Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR AUGUST 2016

CC NEWS FOR AUGUST 2016

The Ohio Valley ReSource posted an article on July 22 by Glynis Board titled,  The Flood Next Time: Warming Raises the Risk of Disaster,  Clicking on the link will let you read the article and also hear a 5.1-minute audio broadcast on WFPL at 89.3 on July 25.  Referring to the recent extreme flooding in West Virginia, the report says,
“The National Weather Service described the West Virginia disaster as a 1000-year event, a term meteorologists use to describe the rare probability of such extreme rains. Many scientists who study the climate, however, warn that our warming atmosphere is increasing the likelihood and severity of flooding disasters. Further, a review of emergency planning shows that while risk of extreme rainfall is on the rise in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, the states are not doing enough to prepare for the rising waters.”
Climate scientists like Michael Mann at Penn State University point out that as the atmosphere warms it is able to carry more moisture, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding.
“NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reported that last month was the warmest June for the U.S since temperature record-keeping began more than a century ago, and 2016 is on track to become the globe’s warmest year ever recorded. Mann explained that our atmosphere is like a sponge, and the warmer it is the more water it can hold.”
A report by NOAA and some sixty other scientific agencies shows that intense rainstorms have increased significantly in many parts of the country over the past half-century. In West Virginia and parts of the northeastern U.S., the proportion of precipitation that comes down in the heaviest storms went up by 71 percent. In Kentucky and Ohio, those heavy storms are up by about a third over the same time period.”
“The nonprofit Climate Central, which offers scientific research and information on climate change, produced a report last November called States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card. The report rated states on how well each is preparing for predicted increases in risks, including flooding.”  The Report Card gives letter grades to states for how well prepared they are to deal with the increasing risk of flooding.  Kentucky gets a grade of F, West Virginia gets a D+ and Ohio gets a D.

NOTE: If you go to the Report Card link you will find an interactive map of the U.S. Moving your cursor over a state of interest will show its letter grade for climate preparedness.  California, New York and Massachusetts, which have some of the country’s lowest per capita carbon emissions, all get A.  My state, Delaware, gets a B+.

On July 22 the Climate Reality Project posted an article titled, Thanks Obama!  Five Ways the U.S is Leading the World on Climate Change.  The five ways are:

  •   The Clean Power Plan
  •   A Moratorium (Temporary Freeze) on Leasing Public Lands for Coal Mining
  •   Proposed New Fuel Economy Standards for Vehicles
  •   Improving Energy Efficiency in Homes and Businesses
  •   Reducing Methane Emissions


On July 25 the Sightline Institute published a 26-page report by Kristin Eberhard titled, What is the Best Way to Ensure Climate Justice in Oregon?
In the Executive Summary of the full report Eberhard writes,
Sightline believes any climate policy must be effective, efficient, and fair. One important way to promote climate justice is to make polluters pay when they pollute and dedicate a portion of polluters-pay revenue to projects that both reduce pollution and benefit disadvantaged people.  (emphasis added)  California pioneered such a policy by implementing a science-based cap on climate pollution, investing cap-and-trade auction revenue in projects that reduce climate pollution, and ensuring that a portion of these projects directly benefit disadvantaged people. The Golden State dedicates 25 percent of climate auction revenue to pollution reduction projects that are geographically located in or that benefit the 25 percent of census tracts (each census tract is an area with around 4,000 residents) with the highest cumulative concentrations of environmental and social disadvantages, as measured by a 19-indicator environmental justice screen. Projects include improving transit, building affordable housing near transit, planting trees, and subsidizing electric vehicles.”
“In 2016, Oregon advocates and legislators proposed a bill that would have followeda similar approach to climate equity. However, Oregon faces two major barriers:

1. Oregon’s constitution likely requires all revenue from the transportation
sector—almost all the available auction revenue from a possible future
climate cap-and-trade program—be deposited in the Highway Trust Fund and spent exclusively on roads. The Oregon Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution prohibits Oregon from investing transportation sector money in transit, affordable housing, trees, electric vehicles, or most other projects that could benefit disadvantaged people while cutting pollution. Not only is Oregon cut off from these beneficial projects, but most Highway Trust Fund money is spent on highways. More and better highways can induce more driving, creating more pollution, and further disadvantaging nearby communities.

2. Directing money to the 25 percent of census tracts with the most pollution, people of color, and poverty will not benefit most people of color or low-income households in Oregon. The top 25 percent of census tracts
identified by these three indicators include 402,572 people of color and
534,409 low-income people, while the other 75 percent of tracts include
470,174 people of color and 880,469 low-income people. Following
California’s lead and sending money to the most impacted census tracts may not be the most effective way to benefit low-income households and people of color in Oregon.”


On Aug. 12 BloombergView posted an article by Cass Sunsetin titled, A Court Ruling that Could Save the Planet.  He wrote,
A federal court this week upheld the approach that the government uses to calculate the social cost of carbon when it issues regulations -- and not just the cost imposed on Americans, but on people worldwide (emphasis added).  It’s technical stuff, but also one of the most important climate change rulings ever.
The social cost of carbon is meant to capture the economic damage of a ton of carbon emissions. The assumptions that go into the analysis, and the resulting number, matter a lot, because they play a key role in the cost-benefit analysis for countless regulations -- not only the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, but also fuel economy rules for automobiles and trucks and energy efficiency rules for appliances, including refrigerators, microwave ovens, clothes washers, small motors, and clothes driers. The cost-benefit analysis can in turn help agencies to determine the level of stringency for such regulations, and indeed whether to go forward at all.”
“First established by the Barack Obama administration in 2010, the central value for the social cost of carbon, last updated in 2015, is now $36. That figure is set within a range from $11 to $105, meant to acknowledge scientific and economic uncertainty. (Disclosure: As administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, I was involved in the process.) The $36 figure has international resonance; many nations are paying attention to it. It also plays a large role in discussions about the size of any possible carbon tax.”
“For climate change in particular, the court’s ruling is massively important. It upholds a foundation of countless regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes (which is unlikely), that foundation is now secure. In the U.S. and elsewhere, the social cost of carbon is likely to play a defining role in the coming years.”
NOTE: When discussing the social cost of carbon, Sunstein is talking about the marginal cost to human society of the release of an additional ton of carbon dioxide (CO2 or its equivalent if another greenhouse gas, e.g., N2O, is involved), in dollars per ton.  Note the wide range ($11 to $105 per ton) given by the federal government, to include the uncertainties in the various estimates involved in determining the social cost.  One of the big unknowns is the importance of positive feedbacks that amplify the damage.  Prices on carbon are being set by governments around the world.  A summary of the current status can be found on the Price on Carbon website developed by Linda Swift of the Berkeley, Albany Emeryville (CA) League of Women Voters.  Sweden has the highest national carbon tax of $168 per metric tonne of CO2.
On August 15 the World Resources Institute posted an article by Andrew Light and Helen Mountford titled, Will the G20 Spur Post-Paris Climate Action?  3 Signs to Look For.  The authors point out that the G20 meeting in September in Hangzhou, China, brings together the leaders of the world’s largest economies for the first time since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  They wrote, G20 Leaders Summits traditionally focus on economic growth and financial stability, but since more than 190 countries collectively agreed to greatly enhance mitigation of the causes and impacts of climate change, the need to tackle a changing climate and foster clean energy has become a clear economic and business reality.” 
Collectively, G20 countries represent roughly 80 percent of global GDP and roughly 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.  That means that if they hit their emissions reduction targets, these 20 countries can bend the global emissions curve downward, meeting their responsibility to their citizens, as well as to the smaller economies that are most vulnerable to climate change.”  The three things the authors suggest that we look for are:
  • A commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies no later than 2025
  • A push for green finance
  • Affirmation that the Paris Agreement is the way forward
About fossil fuel subsidies they wrote: “Leaders should acknowledge that fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks cost an estimated $550 billion per year globally and encourage inefficient investments in further fossil fuel exploration and production, discouraging energy innovation and efficiency. They also come at huge cost to the subsidizing governments -- often more than is spent domestically on health or on education...”  (emphasis added)
NOTE: Subsidizing fossil fuels made sense 150 years ago, when the Industrial Revolution was really getting underway and we stopped lighting our homes with whale oil, and eventually replaced horse-drawn carriages with automobiles.  Now, because of the dangerous risks of climate change, it amounts to shooting ourselves in the foot.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issues an annual report on the development of wind energy.  The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) announced the release of DOE’s 2015 Wind Technologies Market  Report on August 17 this year.  The main authors of the report are Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger.  Here are some of the highlights of the LBNL summary:
  • Wind power was the largest source of new U.S. electric supply in 2015, and now provides about 5% of the national total generation - providing more than 10% of the total in twelve states and more than 20% in three.
  • Going to larger, higher capacity turbines with longer blades is improving performance.  Capacity factors (the percentage of maximum possible power actually achieved on average in practice) averaged 26% for projects built from 1998-2003, 31% for those built from 2004-2011, and 41% in 2015 for projects built in 2014.
  • Falling costs of wind projects are pushing down project costs; wind projects installed in 2015 cost an average of $1690/kW, down $640/kW from 2009 and 2010.  
  • National average energy costs in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) have dropped from 7 ¢/kWh in 2009 to 2 ¢/kWh in 2015. 
  • U.S. wind sector employment reached 88.000 full-time workers in 2015, and a significant fraction of the turbine components are manufactured in the U.S.


The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
 at http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
 
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 


pastedGraphic.pdfWhite House Announces Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative

On July 19, the Obama Administration launched an initiative to expand access to solar panels for low- and middle-income households. The initiative, Clean Energy Savings for All, aims to produce one gigawatt of solar electricity by 2020 through solar installations in low- and moderate-income communities, which would involve an estimated 250,000 homes. The program will be coordinated by six federal agencies. Program participants would not be responsible for paying for the solar upgrades if their home is sold or foreclosed. Additionally, the Department of Energy will be launching a new Solar Training Network to help create solar jobs in low- and moderate-income areas. California Governor Jerry Brown commented that the initiative is, "another important government effort to accelerate the movement to renewable energy and efficient housing so we're not wasting water, we're not wasting gas and electricity, and we're using the sun as much as we can."

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_1.pdfWhite House Announces New Electric Vehicle Charging Station Loan Guarantees

On July 21, the White House announced that it was partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Airforce and the Army to release a number of actions to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure. To support this work, the White House is releasing up to $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for commercial-scale EV charging stations. In addition, almost 50 vehicle manufacturers, electric utilities, EV charging companies, states and other organizations signed onto the White House's "Guiding Principles to Promote Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure," a commitment to increase EV charging stations.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_2.pdfMontreal Protocol Negotiations Could Lead to Largest Move on Climate in 2016

On July 15-23, world climate leaders met in Vienna, Austria, to consider a draft amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The Montreal Protocol phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a class of chemicals commonly used as refrigerants, due to their damage of the ozone layer. However, in place of ozone-damaging CFCs companies began using HFCS, which are powerful greenhouse gases that despite their short lifespan can heat the atmosphere up to 1,300 times more than carbon dioxide over a hundred-year period. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said banning HFCs may prevent a global average temperature increase "as high as half to one degree [Celsius] by the end of the century." The delegates will probably officially approve the amendment at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in October.

For more information see:



GOP Platform Calls for Reversing Decades of U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Policies

On July 18, the Republican Party formally adopted its platform, which states, "Climate change is far from this nation's most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it." The platform supports leaving the Paris Agreement on climate change, dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and turning it into a commission, overturning a Supreme Court ruling that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases, stopping regulations on carbon emissions from the power sector (the Clean Power Plan), and calls for opening up federal waters and lands to greater oil, coal and gas extraction. The platform says that the United States should use "all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies," which it says includes nuclear power, natural gas, hydropower, oil, and coal.

For more information see:



Report Finds that Hotter Temperatures Make It Hard to Work in Some Places

On July 18, the International Institute for Global Health of the United Nations University published a report highlighting how higher temperatures related to climate change could shrink global economic output by over $2 trillion by 2030. According to the report, extreme temperature in up to 43 countries will shorten laborers' workdays due to unsafe working conditions. Tord Kjellstrom, a director at the Health and Environmental International Trust, commented that, "With heat stress, you cannot keep up the same intensity of work, and we'll see reduced speed of work and more rest in labor-intensive industries." The report also says certain regions could experience decreases in heat-related productivity in many jobs by over 40 percent by 2050, if climate change continues unabated.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_3.pdfUnited Nations Says 2016 On Track to Be Hottest Year on Record

On July 21, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said 2016 is on track to have the hottest average temperature globally of any year on record, with the first half of the year 2.4 degrees F above the 19th Century average. The WMO found that June this year was the 14th consecutive month that was record-hot, and noted that carbon dioxide's atmospheric concentrations have passed the milestone of 400 parts per million. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas commented, "Another month, another record. And another. And another."

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_4.pdfNew NOAA Tool Lets Communities Map Their Climate Futures

On July 27, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new Climate Explorer program online to expand American communities' access to the organization's historical climate data and climate change predictions. In coordination with the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Climate Explorer provides easy-to-read reports with maps, data tables and graphs showing the potential impact of climate change on counties across the contiguous United States. Herring, a communication and education program manager at NOAA's Climate Program office, commented, "Projections of how much and how fast [climate] change is happening is crucial to help communities prepare and become resilient."

For more information see:



Scientists Urge President Obama to End Coal Leasing on Public Lands

On July 27, a group of more than 65 scientists wrote a letter to the Department of Interior (DOI), advocating an end to coal leasing and extraction on public lands, which account for 41 percent of national coal production. The letter argues that in order for the United States to meet international climate commitments, coal production needs to be quickly phased out. The scientists reference a study that says approximately 95 percent of U.S. coal has to stay in the ground to "preserve a reasonable probability" of keeping warming below the goal of two degrees. Drew Shindell, a climate scientist from Duke who was one of the letter's authors, said an end to federal coal mining should be, "part of a broader effort to stop burning coal at all in order to save the American people from the disastrous damages that it causes."

For more information see:



Environmental Groups Delivers Hundreds of Thousands of Comments to Stop Federal Coal Leasing

On July 28, The Hill reported that a coalition of environmental groups has submitted 250,000 comments to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in support of ending coal leasing on public lands, before the comment period on BLM's coal leasing program ended July 29. Sierra Club alone says it delivered over 130,000 comments. The groups also sent a letter to President Obama describing the benefits of permanently halting coal leasing, including preventing 212 billion metric tons of carbon from being released. Michael Saul at the Center for Biological Diversity commented, "The science is clear that there's no reasonable path to avoiding the worst effects of climate change without the phaseout of coal mining and combustion."

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_5.pdfClimate Change Threatens Coastal Military Bases in United States

On July 27, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report projecting how severe coastal flooding triggered by climate change will threaten the daily operations of U.S. coastal military bases. Through a study of 18 East and Gulf coastal military installations, the report concluded that increasingly extreme high tides and hurricane storm surges will place a majority of these bases "at risk of losing [consistent access to] land where vital infrastructure, training and testing grounds for thousands of its personnel currently exist" by as soon as 2050. The report further predicts that eight of the studied coastal military bases will be vulnerable to permanent land losses of 25 to 50 percent from rising sea levels by 2100.

For more information see:

  
New Research Shows Links Between Climate Change and Violence

On July 25, a new study was published linking climate-related natural disasters and the risk of armed conflict. Researchers found that this link was especially strong in countries with ethnic divides, where 23 percent of armed conflicts were linked to climate change, compared with nine percent of armed conflicts everywhere. One of the study authors, John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said that when climate-related natural disasters happen in places pre-fractured by ethnic divisions, the result is "explosive," likely because one group begins to scapegoat another due to location or income. The study concludes that central Asia and north and central Africa are "exceptionally vulnerable" to this kind of climate change-driven conflict in the future.

For more information see:

  
NOTE: There was a severe drought in Syria that lasted for about four uears before crop failures and job losses led to civil unrest and then to civil war.  Sectarian divisions, where a majority felt that they were unfairly treated, also contributed to the war.

pastedGraphic_6.pdfOcean Acidification Is Changing Fish Behaviors

On July 27, a new study was published indicating that ocean acidification from climate change has affected the reproductive habits of wild fish. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas, dissolves into the ocean and reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid. The study analyzed the habits of Mediterranean ocellated wrasse at sites with high carbon dioxide input from volcanic vents as compared to those 100 miles away at a site with normal CO2 levels, and found the high CO2 area fish mated less frequently. Marco Milazzo, a researcher from University of Palermo, said, "For the first time in the wild, we showed fish species with complex reproductive behaviors to be affected by high carbon dioxide levels expected by this century's end."

For more information see:



New York State Pledges 50 Percent Renewables by 2030

On August 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the approved Clean Energy Standard, which mandates that renewable energy sources make up 50 percent of the state's electricity by 2030. The state estimates that the "50 by 30" mandate will raise average energy bills by less than two dollars per month. The Clean Energy Standard also supports maintaining New York's nuclear power plants through subsidies. The controversial Indian Point plants will be excluded for now, as their operations currently benefit from higher utility rates downstate. New York Chairman of Energy and Finance, Richard Kauffman, said that the standard, "affirms New York's position as a leader in combatting climate change."

For more information see:



Firms Ask Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Governors to Increase Cuts in Carbon Emissions

On August 2, over 90 businesses and institutional investors organized by the Ceres BICEP group (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) urged the nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to increase their governments' yearly carbon reduction goals to five percent by 2020. In two separate letters sent to the states' governors, the signatories called for an expansion of the region's existing cap and trade program. Concerning the promise of the initiative, the coalition of investors wrote that they "see the value of clean energy policies in helping companies and investors grow profits, save money, and mitigate the risks posed by climate change." The RGGI cap and trade program has nearly halved greenhouse gas emissions from the region's power plants over the past decade.

For more information see:



Ellicott City, MD Hit with Thousand-Year Flooding

On July 30, flash flooding at levels expected once a millennium submerged Ellicott City, Maryland. Up to eight inches of rain fell in just three hours, killing two people and damaging close to 200 buildings. First responders estimate at least 120 people were rescued. Maryland State Senator James Rosapepe drew connections between the intensity of the flooding and climate change. Rosapepe pointed to the oft-ignored threats to upland communities, saying that the flood, "reminds us that climate change is about more than polar bears and the rising sea level in the Chesapeake Bay." While climate change cannot be linked definitively to any one event, it does increase the likelihood of natural disasters like the flooding in Ellicott City.

For more information see:



Federal Court Upholds Department of Energy's Social Cost of Carbon
  
   
On August 8, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied the commercial refrigeration industry's legal petition to repeal energy efficiency regulations instituted by the Department of Energy in 2014. Through a cost-benefit analysis, the Department of Energy quantified the social cost of carbon to be $36 per metric ton emitted, a value which the agency then used to defend the need for regulations combating climate change. Concerning the impact of the ruling, Denise Grab, a senior attorney at the Institute for Policy Integrity, stated that "other federal agencies will likely be more confident in using the social cost of carbon going forward." The court's decision marks the first successful legal defense of the legitimacy of the Obama administration's social cost of carbon, which opponents have called poorly calculated and under-informed.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_7.pdfOlympics Broadcast Climate Message to 3.3 Billion Viewers

The August 5 Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics emphasized the serious threat of global climate change. In a video broadcast to over three billion viewers worldwide, narrators described the threat of sea level rise on coastal urban areas and of deforestation on forests' capacity to absorb excess atmospheric carbon. Fernando Meirelles, director of the acclaimed film City of God and one of the creative directors behind the opening ceremony, stated that "the world is threatened because of global warming. We are calling for action." In addition to playing the climate-themed video, Opening Ceremony organizers had every athlete plant a tree seedling in MaracanĂ£ Stadium, which will then be transplanted to the Athletes' Forest in the Deodoro neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro following the Games.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_8.pdfExxon Urges Judge to Block AG Investigation into its Climate Activities

On August 9, the coalition of state attorneys general investigating Exxon Mobil Corp.'s alleged misrepresentation of climate change risks requested that the company's attempt to block the case be rejected in U.S. district court. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, currently backed by New York and a dozen other states, filed a subpoena in April, leading Exxon to file suit. Exxon is accused of lying to the public and its investors by knowingly withholding data on the climate risks associated with man-made emissions. Opponents suggest the states' investigation is politically motivated and threatens First Amendment rights to question climate science. The attorneys general argue Exxon's suit should be tossed, as it would obstruct the states' right to investigate unlawful corporate actions. The case is part of an ongoing effort by states to hold oil and gas companies accountable for downplaying the impacts of their products on climate change, in violation of state consumer protection and securities fraud laws.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_9.pdfScientists Caution 1.5 Celsius Threshold May Prove Unattainable

On August 6, The Guardian reported that many climatologists have expressed great doubt in the world's ability to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Recent data show monthly averages for global temperatures have already regularly exceeded 1 C during the past year, leading many scientists to predict that the international community will not be able to achieve decarbonisation before exceeding the 1.5 C threshold. Professor Chris Field of Stanford University commented that "the 1.5 C goal now looks impossible or at the very least, a very, very difficult task," adding "there is an upper limit to the rate at which we can move to a carbon-free future." Some scientists insist that carbon must be actively removed from the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_10.pdfPeat Bogs, a Vital Carbon Sink, at Greater Risk of Wildfires

On August 8, The New York Times reported on the increased risk of wildfires facing peat bogs due to climate change. Peat bogs, normally covered in damp moss, are drying out because of increased temperatures, leaving them vulnerable to deeper, more intense burning. This is particularly impactful because peat is a massive carbon stock, containing thousands of years' worth of carbon. Making up roughly three percent of the Earth's land surface, global peat bogs store almost as much carbon as is found in the entire atmosphere.

For more information see:


Middle East Heat Wave Previews Consequences of Climate Change

A scorching Middle East heat wave has left countries like Iran and the United Arab Emirates facing a heat index of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat wave is expected to continue this week, and such extreme weather events are projected to become more common in future years across the Persian Gulf. The record-breaking temperatures have exacerbated existing crises in the region related to water scarcity and armed conflict. Iraqi economist Bassem Antoine estimates his country's GDP has taken a 10 to 20 percent hit because of the heat, which has limited working hours and destroyed crops. Iraqi engineer Aymen Karim, whose family avoids the outdoors before seven at night, summed up the feeling of his countrymen, stating, "We're prisoners."

For more information see:


Warming Waters More Hospitable to Cholera-Causing Bacteria 

On August 8, scientists published a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concerning the worrying impact of climate change-related ocean warming on the prevalence of disease-causing Vibrio bacteria. The primary cause of gastrointestinal illnesses like cholera, Vibrio populations were found to increase as ocean surface temperatures increased. Researchers wrote that "such increases are associated with an unprecedented occurrence of environe Atlantic coast of the United States in recent years." While modern water treatment facilities should protect developed nations from uncontrolled Vibrio outbreaks, the researchers warned that less developed nations are at serious risk of widespread infection due to poor water purification practices and greater occurrence of extreme floods and typhoons.

For more information see:


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New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

Thursday, July 21, 2016

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR JULY 2016

CC NEWS FOR JULY 2016

First posted on YouTube by Greenpeace on June 20, pianist Ludovico Einaudo plays a short piece (~ 3 min) called Elegy for the Arctic.  It’s both beautiful and tragic.

The NY TImes on June 27 posted an article by the Editorial Board titled, Good News From Diablo Canyon.  Diablo Canyon has two nuclear reactors that started producing power in 1985 but whose operating permits expire in 2024 and 2025.  Their owner, Pacific Gas and Electric announced that the facility will be closed when the permits expire and that the electricity they generate- nearly 10% of California’s in-state generation - will be replaced will be replaced with lower cost electricity using improved energy efficiency and wind and solar renewable energy sources.  There are a number of reasons for this decision in addition to the cost savings.  The facility is surrounded by earthquake faults and it kills enormous quantities of marine life with a cooling system that depends on huge intakes and discharges of seawater.”  Also California “last year passed a law requiring state-regulated utilities to get half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.” 

NOTE: California is a leader in addressing climate change and has one of the lowest percapit CO2 emissions in the country.  It puts a price on CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system that covers electricity generation, transportation fuels, and industries.  The system now includes the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.  California can be a model for the rest of us.

Climate Home posted an article by Megan Darby on June 29 titled, Window for avoiding 1.5C global warming ‘closed’.  She wrote that a study in Nature by the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis found that the projected global temperature increase from the national climate pledges at the Paris Conference last December are likely to result in temperatures of 2.6 to 3.1C above preindustrial levels - in spite of the fact that countries especially vulnerable to sea level rise, like Bangladesh and low-lying island nations,worked hard to get an agreement that would limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.  Joeri Rogelj, the lead author of the study, told Climate Home, “The grain of hope for these most vulnerable nations is that the Paris Agreement provides a regular forum where ambition can be increased.”

On June 29 Politico posted an article by Eric Wolff titled, API exploring new climate strategy.  The article announced that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is forming a Climate Change Task Force to review climate change policy and messaging in view of President Obama’s determination to deal with climate change as part of his legacy and the demand of a number of environmental organizations to “keep it in the ground.”  It says, The task force may be API's attempt to head off internal divisions among its members over climate change policy, especially when it comes to a carbon tax. The oil lobby wants to avoid the schism that formed when refiners and producers divided during last year's crude export debate. As for climate change policy, API President Jack Gerard told reporters last year that there are "different views within our industry as to how that should be addressed." The task force could also give API the chance to form a united front in responding to allegations that ExxonMobil hid the risks of climate change from the public for decades.”

On June 29 the Center for American Progress posted an article by Greg Dotson and Ben Bovarnick titled, Carbon Pricing in a Fiscal Context.
The authors point out that, contrary to some claims that a price on carbon dioxide emissions would seriously damage the U.S. economy, the money raised by pricing CO2 emissions at $25/ton would be only 3% of the current federal budget.  They wrote, Top economic advisers to Democratic and Republican presidents have expressed their support for putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, describing this as an effective and efficient approach for both reducing pollution and encouraging the adoption of cleaner sources of energy.”  In describing carbon pricing they write,
“Pollution from carbon dioxide results in significant costs to society through the damage caused by climate change, particularly in terms of the harm to public health, agriculture, regional security, economies, livelihoods, and ecosystems. To price carbon means to implement a policy tool that helps transfer those costs from society to the carbon polluter, which, in turn, drives emissions reductions.”  They go on to write,
“… as governments develop and adopt carbon pricing policies, they are finding acceptable approaches that internalize the costs of pollution. In fact, carbon pollution is already priced in a significant portion of the world without yielding dramatic harm to national economies. In total, about 40 national jurisdictions and over 20 cities, states, and regions on five continents—representing almost one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions—have placed a price on carbon. In 2014, 25 percent of the U.S. population lived in a jurisdiction where carbon pollution is currently priced and where nearly 30 percent of the country’s economic activity took place. The price on carbon in California is the highest of any state in the country at almost $13 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, and yet the California economy is projected to grow at a faster pace than the rest of the United States over the next two years.”

The NY Times for July 3 had an article with text by Mike Ives and photos by Josh Haner titled, A Remote Pacific Nation, Threatened by Rising Seas.  Haner wrote,
One clear bright day last winter, a tidal surge swept over an ocean embankment here in the remote, low-lying island country of Kiribati, smashing through the doors and windows of Betio Hospital and spewing sand and debris across its maternity ward.
Beero Hosea, 37, a handyman, cut the power and helped carry frightened mothers through the rubble and water to a nearby school.
“If the next one is combined with a storm and stronger winds, that’s the end of us,” he said. “It’s going to cover this whole island.”
For years, scientists have been predicting that much of Kiribati may become uninhabitable within decades because of an onslaught of environmental problems linked to climate change. And for just as long, many here have paid little heed. But while scientists are reluctant to attribute any specific weather or tidal event to rising sea levels, the tidal surge last winter, known as a king tide, was a chilling wake-up call.”
Pacific island nations are among the world’s most physically and economically vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events like floods, earthquakes and tropical cyclones, the World Bank said in a 2013 report. While world powers have summit meetings to negotiate treaties on how to reduce and mitigate carbon emissions, residents of tiny Kiribati, a former British colony with 110,000 people, are debating how to respond before it is too late.”

NOTE: Most coasts have two high tides and two low tides each day, with the greatest difference between high and low (spring tides) when the earth, moon and sun are in alignment (with full and new moons).  The moon’s gravitation is the larger effect, but the sun is still significant. The king tides are larger than normal spring tides that occur once a year (now in December), when the earth’s elliptical orbit takes it  closest to the sun.  Winds blowing onshore can increase the expected astronomical high tides by an amount known as the storm surge, which can be significant.  The Battery tide gauge at the southern tip of Manhattan showed a storm surge of 9 feet during Hurricane Sandy

The Motley Fool posted an article by Travis Holum on July 4 titled, A Trillion Dollar Renewable Energy Market Might Have Just Opened Up in North America. Holum wrote, “Leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed this week to increase their renewable energy consumption in an effort to get half of North America's energy from renewable sources by 2025. It's a lofty goal, despite assertions that 37% of the region's energy already comes from renewables. But it highlights just how much of a coordinated effort the countries are taking. And it may open a trillion dollar energy market for renewable energy companies“
One of the important aspects of greater development of renewable energy in North America is building significantly more cross-border transmission  capability.  For example, solar poser from Mexico could supply large population centers in southern California.

NOTE: An added benefit of dispersed renewable energy sources is that the variability of the electrical supply across a larger grid area is reduced.  It is less likely that skies will be cloudy across a larger area at the same time.  The large vehicle fleets available in large cities can also provide important energy storage at times when power supply is greater than grid demand - if many of the vehicles are rechargeable electric or hybrid.

John Schwartz posted an article in the NY TImes on July 11 titled, Another Inconvenient Truth: It’s Hard to Agree How to Fight Climate Change.
In it he described some of the disagreements on tactics that have arisen in in the growing environmental movement addressing climate change.  Some of the major issues are: the roles of nuclear power and natural gas, and how to deal with fossil fuel companies.  All basically agree that humanity should be improving energy efficiency and making the transition away from carbon-based fossil fuels to renewable energy sources as soon as possible.  Mr. Schwartz wrote, 
The movement to combat climate change is building an even bigger tent as more nations, businesses, religious groups and even conservatives have committed to dealing with the threat of rising seas and changing weather.  The number of Republicans speaking out in favor of climate action is growing, with the emergence of climate-oriented conservative groups like R Street and the efforts of Jay Faison, a philanthropist who has pledged millions of dollars to support candidates willing to buck the party’s orthodoxy on climate change.” 
Ultimately, Mr. Gore said in a recent telephone interview, economics may accomplish much of what governments have so far failed to do. Plunging costs of renewable energy make it more competitive than ever with fossil fuels. Similarly, the former vice president said, the biggest obstacle for nuclear power could be the expense of building new reactors.“I don’t have a theological opposition to nuclear power,” he said. “It’s simply not cost competitive.”
Mr. Gore said that tensions among climate change activists follow the traditions of the civil rights movement, abolition, women’s suffrage and gay and lesbian rights. “In all such movements, there have been schisms, and minor splits as well,” he added. “It’s just a natural feature of the human condition.””

The Guardian posted an artielc on July 11 by by Suzanne Golderberg and Oliver Milman titled, Hillary Clinton could run on strongest climate change platform ever.  The authors wrote,
Hillary Clinton could campaign much more aggressively against climate change than any US presidential candidate before her, under a draft platform adopted by Democratic party leaders.  The leaders committed the presumptive Democratic nominee to a carbon tax, a climate test for future pipelines and tighter rules on fracking – all stronger positions than those held by Clinton herself at the start of the race.”
“The Clinton camp said, after the platform was adopted, that she does not support a carbon tax and the draft still needs to be ratified at the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia this month.
But the draft platform reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders and other liberals on the 2016 race, and the recognition by Clinton of the need to win over those supporters in swing states such as Colorado, Florida and Virginia where there is strong concern about climate change.”
“The bold stance could also help Clinton define Donald Trump as a climate denier who is out of touch with reality.
The draft platform calls for putting a price on carbon, making approval of pipelines contingent on a climate test, stronger regulation of fracking – especially concerning water – and giving priority to renewable energy over natural gas power plants.”
EcoWatch posted an article on July 14 by Katie Pohlman titled, Salt Lake City Makes Historic Commitment to 100% Renewables by 2032.  The Commitment includes 50% of the electricity for municipal operations from renewables by 2020, and 100% for all community electricity from renewables by 2032, a 50% reduction in all community carbon emissions by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2040. includes Katie wrote,
“Mayor Jackie Biskupski and city council members signed a joint resolution Tuesday creating the Climate Positive 2040 commitment. The resolution acknowledges the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and is driven by the burning of fossil fuels. City officials also stated in the resolution that changes in water systems and extreme-weather events are affecting Salt Lake City now and will be exacerbated in the future …”
"This is the most ambitious step ever taken by Salt Lake City to address the threat of climate change," Biskupski said in a press release. "This commitment places the city among leading communities worldwide that acknowledge our responsibility to rapidly reduce emissions and forge a new path forward that protects our economies, societies and overall human well-being."”

NOTE: This development is particularly sweet for me because I was born in Salt Lake City and went through high school there.  It shows what city leaders can do when they decide to act.

The NY TImes posted an article on July 19 by Coral Davenport titled, Fighting Obama’s Climate Plan, but Quietly Preparing to Comply.  She wrote, 
Matt Mead, the governor of Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, fiercely opposes President Obama’s climate change regulations, which could shutter hundreds of coal plants and deeply wound his state, one of 27 that are suing to block the plan.
Nevertheless, Mr. Mead, a Republican, has ordered his top environmental officials to prepare to comply with the president’s effort, known as the Clean Power Plan — to prepare for a future in which Mr. Obama’s climate change rules prevail and the country’s coal market is nearly frozen. Wyoming is one of at least 20 states that are moving forward with efforts to comply with the rules or to analyze alternative plans. Several of these states are also suing to stop the rules, according to experts who track state climate change policy.
“Obviously we’re suing and going to fight,” Mr. Mead, a former United States attorney for Wyoming, said in an interview in his office here. “But from my court experience, I know you have to prepare not to win.”” 
Governors like Mr. Mead and state-level environment officials are making a political calculation: If Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints a new Supreme Court justice, Mr. Obama’s climate plan will probably survive.”

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
 at http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
 
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 


pastedGraphic.pdfPresident Obama Says Climate Change Is Greatest Threat to National Parks

On June 20, President Obama discussed the negative impacts of climate change on the American landscape during a speech in Yosemite National Park, stating, "Climate change is no longer just a threat - it's already a reality." President Obama stated, "In Yosemite, meadows are drying up, bird ranges are shifting farther northward, [and] alpine mammals like pikas are being forced further upslope to escape higher temperatures. Yosemite's largest glacier, once a mile wide, is now almost gone." During his visit to the park with the First Family, President Obama also highlighted his Administration's addition of an unprecedented 265 million more acres of U.S. wilderness lands to the national park system.

For more information see:

  

pastedGraphic_1.pdfSecretary of State Kerry Witnesses Effects of Climate Change on Visit to Arctic

On June 17, Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland on a Danish naval vessel, as part of an Arctic tour to observe the impact of climate change on the region. Sec. Kerry commented that Jakobshavn was "the most active ice flow in the Northern Hemisphere," with about 86 million metric tons of ice melting into the ocean daily. "There is no mistaking that we are contributing to climate change . . . There is profound change throughout the Arctic region," Kerry stated. Sec. Kerry's focus on the Arctic comes as the United States heads the Arctic Council in 2016. Kerry also visited Copenhagen and the Norwegian Arctic on the trip.

For more information see:

  

pastedGraphic_2.pdfWhite House Releases Report Calling for Coal Leasing Reform

On June 22, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council on Economic Advisers, announced a new report by the White House and four outside experts which calls for reform to the federal coal leasing program, during a Resources for the Future event in Washington, DC. The report calls for a 300 percent increase from current levels of the royalties companies pay to extract coal on public lands, in order to increase compensation to taxpayers and protect the climate. Companies today often pay much less than the statutory requirement of 12.5 percent in royalties to the government. This change would cut 319 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, and reduce coal production on public lands by around 50 percent.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_3.pdfEPA Releases Draft Urban Resilience Report

On June 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft report titled "Evaluating Urban Resilience to Climate Change: A Multi-Sector Approach." The report, from EPA's Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) program, provides tools and guidelines for state and local planners that intend to make their cities more resilient to climate change. The report addresses ways to build resilience in multiple sectors, including water, energy, transportation, health, economic, land use, environmental, and telecommunications. The draft supplies case studies from Washington, D.C. and Worcester, MA as examples of how the tools, methods and actions would work. The EPA will be accepting public comments on the draft for 30 days.

For more information see:

  
pastedGraphic_4.pdfCities Across the World Form a New Compact on Climate

On June 22, over 7,100 cities in 119 countries created a group called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. This alliance, formed out of the Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors, is now the largest coalition on climate in the world, according to its co-chairs Marcos Sefcovic (European Commission vice-president) and Michael Bloomberg (former mayor of New York City). Bloomberg pointed to the importance of cities in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement commitments, and Sefcovic said, "When mayors share a vision of a low-carbon future and roll up their sleeves, things get done." The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that cities produce 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and consume 70 percent of the world's energy.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_5.pdfReport: European Union Exceeds 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets

On June 21, the European Environment Agency (EEA) reported that the European Union has surpassed its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal of 20 percent by 2020, with overall GHG emissions diminishing by almost 25 percent (or 1383 million metric tons) between 1990 and 2014. The report attributes the unexpected decrease to a decline in coal use, increased reliance on renewable energy, and warmer winters. EEA chief Hans Bruyninckx commented, "To accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon society, we need to further boost our investments in technology and innovation aimed at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels." However, the report also states that greenhouse gas emissions from transportation (i.e., automotive, aviation, and shipping) and the air conditioning and refrigeration industries have increased, and represent a challenge to future emissions reductions.

For more information see:

  
pastedGraphic_6.pdfWarmer Temperatures Begin to Melt Permafrost Under Arctic Lakes

On June 16, Geophysical Research Letters published a study concerning the impact of rising temperatures on the permafrost below many Arctic lakes. Scientists discovered that declines in the thickness of lake ice and increased snowfall over the last 30 years, due to climate change, have allowed the permafrost lakebeds of shallow lakes to warm and melt. Lakebed permafrost is melting about 70 years earlier than is expected for terrestrial permafrost. Study co-author Vladimir Romanovsky, of the UAF Geophysical Institute, commented, "With further thawing of sub-lake permafrost there is a good chance that the ground will subside, increasing the lake depth and accelerating further permafrost thawing." Researchers also expressed concern over the carbon currently stored within the Arctic permafrost, which could be released into the atmosphere if soil temperatures continue to increase.

For more information see:

  
pastedGraphic_7.pdfNew Study Ranks Oil and Gas Companies by Methane Emissions

On June 20, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report examining onshore U.S. oil and gas companies' 2014 emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, using emission estimates that companies self-reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). CAP found that ConocoPhillips released the most methane in 2014, followed by ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, EOG Resources, and BP America. ConocoPhillips told Fortune that it has cut nine billion cubic feet of methane emissions in the last five years; however, CAP found that in 2014 the company emitted at least 33 percent more methane than Exxon, the second largest emitter. Report author Alison Cassady at CAP commented that "without mandatory limits on methane pollution," the oil and gas industry will continue to release millions of metric tons of methane.

For more information see:


NOTE: While the atmospheric concentration of methane (about 1800 ppb or 1.8 ppm) is much lower than the concentration of carbon dioxide (now just over 400 ppm), it is a very powerful greenhouse gas and contributes significantly to global warming, so its leaking should be avoided.  Through most of the last 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, its concentration was about 0.5+/-0.2 ppm.


United States, Canada and Mexico Announce North American Clean Energy Partnership

On June 29, President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, and President Pena Nieto of Mexico announced the formation of the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership at the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa. The initiative set a new goal to source at least 50 percent of North America's electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. The partnership also seeks to align fuel economy standards for the heavy transportation sector and eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, among other initiatives. Jason Furman and Brian Deese of the Council of Economic Advisers wrote, "These efforts will . . . help all three countries meet their commitments under the Paris agreement . . . and support hundreds of thousands of jobs."

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_8.pdfInterior Dept. Releases New Regulations for Royalties from Fossil Fuel Production on Public Lands

On June 30, the Department of the Interior published the final version of its new regulatory framework for collecting royalties from fossil fuel extraction projects on public lands. The revised system will assess owed royalties based on the first sale from the original extractor to an independent buyer. The changes were prompted by allegations that fossil fuel companies were selling fuels to their own subsidiaries or an affiliated company in order to artificially lower the products' market value and, in turn, their federal royalty payments. Interior Secretary Jewell commented that the new rules were "urgently needed to better align our regulatory framework with a 21st century energy marketplace . . . [and ensure] that the American taxpayer receives every dollar due for the production of these domestic energy resources."

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_9.pdfSenate Committee Adopts $500 Million Spending Package for Green Climate Fund

On June 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment on a voice vote to remove language from a State Department and Foreign Operations funding bill which blocked U.S. funding for the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF); the amendment also sets up $500 million in funding for the GCF for 2017. The day prior, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs had passed the funding bill with language blocking the United State from funding the GCF. The new amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), passed despite opposition from some Republicans. President Obama has promised $3 billion in funding to the GCF, which funds climate adaptation projects, and has so far paid $500 million.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_10.pdfDistrict of Columbia Approves Bill for 50 Percent Renewable Energy Mandate

On June 28, the District of Columbia Council unanimously voted to enact a renewable energy target of 50 percent by 2032, an increase from the existing standard of 20 percent by 2020. The new bill also introduces a "Solar for All" program to implement solar power and energy efficiency in 100,000 low-income households, cutting their electric bills 50 percent by 2032. The bill also supports solar and wind generation by providing incentives for 1,500 new megawatts. Mayor Muriel Bowser is expected to sign the bill into law, as she has previously supported a 50 percent renewable energy target, although she has not explicitly stated her support for this bill.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_11.pdfDNC Platform Committee Unanimously Pushes for Probe into Fossil Fuel Companies

On June 25, the Democratic National Convention's Platform Drafting Committee released the final draft of its official 2016 platform, in which it unanimously called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate fossil fuel companies which may have intentionally misled the American people and investors about the scientific certainty of climate change. The final draft of the DNC platform states, "All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose risks they face including climate risks. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable." While the final draft did not name any specific fossil fuel company, ExxonMobil has recently been the target of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and by a coalition of 17 state attorneys general. The full 187-member DNC Platform Committee will meet for final approval of the platform on July 8-9.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_12.pdf31 Scientific Organizations Write Joint Letter to Congress Urging Climate Action

On June 28, a coalition of 31 U.S. scientific organizations sent a letter urging Congress to proactively address climate change, reminding legislators that there is a "consensus scientific view" that climate change is happening. The letter emphasized the strong science underpinning the current understanding of anthropogenic climate change and asked Congress to act to "substantially" reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and work to help the country adapt to climate changes already occurring. The coalition offered the assistance of the scientific community as Congress considers its options for action on climate.

For more information see:



pastedGraphic_13.pdfStudy Links 6.5 Million Deaths to Air Pollution

On June 27, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report attributing 6.5 million deaths every year to air pollution, stating that the number of deaths is likely to rise "significantly" in the future. The study found that energy production and use were the biggest contributors to global air pollution.  (emphasis added) IEA executive director Fatih Birol commented, "We need to revise our approach to energy development so that communities are not forced to sacrifice clean air in return for economic growth." The report recommends that governments set ambitious long-term targets for cutting air pollution, implement pollution standards in their energy sectors, and put effective enforcement and monitoring strategies in place.

For more information see:


NOTE: There is a term, the “social cost of carbon,” used by the EPA and others to designate the economic damage to society of each addition ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere; this figure is used to justify regulations that reduce the damage to society done by emissions.  The number can also be used to put a price on carbon emissions that is commensurate with the damage they cause.  It is necessarily somewhat subjective.  How does one estimate the value of the millions of lives lost every year from the production and use of fossil fuels?


pastedGraphic_14.pdfMiami-Dade County Considers Asking Developers to Pay for Effects of Sea Level Rise

On July 6, four Miami-Dade County commissioners presented an unprecedented plan to collect "impact fees" from developers in order to finance local climate mitigation and adaptation projects. The commissioners say the initiative would help provide the funds required to properly prepare the county for the negative effects of sea level rise. Georgetown University law professor J. Peter Byrne co-authored a paper on these fees earlier this year, stating that they are "sensible, well-adapted [tools] that a local government can use," and "if [the program] discourages the developers from building . . . they can try to build it in a manner or location in which there's less climate harm." The four commissioners asked Miami Mayor Carlos Jimenez to draft a report looking at the utility of their proposal and whether it would be appropriate.

For more information see:


Former United Nations Climate Chief Formally Begins Bid to Become Next United Nations Leader

On July 7, Christina Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was formally nominated to serve as the next secretary-general of the United Nations by President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica, her native country. Figueres completed her term leading the UNFCCC on July 1, 2016, and can claim significant credit for the organization's successful production of an international deal on climate in Paris last year. Eleven people have already been nominated for the position. A UN led by Figueres would have a stronger focus on climate change. The first "straw poll" of permanent UN members to decide the new secretary-general will take place July 21.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_15.pdfMassive Canadian Wildfire Declared "Under Control," Two Months After It Began

On July 5, Alberta officials declared the Fort McMurray wildfire, which began on May 1, "under control." The fire caused the evacuation of 80,000 people, and is likely to be the costliest wildfire in Canadian history, said Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre representative Mark Mousseau. The Fort McMurray fire burned 2,300 square miles, the same size as Delaware, but is not the largest in Canadian history. However, the proximity to the city means that the damage was more expensive-2,400 buildings were destroyed, approximately 10 percent of the city, which may be a new record. The Alberta Agriculture and Forestry department said the wildfire may burn in more remote areas for another year.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_16.pdfNextGen Climate Announces It Has Hit Midpoint in College Campus Outreach Drive

On July 5, the climate politics group NextGen Climate announced it has organized voter outreach groups on 100 college campuses, halfway to its stated target of establishing teams on 200 campuses in swing states before the November election. The campus outreach is part of a $25 million campaign to get young people out to vote for candidates who care about climate change, funded primarily by NextGen Climate founder, billionaire Tom Steyer. The teams are being placed at both large and small schools, in places such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. Steyer said at the launch of the campaign in April, "When young people . . . use the fact that they are the biggest cohort in this election cycle, incredible things can happen."

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_17.pdfJune Declared Hottest on Record for Contiguous United States

On July 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared that June was the hottest June on record for the contiguous United States, with an average temperature of 71.78 degrees F, 3.3 degrees F above the 20th century average. According to NOAA, the "Lower 48" has had an average temperature 3.2 degrees F above the 20th century average so far in 2016. Climatologist Jake Crouch at NOAA told ClimateCentral that the "record-breaking heat wave in the Southwest during June played an important role in boosting the contiguous U.S. average temperature to record territory." NOAA has not yet released its global analysis for June.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_18.pdfArctic Sea Ice Sets Record for New Low Extent in June

On July 6, the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) declared that the average extent of Arctic sea ice in June hit a new record low, with an average of 4.09 million square miles. The new record is 100,000 square miles less than the previous record from 2010, and 525,000 square miles (about twice the size of Texas) less than the 1981 to 2010 average. NSIDC noted that every month in 2016 except March has set a new record low for average ice extent in the Arctic.

For more information see:



Senators Introduce Resolution Decrying Climate Denial

The week of July 11, 19 Democratic senators gave five and a half hours of speeches condemning the fossil fuel industry's "web of denial" on climate change and climate science. Led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the coalition identified over 32 think tanks and special interest groups that have been "either co-opted or created by the fossil fuel industry in order to propagate climate [change] denial while obscuring the true hand of the . . . industry in their efforts." In addition to the speeches, eight Senators (seven Democrats and one Independent - Sen. Bernie Sanders) introduced a resolution decrying industry-backed efforts to mislead the public on the negative impacts of lead, tobacco and climate change. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and 14 colleagues introduced the same resolution in the House.

For more information see:



New Poll Shows Increase in Number of Americans Alarmed by Climate Change

On July 12, researchers from George Mason and Yale University published a study that illustrated an overall increase in climate change concern among American adults. The survey of 1,204 American adults found that the number of respondents "alarmed" about climate change rose five percent during 2015, to 17 percent of respondents. An additional 28 percent are "concerned" about climate change. Edward Maibach of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication commented, "the size of [those] alarmed [by climate change] are on the rise and will remain on the rise." The study also discovered that over 80 percent of the people "alarmed" about climate change identified climate change, clean energy, and environmental protection as their three most important voting issues.

For more information see:

  
pastedGraphic_19.pdfMany in the United States Want More Climate Change Discussion in Presidential Election

On June 11, the Guardian released additional results from an online survey (not a randomized poll) in which one in five respondents expressed concern over the lack of climate change discourse in the current presidential race. Of respondents who are concerned about climate change, the Guardian found that the number one cited cause of concern was food and water shortages, followed by sea level rise. One of the respondents, Linda Hayden, commented, "The fact that no one is really talking about climate change, to me, is indicative of just how lost we are. Our house is on fire and we are arguing about who is more angry!" The survey received responses from 1,385 Guardian readers from all 50 states.

For more information see:


Scientist Links Mass Die-Off of Mangroves in Australia to Climate Change

On July 11, mangrove expert Dr. Norm Duke of James Cook University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that about 10,000 hectares of mangroves have recently died along 700 kilometers of Queensland and Northern Territory coastline in Australia, in what he refers to as a "world-first in terms of the scale." Dr. Duke said the massive die-off was probably linked to climate change, which has contributed to unusually low precipitation rates and higher temperatures across the region. "What is so unusual now is its extent, and that it occurred across the whole southern gulf in a single month," said Dr. Duke. The mangrove die-off took place over the same time period as the widespread coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef.

For more information see:


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Chad A. Tolman

ctolman141@gmail.com
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light