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April 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

Climate Change

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in March 2018 called climate change "the most systemic threat to humankind" and urged world leaders to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US in Paris in December 2015 committed to reduce its emissions by 26 percent by 2025, but President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris agreement in 2017. However, 16 US states have enacted legislation to honor Paris agreement commitments.

There were a number of extreme weather events in 2017, including floods in south Asia and severe drought in Africa.

A March 21, 2018 five-hour "tutorial" ordered by a federal judge in a case where San Francisco is suing major oil firms for damages due to climate change featured eight questions, including what caused the various ice ages, why carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation, and why plants have not turned the extra carbon dioxide into oxygen. The suit alleges that Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell knew fossil fuels pose serious risks to the climate while promoting them as environmentally sustainable.

The International Energy Agency in March 2018 reported that greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2017. Two-thirds of the increase came from Asia, which has 60 percent of the world's people and fast-growing countries such as China, India and Indonesia that rely on coal-fired power plants to meet burgeoning electricity demands. China, with 20 percent of the world's people, accounts for a quarter of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

The use of renewable energy, including wind, solar and hydropower, surged in 2017, but fossil fuels accounted for a stable 81 percent of global energy demand. Oil consumption rose almost two percent in 2017, reflecting more and larger cars.