Daily PlanetWatch for Friday, August 2

Thomas Schueneman

Thinking about the latest environmental news headlines every weekday afternoon from the Daily PlanetWatch
  • Slushy Greenland. The mass of hot air that broiled Europe in late July is now settling over Greenland. For the second time this season, extreme temperatures are causing significant melting of Greenland's ice sheet. By Tuesday, half of the island's ice sheet had turned to slush. The situation is made worse by a mild and dry winter, making the ice sheet even more vulnerable to abnormally hot temperatures over Greenland and the entire Arctic.

    The current extent of the ice melt rivals that of 2012, when 97 percent of Greenland's surface ice sheet experienced ice melt. Across the rest of the Arctic, similar conditions leave large swaths of the region on fire. The European Commission's Atmospheric Monitoring Service describes Arctic wildfire this summer as "unprecedented". In June, fires in the Arctic emitted 50 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere, equivalent to a full year of Sweden's emissions. In general, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. 
  • American cities get their act together. Well, sort of.  When it comes to adoption of clean energy, don't look to the federal government for leadership (we all knew that). Look instead to subnational entities across the country, cities and states determined to start the long, hard path to a new energy economy. 

    City Lab reports on progress of cities from Boston and Washington, DC, to San Francisco and Seattle putting in place clean energy policies and goals. Across the country, results are mixed, even among the most ambitious cities. 48 cities have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only 11 of those are on track to meeting those goals. 

    The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) publishes and annual Clean Energy Scorecard. Boston remains in first place, with other cities in the top ten including San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Portland, and Washington, DC. Cities ranked lowest include Newark, Jacksonville, Charlotte, and Tulsa. 
  • If not existential risk, how about financial risk? From nearly all quarters of the financial sector, the growing concern of the financial risk of unabated climate change is palpable. Adam Tooze, a history professor at Columbia University and author of the book Crashed about the 2008 Great Recession says the Federal Reserve must act as it did then to address this new risk of economic collapse caused by climate collapse. 

    In Crashed, Tooze writes that the Fed was the "pivotal American institution in stopping a second Great Depression". 

    “If the world is to cope with climate change, policymakers will need to pull every lever at their disposal,” Tooze writes in a recent article in Foreign Policy. “Faced with this threat, to indulge in the idea that central banks, as key agencies of the state, can limit themselves to worrying about financial stability … is its own form of denial.”
    As the saying goes, "It's about the economy, stupid". 

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