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: http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/professional_development/conference/2009/climate_change/index.html
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: http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2009/08/25/climate-debate-ipcc-head-pachauri-joins-the-350-club/
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: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/08/31/world/AP-CN-Climate-09-Troubling-Bubbles.html?_r=1
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: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/08/31/forest_conservation_will_allow_some_breathing_room/
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: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090902133637.htm
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: http://climate.bna.com/Videos.html?videoID=A0C0D7N3R1#VideoPlayerBox
Climate.bna.com 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: http://www.france24.com/en/20090916-doctors-climate-change-health-warning
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: http://news.yahoo.com/s/cq/20090915/pl_cq_politics/politics3202406_2
The NY Times ran President Obama’s speech of Sept. 22 to the U.N. on climate change. It can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/us/politics/23obama.text.html
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: www.ieawind.org
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: http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009909200333
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. For more information regarding either the newsletter or EESI please contact Amy Sauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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."
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.)
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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