Sustainability Reads: August 8- August 21

First things first, we have good news about the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement: it could go into effect this year. For the agreement to go into effect, at least 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions need to formally agree by ratifying it. As of August 17, 2016, 22 countries representing only 1% of global emissions had ratified the agreement. However, around 58 countries representing 54% of global emissions have either already ratified or pledged to work towards ratifying it by the end of the year, including the U.S. and China. If all those countries ratify, we would only need Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa or Turkey to ratify in order for the agreement to be official late 2016 or early 2017. And with Brazil’s approval of the agreement in their Senate, it’s possible.

As of today, we have used up all the Earth’s resources for 2016
Unfortunately, we also have some bad news. We, as humanity, have officially used up the amount of resources needed to live sustainably for a year. August 8th– a little over half way through the year– marked the day in which we consumed more than the earth can produce this year, in what is called “Earth Overshoot Day.” Sadly, Earth Overshoot Day came early in 2016: in 2015 it came on August 13, and August 19 in 2014. This demonstrates that we are using the planet’s natural resources more rapidly. The day is declared by Global Footprint Network and is calculated by dividing the amount of natural resources available (the planet’s biocapacity) by how much of the planet’s resources we use up (humanity’s ecological footprint), and then multiplying it by the days in a year. By Kelsey Kennedy at Quartz.

Health risks from wildfires in U.S. West to increase under climate change
A new Yale-led study shows that wildfires in the west are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change, exposing “tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades.” Individuals in northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains are poised to fare particularly bad when it comes to air pollution exposure from the fires. The authors developed an interactive map to explore findings further and point to the need for comprehensive strategies for managing the fires and their potential impacts. Article by Kevin Dennehy on Yale News, research by  Jia Coco et al. published in Climatic Change.

A small- and medium-sized way to build climate resilience
This piece emphasizes that helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adapt to climate change will have cascading effects for local communities. In developing countries, SMEs can make up to 45% of employment and 33% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product, but are companies so small that they have troubling accessing bank loans and too big to benefit from microfinance. SME’s lack of access to formal credit is a known concern but is particularly important now as investments are needed to safeguard companies and communities from climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme weather. By Mark Malloch Brown at World Economic Forum.

6 Innovative Projects That Are Making Cities Better—That Other Cities Should Steal
The Knight Cities Challenge provided a chance for forward-thinking urban planners to show what cities of the future can look like and receive funding to turn projects into reality. Check out a few of these inspiring projects that can be adapted to cities all over the U.S. The projects include turning a highway into a bicycle park in Akron Ohio and using vacant homes to create new jobs in Gary, Indiana. We hope cities steal these innovative projects that are making cities better! By Adele Peters at CoExist.

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