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Climate Crisis Weekly: Greens gain in Europe, 2020 candidate climate scorecard, Singapore adapts, and more

In this edition of Climate Crisis Weekly:

  • The Greens gain seats in EU elections.
  • Greenpeace issues climate grades for the 2020 US presidential candidates.
  • Looking into the increase of methane in the atmosphere.
  • Calls for Harvard to divest from fossil fuels.
  • How threatened Singapore is responding to the climate challenge.
  • And more…

European Parliament elections concluded earlier this week, and while there are a number of ways to analyze the results, we’re primarily focused on how the European Green Party made considerable gains.

The Greens took 69 seats, up from 50, to become the fourth-largest group in parliament, a welcome development for pushing toward more climate-friendly policies. As German Green MEP Terry Reintke told Time,

“The dynamic is going to be completely different and this is playing in our favor. We have much more power in terms of making demands, and if they are not met it is going to be difficult for any group to form a pro-European coalition.”

Greenpeace recently released a 2020 candidate scorecard for the US presidential candidates, grading them all on their climate stances. The methodology from Greenpeace:

Candidates were evaluated on two criteria. First, their commitment to end the fossil fuel era by enacting policies to halt oil, gas, and coal expansion, phase out existing production, and center fossil fuel workers and climate-impacted communities in the transition to a renewable energy economy. And second, their vision for a Green New Deal, including mobilizing towards 100 percent renewable energy for all, creating millions of family-sustaining jobs, and securing a better future for communities that have borne the brunt of fossil fuel industry exploitation.

Unsurprisingly, Jay Inslee topped the list with an A- grade, followed by Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, each with a B+ grade. Grades for other candidates near the front of the pack in current polls include a B for Elizabeth Warren, a B- for Beto O’Rourke, a C- for Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris, and a lowly D- for Joe Biden. As for the current president….

An investigation from Undark released a few weeks ago looked into an increase in atmospheric methane that started in 2007 and has been continuing ever since…and no one really knows why.

Methane traps much more heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide, so scientists are eager to narrow down the recent increase. There are a number of factors that may play a role, from methane leaks in fossil fuel operations to natural sources that may be revealing a sort of feedback loop. (When it comes to identifying leaks, satellites are on the way to help.)

US Vice President Al Gore spoke at his alma mater Harvard this week, calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels, the Harvard Crimson reports, and he had support:

“Why would Harvard University continue to support with its finances an industry like this that is in the process of threatening the future of humanity?” Gore asked the crowd amid loud applause and cheers.

At this point, 251 faculty members at Harvard have signed a petition asking for the university to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The worldwide divestment wave is only just beginning.

Singapore has unveiled a number of initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change, which Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong told Bloomberg is “an existential threat” in the coastal city-state. Land reclamation is a big part of Singapore’s focus, and the use of underground space is getting a long, hard look.

A major report recently found “nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history,” and while that may be hard for some to fathom on such a large scale, let’s just take a look at the Bering Sea puffin, as some researchers did for PLOS ONE.

They found that a recent mass die-off of the birds can be, at least in part, attributed to climate change, with thousands of puffins dying of starvation. As study co-author Julia Parrish told AFP,

“They just happen to be a very visible, graphic signal because it’s really hard to avoid hundreds or thousands of birds dying and washing up at your feet.”

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