CC NEWS FOR MARCH, 2010
The NY Times of Feb. 21 had an excellent editorial titled, Climate Change. It discussed the resignation of Yvo de Boer after nearly four years as chief UN steward of climate change negotiations – no doubt partly because of his frustration with the glacial pace of international efforts to deal with the growing threat. The editorial does, however, hold out hope for the future. At: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/opinion/22mon1.html?hpw
Peter Sinclair is a graphic designer and the CEO of Greenland Studio LLC in Midland, MI. On Feb. 27 he released an excellent 9.6-minute YouTube video, What We Know about Climate Change, summarizing the scientific evidence for global climate change. Well worth watching, at: http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610
He has dozens of videos on energy and climate change you can watch at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u Examples are Plug-in Hybrids: Renewable Energy and 32000 Scientists.
Climate Progress has a Feb. 28 post titled, Improving How Scientists Communicate About Climate Change. It points out that part of the problem is that scientific language often gives words a different meaning than their everyday usage. There us a huge gap between what scientists understand and what most people believe about climate change. This lack of understanding makes it very difficult for society to deal with the climate threat. At: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/climateprogress/lCrX/~3/P-EzyN6o7wA/
A May 3 article in USA Today, Undersea Arctic methane could wreak havoc on climate, by Doyle Rice reports the emission to the atmosphere of methane from the sea floor of the Arctic Ocean. This is significant both because methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and because its release leads to further warming that increases the rate of release of the remaining methane. This feedback is not included in current climate models, and means that they underestimate the climate changes that are on the way. At: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/environment/2010-03-05-methane05_ST_N.htm?POE=click-refer
On March 4 the National Science Foundation (NSF) posted a fact sheet titled, Questions and Answers on Potentially Large Methane Releases From Arctic, and Climate Change. It reported on work funded by NSF and led by two scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, published in Science on March 5 by them and coauthors from Russia and Sweden. See: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116534 and http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;327/5970/1246?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Methane&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&issue=5970&resourcetype=HWCIT
Joe Romm, hailed by Time Magazine as one of ten environmental heroes in 2009 (http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,1924149,00.html), has a very good and sobering article on his blog, Climate Progress, for March 4, titled, Science stunner: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting. He points out that the Arctic permafrost contains an estimated 1500 GtC as methane – about twice as much carbon as Earth’s current atmosphere. At: http://climateprogress.org/2010/03/04/science-nsf-tundra-permafrost-methane-east-siberian-arctic-shelf-venting/
USA Today had an article on March 10 by Brian Winter titled, Questions about research slow climate change efforts. It describes how climate change scientists have been put on the defensive by climate skeptics, based on the contents of hacked emails and a few errors in the 2007 IPCC report. At:
Last October President Obama established an Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to coordinate U.S. efforts to adapt to the climate changes that cannot be avoided. Its first Progress Report was issued on March 16. The report says, “The Task Force has found that climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, nearly every aspect of our society and the environment. Some of the impacts are increased severity of floods, droughts, and heat waves, increased wildfires, and sea level rise. Climate change impacts are pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others.” There is a 60-day period for public comment. See: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/20100315-interagency-adaptation-progress-report.pdf
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.
EPA, Climate Change Challenged in Senate Hearing
On February 23, Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee challenged the evidence for climate change, citing recent hacked emails from a British climate research center and errors in the United Nations Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change. "We've been told that the science still stands," Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said. "We've been told that the IPCC's mistakes are trivial. We've been told that Climategate is just gossipy e-mails between a few scientists. But now we know there's no objective basis for these claims," he added. "Furthermore, Climategate shows there's no 'consensus;' the science is far from settled." Inhofe also announced the release of a report by the committee minority that called into question scientific evidence supporting human-caused climate change.
Democrats on the committee maintained that the overwhelming amount of evidence supports the conclusion that humans are adversely warming global temperatures and changing the climate. "This country faces many problems, not the least of which, we have national leaders rejecting basic science," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said. "I find it incredible, I really do, that in the year 2010 on this committee, there are people who are saying there is a doubt about global warming. There is no doubt about global warming." The remarks came during a review of President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reiterated that she had seen no new evidence to warrant changing the agency's determination that greenhouse gases pose a threat to the health and welfare of U.S. citizens, prompting regulatory action by the EPA to reduce such emissions. These conclusions we have drawn are based on the best science we have, Jackson said at the hearing. What we plan to do is use the Clean Air Act in a reasonable and stepwise approach.
Obama Discusses Cap and Trade with Business Roundtable
On February 24, President Obama spoke to a group of CEOs at a Business Roundtable event in Washington, DC about the steps needed to build a more competitive America, calling specific attention to energy legislation. Obama repeated his argument for addressing heat-trapping carbon emissions, namely that putting a price on carbon now will give businesses the certainty they need to plan and transition over the next few years. A competitive America is also America that finally has a smart energy policy. We know there's no silver bullet here. We understand that to reduce our dependence on oil and the damage caused by climate change, we're going to need more production in the short term, we're going to need more efficiency, and we need more incentives for clean energy. To truly transition to a clean energy economy, however, Obama noted that "we need to put a price on carbon pollution. Many businesses have embraced this approach - including some who are represented here today. Still, I am sympathetic to those companies that face significant potential transition costs, and I want to work with this organization and others like this to help with those costs and to get our policies right. He concluded by asserting that the only thing America cannot do is stand still. The only certainty of the status quo is that the price and supply of oil will become increasingly volatile; that the use of fossil fuels will wreak havoc on weather patterns and air quality. This country has to move towards a clean energy economy. That’s where the world is going. And that’s how America will remain competitive and strong in the 21st century.
UN Report Finds Emissions Pledges Too Low to Remain Under 2°C Increase
On February 23, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report stating that the cumulative emissions reductions pledged by countries in response to the Copenhagen Accord will not be enough to prevent temperature rises above 2°C by mid century. The scientists responsible for modeling the study also determined that a reduction of between 42 and 72 percent would be needed between 2020 and 2050, with total absolute emissions peaking somewhere between 2015 and 2021. Such a path gives a 50/50 chance of keeping global temperature increase below 2°C, according to the report. The analysis looks at pledges from 60 countries in both developed and developing economies. "There are multiple reasons for countries to make a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy of which climate change is a key one. But energy security, cuts in air pollution and diversifying energy sources are also important drivers," said Achim Steiner, UN Undersecretary General and UNEP Executive Director.
China Has 'No Intentions' of Capping Emissions for Now
On February 25, China’s top climate negotiator Su Wei announced that China has no intention of creating a firm upper limit on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as Chinese authorities restate commitments to reduce the carbon intensity of the nation’s economic output. He also warned that developing and developed nations will likely be unable to overcome key issues in climate negotiations, centering mainly on whether or not developing countries should be forced to commit to reducing total emissions in the coming decades. Su maintained that China’s CO2 emissions must grow in order that they further eradicate poverty and improve livelihoods. Yu Qingtai, China’s special representative for climate change negotiations, reiterated that China will stick to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities as describe in the 1992 Kyoto Protocol.
NASA Report Names Road Transportation as Key Driver in Warming
On February 18, the Goddard Institute for Space Science announced the results of a study that analyzed the climate impacts from different sectors in the world economy. Led by Nadine Unger, the report used a climate model to estimate the impacts from 13 sectors from 2000 to 2100. Motor vehicles emerged as the single greatest contributor in both the near and long term. Vehicles released large quantities of greenhouse gases that warm the earth while not releasing many aerosols that cool it. The second largest contributor to climate change was the burning of household fuels, primarily wood and animal dung for heating and cooking. Livestock production came in third, with cattle contributing most from that group. The analysis offered policymakers a better understanding of how and where to focus climate change policies to achieve maximum effect.
For additional information see: GISS Press Release
Ice Shelves Disappearing on Antarctic Peninsula
On February 22, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released information stating that the ice shelves in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula are retreating due to climate change. This research is the first to document a retreat in every ice front in the region from 1947 through 2009. Ice shelves extending from land into the sea act as dams for the land glaciers behind them. As the ice shelves break off, inland glaciers move more quickly towards the sea, causing a rise in sea level once they break off into oceans. The USGS scientists estimated that if all the ice melted from the Antarctic Peninsula, seas would rise 20 feet.
Global Warming Impact on Poverty Could Be Mixed
On February 20, Stanford University released a report which concluded that global warming could have a large impact on increasing food prices and hunger in the next 20 years for many of the global poor surviving on less than one dollar per day, while certain groups like those who own land and grow food would benefit. The study tracked 15 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Under a scenario where temperatures rose by 2.7°F, the study’s model predicted global food production decreasing by 10 to 20 percent, resulting in 10 to 60 percent increases in the price of staple crops like rice, wheat, and maize. Overall, poverty rates in the 15 countries increased by three percent. A closer look at individual countries, however, revealed that the poverty rate for self employed farmers was expected to drop by 30 percent compared to the rise in poverty of five percent for non-agricultural sector workers.
"Poverty impacts depend not only on food prices but also on the earnings of the poor," said David Lobell, a center fellow at Stanford's Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE). "Most projections assume that if prices go up, the amount of poverty in the world also will go up, because poor people spend a lot of their money on food. But poor people are pretty diverse. There are those who farm their own land and would actually benefit from higher crop prices, and there are rural wage laborers and people that live in cities who definitely will be hurt.
Thirteen Senators Call for Preserving Clean Air Act Protections in Climate Bill
On March 2, 13 Democratic Senators signed a letter written to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging him not to weaken Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases from the utility sector in any proposed climate bill. Led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the letter insists that any climate bill must ensure that electricity generation from sources like coal be held to progressively higher performance standards for CO2 emissions. The other signatories were Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). The senators worried that the old fleet of coal generators - three quarters of which were constructed before 1980 - will not take steps to reduce emissions under a cap and trade regime, especially if carbon allowances are given away for free in the beginning of the program and auctioned off later.
As strong supporters of clean energy, we urge you to ensure that energy and climate legislation builds on the existing Clean Air Act and does not create loopholes for old, inefficient, and polluting coal-fired power plants. The bill should require coal-fired power plants old and new alike to meet up-to-date performance standards for carbon dioxide that will complement an overall cap on emissions and move America to clean energy, wrote the group of Senators.
For additional information see: Office of Sen. Menendez Press Release
House Republicans Introduce Resolution to Block EPA Action on Greenhouse Gases
On March 2, House Republicans led by Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a resolution of disapproval that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. In December 2009, the EPA concluded that GHGs pose a danger to public health and welfare, legally requiring regulation of the pollutant from mobile and stationary sources. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who cosponsored the bill, said, Quite frankly [my constituents] are very concerned about what they see as an overaggressive and overly intrusive EPA. The EPA has not only moved away from its mission of being the Environmental Protection Agency, now they are the Economic Punishment Agency. The move to undo the EPA's endangerment finding is being raised in the Senate by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The endangerment finding the EPA put out last year is fatally flawed, not independently reviewed in the EPA and not born out by science, said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who also cosponsored the bill.
China Says It Is Moving to Enforce Greenhouse Gas Goals
On February 28, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress said it will spell out greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goals and monitoring rules for regions and sectors in its next five-year plan. In November 2009 the Chinese government said it would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted to make each unit of national income 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. That goal would let China's GHG emissions keep rising, but more slowly than its economic growth. The more recent comments provided some clarity as to how the reductions will be achieved. Officials said they will carry out an "inventory" of GHG emissions in 2005 and 2008, using that as a yardstick for setting emissions reductions goals across areas and sectors. The government would also launch a series of technological and fiscal support policies to promote the use of non-fossil, renewable energies including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and nuclear power, aiming to increase its proportion of primary energy consumption to about 15 percent by 2020, up from 9.9 percent at the end of 2009.
South Dakota Legislature Calls for "Balanced" Teaching of Global Warming in Schools
On March 1, the South Dakota Legislature passed a resolution calling for the balanced teaching of global warming in public schools by a voted of 37 to 33. The resolution asserted that global warming and climate change are theories rather than proven fact, and that carbon dioxide is a highly beneficial ingredient for plant life rather than a pollutant. It also stated that there are many other influences on climate other than greenhouse gases, and that the cumulative effects of these influences are largely speculative. The resolution is similar to those in other states such as Kentucky that are calling for the teaching of minority viewpoints on climate change and global warming alongside those accepted by the vast majority of climate scientists.
UK Met Office's Review Says Global Warming is Man-made
On March 5, the UK Met Office published new evidence in the Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change Journal, which said that evidence that global warming is man-made is stronger now than when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) carried out its assessment in 2007. The study, which looked at over 100 studies published since the IPCC's report, found that changes in Arctic sea ice, atmospheric moisture, salinity in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and temperature changes in the Antarctic were consistent with human influence on climate. "What this study shows is that the evidence has strengthened for human influence on climate and we know that because we've looked at evidence across the climate system and what this shows very clearly is a consistent picture of a warming world," said Dr. Peter Stott who led the review at the UK Met Office. The Met Office study came at a time when some have questioned the basis of climate science following recent controversies over the handling of research findings by the IPCC and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
Wal-Mart Pledges to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 2015
On February 25, Wal-Mart announced that it would cut some 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its supply chain by the end of 2015. The company said that the reductions represent approximately 1.5 times the expected carbon growth of the company during the same time period and are equivalent to taking 3.8 million cars off the road for a year. Wal-Mart plans to achieve emissions reductions by focusing on popular product categories with the highest embedded carbon - milk, bread, meat, clothing - and pressing its suppliers to rethink how they source, manufacture, package and transport those goods. Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart’s president and chief executive, said in a webcast, “We know we need to get ready for a world in which energy will only be more expensive.”
U.S. Scientists Urge Senate Action on Climate Change
On March 11, 2000 U.S. scientists and economists signed on to a statement imploring the Senate to move swiftly and comprehensively on the issue of climate change. The signatories are all experts in relevant fields of study on climate change. The statement is the first time leading U.S. scientists and economists have come together to issue a joint message of concern on climate change. The list of signatories included eight Nobel laureates, 32 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 members from the National Academy of Engineering, and more than 100 members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who shared a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
“If anything, the climate problem is actually worse than reported earlier," wrote Leon Lederman, Director Emeritus of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, in an individual statement in the letter to the Senate. "Physicists tend to be super critical of strong conclusions, but the data on global warming now indicate the conclusions are not nearly strong enough."
U.S. Governors Ask Congress to Stop EPA Greenhouse Gas Rules
On March 10, a group of 20 U.S. governors wrote to President Obama urging him to halt the process underway at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The 20 governors expressed concern that the EPA was not equipped to consider the harm posed by regulating emissions. The letter called on Congress to “pass comprehensive legislation that balances the role of conservation and climate security with the production of abundant and affordable American energy.” EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan responded by saying GHGs are a “real and growing threat to the American people. EPA rejects the premise that addressing greenhouse gases threatens the economy.”
New Poll Finds Fewer Conservatives Now Think Global Warming Is Occurring
On March 11, Gallup released the results of a recent poll showing a shift in public perceptions toward climate change. It found that fifty-one percent of people believe the effects of global warming are already occurring compared to 61 percent two years ago. The shift was seen almost entirely among self-described conservatives, with essentially no change in liberal respondents. The net effect was that Democrats were twice as likely (66 percent) to believe the effects of global warming are already underway compared to Republicans (31 percent). In addition to liberals, young adults were the other major subgroup that shows no major decline in the belief that global warming is already affecting the environment. Both liberals and conservatives are more likely now than they were in 2008 to believe the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated.
Study Finds Developed Nations Outsource One Third of Emissions
On March 8, scientists at the Carnegie Institution published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences showing how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with consumption were exported by individual countries to overseas production facilities. The study looked at GHG emissions in terms of consumption rather than production location, and reassigned emissions accordingly. The results estimated that 23 percent of global emissions are traded internationally, with countries in the EU such as France, Sweden and Britain receiving more than 30 percent from overseas. The results are significant for international climate change negotiations due to the call made to determine a nation’s responsibility for reducing emissions based on its consumption rather than production of GHGs. The study found that the United States imports 10.8 percent of its emissions while China exported 22.5 percent of its emissions. "Just like the electricity that you use in your home probably causes CO2 emissions at a coal-burning power plant somewhere else, we found that the products imported by the developed countries of western Europe, Japan, and the United States cause substantial emissions in other countries, especially China," said the study's lead author Steven Davis of Carnegie, in a statement.
Interior Report: Climate Change Threatens Migratory Birds
On March 11, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a Department of the Interior report, "The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change," detailing the extent to which U.S. bird populations are seriously threatened by global warming. The report stated that climate change is poised to seriously alter critical habitats and food supplies, pushing many species toward extinction. The report was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and experts from the nation’s leading conservation organizations. In particular the report found oceanic birds to be at highest risk due to the low number of chicks hatched each year, a quickly changing marine ecosystem, and critical roosting sites that could be engulfed by rising seas.
“Just as they did in 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, our migratory birds are sending us a message about the health of our planet,” Salazar said. “That is why – for the first time ever – the Department of the Interior has deployed a coordinated strategy to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change on the resources we manage.”
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action