Category Archives: Breaking News

Breaking News  WGHP Fox 8: Catanoso commentary on Pope Francis’ historic address to Congress

WGHP

For the second time in four days, I was invited on to the top-rated news program in the Triad to discuss history — the fist-ever address to a Joint Session of Congress by a pope. This one was extraordinary. My commentary with Neil McNeill is here.

In his 40-minute address, Pope Francis demonstrated first and foremost his admiration not only for the United States (“land of the free, home of the brave,”) but also of America’s great promise as a land of hope and dreams. He delivered his speech in English with grace and humility by making every aggressive point he intended on immigration, climate change, the death penalty, financial reform, marriage, terrorism and respect for the poor. It was brilliant.

Breaking News  WGHP Fox 8 TV — The importance of Pope Francis in America

WGHP

My friend and news anchor Neill McNeill at WGHP Fox 8, the highest-rated TV news program in the Triad, called early Monday to see if I would come on the program in the early evening. Why? Pope Francis‘ first-ever visit to the U.S., which is getting wall-to-wall coverage. Three minutes flew by, but we covered some ground in this segment, including a bit about my Peru reporting. I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss the pope’s speech to Congress.

 

Breaking NewsEnvironment  KERRY: The Climate Crisis Is Here, And Republicans Are Threatening Us All

Former Vice President Al Gore listening to Secretary of State John Kerry's blistering speech at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Former Vice President Al Gore listening to Secretary of State John Kerry’s blistering speech at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru. Photo by Justin Catanoso

LIMA, Peru — In a clear message to the world that the United States, at least in the form of the Obama Administration, intends to lead prominently in the battle against climate change, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Lima on Thursday (Dec. 11) to deliver a blistering assault on GOP climate deniers in a 32-minute speech to a packed press conference.

I was just a few rows back and saw Al Gore‘s profile against the video screen with Kerry speaking. It made for a powerful image — two Americans who have been raising awareness about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions for a generation. I snapped the photo with my iPhone.

AcostaBusinessInsider published my story about Kerry’s speech, which includes a one-on-one interview I had with the Peruvian co-chair of the Green Climate Fund. Naturally, the GOP leadership in Washington intends to block Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the fund. The story contains a short video clip of the vice chair shot and edited by Michael Frierson, a UNC-Greensboro film professor.

A powerful quote from Kerry not in the story:

“Ask yourself, if Al Gore and Dr. Pachauri and Jim Hansen and the people who’ve been putting the science out there for years are wrong about this and we make these choices to do the things I’m talking about, what’s the worst thing that can happen to us for making these choices? Create a whole lot of new jobs. Kick our economies into gear. Have healthier people, reduce the cost of healthcare. Live up to our environmental responsibilities. Have a world that’s more secure because we have energy that isn’t dependent on one part of the world or another. That’s the worst that can happen to us.

“But what happens if the climate skeptics are wrong? Catastrophe. And we have a responsibility to put in place the precautionary principle when you’re given certain evidence and you’re a public official.”

Breaking NewsEnvironment  Video: UN General Secretary on why he believes climate talks are succeeding

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. Photo by Justin Catanoso

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. Photo by Justin Catanoso

I am working in Lima, Peru, this week (Dec. 6-12, 2014) with videographer Michael Frierson, a film professor at UNC-Greensboro. Here is a 2-minute clip from Dec. 9 press conference in with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon answering an important question on why he is optimistic about the current UN climate talks, the COP20.

“Our planet has a fever and it is getting hotter every day,” he said. “We must take climate action now. And the more we delay, the more we will have to pay. This is our only world. Future generations should be able to live prosperously. We come together in Lima with a measure of optimism. There is a new climate for change.” — Ban Ki-Moon

Breaking NewsEnvironment  Now starring as diplomat: Bianca Jagger vigorously defends forests at UN climate change talks

 

DSC_0194

Bianca Jagger on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, in Lima, Peru, at an event connected to the UN climate talks. She is speaking to Heru Prasetyo, a climate change expert from Indonesia. Photo by Justin Catanoso.

Note: I am in Lima, Peru, reporting on the COP20, the 20th annual United Nations climate negotiations. I arrived Dec. 6 and will remain through the end of the conference on Dec. 12. This is my first story.

LIMA, Peru – Whatever her youthful reputation as the wife of a world-famous rock star and glittery jet setter, Bianca Jagger has committed much of the past 30 years of her life to advancing causes associated with human rights and environmental protection in the developing world.

On Sunday morning, during a side event connected with the annual UN climate negotiations here in Lima, Peru, the 69-year-old Jagger sounded every bit the international diplomat she’s become in recent years. Delivering an impassioned 13-minute talk during a panel discussion, she spoke bluntly about the perils of climate change and the need to restore both destroyed and degraded forests as the best strategy to reduce the ongoing damage.

“Climate change will affect everyone, everywhere, in every nation, in every echelon of society, in the developing world and the developed world,” said Jagger, a native of Nicaragua and British citizen. “We will all suffer the catastrophic consequences of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, food scarcity and political unrest. But some of the most vulnerable communities in the world are bearing a disproportionate burden of the harm without having significantly contributed to the cost. This is a terrible injustice.”

DSC_0205

Photo by Justin Catanoso

Noting that climate experts predict that 2014 will become the hottest year on record, Jagger warned: “Time is running out. Inaction will lead to severe and irreversible damage.”

In another time, in another setting, Jagger may have been the star attraction at an event such as this with fans and paparazzi swarming to bask in her celebrity. There was little of that in evidence Sunday morning during the Global Landscapes Forum held at the Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center.

WITH A CROWD of mostly influential scientists, top environmental activists and leading figures from the United Nations, World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, Jagger arrived without fanfare as the founder of the London-based Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation. She appeared elegantly striking just the same, dressed in a full-length white wool coat with sparkling flats and leaning on a Dalmatian-spotted cane. She greeted a small knot of well wishers and quietly took her place on stage. Three other panels were taking place at the same time; Jagger’s panel – “A new climate agenda? Moving forward with adaptation-based mitigation” – attracted about 100 people.

Jagger noted that two years ago, she was appointed an ambassador to the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 150 million hectares (370 million acres) of degraded or deforested land around the world by 2020.

“I took on this role because I believe the objective of the Bonn Challenge is critical and more importantly, it is achievable,” she said.  “Frankly, it is one of the more achievable initiatives trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve the lives of people. Achieving the Bonn Challenge goal could sequester 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide a year, which would reduce our current emissions by up to 17 percent. That is really a very important advance from a restoration program.”

DSC_0193

Bianca Jagger, before the start of the panel discussion. Photo by Justin Catanoso

The two-day landscape forum focused largely on the underappreciated role forests play globally in slowing the rate of climate change by absorbing tons and tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually through the process of photosynthesis. Millions of acres of tropical forests around the world (which do the most work in carbon sequestration) are destroyed for agriculture, mining and extraction. The clear-cutting is often far more than is necessary and at great costs to biodiversity and the indigenous peoples who make their homes and living in such forests.

A PRIMARY GOAL of these 20th annual UN climate talks is for governmental and environmental leaders from 200 countries to draft a legally binding agreement that can be signed as a global treaty next year in Paris.  Despite accords that came out of Kyoto (1997) and Copenhagen (2009), no treaty currently exists, even as the accumulating evidence of ongoing, manmade climate change continues to pile up.

Time is running out. Inaction will lead to severe and irreversible damage.” — Bianca Jagger

While progress appears to be halting after the first of two weeks of negotiations, the Lima draft is hoped to contain an array of strategies to slow the rate of greenhouse gas emissions largely through the reduction of burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation. Such reductions are seen as vital to hold global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 50 to 85 years. Beyond that point, scientists predict far worse extreme weather patterns than we now see, greater coastal erosion, more water shortages and increased food scarcity than is already cropping up around the globe.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions – the airborne layer of chemicals in the atmosphere responsible for global warming – can go beyond cutting back the extracting and burning of fossil fuels. Other strategies include the expansion of alternative energy sources, greater fuel efficiencies in transportation, as well as similar efficiencies in home and building construction and lighting and appliances.

Increasingly, as the landscape forum emphasized and as Jagger stressed in her talk, the massive preservation of existing tropical forests, and replanting ones that have been damaged and destroyed, can play a significant role — if not the most important role — in staving off catastrophic climate change.

Jagger said the United States, along with countries such as Rwanda, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guatemala have already committed to restore some 51 million hectares (126 million acres) of forests by 2020 as part of the Bonn Challenge. She lauded large-scale restoration efforts in China and Brazil, too.

“It is true that governments have not come forward to do what is necessary,” Jagger said. “It is true that we don’t have a legally binding treaty now. But if we can continue with initiatives like the Bonn Challenge, we would see a difference. Forests are essential to our future.”

Justin Catanoso is a freelance journalist based in North Carolina and director of journalism at Wake Forest University. His environmental reporting is supported in part by the Wake Forest Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C.

Breaking News  Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says

A wind turbine being installed in northern France. Research says the benefits of such efforts may offset the cost of subsidies. Credit Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Justin Gillis, the New York Times climate change reporter, breaks a story that sounds like science fiction, but is plausible with enough political will in countries such as the U.S., China and India — the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The story, published Sept. 16, is here, and it follows a trend of more optimistic, solution-based reporting on the issue of climate change.

Breaking News  Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

 New wind turbines in the North Sea off Germany. Renewable resources account for 30 perent of Germany’s power generation, more than twice what the U.S. produces. Photo: NY Times.

Justin Gillis, the New York Times’ climate change reporter, writes: “Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.” The Sept. 13, 2014 story is here.

Excerpt: Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.