Climate Change & Environment
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What You Need to Know about the Volkswagen Scandal

What did Volkswagen do?

The company is said to have been caught cheating on American air pollution tests. Volkswagen installed sophisticated software known as "defeat devices" in the electronic control module of diesel vehicles issued between 2008 and 2015. This software was able to sense when emissions testing was in progress based on the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine's operation and barometric pressure. Once the software picked up on these inputs, it went into a type of "test mode" when the front wheels of the car were on a dynamometer. This allowed emissions controls to run full-tilt during official testing, but emitted 10 to 40 times the legal amount while on the road.

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What one Starving Polar Bear Picture Does — and Doesn’t — Say about Climate Change

Last month, wildlife photographer Kerstin Langenberger shocked the world when she revealed a horrifying photograph of a severely emaciated polar bear, shot on the Norwegian island of Svalbard. In a Facebook post, she expressed her concerns about the health of the Svalbard polar bears and the ways climate change might be affecting the Arctic. Her photo, visible here, quickly went viral — having been shared more than 50,000 times since then.

So when Langenberger’s photo surfaced, the immediate conclusion for many people was that the starving bear was the victim of warming-induced ice-melt in the Arctic. But while this is possible, experts are cautioning the public not to make the image the new face of climate change just yet. As a recent Live Science article pointed out, that bear’s condition could have been caused by a variety of other factors. And while climate change remains a serious long-term threat to polar bears, immediately blaming global warming for a single bear’s starvation could even be considered misleading, or could obscure some of the other challenges bears face in the short term.

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Scientists Calculate the Dramatic Economic Cost of a Warming Arctic

The Arctic is one of the most vulnerable parts of the world when it comes to climate change, and has the potential to contribute some costly climate-related effects, such as sea-level rise from melting glaciers. But one of the biggest emerging talking points in conversations about climate change in the Arctic involves something else — permafrost.

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Researchers Tally the Global Cost of Melting Permafrost

As climate change melts permafrost in the Arctic, huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane are released into the atmosphere, speeding global warming in the process. A new University of Cambridge study shows that by the end of the 22nd century, the global economic toll of those greenhouse gases will total $43 trillion.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that permafrost soils contain roughly 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon locked in frozen organic matter, which has begun to thaw as the globe warms. Until now, there have been no estimates of the economic costs of releasing that carbon into the atmosphere.

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Pope's Concern about Climate Change Prompts Notre Dame to End Use of Coal

The University of Notre Dame will stop burning coal for electricity in response to Pope Francis’ call to action on climate change, the school’s president announced Monday.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins also said Notre Dame will cut its carbon footprint by more than half by 2030.

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Malaysia again Shuts Schools as Indonesian Smoke Thickens

Thick white smoke from Indonesian slash-and-burn farming enveloped Malaysia's capital and other areas Sunday, triggering school closures for the following day as weeks of choking haze showed no sign of abating.

Pollution readings in Kuala Lumpur soared into the "very unhealthy" territory in the Malaysian government's hourly air-quality index.

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Obama, Xi Unveil U.S.-China Climate Change Vision

U.S. President Barack Obama met China's Xi Jinping at the White House on Friday and emerged with a climate change plan, despite tough talk on cyberspying and human rights.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to a 21-gun salute and full ceremonial military honors, underlining the huge symbolic importance of the state visit.

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India to 'Hike Green Energy Targets' to Combat Climate Change

India promises to hike renewable energy targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, in long-awaited pledges to be announced next week for upcoming UN climate change talks, a newspaper report said Thursday.

India, a major CO2 polluter, will increase solar and wind energy capacity but it's unclear whether it will commit to a timeline for reducing its overall carbon emissions blamed for climate change, the report said. 

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Carbon Markets Likely off Paris Summit Agenda – World Bank Envoy

A crunch UN summit probably isn’t the time to flesh out plans to expand carbon markets worldwide, the World Bank’s special climate envoy Rachel Kyte told reporters last Friday.

The global lender is driving efforts to put a price on a pollution as a key tool to slash CO2 emissions and tackle climate change.

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U.S. Science Agency Says 2015 is 97% Likely to be the Hottest Year on Record

The world has experienced record-breaking warmth every month so far in 2015, making this year virtually guaranteed to be the hottest on record, according to a U.S. science agency.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far, eclipsing 2014, the current warmest year.

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