Category Archives: Environment

Environment  Mongabay: China flexes its new climate action muscles in Bonn; Trump administration blinks

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December. But critics see no acceleration.

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015. Trump’s threats to withdraw from the agreement has touched off a hostile global response, especially from China. Photo by Justin Catanoso in 2016.

A good source with World Resources Institute in Bonn, Germany, tipped me off to this story about China’s disgusted reaction to Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. After a conversation with Mongabay editor Mike Gaworecki, we agreed to a quick follow up given that the mainstream media has not reported the news yet. They will. We just have it early.

Environment  Mongabay: Trump failure to lead on climate doesn’t faze UN policymakers in Bonn

Press coveringLast year (May 2016), I was fortunate to cover the first week on the UN mid-year climate conference in Bonn, Germany. This year, under the specter of a US president threatening to pull out of the historic Paris Agreement, I produced a story for Mongabay from my home office in North Carolina. The story is here. Thanks to editor Glenn Scherer for his quick and thorough work. The story quickly hit Mongabay’s Best Read list at No. 5.

In my reporting:

  • Bonn negotiators remain unfazed by Trump’s climate change denialism or his threat to withdraw from Paris. Every signatory nation is going forward with meeting voluntary carbon reduction pledges. Some policymakers do worry how the parties to the Paris Agreement will make up the loss of billions of dollars in U.S. climate aid promised under Obama, but now denied by Trump.

Environment  Mongabay exclusive: Iconic musician Paul Simon announces tour supporting biodiversity (story and podcast)

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Early last month, Erik Hoffner, a special editor with Mongabay, got in touch to tell me about the site’s coup of an interview with Dr. E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s leading conservationists. The story and Q&A was exceptionally well done. Erik then let me know that the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation based at Duke University would be hosting a two-day conference, and the legendary singer-song writer Paul Simon would be involved. He wondered if I would be interested in trying to get an interview with Simon and writing a story for Mongabay.

Not a tough question to answerPaul Simon and me. With the help of Paula Erhlich, the CEO of Wilson’s foundation, Simon agreed to meet with me for an exclusive interview on March 3 on the Duke campus during the conference. Simon’s music has been a seminal part of my life, and the life of my family, for decades. Meeting him was a special thrill of a fortunate journalist working for a great news organization. We spoke easily and intently for an hour, a little about music, but mostly about Wilson’s Half-Earth Project and its goal to stave off species extinctions around the world.

We also got to break the news of Simon’s 17-city U.S. concert tour in June 2017 with all profits going to Wilson’s foundation and the Half-Earth cause. The full story is here.

On March 21, 2017, the Mongabay podcast, produced by Mike Gaworecki, posted. The link to my conversation with Mike about the Paul Simon interview, with long outtakes from the interview, is here.

Environment  Mongabay: Many tree species in eastern US may be unable to adapt to changing climate, study finds

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Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts produces as strong compelling evidence of how climate change is affecting our most iconic trees in the Eastern United States. My story for Mongabay is posted here.  Thanks to Dave McGlinchey, a former student now the Woods Hole communications director, for helping with sources and photos. And to my editor at Mongabay, Mike Gaworecki.

Environment  Mongaybay @ COP22: Trump vows Paris Agreement pull out; world unites behind green economy

While the Obama Administration — including John Kerry shown here at the Paris summit — was instrumental in successfully negotiating the 2015 accord, the international community at COP22 says it is committed to moving forward without the US. China is likely to fill the leadership void created by Trump. Photo courtesy of the US State Department

While the Obama Administration — including John Kerry shown here at the Paris summit — was instrumental in successfully negotiating the 2015 accord, the international community at COP22 says it is committed to moving forward without the US. China is likely to fill the leadership void created by Trump. Photo courtesy of the US State Department

My Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer requested this story over the first weekend of the 22nd United Nations Climate Summit in Marrakesh. I had already written a world reaction story to the stunning election of a boorish, bigoted charlatan as the next president of the United States. But Glenn wanted me to keep after the story. I’m glad I did. The specter of Trump hung over the entire conference and dominated almost every question at every press conference, and more than a few side side discussions.

Appearing at the mid-week press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry said angrily: ““This is bigger than one person, one president. We have to figure out how we’re going to stop this [Trump’s plan]… No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input.”

John Pershing. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Jonathan Pershing. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Lead US negotiator Jonathan Pershing added: “It is no longer a question of whether to accelerate the [Paris] Agreement’s implementation, but rather a question of when and how.”

The offshoot: world leaders felt compelled to pledge an even stronger allegiance to the historic Paris Agreement, to not back away from their carbon-reduction pledges, and to do so with or without US participation or leadership. China now emerges as a potential leader in climate action, a development with grave implications for US trade and military policy and alliances. My story captures many of the storylines that dominated the final week of COP22.

Entrance to COP 22, UN Climate Summit, Marrakesh, Morocco

Entrance to COP 22, UN Climate Summit, Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

EnvironmentRadio  WFDD: World Leaders Ponder US Role in Fighting Climate Change

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WFDD reporter Keri Brown interviewed me for my reflections on the outcome of the 22nd United Nation’s climate summit in Marrakesh. The link to the four-minute radio story is here. As I’ve written previously, the new president-elect has galvanized world leaders to take aggressive climate action, with or without US leadership.

Environment  Mongabay @ COP22: Forest advocates say zero-carbon goals too reliant on unrealistic tech

Edward Perry of Birdlife International speaks at a panel at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Edward Perry of Birdlife International speaks at a panel at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

This seemed an ideal story for Mongabay.  Protecting forests, fighting deforestation and striving to replant tens millions of trees as natural carbon sinks, are critical strategies in the Paris Agreement in slowing the rate of global warming. But fossil fuel representatives at COP22 aren’t quite getting it. They do not want to strand assets (oil, natural gas, coal) underground, and are promoting unproven technologies that haven’t even been developed yet as ways to do business as usual. Environmentalists aren’t buying it.

Environment  Mongabay @ COP22: Morocco plants millions of trees along roads to fight climate change

Anouar Benazzouz, general manager of Morocco’s Highways Authority. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Anouar Benazzouz, general manager of Morocco’s Highways Authority. Photo by Justin Catanoso

I stumbled on to this story by walking on the tail end of a weekend press conference. I heard the man above say his country had planted 3 million trees to offset carbon emissions, an extraordinary number. I asked him for an interview; he turned out to be a high-ranking Moroccan government official; we spoke for 30 minutes. Mixed with previous reporting and great research from my Mongabay editor, Morgan Erickson-Davis, a really good story emerged; the link is here. Highlights:

  • Through the program, which is headed by Morocco’s Highway Authority, more than three million trees have been planted with another 800,000 in the works by 2017.
  • The country’s Department of Agriculture is partnering in the project, which conservationists say paints a stark contrast to many other countries where similar departments pose obstacles to reforestation and afforestation programs.
  • The project is funded domestically, but a government representative told Mongabay they may be interested in receiving support from international forest conservation programs.
  • Those affiliated with the project hope it can be used as a model for other African nations.

EnvironmentRadio  Mongabay @ COP22: The podcast from Marrakesh and the UN climate summit

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Mike Gaworecki, a long-time Mongabay correspondent with a similar focus as me on forests and climate change policy, is leading a new web site initiative: The Mongabay Newscast. On Tuesday, November 15, Mike interviewed me via Skype, where I stood just outside the press center to get a good connection. I come in at around 7 minutes. Naturally, we spent a good bit of time talking about the impact on the president-elect on COP22. Special thanks to Mongabay podcast producer Erik Hoffner for making this happen.

 

Environment  Mongabay @ COP22: Trump election leaves COP22 climate delegates aghast, shaken but firm

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The stunning and disastrous election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president has sent shock waves through the 22nd United Nations Climate Summit in Marrakesh. Mongabay thought my story here was important enough that they had it translated into seven languages — a first. That happens when a purposely ignorant climate denier follows the first president, Barack Obama, to ever make climate change policy a major part of his legacy.