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Rio 2016’s Bold Call For Climate Action And 17 Other Key Stories

Screenshot of a video shown at the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony. Photo: @VLiTBHA / Twitter
Screenshot of a video shown at the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony. Photo: @VLiTBHA / Twitter

Things are moving quickly as our planet makes the transition to a new, clean economy. You want to stay in the loop – but you’re busy, that’s why we keep an eye on the headlines for you!

Welcome to the 9 August 2016 edition of the Daily Planet’s weekly State Of The Planet. Don’t hesitate to send your tips and comments to @peter_koekoek or

1. Global climate deal likely to enter into force in 2016.

The Paris Agreement on climate change will likely enter into force this year, Reuters reports. Countries accounting for 54 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have signalled their intent to ratify this year, according to a project led by the Marshall Islands.

2. Energy usage is falling while the global economy keeps growing.

The amount of coal, oil, gas and renewable energy used by the global economy is falling quickly, GreenBiz reports, calling it a clear sign that economic growth is having less of an impact on climate change than in the past.

The analysis is based on new data from the US Department of Energy. “The dramatic drop we are seeing in global energy intensity is a very direct indication that energy efficiency measures are having a very direct impact on global carbon emissions,” GreenBiz quotes Penn State University researcher Michael Mann.

3. Many feared dead after extreme floods hit Macedonia.

Dozens are feared dead in flash flooding in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Euronews reports. Some of the victims drowned in their cars as parts of the city’s main ring road were swept away, according to Euronews. The moving water dragged cars into fields nearby. A month’s worth of rain fell in the capital Skopje during just one storm. More than 9 centimetres of rain was recorded, more than the average for the whole of August.

The European Union has offered assistance to help Macedonia deal with the crisis. EU humanitarian aid and crisis commissioner Stynlianides tweeted that the EU supports Macedonia “at this time of need.”

4. The Olympics opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro featured a major segment on climate change.

The Opening Ceremony at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games may have opened up with a dance party, but it was a video on climate change watched by roughly 3.3 billion that made people stop what they were doing and focus on human-made pollution, Think Progress reports.

The Washington Post describes how the video – narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Judi Dench – included maps and graphics showing how rapidly the earth’s temperature has spiked over time, how drastically the Antarctic ice sheet has wilted in recent decades and how steadily seas are rising around the globe.

The video has yet to appear online in high quality, presumably due to the Olympic committee’s iron grip on anything featuring its brand.

5. Here is how the climate action community reacted to the Rio 2016 ceremony.

Some scientists and journalists as well as politicians and activists from around the world were quick to respond on Twitter, the Daily Planet has an overview.

If you can’t get enough of the twitter responses to Rio’s spectacular climate change segment, BuzzFeed has an entertaining article with 17 people “who were super mad” about the video, and a special exposé about a tweet sent by the “shocked” British scientist behind the famous climate spiral – which made an appearance in the Rio 2016 show.

6. Big data proves celebrities matter: People really do pay attention to climate change – when Leonardo DiCaprio (or Rio 2016) talks about it.

Researchers have found that when Leonardo DiCaprio used his Oscar speech earlier this year to call for action on climate change, tweets and Google searches about the topic went through the roof, Washington Post report. The research found that the amount of tweets sent set a new world record.

“A single speech, at a very opportunistic time, at the Oscar ceremony, resulted in the largest increase in public engagement with climate change ever,” says John Ayers of San Diego State University according to Washington Post.

An article on Forbes connects the research to the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony, pointing out that social media was buzzing about the climate change segment.

7. The famous Alaskan Highway is melting.

Bumps and cracks have scarred huge swathes of the Alaskan Highway – a 2,232-kilometre-long road that connects Alaska with the rest of the United States – and some of the cracks are so deep a grown person can jump in and walk through them, Bloomberg reports. Scientists say they’re the crystal-clear manifestation that permafrost is thawing as global temperatures keep rising, according to Bloomberg.

8. Dutch beer giant Heineken partnered with Dutch bike maker Gazelle to ship hundreds of bicycles to Rio for Olympic athletes, delegation members and others.

Using bicycles fits our vision of sustainable Olympics,” said Arjen Uijterlinde, the Dutch consul general of Rio de Janeiro according to the Wall Street Journal. The Netherlands has been involved in several projects to promote biking in Brazil.

Uijterlinde also tweeted about a visit of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and prime minister Mark Rutte, who visited Rio’s Olympic Village “on a bicycle.”

9. NYT editorial: “Many countries will need help adapting to climate change”

Rich countries to begin making good on their promises to help low-lying island nations, the New York Times Editorial Board wrote yesterday (8 August). Richer countries should make work of helping some of the poorest countries in the world build their defences against the disastrous effects of climate change, which some are already experiencing, they write.

10. Cities are rushing to measure their climate footprints following the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The number of cities reporting on their efforts to tackle global warming has risen 70 per cent to 533 around the world since the adoption of the Paris climate change agreement in 2015, according to Reuters.

More cities are doing an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters reports, as a first step to managing their climate impact.

11. Scientists are warning that the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree target is about to be missed.

Leading climate scientists have warned that the Earth is dangerously close to breaking through a 1.5 degree Celsius upper limit for global warming, the Guardian reports.

12. Hillary Clinton says she’s serious about climate action. Here are her climate action credentials in 19 tweets.

US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says she wants to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. While her main opponent Donald Trump says climate change is a “hoax,” Clinton says Americans can help “save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.” The Daily Planet has combed through the Democratic nominee’s Twitter feed to find out what’s she’s been saying exactly.

13. A new indoor gardening kit from Ikea could become your new favorite kitchen accessory.

Earlier this year, furniture giant Ikea introduced an indoor gardening series in collaboration with agricultural scientists in Sweden. It allows you to grow your own plants without sunlight or soil. How? By using high-tech hydroponics technology! The Daily Planet has the details.

14. The Obama administration says that from now on, every US government agency will have to consider climate change.

The White House’s chief environmental office has finalized a six-year process of shaping how the US government’s agencies will factor climate change into their decisions, Washington Post reports.

“All federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment,” according to the new rules.

15. Frustrated Canadian Volkswagen owners are calling for a settlement over their high-polluting vehicles.

Canadian Volkswagen owners are “upset and frustrated,” according to CBC News.  After a major US settlement was reached over VW’s emissions-cheating diesel scandal, Volkswagen Canada issued a statement noting that “settlement details coming out of the US court proceeding may not apply to Canada.”

In the United States, Volkswagen will either buy back roughly half a million cars at “fair value,” or owners can opt to having them fixed. Car owners may also receive between $5,000 and $10,000 each in additional compensation, according to CBC News.

Last week, The Economist pointed out that American cities have much cleaner air – not least because diesel cars are less ubiquitous.

16. Apple has been given the go-ahead for selling power from its solar farm.

Apple, which is spending $850 million on a 130-megawatt solar farm near San Francisco over 25 years, has been granted a license to sell power into wholesale markets in the latest foray by a technology company into the energy business, Bloomberg reports.

An analyst told Bloomberg it is “indicative of a number of related trends that are lowering demand for power produced by utilities.”

Bloomberg points out the iPhone maker is among a group of Silicon Valley companies investing in clean energy projects including Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Electric car maker Tesla also appears to be making major strategic forays into solar power generation.

17. Women entrepreneurs: It’s not all about the money!

In a piece for the Daily Planet, start-up entrepreneur and coach Agnieszka Klucznik-Törő talks about some of the unique challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in Europe. Klucznik-Törő’s research has revealed that it is a common misconception among women that money is the most important factor when launching a company.

18. George Monbiot warns about the state of the media: “The climate crisis is already here – but no one’s telling us.”

What you say, it is too sunny this August? British author and environmentalist George Monbiot comes to the rescue with a dark column about climate change and the media.

“What is salient is not important. What is important is not salient. The media turns us away from the issues that will determine the course of our lives, and towards topics of brain-melting irrelevance,” Monbiot writes in the Guardian.

“The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the purse is mightier than the pen,” he muses, pointing to the influence of the oil industry still has on the media.

Looking for something to fix?

Some of these stories may just inspire your next business venture:

  • Climate change threatens Japan’s agriculture. Dark clouds cast gloom over future food production in Japan as global temperatures rise, Japan Times reports.
  • Climate change fuels conflict. Deutsche Welle provides an overview of how climate change is fueling conflict in Africa.

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