The talks have low-key ambitions even though a series of studies has highlighted rising greenhouse gas emissions. One projected a 2.6 percent rise for 2012, despite an economic slowdown.
Below follow some of the issues to be resolved this week.
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BEIJING, Feb 26 (Reuters) - China's environment ministry has vowed to 'harshly punish' factories and power plants that contributed to a hazardous smog which enveloped much of Northern China, official state media reported on Wednesday.
Investigations had found that some thermal power plants, cement and steel makers in the northern province of Hebei had failed to halt or curtail production during severely smoggy days despite government orders, state news agency Xinhua quoted the Ministry of Environmental Protection as saying.
The incessant storms and rainfall over the past two months have made this the wettest winter since records began in 1910. According to provisional figures from the Met Office, the UK received 486.8mm of rain between 1 December 2013 and 19 February 2014. This beat the previous record of 485.1mm of rain set in 1995.
PRISTINA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Kosovo started rationing water in and around its capital Pristina on Monday as it struggled with its worst shortages in at least three decades, officials said.
Unusually low levels of snowfall and rain had left reservoirs at worrying levels, said state water company Prishtina.
Under normal circumstances, the company pipes water to most houses in the area for 14 hours a day, generally cutting off supplies over night. That would now be reduced to 10 hours a day, said company spokeswoman Arjeta Mjeku.
SAO PAULO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Donor nations, rainforest-rich countries and multilateral institutions will have to spend tens of billions of dollars in the next few years to ensure that nations undergoing deforestation will have incentives to halt the practice, a report released on Monday said.
Without the money to buy forest-based emissions reductions, the mechanism known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) will be largely undermined, restricting incentives to keep trees standing, it said.
Deforestation is a major producer of heat-trapping gases in the world, accounting for around 15 percent of global emissions.
The number of tropical cyclones hitting Queensland and Western Australia has fallen to low levels not seen for more than 500 years, new research published in Nature shows.
But while that’s seemingly great news for people in cyclone-prone areas, our new research into Australia’s past cyclone records also highlights a serious risk.
Low-lying coastal areas such as Cairns, Townsville and Mackay in north Queensland have all been developed on the unproven assumption that the cyclone activity of the past 40 years will continue unchanged into the future.
The concern is that our new results closely matched several recent studies that have projected fewer – but increasingly intense – tropical cyclones for Australian region due to global climate change.
And if those projections prove to be right, we are taking a big gamble with existing homes, roads and offices, as well as threatening proposed developments.
Since the 1970s nighttime satellite images of the Earth from space have provided a striking illustration of the extent of artificial light. Meanwhile, growing awareness of adverse impacts of artificial light at night on scientific astronomy, human health, ecological processes and aesthetic enjoyment of the night sky has led to recognition of light pollution as a significant global environmental issue.
Links between economic activity, population growth and artificial light are well documented in rapidly developing regions. Applying a novel method to analysis of satellite images of European nighttime lights over 15 years, we show that while the continental trend is towards increasing brightness, some economically developed regions show more complex patterns with large areas decreasing in observed brightness over this period. This highlights that opportunities exist to constrain and even reduce the environmental impact of artificial light pollution while delivering cost and energy-saving benefits.
While the US reached 10 gigawatts of total installed solar PV last summer and should end 2013 a bit above that (official numbers aren't out yet), China has also had a very productive 2013 on the solar front.
Depending on the source, China has installed between 9.5 and 12 gigawatt of solar panels during the year alone (this is not a cumulative number). This is more than has ever been installed by any country in a single year, and it's also more than the cumulative total of all previous years in China.
BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Beijing's mayor pledged on Thursday to cut coal use by 2.6 million tonnes and set aside 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) to improve air quality this year as part of the city's "all-out effort" to tackle air pollution, state news agency Xinhua said.
The announcement by Wang Anshun came as the capital was blanketed in its worst smog in months. An index measuring PM2.5 particles, especially bad for health, reached 500 in much of the capital in the early hours.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a level above 300 hazardous.
California has seen its share of droughts, but -- at least in recent years -- it hasn't seen something like this.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last week, shorty after it was revealed that 2013 was the state's driest year in recorded history. San Francisco saw a low record-shattering 5.59 inches of rain (compared to the previous low record of 9 inches), while dry Los Angeles saw just 3.6 inches of precipitation in all of 2013.
To make matters worse, there isn't a drop of rain in sight. At the time of publication on January 24 -- when snow and freezing temperatures battered the rest of the country -- the forecast was a sunny 77 degrees in Los Angeles.
While those bundled and shivering on the East Coast might have little sympathy for the Golden State's January beach weather, take a look at what the drought has done to the water supply across the state:-
BEIJING, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The city of Beijing will ban the construction of new oil refining, steel, cement and thermal power plants as well as the expansion of existing projects, the local government said in its latest policy document aimed at tackling air pollution.
The document, published on the Beijing government's official website (www.bjrd.gov.cn) on Wednesday, said the ban would take effect from March.
The policy document, approved by the local legislature last week, also commits China's capital city to cut total emissions of PM 2.5, a key component of air pollution, by 5 percent this year.
Beijing was hit by weeks of hazardous smog last January, prompting the central government to pledge tough new measures to improve air quality throughout the country and head off public disquiet about the environmental costs of economic growth.
We all know that boreal forests sequester an incredible amount of carbon. But a new study published in the journal Science suggests something rather amazing:
It's not the accumulation of leaf litter that sequesters the most carbon, but rather tree roots and associated mycorrhizal fungi which live in and on tree roots. (These are the same amazing fungi which allow trees to communicate with each other.)
Inhabitat is showing photos of Stefano Boeri's wonderful Bosco Verticale, or vertical forest, being completed in Milan.
In 2011 it was the rendering that launched a thousand blog posts; the Financial Times called it "The most exciting new tower in the world."
It is a wonderful idea; like a tree planted in front of a house, they provide shade in summer, penetrating sunlight in winter, protection from wind, cleaning the air, producing oxygen and reducing noise pollution.
WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The world loses or wastes a staggering 25 percent to 33 percent of the food it produces for consumption, losses that can mean the difference between an adequate diet and malnutrition in many countries, the World Bank said in a report released on Thursday.
"The amount of food wasted and lost globally is shameful," said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank.
BEIJING, Feb 10 (Reuters) - China could grant its undersized environment ministry new powers over resources, possibly allowing it to veto future projects, and more muscle to punish polluters as part of a government shake-up to tackle decades of unchecked growth.
Sources with ties to the leadership told Reuters that the government was considering a sweeping reorganisation of cabinet ministries next month that will dissolve the Ministry of Land and Resources and transfer some powers to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), long regarded as too weak to punish law-breaking polluters.
If you've ever wondered how much global warming has raised local temperatures in your area or elsewhere on the globe, the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (UEA CRU) has just released a newinteractive Google Earth layer that will let you answer this question with ease. UEA CRU is one of the scientific organizations that compile temperature data from around the world. Their temperature dataset over land is called CRUTEM4, and is one of the most widely used records of the climate system.
The new Google Earth format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before. Users can drill down to see some 20,000 graphs – some of which show temperature records dating back to 1850.
2013 was the sixth warmest year since records began more than 160 years ago, tying with 2007, the UN's weather agency said on Wednesday.
The World Metereological Organisation analysed the three main global records of surface temperatures, from the UK's Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA in the US, and said last year was 0.5C above the 1961-1990 average.
2010 was the warmest year on record, and 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. Some parts of the globe were exceptionally hot in 2013, however – Australia experienced its warmest year ever.
This week sees the first meeting of a board of scientific experts set up to advise UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. In a modest way, it is a historic move — never before has the head of the United Nations had what amounts to a team of chief scientific advisers. Furthermore, the meeting in Berlin marks one of the first outward signs of a quiet international revolution that is building new bridges between science and policy.
Planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high of 35 billion tonnes in 2012 and are poised to grow by another billion tonnes this year, according to a new study.
Greater food system efficiency and curbs to the expansion of cropland are necessary to prevent the collapse of global ecosystems, says a report presented today (24 January) by the UN at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The report, by the UN Environment Programme’s science think tank the International Resource Panel (IRP), says that policymakers must break the link between greater resource consumption and human well-being.
In the world of conservation, Dr. William Laurance is a household name.
A crucial innovation in tropical conservation, Laurance believes, is planning better roads. Roads grant access to settlers and industry, leading to increased deforestation and displacement of resources. The movement of animals and water systems can also be disrupted by poorly planned road systems. But, according to Laurance, roads designed and placed with the whole landscape in mind have the potential to help the environment rather than further its destruction.
Oil-palm cultivation has wrecked habitats in South-East Asia. We must avoid a rerun if the crop takes off in its native Africa, says Curtis Abraham
The boom in South-East Asian oil-palm cultivation has hit a stumbling block owing to a diminishing supply of new agricultural land. This, combined with economic incentives such as cheap labour, attractive land acquisition terms and low taxes, has seen foreign agribusinesses converting large tracts of land in west and central Africa to grow oil palm.
We can safely assume that the high levels of deforestation, forest fragmentation and biodiversity loss that industrial oil-palm cultivation has caused in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Peruvian Amazon and Colombia will in time occur in Africa, too.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that globally, new acreage given over to oil-palm cultivation quadrupled between 1961 and 2007, when it reached 154,000 square kilometres. Much of this was in South-East Asia, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of the world's palm-oil production, but sub-Saharan Africa's contribution wasn't insignificant. According to a report published in 2012 by the environmental group Greenpeace, 26,000 square kilometres there have either come under oil palm in recent years or are earmarked for planting.
BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Pollution from China travels in large quantities across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, a new study has found, making environmental and health problems unexpected side effects of U.S. demand for cheap China-manufactured goods.
On some days, acid rain-inducing sulphate from burning of fossil fuels in China can account for as much as a quarter of sulphate pollution in the western United States, a team of Chinese and American researchers said in the report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit society of scholars.
No place on Earth is heating up faster than the Arctic, but just how fast has remained an open question due to large gaps in temperature data across the vast region.
Now, a recent study in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society finds that not only is the Arctic warming eight times faster than the rest of the planet, but failure to account for temperature gaps has led global datasets to underestimate the rise of temperatures worldwide.