Monday, January 19, 2015

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR JANUARY, 2015

CC NEWS FOR JANUARY 2015

On December 15 Nature Geoscience posted a paper by Gabriel J. Bowen et al. titled, Two massive, rapid releases of carbon during the onset of the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum.  They wrote, The Earth’s climate abruptly warmed by 5–8 °C during the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), about 55.5 million years ago. This warming was associated with a massive addition of carbon to the ocean–atmosphere system, ... Here we present a new high-resolution carbon isotope record .... Our record shows that the beginning of the PETM is characterized by not one but two distinct carbon release events, separated by a recovery to background values. To reproduce this pattern, our model requires two discrete pulses of carbon released directly to the atmosphere, at average rates exceeding 0.9 Pg C yr−1, with the first pulse lasting fewer than 2,000 years. We thus conclude that the PETM involved one or more reservoirs capable of repeated, catastrophic carbon release, and that rates of carbon release during the PETM were more similar to those associated with modern anthropogenic emissions than previously suggested.”
NOTE: The average emission rates during the PETM pulses exceeded 0.9 petagrams (billion metric tonnes) of carbon per year.  Last year global emissions from burning fossil fuels were nearly 10 billions tons of carbon (36 billion tons of CO2)..

The Energy and Environmental Study Institute (EESI) released a report on Dec. 23 titled, Fact Sheet: Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (2014)Using data from a variety of sources, it addressed jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the U.S. and around the world.  The numbers given for U.S. workers in various sectors of Energy Efficiency for the most recent years data were available were: Buildings (450,000), Public Mass Transit (400,000), Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards (340,000), Vehicles (263,000) and Smart Grid and Demand Management (total not available).  For Renewable Energy: Renewable Fuels (ethanol, biodiesel and advanced biofuels) (852,000), Hydropower (200,000-300,000), Biomass (152,000), Solar (143,000), Wind (50,500), Geothermal (35,000), Waste-to-Energy (14,000), Fuel Cells (9,800), Wave and Ocean Power (370), Biogas (total not available).  Solar has been growing most rapidly on a percent per year basis; future of wind power growth depends strongly on the renewal of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC).

On Dec. 25 Andrew Freeman posted The extreme weather and climate events of 2014 in 13 photos on Mashable.  The photos and the text that goes with them are worth looking at.

In December the Climate Change Performance Index 2015 was released by Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network Europe, with Jan Burck, Franziska Marten and Christoph Bals as the primary authors.  The Index, now in its 10th year,  with the assistance of about 300 energy and climate experts from around the world, assigns a performance score to about 60 countries - based on weighted criteria: Emissions Level (20%), Emissions Development (trend, 20%), Renewable Energy (10%), Efficiency (10%) and Policy (20%).  Denmark, the best country, with a Score of 77.76, was still rated only Good; the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters, with Scores of 52.33 and 51.77, were rated Poor; the lowest Score of 24.19 went to Saudi Arabia - rated Very Poor.  The authors concluded that no countries are doing enough, though some trends are encouraging.

The Week for Dec. 26, 2014 had an article by Niel Bhatiya titled, The 5 most important developments in climate change in 2014.  The five reasons for hope are:
  1. China has set a goal for peak emissions
  2. The EPA's Clean Power Plan
  3. The Green Climate Fund is working (sort of)
  4. Price of renewables continues to plunge
  5. Soaring demand for green-focused financing
You can read the details at:
NOTE: Another reason for hope is the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21.  Over 300,000 people participated, making it the largest public demonstration for effective climate action in history.  And the U.S. League of Women Voters passed the following near-unanimous resolution for a price on carbon at its biernnial 2014 Convention in July: “The LWVUS should support a price on carbon emissions that will increase in stages, as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system.”
On Jan. 4 Lawrence Summers, a professor and past President of Harvard and a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, posted an article in The Washington Post titled, Oil’s swoon creates the opening for a carbon tax.  He argues that now, with oil prices much lower than they were even six months ago, would be a great time for a carbon tax of perhaps $25/ton of CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels.  This would raise about $100 billion a year in the U.S. but would increase the cost of gasoline only about 25 cents a gallon.  He suggests using half of the money for aging infrastructure and half to reduce income taxes.  He writes, A U.S. carbon tax would contribute to efforts to combat climate change in other ways. It would be a hugely important symbolic step ahead of the global climate summit in Paris late this year. It would shift the debate toward harmonized measures to raise the price of carbon use and away from the complex cap-and-trade-type systems that have proved more difficult to operate than expected in the European Union and elsewhere.” “Progressives who are most concerned about climate change should rally to a carbon tax. Conservatives who believe in the power of markets should favor carbon taxes on market principles. And Americans who want to see their country lead on the energy and climate issues that are crucial to the world this century should want to be in the vanguard on carbon taxes. Now is the time.”
On January 5 the Baltimore Magazine posted a riveting article by Ron Cassie titled, The Sea Also Rises, describing what is happening to Maryland as a result of sea level rise, land subsidence, storms and costal erosion.  It is not just Maryland’s Eastern Shore islands that are in danger of disappearing beneath the surface because of global climate change and rising sea levels. In truth, 13 of the lower bay’s charted islands, many of them once inhabited, are already gone.”  Both Baltimore and Annapolis are vulnerable.
“Floods have already increased by more than 900 percent in both cities since 1960. Some projections call for 225 or more such floods a year for Baltimore and, essentially, daily inundation for Annapolis by 2045, according to a recent study based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.
“The question really isn’t what will be lost anymore,” says Jim Titus, a Maryland resident and leading sea-level-rise official at the Environmental Protection Agency, “but what we will decide to save.””
Scientific American for January 5 posted an article by Brian Kahn and Climate Central titled, 2014 Officially Hottest Year on RecordThe result comes from the Japan Meteorological Agency - the first of the four agencies that determine global average temperatures to report for the year.
Scientific American for January 6 had a post from ClimateWire titled, Low Gas Prices Smooth Path for Carbon Add-On in CaliforniaOn Jan. 1 California’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions began to include gasoline and diesel fuel.  For California burns about 17 million gallons of transportation fuel per year.  With each gallon producing about 20 pounds of CO2 when burned, it means that 3.4 million tons of CO2 will be produced with a current auction allowance price of $12 per ton.  It’s a good time to add a price on carbon because of price of oil has been falling so fast that an added 10-12 cents a gallon will hardly be noticed.  Higher carbon prices will be needed to affect people’s behavior much.
In January Jim Kennerly and Autumn Proudlove of the NC Clean Energy Technology Center of North Carolina State University released a very informative report titled, Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value to Consumers in America’s Largest Cities.  The report evaluates the economics of installing 5 kW solar systems on rooftops of homes in the 50 largest cities in the U.S., with some surprising results: Of the single-family homeowners in America’s 50 largest cities, we estimate that 9.1 million already live in a city where solar costs less than their current utility rates if they bought a PV system outright – and nearly 21 million (93% of all estimated single-family homeowners in those cities) do if low-cost financing is available.” “Contrary to popular belief, customers in regions with lower utility rates than average tend to pay higher monthly bills than average.”“Many customers still mistakenly believe, however, that solar PV is not an option for them. This stems, in part, from a belief that they may not be able to afford it, and because their area does not have enough sunshine year-round. In fact, solar PV’s value to a customer tends to be most closely related to the degree to which solar can offset their typical use of grid energy.”  
The report finds that in many locations putting a 5kW system on a dwelling is a better investment that the stock market - especially in areas where grid electricity rates are relatively high - like Boston or Philadelphia.  This is true in part because of huge reductions in the cost of solar panels and in part because grid electricity rates are expected to increase substantially over the 25-year life expectancy of the solar panels.
The NY Times for Jan. 18 had an article by Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the university of Rochester, titled, Is Climate Disaster Inevitable?  He points out that though our galaxy has nearly 300 billion stars, most of which have planets, we have no evidence for intelligent life on any of them, except our own.  He writes, Hundreds of billions of planets translate into a lot of chances for evolving intelligent, technologically sophisticated species. So why don’t we see evidence for E.T.s everywhere?  The physicist Enrico Fermi first formulated this question, now called the Fermi paradox, in 1950. But in the intervening decades, humanity has recognized that our own climb up the ladder of technological sophistication comes with a heavy price. From climate change to resource depletion, our evolution into a globe-spanning industrial culture is forcing us through the narrow bottleneck of a sustainability crisis. In the wake of this realization, new and sobering answers to Fermi’s question now seem possible.  Maybe we’re not the only ones to hit a sustainability bottleneck. Maybe not everyone — maybe no one — makes it to the other side.”
The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively “harvest” energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process. Human civilization currently harvests around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy each year and dumps 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the planetary system, which is why the atmosphere is holding more heat and the oceans are acidifying. As hard as it is for some to believe, we humans are now steering the planet, however poorly.”
“But can we predict how an alien industrial civilization might alter its world? From a half-century of exploring our own solar system we’ve learned a lot about planets and how they work. We know that Mars was once a habitable world with water rushing across its surface. And Venus, a planet that might have been much like Earth, was instead transformed by a runaway greenhouse effect into a hellish world of 800-degree days.”
“When it comes to building world-girdling civilizations, there are no planetary free lunches.  This realization motivated me, along with Woodruff Sullivan of the University of Washington, to look at sustainability in its astrobiological context. As we describe in a recent paper, using what’s already known about planets and life, it is now possible to create a broad program for modeling co-evolving “trajectories” for technological species and their planets. Depending on initial conditions and choices made by the species (such as the mode of energy harvesting), some trajectories will lead to an unrecoverable sustainability crisis and eventual population collapse. Others, however, may lead to long-lived, sustainable civilizations.”
Let’s pray and work for a long-lived, sustainable civilization.
Heather Clancy posted an article In Forbes on Jan. 19 titled, Google Makes Two More Solar, Wind Investments.  The two investments are for a wind farm in Oklahoma with 162 GE turbines that can provide electricity for 110,000 homes and a solar power plant in Utah with 325,000 PV modules that can provide electricity for 18,500 homes.  So far Google has invested $1.5 billion in 19 renewable energy projects.  Good for Google!  It’s leading the way to a sustainable future.
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. 


White House Proposes Guidelines for Government Agency Consideration of Climate Change
On December 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a proposal to require government agencies to conduct a climate review for any planned project that would release carbon emissions equivalent to the exhaust of 5,000 vehicles (25,000 metric tons of carbon). The CEQ proposal modifies the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires government agencies to conduct environmental reviews on all projects they consider for approval, whether they are government agency projects or outside projects on government land. The guidelines build on a 2010 proposal to consider climate change in some government reviews. The Administration will accept comments for 60 days, in advance of issuing the final guidelines.
For more information see:


Washington State Governor Proposes Carbon Cap-and-Trade
On December 16, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee announced a proposal to fund the state’s transportation needs using bonds, fees and a carbon cap-and-trade on Washington state industrial polluters. The cap-and-trade piece of the legislation would create a gradually diminishing limit on carbon emissions from the top industrial polluters, as well as a market-based system to trade carbon allowances. Inslee estimates that the carbon markets created in the bill would generate $7 billion over a 12-year period, financing a significant portion of the total $12 billion transportation plan. The Carbon Pollution Accountability Act would fill a 52 percent decrease in Washington’s maintenance budget coming in 2015. Inslee hopes to fund a new six-lane floating bridge, highway and interstate widening and repairs, and more support for road safety projects such as rumble strips and guard rails, among other works. “We can clear our air and water at the same time we are fixing our roads and bridges,” said Inslee. “It’s a pretty elegant solution for the state of Washington.”
In related news, on December 8 the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University released a report stating that a carbon tax would greatly reduce the state of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions, without affecting its economy or jobs significantly. The Oregon state legislature commissioned the study in 2013 with Senate Bill 306 (SB306). The findings may play a large role during the 2015 state legislative session, in which lawmakers will debate whether to join the British Columbia and California in restricting carbon emissions.
For more information see:


New Study Takes On Why People in the U.S. Are Not Acting on Climate Change
On December 11, Washington, D.C. based non-profit, ecoAmerica and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University's Earth Institute released a report, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. The report examines the psychology of climate change inaction, and finds that there are several psychological barriers to greater collective action on climate change, including behaviors intrinsic to human nature. According to the report, distance, ideology, confirmation bias and messaging all play important roles in how action on climate change is perceived. “People have a hard time thinking about – or acting on – things and events that are perceived as far in the future, physically distant, happening to other people, or involving uncertainty,” notes the report. Instead, the authors state, the issue of climate change – like any risk – must be made local, personal and immediate.  Discussions on climate, according to the authors, are best undertaken in group settings and when what matters to individuals is taken into consideration.
For more information see:


National Poll Finds Majority Support for Climate Policies
A new national poll released in December in collaboration between Yale, the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that 60 percent of Americans support regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Broken down by party, 72 percent of Democratic respondents and 50 percent of Republican respondents support carbon regulations. In addition, the poll found that 50 percent of Americans were in favor of an international treaty on climate change, 23 percent opposed, and 27 percent were neutral. Democrats were more in favor of U.S. participation in a treaty (67 percent support) than Republicans (35 percent support). Of the Americans who said they believe global warming is happening, 83 percent said the United States should be an international leader. Forty-one percent of participants said global warming is an extremely or very serious problem, ranking the issue 13th out of 15 environmental issues. The survey polled nearly 1,600 people in late November. The margin of error was +/- 2.9 percent.
For more information see:


NOAA Study Confirms Arctic is Warming Twice as Fast as the Rest of the World
On December 17, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report, the Arctic Report Card: Updates for 2014, confirming that the Arctic has continued to warm at twice the rate of anywhere else on earth in 2014, an effect known as “Arctic amplification.”  According to the report, Arctic amplification contributes to the shrinking of summer sea ice, declining polar bear populations, the reduction of snow cover, and the melt and darkening of the Greenland Ice sheet.  In particular, 40 percent of the Greenland Ice sheet experienced melting in summer 2014 and its reflectivity reached a record-low value in August 2014. “The need for fast action is critical,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.  “Reducing black carbon soot and other short-lived climate pollutants can cut the rate of global warming by half and Arctic warming by two-thirds, and is critical for slowing the loss of Greenland ice and reducing the climate feedbacks.” 
For more information see:


California Governor Makes Strong Climate Pledges in Inaugural Address
On January 5, California Governor Jerry Brown gave an inaugural address in which he outlined plans to enact broad energy and environmental reforms to address climate change. Gov. Brown called on the state to increase electricity generation from renewable energy to 50 percent, reduce petroleum fuels for transportation by 50 percent, and double the energy efficiency of existing buildings – all of which he hopes to see done by 2030. The new renewable energy target is a step up from the state’s current goal of generating 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Brown commented, “Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels.” Gov. Brown added that California must work to manage land to better store carbon, as well as reduce emissions of methane, black carbon and other short lived climate pollutants from the state’s industries.
For more information see:


Poll Finds Americans Disapprove of the White House and Congress’s Job on Climate Change
On January 4, Morning Consult released poll results finding that American voters gave both Congress and the White House failing grades across the board on energy and climate issues. Poll respondents were asked to issue a grade from A to F for the White House and Congress’s performance in 2014 on four topics: making America energy independent, the cost of your utility bill, fracking, and climate change. The average answer was a D in every category, for both branches of government. Morning Consult energy reporter, Davis Burroughs, commented on the D/D+ climate change grade for Congress and the White House respectively, “Policy wise, it’s difficult to differentiate reducing greenhouse gas emissions from climate change, but it makes a difference in the minds of voters.  Polls show voters overwhelmingly agree that pursuing emissions reductions is good policy, but there’s less consensus on whether climate change is caused by humans.” The poll, conducted by Morning Consult through an online survey given December 16-19, included 1,776 registered voters.
For more information see:


Australia’s Carbon Emissions Rising Since Repeal of Carbon Tax
A December carbon emissions index (Cedex) report by energy consulting outfit Pitt & Sherry found a rise in Australian carbon emissions after its carbon tax was repealed in July 2014 (see Climate Change News http://www.eesi.org/newsletters/view/climate-change-news-july-21-2014#4). Pitt and Sherry reported an 11 percent increase in carbon emissions intensity since June, the last month the carbon tax was in effect. The major causes of increased emissions were attributed to the changing electricity generation power mix. Hugh Saddler, principal consultant with Pitt & Sherry, said, “It is really coal displacing hydro, particularly brown coal.” High temperatures across the country combined with below average rainfall prompted the shift from hydropower to coal in some areas. In place of the carbon tax, the Australian government has introduced a new climate agenda, the Direct Action Plan, which would pay polluters from a $2.55 billion fund to reduce emissions.
For more information see:


Tropical Rainforests Absorb More Carbon Dioxide than Previous Estimates
On December 29, a NASA-led study was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, revealing that tropical rainforests can be credited for much higher carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption than previously thought. The study found that tropical rainforests account for 1.4 billion metric tons of CO2 absorption, out of the total global 2.5 billion metric tons of CO2 absorbed each year. The findings show that warm tropical rainforests are greater CO2 sinks than colder boreal forests located in northern regions such as Canada and Siberia, because forests can absorb carbon dioxide at faster rates when temperatures are higher. Lead author of the report David Schimel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory commented, “This is good news, because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical forests may continue to take up carbon for many years.” The study pioneered methods of comparison of carbon dioxide absorption estimates, using ecosystem and atmospheric models, satellite images, and experimental forest plot data.
For more information see:


Study Says As Oceans Warm, They Store Less Carbon
A December 9 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found warmer oceans absorb and store smaller amounts of organic carbon, an important mechanism in regulating global climate. On the ocean’s surface, carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by small marine organisms such as phytoplankton as they undergo photosynthesis. Once these organisms die and sink deeper into the ocean, the carbon can be stored for hundreds of years. However, researchers found that as ocean temperatures rise, these small organisms that absorb carbon die before they can sink deeper into the ocean.  This carbon is subsequently re-released and able to enter the atmosphere as CO2. Dr. Chris Marsay, lead study author and Postdoctoral Associate at the University of South Carolina, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, stated, “This would potentially result in reduced storage of carbon dioxide by the oceans, effectively acting as a positive feedback mechanism, with less atmospheric carbon dioxide being removed by the oceans.”
For more information see:


Study Details Percentage of Fossil Fuel Reserves that Must Go Unused to Meet Climate Goal
A study from University College London's Institute for Sustainable Resources, published January 8 in Nature, mapped the global distributions of known fossil fuels reserves which would need to be left unused in order to avoid a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. The study listed the following fuel reserve shares that would need to go untapped to meet the climate target: 82 percent of coal reserves, mostly in the United States, Australia, and Russia; 49 percent of natural gas reserves, mostly located in China, India, Russia and the Middle East; and 33 percent of oil reserves, largely held in Canada and the Middle East. The report points out the well-known contradictions of business and governments making commitments to combat climate change while exploiting natural resources. Study co-author Dr. Paul Ekins stated, “In 2013, fossil fuel companies spent some $670 billion on exploring for new oil and gas resources. One might ask why they are doing this when there is more in the ground than we can afford to burn.”
For more information see:


White House Proposes Methane Emissions Regulations
On January 14, President Obama announced plans to reduce methane leaks from oil and natural gas drilling by 45 percent by 2025 compared to 2012 levels. The initiative is an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, originally announced in June 2013 and updated in March 2014 with a strategy specifically to cut methane emissions. Methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years, but 84 times more powerful over a 20-year period, making it an important target for short-term climate action. The initiative includes a regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be proposed this summer on methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas operations, as well as additional efforts by the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy to regulate emissions on federal lands and to clean up pipeline emissions. “It is the largest opportunity to deal with climate pollution that this administration has not already seized,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
For more information see:

NOTE: Fracking shale for oil and gas may be releasing substantial amounts of methane.  It doesn’t take much leakage to make the global warming effect of the leaked methane larger than the effect of the CO2 produced when the recovered methane is burned.

Rep. Huffman (D-CA) Introduces Bill to Sub Carbon Tax for Gas Tax
On January 13, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced a bill to replace the diesel and gasoline tax with a carbon tax. The Gas Tax Replacement Act of 2015 would substitute the current federal gas tax used in the Highway Trust Fund with a life-cycle assessment-based carbon tax on gas and diesel fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be responsible for creating the life-cycle assessment, colloquially called “well-to-wheel,” to calculate total emissions. The bill calls for a tax of $50 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2); the EPA would be authorized to alter that rate based on funding requirements. Huffman, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stated, “While the strides we have made for vehicle fuel efficiency has saved consumers millions of dollars at the pump, the antiquated and inflexible federal gas tax has left our nation’s transportation infrastructure demands unmet.” Huffman added that his bill would mitigate this gap while advancing clean energy measures and confronting climate change.
For more information see:


Senate Votes to Consider Keystone XL Bill
On January 12, the Senate voted 63-32 to begin debate on a bill to support construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, overcoming the 60 vote threshold for a cloture vote. Republicans voting for the bill were joined by one Independent and ten Democratic senators.  The bill will be taken up on the Senate floor, under new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) more open amendment policy. Amendments are expected to include a measure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stating that anthropogenic climate change is a “major threat” to humanity, which will function as a litmus test for whether senators believe climate change is human-caused and dangerous. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) expressed her opinion that allowing the Keystone XL pipeline would exacerbate climate change, saying, “The State Department’s own analysis says a barrel of tar sands oil carried by the Keystone tar sands pipeline will create at least 17 percent more carbon pollution than domestic oil. And it could add up to an additional 27 million metric tons of carbon each year.” The White House has threatened to veto the Keystone XL bill, which would require 67 votes in the Senate to overturn.
For more information see:


Secretary of State Kerry Discusses Climate on India Trip
On January 11, Secretary of State John Kerry met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat, India. Much of their discussion focused on efforts to curb carbon emissions and the effects of climate change in their respective countries. After their meeting, Secretary Kerry announced Prime Minister Modi was committed to increasing the share of renewable energy in India’s energy market, at a crucial time when hundreds of millions of people in India are expected to gain access to electricity in the coming years. “I know that the Prime Minister not only understands, but is committed to policies which will deal with climate change. And that’s why he has already announced ambitious plans to scale up India’s renewable power programs,” Kerry stated. This meeting comes before another planned later this month in New Delhi with Prime Minister Modi, Secretary Kerry, and President Obama, which Kerry indicated would likely focus on climate change and associated issues.
For more information see:


World’s Second-Largest Cap and Trade System Opens in South Korea
On January 12, South Korea held its first carbon dioxide (CO2) permit trading auction, under its new cap-and-trade system, a scheme in which a government places a cap on total emissions and issues permits for emissions at levels below the cap, which owners can then trade in a market. South Korea’s carbon market covers 525 companies, making it the second largest globally, after the European market. Under the trading system, South Korea’s electricity generators, petrochemical refiners, steel producers, car builders, electro-mechanical firms and airlines were given a fixed number of emission permits to cover the next three years. The total amount of allowed emissions from 2015-2017 is set at 1.687 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. At the close of the auction, carbon permits were trading for $7.97 each – not far off from permit prices in Europe’s cap-and-trade system. While the start of the trading system was slow, analysts estimate that by 2017 the permit price will increase to around $30. The emission trading system is a core piece in South Korea’s overarching goal to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent from current levels by 2020.
For more information see:


Pope Francis Speaks Out on Climate Change
On January 14, while on the papal airplane, Pope Francis spoke out on the matter of global warming as a “mostly” man-made issue. The pope stated, “I don't know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face. We have in a sense taken over nature.” Pope Francis added that he hopes the coming publication of a papal encyclical on the environment and climate change will rouse key player decisions in the upcoming United Nations (UN) climate change conference in Paris. The UN’s overarching goal in climate negotiations is to keep global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius over average global temperatures in pre-industrial times. The Paris climate negotiations are widely hoped to deliver an international treaty on climate. “The meetings in Peru were nothing much, I was disappointed,” Pope Francis said, referring to the last climate change conference held in December 2014. “There was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. We hope that in Paris the representatives will be more courageous going forward.”
For more information see:


Poll Finds Different Opinions on Climate Change within Republican Party
A recent Yale University poll found the Republican Party is more divided on climate change than previously thought. The poll found that 44 percent of party Republicans believe climate change is happening, with a majority of moderate (62 percent) and liberal (68 percent) Republicans leading the way while conservative (38 percent) and tea-party (29 percent) Republicans were the largest deniers. In addition, the poll found that 56 percent of total republicans support regulation limiting carbon dioxide (CO2), and a further 44 percent supported limiting CO2 from existing coal-fired power plants. This is interesting background since Republican leadership in Congress had indicated it will challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority on regulating emissions from coal-fired plants. Lastly, the poll found a majority of Republicans (64 percent) support rebates for consumers who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or residential solar panels.
For more information see:


Study Says U.S. Social Cost of Carbon Is Too Low
On January 12, the journal Nature Climate Change published a study by Stanford University which estimated that the social cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may be closer to $220 per ton of carbon dioxide—nearly six times the current estimate of $37 per ton used in the United States. The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a comprehensive estimate of economic damages that may occur with each metric ton of CO2 emissions. “If the social cost of carbon is higher, many more mitigation measures will pass a cost-benefit analysis. Because carbon emissions are so harmful to society, even costly means of reducing emissions would be worthwhile,” said study co-author Delavane Diaz. To develop the new SCC number, study authors used a modified integrated assessment model (IAM), the model typically used to generate SCC estimates through cost-benefit comparisons, and modified it to include inputs not typically put into standard IAM calculations. The researchers added in climate change’s effects on the economic growth rate, climate change adaptation, and divided the world into high income and low income countries. The Stanford researchers added that further research is necessary to hash out some assumptions and uncertainties in their work.
For more information see:

NOTE: The Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide (SCC) is an estimate of the costs of society of burning fossil fuels that do not appear at the gas pump or on your monthly utility bill, which could include additional medical expenses, lost work-time, crop losses (higher food prices) from extreme droughts or floods, or storm damage to homes and infrastructure - what economists call ‘externalities’.  $220 per ton for these hidden costs is a powerful argument for putting a substantial and increasing price on carbon.

2015 Begins With CO2 Levels Above 400 PPM
Preliminary 2015 data supplied daily by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from the top of Hawaii’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, shows concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were above 400 parts per million (ppm) starting on Jan. 1st, and have continued above or near that level through Jan. 16th. This is the first time a year has begun with such a high level of CO2 in about 800,000 years or more. In the pre-industrial period, CO2 levels stood at about 280 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels first passed the 400 ppm threshold in May 2013, but have fluctuated since then. Generally, CO2 levels increase during autumnal months as vegetation dies off, and then drops off during summer as the vegetation regrows. Pieter Tans, a climate scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) who was not affiliated with the Scripps study, said he originally expected this increase in early February, but wasn’t surprised at the early rise in CO2 levels. “I am not surprised that we are seeing daily means greater than 400 already popping up regularly. Next year that should start happening in November,” Tans said.
For more information see:

NOTE: Atmospheric concentrations going back 800,000 years can be determined by analyzing air bubbles trapped in the oldest (deepest) ice in Antarctica.

If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to: 

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to climate_change_news-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com. If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue.  Recent issues are available at: http://tolmanccnews.blogspot.com

Thanks,
Chad A. Tolman

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR DECEMBER 2014

CC NEWS FOR DEC. 2014

Anne Hills, a singer and song-writer posted a song about fracking titled, The Trade, on her website in April 2012.  You can read the words and listen to the 3.3-minute audio at: http://www.annehills.com/2012/04/trade/
NOTE: I’ve thought for a long time that what the save-the-climate movement needs is some good folk songs.  This is one you should listen to.

In Sept. 6 the national Audubon Society issued a report titled, Birds and Climate Change, a first-of-its-kind study of how projected climate change this century could affect the ranges and survival of 588 species of North American Birds.  It found that more than half (314 species) are likely to lose more than half of their climate range (in terms of temperature and precipitation) by 2080; of those, 188 species are listed as climate-threatened and are projected to lose more than half of their range by 2050, if global warming continues at its present pace.  A summary of the report says, Audubon’s new science sends a clear message about the serious dangers birds face in a warming world. Protecting them will require both redoubling conservation efforts to safeguard critical habitat and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Take the pledge to help protect the 314 birds at risk by providing your email address below. You'll receive the latest findings, be the first to hear about climate-related volunteer opportunities in your state or local area, and see how you can enlist in Audubon’s forthcoming citizen science projects to help monitor birds and document how they respond to a changing climate.
And for even more actions, see our guide to five things you can do right now to make a difference for birds threatened by climate change.”  At:
On Sept. 23 - 2 days after the People’s Climate March in New York City and soon after meeting with President Xi JinPing of China - President Obama gave a 13-minute speech at the UN.  President Obama Speaks at the 2014 Climate Summit can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmz6srlnur8

On Oct. 8 the Union of Concerned Scientists released a study titled, Encroaching Tides: How Sea Level Rise and Tidal Flooding Threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast Communities over the Next 30 YearsThe report used data from 52 tide gauges from Portland, ME to Freeport, TX, and the Intermediate-High projection (one of four) of sea level rise (SLR) from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, with projected SLR of 50 inches by 2100.  (The Highest projection, which wasn’t used, was for over 6 feet by 2100.)  The report projects substantial increases in both the number and height of tidal flooding events at many of the 52 locations of tide gauges, as well as at locations nearby.  For Washington, DC - the worst case shown in Fig. 4 in the Executive Summary - the number of flooding events at high tides is projected to increase from the current 47 per year to 166 in 2030 to 400 (more than once a day) in 2045.  “By 2045, within the lifetime of a typical home mortgage, one-third of the 52 locations in our analysis would start to face tidal flooding more than 180 times a year.”  At: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2014/10/encroaching-tides-executive-summary.pdf
NOTE: Keep in mind that the highest SLR scenario from the 2014 National Climate Assessment was not used, and that the effects of wind-driven storm surge were not included, so that the actual flooding is likely to be much more than projected here.

On Nov. 17 Ceres posted a report for investors titled, Practicing Risk-Aware Electricity Regulation: 2014 UpdateThe description of the report said, This report, authored by utility industry and finance experts, concludes that almost without exception the riskiest investments for utilities—the ones that could cause the most financial harm for utilities, ratepayers and investors—are large base load fossil fuel and nuclear plants. In contrast, energy efficiency, distributed energy and renewable energy (whose costs, in some cases, have come down dramatically since 2012) are seen as more attractive investments that have lower risks and cost.”  At:

BBC News - Science & Environment for Nov. 20 posted an article titled, Climate fund receives $9.3bn pledgeIt said that 30 nations meeting in Berlin have pledged a total of $9.3 billion to assist developing nations with climate change mitigation and adaptation.  The pledges include $3 B from the U.S., $1.5 B from Japan, $1 B each from Germany, Great Britain and France, and over $0.5 B from Sweden by the end of 2014.  Earlier the rich nations had vowed to give $100 B a year by 2020.  After co-hosting the donors' conference, German Environment Minister Gerd Mueller hailed the achievement, saying humanity must fight climate change so "it doesn't go the way of the dinosaurs".” 
NOTE: The rich nations have made a good start, but they have a long way to go in just 6 years to get up to $100 B a year.  British economist Nicholas Stern estimated that 2% of world GDP (now about $160 B) would be required each year to deal with climate change in 2008, and possibly much more than that if action is delayed.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review.)

An article in the Sacramento Bee for Dec. 3 by Dale Kasler was titled, California says carbon permits sell out at auction with Quebec.  He reported that the recent quarterly auction of carbon emission allowances involved industrial firms in the state of California and the Province of Quebec - with 34 million emission allowances sold for a total of $407 million at an average price of $12 per tonne. When the cap-and-trade system is applied to gasoline and diesel fuel after January 1, it will increase the cost of the fuels by about 10 cents/gal.  Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, which runs the effort for the state, said, “The success of this first joint auction...shows that states, provinces and regions working together can achieve more in the fight against climate change than working alone.”  

On Dec. 10 BBC News posted an article by Matt McGrath titled, Global group of Catholic bishops call for end to fossil fuels.   The call came in response to the climate discussions taking place in Lima, Peru, and was the first time that senior church leaders from every continent have issued such a call.  Monsignor Salvador Piñeiro García-Calderón, the President of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference, said, "We bishops from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe have engaged in intense dialogue on the issue of climate change, because we can see it's the poorest people who are impacted the most, despite the fact they've contributed the least to causing it.
They're the ones who respect the planet, the Earth, the soil, the water and the rain forests.  As the church, we see and feel an obligation for us to protect creation and to challenge the misuse of nature. We felt this joint statement had to come now because Lima is a milestone on the way to Paris, and Paris has to deliver a binding agreement."
The bishops argue that nations should try to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5º C.  At: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30408022
NOTE: Now at about 400 ppm CO2, we may already have enough carbon in the atmosphere to raise the global average temperature 1.5º C above what it was in 1750, and we are increaseing global emissions every year.

On Dec. 11 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a valuable speech in Lima, Peru during the most recent round of international climate discussions.  It’s available at YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZRFRdWNY4k.  The text, titled Remarks on Climate Change at COP-20, as well as the video, are available at the State Department website at: 
NOTE: ‘COP’ stands for Conference of the Parties; the one in Lima was the 20th in a series of annual meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC); COP-1 was held in Berlin in 1995.  The next one in 2015 will be in Paris.

On Dec. 12 Seattle Post Intelligencer posted an article by Dina Capiello titled, Poll: Half of Republicans back limits on carbon.  The poll, by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and Yale University found “Six in 10 Americans, including half of all Republicans, said they support regulation of carbon dioxide pollution, although they weren't asked how. Nearly half of Republicans said the U.S. should lead the global fight to curb climate change, even if it means taking action when other countries do not. And majorities across party lines said environmental protections "improve economic growth and provide new jobs" in the long run.”  While this was encouraging, the poll also found that climate change ranked below a dozen other environmental concerns.  At: http://www.seattlepi.com/business/energy/article/Poll-Half-of-Republicans-back-limits-on-carbon-5952251.php

The NY Times on Dec. 17 ran an article by Thomas Kaplan titled, Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State.  Governor Cuomo waited to make a decision on whether to allow fracking proceed until the results of a study by the state’s Department of Health were made public. In a presentation at the cabinet meeting, the acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the examination had found “significant public health risks” associated with fracking.” “Dr. Zucker said his review boiled down to a simple question: Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place?”  The full 184-page report, A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development, is available from the NY Times article, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/nyregion/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-in-new-york-state-citing-health-risks.html?_r=0, or by clicking on the report’s title.
  

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. 


State, Local and Tribal Task Force on Climate Meets at White House
On November 17, the White House convened a meeting of the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, attended by members of the Task Force from across the country, White House staff and Vice President Joe Biden. The Task Force presented 35 recommendations on how the Federal government can support communities preparing for climate change impacts. The report recommendations are organized in seven themes: resilient communities; improving infrastructure resilience; natural resource resilience; human health and population resilience; hazard mitigation, disaster preparedness and recovery; the economics of resilience; and capacity building. Overall, they guide the Federal government to modernize programs, incorporate climate change into planning, and remove barriers to community action on climate change.
In related news on the same day, the Obama Administration took advantage of the occasion to announce new initiatives, online toolkits and executive actions on climate change. The Climate Resilience Toolkit is a part of the Climate Action Plan, and aims to assist local officials in understanding “the topics of coastal flood risk and food resilience. . . [and it will soon] address additional areas such as water, ecosystems, transportation, and health,” according to the White House. The Administration will also hold online and in-person climate resilience training for local officials, and is launching a Climate Education and Literacy Initiative to convene thought leaders in climate science and education at the White House to discuss how to enable the next generation of leaders to be climate smart. These new measures are expected to ‘reorient’ existing funds before the induction of the new Republican Congress next year, when obtaining future funding could be ‘problematic,’ according to Reuters reporting. However, in the words of Mayor James Brainard (R-Carmel, Indiana), a member of the task force, “Neither party should want to be the party for dirty water or dirty air.”
For more information see:


Senators Release Carbon Pricing Legislation
On November 18, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) proposed the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, which would require large emitters of greenhouse gases, including but not exclusively carbon dioxide, to pay a fine of $42 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent they emit. The fee will be assessed on oil, gas and coal produced or imported to the United States, as well as non-fossil fuel sources that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. The proposed Act would not go into effect until 2015, after which time the rate would increase by 2 percent every year to follow inflation, overall raising about $2 trillion dollars over a 10 year period. The $2 trillion would all be returned to U.S. taxpayers, although it could also be used to help benefit the country in other ways, such as reducing the national debt or supporting clean energy projects. While the bill has garnered support from other Democrats, commentators, economists, policymakers and interest groups alike, Schatz said the Republican party was not quite there yet, but would be. He commented, “Republicans in the Congress are going to take some time to warm up to this proposal, but I am confident that they will listen to their consciences and their constituents, and join us on the right side of history.” Whitehouse added, “We are subsidizing big polluters to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually by allowing them to pollute for free. We all pay the costs of this subsidy through higher health costs, property damage from rising seas, warming waters that affect our fishing industry, and more.”
For more information see:

NOTE: This is the first legislation I have seen in some time for putting a price on carbon rather than allowing polluting CO2 emissions to take place for free.  The LWVUS at its Convention 2014 in Dallas this year passed a resolution supporting an increasing price on carbon emissions.


EPA Finalizes Rule Beefing Up Reporting of Methane Emissions from Oil & Gas
On November 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, and signed a final Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which both aim to strengthen the oil and gas industry’s measuring and reporting of methane emissions. Revisions to the final Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule include, “changes to certain calculation methods, amendments to certain monitoring and data reporting requirements, clarifications of certain terms and definitions, and corrections to certain technical and editorial errors that have been identified during the course of implementation.” The final rule is set to go into effect on January 1, 2015.  The proposed rule focuses on acquiring new data from onshore natural gas and petroleum operations, including natural gas pipelines and hydraulic fracturing wells.  The proposed rule will have a 60 day comment period before its final version is issued, and is expected to come into effect in 2016. Recently, four Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed the Bureau of Land Management to propose strong rules targeted at methane emissions throughout the oil and gas industry.
For more information see:


NASA Releases New Carbon Dioxide Maps
On November 17, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a new map visualization, generated using high resolution computer models, showing how carbon dioxide (CO2) moves through the atmosphere. The simulation, known as “Nature Run,” uses data on CO2 to model its movements as the gas is affected by both human and natural interactions, from the time period of May 2005 to June 2007. The model visually displays how the Northern Hemisphere releases most CO2 emissions, as well as the seasonal absorption of large amounts of CO2 by plant-life. “We hope the comprehensiveness of this product and its groundbreaking resolution will provide a platform for research and discovery throughout the Earth science community,” said Bill Putman, the project’s lead scientist. The visualization was made by a model called GEOS-5, created over 75 days on a supercomputer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. This July, NASA launched a new satellite, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, in order to better track global carbon emissions. According to the NASA press release, “this kind of high-resolution simulation will help scientists better project future climate.”
For more information see:


UN Report Warns of Emissions Gap Between Reduction Pledges and Actual Reductions
On November 19, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released a report warning that current national pledges to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2020 will not be enough to prevent global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees C, the internationally agreed upon target to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  The 2014 Emissions Gap Report factored the amount of greenhouse gas that could feasibly be emitted up to 2030 without surpassing the 2 degrees C guardrail, and found that even if the world meets all existing mitigation pledges, an additional 14 to 17 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) will need to be cut.  According to UNEP, “based on additional assumptions about non-carbon dioxide emissions, it has been estimated that global total greenhouse gas emissions will need to reach net zero sometime between 2080 and 2100.” The report warns that the cost of postponing inaction until 2020 will result in greater long-term costs and higher risks to the population.  It also highlights workable reduction strategies across different sectors, including action on short-lived climate pollutants (SCLPs), such as black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which could provide economic benefit while also reducing emissions.
For more information see:


China Caps Coal
On November 19, China’s cabinet, the State Council, released an energy development plan to cap coal consumption at 4.2 billion tons per year by 2020, and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in the total energy mix to 15 percent by 2020. China’s current coal consumption is approximately the same as the rest of the world combined, with coal meeting about 65 percent of China's total energy needs. Some researchers have said economic trends indicate a slowing growth rate in coal use, with a peak around 2020. The plan’s release comes a week after an announcement that China would reach an emissions peak around 2030, and increase its share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix to 20 percent in the same time period. Alvin Lin, the China climate and energy policy director in the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said, “We think it’s definitely a positive sign, in line with what they've said they're going to do, [but] we’d like to see it a bit lower than that.” In September 2013, public outcry over the high levels of smog in Chinese cities prompted the need for officials to take action. Alex Wang, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) who studies Chinese environmental policy and regulations, said, “Opponents of climate change regulation in the U.S. have long used China’s emissions as an excuse for inaction on the U.S. side. Last week's joint announcement is the beginning of the end for this line of argument.”
For more information, see:


Large Majority of Americans Support Higher Electricity Bills to Cut Emissions
On November 18, Yale’s Climate Change Communication project and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication released their Climate Change in the American Mind report. The study revealed that 67 percent of Americans support limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants in order to combat climate change and reduce negative health effects, even if this increased electricity bills. According to the project, prices may increase because “power plants would have to reduce their emissions and/or invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.” The study also found that two-thirds of Americans think global warming is occurring, while 16 percent do not think it is happening. The report conducted interviews in late October, taking responses from 1,275 adults nationwide. Also among the key findings was a revelation that “Americans think both the private and public sectors should be doing more to address global warming.”
For more information see:


NRDC Analysis Says EPA Regulations Could Save Customers $2 Billion by 2020
On November 19, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft regulation on carbon emissions from power plants overestimates the electricity industry’s cost of compliance by $9 billion. Instead, the NRDC analysis indicates the draft regulation, called the Clean Power Plan, would save the industry and its customers close to $2 billion by 2020, and $6.4 billion by 2030. NRDC says the EPA used outdated pricing of energy efficiency and renewable energy when it did its estimates, leading to an overestimation of the costs of compliance. NRDC re-evaluated the savings by inputting current prices for renewable energy and energy efficiency into the same ICF International model the EPA used to create its price estimates. “It’s clear that EPA has ample room to significantly strengthen the Clean Power Plan,” commented Starla Yeh, a policy analyst at NRDC and co-author of the report.
For more information see:


Interfaith Power and Light Delivers 10,756 Comments to EPA on Clean Power Plan
On November 18, Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), a group which brings together religious voices on climate change, met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy along with 16 other religious organizations to voice their support for draft regulations on carbon emissions from existing power plants. To coincide with the meeting, IPL delivered 10,756 comments in support of the draft regulation to the EPA. “People in our religious communities understand that climate change is real and we are heart-sick about the suffering it causes our neighbors close to home and around the world,” commented Karen Leu, part of the Washington D.C. IPL chapter. Other religious groups who gathered to support the draft regulation represented Islam, Quakers, Hinduism, Reform Judaism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the United Methodist Church, Baha’is, the Presbyterian Church, and other member organizations made up of many faiths and denominations.
For more information see:


NRG Energy Commits to Cutting Emissions 90 Percent by 2050
On November 20, NRG Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the United States, announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. They have already achieved a previous goal of reducing carbon emissions 40 percent since 2005. “As the U.S. transitions to a renewables-driven, increasingly distributed, grid resilient energy system, we expect to be a leader in clean energy and in converting the carbon emissions of our conventional generation from a liability to a profitable by-product,” commented NRG Energy CEO David Crane. NRG Energy plans to continue use of coal power plants by retrofitting them to capture carbon emissions and either sequester the emissions underground or sell them. In addition, NRG Energy announced its headquarters have grown too small for its current size, and that it will be constructing a state-of-the-art building which “characterizes the NRG vision.” The building, due to open in 2016, will use combined heat and power (CHP), be off-grid capable, use energy-efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting, solar power generation, and have the capability to both charge electric vehicles and use them as back-up generators.
For more information see:


World Bank Climate Report Says 1.5 Degrees C Global Warming Unavoidable
On November 23, the World Bank released Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal, the third report in its Turn Down the Heat series, stating that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is unavoidable, due to past and projected greenhouse gas emissions. The report looks closely look at climate-caused risks in three regions: Eastern Europe/ Central Asia, the Middle East/North Africa, and Latin America/the Caribbean. Across all the regions, the report found that rainfall has increased, drought-prone areas see droughts more frequently, and extreme temperatures both hot and cold are happening more often. “Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting millions of people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines and putting water security at risk,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. In addition, melting permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period, further exacerbating the problem. However, the report says that with action, the worst effects of climate change and warming of two degrees Celsius can still be averted.
For more information see:


Global Climate Financing Is Behind, Study Says
On November 20, the Climate Policy Initiative released its 2014 Global Landscape of Climate Finance report, which found that public and private global climate finance in 2013 totaled $331 billion, eight percent lower than 2012 levels. The International Energy Agency has said the world needs to invest $1.1 trillion annually in the energy sector to keep global warming below the internationally agreed upon target of two degrees Celsius. “In cumulative terms, the world is falling further and further behind its low-carbon and climate-resilient investment goals,” the report states. Most of the drop in investments comes from the private sector, which reduced spending 14 percent from 2012 to 2013. The report says part of this decrease in private spending can be attributed to the lower cost of renewable energy installations, especially solar photovoltaic, which cost $40 billion less in 2013 than 2012 for comparable amounts of installation. Public spending remained relatively constant.
For more information see:


White House Announces Climate Education Program for Children
On December 3, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced a new “Climate Education and Literacy Initiative” to scale up national climate change education. Educators, government officials, philanthropic leaders and private sector representatives gathered at the White House the same day for a roundtable discussion on how educators, both formal and informal, can help to further the public’s climate education. The Administration announced six new commitments to expand learning opportunities using federal agencies, and external organizations announced 19 new programs. These programs will include climate fellowships; free online courses; exhibitions in zoos, aquariums and museums; and extra training for teachers. The OSTP announcement called education the next step that needs to be taken on climate action, stating, “Continued progress into the future will depend on ensuring a climate-smart citizenry and a next-generation American workforce of city planners, community leaders, engineers and entrepreneurs who understand the urgent climate change challenge and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to seek and implement solutions.”
For more information see:


Germany to Close Some Coal Plants to Meet 2020 Climate Targets
On December 3, the German government announced plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 78 million tons in the next five years. The new effort is part of Germany’s effort to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and would require the use of energy efficiency, as well as the closing of some coal plants. Coal currently accounts for a third of the country’s carbon emissions. To fulfill the nation’s goals, the coal power sector must cut emissions by 22 million tons. According to the Economy and Energy Ministry, “It is clear that further measures are necessary to achieve the climate goal of 40 per cent by 2020. All relevant sectors must achieve reductions.” Germany’s plans are more ambitious than the collective European Union climate plan to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Currently, Germany uses coal for 45 percent of its energy, with renewable energy producing 25 percent. A successful plan would require 25-30 million tons of CO2 emissions to be reduced through energy efficiency improvements to buildings. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) has doubts about these plans, fearing they “will hurt Germany's export-oriented industry and cost jobs and the output gap will simply be offset by imports from mostly coal-fired plants in neighboring states, making the overall contribution to climate change negligible.”
For more information see:


Bank of England Says Fossil Fuel Investments Risky due to Climate Change
In a recently released letter dated October 30 to members of Parliament on the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), the Bank of England stated it would investigate its exposure to the “carbon bubble.” This refers to loss in value of fossil fuel companies if climate action rules are successful, leading to “stranded” fossil fuel assets. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said, “In light of these discussions, we will be deepening and widening our enquiry into the topics.” This was met with positive response from the EAC, which has been conducting its own inquiries into stranded fossil fuel assets. Member of Parliament Joan Walley , chair of the EAC said, “Policy makers and now central banks are waking up to the fact that much of the world’s oil, coal and gas reserves will have to remain in the ground unless carbon capture and storage technologies can be developed more rapidly. It’s time investors recognized this as well and factored political action on climate change into their decisions on fossil fuel investments.” The letter follows comments by Carney in October at the World Bank in which he said that fossil fuel companies will not be able to burn all of their reserves and that investors should consider the risks their investments could face from climate change.
For more information see:


83 Percent of Americans Say Climate Change is Happening
On December 2, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re America, released its 2014 Climate Change Barometer survey. The European firm conducted the study to gauge American feelings toward climate change. The results showed that 83 percent of Americans believe in climate change, with the most concerned Americans residing in the West. Sixty-three percent of respondents showed concern over natural disaster frequency and intensity, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. "Our survey findings indicate that national sentiment over whether or not climatic changes are occurring has finally reached a tipping point," stated Tony Kuczinski, president of Munich Re America. The survey was conducted by ORC International from October 9-12. The 1,008 adults who were surveyed were asked, "In your opinion, do you believe that climate change is occurring?" with no reference to the cause. The survey also found that 71 percent of Americans believe the most effective method of combating climate change would be the use of alternative energy.
For more information see:


More Than 220 Companies Sign Letter in Support of Clean Power Plan As Comment Period Closes
The public comment period for Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan closed on December 1. The next day, 223 companies released a joint letter in support of EPA’s carbon reduction plan for existing power plants. This effort was lead and organized by Ceres, a non-profit advocate for sustainability leadership. Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said, “These companies recognize that the EPA’s power plant rule is a critical step in mitigating climate ricks and accelerating low-carbon technologies that hold enormous economic promise.” The letter was sent to EPA, the White House, and Congressional leaders. The companies, including Ikea, Nike, Nestle, Levis Strauss, and Kellogg, commended the proposed regulations as “a win economically and a win environmentally.”  
In related news, on December 1, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) both submitted comments in support of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, announcing their comments together in a joint press release. Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president and CEO of EEN, brought together more than 100,000 Evangelical Christians to sign onto EEN’s comments, citing their concerns about children’s health. Hescox commented, “From acid rain to mercury to carbon, the coal utility industry has never acted as a good neighbor and cleaned up their mess on their own. Instead of acting for the benefit of our children’s lives, they’ve internalized their profits while our kids [have] borne the cost in their brains, lungs and lives.” E2 convened 350 entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs in the entrepreneurial community to sign onto their comments. E2 says their members have funded or founded over 1,700 companies, and manage over $100 billion in venture or private capital destined for funding future companies.
For more information see:


Senators Ask EPA to Strengthen  Clean Power Plan
On December 9, eleven Senate Democrats sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to praise the Clean Power Plan as an important step in fighting climate change, but to also call for it to be strengthened. The letter was spearheaded by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Clean Power Plan, which is scheduled to be finalized next year, calls for states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. “The Clean Power Plan will be the single most significant step this country has ever taken to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector, so it is essential that it be done right,” states the letter. The letter asks for increased requirements in the rule for renewable energy and energy efficiency. They wrote, “For the Clean Power Plan to be a success, it must achieve the level of emissions reductions that the science calls for to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.”
For more information see:


Final Week of UN Climate Negotiations in Lima, Peru
December 12 marked the official end of the United Nations (UN) climate talks in Lima, Peru, where delegates from 196 countries met to discuss the framework of an international climate deal they hope will be sealed next year in Paris. The 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) neared to a close with the presentation of a 37-page draft of the deal. The document includes options for the deal, such as phasing carbon dioxide (CO2) out by 2100 or cutting CO2 by 40-70 percent by midcentury. However, some questions remain for how national commitments will be measured and reviewed, with some more vulnerable countries advocating a rigorous review process and others saying commitments should simply be publicized on the UN’s website. The draft involves an “each according to their abilities” approach, so that all countries – both developed and developing – are included. With the draft of the new agreement, participating countries are expected to present their plans for curbing their emissions after 2020 by March 2015. Yvo de Boer, former executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) said, “It’s a breakthrough, because it gives meaning to the idea that every country will make cuts.”
For more information see:


Report Says Climate Adaptation in Developing Countries Will Cost More Than Expected
On December 5, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released its first Adaptation Gap Report. The report was created as a way to address the financial, technological and knowledge gaps between adaptation efforts and needs in developing countries. UNEP found significant funding gaps beginning after the year 2020, unless new and additional financing is found. The report states, “The cost of adaption in developing countries is likely to be at least two to three times higher than the expected $70-$100 billion per year by 2050, even with emissions cuts.” Developed countries have so far committed $10 billion to the Green Climate Fund for climate adaption, a fraction of the $100 billion in annual climate financing developed nations have promised. The $70 to $100 billion figure is a cost estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report for climate adaptation needs in the developing world, based on 2010 World Bank data. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “This report provided a powerful reminder that the potential cost of inaction carries a real price tag. Debating the economies of our response to climate change must become more honest.”
For more information see:


New Study Finds CO2 Emissions Reach Maximum Warming Potential Decades Earlier than Previously Thought
On December 2, a study published in Environmental Research Letters found that it takes ten years for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to reach their maximum warming potential in Earth’s atmosphere, with effects continuing for 100 years or more into the future. Previous estimates had said it takes 40 or 50 years for CO2 emissions to reach maximum warming levels, which placed the focus of emissions reductions on benefits for future generations. According to Katherine Ricke, a research fellow from Stanford who led the study, "The difference for an economist or a policymaker between something that happens ten years from now or forty years from now is a big deal . . . People alive today are very likely to benefit from emissions avoided today." Ricke and co-author Ken Caldeira used projections to test when carbon dioxide emissions led to warming and how long the impacts lasted, and found that the warming effects remain for decades and even after a century. Reto Knutti, lead scientist of the climate group ETH Zurich, cautioned against focusing too much on the long term. "It takes only a few years for the climate to respond to emissions, but it takes a generation, at least, to change the emissions. We are slow, not the climate," he said.
For more information see:


Exxon Report Projects Developing World Emissions to Rise 50 Percent by 2040
On December 9, Exxon Mobil Corporation released a report projecting that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the developing world will increase 50 percent between 2010 and 2040, largely as a result of an expanding middle class. Exxon predicts growth in India, South Africa and Thailand will boost demand for fuels by 36 percent, even as advanced economies curb energy use by almost 10 percent. According to Bill Colton, Exxon's vice president of corporate strategic planning, "It is simply not possible to obtain significant reductions in greenhouse gases without engaging the developing world." Exxon's report uses the assumption that governments will put in place policies to limit pollution and increase energy efficiency. It forecasts world carbon dioxide emissions to grow 20 percent by 2040, an estimate in line with work done by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA has said that limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius would require a decrease in carbon emissions of 39 percent from 2012 levels by 2040. Darek Urbaniak, an energy policy offer for the World Wildlife Fund, said, "Exxon Mobile's outlook is a company wish list fashioned up as a serious energy forecast. It tells us how the company wants to see the future, rather than a plausible projection of what might happen."
For more information see:


If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to: 

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to climate_change_news-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com. If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue.  Recent issues are available at: http://tolmanccnews.blogspot.com

Thanks,
Chad A. Tolman

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