Global carbon dioxide emissions climbed to a record high in 2018, setting the world on a path toward the most catastrophic effects of climate change. That’s the stark warning of the Global Carbon Project in a new report that found global CO2 emissions are on track to grow by 2.7 percent this year. Under goals set out in the United Nations Paris Agreement in 2015, the world needs to rapidly cut its emissions to keep average global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius—or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The report came as the United Nations climate summit got underway in Katowice, Poland. This is renowned broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough speaking at the opening ceremony.
David Attenborough: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Outrageous threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Attenborough’s warning came as the World Health Organization said in a new report that meeting the commitments of the Paris climate agreement could save millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars by 2050. Speaking from Katowice, Poland, on Wednesday, the WHO’s María Neira said some 7 million people currently die each year from air pollution alone.
María Neira: “If we want to protect health, if we want to make sure that we will reduce dramatically those 7 million deaths that are occurring every year due to exposure to air pollution, we need to accelerate this energy transition. We know that there will be a transition, but we want to tell countries: More you delay this transition, more you will be responsible for the number of millions of deaths that are occurring every year.”
The WHO’s warning came as the Trump administration is expected to announce plans today to roll back Obama-era regulations on coal, paving the way for a new generation of dirty power plants. Democracy Now! will broadcast all next week from the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland.
In Canada, an environmental group is launching a class-action lawsuit against the government on behalf of the nearly 3.5 million Quebecers under the age of 35, who they say will be the most affected by climate change. The nonprofit group Environment Youth is accusing the Canadian government of “gross negligence” by refraining from taking decisive action to combat climate change. A similar suit is making its way through the courts in the U.S., pitting 21 children and young adults against the federal government.
Thirty thousand customers of Barclays are demanding that the British bank divest from pipelines that carry oil from Canada’s tar sands. Greenpeace says at least 6,000 of those who signed a petition demanding Barclays divest from the “dirtiest fuel on the planet” have pledged to close their accounts unless the bank changes its ways. Barclays recently told shareholders that its financing of “extreme fossil fuels” is under review, and claimed it currently has no investments in tar sands projects. But Barclays was a major investor in the $4.5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline project before it was nationalized by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In Washington, D.C., former presidents and top dignitaries gathered Wednesday for the funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush in the Washington National Cathedral. The main eulogy was delivered by Bush’s son, George W. Bush, who called his father a “diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander-in-chief of formidable accomplishment and a gentleman.” President Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended the funeral, sitting in the front row. Trump briefly shook hands with President Obama—whose citizenship Trump previously questioned while leading the “birther” conspiracy movement. Trump did not shake hands with Hillary Clinton, who looked straight ahead and barely acknowledged the first family during the ceremony.
In Canada, authorities have arrested a top executive with the technology giant Huawei and are preparing to extradite her to the United States to stand trial. Chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou—who’s also the daughter of Huawei’s founder—was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. Both the Canadian Justice Department and the Trump administration have so far refused to say what she’s being charged with, although The New York Times reports the Treasury and Commerce Departments have subpoenaed the company over suspected violations of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. China’s government demanded Meng’s immediate release, saying the detention violated her human rights. Meng Wanzhou’s arrest came on the same day that President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina to discuss the growing U.S.-China trade war. On Tuesday, after Trump declared in a tweet, “I am a Tariff Man,” the U.S. stock market plummeted, with the Dow Jones dropping nearly 800 points.
President Trump on Wednesday praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for cracking down on the synthetic opioid fentanyl, saying he hoped China would employ the death penalty against traffickers of the drug. On Twitter, Trump wrote, “Last year over 77,000 people died from Fentanyl. If China cracks down on this 'horror drug,' using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!” In a statement, the Drug Policy Alliance responded, “President Trump’s push for China to execute more of its citizens for drug offenses is morally repugnant and ignores the decades-long failure of extremely harsh drug policies here in the U.S.”
In Wisconsin, lawmakers have sent outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker legislation to limit the power of the Democratic governor and attorney general-elect, while rolling back early voting in future elections. Democrats have blasted the power grab as a “legislative coup” and have promised immediate court action if Governor Walker signs the bills.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Michigan are following on the heels of Wisconsin’s actions—which in turn follow a similar power grab by Republicans in North Carolina in 2016. In November, Michigan voters elected three Democratic women to the state’s top offices—governor, attorney general and secretary of state. In response, Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature voted Wednesday to advance a measure that would strip the incoming secretary of state of her oversight of campaign finance rules. Republicans also advanced legislation that would give them power over the state’s incoming attorney general—a move that would prevent her from withdrawing Michigan from a federal lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.
The New York Times is reporting that President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort tried to negotiate a deal with Ecuador to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. Manafort reportedly met with incoming Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno in 2017 and discussed the possibility of turning in Assange—who has been holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for over six years—in exchange for debt relief and other concessions from the U.S.
Lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia’s government paid over a quarter-million dollars to rent rooms at Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reports the lobbyists then offered the rooms to U.S. military veterans as part of a free trip to Washington. Once in D.C., the veterans were sent to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers against a bill the Saudis opposed. The Washington Post reports the lobbyists paid for some 500 nights’ stays at the Trump International Hotel, where rooms average a rate of $768 per night. The case is a central focus of a lawsuit charging President Trump violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign governments. And a correction to one our headlines from Wednesday: The attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland have sent subpoenas to the Trump Organization for financial documents relating to President Trump’s business interests. Maine and the five federal agencies have also been subpoenaed—they did not issue subpoenas.
The architects of a landmark 1987 treaty aimed at ridding Europe of nuclear missiles are calling on the Trump administration to abandon its plans to leave the INF—or Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In a jointly authored op-ed in The Washington Post, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz warn, “Abandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure leading to an immensely destructive war.” The Trump administration has accused Russia of cheating on its commitments to the INF and said this week the U.S. would pull out of the treaty in 60 days unless Russia changes its behavior. Russia, in turn, accused the U.S. of cheating and warned of “retaliation” if the U.S. walks away from the deal.
Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for Turkish journalist Can Dündar for his alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi protests against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dündar is CEO of the prominent newspaper Cumhuriyet, which won the 2016 Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize.
And USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, in the latest fallout from the case of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who has been convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of women and girls. The organization faces hundreds of lawsuits over the abuse and said it will use the Chapter 11 process as a vehicle for resolving those claims. A number of USA Gymnastics officials face criminal charges for allegedly covering up Larry Nassar’s abuses, and the organization faces possible removal as the governing body for gymnastics in the U.S.