Tag Archives: Paris

Wisconsin DOJ shrinks environmental protection unit

The Wisconsin Justice Department has shrunk staffing levels in its environmental protection unit to the lowest level in 25 years.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the unit had six attorneys last year compared to 10 as recently as 2008.

A DOJ spokesman says he couldn’t explain the trend, although he mentioned that lawyers with the agency’s special litigation unit and solicitor general’s office work so closely with other attorneys that it’s hard to determine how much responsibility they’ve assumed for environmental protection.

Carl Sinderbrand, a lawyer who once worked in the environmental unit, says the staffing reduction may reflect the dwindling number of pollution cases the Department of Natural Resources has referred for legal action.

Last year fines against polluters dropped to their lowest point since at least 1994.

In other environmental news …

Companies will study risks to underwater pipeline

The state of Michigan has tapped two companies to analyze the financial risk of an oil pipeline rupture in the Straits of Mackinac and evaluate any alternatives to the pipeline.

Enbridge Energy, based in Calgary, Alberta, has agreed to pay $3.5 million but will not oversee the studies. Enbridge owns the twin oil pipelines in the area where lakes Huron and Michigan converge.

Det Norske Veritas will determine how much money would be needed to clean up an oil spill. Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems will study alternatives to Line 5. The announcement was made Tuesday.

Line 5 carries nearly 23 million gallons of light crude oil and liquefied natural gas daily. It runs across Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before entering the Straits of Mackinac. It ends in Sarnia, Ontario.

 

California governor looks to extend climate-change efforts

California Gov. Jerry Brown has launched a campaign to extend some of the most ambitious climate-change programs in the country and ensure his environmental legacy when he leaves office in two years.

The centerpiece of the push is a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels by forcing manufacturers and other companies to meet tougher emissions limits or pay up to exceed them.

The program has been one of the most-watched efforts in the world aimed at the climate-changing fuels.

The four-year-old program, however, is only authorized to operate until 2020 and faces a litany of challenges, including a lawsuit questioning its legality, poor sales of credits, and lukewarm support among Democratic legislators to extend it.

With Brown set to leave office in 2018, a state appeals court is considering a challenge from the California Chamber of Commerce contending the pollution-credit program is an illegal tax, not a fee.

Environmental groups say the lawsuit and overall uncertainty about the survival of the program are undermining the market for pollution credits. A May auction saw companies buy only one-tenth of the available credits, leaving the state billions of dollars short in projected revenue from the sales.

Meanwhile, groups representing oil interests confirmed last week that they are in direct talks with the Brown administration over cap-and-trade.

 

India state aims to plant a record 50 million trees in a day

Hundreds of thousands of people in India’s most populous state jostled for space as they attempted to plant 50 million trees over 24 hours in hopes of shattering the world record.

Officials in Uttar Pradesh distributed millions of saplings to be planted across the state to help India’s efforts to increase its forest cover, and to get into Guinness World Records for the most trees planted in a day. The current record is 847,275, set in Pakistan in 2013.

More than 800,000 people, including students, lawmakers, government officials, housewives and volunteers from nonprofit organizations, headed out Monday to plant the saplings at designated spots along country roads and highways, rail tracks and forest lands.

Uttar Pradesh’s top elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, said that planting 50 million trees would spread awareness and enthusiasm about afforestation and environmental conservation.

“The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard,” Yadav told volunteers in the city of Kannauj, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of the state capital, Lucknow.

India’s government is encouraging all 29 states to start tree-planting drives to increase the country’s forest cover as part of commitments made at last year’s climate change summit in Paris.

Experts find climate change’s fingerprints in French flooding

An international team of scientists has found that man-made climate change nearly doubled the likelihood of last month’s devastating French flooding.

In a quick but not peer-reviewed analysis , the World Weather Attribution team of climate scientists used past rainfall data and computer simulations to look for global warming’s fingerprints in the heavy downpours in France and Germany.

A senior climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, says the team’s calculations found that global warming increased the chances for the Loire river basin flooding by 90 percent and the Seine river basin by 80 percent. That’s compared to a world with no man-made climate change.

Parts of France got three months of rain in just one month, much of it in just three days. The Seine, which runs through Paris, rose to 20 feet (6.1 meters) above its normal height.

“It was very weird weather,” van Oldenborgh said. “It was made more likely due to climate change.”

The researchers couldn’t find a link with the German rain.

The team, which also included American, British and French scientists coordinated by Climate Central in Princeton, New Jersey, is trying something relatively new: real-time scientifically valid studies to see if extreme weather events are natural or more likely to happen because of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuel.

The 80 and 90 percent increase in likelihood of heavy rain is higher than the 40 percent chance they found for the storm Desmond that hit the United Kingdom last winter, van Oldenborgh said.

Two outside scientists — Adam Sobel of Columbia University and John Walsh of the University of Alaska — say the team used scientifically sound methods. Both Sobel and Walsh were co-authors of a National Academy of Sciences report that looked at the scientific accuracy of studies that look for global warming’s fingerprints. They looked at studies that are usually done over months and published in peer-reviewed journals.

This one was done in five days and will eventually be sent to a peer-reviewed journal. But that is not so much a worry because these are well-known and qualified scientists, Sobel said.

Walsh said the methods and conclusions “are state-of-the-art” and “the results highlight the role of human-caused climate change while the event is still fresh in the public’s minds.”

 

Record 155 countries to sign climate agreement

A record 155 countries will sign the landmark agreement to tackle climate change at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters on April 22.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said that five countries — Barbados, Belize, Tuvalu, Maldives and Samoa — will not only sign the agreement reached in Paris in December but deliver their ratification.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French President Francois Hollande and French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, who is in charge of global climate negotiations, have invited leaders from all 193 U.N. member states to the event. The U.N. says more than 60 heads of state and government plan to attend.

The current record of 119 signatures on the opening day for signing an international agreement is held by the Law of the Sea treaty in 1994.

The Paris agreement will take effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the secretary-general.

The list of countries planning to sign the Paris agreement includes the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming: China, United States, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia and many European Union countries including Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

The agreement sets a collective goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It requires all countries to submit plans for climate action and to update them every five years, though such plans are not legally binding.

Secretary-General Ban has stressed that the signing ceremony is just a first step in accelerating efforts to tackle climate change.

On the Web

Test your knowledge of the Paris agreement.

 

On-demand only bookshop opens in Paris

To many Parisians, the letters PUF have always been associated with the intellectual heart of the French capital. So when the 95-year-old venerable publishing house specializing in human and social sciences was forced to close its historic bookshop on the Place de La Sorbonne in 1999, it left a big void in the heart of many students and researchers.

But Les Presses Universitaires de France is back, just a stone’s throw from their previous location in the Quartier Latin neighborhood.

While the PUF’s new bookshop is not as big as it used to be, its riches could fill the life of any reader. The few books on the shelves aren’t for sale, but around 3 million titles are available in the 72-square meter store, which opened last week.

All-digital bookshop

“This is the first all-digital bookshop in Europe that sells books on demand only,” PUF general manager Frederic Meriot told The Associated Press. “It is a model for the future, a model in which digital and paperback books can work together.”

PUF’s comeback in the City of Lights couldn’t have been possible without the Espresso Book Machine, the robot that prints, binds and trims books in a few minutes. Available since 2006, the first one was installed briefly at the World Bank’s bookstore. There are now more than 100 in bookstores and libraries across the world.

At PUF, it has been installed at the back of the shop and arouses interest from all kind of visitors. When the AP visited the shop recently, three police officers were passing by and came in to learn more about books on demand.

“In France it’s a small revolution,” says Pauline Darfeuille, a project engineer from the Printers’ national union who helped PUF set up the machine. “There are only five (machines) of this type in the country.”

The Espresso Book Machine uses two PDFs, one for the cover and another for the text. While the cover can be printed in color, the inside of the book is black and white only. It takes only a few minutes to create a book.

The Espresso Book Machine uses two PDFs, one for the cover and another for the text. While the cover can be printed in color, the inside of the book is black and white only.
The Espresso Book Machine uses two PDFs, one for the cover and another for the text. While the cover can be printed in color, the inside of the book is black and white only.

“In the meantime, readers can enjoy a cup of coffee from the shop at a reasonable price,” says Alexandre Gaudefroy, who has managed the PUF project since its inception. “The idea was to create a tea room and a bookshop at the same time.”

“It’s unbelievable,” says Zeina Genadry, who used to buy books at the historic PUF bookshop, as she flips through the pages of the biography of Montaigne from Stefan Zweig that just came out of the machine.

Although the cover of the books are a bit sticky compared to those of traditional paperbacks because of the gloss used during the process, the machine produces library-quality books sold at the same price as in traditional bookshops.

According to Meriot, the on-demand-only model that PUF is developing in parallel to its traditional publisher’s activities has a bright future.

“Not only because at an equivalent price all readers, even among the young generations, prefer paper to digital,” he said. “But also in terms of costs for us. We could not have afford to rent a 600-square-meter (6,450-square-foot) shop like we had in the past. With the Espresso Book, we don’t need warehouses to stock the books, we don’t spend money to pulp the books already printed that didn’t sell, and it’s also a low-carbon way of making books.”

Meriot said he needs to sell about 15 books daily to break even. He sold 60 on the opening day of business.

“It was almost a riot, our booksellers didn’t even find the time to take a break for lunch,” he said.

For now, about 5,000 titles from the PUF catalog are available at the bookshop, with an extra 3 million titles from other publishing houses and sources put together by On Demand books — the company behind the Espresso Book Machine — also printable at the shop.

 

On Demand and on the Web …

Les Presses Universitaires de France.

Espresso Book Machines.

 

UN chief urges leaders to sign climate agreement on Earth Day

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world leaders to sign the landmark agreement to tackle climate change reached in Paris in December at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters on April 22.

The U.N. chief told the world body’s 193 member nations this week that the ceremony will be a key step toward ratification of the agreement. Every U.N. treaty is first signed and then ratified.

The climate agreement needs to be ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, to enter into force.

Ban said he has issued invitations and the leaders of Peru, France and Morocco, who hosted the last three climate conferences, will attend.

The U.N. chief said the participation of all leaders will keep the global spotlight on climate change. 

Administration insists Supreme Court order on clean-power won’t impact Paris agreement

The Obama administration asserted this week that a U.S. Supreme Court order delaying enforcement of its new clean-power rules will ultimately have little impact on meeting the nation’s obligations under the recent Paris climate agreement.

But environmentalists and academic experts are more nervous.

They are concerned that any significant pause in implementing mandated reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants will imperil the credibility of the Unites States to lead on climate change, while increasing worries both at home and abroad that the whole international agreement might unravel if a Republican wins the White House in November.

Nearly 200 countries agreed in December to cut or limit heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the first global treaty to try to limit the worst predicted impacts of climate change. The goal is to limit warming to no more than an additional 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Each nation set its own goals under the treaty, and President Barack Obama committed the United States to make a 26 to 28 percent cut in U.S. emissions by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan is seen as essential to meeting that goal, requiring a one-third reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants over the next 15 years. Even before the Environmental Protection Agency released the plan last year, a long list of mostly Republican states that are economically dependent on coal mining and oil production announced they would sue.

Though the case is still pending before an appeals court in Washington, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court issued a surprising order on Feb. 9 barring any enforcement of the plan until the legal challenge is resolved. Whichever side loses at the appeals level is almost certain to petition for review by the high court, almost certainly freezing any significant action on the plan’s goals until after Obama’s term expires in January 2017.

“The court’s stay, although procedural, clearly signals trouble for the clean power plan,” said John Sterman, an MIT professor who created an intricate computer model that simulates the effects of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on global warming. “Without serious policies to promote efficiency, renewables, and low-carbon energy, there is little chance the U.S. will be able to meet its emissions-reduction pledge, undermining the willingness of many other nations to meet their commitments.”

Obama has staked much of his second term on building a legacy on climate change surpassing that of any of his predecessors. Climate change now joins immigration atop the list of top Obama priorities delayed indefinitely by the courts.

Even if the justices ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan, GOP leaders in Congress have vowed to wipe the rules away if a Republican wins November’s presidential election. That raises the specter that the U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, might also withdraw from the Paris treaty.

“President Obama’s credibility on the climate issue was crucial to reaching agreement at Paris,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor of geosciences and international affairs. “The entire edifice built at Paris could collapse, much as the Kyoto Protocol was seriously undermined by President George W. Bush’s withdrawal of the U.S. from that agreement.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Feb. 10 that leaders in the countries participating in the agreement understand that the rulemaking process in the U.S. is often complicated and litigious. But, in the end, he said this week’s setback from the Supreme Court is just a “temporary, procedural determination.”

Schultz said the U.S. would continue to take aggressive steps to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, citing other regulations it has put in place to reduce emissions from automobiles, airplanes and the oil and gas sector. He said the extensions of solar and wind tax credits in this year’s budget will be critical in helping the U.S. meet its commitments.

“It is our estimation that the inclusion of those tax credits is going to have more impact over the short term than the Clean Power Plan,” Schultz said aboard Air Force One on Feb. 10 as the president was flying to Springfield, Illinois.

White House officials said they expected the courts to move quickly on the case, which will benefit the administration’s efforts.

Compliance with the new emissions rules isn’t required until 2022, but states must submit their detailed plans for meeting the required reductions to the EPA by September or seek an extension.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the lawsuit against Obama’s plan, suggested Feb. 10 that taking any steps to meet the required emissions reductions before the final legal decision would be a waste of time and money.

He said for him, opposition to the emissions limits has “nothing to do with climate change.” Rather, it’s about protecting coal-mining jobs already endangered by competition from plentiful stores of cheap natural gas unleashed by the shale fracking boom.

“This rule represents a radical transformation of American energy policy and will have a sweeping impact on the American way of life,” Morrisey said. “EPA is seeking to transform itself from being an environmental regulator into a central energy-planning authority for the states.”

As the legal logjam over the plan plays out in the courts, however, some environmentalists are putting their hopes in the free market _ that the rapidly falling costs of solar and wind infrastructure will boost investments in clean energy, even in an era of historically cheap fossil fuels.

“The transition to clean, renewable energy is rapidly becoming unstoppable,” former vice president and climate crusader Al Gore said Feb. 10. 

AP’s top 10 stories of 2015

The far-flung attacks claimed by Islamic State militants and the intensifying global effort to crush them added up to a grim, gripping yearlong saga that was voted the top news story of 2015, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The No. 2 story was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that led to legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But several of the other stories among the Top 10 reflected the impact of the Islamic State, while another group of major stories related to the series of mass shootings in the United States.

Among the 100 voters casting ballots, first-place votes were spread among 17 different stories. The Islamic State entry received 37 first-place votes and same-sex marriage 13. The No. 3 story — the deadly attacks in Paris in January and November — received 14 first-place votes.

A year ago, the top story in AP’s poll was the police killings of unarmed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere — and the investigations and protests that ensued. In this year’s poll, a similar entry, with more instances of blacks dying in encounters with police, placed fifth.

The first AP top-stories poll was conducted in 1936, when editors chose the abdication of Britain’s King Edward VIII.

Here are 2015’s top 10 stories, in order:

1: ISLAMIC STATE: A multinational coalition intensified ground and air attacks against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including expanded roles for Western European countries worried about IS-backed terrorism. For its part, IS sought to demonstrate an expansive reach by its operatives and supporters, claiming to have carried out or inspired the bombing of a Russian airliner, attacks in Beirut and Paris, and the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California.

2: GAY MARRIAGE: Fifteen years after Vermont pioneered civil unions for same-sex couples, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June enabling them to marry in all 50 states. Gay-rights activists heralded it as their movement’s biggest breakthrough, but there were flashes of disapproval. A county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, spent a few days in jail after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in her jurisdiction.

3: PARIS ATTACKS: The first attack came just a week into the new year. Two brothers who called themselves members of al-Qaida barged into the offices of the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and later attacked a Jewish market, gunning down 17 people in all. Nov. 13 brought a far deadlier onslaught: Eight Islamic State militants killed 130 people in coordinated assaults around Paris. Targets included restaurants, bars and an indoor rock concert.

4: MASS SHOOTINGS: Throughout the year, mass shootings brought grief to communities across the U.S. and deepened frustration over the failure to curtail them. There were 14 victims in San Bernardino. Nine blacks were killed by a white gunman at a Charleston, South Carolina, church; a professor and eight students died at an Oregon community college. In Chattanooga, four Marines and a sailor were killed by a Kuwaiti-born engineer; three people, including a policeman, were shot dead at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

5: BLACK DEATHS IN ENCOUNTERS WITH POLICE: In Baltimore, riots broke out after the death of Freddie Gray, a black man loaded into a van by police officers. In Chicago, Tulsa and North Charleston, South Carolina, fatal police shootings of black men prompted resignations and criminal charges. The incidents gave fuel to the Black Lives Matter campaign, and prompted several investigations of policing practices.

6: TERRORISM WORRIES: Fears about terrorism in the U.S. surged after a married couple in California — described by investigators as radicalized Muslims — carried out the attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. The rampage inflamed an already intense debate over whether to accommodate refugees from Syria, and prompted Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to call for a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S.

7: US ELECTION CAMPAIGN: A large and varied field of Republicans launched bids for the presidency, with billionaire Donald Trump moving out to an early lead in the polls and remaining there despite a series of polarizing statements. He helped attract record audiences for the GOP’s televised debates. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders surprised many with a strong challenge of Hillary Clinton, but she remained the solid front-runner.

8: CLIMATE CHANGE: Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached a first-of-its kind agreement in Paris on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Many questions remain over enforcement and implementation of the accord. But elated supporters hailed it as a critical step toward averting the grim scenario of unchecked global warming.

9: CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING: A Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, suddenly turned into carnage when a white gunman opened fire, killing nine blacks, including the pastor. The alleged killer’s affinity for the Confederate flag sparked debate over the role of Civil War symbols in today’s South. In less than a month, the flag was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds.

10: EUROPE’S MIGRANT CRISIS: Fleeing war and hardship, more than 1 million migrants and refugees flooded into Europe during the year, overwhelming national border guards and reception facilities. Hundreds are believed to have drowned; 71 others were found dead in an abandoned truck in Austria. The 28-nation European Union struggled to come up with an effective, unified response.

Year in Review: Mixed year for environment

President Barack Obama sealed the cap on a major climate threat, rejecting in November TransCanada’s application for the Keystone XL pipeline after years of review by the State Department.

But the expansion of a Wisconsin pipeline will allow it to carry far more oil than the KXL ever would have. In the decision announced Nov. 6, the president said the 1,179-mile pipeline wouldn’t have lowered U.S. gas prices, nor would it have contributed to U.S. jobs long-term or make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy.

“This is a big win,” May Boeve, executive director of the environmental group 350.org, said. “President Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL because of its impact on the climate is nothing short of historic — and sets an important precedent that should send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry.”

Within a month of the KXL decision, the president and other U.S. leaders were in Paris for a global summit on climate change, forging a difficult and delicate agreement to share the burden of fighting climate change and shift to clean energy.

Back in Washington, Republican leaders in Congress expressed opposition to a pact, continuing an anti-environmental agenda that in 2015 included campaigns to weaken protections for endangered species, rollback regulations on pollution and sell off or lease public lands for development, mining and other commercial ventures.

Their counterparts in Wisconsin waged an all-out assault on the state’s traditions of preserving wild places, conserving resources and curbing pollution.

Gov. Scott Walker took the lead on the anti-environmental campaign, opposing new federal standards and regulations for clean water and clean air. In November, the Walker administration joined 23 other states in seeking to reverse the Clean Power Plan, which the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters has described as a common-sense approach that will reduce carbon pollution, lower health risks and create clean energy jobs in the state.

The GOP-dominated Legislature, meanwhile, eased the way for Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, to dramatically expand its pumping of Alberta tar sands oil across the state. Enbridge is expanding Line 61, a 42-inch diameter pipeline built in 2009 carrying tar sands oil from a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, to a terminal in Pontiac, Illinois.

“The Paris climate change agreement will help protect my children and future grandchildren and will help ensure that we provide a better future for them,” said Emily Jacobson, an activist with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. “Unfortunately, here in Wisconsin, our elected leaders are not following the lead of more than 180 countries that know it’s well past time to act on carbon pollution.”

There were conservation wins in the state, as Walker failed in attempts to freeze the land protection program in the budget, turn the Department of Natural Resources board into an advisory body and cut conservation staff. Additionally, the Legislature enacted a law to phase out the production and sale of personal care products containing tiny plastic microbeads that pollute waterways.

Get ready for line 61

In 2016, Enbridge is expected to ramp up the volume on its tar sands pipeline buried beneath every major waterway in Wisconsin. Line 61 will convey more tar sands oil than any pipeline in the U.S. — up to an 1.2 million barrels daily. That’s one-third more than the 800,000 barrels that would have been carried by the KXL. For months, a Dane County zoning committee stood in the way of the project, claiming Enbridge wasn’t sufficiently insured. But the GOP-held Legislature passed laws demolishing that strategy and giving companies the right to seize private land through eminent domain. According to the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Enbridge has committed more than 100 violations in 14 Wisconsin counties. — Louis Weisberg

A big resolution: The world’s carbon diet starts

The world is about to go on a carbon diet. It won’t be easy — or cheap.

Nearly 200 nations across the world this month approved a first-of-its-kind universal agreement to wean Earth off fossil fuels and slow global warming, patting themselves on the back for showing such resolve.

Now the reality sets in. The numbers — like calorie limits and hours needed in the gym — are daunting.

How daunting?

Try more than 7.04 billion tons (if you really want to have your eyes bug out, that’s 15.5 trillion pounds). That’s how much carbon dioxide needs to stay in the ground instead of being spewed into the atmosphere for those reductions to happen, even if you take the easier of two goals mentioned in the deal. To get to the harder goal, it’s even larger numbers.

In the pact, the countries pledged to limit global warming to about another degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) from now — and if they can, only half that.

Another, more vague, goal is that by sometime in the second half of the century, man-made greenhouse gas emissions _ which includes methane and other heat-trapping gases as well as carbon dioxide — won’t exceed the amount that nature absorbs. Earth’s carbon cycle, which is complex and ever-changing, would have to get back to balance.

In practice, that means the world has to emit close to zero greenhouse gases by 2070 to reach the easier goal, or by 2050 to reach the harder one, said John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Oh and by the way, the harder goal — limit warming by another half a degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) — is probably already  impossible, said Joeri Rogelj at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. Most likely the best the world can hope for is overshooting that temperature by a few tenths of a degree and then somehow slowly — over decades if not centuries — come back to the target temperature.

That may involve something called negative emissions. That’s when the world — technology and nature combined — take out more carbon dioxide from the air than humanity puts in. Nearly 90 percent of scenarios of how to establish a safer temperature in the world involves going backward on emissions, but it is also so far not very realistic, said Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain.

Negative emissions involve more forests, maybe seeding the oceans, and possibly technology that sucks carbon out of the air and stores it underground somehow. More biomass or forests require enormous land areas and direct capture of carbon from air is expensive, but with a serious sustained research effort costs can probably be brought below $100 per metric ton, said engineering and policy professor Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University.

Leading up to the Paris Agreement, nearly every nation formed an individual action plan to cut or at least slow the growth of carbon pollution over the next decade or so. Richer nations that have already developed, like the United States, Europe and Japan, pledged to cut now. Developing nations that say they need fossil fuels to pull themselves out poverty pledged to slow the rate of growth for now, and to cut later.

“The EU and U.S. are all on Slim-Fast,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton administration climate official. “China’s still hitting fast food, but will have to stop soon.”

China, the world’s top carbon polluter, will eventually have to make the biggest cuts. Overall, for the world to hit its new target, global carbon dioxide emissions will have to peak by 2030, maybe earlier, and then fall to near-zero, experts said. Those levels have been generally rising since the industrial revolution. A new study suggests emissions may have fallen slightly this year, but that may be a blip.

Without any efforts to limit global warming, the world would have warmed by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) from now by 2100, according to Climate Interactive. But China’s submitted plan alone would cut that projected warming by 1.3 degrees, according to Climate Interactive. The U.S. plan trims about six tenths of a degree of the projected warming without a global deal.

And while China is now the No. 1 carbon dioxide polluter with more than a quarter of the world’s emissions, carbon dioxide stays in the air for at least a century, so historical emissions are important. Since 1870, the U.S. is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s carbon pollution, compared to 13 percent for China.

That all sounds good, but the goals the nations have set aren’t enough. Taken together, they would still allow temperatures to rise 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century from now, so to reach the goals agreed on this weekend countries will need to do more, Climate Interactive found.

Another climate modeling group, Climate Action Tracker, is slightly more optimistic, but still finds the nations’ plans would miss the goal of limiting temperature rise to one more degree. It says the current proposals would allow a rise of 1.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit).

Countries agreed Saturday to take another look at their goals every five years.

“Clearly countries must be exercising their low-carbon muscles more,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager for the Union of Concern Scientists.

French President Francois Hollande took the first step as he praised the Paris Agreement. He said France would ratchet up its goals and efforts earlier than required and challenged other nations to do the same.

Republicans vow to shred historic Paris climate accord

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the international climate change agreement reached in Paris as a major achievement that could help turn the tide on global warming.

But Republicans, who are heavily funded by fossil fuel interests that produce the pollutants causing climate change, tried to deflate the celebration, vowing to overturn the agreement signed by almost 200 nations if the party wins the White House in 2016. 

Obama said the climate agreement “can be a turning point for the world” and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Kerry predicted the agreement would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution.

“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge,” Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

But the immediate reaction of leading Republicans was a reminder of the conflict that lies ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” when the next president takes the oath of office.

Clean-power pushback

Even as Obama was working to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republican climate-change deniers in Congress were working to block his plan to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.

The House passed two resolutions Dec. 8 against the power-plant rules. A measure blocking an Environmental Protection Agency rule for existing power plants was approved 242–180, while a measure blocking a rule on future power plants was approved 235–188.

The votes came after the Senate approved identical motions in November under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous.

The measures, as WiG went to press, were at the White House, where they faced almost-certain vetoes.

Just four Democrats sided with Republicans to support the measures, which fell far short of the numbers needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the climate rule “to send a message … there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the president’s pro-environment policies will kill jobs, increase electricity costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical jihadists” as seriously as he takes the “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.

Republicans at the state level also are challenging the power plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, based on emissions in 2005. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.

The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. But 25 mostly Republican states, led by Texas and West Virginia, are contesting the plan in court, calling it an unlawful power grab that will kill jobs and drive up electricity costs. Wisconsin, which has perhaps the nation’s strongest rules discouraging “green” energy, is part of the suit.

Utilities, the National Mining Association and the nation’s largest privately owned coal company also are suing the EPA over the new rules.

Koch Industries, a major polluter that political insiders say pulls the strings of the Wisconsin GOP, is one of the world’s largest funders of climate-change propaganda.

The Associated Press was a source for this analysis.