At their California meeting over the weekend, the two leaders essentially talked past each other on hacking issues but did agree to discuss ways to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigerants and insulating foams that contribute to global warming.
The two leaders also agreed that North Korea must "denuclearize," according to Tom Donilon, Obama’s departing national security adviser.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy sources rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons last year, setting a record and putting the Earth on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals, says the International Energy Agency in a report scheduled for release Monday.
The IEA says continuing the pace could mean a temperature rise over pre-industrial times of as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), which IEA chief economist Fatih Birol says “would be a disaster for all countries.”
“This puts us on a difficult and dangerous trajectory,” Birol says. “If we don’t do anything between now and 2020, it will be very difficult because there will be a lot of carbon already in the atmosphere and the energy infrastructure will be locked in.”
Yet, says Birol, "climate change is slipping down in the political agenda in many countries even though the scientific evidence about climate change continues to mount."
An estimated 2 million people protested against biotech seed giant Monsanto in the United States and 50 other nations on Saturday.
Meanwhile, legislation is moving in more than two dozen states to label food containing genetically modified ingredients.
And the Whole Foods supermarket chain says all products in its North American stores that contain genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018.
Approximately 90 percent or more of four major crops — corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets — are grown from genetically engineered seeds, says The New York Times.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization, a lobbying group that represents Monsanto, says mandatory labeling would mislead or confuse consumers into thinking the products aren’t safe, even though the Food and Drug Administration has said there’s no difference between genetically modified foods and organic, non-GMO foods.
Many species entirely new to science are growing on land in the Canadian Arctic that is seeing the light of day for the first time since the so-called Little Ice Age, a widespread climatic cooling that lasted from about 1550 AD to 1850 AD, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A recent slowdown in global warming means the harshest climate change effects are less likely in the immediate decades, according to an international team of scientists reporting in the journal Nature Geoscience.
But they say warming still will breach the global goal of limiting the increase in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times unless action is taken to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions.
As my husband and I read aloud to each other at dinner Friday the news of the passage of a big symbolic global warming milestone, his eyes filled with tears and I cried outright.
It was 25 years ago that he and I, working together at an environment-energy information office in the Congress, first learned about how we humans — doing such basic things as heating our homes and driving our cars — might change our little planet in ways unknown.
My husband and I read on Friday that the level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed 400 parts per million, a concentration not seen on Earth for millions of years.
Carbon dioxide that's emitted, from, for example, power plants and cars stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
When my husband and I started working on this issue back in 1987 — excerpts from our first publication are below — the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was 350 parts per million. (And that was up from 315 parts per million in the late 1950s. It's estimated that the level before the Industrial Revolution was about 280 parts per million.)
Advocates in the 1980s talked about making changes in areas like energy efficiency that would benefit the planet even if climate theory turned out to be wrong. Those changes would be an "insurance policy," they said.
And some of those things have happened.
But overall, because coal and oil use is so fundamental to our lives, making changes has been extremely hard.
And even though we're all in this together — even the 1 percent won't be able to escape the effects of climate change — the issue has become politicized.
While the vast majority of scientists agree on the climate change threat, a few contrarians have enabled lawmakers like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to say "the supposed threat of global warming constitutes the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol. He objected to the exemption from the treaty of developing countries, specifically China and India, and said the protocol would harm the U.S. economy.
When Kyoto was negotiated, its controls were applied only to industrialized countries, because they had caused the climate problem.
But by 2008, China was the top carbon dioxide emitter, the United States was second and India was third.
China, India and other countries want to industrialize like we did, complicating international action further.
Meanwhile, EPA says climate change is happening and humans are largely responsible.
We're already seeing hotter temperatures and all kinds of unprecedented wild storms that scientists say are what we should continue to expect. The Arctic is melting, sea levels are rising and plant and animal ranges are shifting.
To my daughter and to your children, all I can say is I am sorry.
But there are many things we can do to prevent changes that aren't already locked in.
To learn more about what you can do at home, at school, in the office, and on the road to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint, click here.
And the whole point of this blog is that, despite the power of big money and big lobbying, the government ultimately does what the people demand.