It's pretty hard to be funny about climate change. Not just because the subject tends to be grim, but also because the solutions tend to be technical, wonky, and interesting mostly just to nerds.

The video above, released today by Funny or Die in affiliation with the League of Conservation Voters, makes a valiant effort. It features Jeff Goldblum explaining the Obama administration's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a boardroom full of cartoonishly evil fossil fuel executives. I won't spoil what he says, since it's the punchline (such as it is). Suffice to say the execs don't like it…and something about Miami Vice star Don Johnson.

I also won't go on record vouching for the jokes in this. I chuckled a few times. I will say that Goldblum—or rather his character, the mysterious "Fixer"—nails his description of the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from the power sector by about a third by 2030, and which will form the backbone of Obama's contribution to the upcoming global climate talks in Paris. The framing of the video is also spot-on: The plan is indeed facing stiff opposition from coal companies and the industry's allies in statehouses and in Congress

The Clean Power Plan is admittedly kind of boring to most people, despite being a groundbreaking policy achievement and an important step toward saving the planet from global warming. So if it takes Jeff Goldblum to get people interested, I've got no problem with that. Enjoy!

Security was heightened across Paris following Friday's deadly attacks. A major international climate summit is due to start there in two weeks.

On Saturday, just a day after terrorist attacks in Paris left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured, the French government vowed to forge ahead with a long-scheduled international summit on climate change.

The summit, which is scheduled to start in just two weeks, will take place at an airport in the northern suburbs of Paris, not far from the stadium that was the site of multiple bombings on Friday. There, world leaders plan to hash out final details of the most wide-reaching international agreement ever to combat climate change. White House officials confirmed to Politico that President Barack Obama still intends to attend the talks, as scheduled prior to the attacks. Dozens of other heads of state are expected to be there as well.

"[The summit] will go ahead with reinforced security measures," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "This is an absolutely necessary step in the battle against climate change and of course it will take place."

Christiana Figueres, who chairs the UN agency overseeing the talks, released a similar statement on Twitter:

Even prior to the attacks, 30,000 French police officers were scheduled to secure the event, according to Radio France International. More than 10,000 diplomats, non-governmental organization employees, and journalists are expected to attend the summit. Specific new security measures have not yet been made public, but Politico quoted an unnamed French official who said participants should expect "extremely tightened security" following the attacks.

Paul Bledsoe, a former climate advisor to President Bill Clinton, also told Politico that the attacks could actually improve the odds that the talks reach a successful outcome.

"The resolve of world leaders is going to be redoubled to gain an agreement and show that they can deliver for populations around the world. The likelihood for a successful agreement has only increased because of these attacks," Bledsoe said.

On Thursday, just a day before the attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to butt heads with his French counterpart over what the exact legal status of the agreement will be. Other questions remain as well, such as how wealthy, heavily polluting countries such as the United States will help developing nations pay for climate change adaptation. But overall, the Paris talks are expected to yield a better outcome than the last major climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, which failed to produce any meaningful action to curb greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the impacts of global warming.

Meanwhile, on Monday French officials said they would block a series of rallies and side events that were scheduled to take place outside the main negotiations. Environmental groups are scrambling to work out how to change their plans following the attack. Several groups involved in organizing protests and rallies that were intended to coicide with the Paris talks confirmed to Mother Jones that a hastily arranged meeting to hash out a plan will take place on Monday evening, Paris time. Will Davies, a spokesman for Avaaz, one of the main advocacy groups involved, said that despite the flurry of activity, plans for global marches in cities other than Paris were still going ahead as scheduled.

Stay tuned for more updates on this story.

Verisk Maplecroft

One of the cruel ironies of climate change is that its impacts tend to fall hardest on the countries least equipped to manage them.

When drought or sea level rise strike the United States, communities at least have access to federal aid, top scientific expertise, public investment in expensive climate-ready infrastructure, and the like. But some of the most extreme effects of global warming are headed for developing countries—drought wiping out crops in East Africa, or catastrophic hurricanes pounding Southeast Asia—that don't have access to those resources.

New research from Maplecroft, a UK-based risk consultancy, paints a pictures of where vulnerability to climate change is most pressing. Their analysis drew on three criteria: exposure to extreme events, based on the latest meteorological science; sensitivity to impacts (i.e., does a country have other sources of income and food supply if agriculture takes a hit?); and adaptive capacity—are the country's government and social institutions prepared to work under adverse climate conditions and help citizens adapt to them?

Unsurprisingly, Africa and Southeast Asia ranked the lowest, while Scandinavian countries ranked the highest. (While definitely at risk from sea level rise, countries such as Norway and Sweden have rich, highly functional governments to manage adaptation.) The major global climate talks in Paris are coming up in just a couple weeks; the chart above makes it clear why it's so important for big players like the US and China to work closely with delegations from developing countries on solutions that will provide immediate support and relief.

Sugar is the devil.

Update: Thursday, January 7, 2016: The FDA just made these new guidelines official.

The Food and Drug Administration is releasing new guidelines regarding how much sugar Americans should consume, reports NYT:

The goal is for Americans to limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, according to the proposed guidelines. For someone older than 3, that means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of it a day.

Big Sugar and a bunch of food-makers are going to freak out about this, but the truth is the new FDA recommendation is actually only half as severe as the World Health Organization's guideline, which calls for people to limit themselves to 25 grams—or six teaspoons—of sugar a day. 

By some estimates, Americans right now eat as much as 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. That is bonkers. Sugar is bad. Big Sugar spent decades—and millions of dollars—trying to conceal that fact. Added sugar has been linked to a whole slew of health issues from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. Sugar consumption is a health crisis in America and while today's move is the most severe step the FDA has taken to curtail it, it is not the first. Earlier this year the agency moved to require manufacturers to require betters sugar information on food labels

These charts show what 25 grams of sugar—which, again, is the WHO suggested maximum daily dose—really looks like:

Workers stand in at the candidates' podiums in preparation for Tuesday's Republican debate in Milwaukee.

If you were hoping for a reasonable discussion about science during Tuesday night's Republican presidential debates, you're probably going to be sorely disappointed. That's because the only two candidates with serious positions climate change have been excluded from the event.

Last month, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki made news when they called out their own party for rejecting the science behind climate change. "I've talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me the greenhouse gas effect is real, that we're heating up the planet," said Graham during CNBC's Republican "undercard" debate—the early-evening consolation prize for candidates who aren't polling high enough to land a spot in prime time. "It's…not appropriate to think that human activity, putting CO2 into the atmosphere, doesn't make the Earth warmer," added Pataki. "It does. It's uncontroverted."

Out of all the candidates in the crowded GOP field, Graham and Pataki also have the strongest track records when it comes to actually fighting climate change. In the Senate, Graham once sponsored a cap-and-trade bill intended to reign-in greenhouse gas emissions. As governor, Pataki helped create a regional cap-and-trade program in the Northeast. So I was excited to hear what they would have say on the issue during the debates that will air Tuesday on the Fox Business Network. Like its sister network Fox News, Fox Business is a major epicenter of climate science denial.

Unfortunately for science, Graham and Pataki won't be on stage Tuesday. Neither of them are averaging anywhere close to 2.5 percent in the polls—the threshold Fox established for the main debate. They aren't even managing the 1 percent required to participate in the undercard debate.

Instead, viewers will hear from an array of global warming deniers. Ted Cruz believes that climate change is a "pseudoscientific theory"; Donald Trump calls it a "hoax"; and Ben Carson insists there's "no overwhelming science" that it's caused by humans. Viewers will also hear from candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who was recently demoted to the undercard stage). Christie acknowledges that climate change is real but seems to oppose any realistic plan to deal with it.

Then there are the folks who will be asking the questions. Last year, Fox Business managing editor Neil Cavuto—one of the moderators for Tuesday's main debate—explained how he first became a climate change "doubter":

Here's what Trish Regan, one of the moderators for Tuesday's undercard matchup, had to say when Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) called climate change the country's top national security threat during a Democratic debate earlier this year:

So since you're not likely to hear this tonight, here's Pataki explaining why you really should believe what climate scientists are saying—and why you should vaccinate your kids, too:

So your morning train was packed with halitosis-breathing psychos. You stepped over (human?) poo on the way to work. The weather is bad: Winter Is Coming. Your boss—a prick at the best of times—is breathing down your neck about this or that and just won't shut up, even though you've already done the task and it's been sitting in his inbox for a week. That Tinder date you worked yourself up about last weekend won't text back. (He said he got a new phone? But it's been days!) And now you're refusing to "take a hint." But what if you run into him at that gig next week? Listen to me. Whatever's going on right now, screw it, because the video that just came up in my Facebook feed will make you laugh and forget all the jerks:

Can't stop watching this video looool

Posted by Jeremy de Koste on Wednesday, January 21, 2015

h/t "Little Things"/Huffington Post

SeaWorld Is Ending Its Killer Whale Show

SeaWorld will shut down the killer whale exhibition at its flagship San Diego location by next year, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

In its place would be a new orca experience debuting in 2017, described as "informative" and designed to take place in a more natural setting that would carry a "conservation message inspiring people to act."...The plan to gradually phase out the Shamu show comes amid efforts at both the state and federal level to clamp down on SeaWorld by ending the captive breeding of orcas, which would effectively bring to an end the parks' theatrical shows.

It's unclear whether the new "experience" will feature live orcas, and whether the decision will apply to any of the company's other locations in San Antonio and Orlando. A SeaWorld spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SeaWorld has faced broad public criticism—and a tanking share price—since the 2013 documentary Blackfish accused the company of keeping killer whales in inhumane conditions. The company has maintained that the whales serve a valuable scientific purpose, although many scientists disagree. The announcement also comes just days after a Congressional representative from California introduced legislation to ban the breeding of captive orcas and their capture from the wild.   

The government says it was a missile launch. That hasn't stopped people from freaking out.

Friday morning, after years of heated battles between environmentalists and Republicans, President Barack Obama announced that he is rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a speech, the president criticized both supporters and detractors of the pipeline from placing too much emphasis on a project that, according to the State Department's analysis, would neither create many jobs nor ruin the climate if approved. Still, reactions to his decision from Republicans in Congress and the 2016 presidential primary were swift and terrible.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic candidates were quick to praise the decision:

Notably absent, so far, is a reaction from Hillary Clinton. She only recently took a public position against the pipeline, after years of dodging the question.

UPDATE 3:30pm ET: A couple latecomers:

On Friday, President Obama announced his administration's decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after seven years of intense deliberation over the pipeline's potential environmental risks. The announcement is widely viewed as a major victory for environmentalists and is sure to further burnish the president's legacy in combating climate change.

Proponents of the controversial project, which would have carried more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada daily, say the pipeline's construction would be an essential jobs creator and boost the economy. Obama's remarks in full below, courtesy of the Washington Post:

OBAMA: Good morning, everybody.

Several years ago, the State Department began a review process for the proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through our heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.

This morning, Senator Kerry informed me that after extensive public outreach and consultation with other cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that a Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision.

This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada's position on this issue, we both agreed that are close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.

And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.

Now for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider and overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter.

And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.

To illustrate this, let me briefly comment on some of the reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline.

First, the pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passed bipartisan infrastructure plan that in the short term to create more than 30 times jobs per you than the pipeline would and in the long run, would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.

Our business has created 262,000 new jobs last month. They created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months, the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan and keep those jobs coming. That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people's prospects for the future.

Second, the pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers. In fact, gas prices have already been falling steadily. The national average gas price is down to about $0.77 over a year ago. It is down a dollar over two years ago. It is down $1.27 over three years ago.

Today in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two dollars a gallon. So while our politics have been consumed by debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices, we have gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.

Third, shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America's energy security. What has increased America's energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world. Three years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020. Between producing more oil here and home and using less oil throughout our economy, we met that goal last year. Five years early. In fact, for the first time in two decades, the United States of America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

Now the truth is the United States will continue to rely on oil and gas as we transition, as we must transition, to a clean energy economy. That transition will take some time. But it is also going more quickly than many anticipated. Think about it. Since I took office, we have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by 2025. Tripled the power we generate from the wind, multiplied the power we generate from the sun 20 times over. Our biggest and most successful businesses are going all in on clean energy. And thanks in part to the investments we have made, there are already parts of America were clean power from the wind or the sun is finally cheaper than dirtier conventional power. The point is, the old rule said we couldn't promote economic growth and protect our environment at the same time. The old rule said we couldn't transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers.

But this is America and we have come up with new ways and new technologies to break down the old rules so today, homegrown energy is booming and energy prices are falling. And over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, America has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other country on earth. Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change with our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

America is leading on climate change with new rules on power plants that will protect our air so that our kids can breathe. America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In part, because of that American leadership, more than 150 nations representing nearly 90 percent of global emissions, have put forward plans to cut global pollution.

OBAMA: America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership and that is the biggest risk that we face. Not acting.

Today, we're continuing to lead by example, because ultimately, if we're gonna prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're gonna have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

As long as I'm president of the United States, America's gonna hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world.

And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we've got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we've got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it's too late, the time to act is -- is now. Not later, not someday. Right here, right now.

And I'm optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I'm optimistic because our own country proves every day, one step at a time, that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

That's what our own ingenuity and actions can do. That's what we can accomplish. And America's prepared to show the rest of the world the way forward.

Thank you very much.

What does this decision mean in the long run? Climate Desk's Tim McDonnell explains: