Saturday, October 24, 2009


The U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) on Sept. 24 released an excellent report titled, Climate Change Science Compendium 2009. It summarizes the results of some 400 climate change science papers published in the past three years, since the most recent IPCC report of 2007. In the foreword, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon writes:

“The science has become more irrevocable than ever: Climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. And unless we act, we will see catastrophic consequences including rising sea-levels, droughts and famine, and the loss of up to a third of the world’s plant and animal species.”

“This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over. We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation.” At:

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has produced a brochure titled, Climate Literacy – The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences. It was developed by a collaboration of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Foundation, and describes what individuals and communities need to know. It may be downloaded at:

Further information on climate literacy and educational resources can be found at:





Juliet Eilperin has an article in the Sept. 24 Washington Post titled, New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast Of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase. The article says that Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report above, said that a 6.3°F (3.5°C) temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. That is much higher than the 2°C rise most scientists and policy makers have said we should not exceed if we are to avoid serious damage. At:

The Sierra Club posts a video called Climate Denial Crock of the Week. At:

Karl Zimmer of Yale Environment360 has an article (Sept. 23, 2009) titled, Provocative New Study Warns of Crossing Planetary Boundaries. He reports on a recent paper in Nature that proposes that Earth has nine biophysical thresholds beyond which it cannot be pushed without disastrous consequences, and says that we have already gone past three of them: 1) CO2 added to the atmosphere, 2) reactive nitrogen added to the environment, and 3) rates of species extinction. At:

The Earth Policy Institute posted an article by Lester Brown (Sept. 21) titled, Plan B Update – On Energy We’re Finally Walking the Walk. While still advocating an 80% reduction in U.S. GHG emissions by 2020, Brown is hopeful that our country is finally moving toward a position of global leadership. He writes, “If the United States leads -- and does so boldly -- I believe the world will follow.” His new book, Plan B 4.0 – Mobilizing to Save Civilization, will be available after Sept. 30. At:

Thomas Friedman has a Sept. 27 article in the NY Times titled, The New Sputnik, in which he says that the decision of China to become a leader in green energy technologies is a challenge to the U.S. comparable to the Russian launch of Sputnik in 1957. He writes, “You will not just be buying your toys from China. You will buy your next electric car, solar panels, batteries and energy-efficiency software from China.” At:

Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator, delivered a speech on Sept. 30 at the 2nd Annual Governor’s Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, on what the EPA is planning to do to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, without waiting for the Congress to act. Her prepared remarks can be found at:!OpenDocument

PBS News Hour senior correspondent Judy Woodruff moderated a panel of local and regional leaders from around the world at the 2nd Annual Governor’s Global Climate Summit in LA. An audio (about 5 minutes) of her notes on the discussion can be found at:

Bruce and Carolyn Gillette, co-pastors at the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, have written an inspiring article for Call to Worship titled, A Journey Toward a Green Church. Theirs is the first church in Delaware to put solar PV panels (36 kW peak power) on its roof – a visible witness to the community of the pastors’ calling to protect Creation and advance social justice, while saving money. At:

George Monbiot, in the Sept. 28 issue of The Guardian, has a challenging piece titled, Stop blaming the poor. It's the wally yachters who are burning the planet. Monbiot points out that most population growth is not the real problem in climate change; it’s mostly in the poorest countries where people are least responsible for GHG emissions. The real increases in consumption are among the richest people in developed wealth nations. (Wally Yachts (see title of article) produces luxury yachts in Monaco, one of which is capable of traveling at 60 knots while burning over 10 gallons of fuel per mile. Let’s not even get into private jets.) At:

On October 5 President Obama signed an Executive Order setting sustainability goals for Federal agencies, making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.” The federal government should lead by example. At:

Sue Sturgis has an Oct. 7 article in Grist, titled, As the land disappears, an Indian tribe plans to abandon its ancestral Louisiana home. In it Sturgis points out that an Indian tribe is being displaced from its island on the Louisiana coast as the island sinks in the Gulf of Mexico, and is moving to higher ground. Low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. This past year the 2600 people of the Carteret Islands in the Pacific started leaving their vanishing coral atoll for another island in Papua New Guinea. “A recent report funded by the United Nations and the World Bank titled “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement” warned that there could be as many as 250 million people displaced by 2050 unless “aggressive measures” were taken to halt global warming.

Information on the impact of climate change on migration can be found at:

Mitch Epstein is a photojournalist for the NY Times who has been traveling across the U.S. taking photos of the ways Americans get and use energy. Comments on the photographs by Brian Walsh, dated Oct. 10, 2009 are; “The pictures have an eerie quality due to the juxtaposition of such mammoth engineering feats next to the stark landscape. This work is very provocative - causing the viewer to question our assumptions about how we relate to the environment and communities in our quest for ever more energy production.” At:

An August 26 article in PlosOne from The Nature Conservancy and Northwestern University, by Robert I. McDonald et al., titled, Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America, evaluates the areas required to produce various amounts of energy each year for several energy sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear, solar, wind and biofuels. Land-use intensity (km2/TW-hr/yr) is found to vary over a range of 400, from nuclear power on the low end to soy crops for diesel fuel on the high end. Wind, solar and hydropower are in the middle in terms of their impact on the landscape. The article makes clear the relatively low efficiency of converting sunlight to energy in the form of electricity or liquid fuels using green plants. (A TW (terawatt) is a trillion watts or a billion kilowatts.) At:

The NY Times for Oct. 13 has an article by Charles Duhigg titled, Toxic Waters – Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways, pointing out that reducing air emissions of toxic heavy metals at coal fired power plants has meant that the pollutants have simply gone into nearby rivers instead of into the air. It’s not clear that there is a net gain in terms of impacts on human health and the environment. This looks to me like another reason to get rid of coal power. At:

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change now has a blog with lots of current information. At:

The Earth Policy Institute on Oct. 14 posted an uplifting article by Lester Brown titled, U.S. Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions. In it he points out that U.S. CO2 emissions have decreased by 9% in the past two years, partly as a result of the economic slowdown but also because of replacing coal power by natural gas, and wind, solar, and geothermal renewable energy sources. He writes, “Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.” Let’s pray that he’s right. He goes on to say, “We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change remains to be seen.” At:

The Encyclopedia of Earth (Sept. 8, 2009) has a detailed article titled, Carbon Capture and Storage, describing the state of CCS technology and estimating its costs, which tend to run around $50/ton of CO2 captured for new plants after the early commercial stage, but can go to 2-3 times that for retrofitting old plants or for new plants in the early stages of using the technology. At:

$50/ton translates to an increase in electricity cost of about 5¢/kWh.

Alternet has an article (Oct.2, 2009) by David Morris titled, New Proposed Climate Change Bill in Washington Is Simpler and More Equitable. It describes a new climate bill being drafted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) with a number of attractive features, including simplicity, putting a price put on carbon at the source, and rebating 75% of the funds raised to citizens on a equal per capita basis. Use less energy and you save more. At:

FA Green for Oct. 16 has an article, Investors Push Firms to Rebuke Groups on Climate Change, describing a letter signed by a number of investment managers asking several companies “to make it clear they do not support the stance of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) against pending cap-and-trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” At:

Matthew Wald has an article in the Oct. 19 NY Times titled, Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says. In it he describes a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences finding that burning fossil fuels cost the U.S. $120 billion each year just because of human health impacts of air pollution that causes 20,000 premature deaths each year. And that doesn’t include the damage caused by climate change. These “external” costs don’t show up at the pump or in your electric bill. At:

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"

EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. For more information regarding either the newsletter or EESI please contact Amy Sauer at

Chinese President Pledges to Curb Carbon Dioxide Emissions at UN Summit

On September 22, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged China would reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 2020 at the United Nations Forum on Climate Change. “We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of [gross domestic product] GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level,” Hu said. He did not specify the actual reduction China is considering, instead committing to a reduction of a “notable margin.” The proposal is unlikely to mean an overall reduction in emissions, as China's economy is expected to continue to grow rapidly. Hu also pledged to "vigorously develop" renewable and nuclear energy and restated China's position that developed nations should do more than developing nations to fight climate change, as they are historically responsible for a greater amount of emissions.

For additional information see: New York Times, BBC, The Telegraph, Reuters

Court Rules States Can Sue Utilities Over Emissions

On September 21, a panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled states and land trusts can sue power companies over damages caused by their emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The lawsuit was brought forward in 2004 by eight Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states and three land trusts against several large, coal-burning utilities. The plaintiffs argued the defendants were creating a “public nuisance” and sought a reduction in their GHG emissions. In 2005, District Court Judge Loretta Preska ruled the issue was political, rather than judicial, and dismissed the case. The panel overturned this decision and reinstated the case. In their ruling, they stated, “We hold that the district court erred in dismissing the complaints on political question grounds; that all of the Plaintiffs have standing; that the federal common law of nuisance governs their claims . . . . We vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said, “Today's decision allows us to press this crucial case forward and address the dangers posed by these coal-burning power plants.”

For additional information see: New York Times, AP, Reuters

Norway to Consider Increasing 2020 Emission Cuts

On September 21, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced Norway is willing to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beyond its stated target of a 30 percent reduction below the 1990 baseline by 2020 if it helps delegates conclude an international climate change agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen this December. “If it contributes to a better climate deal in December, we would be ready to consider an increase of our reductions from 30 to 40 percent,” said Stoltenberg. A cut of this magnitude would place Norway among the world leaders in mitigating climate change; Germany also has a 40 percent reduction target. Stoltenberg added, “I think we will get an agreement in Copenhagen . . . what I'm more worried about is whether it will be a strong enough agreement.”

For additional information see: Reuters, AFP

Carbon Disclosure Project 2009 Report Released at New York Climate Week

On September 21, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) released its 2009 report of climate policies from the 500 largest global companies, who account for over 11 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This year 82 percent of companies responded, up from 77 percent in 2008. Fifty-one percent of respondents said their companies have set GHG emission reduction targets, an increase from 41 percent last year. Eighty-four percent of financial sector respondents said climate change was a direct threat to their bottom line, citing reasons such as the impact of extreme weather events on supply lines and potential resource shortfalls. CEO Paul Dickinson said, “[Corporations] are demonstrating they are willing, ready and able to engage with it . . . We are moving, without any doubt, into a carbon-constrained world.”

For additional information see: Carbon Disclosure Project, Washington Post, Reuters

Reports: Birth Control Could Help Combat Climate Change

On September 18, the editors of the British medical journal Lancet argued that increased spending in contraceptives could help fight climate change. The editors said over 200 million worldwide desire contraceptives, but do not have access to them, which results in approximately 75 million unwanted pregnancies each year. These pregnancies could be prevented with birth control which would reduce population growth rates and alleviate pressure on the environment the editors argued. “In tandem with other factors, rapid population growth in these regions increases the scale of vulnerability to the consequences of climate change, for example, food and water scarcity, environmental degradation, and human displacement,”' the editors said. On September 18, Leo Bryant, a lead researcher for a World Health Organization study on population growth and climate change, said contraceptives are vital to the ability of developing countries to address climate change and policy makers need to confront the issue. The report, which is due to be published in November, suggested that while additional population growth in poor nations will have only a marginal impact on greenhouse gas emissions, it will place significant pressure on natural resources. This will make it more difficult to mitigate and adapt to climate change, he argued. The study he worked on indicated only six of the world's forty poorest nations have developed strategies to expand the use of birth control. “Acknowledgment of the problem is widespread, but resolve to address seems to be very much a minority sport,” said Bryant.

For additional information see: AP, Reuters, The Telegraph, AFP

G-20 Agrees to Phase Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies

On September 24-25, world leaders from the Group of 20 (G-20), a group comprised of the world's 20 largest economies, met in Pittsburgh to discuss the global economy. The G-20 agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in the “medium term” in order to combat climate change by preventing overinvestment in fossil fuels. Each year over $300 billion is spent by governments in the developed and developing world on fossil fuel subsidies. Critics argue that this keeps fossil fuel prices artificially low, leading to increased use and higher CO2 emissions. The International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimate that removing fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below a 'business as usual' baseline by 2050. “This reform will increase our energy security . . . and it will help us combat the threat posed by climate change," said President Obama. “All nations have a responsibility to meet this challenge, and together we have taken a substantial step forward in meeting that responsibility,” he said.

For additional information see: Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Brisbane Times

World Bank: $100 Billion a Year Needed for Climate Safety

On September 30, the World Bank released preliminary results from its biennial global economic assessment, World Development Report 2010, which this year focused exclusively on climate change, at the international climate change talks in Bangkok, Thailand. The study found that developing nations will need $75-100 billion per year until 2050 to adapt to the impacts of climate change if temperatures rise by the targeted 2°C above pre-industrialization levels. In comparison, total foreign aid spending was $118 billion in 2008. “Faced with the prospect of huge additional infrastructure costs, as well as drought, disease and dramatic reductions in agricultural productivity, developing countries need to be prepared for the potential consequences of unchecked climate change,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Katherine Sierra. The report elaborated that the funding should go to adaptation measures such as ensuring safe water supplies, protecting coasts, fighting tropical diseases, and coping with extreme weather events, and would allow developing nations to “enjoy the same level of welfare in the future world as they would have without climate change.” Financial assistance from developed nations to developing ones has been a key issue at negotiations to produce an international climate change agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen this December.

For additional information see: BBC, Bloomberg, Reuters

Climate Change to Cut Crop Yields, Boost Prices, Study Shows

On September 30, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released a new report concluding climate change will lead to a 20 percent increase in hungry children by 2050. The report forecasted that instead of 113 million malnourished children in 2050, 138 million children will be malnourished because of climate change. “Climate change increases child malnutrition and reduces calorie consumption dramatically,” the report stated. IFPRI said climate change will reduce crop yields because of lower rainfall and increased spread of pests and plant disease. “The negative effects of climate change on crop production are especially pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. It also forecasted that reduced crop yields means food prices will rise. “Even without climate change, food prices will rise,” lead author Gerald Nelson said. “Climate change makes this problem worse.” The report recommended a $7 billion increase in public spending on agriculture research, irrigation improvements, and farm-to-market roads in response.

For additional information see: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, International Food Policy Research Institute Press Release

350 ppm Would Cost 1-3 Percent of Global GDP

On October 6, Economics for Equity and the Environment Network (E3) published a new report claiming that reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 350 parts per million (ppm) will cost 1-3 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually. To reach a target of 350 parts per million by 2200, the report found that the world would have to be virtually emissions-free by mid-century. If we begin aggressive reforestation efforts combined with ending large-scale deforestation, and if we can develop new technologies such as carbon capture and storage to remove carbon from the atmosphere, the report argued, we can achieve 350 ppm sooner and reduce the risks of catastrophic climate change. Currently the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 387 ppm. Policy makers are working to ensure the global average temperature does not increase above 2°C which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes would require CO2 concentrations to stabilize at 450 ppm. However, some climate scientists believe that CO2 concentrations must be reduced to 350 ppm to prevent serious climate change. This new report from E3, which is comprised of analyses from over 200 economists from universities and think tanks nationwide, found that 350 ppm is achievable and that carbon mitigation is cheaper than inaction. Lead author Frank Ackerman said, “As the news keeps sounding worse and worse, what we're talking about is not that the cost of doing something has changed -- the cost of doing nothing is really what's escalating . . . . A carbon target of 350 parts per million buys us insurance against catastrophic climate change.”

For additional information see: Washington Post, The Oregonian, Business Wire, Economics for Equity and the Environment Network Press Release

Pacific Ocean 'Dead Zone' in Northwest Likely Due to Climate Change

On October 9, Oregon State University Professor of Physical Oceanography Jack Barth warned that a ‘dead zone' off the coast of Oregon and Washington will most likely appear each summer because of climate change. Dead zones are areas where marine life cannot survive because there is too little dissolved oxygen in the water. Barth elaborated, “When oxygen gets too low in the ocean, it has a deleterious effect on organisms . . . . They either have to flee the area, or they get stressed or even die off. Those die-off [areas] are dead zones.” Dead zones are usually caused by the run-off of fertilizers used by farmers and can be fixed by reducing excessive fertilizer use. However, Barth said the dead zone in the northwest Pacific is unique because it is a result of changing wind patterns brought about by climate change. “I really think we're in a new pattern, a new rhythm, offshore now. And I would expect [the low-oxygen zone] to show up every year now,” said Barth.

For additional information see: Environment News Service, Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian

Human Migration from Global Warming May Create ‘Climate Exiles'

On October 15, the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development said that between 200 million and 1 billion climate refugees, expected to flee their home countries to escape droughts and floods, may not be protected by international law. “International refugee law . . . was not designed for those who are left homeless by environmental pressures," said the group's director Joy Hyvarinen. The group called for adjustments to the international legal framework to account for these refugees. “The international community needs to prepare for the likelihood that some small island states and low-lying territories will be lost,” said Hyvarinen. “Migration forced by climate change is a tragedy and the international framework needs to be adjusted to help climate exiles and deal with statelessness and compensation.”

For additional information see: Reuters, Bloomberg, COP 15

Last Time CO2 Reached Today's Levels Was 15 Million Years Ago

In a study published in the October 8 issue of the journal Science, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that the last time atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were at today's level was over 15 million years ago. The scientists arrived at their results by analyzing the boron to calcium ratio in the shells of marine algae fossils. Lead author Aradhna Tripati said, “The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.” Tripati concluded, “Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas, and geological observations that we now have for the last 20 million years lend strong support to the idea that carbon dioxide is an important agent for driving climate change throughout Earth's history.”

For additional information see: Science Daily, BBC, Xinhua

Kashmir Glaciers Shrinking at 'Alarming' Speed

On October 12, India's Kashmir University released a new study that found that the Kashmir glaciers in the Himalayas are rapidly melting and threatening the water supply of millions in the region. The scientists discovered that the Kolahoi glacier, the area's largest, has shrunk by over 18 percent in the last 40 years. “Other small Kashmir glaciers are also shrinking and the main reason is that the winter temperature in Kashmir is rising,” the report said. The temperature of the area has risen by 1.1°C over the past 100 years. Lead author Shakil Romshoo called the rate of melting “alarming.” He also warned that the melting of the region's glaciers has endangered over two thirds of the region's ten million people because they depend on the glaciers for water and food production.

For additional information see: AP, AFP, Reuters

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Thomas Noyes, who has a background in economics, wrote a piece printed in The Guardian (UK) on June 26 titled, The Price of Climate Change. In it he points out the bogus economics put out by the Heritage Foundation and other groups opposed to addressing climate change. He points out that many economic analyses do not address the costs of unchecked global warming, which could be substantial, especially as major cities go under water, crops fail, and people start fighting over dwindling resources. (My thoughts, not Tom’s). At:

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. is holding an Online Education Conference on Climate Change all day Sept. 29 through Oct. 1. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and interact with the Smithsonian’s curators. The conference is free but you may register at:

Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal Blogs reported on Aug. 25 that Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, has joined Bill McKibben, James Hansen and others in calling for an atmospheric concentration of no more than 350 ppm CO2—less that what we already have. Although he cannot set policy, in an interview he said, “But as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal. What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target.” At:

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has issued a 160-page, 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy Discussion Draft, describing what the state needs to do to adapt to the coming climate changes – from sea level rise to water shortages and wild fires. The Introduction says, “With the growing recognition that climate change is already underway and science that suggests additional impacts are inevitable despite mitigation efforts, adaptation planning is rapidly becoming an important policy focus in the United States and internationally.” At:

The NY Times for Aug. 31 has an article titled, Climate Trouble May Be Bubbling Up in Far North, pointing out the large amount of carbon frozen in tundra in the Arctic and on the sea floor (in the form of methane hydrates) and the increasing rate of its release as the permafrost melts. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and we could reach a point where its release becomes self-sustaining, i.e. a positive feedback that spins out of our control. At:

Emily Bateson has an article in the Boston Globe for Aug. 31 titled, Forest conservation will allow some breathing room. In it she points out that preserving U.S. forests can make an important contribution to reducing our carbon emissions, and should be part of the energy bill that emerges from the Senate. At:

ScienceDaily for Sept. 3 has an article titled, Methane Gas Likely Spewing Into The Oceans Through Vents In Sea Floor, reporting results from an MIT study showing that methane gas from melting methane hydrate off the Oregon coast is coming up much more rapidly that expected. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and its release can add to warming, further accelerating its release. This is not good news. At:

The Royal Society has issued an 83-page report dated September 2009 titled, Geoengineering the Climate – Science, Governance and Uncertainty. At:

Lisa Lerer’s Sept. 8 article in Politico, New Climate Coalition Launches, reported that a new effort is being made to get a significant climate bill passed by the U.S. Congress this fall, led by Paul Tewes, who is credited with Obama’s surprise win in Iowa. The coalition is called Clean Energy Works and involves over 60 organizations, including unions, environmentalists, hunters, farmers, veterans, and religious groups.


UCL (University College London) Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change: Selected quotes from 'The Lancet', 15 May 2009. At:

Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change for the State Department testified on China during a House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing on 9/10/09. You can see and hear him for 2 minutes on YouTube at: has a series of videos with U.S. and international government officials and experts speaking on climate change, renewable energy, alternative energy, financing, and related issues. This is a great information source. At:

France 24, a 24/7 international news agency, reported on Sept. 16 that several groups of physicians warned that failure to tackle climate change at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December could be “catastrophic” for human health. The letter was signed by the presidents of 18 colleges of physicians or academies of medicine from the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Ireland, South Africa and Scotland. They wrote, “"There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these. Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic." At:

Also see:

CQPolitics ran an article on Sept. 15 titled, Obama Unveils New Clean Air and Fuel-Economy Standards. In it, Adriel Bettelheim reported that the Obama administration plans to increase the U.S. fleet wide Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard from the current 27.5 MPG (miles per gallon) to 35.5 MPG by 2016. The new regulations should reduce CO2 emissions by nearly a billion metric tons, conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil and save the average car buyer more than $3,000 in gasoline expenses over the lifetime of a 2016 vehicle. At:

The NY Times ran President Obama’s speech of Sept. 22 to the U.N. on climate change. It can be found at:

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recently published IEA Wind Energy Annual Report 2008, distributed in the U.S. by the U.S. Department of Energy, is now available for free download. The report provides the latest information on the wind industries in 20 member countries and includes information on generation capacity, progress toward national objectives, benefits to national economies, issues affecting growth, costs of projects and turbines, national incentive programs, and research and development results. The Executive Summary synthesizes the information presented in separate chapters by the member countries, the European Commission, and the European Wind Energy Association. At:

Tiffany Hsu has a Sept. 20 article in the LA Times titled, Unlocking Algae’s Potential for Biofuel. Several companies, supported in part by Exxon-Mobil, are exploring the use of algae to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into liquid transportation fuels. One advantage of the method is that it can use polluted or salty water in areas not suitable for crops. At:

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"

EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. For more information regarding either the newsletter or EESI please contact Amy Sauer at

Poll: Obama Has Broad Support for Energy Reform

On August 28, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that the majority of Americans support President Obama’s efforts to reform U.S. energy policy. The poll, conducted from August 13-17 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, found that 57 percent of those polled support energy policy changes proposed by Congress and the Obama administration. Twenty-nine percent of the sample was opposed to the changes. A narrower majority of the sample, 52 to 43 percent, back a cap-and-trade system, a margin that has remained the same since June. When asked if they believe the proposed changes would address the issue of global warming, 52 percent of those polled said they believed they would, compared to 34 percent who said they would not. In addition, 52 percent felt that proposed energy policy changes would not raise energy prices, while 41 percent believed prices would increase as a result.

For additional information see: Washington Post

Climate Tipping Point Defined for U.S. Crop Yields

A study published August 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that the yields of three important U.S. crops could drop 30 to 46 percent under slow global warming scenarios in the next century, and 63 to 82 percent under the most rapid warming scenarios. Dr. Michael Roberts of North Carolina State and Dr. Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia University, used climate models developed by the UK’s weather service to measure the possible yields for corn, soybeans and cotton. Crop yields increase gradually between 50 to 86°F, the study found. But when temperatures rise above 84.2°F for corn, 86°F for soybeans and 89.6°F for cotton, yields fall steeply. “While crop yields depend on a variety of factors, extreme heat is the best predictor of yields,” Roberts says. “There hasn’t been much research on what happens to crop yields over certain temperature thresholds, but this study shows that temperature extremes are not good.” Roberts said that the while the study only looked at U.S. yields for these three crops, its effects will be felt worldwide, since the United States produces 41 percent of the world’s corn and 38 percent of its soybeans.

For additional information see: Science Daily, UPI, New Scientist

New Tool to Show How Each State Affected by Climate Change

On August 27, The Nature Conservancy launched a new tool allowing people to see how temperatures in their states will rise over the next century as a result of climate change. The Climate Wizard is a tool that details how temperatures and precipitation in each U.S. state and other countries will change by month, season or year under different greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenarios. The analysis used data from the 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was produced help of experts at the University of Washington and University of Southern Mississippi. Overall, the analysis found that Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa would heat up the most if emissions continue to rise unchecked, followed by South Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois. “To many, climate change doesn’t seem real until it affects them in their backyards,” said Jonathan Hoekstra, director of climate change for The Nature Conservancy. “This study shows that from the food we put on the table to the animals that make our country unique, none of us is immune if temperatures continue to rise as projected.”

For additional information see: The Nature Conservancy Press Release, Deseret News, Louisville Courier-Journal

Scientists Warn UN 'Drastically Underestimated' Cost of Climate Change Adaptation

On August 27, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) released a report that claimed that the UN’s estimate for adapting to climate change is much smaller than the true costs. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has estimated the cost for adaptation to be around $40 billion to $170 billion a year until 2030. "Just looking in depth at the sectors the UNFCCC did study, we estimate adaptation costs to be two to three times higher, and when you include the sectors the UNFCCC left out, the true cost is probably much greater," said lead author Martin Parry, a visiting research fellow with the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. Parry estimated the costs to be in “several hundreds of billions,” but added that it was difficult to be specific until further studies are done. A spokesman for the UNFCCC said the organization had to be conservative in their estimates. “Looking at what was out there in 2007, these were best estimates, which we simply collected; and we had to err on the side of caution," the spokesman said. “Finance is the key that will unlock the negotiations in Copenhagen," said IIED director Camilla Toulmin. "But if governments are working with the wrong numbers, we could end up with a false deal that fails to cover the costs of adaptation to climate change."

For additional information see: BBC, Telegraph, Reuters

Climate Change Could Deepen Poverty in Developing Countries

In the August 20 issue of Environmental Research Letters, the Development Research Group of the World Bank and climate researchers at Purdue University published a report that identifies the urban poor as the group likely to be hardest hit as a result of climate changes this century. "As the frequency and intensity of climate extremes increase, crop production damages from such events will change. Sharp reductions in crop supply put upward pressure on food prices,” the researchers explained. "Food is a major expenditure for the poor, and while those who work in agriculture would have some benefit from higher grains prices, the urban poor would only get the negative effects," said Thomas Hertel, who co-led the study. The paper, entitled “Climate Volatility Deepens Poverty Vulnerability in Developing Countries,” is intended to inform policymakers on how best to deploy resource and climate policy instruments to help the most vulnerable. The report suggests barriers such as access to credit, missing infrastructure and the lack of information to those most likely affected must be tackled.

For additional information see: Institute of Physics Press Release, Science Daily, Environmental Research Letters

South Asian Nations Meet to Combat Climate Threat to Himalayas

On August 31, Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal inaugurated a two-day regional conference of South East Asian nations to discuss the impacts of climate change in the Himalayas and formulate possible responses. Climate change could adversely affect the Himalayas through the melting of glaciers, floods, and an increase in violent storms, having serious consequences for the over 1.3 billion people that depend on the Himalayas for fresh water. Over 200 participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have convened at the “Kathmandu to Copenhagen” Conference to address this burgeoning problem. The conference ended with delegates developing proposed emission targets for developed countries and calling on developed nations to provide financial assistance to developing nations struggling to cope with the impacts of global climate change. Mohamed Aslam, Environment Minister for the Maldives, called the conference a good start and said, “It shows [the Himalayan Nations] now realize they can no longer ignore the issue."

For additional information see: AFP, Bloomberg, Xinhua, AFP

European Union Greenhouse Gas Emissions Down in 2008, On Pace to Meet Kyoto Targets

On August 31, the European Environment Agency (EEA) announced that the European Union’s (EU) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions declined for the fourth straight year. In 2008, emissions fell by 1.3 percent in the EU-15 and 1.5 percent in the EU-27 compared to 2007 levels. The EU is now on track to meet the GHG emission reductions required by the Kyoto Protocol, which called for the EU-15 to slash GHG emissions by 8% below its 1990 baseline by 2012. As of 2008, the EU-15 had cut emissions by 6.2 percent. Fewer GHG emissions were primarily due to the global recession and the tightening of the cap in the EU’s cap-and-trade program, the Emissions Trading Scheme. “These provisional figures are a further confirmation that the EU is well on track to reach its Kyoto target, even if one should recognize that part of the reduction in emissions is due to the economic slowdown,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas noted. “This is a timely message to the rest of the world in the run up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December.”

For additional information see: European Environment Agency, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Chinese Legislature Passes Its First Climate Change Resolution

On August 27, the Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress of China passed a resolution to “actively deal with climate change.” The resolution calls on China’s Communist Party to "draft laws and regulations based on practical circumstances to provide more vigorous legal backing for fighting climate change." Wu Bangguo, Chair of the Standing Committee, called the resolution “an important achievement” on the road to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions in China. The resolution also reaffirms China’s commitment to the framework set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as to the successful negotiation of a new climate change protocol at the Copenhagen Conference in December. The resolution supports the climate change position of China’s Communist Party, which is that China “maintains the right to develop,” that developed nations should "take the lead in quantifying their reductions of emissions," and opposes "any form of trade protectionism disguised as tackling climate change." This position is in opposition to the view of some U.S. politicians who argue that developing nations should commit to binding GHG reductions and that businesses in developed nations should be protected from companies in developing nations that are not subject to GHG emission constraints.

For additional information see: China Daily, Reuters, The Guardian

Japan’s Election Results Bring Stronger Climate Target

On August 30, the newly elected Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below the 1990 baseline by 2020. The DPJ plans to reach this target by implementing a nationwide emissions trading scheme and creating a feed-in tariff for renewable energy development. Their target is much more ambitious than that of the defeated Liberal Democrats, who had called for an 8 percent reduction, and is now similar to the European Union’s (EU) target. The EU has committed to a 30 percent reduction if other developed nations take action against climate change. Environmental Minister Andreas Carlgren of Sweden, the current holder of the EU’s presidency, was supportive, saying the new target “could create momentum in the climate-change negotiations” that will take place at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen in December.

For additional information see: Reuters, Bloomberg, The Japan Times

India’s Growth Set to Lift Emissions Fourfold

On September 2, the Indian Government released a new report which estimates that India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may quadruple over the next 20 years from 1.4 billion tons to 4.0-7.3 billion tons. “The results are unambiguous,” Jairam Ramesh, India’s Environmental Minister, said in response. “Even with very aggressive GDP growth . . . India’s per capita emissions will be well below developed country averages.” The report estimated that India’s per capita emissions will grow from 2.77 tons to 5 tons by 2030. This is less than the per capita emissions of developed countries, which range from 10-20 tons per person. In leading up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen this December, India has argued against accepting binding emission caps. This report will be used to support that position.

For additional information see: BBC, The Financial Times, The Guardian

Climate Change Killing Corals, Costing Billions

On September 2, a draft version of a United Nations-backed report called “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” (TEEB) was published. "We face the imminent loss of coral reefs due to climate change, with all the serious ecological, social and economic consequences this will entail," the TEEB analysis concluded. The report further warned that “the existence of half a billion people” and “over a quarter of all fish species are . . . dependent on the coral reefs." The authors also estimate that coral reefs provide upwards of $170 billion each year in ecological services. The report concludes that atmospheric CO2 levels need to be “significantly below 350 parts per million (ppm)” in order to save the coral reefs. However, the current atmospheric concentration is 387 ppm. The final version of this report will be presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen this December, where delegates from around the world will work to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

For additional information see: AFP, BBC, The India Times, The Guardian

Industry Groups Sue to Prevent California's New Emission Rules

On September 8, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent California from instituting new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rules for automobiles. California intends to mandate the amount of GHG emissions that future automobile models are allowed to emit, having the same effect as setting tougher fuel efficiency standards. The suit alleges the waiver EPA granted to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in July is illegal because the waiver provision for California to regulate emissions in the Clean Air Act was only intended to allow California to deal with local and regional problems, not regulate a national issue like climate change. CARB believes that the Court will find the EPA's granting of the waiver “entirely consistent with the law.” “We are very disappointed that these parties continue to pursue an outdated course of action designed to obstruct and oppose efforts to move us toward a cleaner environment and greater energy security,” said CARB Chair Mary Nichols.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times

Top U.S. Climate Negotiator Testifies Before Congress

On September 10, Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department's Special Envoy on Climate Change, testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, where he warned the committee that participating nations have not yet reached consensus for an international climate change agreement ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, taking place in Copenhagen in December. Issues still to be resolved include financial assistance for developing nations to adapt to climate change, the transfer of clean technology to poor nations, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets for all nations. “Let me say bluntly that the tenor of negotiations in the formal UN track has been difficult,” Stern said. “Developing countries tend to see a problem not of their own making that they are being asked to fix in ways which, they fear, could stifle their ability to lift their standards of living.” Stern was optimistic that a deal in Copenhagen could be negotiated. “I have said on occasion that countries like these are often willing to do more than they are willing to agree to do,” Stern said. When asked what Congress could do to ensure a deal is struck, he told the committee, “It is critical that the Senate now do its part to move this process forward in a timely manner. Nothing the United States can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible.”

For additional information see: New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, AP

Top National Security Leaders Call for Bipartisan Cooperation on Climate Action

On September 8, the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) released a statement signed by 32 high-level former congressional and military officials calling for bipartisan cooperation in Congress on climate change because of its national security implications. “Climate change is a national security issue,” the statement declared, and requires “a clear, comprehensive, realistic and broadly bipartisan plan to address our role in the climate change crisis. If we fail to take action now, we will have little hope of influencing other countries to reduce their own harmful contributions to climate change, or of forging a coordinated international response.” Among the signatories were Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan (Ret.), former U.S. Army Chief of Staff; Sen. John Warner (R-VA); R. James Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor for President Reagan. “Some may be surprised to hear former generals and admirals talk about climate change and clean energy," said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (retired), another signer. “But they shouldn't be, because in the military we learn quickly that reducing threats and vulnerabilities is essential well before you get into harm's way. Our dependence on all fossil fuels poses threats to the military mission and the country at large.”

For additional information see: Miami Herald, PSA Press Release

UK's Foreign Minister Launches Climate Tour to Address Urgency

On September 8, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Milliband began a worldwide tour to build awareness of the consequences of inaction ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December. The Foreign Secretary will travel to the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, and the United States over the next two weeks. He said he plans to use shocking images and vivid descriptions of a world subject to the effects of a 4°C increase in temperature to build support for a new international climate change agreement. “The deal the world needs in Copenhagen is now in the balance,” said Miliband. “There's a real danger the talks scheduled for December will not reach a positive outcome, and an equal danger in the run-up to Copenhagen that people don't wake up to the danger of failure until it's too late."

For additional information see: AP, The Guardian, BBC, Bloomberg

Dramatic Biological Responses to Global Warming In the Arctic

A report in the September 11 issue of Science has identified the effect climate change is having on the Arctic ecosystem and warns about possible consequences. The study showed that many iconic Arctic species that are dependent upon sea ice are faring especially badly. The region is seeing a rapid decline in species like the Arctic fox, ivory gull, Pacific walrus, ringed seal, hooded seal, narwhal, and polar bear, many already in danger of extinction. Eric Post, the lead author from Pennsylvania State University said, "Sea ice is like rainforest in the tropics. There are species that can't live without it." The situation will worsen if temperatures rise as forecasted, he warned. "If it were to get to 3°C warmer on average, the Arctic would be a thing of the past," Post said. "Polar bears, long winters of snow, sea ice cover—it wouldn't be the case anymore."

For additional information see: Science Daily, AP, AFP, Scientific American

Climate Change Boosts Ultraviolet Risk

In the September 6 issue of Nature Geoscience, scientists identified another threat to the ozone layer. While many of the gases that destroy ozone directly have been phased out under the Montreal Protocol, rising temperatures may affect the ozone layer and increase risk of ultraviolet radiation, according to Canadian researchers Theodore Shepherd and Michaela Hegglin. The study suggested climate change will change the circulation of the earth's upper atmosphere and consequently change the distribution of ozone around the world. Certain areas, predominantly in the Southern Hemisphere, may receive 20 percent more ultraviolet radiation as a result, while the Northern Hemisphere may receive 9 percent less, the models reported. Ultraviolet rays can cause genetic changes, damage air quality and trigger cancers. In a commentary accompanying the report, David Stephenson of University of Edinburgh pointed to the "urgent" need to get a better read on how climate change and the planet's rising temperatures are affecting ozone. If the projected risks are accurate, "increasingly stringent ozone-pollution-control policies will be needed to attain the air-quality standards required to protect the biosphere," he concluded.

For additional information see: AFP, India Times, Ottawa Citizen, Nature

Finance Groups Demand Tough Climate Targets

On September 16, banks, pension funds and other investment groups holding over $13 trillion of assets called for a strong global agreement on climate change at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December to encourage investment in a low carbon economy. Over 180 investor groups lobbied for a 50-85 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with developed nations cutting emissions more then developing ones. “Without the policies to encourage clean energy, investors are stuck at the starting gates," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmentalists.

For additional information see: Reuters, Financial Times

World Bank Urges Rich Nations to Act Now on Climate

On September 15, the World Bank released its biennial global economic assessment, "World Development Report 2010," which this year focused exclusively on climate change. The report found that developed nations are responsible for over two-thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but developing nations will bear 75-80 percent of the cost of climate change. Developing nations in South Asia and Africa could lose 4-5 percent of their gross domestic product if temperatures rise by more than 2°C, compared to minimal losses for developed nations. The report concluded that financial assistance from developed nations would provide the fairest and most cost-effective way to reduce the impacts of climate change, but it will not be cheap: developing countries will need $75 billion per year for climate change adaptation and over $500 billion annually to develop sustainable economies by 2030. “Unless developing countries also start transforming their energy system as they grow, limiting warming to close to 2°C above the pre-industrial levels will not be achievable,” the report warned.

Rosina Bierbaum, who co-directed the report, added, “We can't afford not to address it. But it absolutely will not be cheap and it will not be easy.” The report called on developed nations to take action and concluded, “Left unmanaged, climate change will reverse development progress and compromise the well-being of current and future generations. That is why decisive, immediate action is needed.”

(Rosina Bierbaum serves on EESI's Board of Directors.)

For additional information see: New York Times, Reuters, AFP, Sydney Morning Herald

EESI will be holding a briefing in Washington in Room B340 of the Raeburn House Office Building on Oct. 1 from 9:00-10:30 titled, How Climate Change is Impacting the Arctic.

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action