US President Barrack Obama delivered the final State of the Union address of his presidency this week. “He’s brought up climate change in each of his State of the Union addresses, but on Tuesday President Obama went bigger than ever, flagging the subject in his opening remarks and laying down a nearly 500-word defense of his efforts to address the issue,” MSNBC reported. “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it,” Obama said. “You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.” “The issue was a natural fit in a speech aimed not at shaping the year ahead, but at influencing “the next five years, 10 years, and beyond,” as the president said. Any day now, 2015 is expected to be officially declared the hottest year since humans started keeping track. But the most historic part of it may not be the heat but the fact that Obama actually pushed the countries of the world into doing something about it,” MSNBC said.
After a momentous year in 2015, culminating in the success of the #COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, the United Nations (UN) is back to work next week on mapping out next steps to deliver the agreement. The UN said in a statement: “Ministers, high-level representatives from the business sector and top UN and multilateral agency officials are gathering in Abu Dhabi for the first time after the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December to discuss the implications of the historic Paris Agreement. On 16-17 January, government officials from over 150 countries and representatives from the private sector, civil society and international organizations will convene for the 6th assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This year’s Assembly will focus on the critical role of renewable energy in combating climate change and meeting other Sustainable Development Goals.” Also on 18 January, Ms. Figueres will brief the press about the implications of COP 21 and the next steps to achieve ratification and full and effective implementation of the agreement.
New impacts of climate change are coming to the fore. UBS has released a study saying climate change means more fear and less fun for global middle class. Reuters reports on the UBS work saying the erosion of wealth among the world's middle class due to climate change is a threat to economic and social stability which could spur its 1 billion members to push for action on global warming. “In a study of middle-class consumption in 215 cities around the world, UBS analysts found spending priorities were noticeably different in cities most at risk from climate change such as Los Angeles, Tokyo and Shanghai. In those top-risk cities, the middle class spent between 0.6 and 0.8 percent more on housing compared to the national average, and less on luxuries, entertainment and durable goods. The report said middle-class households are already changing their lifestyles in the cities most exposed to hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather such as storms and floods.” UBS says Australia will be impacted, according to the Australian Financial Review. “Australians are facing depressed crop yields, mental health pressure and property damage from an increase in extreme weather brought about by climate change.”
There’s some good news on the solar front in Australia. Renew Economy reports Australia now hosts 1.5 million solar power systems. “That’s equivalent to 18% of Australian households owning a PV system. Queensland hosts the most solar power systems in the country, over 450,000 in total, representing 28% of households. South Australia has a similar proportion of dwellings with PV (30%).”
In the light of recent criticism in that it had walked away from action on climate change, the UK government this week signalled some new thinking on climate policy. Greening the transport sector will be a priority in the UK’s new climate strategy due at the end of 2016, climate and energy chief Amber Rudd told business leaders on Tuesday (as reported by Climate Change News). Progress in encouraging more people to use public transport and moving trains, cars and freight vehicles away from diesel and petrol has been “slow”, Rudd said. “The new plan – replacing a raft of policies binned to widespread anger in 2015 – will offer new approaches to boosting energy efficiency, cutting emissions in the industrial sector and greener heating systems,” the media outlet reported.
The New York Times report the global downturn in coal is continuing with US coal production falling to its lowest level in 30 years. “A report released Friday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 900 million short tons of coal were produced last year, a drop from about 1 billion short tons in 2014. That's the lowest volume since 1986. The slump has led to bankruptcies and layoffs at mining companies, but the effects have rippled outward, stressing state budgets and forcing layoffs in other sector such as railroads, which are transporting less coal. Power plants are increasingly relying on cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to provide electricity and comply with regulations aimed at reducing pollution that contributes to climate change,” the media outlet reported.
Conversely, solar in the US is reported to be creating more jobs than oil and gas extraction. Think Progress reports the solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy, over the last year, even more than the jobs created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined. The Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census Tuesday, and found that for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent in the United States. According to the census, the industry added 35,052 jobs, elevating its grand total to 208,859. That builds on the 31,000 jobs added the year before, and 23,600 added the year before that.
Finally, let’s do what so many other ‘great’ media organisations do, and conclude with a bit of showbiz celebrity gossip (and yes, this is a first for this digest). Think Progress reports climate activist Jerry Hall and climate super-denier Rupert Murdoch announced their impending nuptials in one of his many newspapers. Columnist Joe Romm opined: “I mean, we have the actress and model who had four children with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger (and who has argued “climate change is the biggest threat the world has ever seen”) getting engaged to the man Rolling Stone magazine labeled “The Disinformer” in a 2010 story naming the “The Climate Killers: 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb the climate catastrophe.” It will make for interesting pillow talk. Perish the thought.
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Picture courtesy of the White House: https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse/president-obama-s-2016-state-of-the-union-address-7c06300f9726#.ercswzghb