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The Guardian view on the Paris summit: outlook fair, but storms still possible | Editorial

The political support for a deal is broader and deeper than ever before. But the real crunch comes in October, when the IMF and the World Bank Group meet to assess progress towards the $100bn of climate aid

The chances of a deal at the Paris climate change summit that starts on 30 November look better than anyone might have thought possible even a year ago. But if success seems more likely than failure, failure – as President François Hollande warned last week – is still possible. The negotiations on the text that have been going on in Bonn were supposed to be nearly complete, but progress has been slow and possibly insufficient. Only this morning the UN’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, warned that the targets for carbon emission reduction that 62 nations which account for 70% of emissions have so far submitted for agreement in Paris are not good enough to keep global warming below 2C.

All the same, the mere fact of nationally rather than globally agreed targets marks an important innovation. In total, targets covering 85% of emissions are expected. That would be enough to prevent global warming reaching catastrophic levels. It is the start of a process, and that is one of the things that makes the framework for a deal very different from the failed attempts at Copenhagen six years ago. Then, the developed world was being asked to bear the costs both of moving to a low-carbon economy and of mitigating the impacts of climate change; the US still lacked a climate change policy; and the fastest-growing polluters, China and India, did not take part.

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Source: Guardian Environment

More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids, new study shows

More than 3 million people die prematurely each year from outdoor pollution and without action deaths will double by 2050

More than 3 million people a year are killed prematurely by outdoor air pollution, according to a landmark new study, more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined.

Wood and coal burning for heating homes and cooking is the biggest cause, especially in Asia, but the research reveals a remarkably heavy toll from farming emissions in Europe and the US, where it is the leading cause of deaths.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Paris climate summit pledges won't avoid dangerous warming – UK and UN

UN climate chief and UK government sources say carbon cuts pledged by countries will see temperatures rise 2.5-3C, but could be ratcheted up later

The greenhouse gas emission cuts being pledged by the world’s nations will fall short of restricting global warming to 2C, the UN’s climate chief and UK government sources have warned.

A rise beyond 2C, the internationally agreed safety limit, may push the climate beyond tipping points and into dangerous instability. The expected pledges are likely to limit temperature rises to about 3C.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Predictable evolution: bad news for toads, good news for their predators | @GrrlScientist

Researchers reveal that, under certain circumstances, the process of evolution can be highly predictable, especially when there are limited solutions to a particular problem, such as resistance to dangerous toxins

A research paper that was published a few days ago in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports that evolution can follow predictable pathways when available solutions to a particular problem are severely limited. This new study found that resistance to heart-stopping cardiac glycoside toxins produced by some plants and animals for defensive purposes has independently converged across several lineages of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, after following a highly predictable evolutionary pathway.

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Source: Guardian Environment

New wave of fracking licences threatens hundreds of key English wildlife sites

Nearly 300 sites of special scientific interest, home to rare animals and plants, have been opened up to fracking by the Tory government, RSPB study shows

Hundreds more of England’s most important wildlife sites are now at risk from fracking after the government opened up 1,000 sq miles of land to the controversial technology, a new analysis has found.

Among the 159 licences issued last month to explore for oil and gas onshore in the UK – likely to include fracking for shale oil or gas – are 293 sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), the definition given to an area protecting rare species or habitats.

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Source: Guardian Environment

How does the laburnum tree produce arsenic?

Readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts

We have an apple and a pear tree that both produce good edible fruit. A few metres away is a laburnum tree with leaves and seeds containing arsenic. Arsenic is an element and cannot be made, so how does it happen?

Peter Byrnes, Merseyside

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Source: Guardian Environment

Sustainable investing: are companies finally moving money away from fossil fuels?

Wall Street’s big banks are starting to realize it’s possible to drop oil without dropping returns

Wall Street’s big banks are becoming increasingly interested in sustainable investing. The most recent convert is Goldman Sachs: in June, it named Hugh Lawson, a partner and managing director, as its global head of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. This move was part of a larger trend: a month later, Goldman acquired Imprint Capital, a boutique investment firm that seeks measurable social and environmental impacts on top of financial returns.

“We think ESG is going, in essence, mainstream,” Lawson said. “A wider set of clients is interested.”

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Source: Guardian Environment

Arctic sea ice shrinks to fourth lowest extent on record

Polar region’s sea ice continues long term decline since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s, driven by warming temperatures in atmosphere and ocean

Ice coverage in the Arctic this year shrunk to its fourth lowest extent on record, US scientists have announced.

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, said the ice reached a low of 4.41m sq km (1.70m sq miles) on 11 September in what experts said was a clear indicator of climate change.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Global drought: why is no one discussing fresh water at Cop21?

In December, the UN’s conference on climate change gathers in Paris but the issue of fresh water is absent from the agenda. How can policymakers be brought onside?

Around the world, fresh water supplies are drying up: California in the US and São Paulo in Brazil are enduring historic droughts, groundwater sources have been plundered in south Asia, and globally more than 750 million people lack access to safe drinking water. The global fresh water shortage is one of the world’s most pressing challenges, yet the issue is not scheduled to be discussed at Cop21 – the UN’s climate change conference – in Paris this December.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Pope Francis faces challenge persuading US's Catholic leaders on climate change

Campaigners say challenge lies in diverting church leaders from preoccupation with gay marriage in order to take up public cause the pope is seeking to ignite

When the US supreme court legalised same-sex marriage in June, the leader of America’s Catholics erupted in white-hot fury, condemning the historic decision as “a tragic error”.

When a week or so earlier, it fell to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as leader of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to deliver the official welcome to Pope Francis as he issued his sweeping indictment of the global economic order and its effects on the poor and the environment, the response was several degrees cooler.

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Source: Guardian Environment