Why global warming – usually under the radar – made headlines this week

Climate change stole the spotlight this week, with the People's Climate March drawing a record crowd to New York and the UN Climate Summit gathering leaders from around the world. From New York to Boston and Beijing to Washington, the Monitor was there to cover it. 

Carlo Allegri/Reuters
A child holds up a sign as he takes part in the 'People's Climate March' down 6th Ave. in New York on September 21, 2014. The march drew hundreds of thousands of people who demanded action on climate change ahead of Tuesday's UN Climate Summit.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not breaking news, but, for at least this week, climate change made headlines. And it managed to do so even as international efforts to combat the Islamic State and contain Ebola vied for top billing in the news cycle.

Why so much coverage? A lot was happening.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands streamed through the streets of Manhattan demanding bold action on global warming at the People’s Climate March. On Tuesday, more than 100 heads of state convened at the UN to address climate change – an issue US President Obama said “will define the contours of this century more than any other.” And throughout the week, environmentalists, multinational corporations, and other stakeholders swapped ideas at Climate Week NYC.

The Monitor covered the climate and energy news with analysis from New York, Beijing, Washington, and Boston. Here’s what we reported:

Around the World

Missing in action at UN climate summit: world's top polluter
At Tuesday's UN Climate Summit in New York, the leaders of two major carbon emitters – India and China – took a rain check. From Beijing, Peter Ford writes that even if China meets its 2020 emissions targets, it will produce 73 percent more carbon dioxide than in 2005 because of rapid industrial growth. That rise casts doubt about China’s commitment to reining in its runaway emissions.

China, India leaders are no shows at UN Climate Summit. Why that's OK. 
David J. Unger in Boston offers a counterpoint to the international handwringing over China and India’s absence at the summit. The two carbon giants have made big strides on renewables, and the real test will come in Lima later this year and Paris next year, when world leaders aim to craft an international climate agreement.

Climate change summitry's force of nature: Christiana Figueres
Clara Germani tells the story of how UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres became a fierce crusader to lower Earth's thermostat. In it, a visceral connection to the planet – from the now-extinct golden toads of her childhood in the Costa Rican jungle to shrinking glaciers – moves Ms. Figueres to tears.

In the US

UN climate change summit: Stymied at home, Obama looks for climate support overseas
Jared Gilmour reports from Washington that Obama used Tuesday’s summit to pressure world leaders for ambitious emissions targets and environmental protections. But as Obama pushed climate on the global stage, Republicans and some Democrats in Congress hoped to upend his clean energy goals at home.

UN Climate Summit: Obama flexes US muscle in global climate fight
At the UN, President Obama said that the US was beginning to take action to fight climate change, but must do more. Mr. Obama called on the international community to make strong commitments on clean energy ahead of next year's climate talks in Paris.


It's Climate Week. Where are Republicans?
Republicans remained silent following President Obama's UN speech Tuesday, which urged international cooperation to address climate change. The GOP generally criticizes the president's environment and energy policies. But will there soon be room for bipartisanship on renewables and climate adaptation?

The March

People's Climate March draws 300,000 to Manhattan
Harry Bruinius in New York hit the streets to cover thousands of climate change activists and others gathering in Manhattan Sunday for the People’s Climate March. The gigantic demonstration came days before the UN’s Climate Summit, which drew about 100 heads of state.

Boisterous Flood Wall Street protest: NYPD makes arrests but shows restraint
The Flood Wall Street demonstration was intended to be a more aggressive follow-up to the festive and peaceful People’s Climate March. The NYPD’s actions were measured and uncharacteristically restrained, experts say.

The Science

Earth's ozone layer: Scientists hail first hints of recovery
Good news: The 1987 Montreal Protocol – which banned production of 100 ozone-depleting chemicals – is having an impact, writes Pete Spotts. Scientists expect full recovery of Earth's ozone layer by midcentury.

Goodbye coal, oil? Team tests cheaper way to use sunlight to produce hydrogen.
Solar-derived hydrogen could – in theory – replace fossil fuels. In practice, it's another story. A team in Switzerland says they've found a way to more efficiently use sunlight to produce hydrogen, publishing their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.  

Climate change: Is your opinion informed by science? Take our quiz!
Climate Week demonstrated what a divisive and politically messy issue global warming has become. The science underlying climate change is more straightforward. Take Bryan Cronan’s quiz to test your knowledge!

The Future 

Climate Week is ending. What next?
"Even though we are in a very complex process in the negotiation, I think what we have received from the [New York] summit has left for us a hope that we can deal with the problems and reach the objective," says Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's minister of the environment and president of upcoming negotiations in Lima, Peru. "Our challenge is to maintain this message through Lima."

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