserve property values, Miami Beach has embarked on an ambitious and costly defensive program that includes raising roads and installing powerful new pumps to shift the ever more regular floodwaters.

    Even so, there are indications that investors are already looking to higher ground elsewhere in the city, such as the traditionally poor, black neighbourhoods of Little Haiti and Liberty City. “The older urban core was settled on the coastal ridge and anything below that was flooded. The coastal ridge we’re talking about is clearly gentrifying,” Gladwin said.

    Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston, Texas to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. 
    Credit: The National Guard/flickr

    Or, as the journal Scientific American put it in its own investigation in May: “Real estate investment may no longer be just about the next hot neighbourhood, it may also now be about the next dry neighbourhood.”

    Other analysts cite recent storms including Harvey, as well as Sandy, which wrecked areas of New Jersey and New York in 2012, as evidence.

    “You have folks in south Florida buying houses in North Carolina and Tennessee, because they like the scenery but also because it’s high ground. If south Florida drops off into the ocean, they’ll have a place to go,” said Andrew Frey, vice-chairman of the south-east Florida/Caribbean Urban Land Institute and a Miami real estate developer.

    “The more frequent these volatile superstorms become, the more people will look to build in safer places. If seas are rising three millimeters a year that’s one thing, but if we’re getting superstorms every couple of years with greater frequency and intensity, things can change a lot faster.”

    Such concerns have fueled demand for data-driven analysis and climate aggregation services that offer real estate advice to clients ranging from large corporations, state and local governments to farmers and individual house buyers.

    One such number-crunching company, the San Francisco-based Climate Corporation, which collates and analyses National Weather Service data mostly for clients in agriculture, has previously warned that it would take only “a few climatic events in a row” for a collapse in property values “that will make the housing crisis [of 2008] look small."

    Its assessment is backed by Albert Slap, president and co-founder of Coastal Risk Consulting, a Florida firm that provides flood risk analysis reports. Slap said Harvey was only the latest natural disaster to expose flaws in the national flood insurance programme allowing property owners in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s so-called Zone X — areas at risk of a once-in-500-years flood event — not to carry coverage or fully disclose their flood risk when they sell.

    “With storm surge and heavy rainfall increasing and climate and sea level rise, the system is just not working,” he said. “Millions more people need flood insurance than have it and the crazy thing about Houston was only 15 percent of those who were flooded had flood insurance. The risk communication is not enough.

    “You have thousands of properties in Norfolk, Annapolis, Atlantic City, Savannah, Charleston and Miami Beach where part of the property goes underwater with seawater for days at a time. When you have fish swimming in your driveway, it’s not an amenity, like a swimming pool. It means you’re driving through saltwater to get your kids to school, get to the supermarket, whatever you’re going to do.

    “Will there be a massive decline in the property values of the flooded areas in Houston? Common sense would say yes. And if that’s combined with new legislation that’s going to require full disclosure, then wow.”

    Reprinted from The Guardian with permission.

  4. By Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Guardian

    The central highlands of Afghanistan are a world away from the congested chaos of the country’s cities. Hills roll across colossal, uninhabited spaces fringed by snow-flecked mountains, set against blistering blue skies.

    In this spectacular, harsh landscape, one can pinpoint more or less where human settlement becomes impossible: at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,840 feet).

    This is where Aziza’s family lives, in the village of Borghason. In a good year, they just about survive by cultivating wheat and potatoes for food and a small income. However, when the rains fail, as they increasingly do, the family is plunged into debt, unable to reimburse merchants for that year’s seeds. “Last year, we had to borrow money from the bazaar,” Aziza says.

    Things are about to get tougher. The precariousness of life in Bamiyan, one of Afghanistan’s poorest provinces, leaves villages like Borghason at the mercy of climate change.

    At 9,840 feet, farmers in Shah Foladi can grow wheat and potatoes. Above that altitude, the terrain becomes uninhabitable.
    Credit: Tracy Hunter/flickr

    On a recent visit, the Guardian trekked from freshwater lakes surrounded by jagged massifs at 4,500 meters (14,760 feet) down to villages at the receiving end of erratic weather, a common result of global warming. Warmer temperatures melt the mountain snow earlier, resulting in an increased flow of water before farmers need it.

    These are irregularities that farmers living at the margins of economic sustainability cannot afford. “People are surviving,” says Andrew Scanlon, country director for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “[But] their ability to bounce back is almost zilch.”

    Farmers say unanimously that temperatures have risen over the past decades. Rain is scarcer and more unpredictable. “People know about climate change even if they don’t call it that,” says Fatima Akbari, the UNEP’s country assistant. “They know all about change in water and weather.”

    Despite 15 years as one of the world’s biggest receivers of international aid, much of it to agriculture, Afghanistan remains woefully underdeveloped and largely defenceless against jolts from nature. Western donors primarily poured money into short-sighted programmes such as heavy engineering and cash-for-work schemes, designed for “quick impact”, Scanlon says.

    “Soldiers and engineers were on six-month contracts and needed to quickly win hearts and minds,” he adds. Governments and engineers got accustomed to short time frames. Meanwhile, little was done to build long-term resilience. Winning hearts and minds was meant to win the war, yet climate change endangers that elusive victory.

    Although research on the topic in Afghanistan is limited to small-scale anthropological analyses, studies from Iraq and elsewhere link global warming and security. According to the UNEP, about 80 percent of conflicts in Afghanistan are related to resources like land and water — and to food insecurity, an immediate consequence of global warming.

    According to a report by the UNEP, the World Food Programme and the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), the biggest climate hazards to Afghan livelihoods are drought and floods, caused by irregular snowmelt or rainfall.

    Bamiyan is the epicentre. The mountains in Shah Foladi, one of four recognised national parks, feed both the Kabul basin and the Helmand river, which runs south for 700 miles. In Helmand, water has instigated conflict for decades and been central to foreign intervention since the early cold war, when the U.S. got involved in irrigation projects.

    The mountains in Shah Foladi, in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, feed both the Kabul basin and the Helmand river.
    Credit: Carlos Ugarte/flickr

    Despite fighting a worsening war against insurgents, the Afghan government seems, to an extent, aware of the need to address the risks of global warming. “In the region, Afghanistan is the most vulnerable country facing the ravages of climate change,” says Prince Mostapha Zaher, grandson of the former king Mohammad Zahir Shah and director general of the NEPA.

    Zaher, a trained microbiologist and a forceful presence, has entered Afghanistan into 14 international environmental conventions since 2005. Still, the government’s priorities appear to fall short of his ambitions. Zaher describes the NEPA, which is not an actual ministry, as a “fledgling agency on a shoestring budget”.

    He has spearheaded efforts to protect Afghanistan’s extraordinary biodiversity by helping to name four areas as national parks. In June, marking World Environment Day, a wetlands site inside the city of Kabul became the latest. Kol-e-Hashmat Khan is a stopover for migratory birds of “world-class importance” and is visited by 150 species each year, according to the UNEP.

    Threats to the site come not just from the climate but from humans, too. Garbage is piled high on the water’s edge. One-fourth of the site’s nearly 200 hectares have been grabbed by “strongmen”, who burn reeds and erect cream-coloured villas jutting from the banks. “Afghanistan is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world,” says Scanlon, adding that the country boasts about 3,000 endemic plants, almost four times more than Europe.

    National biodiversity is another victim of international donors, such as USAid, that subsidise fertiliser and pesticides to Afghan farmers, and have used pesticides to eradicate poppies. Scanlon says international agencies generally have a “poor understanding” of Afghanistan’s natural riches. “I still speak to high-ranking officials from the World Bank, EU and other UN agencies who think Afghanistan is a desert, absolutely devoid of ecological value,” he adds.

    In Bamiyan, the UNEP works to promote sustainable farming. In the village of Khoshgak, farmers used to cultivate the hills to take advantage of rainfall, but that drained them of all nourishment. Now, by collecting water in concrete basins fed by underground pipes, they grow apricots, barley and potatoes in the valley.

    “Before, there was nothing here. It was scorched,” says Haji Qadir, a village elder, from his neatly manicured garden. Still, he remembers the valley of his childhood being more fertile. “The air used to be cleaner, not full of dust like now.”

    Women are particularly affected by erratic weather. In Borghason, when the rains fail, farmers switch crops from barley to wheat, which is less ideal as livestock feed, says Chaman, an older woman in the village. As a result, women — who are tasked with fetching water and tending livestock ‚ have longer distances to hike.

    Villages in Bamiyan exemplify how climate change can hamper the ability of families to sustain themselves. According to Prince Zaher, they show why global warming should be taken as seriously as fighting insurgents. “Terrorism is not going to be lingering here for ever,” he says. “But climate change is an ongoing death sentence.”

    Reprinted from The Guardian with permission.

  5. By Bianca Nogrady, Ensia

    “We are still in.” On June 5, 2017, with these four words a group of U.S. businesses and investors with a combined annual revenue of $1.4 trillion sent a powerful message to the world: U.S. president Donald Trump may have withdrawn from the Paris agreement on climate change four days earlier, but corporate America was not following suit.

    “We Are Still In” launched with more than 20 Fortune 500 companies on board, including Google, Apple, Nike and Microsoft, as well as a host of smaller companies. The statement was coordinated by a large collective of organizations including World Wildlife Fund, Rocky Mountain Institute, Climate Mayors, Ceres and Bloomberg Philanthropies. It has now grown to include more than 1,500 businesses and investors, as well as nine U.S. states, more than 200 cities and counties, and more than 300 colleges and universities.

    In recent years, a number of initiatives and collaborations have sprung up around the world focused on private sector action on climate change. And it’s not alone. In recent years, a number of initiatives and collaborations have sprung up around the world focused on private sector action on climate change. With Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, these initiatives have raised an intriguing question: In the absence of political action, can business save the world from devastating climate change?

    City lights in Chicago.
    Credit: Luis José Da Silva G/flickr

    “The simple answer is there’s no saving the world without business, but business can’t do it on its own,” says Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business. “The reason we need these kinds of coalitions is so that both business leaders and political leaders hear loud and clear that actually the majority of businesses understand that we’ve got to change, and actually are on board and already in motion.”

    We Mean Business is a global coalition of many of the same NGOs that initiated We Are Still In — CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), The B Team, The Climate Group, and others — and the two initiatives are closely connected. We Mean Business’s role is to provide a framework for corporate commitments on climate change and a platform from which to make those commitments public.

    Science-based Targets

    One such commitment is to adopt science-based greenhouse gas emissions targets. This is where Science Based Targets comes in. This global collaboration among CDP, World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund and the United Nations Global Compact encourages and helps corporations to align their climate change policies with scientific evidence.

    “What we could observe is a majority of companies were setting targets, but at least from a CDP perspective, we had many challenges to understand what targets were best,” says Pedro Faria, technical director of CDP and member of the Science Based Targets steering committee. “Talking with companies and other NGOs, we realized there was no method, so companies were setting targets based on what was feasible and not what was needed.”

    “It has been extremely important to just make people aware of this concept: Set your ambition according to what the best available science tells you.”

    Science Based Targets helps companies determine what actions they need to take to contribute meaningfully to the global target of remaining below 2°C (3.6°F) warming, a level above which experts say irreversible changes become locked in. These actions will vary across industries, so targets must be tailored to individual companies while still meeting global needs. Nearly 300 companies have signed on from every continent except Antarctica.

    “It has been extremely important to just make people aware of this concept: Set your ambition according to what the best available science tells you,” Faria says. “Our mission is to make science-based targets a new norm.” Sixty-two companies have now set approved science-based targets for emissions reductions. For example, Coca-Cola HBC — a leading bottler of The Coca-Cola Company — has committed to a science-based target of reducing its emissions by 50 percent per liter of drink by 2020.

    Energy For Renewables

    Another corporate commitment We Mean Business advocates is the goal of 100 percent renewable power. More than 100 companies, including Ikea, Walmart, Nestle and Unilever have committed to this, but in a complex energy market like that in the U.S., buying this much renewable energy isn’t always easy. So in May 2016, Business for Social Responsibility, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund started the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, or REBA, which helps steer corporations through the energy market maze. The end goal is facilitating the deployment of 60 gigawatts of new renewable energy in the U.S. corporate sector by 2025.

    The alliance first made its mark with the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute’s Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, a set of six criteria developed in partnership with a group of large energy buyers to assist utilities in helping companies who want to buy renewable energy.

    Microsoft has stated that it is committed to working with the network and new partners to bring more renewable energy onto the grid.

    But more was needed, says Lily Donge, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute. “We realized that the buyers need a trusted space to learn about renewable energy and also find ways to interact with each other and the service providers on the sale side in a more transparent and seamless fashion.” Thus was born the Business Renewables Center, which Donge heads. The center convenes, educates and assists corporations around purchasing off-site, large-scale wind and solar energy. It also hopes to facilitate collective buying, although that aspect is still in development. Donge envisages a scenario in which a city — for example, Seattle — its universities, its utilities and a locally based company such as Microsoft might come together to pool their renewable energy buying power. As one of the first to join the REBA network, Microsoft has stated that it is committed to working with the network and new partners to bring more renewable energy onto the grid. It is just one of the 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies that have now set emissions reductions targets or committed to clean energy.

    Turning Words Into Action

    If We Are Still In is the sentiment, We Mean Business is the statement of intent, and initiatives such as Science Based Targets and the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance are the enablers of action, then America’s Pledge will be the scorekeeper.

    Launched on July 12, America’s Pledge will compile and quantify the steps taken by businesses, cities, states and others to address climate change.

    Looking across these initiatives, it’s clear which industries are leading the pack. “If you’re one of the IT majors and you haven’t committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, you’re a laggard, you’re a dinosaur, and you really start to stand out,” Topping says. But other industries face more existential challenges around climate change action, particularly in the fossil fuel space.

    “While many of the oil majors are publicly supportive of climate action and the Paris agreement, some of them are still proposing future energy and emissions scenarios in which there are very high levels of carbon capture and storage deployment — levels way higher than the current level of investment suggests is plausible,” Topping says.

    “There’s no sector where there’s a sectoral climate denial or sectoral resistance to Paris.”

    But even those industries are publicly engaged. The Climate Leadership Council, which launched June 20, features big oil companies BP, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total among its founding corporate members.

    “There’s no sector where there’s a sectoral climate denial or sectoral resistance to Paris,” Topping says. “It’s just a question of what is the economic pathway of survival.”

    WWF’s senior vice president of Climate Change and Energy Lou Leonard says the challenge ahead for all these initiatives and collaborations is to continue to demonstrate the credibility of the voice of these sub-national actors to the rest of the world, particularly in the lead-up to 2020 when all countries are supposed to return to the table with even more stringent targets than were committed to in 2016, in accordance with the Paris agreement.

    “There’s going to have to be a continual injection of confidence and support from non-state actors and sub-nationals in the U.S. if you want those countries to keep [working toward goals],” he says. “This is where the future is, this is where we are going, and we want the rest of the world to know it.” 

    This article was reprinted with permission from Ensia.