CC NEWS FOR MAY 2010
In Climate Change News for November 2009 I cited a Scientific American article that month by Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Mark Delucchi (UC Davis) titled, A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030. The authors wrote that a combination of wind, water and sunlight could provide 100% of the world’s energy, for all purposes, as early as 2030.
I have now found a pdf version of the article on Jacobson’s Stanford web site at:
His web site, which contains a lot of interesting and valuable information, is at:
One of his articles, first posted on the web in December 2008 and published in Energy & Env. Science in 2009 – titled, Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security – is a must read for anyone interested in solutions to global warming and low-carbon energy technologies (including nuclear). In it he writes, “This paper reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security while considering impacts of the solutions on water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, reliability, thermal pollution, water pollution, nuclear proliferation, and undernutrition.” At:
The Global Humanitarian Forum (Geneva) issued its 2009 Annual Report in February, 2010, emphasizing the human impacts of climate change, and describing a forum held in Geneva in June 2009 titled, “Human Impact of Climate Change: New Challenges for Humanitarianism and Sustainable Development.” At:
The report (on p.18) also described the Human Impact Report: Climate Change – The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, issued in May last year, which found the following impacts of climate change that have already occurred: around 300,000 deaths per year; 500 million people at extreme risk today; 4 billion people living in vulnerable areas; over 25 million climate displaced people with 1 million more every year; and over 100 billion dollars worth of damage each year. This report can be found at:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued four 2-page fact sheets on climate change based on recent scientific findings. The four titles are: Climate Change Science Facts, Climate Change and Ecosystems, Climate Change and Health Effects, and Climate Change and Society. The fact sheets (PDF format) are written in non-technical language and can be found in the Climate Toolbox on EPA’s Climate Change Basic Information page at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html
Jeremy van Loon reported in Bloomberg Business News on April 27, in an article titled, Germany’s Deepwater Offshore Wind Farm Starts Production. This first German offshore wind farm, consisting of 12 large 5MW turbines, can generate up to 60 MW in strong winds and cost 250 million Euros ($333). It is in the North Sea 45 km (28 miles) off the German coast in water 30 m (about 100 feet) deep. Germany plans to install 25,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. It is likely to be at least three more years before the U.S. generates any electricity using offshore wind, but it has a huge wind resource off its coasts and on the Great Lakes. At: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601130&sid=a4WRBAB_AwHQ
On May 7 Josie Garthwaite of earth2tech report, Cape Wind: National Grid to Buy Half of the Project’s Power. The Massachusetts utility National Grid announced an agreement with Cape Wind for the utility to buy 50 percent of the power generated by the 130-turbine project starting in 2013, at a price of 20.7¢/kWh for the electrical energy and renewable energy credits, increasing by 3.5% per year. The average power is expected to be about 180 MW. At: http://earth2tech.com/2010/05/07/cape-wind-national-grid-to-buy-half-of-the-projects-power/
On May 13 Gillian Caldwell, the Campaign Director of 1Sky, posted a note titled, 16 tips for avoiding climate burnout. It has some good tips for those of us who are sometimes ready to scream at the apathy, ignorance, and denial of the many who just don’t get it. She writes, “We know that this crisis is an opportunity to reinvent the way we are living our lives, and to steer this troubled ship called Earth towards safer harbor. In our despair, we must surface all our passion and commitment and power to ensure that we come together as an unstoppable force for change, …” At:
The May 14 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle has an article by Jon Carroll titled, Global Warming: Not a Fraud, deploring the attacks on science and scientists – especially climate scientists. He wrote, “Science is inherently undemocratic - you don't get to vote on whether two plus two equals four, but some politicians, school boards and political parties have adopted the "wishing makes it so" protocols, and we as a nation are poorer for it.” He cites a recent letter to the magazine Science by 250 scientists, who wrote in part, "We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.” 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 email@example.com.
CO2 Emissions Causing Ocean Acidification to Progress at Unprecedented Rate
On April 22, the National Research Council (NRC) reported that the chemistry of the oceans is changing faster than it has in hundreds of thousands of years because of the carbon dioxide (CO2) being absorbed from the atmosphere. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the pH of ocean water has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 and a further decline of 0.2 to 0.3 units is expected by the end of this century, according to the NRC, an arm of the National Academy of Science. The current rate of change "exceeds any known change in ocean chemistry for at least 800,000 years," the report said. According to the report, oceans absorb about one-third of all human generated CO2 emissions, including those from burning fossil fuels, cement production and deforestation. While the long term consequences of ocean acidification on marine life are unknown, many ecosystem changes are expected to result. Ocean acidification eats away at coral reefs, interferes with the ability of some fish species to find their homes and can hurt commercial shellfish such as mussels and oysters by reducing their ability to make their protective shells.
Study: Copenhagen Pledges Set Path for 3°C Warming
On April 21, researchers in the journal Nature concluded that commitments made at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not enough to keep global warming below the 2°C target. Between now and 2020, the scientists calculate that global emissions are likely to rise by 10-20 percent and the chances of passing 3°C by 2100 are greater than 50 percent. The meeting in December produced the Copenhagen Accord, an agreement that was “taken note of” under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but not considered a new global treaty. As part of the Accord, nations pledged to cut emissions and submit these targets to the UN following the December meeting. The researchers concluded that the pledges committed to at this time are so weak that they have left the world “in dire peril” from rising temperatures. "There's a big mismatch between the ambitious goal, which is 2°C . . . and the emissions reductions," said Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, which conducted the study. "The pledged emissions reductions are in most cases very unambitious.”
World Bank Says East Asia Can Stabilize CO2 by 2025
On April 19, the World Bank announced that East Asia could stabilize its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025 while maintaining economic growth by investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies. The report, "Winds of change: East Asia's sustainable energy future," said that success would require an investment of $80 billion a year to make the power, industry and transportation sectors more efficient as well as to develop renewable energy. Success will also depend, the report noted, on the region finding the political will for such changes, as well as transfers of financing and technologies from developed countries. Underscoring the region's rapid rise, the Bank said East Asia achieved a 10-fold increase in GDP over the past three decades, leading to a tripling of energy consumption, which was expected to double again in the next two decades. "Countries need to act now to transform the energy sector toward much higher energy efficiency and widespread deployment of low-carbon technologies," said Jim Adams, World Bank Vice President for the East Asia & Pacific Region.
Spring Comes 10 Days Earlier in Changed U.S. Climate
On April 20, scientists reported that spring comes about 10 days earlier in the United States now than it did two decades ago, a consequence of climate change that favors invasive species over indigenous ones. The phenomenon, known as "spring creep," has put various species of U.S. wildlife out of balance with their traditional habitats, the environmental experts said. "The losers tend to be our native plant species," said Charles Davis of Harvard University, who studied plant changes in Concord, Massachusetts. "Climate change is not affecting species uniformly," Davis continued. "Certain groups are hit harder than others, and those species that are not able to respond to climate change . . . are being hit the hardest."
For additional information see: Reuters
EPA Issues Report on U.S. Climate Change Indicators
On April 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new report, "Climate Change Indicators in the United States," which looks at 24 key indicators that show how climate change impacts the health and environment of American citizens. Heat waves, storms, sea levels, glaciers, and wildlife migrations are just a few of the environmental indicators that show measurable signs of climate change. In total, the report found that there was scientific evidence that climate change was making 22 of the 24 indicators worse. “These indicators show us that climate change is a very real problem with impacts that are already being seen,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions Americans are taking today to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help us solve this global challenge.”
175 Companies Urge Senate to Move Forward with Climate Legislation
On April 28, 175 U.S. companies sent a letter to Senate leadership, urging them to continue working to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year. The letter was brought together by the We Can Lead coalition, a project of the Clean Economy Network (CEN) and Ceres. The businesses come from some of the nation's largest electric power, manufacturing, and clean tech companies, including Nike, Exelon, PG&E and eBay. "Today, the United States is falling behind in the global race to lead the next global industrial revolution. U.S. businesses need strong policies and clear market signals to deploy capital, harness innovative technologies, and compete in the global marketplace," the letter stated. "Every day the Senate fails to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation is a day our economy falls another step behind and delays our ability to create millions of new American jobs. America's energy future is not a partisan issue. Now is the time to bring the parties together and finish what we started."
For additional information see: We Can Lead Letter
33 Retired Military Leaders Call for Climate Legislation
On April 28, 33 retired military leaders issued a statement, calling on “Congress and the administration to enact strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation to reduce carbon pollution and lead the world in clean energy technology.” The statement goes on to note that the “Pentagon and security leaders of both parties consider climate disruption to be a ‘threat multiplier’ – it exacerbates existing problems by decreasing stability, increasing conflict, and incubating the socioeconomic conditions that foster terrorist recruitment.” The statement, released in conjunction by The Truman National Security Project and Operation Free (OPFREE), is another attempt by the military community to inform the public about the national security issues connected to climate change. OPFREE says America’s dependence on oil puts money into the hands of dangerous enemies. In January, the United States imported 506,000 barrels of oil each day from Iraq, 911,000 from Venezuela and 463,000 from Russia, according to the Energy Information Administration. “At the same time, the climate change caused by carbon pollution is destabilizing nations like Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria and Afghanistan — creating safe havens for terrorists,” Operation Free campaign manager Jonathan Murray said.
Melting Sea Ice Major Cause of Warming in Arctic
On April 28, a study published in the journal Nature found that melting sea ice has dramatically accelerated warming in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen faster in recent decades than the global average. The study also suggested that current forecasts underestimate the degree to which the polar region could heat up in the future. "It was previously thought that loss of sea ice could cause further warming. Now we have confirmation this is already happening," said James Screen, a researcher at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study. From 1989 to 2008, global temperatures climbed on average 0.8°F, whereas the Arctic has warmed by 3.4°F - the most rapid increase of any place on the planet. The findings show that the main driver of so-called "polar amplification" - warming in excess of the global average - is shrinking ice cover, and not increased cloudiness or changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation.
Report Finds U.S. Economy Only 13 Percent Energy Efficient
On April 28, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a new report, “Crossing the Energy Divide: Moving from Fossil Fuel Dependence to a Clean-Energy Future,” detailing a U.S. transition to a clean energy future. A critical finding in the report showed that the American economy today is only functioning at a level of 13 percent efficiency in terms of energy use, meaning that 87 percent of the energy used is wasted. In comparison, Japan and several European countries are about 20 percent efficient, a factor of 1.5 greater than the United States. This important fact is being drowned out, however, by an overemphasis on creating new energy, said John “Skip” Laitner, director of Economic and Social Analysis at ACEEE and co-author of the study. “The dirty little secret today is that most economic assessments of the current climate change policies either ignore or greatly understate the potential advances in energy efficiency, even though it is clearly the largest and most cost-effective form of greenhouse gas mitigation,” Laitner said.
For additional information see: ACEEE Press Release
UN Warns Climate Change Will Hit Africa's Poorest
On May 4, at a regional conference in Angola, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warned about the impacts climate change will have on Africa’s food security. The main consequence of higher temperatures and more unpredictable weather was a likely reduction in crop yields – 6.9 percent in the case of maize, an important staple – and a heightened risk of food insecurity. A paper released at the conference described how climate change will affect the poorer African countries disproportionately, especially the subsistence farmers within those countries. One-third of the African population lives in drought-prone areas, while six of the ten largest cities in Africa are located on the coast, both areas that are most susceptible to climate change. The paper urged African governments to "prioritize and implement measures to develop agriculture and sustainable natural resource management.” It specifically highlighted the opportunity for African countries to benefit from carbon and international market instruments such as the Clean Development Mechanism.
Study Finds Global Warming Heat Stress Could Make Life Intolerable
On May 4, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a growing number of healthy people will suffer from cases of heat stress if temperatures continue to rise into the next century. The human body maintains a constant core temperature of 37°C by giving off excess heat through the skin. But, if the temperature of the air reaches 35°C, this heat dissipation stops, causing the body to retain heat, resulting in heat stress. The study highlights a number of potential 'hot spots' in the future. "The places that heat stress will be highest are places near sea level and at lower latitudes and that's where people live," said Professor Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales and author of the study. "This includes Amazonia; most of China; India; Indonesia; pretty much all of South East Asia; eastern United States; northern Australia and parts of Africa,” Sherwood said.
Senators Kerry and Lieberman Unveil Climate Bill
On May 12, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released their much-anticipated climate legislation, the American Power Act. The legislation seeks to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions 17 percent below 2005 by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. "The American Power Act will finally change our nation's energy policy from a national weakness into a national strength," Kerry said when the bill was released. "This is a bill for energy independence after a devastating oil spill, a bill to hold polluters accountable, a bill for billions of dollars to create the next generation of jobs and a bill to end America's addiction to foreign oil and protect the air our children breathe and the water they drink." The bill includes 12 titles, including a mandatory cap on GHG emissions that is phased into different sectors of the economy at different times. The bill also includes measures to encourage renewable energy, new coal technology that captures and stores carbon, nuclear power and offshore drilling. In light of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on an offshore oil rig, states are allowed to opt out of federal drilling within 75 miles of their shore, while states that go ahead with offshore drilling would retain 37.5 percent of the federal revenue generated. The senators have not yet formally introduced the bill in Congress, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he will make a decision soon as to whether or not he will bring the legislation to the Senate floor this year.
CBO: Climate Policies Would 'Slightly' Lower Employment
On May 5, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis of climate policies, determining that they would “slightly” reduce total employment during the next few decades. According to the study, “adopting policies aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) would shift the demand for goods and services away from fossil fuels and products that require substantial amounts of those fuels to make or to use and toward alternative forms of energy and products that require lesser amounts of fossil fuels. Employment patterns would shift to mirror those changes in demand.” Predictably, various industries would be affected differently by policies to reduce GHG emissions. Coal mining would likely see the largest percentage decline in employment because it emits more GHGs than other forms of fossil fuels. CBO also said employment in oil and gas extraction and natural gas utilities are expected to decline as those fuels become more expensive and the demand for them declines. Eventually, however, most workers who lost jobs would find new ones the study concluded. The CBO did not address changes in employment that would result from the absence of policies to reduce emissions of GHGs.
Report: Climate Change Could Render Much of World Uninhabitable
On May 11, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that climate change could make parts of Earth uninhabitable within three centuries. “It would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7°C (13°F), calling the habitability of some regions into question," the researchers said in a paper. "With 11-12°C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed." The study looked at climate change over a longer range, beyond 2100, which the scientists said has not been studied enough. “It needs to be looked at," said Steven Sherwood, a co-author of the study from the University of South Wales. "There's not much we can do about climate change over the next two decades but there's still a lot we can do about the longer term changes."
EU Climate Chief Looks into 30 Percent Carbon Cuts
On May 11, European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that the EU should set a stricter target for cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to help push the price of carbon permits higher, to about 30 euros ($38.20). “Around 30 euros, people would start to do things differently,” Hedegaard said, yet she continued that she is fearful that the price of carbon may stagnate though 2020 unless the EU sets a tougher target. Hedegaard plans to soon present an analysis of options for scaling up emissions reductions in the EU from a 20 percent cut by 2020 from 1990 levels to a 30 percent reduction. The economic crisis has cut the estimated cost of achieving the 20 percent goal by about a third. “Now, the cost of the 30 percent reduction would be only modestly higher than what we were prepared to pay for the 20 percent cut,” Hedegaard said.
Greenland Glacier Slide Speeds 220 Percent in Summer
A new study published in the May 9 issue of Nature Geoscience concluded that the variability of glacier movement in Greenland is much greater than previously thought. The researchers, led by Ian Bartholomew of Edinburgh University in Scotland, found that glaciers in Greenland slide up to 220 percent faster toward the sea in summer than in winter. The study did not speculate if the change in speed between summer and winter was part of natural shifts or was influenced by a changing climate. They did note, however, that "in a warming climate, with longer and more intense summer melt seasons, we would expect that water will reach the bed farther inland and a larger portion of the ice sheet will experience summer velocity changes." The ice sheet in Greenland is the second largest in the world, behind Antarctica, and has enough ice to raise world sea levels by about 23 feet if it melted entirely.
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action