THE LIGHTBULB

The United Nations is out with a report that paints a grim picture of what needs to happen to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Only with drastic and rapid action can world leaders avoid widespread and disastrous impacts of warming, according to findings out this morning from the United Nations. That means unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — and fast, The Post’s Brady Dennis reports.

The report “offers a grim assessment of how off-track the world remains. Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, according to the United Nations’ annual ‘emissions gap’ report, which assesses the difference between the world’s current path and the changes needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord,” Dennis writes. “As part of that deal, world leaders agreed to hold warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels; the current trajectory is nearly twice that.”

Here’s what would need to happen: Beginning in 2020, global greenhouse gas emissions need to begin dropping by 7.6 percent each year to meet the most ambitious targets from the Paris accord. Dennis writes: "To hold warming to 'well below' 2 degrees Celsius, the authors found that countries would need to triple the ambition of their current promises. To hit the more ambitious target of no more than 1.5 degrees of warming, they found, nations would need to ramp up their pledges fivefold." 

"Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical,” the report says. “Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.”

But: The rate of emissions cuts outlined in the report seems far out of reach. The report’s authors “acknowledged that the findings are ‘bleak.’ After all, the world has never demonstrated the ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions on such a scale.” And the United States isn't helping: President Trump withdrew the country from the 2015 Paris accord and his actions seem to have given a green light to other nations to be less ambitious in their climate change policies.

Here’s where we are now: “Global emissions have risen about 1.5 percent annually on average over the past decade. In the coming decade, that trend must reverse — profoundly and rapidly — if world leaders are to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) or even 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial levels, scientists say. The world already has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius.” A Post analysis this year found about 20 percent of the planet has already warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

What experts are saying: "Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, in a statement announcing the findings. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.” Niklas Höhne, a German climatologist and founding partner of NewClimate Institute told The Post: “We are not a little bit off, we are far off from where we should be … The longer action is delayed, the higher cuts will be required. We cannot wait another 10 years.”

What’s next: “Next month at the annual U.N. climate conference in Spain, representatives from countries around the world will face pressure to ramp up their ambition — not just their rhetoric — over the coming year. So far, only a handful of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters have policies in place to meet the promises they made in Paris four years ago, much less more aggressive strategies ‘for transformative climate commitments at the breadth and scale necessary,’ Tuesday’s report says.”

Read the full story from Brady Dennis, with help from Juliet Eilperin, here:

Climate and Environment
The world has squandered so much time mustering the action necessary to combat climate change that rapid, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions offer the only hope of averting an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences, according to new findings from the United Nations.
Brady Dennis

POWER PLAYS

— SCOTUS won't hear case involving climate scientist's lawsuit: The high court declined to intervene in a case involving a climate scientist who sued a conservative magazine and a libertarian Washington think tank for defamation. “The National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute had asked the court to review a decision by local District of Columbia courts that said the lawsuit by Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann could continue,” The Post’s Robert Barnes reports. " … Mann is an internationally recognized expert on climate change and has published work that blamed human activity for global warning. The work was criticized by some scientists, but an investigation by Penn State cleared him of any wrongdoing. That did not stop the criticism." 

  • What the conservative outlets said: In a blog post, the think tank wrote Penn State “covered up wrongdoing” by Mann, calling him the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” because he had “molested and tortured data in service of politicized science.” In a post on the Corner, a blog hosted by National Review Online, Mark Steyn said Mann was “behind the fraudulent climate-change” study and the investigation that cleared him was a coverup.
  • What SCOTUS said: The court rejected the request for review without comment, but Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a dissent, saying the case “presents questions that go to the very heart of the guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” Alito added: “A journalist who prevails after trial in a defamation case will still have been required to shoulder all the burdens of difficult litigation and may be faced with hefty attorney’s fees. Those prospects may deter the uninhibited expression of views that would contribute to healthy public debate."

— Why evangelicals like Rick Perry believe Trump is God’s "chosen one": In an interview with Fox News, the Energy secretary praised the president as the "chosen one." The Post's Eugene Scott writes that while the declaration received some pushback from Christians and others, "Perry’s take on Trump and God is not uncommon among the white conservative evangelicals who approve of the president’s job performance at rates higher than most other groups. Other religious leaders have said similar things...The idea is rooted in several narratives (including those that Perr mentioned) and verses from the Bible that teach that leaders are in place because God has allowed them to be." 

:Meanwhile, Perry prepares to leave the White House: The Energy Secretary tweeted he had completed his final duties in the Trump administration.

— EPA considering action on PFAS: The Environmental Protection Agency may add PFAS, a dangerous class of chemicals commonly used in products such as nonstick cookware, to a list of chemicals that some companies must report. The agency announced it’s asking for public input on a proposal to add certain chemicals to the “list of chemicals companies are required to report to the agency as part of the Toxics Release Inventory.”

  • The details: The proposal "would also require manufacturers who use PFAS to report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment,” the Hill reports. “…The early-stage proposal does not set a limit for what would require municipalities and manufacturers to start reporting on PFAS, instead asking them to weigh in on what level is appropriate. The agency did say, however, that it was weighing setting that number lower than the usual threshold."

— Markey bill would use anti-corruption law to target climate abuses: Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is proposing legislation to target foreign companies and individuals for “egregious behaviors” that undermine efforts to combat climate change. The proposal from the Green New Deal co-author “gives the White House additional authority to cut off access to U.S. financial institutions or block visa requests and compels the president to ‘prioritize action against, and deterrence of, egregious behaviors that undermine efforts’ to prevent catastrophic global warming,” HuffPost reports, citing a draft of the bill. 

  • The details: “The 19-page legislation proposes extending the Global Magnitsky Act, the powerful 2012 anti-corruption law used to sanction Russia and North Korea, to cover a broad range of so-called climate abuses, including the destruction of critical rainforests and the construction of heavily polluting new coal plants,” per the report. The bill, among other efforts, would require the United States to provide $3 billion to the United Nations to help poor countries move away from coal plants and toward clean infrastructure.

THERMOMETER

— Generational divides on climate change: About a third of Millennial and Generation Z voters who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning say they believe humans contribute to climate change, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. The survey also found 47 percent of the same group, who are currently ages 18 to 38, say they see some impacts of climate change where they live. That’s compared with 14 percent of baby boomer or older generations of Republicans who say human activity contributes to climate change. It also found 32 percent of that age group says they see at least some effects of global warming in their communities.

— The big business of weather: As extreme weather and the changing climate increase how much weather events cost the economy, it has in part pushed more companies and start-ups to join the business of weather forecasting. A 2017 National Weather Service study found private weather forecasting is a $7 billion and growing industry — a trend that's testing the government’s hold over weather data and warnings, The Post’s Andrew Freedman reports.

  • Why this matters: “Until recently, AccuWeather, Earth Networks, the Weather Co. and other private weather providers relied on the fire hose of data from NOAA’s National Weather Service and satellite arm, as well as NASA and other agencies. Now companies are producing their own data and using analytics in business-savvy ways, tailoring their forecasts to specific real-world problems,” Freedman writes. “With the ability to launch satellites and supercomputers and to harvest data from semiautonomous vehicles and wearables, the new arrivals are leapfrogging the information-gathering capabilities of federal agencies.”

DAYBOOK

Coming Up

  • The Environmental and Energy Study Institute holds a briefing on resilience along the West Coast on Dec. 4.

EXTRA MILEAGE

— A brief history of turkey pardons, a decades-old presidential tradition: