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State of the Planet: Portugal, Germany Smash Records – Gender Climate Deniers – Adventure Learning – Grolar Bear

Clockwise: The Changing Earth team, the European Council president and the outgoinig and incoming UNFCCC executive secretary. Photo: Collage by the Daily Planet
Clockwise: The Changing Earth team, the European Council president and the outgoinig and incoming UNFCCC executive secretary. Photo: Collage by the Daily Planet

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 20 May 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

Ever heard of a “pizzly” or “grolar bear”?

An odd-looking bear shot last week by a hunter in northern Canada has turned out to be a grizzly-polar bear hybrid. Interbreeding is happening more frequently due to climate change, CBC reports. Inuit, the indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic, traditionally hunt polar bears for their meat and fur.

Portugal and Germany smash renewable energy records.

Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days this week, the Guardian reports. Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power.

In a first, Germany did the same for one day this week. Bloomberg reports how it marks a milestone for the country’s “Energiewende” policy of boosting renewables and phasing out nuclear and fossil fuels.

Craig Morris of Renewables International provides some critical analysis of you should interpret this trend.

April broke global temperature records.

Last month was the hottest April on record globally – and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records, the Guardian reports. The latest figures smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded.

Both UNFCCC and UNEP have now confirmed their new leadership.

Yesterday (19 May) the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally announced the appointment of Patricia Espinosa as executive secretary of the UNFCCC.

Earlier this month, former Norwegian environment minister Erik Solheim was confirmed as the next executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). He tweeted that he is excited to take on his “dream job,” the Daily Planet reports.

With Solheim and Espinosa, two former government ministers with strong links to Europe will soon be running some of the world’s most important environmental organisations during a pivotal moment in the history of global cooperation on the environment, and climate change in particular.

Women bring collaboration and optimism to climate action, says outgoing UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres.

Figueres partly contributes the success of the Paris Agreement on climate change to an increase in female leadership because – admitting it’s a generalisation – she believes women tend to be more collaborative than men, the Daily Planet reports.

She also said “We [women] certainly tend to be more optimistic and you can’t deliver any results without optimism.”

Climate change also impacts more women than men, but “gender climate deniers” don’t agree with that.

It was an example of how education is a crucial component of climate action. Canada’s climate change minister Catherine McKenna had to endure a Twitter storm about gender and climate change this week, the Globe and Mail reports.

“Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men,” she tweeted. You can check out the outrage that followed in the comments if you open the tweet below.

Women actually made up 61 per cent of the deaths from Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, some 70 to 80 per cent of the dead from the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and 91 per cent of deaths from the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone according to the Globe and Mail.

McKenna later tweeted an article by Vice News about how climate change impacts women most, which she called “essential reading for all gender climate deniers.”

An American Professor travelled more than 270 kilometres in the name of “adventurous learning” about climate change.

Professor Aaron Doering has just completed a major trip across the Arctic in an effort to educate people around the world about climate change. This trip was the first in a series of eight expeditions that will take place over four years – four to the Arctic and four to the tropics – collectively known as The Changing Earth project.

As the team researches climate change on their trips they post pictures, videos and findings through their website and social media channels alongside lessons and activities, the Daily Planet reports.

Four American teenagers have successfully sued their state for not taking climate action.

A judge ordered Washington State’s Department of Ecology to create rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2016, Huffington Post reports. The judge said the urgency of climate change and the state’s responsibility to protect citizens required that the Ecology Department be held to a deadline, rather than make its own timeline.

The lawsuit is part of a broader trend. Children and adults around the world are taking to the courts to get their governments to take climate action, the New York Times reports.

European Council president Donald Tusk visited Greenland’s melting glaciers, and called for “action” instead of just “agreements.”

President Tusk travelled to Greenland, where he witnessed some of the direct impact of climate change in person, according to the Daily Planet. Standing near a glacier, Tusk said: “Just five minutes ago an ice wall has fallen here, maybe it is attractive for tourists, but in fact it is the most dramatic evidence of how important the global warming issue is,” he said.

Australia’s four biggest banks have been urged to reject new loans for coal projects.

By doing so they would be able to meet their own climate change targets, financial activists Market Forces have revealed. The Guardian reports that such a move would “virtually empty the banks’ loan book of the $8 billion they are lending to coal in just five years.”

That’s a lot of billions that could flow into renewable energy projects, like the NOOR1 project in Morocco. The organisers behind the upcoming COP22 climate change conference have released a new video of the first phase of what will be the largest solar plant ever.

Weekend Read: What was the greatest era for innovation?

Depending on who you would ask, they might either say we are in the golden age of innovation, or we’re in a depressing era in which innovation has slowed and living standards are barely rising. Before you settle for one or the other, have a look at this US-focused “guide tour” of innovation through the decades by the New York Times, going back to 1870 – with full-screen photos.

Looking for something to fix?

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

  • We could be seeing the worst case scenario for climate change…. now. A writer sums up the evidence in an article on Forbes.
  • ‘Fundamentally unstable’ East Antarctica glacier heads towards a point of no return. According to a study published in Nature, regions of the gargantuan Totten Glacier have become “fundamentally unstable.” If they collapse, global sea levels could rise by up to 2 meters, the International Business Times Reports.
  • Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada, and climate change is to blame. In 2015, there were 700 new cases of Lyme disease reported according to CTV News. But those figures are likely under-reported.

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