Category: Earth & climate

Articles focusing on the current and future state of our planet and its climate. We explore the causes and consequences of anthropogenic climate change.

My climate action wish list for 2019

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great holiday break and are ready to make the world a better place this year.

2018 was a pretty amazing year for me on a personal level. I got settled into a new job and a new city, started a campaign against single-use plastics with a group of friends, and started giving guided tours in Brussels to showcase citizen initiatives that are making the Belgian capital more sustainable. Although these two projects kept me from writing blog posts as much as I would have wanted, they were very rewarding and brought me in contact with a lot of inspiring people.

The satisfaction I got out of my work was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that humankind did a pretty bad job preparing for a low-carbon society. Over and over again, I was disappointed in the lack of urgency in the business world and among policy makers. Not the least when the climate conference COP24 in Poland ended with meagre results and barely increased commitments from member states. All this after a number of unambiguous scientific reports laid out clearly that time is running out.

In short, they come down to the following: to limit catastrophic climate change, we need to keep global warming under 1,5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. How to make that happen? Cut carbon emissions by half by 2030 (12 years from now!) and be carbon neutral by 2050. Footnote: worldwide emissions are currently still on the rise.

What better way to wash away that somewhat bitter aftertaste of 2018, with some optimistic dreams for what the future could bring? I sat down with a cup of cinnamon tea and drafted up a list of climate action wishes for 2019. By no means exhaustive, but hey, if we can move forward on all these fronts this year I will be a happy man!

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COP24 in coal town Katowice: what to expect?

It’s that time of the year again. The days are getting shorter, the trees have shed off their last leaves, and the city is preparing itself for the Christmas festivities. It can only mean one thing: the yearly climate conference is around the corner! This summit, known as Conference of the Parties or COP, in short, is ready for its 24th edition. This year’s host is the (former) coal king of coal-addicted Poland: Katowice.

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Why I will not read the new IPCC report

I have been extremely busy lately and therefore running completely behind on my writing schedule. If that was not enough, the IPCC decided to publish another of its so-many-hundreds-of-pages-counting reports on climate change. This time I decided to not even start reading the executive summary. Why, you ask? Because I am getting so damn tired of reports, press conferences, talks, climate summits, and what not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been dropping on us since the first global Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

The cover of the IPCC’s latest special report on global warming.

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What happens in the Arctic… does not stay in the Arctic

I just returned from a hiking trip through the North of Spain when sitting down to write this blog post. Besides the beautiful deciduous forests, mountains, and the refined kitchen of the Basque country, I also faced the ever burning sun. Once I crossed the mountains along the coastline and headed onto the plateau of Alava, no trees stood between me and the burning rays. At one particularly hot afternoon, my thoughts drifted off to cooler places. Maybe, I thought in the delirium of the moment, next year I go to the Arctic instead.

My dull train of thoughts came to a sudden stop. Travelling to the Arctic? yelled my inner voice outraged. Do you even realise what kind of impact that would have on such pristine environment?

Arctic ice is melting at an accelerating pace, as a result of warming at a speed twice as high as the global average.

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I love travelling and it’s ruining the planet

This week I am enjoying Greek salads with feta cheese, morning swims in the sea, and lazy afternoons in the sun. I am in Cyprus, a country whose tourism sector’s greenhouse emissions per capita are the sixths largest in the world. And it’s not the Cypriots who are to blame, rather the troops of tourists (including me) that fly into the Mediterranean island to enjoy their holidays in luxurious hotel rooms kept cool by batteries of air conditioners. Thanks to a new study, for the first time ever we now have a comprehensive overview of the footprint of global tourism. And it’s not a pretty picture, rather an inconvenient truth (to use Al Gore’s words).

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Ocean plastics: where to fight them first?

I am sure you all have seen those heart-sickening pictures of dead albatrosses on the beaches of the Galapagos Islands. Between what remains from their deck of feathers, plastic bottle caps are bulking out of their stomachs. The issue of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is reaching alarming rates with far-reaching impacts. It seems that finally, the issue has reached the greater public thanks to mind-boggling footage in documentaries like the Plastic Ocean, and the renowned BBC series Blue Planet II. Better late than never. If the little sea turtles tangled up in an abandoned fisher net didn’t pull you over the line, the danger of microplastics building up in the fish on your plate surely should get you onboard the fight against ocean plastics. But you might be wondering… where to start?

The Philippines have a huge waste mismanagement problem, leading to tonnes of plastic being dumped into the ocean every year

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