Antarctica: ...and still it melts

President Trump announced his decision June 1 to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate, signed by 195 nations and formally joined by 147, including the US. The United States now joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world not supporting the accord. Nicaragua, it should be noted, failed to join because the terms of the accord are not binding, and it was therefore considered too weak. Syria is consumed by internal war, and was iced from the negotiations by restrictions on its envoys traveling to the talks. The agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, came into force on Nov. 4, 2016, just days before Trump was elected. Each country sets its own commitments under the accord. The United States, second-largest emitter on the planet after China, had committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. It also commited up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries to address climate change by 2020. (ENS, June 2; NYT, June 1; WP, May 31)

Paris: police suppress climate protests

Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)

Polar Vortex: Yes, it's global warming!

The much-hyped "Polar Vortex" that plunged much of North America into dangerously low temperatures is giving the climate change denialist crowd an opportunity to gloat—and, typically, display their ignorance. Bloomberg on Jan. 7 presented a sneering Tweet from Donald Trump dismissing global warming as "bullshit" because the "planet is freezing." But the Bloomberg account, as well as a video on the Greenpeace Blog, quotes Rutgers University climate researcher Jennifer Francis explaining how the Vortex was likely unleashed by—yup, global warming! It seems that the Jet Stream, which normally serves as a boundary separating cold air to the north from warm air to the south, is being destabilized; receding arctic sea ice lessens the temperature difference either side of the Stream, thereby slowing its velocity and causing large loops and meanders to form, and even for it to get "stuck." When this happens, North America and Europe are going either into extreme heat or extreme cold, depending on where the jet gets jammed. Recent record-breaking highs in Chicago and Fairbanks, as well as shriveling heat waves across the Great Plains, may have been caused by the same phenomenon now sending the mercury plunging in the Midwest and Northeast.

Falklands fracas flares amid Antarctic anxieties

Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Jan. 3 issued an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, published as a paid advertisement in British dailies, urging the UK, a "colonial power," to abide by a UN resolution to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations" and return the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to Argentina. In The Telegraph, Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher, responded by charging the letter is "stuffed full of falsehoods and has no regard for reality." Gardiner asserts: "The Falklands are not a colony, but a self-governing British Overseas Territory." (The Guardian, Jan. 3)

King crabs invade Antarctica: no joke

Grist notes a Dec. 12 report on Nature:

Cold temperatures have kept crabs out of Antarctic seas for 30 million years. But warm water from the ocean depths is now intruding onto the continental shelf, and seems to be changing the delicate ecological balance. An analysis by [marine ecologist Craig] Smith and his colleagues suggests that 1.5 million crabs already inhabit Palmer Deep, [a] sea-floor valley… And native organisms have few ways of defending themselves. "There are no hard-shell-crushing predators in Antarctica," says Smith. "When these come in they’re going to wipe out a whole bunch of endemic species."

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