We’ve been reading a lot about electric cars lately, for good reason. But that made me wonder: What does the future look like for billions of people around the world who can’t afford to buy an electric car — or a car period?
I started making calls. I learned that cities on every continent are wrestling with this question. Some of them are even wrestling with the tough political question of whether so much of their public space should be devoted to cars at all.
This is important now because cities, where more than half of humanity lives today, produce more than two-thirds of the world’s greenhouse gases. Transportation accounts for a very large share of that, sometimes the largest share. So, to slow climate change, cities have to quickly shift from fossil fuels, which produce those greenhouse gases, especially in the transportation sector.
I also learned that many cities, rich and not-so-rich, big and small, are turning to a relatively simple solution: They’re plugging in their public transit.
Berlin is reviving electric tram lines that were ripped out when the Berlin Wall went up. Bogotá, the Colombian capital, is building cable cars that cut through the clouds to connect working-class communities perched on faraway hills. Bergen, a city by the fjords in western Norway, is moving its public ferries away from diesel and onto batteries.
On the menu of things that can address climate change, this is a low hanging fruit. It’s a way to cut a big share of emissions. And it has the added benefit of making even cities cleaner and quieter.
You can read the full article here.
A physics Nobel for climate research
Three scientists shared the Nobel Prize in Physics this week for work studying humanity’s role in climate change. Their discoveries “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the committee said.
Mapping the California oil spill
Satellites have emerged in the past few years as a valuable tool in climate: They can spot large leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites. They can also track deforestation. And, since 2018, NOAA has issued reports on oil slicks in United States waters based on satellite images.
We used those reports to map the recent oil spill off California’s coast, caused by a pipeline failure that released at least 126,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. We also mapped California’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure, all of it installed decades ago.
If you take a look at our article, you can see where the old platforms and pipelines are, and how tides carried the slick closer to the coastline.
Quotable: “When you’re talking about platforms that have been in place for 30 or 40 years, there’s going to be wear and tear,” said John B. Smith, a former official in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “Over time, the risk of spills goes up.”
Climate change is devastating coral reefs
Anyone who has snorkeled over a coral reef knows their otherworldly allure. They are like underwater fish cities, teeming with life. Reefs support a whopping 25 percent of all marine species. In doing so, they support hundreds of millions of humans, too.
But coral reefs are one of the ecosystems most at risk from climate change. Too much heat can stress corals, causing them to expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. This is called bleaching, because the algae give corals their color. Corals can recover over time if conditions improve, but climate change is making conditions worse.
Every so often, an international coalition of scientists have analyzed the state of the world’s coral. Their latest report, released Monday, was the first in 13 years. The main takeaway: The world lost about 14 percent of its coral reefs in the decade after 2009.
Quotable: “Coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine telling us how quickly it can go wrong,” said David Obura, one of the report’s editors.
Organizing a huge international climate summit is always difficult. Holding one in the midst of a global pandemic is an even bigger challenge.
As I reported this week with my colleague Somini Sengupta, that’s exactly what’s happening in less than a month. Starting on Oct. 31, about 20,000 people from all over the world are expected to gather in Glasgow for United Nations climate talks.
But as the coronavirus pandemic drags on with new variants, people from some of the most vulnerable countries in the world still don’t have access to vaccines. That means U.N. officials and the British government are still struggling to ensure a safe two-week conference.
Here are some key points about safety measures for the meeting, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26.
Delegates are not required to be vaccinated. The United Nations does not require it and British officials have said there is no way to validate vaccine cards.
The British government has promised to help get a vaccine for any delegate who wants one.
Anyone attending COP26 will be required to show a daily negative Covid-19 test. The tests will be provided, but organizers are not yet sure how they will be distributed.
Those coming from countries that Britain has placed on its “red list” because of high infection rates must quarantine upon arrival for either five or 10 days, depending on vaccination status.
The difficulties have caused some to question whether these huge in-person conferences are really better than online meetings. Richard J.T. Klein, a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said it’s a question worth considering, even after the pandemic ends.
“Even if we all can meet again in person,” he said, “I think a question that we should ask ourselves is, ‘Do we want to meet again with 30,000 people in one place?’”
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The Cities Reinventing Public Transit – The New York Times