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How to read the jargon at the Paris climate change talks

How to read the jargon at the Paris climate change talks
Maybe climate change tends to take a back seat because the talks themselves are a jargon-filled monstrosity of diplomatic protocol, which means no one — not even the diplomats themselves! — understands what’s happening half of the time. Here we are, closing out what’s quite possibly the warmest year since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, with our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide at record levels and emissions still rising. But, alas, the most interesting drama and diplomatic wrangling are buried in a sea of legalese and acronyms. Case in point: Peru’s environment minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal — a key figure in recent years at international climate negotiations — recently tweeted a link to a document designed to provide a more-or-less official guide to the Paris talks. It’s titled: “Scenario note on the twelfth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.” Among the major sticking points: Some other key players to watch:

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Soft drink tax war to bubble up in cities across the U.S. There’s something even more polarizing than whether to call soft drinks pop, soda, or coke: the debate over taxing them. Depending on the results of next year’s elections, your city government might turn your soft drink sugar rush into a source of tax income. Politico has the scoop on the plan to bring these tax initiatives to the polling booth: Public health advocates, flush from victories in Mexico and Berkeley, Calif., are plotting to bring voter referendums and legislation to tax soda in as many as a dozen U.S. cities in 2016. It’s all part of an international strategy backed by billionaires in New York and Texas, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to reduce consumption of sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks in the fight against spiraling rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.

The Koala in the Coal Mine GUNNEDAH, Australia—Scrambling up a rock-strewn hill, I crane my neck and scan a row of trees for koalas. Truth be told, I’ve never been all that good at spotting koalas in the wild. The cartoon-cute marsupial may be one of the world’s most recognizable animals, but try finding one silently snoozing 40 feet off the ground in a leafy eucalyptus tree among hundreds scattered across this former farm in the Liverpool Plains, a fertile agriculture district 250 miles northwest of Sydney. A Carbon Tax for Steak May Be the Best Way to Get People to Eat Less Meat From renewable energy to carbon sequestration to cap and trade, a lot of different ideas for arresting the change under way in the climate are going to be discussed at the upcoming international climate talks in Paris. There is, however, one carbon-producing issue that the international group would appear to deem somewhat marginal—only 21 out of 120 national plans included it in their reduction goals—but that could lead to significant cuts in emissions: meat consumption. The problem is, achieving those reductions would require a huge upending of deep-seated habits and cultural norms the world over. The meat industry accounts for 15 percent of emissions globally—equal to the amount of greenhouse gases generated by the world’s cars.

Gates, Zuckerberg and Other Tech Titans Team Up to Push Clean Energy Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and several other of the world's wealthiest tech and business titans are banding together to fight climate change by investing billions in clean-energy research and technologies. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition was announced ahead of the opening day Monday of the U.N.-organized climate talks outside Paris.

Failing phytoplankton, failing oxygen: Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester. A study led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leicester's Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world's oceans of around six degrees Celsius -- which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 -- could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis. Professor Petrovskii explained: "Global warming has been a focus of attention of science and politics for about two decades now. A lot has been said about its expected disastrous consequences; perhaps the most notorious is the global flooding that may result from melting of Antarctic ice if the warming exceeds a few degrees compared to the pre-industrial level.

Why real estate needs Tesla-style buildings, used 'Uber-style' While the financial industry is still reeling from recent stock market gyrations, it is tempting to forget about long-term issues, such as extreme weather events, the rising sea levels and demographic change. It’s short-termism versus long-term thinking in its purest form. And it’s human. Microsoft buys carbon credits in forest near Rainier to offset pollution Microsoft bought carbon credits certified by a California regulatory program that will preserve 520 acres of forest near Mount Rainier. Washington has no such tool to fight carbon pollution. Lush and lofty, the big trees in a 520-acre forest gracing the vista of Mount Rainier are now doing double duty, in the first-ever carbon-capture program of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Microsoft bought the carbon credits in this forest under California’s rigorously verified cap-and-trade program. Washington has no such program.

Amazon, data center turn hot idea into cool technology Saving millions of kilowatt-hours a year, the innovative heat-transfer system between Amazon’s downtown high-rises and the region’s chief telecom hub could be a model for others. When’s eye-catching spheres and towers open over the next year, the heat for their thousands of tech workers and hundreds of green plants won’t be a drag on the power grid. Instead, the heat for Amazon’s high-rise Denny Triangle campus will be recycled, essentially, from the Pacific Northwest’s telecom hub on an adjacent block — an innovative partnership that could spread to other downtown buildings. Heat coming from the 34-story Westin Building Exchange will be used to warm just over 4 million square feet of development on Amazon’s four-block campus, saving 80 million kilowatt-hours over 20 years, or about 4 million kilowatt-hours a year, officials said Thursday.

Borrowing From Solar and Chip Tech to Make Diamonds Faster and Cheaper Photo Just a decade ago, Silicon Valley had high hopes of becoming a vibrant manufacturing center by making solar panels. But price competition from abroad, particularly from China, quickly dashed those dreams. World leaders adopt 1.5 C goal — and we’re damn well going to hold them to it PARIS, France — Here’s the crucial plaintive paragraph from the preamble to the Paris climate agreement released today, written in the almost indecipherable bureaucratese that attends this international circus: Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C … What it says is: The world is a doughy fellow who has promised to drop three suit sizes in time for his wedding, which is now only a month away. The world is an anxious student who has to ace the next morning’s test to pass the course but hasn’t yet started to study. The “significant gap” is the crucial thing. Now every world leader has said something similar.