Greta Thunberg sets sail from U.S. to Spain for climate summit

Climate activist Greta Thunberg found a ride back across the Atlantic thanks to a pair of YouTubers, after a United Nations climate change summit got relocated from Chile to Spain. 

The 16-year-old Swedish activist, who has been making speeches and leading protests across the U.S. and Canada since August, planned to travel to Chile for the upcoming U.N. climate summit, known as COP25. But the country canceled plans to host the event after massive political and economic protests turned violent.

The summit’s last-minute move to Madrid initially left Thunberg stranded because of her unconventional transportation choice: She refuses to travel by plane to avoid contributing to a heavy carbon footprint. 

But she announced in a tweet on Tuesday that she’d found a ride aboard a sailboat with Riley Whitlum and Elayna Carausu, an Australian couple and their toddler who post about their travels on YouTube. Nikki Henderson, a British professional sailor, will also join the voyage. The group will be traveling on La Vagabonde, a 48-foot sailing catamaran.

“We sail for home!” Thunberg tweeted Wednesday morning.

“So happy to say I’ll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid,” she wrote.

The boat has a carbon-neutral footprint as it’s powered by solar panels and hydro-generators. By comparison, a roundtrip flight from New York to Madrid generates about 848 kg of CO2 emissions, according to an estimate by the German nonprofit Atmosfair. There are 53 countries where the average person produces less CO2 than that in an entire year.

In an interview with The New York Times Tuesday, Thunberg said she chose to sail “to highlight the fact that you can’t live sustainably in today’s society.”

The Times also reported that the trip will take about three weeks, so Thunberg should arrive in Madrid just in time for COP25 on December 2. 

The Swedish teenager arrived in the U.S. in August after sailing across the Atlantic aboard a zero-carbon yacht to attend climate meetings as part of the United Nations General Assembly — a decision that helped focus the world’s attention on the urgent issue of climate change

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Senators on climate change: “We look a bit like Neanderthals”

With most Americans now viewing climate change as a major threat, a group of senators announced the first bipartisan climate caucus to address the crisis. But the senators are short on specifics and seem to be taking small steps toward action, CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney is one of four Republicans, three Democrats and one Independent who just joined the caucus. “We look a bit like Neanderthals,” he said. “It’s real. We’ve got to take action.” 

The caucus is the brainchild of Delaware Democrat Chris Coons and Indiana Republican Mike Braun. “My expectation is that we will start by listening,” Coons said.
 
“I’ve got four kids,” Braun said. “I took a poll among them, ‘What do you think about this idea?’ They love it.”
 
It’s a departure from the climate science skepticism the GOP has embraced in recent years. “There are still some Republican senators who think that cold winter weather is a sign that the climate isn’t changing,” Cordes said to the senators, referring to a common but mistaken assumption

“Science is more and more clear, and I think people will either be convinced or not as time goes on,” Romney said.

“I think many probably just were not willing to say it,” said Braun. “To me, it’s chemistry and physics, and I’m not going to deny that.”
 
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen can already see the impacts of climate change in her home state of New Hampshire. “Our ski industry is affected, our snowmobiling, our maple-surgaring industry. So many things that people can see,” she said.

Coons also said he has seen changes in his state. “It’s striking, in Delaware, just how much it’s impacting everything, from sports fishing, commercial fishing,” he said.

The caucus’ first move will be a meeting with CEOs, some of whom are pushing for a carbon tax. But the group will not commit to anything yet. 
 
“If we go there right away, I think we’ll probably be doing the whole thing a disservice,” Braun said.

“Do you have to cap, or at the very least discourage emissions, in order to make a difference?” Cordes asked.

“Oh, I’m not going to say any ‘have to’ with regards to climate. I think all the ideas will be on the table,” Romney said.

Maine Senator Angus King said strength in numbers will help. “My philosophy is, let’s take small steps, find some things we can succeed on,” he said. 

Scientists insist there’s an urgency to act now, with millions at risk from rising temperatures and sea levels. And with the crisis threatening to cut the U.S. economy up to 10% by century’s end, these senators hope Congress can catch up.

“I do believe that old saying is true, which is, when they feel the heat, they’ll see the light,” Romney said. “People who might otherwise be more inclined to slow things down are going to say, ‘We’ve got to respond.'”

The group wants to introduce legislation by next year, but they have a challenge in winning over the Trump White House, which just began the process of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords this week and has rolled back dozens of environmental rules in the past three years.

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Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg at U.N.: “How dare you!”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, where she scolded world leaders for failing to address climate change. The 16-year-old has become one of the leading voices for a generation confronting the consequences of a warmer planet.

“People are suffering. People are dying and dying ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” she said Monday, as she fought back tears. “How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

Thunberg recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the start of her climate change movement. Last August, she began striking by herself outside the Swedish parliament, and soon, students around the world began walking out of school, demanding action from their governments. She’s been called “the voice of the planet,” and has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” said Thunberg, whose lone protest culminated in Friday’s global climate strikes. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you.” 

She told the U.N. that even the strictest emission cuts being talked about only gives the world a 50% chance of limiting future warming to another 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) from now, which is a global goal. Those odds are not good enough, she said.

“We will not let you get away with this,” Thunberg said. “Right now is where we draw the line.”

Environmentalists have grown increasingly alarmed over warming trends that have exceeded scientists’ models. For instance, a climate study in January showed the world’s oceans are warming significantly faster than previously thought. Since 1970, the ocean has warmed 40% more than previous estimates.

The U.N. noted on its website that global emissions “are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking,” and that the last four years were the the hottest recorded.” And that change, the U.N. said, is beginning to have a “life-threatening impact” as it brings more air pollution, heatwaves and greater risk to food security. 

UN General Assembly Climate Action Summit
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. AP

An emotional Thunberg sat in front of the General Assembly and plainly told those in attendance, “You have stolen my dreams.”

“How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe.” 

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200 reindeer starved to death in Norway due to climate change

More than 200 reindeer carcasses have been found in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard this year, and researchers are blaming climate change. According to scientists in the region, the reindeer starved to death due to a particularly harsh winter. 

Scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), Norway’s government institution for research and environmental management, spent 10 weeks investigating the population. They said a rainy season early last winter led to more reindeer deaths than usual, because when winter rain turns to ice, reindeer are unable to dig for food. 

A relatively large number of calves were born last year, which only made matters worse. “The animals starve and can die and it is the youngest and weakest animals that succumb first,” the institute said. 

NPI has been mapping wild reindeer on Svalbard, a collection of Norwegian islands just 800 miles from the North Pole, since 1978. “Never before have they seen so many carcasses at once,” Norway public broadcaster NRK said.

Scientists fear the reindeer deaths are just another sign of rapid climate change in the region. “It is scary to find so many dead animals,” researcher Åshild Ønvik Pedersen told NRK. “This is a terrifying example of how climate change affects nature.” 

It is not uncommon for reindeer to die of starvation in the winter. But the number of deaths and food shortages are alarming. “Some of the mortality is natural because there were so many calves last year,” Pedersen said. “But the large number we see now is due to heavy rainfall, which is due to global warming.” 

Reindeer can dig through snow for food, but not ice. So, during a typical snowy season, most of the reindeer population does not suffer. But a milder climate has led to more rain than snow, followed by more ice and less access to food, Pedersen said

According to NPI, Svalbard has been disproportionally affected by climate change, which has had major consequences for animals native to the region. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Arctic Report Card for 2018, the region has been warming at twice the rate as the rest of the planet in recent years.

And climate change isn’t the only threat to Norway’s reindeer population. In 2017, freight trains killed more than 100 reindeer in the Helgeland region over a three day period. In 2016, more than 300 wild reindeer were killed by lightning in central Norway.

After being severely depleted by hunting in the early 20th century, the population of reindeer in Norway has significantly recovered since becoming a protected species in 1925. But climate change threatens to reverse the work that has been done. 

Reindeer can be found in almost all non-glaciated areas of the archipelago, according to NPI. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Arctic Report Card for 2018, caribou and reindeer populations have declined 56 percent over the last two decades.

NPI estimates the population of Svalbard reindeer to be somewhere between 400-1,200, while the total reindeer population for all of Norway is estimated to be around 220,000.

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Al Gore says Trump administration seeks to “bury” climate report by releasing it on Black Friday

NEW YORK — Environmental groups and activists blasted the White House this week, saying it was trying to “bury” a long-awaited government report on climate change by releasing it on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Among those who spoke out was former Vice President Al Gore, who became the face of the climate debate with the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts — and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis,” Gore said in a statement Friday. “The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”  

The National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law, was written by outside scientists and officials from 13 federal agencies. It says Earth’s climate is now changing faster than ever, primarily as a result of human activities. It also warns that extreme weather and climate-related events, like wildfires and hurricanes, are worsening in the U.S.   

Releasing information on a Friday afternoon or around a holiday is widely seen as a way to minimize the amount of attention it might get.

The report was long scheduled for release in December, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Wednesday — the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday — that it would be released on Black Friday, widely regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It was unclear why the date was moved up.

“It’s an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms,” National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Collin O’Mara said in a statement.

Study co-author Andrew Light, an international policy expert at the World Resources Institute, told The Associated Press that releasing the report on Black Friday “is a transparent attempt by the Trump Administration to bury this report and continue the campaign of not only denying but suppressing the best of climate science.”

Deputy weather editor Angela Fritz of The Washington Post, David Doniger, senior climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and environmental social scientist Philip Loring were also critical of the report’s timing.

The report is the second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment or NCA4, which NOAA said is designed to be “an authoritative assessment of the impacts of climate change on the U.S. and its territories, and was written to help decision-makers, utility and resource managers, public health officials, emergency planners, and other stakeholders better understand the effects of climate change on the United States.” 

Volume I of the assessment, which concluded that it was “extremely likely” that climate change has been caused by humans, was released last November.

The newly released report frequently contradicts President Donald Trump. The Trump administration and many elected Republicans have frequently said they can’t tell how much of climate change is caused by humans and how much is natural. 

Mr. Trump announced last year his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement, which requires countries to establish ambitious targets to reduce the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming. 

Last month on “60 Minutes,” Lesley Stahl asked Mr. Trump if he still thought climate change was a hoax, as he asserted in 2012.

“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” Mr. Trump told Stahl. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade,” Mr. Trump said. 

“I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

As millions of Americans braced for record-breaking cold temperatures on Thanksgiving, the president tweeted: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

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