October 8, 2020


Prince William, left, and the British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough in Davos, Switzerland, in 2019. Mr. Attenborough is one of the high-profile figures behind the prize.Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prince William Announces New Prize Aimed at ‘Repairing’ the Planet. Prince William on Thursday announced the establishment of an environmental prize worth 50 million pounds, or $65 million, that will reward climate change solutions over the next 10 years, saying it was an effort to “turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism.” “We have to have a decade of change, a decade of repairing the planet so we can hand it on to the next generation and future generations,” Prince William said, adding that he didn’t want to “let down” his children by not acting. The prize joins a long list of distinctions aimed at rewarding initiatives to tackle climate change. The prize comes amid growing concerns over climate change worldwide. Droughts have intensified in regions like the Middle East and Africa, and many areas keep registering their hottest months on record — September was just the latest example. Wildfires and heat waves are expected to increase, and rising sea levels are set to affect hundreds of millions across the world as experts predict that by 2050, the Arctic’s ice could melt entirely in the summer. Scientists have also predicted that global warming could trigger the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen, and warned that it might be too late to reverse the course of climate change. Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, promised to donate $500 million last year to close every coal-fired power plant in the United States. Prince William launched the prize through the Royal Foundation, which supports charitable initiatives engaged in by him and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. It will be supported by a network of donors that include the Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Jack Ma Foundation, among others. The prize joins a long list of distinctions aimed at rewarding initiatives to tackle climate change – The New York Times

  • New Delhi Introduces Campaign to Curb Air Pollution Ahead of Winter – The New York Times
  • Rooftop farming takes off in Singapore – Bangkok Post 
  • RBC becomes first major Canadian bank to refuse to fund oil drilling in Arctic refuge – The Narwhal
  • Activists try to stop autobahn being built through German forest – The Guardian 
  • Cities That Were Poised to Absorb Climate Migrants Face a New Challenge – Bloomberg CityLab
  • Venezuela, Once an Oil Giant, Reaches the End of an Era – The New York Times
  • Powering all UK homes via offshore wind by 2030 ‘will need £50bn’ – The Guardian
Electric taxis in Henan. ‘China is home to nearly half the world’s passenger electric vehicles, 98% of its electric buses, and 99% of its electric two-wheelers.’ Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

What China’s plan for net-zero emissions by 2060 means for the climate.  Perhaps the most important news of 2020 that you may have missed that China has stepped up on its own as a climate leader. On 22 September, President Xi Jinping announced in a video address to the UN general assembly that China would aim to become “carbon neutral” before 2060 – Beijing’s first long-term target. China is currently responsible for 28% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than the United States and the European Union combined. As a practical matter, becoming “carbon neutral” means that China will have to reduce its carbon emissions by as much as 90%.  If successful, this effort alone will shave around 0.2C to 0.3C from global warming projections, making Xi’s pledge the world’s single largest climate commitment to date. China burns half the world’s coal and is still building new coal power plants, though they are increasingly uneconomic and unnecessary.  But here’s the paradox: it also leads the world in the very clean technologies that make Xi’s plans feasible. China is by far the largest investor, producer, and consumer of renewable energy. One out of every three solar panels and wind turbines in the world are in China. It is also home to nearly half the world’s electric passenger vehicles, 98% of its electric buses and 99% of its electric two-wheelers. The country leads in the production of batteries to power electric vehicles and store renewable energy on power grids. To reach carbon neutrality, China will need to rapidly accelerate all that it has done so far. It must double its annual investment in solar and triple or quadruple its investment in wind. It will also need to channel enormous efforts toward developing the next generation of expensive but potentially transformative technologies such as green hydrogen, energy storage and offshore wind. Can we trust these ambitious promises? Most certainly. China has a track record of underpromising and overdelivering on its climate commitments. China’s central government has some built-in advantages over the EU and US. It has the capacity for long-term industrial planning, backed by massive investments and supportive policies. It can, and will, direct every provincial governor and city mayor to develop their own long-term climate plans – The Guardian 

Melissa, left, and Bear LeVangie.

New England’s Forests Are Sick. They Need More Tree Doctors. Climate change is taking a toll on woodlands in the Northeast. As climate change accelerates, the trees in the Eastern forests of the United States are increasingly vulnerable. For many arborists ( tree doctors) the challenges facing trees are reshaping and expanding the nature of their work. Many said they are spending more time on tree removal than ever before — taking down dead or unhealthy trees, or trees damaged or felled by storms. “We are a heavily treed state,” said Kristina Bezanson, an arborist who lives and lectures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “We are having more tree problems that require lots of arborists, and there is a shortage of arborists.” Many New England towns are verdant, and the area is roughly 75 percent forest. To the untrained eye, it looks good: lots of green. Not to the trained eye. Many species — including ash, oak, maple, hemlock, elm, and white pine — have their own particular pest or disease threatening them. And there are more pests and diseases on the horizon. Many trees are also stressed by bouts of drought or intense rain, by rising temperatures and changing season length, by extreme weather — by all the various manifestations of climate change. You already see so many young maples with red and yellow leaves. “People look at that and say ‘Oh look, fall is coming early, it is going to be a colorful fall!’ No. This is happening early because the trees are very stressed out,” said Bear LeVangie, who works for Eversource, traveling a circuit of 35 towns in Connecticut, overseeing trimming and pruning crews and looking for “hazard trees,” including those that are dead or dying. Her twin sister, Mellisa,  who works for Shelter Tree, a tree care supply company, is also a tree warden, or caretaker, for the town of Petersham in central Massachusetts. More arborists are incorporating climate change into their decisions. “We are seeing things on the horizon that are very disconcerting, very unnerving,” said Mr. Ron Yaple of Race Mountain Tree Services in Sheffield, Mass.  “So when people ask us to recommend tree plantings, we suggest that people plant trees that are very happy in the Mid-Atlantic states.” Many experts, from arborists working with individual trees to foresters working with vast woodlands, are increasingly managing for diversity. “If you have 12 species of trees in one forest and now the ash is dying, that is terrible, but at least you have 11 other species,” said Michael Mauri, a consulting forester based in South Deerfield, Mass. “Protecting and maintaining diverse species is kind of our best defense against all the stuff, known and unknown, that is going to be visited upon us”- The New York Times