Environment

The setting of the sun used to mean the beginning of pain and frustration for 42-year-old rice farmer Hemant Singh and his family.

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So far, the international climate meeting in Paris has primarily been about words, as diplomats wrestle with the precise language of a treaty. But some surprising climate science was unveiled this week, too — a new measurement of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that suggests the world's production of the globe-warming gas has taken a small dip.

Oil prices fell to their lowest levels in seven years, after OPEC officials failed to agree Friday on how to address the global supply glut.

By midday Monday, Brent crude futures fell 5 percent to $40.68 a barrel, the lowest price since 2009. The U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude dropped below $38 a barrel.

The decline sent energy stocks such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell tumbling, and helped drag the major stock indexes down sharply.

Climate change may be bad for people but it's good for bugs.

Germs of all kinds, as well as mosquitoes and other disease carriers, will live longer in warmer weather because cold kills them. They'll find more areas with the hot, humid conditions they need to thrive. Disease-carrying insects have already begun to move into new territory, climbing higher up the Andes in South America and reaching farther north into Canada and the U.S. to spread what were once considered tropical diseases like West Nile virus.

About 600 scientists and engineers, including former employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have signed on to letters urging the head of that agency, Kathryn Sullivan, to push back against political interference in science.

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Chennai, India, is facing a slow recovery from its worst flooding in a century, which has killed at least 280 people since early November.

A short dry spell and receding water levels in a few areas are providing some respite to thousands of stranded residents, and the civilian and government-run relief workers navigating the densely populated city. Still, for many residents aid can't come soon enough.

New research raises alarms about quakes near Cushing, Okla., home to the country's largest oil hub. No damage has been reported, but operators at the hub are on alert. (This piece initially aired on Nov. 30, 2015, on Morning Edition.)

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Some effects of global warming are becoming more intense, such as more intense storms, droughts, land-loss due to rising seas, and displacement of communities. Host Steve Curwood speaks with Erica Bower, lead loss and damage campaigner with the youth group SustainUs, about emerging discussions at COP21 concerning those most affected by climate change and how to address their needs. (published December 4, 2015)

As the UN climate talks opened in Paris, negotiators were optimistic about reaching an agreement by the end of the December 11th deadline, but questions remain about how strong and ambitious the proposed limits and measures will be. The Prince of Wales, President Obama, and President Christopher Loeak of the Marshall Islands were among the many dignitaries who stressed the urgency of acting swiftly to limit greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. Host Steve Curwood reports. (published December 4, 2015)

Paris Progress So Far

Dec 5, 2015

PARIS CLIMATE TALKS – PROGRESS SO FAR: The COP21 in Paris could well be the most important climate conference so far, as negotiators from around the world try to hammer out a deal to forestall climate chaos. Host Steve Curwood and veteran observer Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists discuss how the talks are going one week in, and what challenges and sticking points remain as we head into week two. (published December 4, 2015)

Indian President Narendra Modi announced a bold new $1 trillion solar initiative at the COP21. We hear the details and host Steve Curwood learns from two East African Heads of State what role solar can play in their countries’ development. Finally he discusses with Chandra Bhushan of India’s Center for Science and the Environment the challenges India faces and its role at these climate talks. (published December 4, 2015)

Living on Earth: December 4, 2015

Dec 5, 2015

Climate Summit Boosted By Optimism at the Start / Paris Progress So Far / Climate Activists Defy Paris Protest Ban / How Will the World Address Loss and Damage From Climate Disruption? / 2400 Coal-Fired Power Plants Planned Despite Climate-Friendly Pledges / India's Solar Initiative and the Challenge of Climate-Safe Development

Coal-fired power plants have provided cheap energy for over a hundred years, and despite coal-burning’s high emissions, about 2,400 are planned globally. A new study calculates that emissions from global energy generation must reach zero before the middle of the century to keep climate change below a two-degree Celsius temperature rise. Niklas Hohne of the New Climate Institute discusses the study with Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer and explains why building these plants is inconsistent with emissions control commitments countries have given. (published December 4, 2015)

Climate Activists Defy Paris Protest Ban

Dec 5, 2015

The French government cancelled all major protests in the wake of last months’ attacks in Paris, but that hasn’t stopped the climate justice movement from making itself heard and its presence felt. Living on Earth’s Emmett FitzGerald reports from the streets of Paris. (published December 4, 2015)

Negotiators at COP21, the U.N. climate change conference in Paris, have settled on a rough blueprint for approaching the complex and contentious task of reining in emissions and reducing global warming. But many issues will need to be resolved by the summit's end next Friday.

"It always seems impossible until it's done," French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal told the conference Saturday, quoting Nelson Mandela. She then added, "We will do it."

You can read the 48-page draft accord farther down in this post.

From Paris, NPR's Christopher Joyce reports:

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An international consortium that wants to build the world's biggest telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii says it's deciding what to do next, after the state's Supreme Court invalidated the project's building permit.

The consortium "will follow the process set forth by the state, as we always have. We are assessing our next steps on the way forward," said Henry Yang, chairman of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory Board of Directors.

For the developing countries at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, it's more than a chance to talk. It's a chance to be heard — and their representatives are taking advantage of the world stage by airing their grievances and proposing potential fixes.

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Here's a country with a close view of climate change. The Netherlands is called that for a reason. And as climate talks continue, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from a nation with much at stake.

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As the world's oil producers gather in Vienna, they are all hurting from prices that crashed a year ago and are hovering at a little over $40 a barrel. One country, Saudi Arabia, could probably drive up prices if it wanted to cut its production.

But the Saudis appear willing to endure the pain rather than make a move that would help rivals like Iran and Russia.

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