CC NEWS FOR DEC. 2009
NatureVideo has a video on the web, titled Climate change: the two-degree target, dated Oct. 1, 2009, in which four young people have a chance to ask Nobel Prize winners for their views on climate change and discuss what they learn. At: http://www.nature.com/video/lindau2009/index.html
There is a new organization called Climate Justice Fast, put up by people that have joined an international hunger strike in order to bring attention to the need to deal seriously about the threat of climate change, and to reduce the concentration of CO2 to 350 ppm. The site has short YouTube videos of people who have committed themselves to climate justice in this way. At: http://www.climatejusticefast.com/
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issues a report in October titled, State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy, by E. Doris, J. McLaren, V. Healey and S. Hockett. This second annual report details the development of renewable energy sources in the United States and evaluates the role of various policies in promoting their development. The percentage of electricity generated by renewable sources other than hydro is still very small (less than 3%) but growing rapidly – especially in states with helpful policies. Chapter 3 describes 15 policies supporting renewable energy development and their effectiveness. At: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/state_of_the_states.cfm
Jim Hansen, the chief climate scientist at NASA has done it again: written an evocative and inspiring piece about the future of global climate change – this one the day after Thanksgiving in response to a statement by his 5-year old grandson Connor while learning to shoot baskets. It’s titled, Never-Give-Up Fighting Spirit: Lessons From a Grandchild, and can be found on the web at: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2009/20091130_FightingSpirit.pdf
(The ‘Steve’ Hansen mentions, who is in need of karate lessons, is Stephen Schneider, a Stanford professor and Editor of the Journal of Climate Change. You can read about him, including a recent interview on Copenhagen appearing in The New Republic, at: http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu)
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has a 3-minute Q&A video with Len Barrie, the Director of the WMO Research Department, discussing greenhouse gases at:http://www.wmo.int/pages/resources/multimedia/greenhousegases.html
Stephen Seidel, Vice President for Policy Analysis at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, submitted testimony to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on October 22, 2009. Titled, The Federal Government’s Role in Building Resilience to Climate Change, it pointed out that adaptation to the climate change that is already occurring and will increase – even in the absence of further emissions – has not received nearly enough attention. The federal government has an important role to play - especially in providing the best possible estimates of future changes in temperature, precipitation and sea level - but state and local governments also need to be involved in planning to minimize future damage. At: http://www.pewclimate.org/testimony/seidel/10-22-09
Trevor Grundy of Ecumenical News International posted an article on Nov. 9 titled, Faith leaders present 60 plans to help UN on climate change. “Leaders of nine major faiths have presented 60 ideas to lessen carbon emissions to the United Nations after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the religious community as key in fighting climate change.” At: http://www.eni.ch/featured/article.php?id=3508
Steve Law of The Portland Tribune has an article dated Nov. 26 titled, Changes in the wind - Get ready to alter your lifestyle as agencies reduce carbon footprint. It describes the measures Portland Oregon and the surrounding Multnomah County have in their Climate Action Plan to take to reduce their environmental footprint. These include: reducing energy use by existing homes by 25% by 2030, reducing electricity use per person 35 percent by 2030 and 68 percent by 2050, requiring that homes built after 2030 achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions, having the average car on Portland streets get 40 miles per gallon within 20 years, and adding 15 miles of new bike paths within a year. In addition, most residents in Portland should be able by 2030 to safely walk or bike to work, or to commuter bus or rail stops. Total trash generated in the county should fall 25 percent by 2030. By then, 90 percent of all trash generated by the public must be recovered and kept out of the landfill. City and county agencies must set an example and cut their carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030, more than the general public. Susan Anderson, director of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, says, “We know what the solutions are. It’s a question of whether we have the will to carry them out.” More ideas can be found in the article. At: http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story_2nd.php?story_id=125918457480318600
PS The population of Multnomah County in 2008 was about 715,000. If they can do it there, why can’t we?
An article in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science for Dec. 7 by James Hansen and 11 Chinese coauthors is titled, Black Soot and the Survival of Tibetan Glaciers. It finds that black carbon in the form of soot contributes significantly to the increasing rate of melting of Tibetan glaciers, and that reducing emissions of both soot and greenhouse gases will be required to save the glaciers as an important source of fresh water for about a billion people in Asia.
Krista Tippett in Speaking of Faith on American Public Media had a conversation (53-minute audio) with Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, called The Moral Math of Climate Change. McKibben spoke about the moral dimension of climate change and the experiences that led him to found an international organization for climate action – made up mostly young people and people of faith. On October 24 350.org held over 5000 events in 181 countries around the world. At: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/moral-math
On Dec. 8 Yahoo! News posted an article titled, Americans cool to human-caused global warming: poll. It cited a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted on Dec. 2-3 showing that only 45% of Americans think that Climate Change is caused by human activities – down from 56% in October 2007. Those who said U.S. carbon emissions should not be cut regardless of what the rest of the world does jumped to 24%, from 15% two years ago. The naysayers are gaining the upper hand in the struggle for American public opinion. At: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091208/lf_afp/usclimatewarming
Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma came to Copenhagen for two hours on Dec. 17 to tell negotiators that “the chances of passage of pending climate and energy legislation were "zero" and would remain so if such a bill was financially harmful to Americans in any way.” He went on to say that emails hacked from the climate change research group at East Anglia University showed that "the science has been debunked." At: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/greenblog/2009/12/inhofe_arrives_in_copenhagen_t.html
James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at Columbia University, posted a paper on Dec. 16 titled, The Temperature of Science, in which he describes how GISS determines and reports the global average temperature. He also describes the harassment and threats he has been subject to in recent weeks as a result of his work. At: http://www.columbia.edu/%7Ejeh1/mailings/2009/20091216_TemperatureOfScience.pdf
ExxonMobil has published a report titled, Outlook for Energy: View to 2030. Though ExxonMobil has been a major funding source for climate change contrarians, p. 30 of the report says, “Rising emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose significant risks to society and ecosystems. Since most of these emissions are energy-related, any integrated approach to meeting the world’s growing energy needs over the coming decades must incorporate strategies to curb emissions and address the risk of climate change.” Is this the season of miracles, or what? At: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/files/news_pub_eo_2009.pdf
The December issue of National Geographic has an article by John Sterman (MIT) and David Archer (U Chicago) titled, The Climate Bathtub, which explains how the atmosphere acts like a tub with respect to adding carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and forests, and removing it by absorbtion by plants, soils and oceans, and eventually by rocks. The article has some excellent graphics (by Nigel Holmes) and can be found on the web at:
The web site is linked to a nice climate simulation package called C-Learn, into which the user can input various percent changes in emissions by 2050 for three groups of the world’s nations (developed, large developing (group A) and small developing (group B), as well as changes in land use, and run a simulator to see the effects on future CO2 emissions, and concentrations, temperatures and sea level rise. It’s a great learning tool and shows clearly what will be required if the temperature increase is to be kept below 2° to avoid dangerous climate change. The simulator is 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" 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.
Obama and Hu Make Progress in Tackling Climate Change
On November 17, President Obama concluded his first official visit to China during which climate change was one of the major topics on his agenda. President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced they would jointly press for a political agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference set to begin in Copenhagen on December 7, which would provide the foundation for the completion of a legally-binding international climate change treaty in 2010. Obama and Hu promised they would help negotiators to reach a political agreement by proposing national greenhouse gas emission mitigation targets at Copenhagen for the first time. “Our aim there, in support of what Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations and one that has immediate operational effect,” Obama said. The Presidents also negotiated a series of clean energy partnerships, focusing on technologies such as carbon capture and storage, electric vehicles, high-speed rail and shale gas.
Global Temperatures Will Rise 6°C by End of Century, Scientists Say
On November 17, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) published a new study which concluded that the average global temperature is on track to increase by 6°C by 2100. GCP estimated that total CO2 emissions have increased 29 percent since 2000, at a trend growth rate of 3.4 percent annually. The report warned that emissions “continued to track the average of the most carbon-intensive family of scenarios” put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report. Lead author Corrine Le Quere said, “The global trends we are on with CO2 emissions from fossil fuels suggest that we're heading towards 6°C of global warming.” The GCP also estimated that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels will fall by 2.8 percent in 2009 following a 2 percent rise in 2008. Le Quere concluded, “Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilize at 2°C in a smooth and organized way.”
UN Chief Links Climate Change and Food Security
On November 16, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussed the connection between food security and climate change at the UN World Food Summit in Rome. Ban said that climate change could cause the Himalayan glaciers to melt which would deprive Asian nations of the water necessary for agriculture. He also noted that climate change could reduce rainfall in Africa which could reduce crop yields 50 percent by 2020. “Today's event is critical. So is the climate change conference in Copenhagen next month. There can be no food security without climate security,” Mr. Ban declared. “They must produce results – real results for people in real need, results for the one billion people who are hungry today, real results so millions more will not have to suffer when the next shock hits.” The summit's declaration also pointed out the connection. It said, “Climate change poses additional severe risk to food security and the agriculture sector.”
UN: Poor Women Bear Climate Burden
On November 18, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released a new report which found that women in developing countries will be most vulnerable to climate change because they do a large share of the farming. “Given women's significant engagement in food production in developing countries, the close connection between gender, farming and climate change deserves far more analysis than it currently receives,” the UNFPA said. The report warned that women would be especially susceptible to drought, noting that women would have to “work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes.” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaidu concluded, “Poor women in poor countries are among the hardest hit by climate change, even though they contributed the least to it."
Greenland Ice Disappearing Faster Than Originally Thought
A study published in the November 13 issue of Science found that ice in Greenland disappeared at an accelerated rate between 2006 and 2008. Ice loss occurred at a rate equivalent to 0.75 millimeters of sea level rise between these years, compared to a trend rate loss of 0.46 millimeters between 2000 and 2008. “Mass loss has accelerated," said lead author Michiel van den Broeke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “The years 2006-08, with their warm summers, have seen a huge melting.” Co-author Jonathan Bamber added, “The underlying causes suggest this trend is likely to continue in the near future.”
Oceans Less Effective at Absorbing Carbon
A study published in the November 19 issue of the journal Nature found that the oceans' intake rate has dropped since 1980, with a sharp decline of 10 percent from 2000 to 2007. The authors concluded that the oceans have become less efficient at absorbing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions over time. “The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes and the less carbon dioxide it can absorb,” said lead author Samar Khatiwala, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Because of this chemical effect, over time, the ocean is expected to become a less efficient sink of manmade carbon. The surprise is that we may already be seeing evidence for this, perhaps compounded by the oceans' slow circulation in the face of accelerating emissions.”
Forest Service Says Trees Can Slow Climate Change
On November 18, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests on managing Federal forests in response to climate change. Tidwell warned that the potential of forests to be used as a carbon sink to combat climate change must be balanced with the risk that climate change impacts will release vast quantities of carbon dioxide. He said that forests currently store the equivalent of 16 percent of America's fossil fuel emissions, but that their ability to store carbon could decrease in the future due to increased wildfires and insect infestation. “Disturbances such as fire and insects and disease could dramatically change the role of forests, thereby emitting more carbon than currently sequestered,” he said.
China Pledges 40-45 Percent Reduction in Carbon Intensity
On November 26, the Chinese State Council's Standing Committee announced that China will reduce its carbon intensity 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. “This is a voluntary action taken by the Chinese government based on its own national conditions and is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change,” the State Council said. Carbon intensity refers to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). China's new target does not specifically ensure that China's overall greenhouse gas emissions will peak, but does indicate that emissions per unit of GDP will decline. A White House spokesman said that the administration welcomes “China's intention to cut the growth of their emissions.”
Sen. Kerry Pushes for More Climate Change Aid to Poor Nations
On December 1, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) recommended in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Obama administration set aside $3 billion in the FY 2011 budget for climate change aid to developing nations. The FY 2010 budget included $1.2 billion for climate change assistance. Kerry said, “The global community has agreed that $10 billion is required annually in fast-start financing to support immediate international climate change priorities. The United States must be prepared to contribute its fair share of this obligation.” On November 27, British Prime Minster Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy proposed a fast-start $10 billion per year fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
On December 4, Kerry introduced the International Climate Change Investment Act of 2009. The bill would authorize new programs and funding to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, deploy clean technologies, and reduce deforestation. Kerry said the bill is intended to be the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's contribution to the broader climate and energy legislation currently being considered in the Senate, as well as the “foundation” of the U.S. climate finance package to be proposed at the United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen beginning December 7.
EPA: Fuel Economy Increases as CO2 Decreases
On November 20, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends.” The EPA determined that carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles in 2009 have decreased by 8 percent since 2004 because the average fuel economy of the nation's automobile fleet has increased by 9 percent, or 1.8 miles per gallon (mpg) over the timeframe. The EPA predicted that the average fuel economy will increase to 21.1 mpg in 2009, up from 21 mpg in 2008. "American drivers are increasingly looking for cars that burn cleaner, burn less gas and won't burn a hole in their wallets,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
California Releases Draft Rules for Cap and Trade Program
On November 24, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a draft rule for the state's greenhouse gas (GHG) cap and trade program. The draft rule would require California's 600 largest GHG emitters to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The cap and trade program will be one action California takes to reduce its emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 as required by California Assembly Bill 32. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “We have seen our green economy grow along with California's green initiatives, and I have no doubt the nation's first cap and trade program will also drive innovation and generate green jobs.” CARB Chair Mary Nichols added, “This marks another important milestone in California's efforts to deal with the very difficult and complicated process of developing a broad program to address climate change.”
Poll Finds Americans Favor Carbon Tax over Cap and Trade Policy
On December 1, the U.S. Climate Task Force and Future 500 released a new poll conducted by Hart Research which found that those polled prefer a carbon tax to cap and trade by a two to one margin. When asked to choose between a carbon tax and cap and trade, 58 percent of the over 1,000 registered voters polled said they preferred a carbon tax versus 27 percent who said they supported cap and trade. Overall, the poll found that 74 percent of respondents favored policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
For additional information see: Climate Task Force Press Release
Investors Push SEC on Climate Risk Disclosure
On November 23, the group Ceres, which includes investors and environmentalists controlling over $1 trillion in assets, petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose climate risk in their correspondence with investors. Ceres specifically asked the SEC to mandate that companies release their greenhouse gas emissions data, risks posed by climate change impacts, and what actions they are currently undertaking to mitigate climate risk. “This is calling for real transparency on material risks that have a profound impact on share value of companies," said Ceres President Mindy Lubber. “These are now real on-balance sheet risks. They are material. They ought to be disclosed.”
Global Warming to Threaten China's Harvests
In the December 2 issue of Seeking Truth, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's main magazine, China Meteorological Administration Director Zheng Guoguang wrote that climate change could reduce China's crop productivity 5-10 percent by 2030 and 37 percent by 2050. He also said that extreme weather from climate change will cause China's annual grain harvest to fluctuate 30-50 percent from the long-term average if climate change continues unchecked, versus 10-20 percent now. “If extreme climatic disasters occur twice or more within five years -- for example, major drought over two or three years -- then the impact on our country's economic and social development would be incalculable,” Zheng wrote. He urged China to prioritize “reducing the impact of global warming on the country's food security, and strengthening the capacity of agriculture to withstand climatic risks.”
Global Emissions Exceeding 'Carbon Budget', Study Finds
On December 1, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a new study which found that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2000 to 2008 accounted for 20 percent of the total the world can emit by 2050 if the temperature increase from global warming is to be kept at 2°C. PwC estimated that the world is currently 10 percent over the required trajectory needed to limit the temperature increase to 2°C. PwC Head of Macroeconomics John Hawksworth said, “Despite the widening consensus around the need to decarbonize, few countries are doing enough to live within our estimates of their carbon budgets. If the world stays on this [course] we will have used up the entire global carbon budget for the first half of this century by 2034, 16 years ahead of schedule.” PwC Climate Change Partner Leo Johnson added, “If we had started on a low-carbon pathway in 2000, we would have needed to decarbonize at around 2 percent a year up to 2008. We managed only 0.8 percent in 2000-08. The result is we now need to decarbonize at a rate of 3.5 percent a year to get back on track by 2020 -- four times more than we have managed at the global level since 2000.”
Unchecked Climate Change Will Put World at 'Tipping Point'
On November 23, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and the insurer Allianz SE released a new report called “Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector,” which found that temperatures are close to reaching tipping points which could trigger abrupt climate impacts with serious socio-economic consequences. “Changes related to global warming are likely to be much more abrupt and unpredictable, and they could create huge social and environmental problems and cost the world hundreds of billions of dollars,” the groups said. One example of a tipping point the report evaluated is the rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet should the global average temperature increase by more than 2°C. The report determined that this would cause sea levels to rise up to 0.5 meters by 2050 which would increase the value of assets at risk in all 136 global port mega-cities to $25 trillion. It also found that the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would cause sea levels to rise by 0.65 meters in the U.S. Northeast, which would increase asset exposure from $1.35 trillion to $7.4 trillion. “If we don't take immediate action against climate change, we are in grave danger of disruptive and devastating changes,” said Kim Carstensen, the Head of WWF Global Climate Initiative. “Reaching a tipping point means losing something forever. This must be a strong argument for world leaders to agree to a strong and binding climate deal in Copenhagen in December.”
EPA: Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment
On December 7, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the EPA had completed its greenhouse gas (GHG) endangerment finding. The EPA ruled that GHGs are a threat to public health and welfare, which will allow the agency to regulate them under the Clean Air Act. In April this year, the EPA decided that carbon dioxide and five other GHGs could endanger human health and well-being. The decision was then made available for public comment, with the EPA receiving more than 300,000 comments over the given 60-day period. “EPA has finalized its endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution and is now authorized and obligated to make reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants,” said Jackson. “This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer.” Jackson and President Obama have publicly stated that they would prefer Congressional action on climate change to EPA regulation through the Clean Air Act.
This Decade Warmest on Record
On December 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a new analysis that shows the decade spanning 2000 to 2009 will be the hottest on record. The WMO said that the global average temperature was 0.44°C above the 1961 to 1990 average temperature. This is an increase over the 1990s, the previous record holder, which was 0.23°C above the average. WMO also announced that it expects 2009 will be the fifth hottest year on record, though the data on that figure is still incomplete. "We are in a warming trend - we have no doubt about it,” said WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud.
Climate Change to Drive Up to One Billion from Homes
On December 8, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a new report which forecasted that climate change could cause up to one billion people to leave their homes by 2050. “Further climate change, with global temperatures expected to rise between 2 and 5°C by the end of this century, could have a major impact on the movement of people,” the report said. IOM also estimated that 20 million people were left homeless in 2008 after environmental disasters. The report concluded that few “climate refugees” would be able to leave their countries. “Aside from the immediate flight in the face of disaster, migration may not be an option for the poorest and most vulnerable groups,” it said. Instead, IOM predicted that migrants would move into already crowded cities.
New Report Identifies Species Affected by Climate Change
On December 7, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released a new report titled, “Species Feeling the Heat: Connecting Deforestation and Climate Change,” which identified a list of species that are threatened by climate change. Notable threatened species from the report included the Bicknell's thrush, flamingoes, the irrawaddy dolphin, the musk ox, and the hawksbill turtle. “The image of a forlorn looking polar bear on a tiny ice floe has become the public's image of climate change in nature, but the impact reaches species in nearly every habitat in the world's wild places,” said WCS President Dr. Steven E. Sanderson. “In fact, our own researchers are observing direct impacts on a wide range of species across the world.”
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 email@example.com. If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue.
Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action