Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell

Climate Desk Associate Producer

Tim McDonnell joined Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine. He remains a cheerful guy despite covering climate change all the time. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.

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These Cities Are Falling Behind in the Fight Against Climate Change

| Tue Mar. 1, 2016 11:30 AM EST
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The headline negotiations during the Paris climate summit in December were between national governments: What would China, the United States, and other big emitters be willing to do? But just outside the spotlight, some of the most optimistic commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions, ramp up clean energy, and invest in adaptive measures were being made by cities.

A new analysis from social scientists at University College London sheds some new light on the money behind those municipal efforts—and the results paint a highly uneven picture. The researchers compared spending on climate adaptation in 10 major global cities—that is, investments in infrastructure, public health, water systems, etc., aimed at making them more resistant to climate change. All 10 cities are members of the Compact of Mayors, an initiative to hold cities to a high standard of climate action.

On average among those 10 cities, spending on climate adaptation accounted for one-fifth of one percent of GDP in 2015, or about $855 million. Not surprisingly, cities in wealthier countries such the US and the UK spent far more than cities in African countries and Southeast Asia:

Nature

Cities in developing countries also lag behind on spending on a per-capita basis. (The Paris figure is so high in part because the study counted population just within a city's official boundaries, not the surrounding metropolitan area, and Paris' boundaries are relatively small)…

Nature

...and as a share of GDP:

Nature

The findings illustrate that spending on climate adaptation is more a function of wealth, and the value of local real estate, than the size of a city's population or its relative vulnerability to climate impacts. The researchers conclude that "current adaptation activities are insufficient in major population centres in developing and emerging economies."

That may not be very surprising—of course New York and London will be better able to rally funds for climate readiness than Addis Ababa. But it's an important snapshot of the uphill battle developing countries face in confronting climate change.

This post has been updated.

This GOP Congressman’s Crusade Against Scientists Just Got Even More Insane

| Fri Feb. 26, 2016 5:54 PM EST

Congressman Lamar Smith's crusade against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps getting weirder.

Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, suspects that NOAA scientists may have "changed" climate research data to make it appear as though a possible slowdown in global warming over the last decade-and-a-half didn't really happen. In other words, the congressman seems to believe that government scientists somehow manipulated the facts in order to support President Barack Obama's climate agenda.

It turns out that the scientific debate over the extent to which climate change took a so-called "hiatus" is far from settled and extends far beyond NOAA's research. Chris Mooney at the Washington Post has a detailed rundown of the latest research on this surprisingly difficult question here. Of course, the basic existence of man-made global warming is not in dispute by scientists, Smith's opinion notwithstanding.

But in any case, Smith is determined to get to the bottom of what he sees as an insidious plot by NOAA to falsify research. His original subpoena for internal communications, issued last October, has been followed by a series of letters to Obama administration officials in NOAA and other agencies demanding information and expressing frustration that NOAA has not been sufficiently forthcoming. In December, for example, he wrote to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker complaining that NOAA showed a "pattern of failing to act in good faith." (NOAA is part of the Commerce Department.)

Now, a new letter gives some insight as to his specific grievances: Smith claims that NOAA's internal search for documents responsive to the subpoena has been "unnecessarily narrow," limited only to documents containing the terms "hiatus," "haitus," "global temperature," and "climate study." A NOAA spokesperson confirmed that those were the only search terms the agency used to find the relevant documents. On Monday, Smith asked NOAA to expand that field to include the words below ("Karl" presumably refers to Thomas Karl, the NOAA scientist behind the research Smith is interested in):

In Smith's defense, NOAA's four terms (three, really, since one is just a misspelling of another) are incredibly narrow and, if there really was any scientific malfeasance, would quite possibly miss it. At the same time, the new list further illuminates what Smith is really after: Some evidence of a nefarious political conspiracy involving Obama, the United Nations, the Paris climate agreement, and temperature buoys.

Sure, NOAA should be transparent about its activities. But the whole thing seems more and more like a wild goose chase by Smith—I'm not holding my breath for any bombshell revelations.

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