Sunday, August 22, 2010



In June, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences issued a 182-page report to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources titled, Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study. The study addresses an array of scientific, economic and technological issues related to the use of forest biomass for generating energy in Massachusetts. The three key policy questions addressed are:

1. What are the atmospheric greenhouse gas implications of shifting energy production from fossil fuel sources to forest biomass?

2. How much wood is available from forests to support biomass energy development in Massachusetts?

3. What are the potential ecological impacts of increased biomass harvests on forests in the Commonwealth, and what if any policies are needed to ensure these harvests are sustainable?

The complete report is available at:

In July, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued its Mid-Year 2010 Market Report. While the installation of new generating capacity in the first half of 2010 was much slower than for the same period in 2009, little Delaware is now on the map showing installed wind capacity by state in the U.S., with the startup of a 2 MW turbine on the University of Delaware Lewes campus, near the coast. The total installed wind capacity in the U.S. is now over 36,000 MW, with the largest amount in Texas, followed by Iowa, California, Oregon Washington, Illinois and Minnesota. The states with no utility scale wind power, with the exception of Nevada, are all in the Southeast. At:

Susan Pomerantz has an article in the July 15 issue of The Green Roadshow titled, Bracing for Delaware’s Sea Level Rise. The article says,

The ocean is slowly creeping up Delaware’s shore, due to a warming climate. At the same time, Delaware’s landmass has been sliding back into the sea since the last ice age.

Dan Leathers, the state climatologist at the University of Delaware, says in 100 years, those minor moves could lead to a sea level rise of several inches to more than a foot, and an increased risk for flooding. Staff at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is developing a Sea Level Adaptation Plan to help direct any future construction or restoration projects, says the Department’s secretary, Colin O’Mara.”

Leathers is being overly optimistic about how little sea level will rise in the coming century. It was already a foot at Lewes, DE in the past century, and the latest estimates are for as much as 1.4 m by 2100. The fact that the rate of loss of Greenland ice doubled between 2003 and 2009 and that global GHG emissions continue to increase, leads me to fear that the Greenland ice may be gone during this century. That alone would raise sea level by 7 m (23 ft).

On July 16 Donald A. Brown at PA State University posted and article, Have We Been Asking the Wrong Questions About Climate Change Science? Why Strong Climate Change Ethical Duties Exist Before Scientific Uncertainties are Resolved. He points out that too much of the debate on climate change for the past 30 years has been about the scientific certainties around how soon and how bad things will get if we continue business-as-usual. He points out that we have an ethical obligation to act in the face of scientific uncertainty if there is a significant risk that our actions could cause great suffering for others. At:

I am sorry to report that Stanford Prof. Stephen H. Schneider (aged 65) passed away suddenly on July 19. He was a pioneer in climate change science, Editor of the journal Climate Change, and a major author of reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A long recent YouTube lecture (90 min) by Dr. Schneider was posted by Peter Sinclair on his Crock of the Week web site. Its title is Climate Change: Is the Science Settled? At: (There are links to other interesting videos at the site.)

Dr. Schneider had an unusual ability to explain technical concepts in layman’s terms, and will be sorely missed. Some of his fellow scientists on the IPCC eulogized him at:

Barry Ritholtz has a blog posted on July 22 titled, Grantham: Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes. In it Ritholtz quotes Jeremy Grantham, an investor in timber and natural resources, with what he calls a “smackdown on the Global Warming denialist crowd.” He concludes with the following Postscript: “Global warming will be the most important investment issue for the foreseeable future. But how to make money around this issue in the next few years is not yet clear to me. In a fast-moving field rife with treacherous politics, there will be many failures. Marketing a “climate” fund would be much easier than outperforming with it.” At:

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has issued a report titled, Climate Change, Water, and Risk: Current Water Demands Are Not Sustainable. The analysis, performed by Tetra Tech, found that more than 1100 U.S. counties – one-third of all counties in the lower 48 – will face higher risks of water shortages by 2050 as a result of global warming. More than 400 will face extremely high risk. Particularly hard hit will be those in the Great Plains and the Southwest. At:

In July the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on July 28 titled, The State of the Climate 2009 Highlights. The report cites 10 indicators of a warming world, and says, “Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before it, with each one setting a new and significant record for the highest global temperature.

“At first glance, the amount of increase each decade - about a fifth of a degree Fahrenheit - may seem small. Butt he temperature increase of about 1 degree Fahrenheit experienced during the past 50 years has already altered the planet. Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying and heat waves are becoming more common and more intense. Continued temperature increases will threaten many aspects of our society, including coastal cities and infrastructure, water supply and agriculture. People have spent thousands of years building society for one climate and now a new one is being created – one that’s warmer and more extreme.”

A brochure summarizing the findings can be found at:

The full report and earlier ones in the annual series can be found at:

Brandon Keim has an article in the July 29 issued of Wired Science, titled, Controlling Soot Might Quickly Reverse a Century of Global Warming. Keim reports on recently published work by Stanford’s Mark Jacobson showing that soot emissions can be reduced much more rapidly and easily than CO2, and that black soot makes a substantial contribution to global warming – both through its absorbtion of radiation while it’s in the atmosphere and after it’s deposited on ice and show, whose melting it promotes. Reducing soot emissions would also have a positive effect on human health. At:

Marah Hardt and Carl Safina have an article in the August issue of Scientific American titled, Threatening Ocean Life from the Inside Out, addressing increasing ocean acidity as more CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere. They write, “ By disrupting processes as fundamental as growth and reproduction, ocean acidification threatens the animals’ health and even the survival of species. Time is running out to limit acidification before it irreparably harms the food chain on which the world’s oceans – and people – depend.” They go on, “Scientists have consistently underestimated rates of climate change, from Arctic ice melt to sea-level rise. Increasingly, experts recommend limiting atmospheric CO2 to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. But the targets should be set with ocean acidification in mind as well.” The authors recommend reducing CO2 concentrations from the current 390 down to 350 ppm. At:

Business Green, part of the Guardian Environmental Network, posted an article on Aug. 3 titled, Fossil fuel subsidies are 10 times those of renewables, figures show. The report says that governments provided $43-46 billion for renewable energy sources and biofuels in 2009, less than 10% of the $557 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel industries in 2008. At:

Note that $557 billion is nearly 1% of world GDP. (World GDP in 2010 is estimated to be about $62 trillion:

Economists have estimated that 2-3% of world GDP will be needed annually to make the transition to a sustainable green energy economy, give up our addiction to fossil fuels, and protect the global climate.

Ralph Nigro of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change posted a blog on Aug. 3 titled, States Continue Policy Push. He summarizes important steps taken at the regional and state levels in 2009 and 2010 to reduce energy use and encourage the transition to renewable energy sources – in the face of continuing inaction in the U.S. Senate. At:

Bill McKibben, the founder of, wrote a piece for the August 4 Los Angeles Times titled, Climate change: It's time to talk, and act, tough. Environmentalists have tried the compromise route. It hasn't worked. He writes, “We may need to get arrested. We definitely will need disciplined, nonviolent but very real anger.” He suggests that being polite and compromising is inadequate to save the planet. I’m asking myself: Has the time for nonviolent protest and civil disobedience for a sustainable future come at last? At:,0,7179186.story

On August 5 Bill McKibben was interviewed by Krista Tippett on her American Public Media program Speaking of Faith. The title of the interview was The Moral Math of Climate Change. McKibben and seven of his students at Middlebury College started the international climate action movement at, based on recent climate science that indicates that we will need to reduce carbon dioxide concentrations to 350 ppm or less to avoid severe damage to the Earth’s climate system. (We are already at 390 and increasing by more than 2 ppm each year.) According to McKibben, is an international campaign to "unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis, the solutions that science and justice demand." The 51-minute interview is essential listening for anyone interested in understanding the greatest moral challenge of our time. At:

Damien Pierce of The Guardian reported on August 6 that a 600-foot thick block of ice with an area of 100 square miles recently broke of the Petermann Glacier, one of Greenland’s two main glaciers. It’s the largest ice island to break off in nearly 50 years. At:

Prof. David Legates, the Delaware State Climatologist at the University of Delaware and a well-known climate contrarian, was interviewed on August 6 on WDEL Radio. Listen at:

If you want to learn more about David Legates, go to the blog at:

On Aug. 9 I went to a meeting of the First State Patriots (FSP) and heard Legates and John Nichols (a member of FSP) give back-to-back lectures (very nice PowerPoint slides) on The Science of Climate Change and Delaware’s Cap and Trade – The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Their basic points - that CO2 has little or nothing to do with climate change and that Delaware should withdraw from RGGI and repeal its recently passed Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) - were enthusiastically received by an audience of about 200. Scary. The Delaware RPS requires that 25% of the electricity sold in the state come from renewable energy sources by 2025, with 3.5% from solar PV. A list of past and future FSP events can be found at:

The Nov. 30, 2009 issue of Scientific American had an excellent article by John Rennie titled, Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense: Evidence for human interference with Earth’s Climate continues to accumulate. He gives seven statements often made by climate contrarians, and addresses each one, citing the sources of his information disproving them. At:

Willie Soon and David Legates published a paper in Ecology Law Currents in April 2010 titled, Avoiding Carbon Myopia: Three Considerations for Policy Makers Concerning Manmade Carbon Dioxide. They claim that the science on the effect of rising CO2 levels is uncertain, and in the Conclusion write, “We urge political leaders of the world to do the right thing and to reject any deal that would tax or restrict carbon emissions. Only in that way can they protect the jobs, health, welfare, economic opportunities, environmental quality, living standards, and civil rights that depend so critically on hydrocarbon energy.” At:

J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo have posted a paper titled, Global Surface Temperature Change that has been accepted for publication in Reviews of Geophysics, in which they analyze the global surface temperature record through July 2010. They find, contrary to some claims, that the global average temperature is continuing to rise and that the January-July, 2010 average is the highest ever recorded. The summary can be found at: and the full paper at: has developed a Return on Investment (ROI) table for costs and savings of various things you can to improve energy efficiency at home. Lots of good ideas. At:

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"

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

U.S. Environmental Agency Questions Need for Cross-Border Oil Sands Pipeline

On July 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a letter saying the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) conducted by the U.S. State Department regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Texas, is inadequate. The letter highlighted four areas in which the EIS needs revision: the purpose and need for the project; potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the project; air pollutant emissions at the receiving refineries; the pipeline’s safety and spill response; and potential impacts to minority communities. The letter suggested the pipeline be put on hold until the industry demonstrates it can lower its emissions from extraction and production to match other conventional sources of oil. The GHG emissions from oil sands crude are estimated to be 82 percent larger than most crude oils the United States refines. "We recommend that this discussion be expanded to include consideration of proposed and potential future changes to fuel economy standards and the potential for more widespread use of fuel-efficient technologies, advanced biofuels and electric vehicles as well as how they may affect demand for crude oil," the letter said.

For additional information see: Winnipeg Free Press, AP, Omaha World-Herald, Vancouver Sun

China to Launch Domestic Carbon Trading in Five Years

On July 22, it was revealed that China intends to launch a domestic carbon trading program over the next five years. At a closed-door meeting the day before, Chinese officials met to discuss ways to improve energy efficiency and reach its target of cutting energy intensity 40 to 45 percent by 2020. “The consensus was that a domestic carbon-trading scheme is essential was reached, but a debate is still ongoing among experts and industries regarding what approach should be adopted,” said an anonymous participant of the meeting. The scheme will not be a part of international efforts to combat climate change, but a supplement to the administrative measures which had been China’s primary means of meeting its 20 percent energy intensity reduction target from 2006 to 2010. “The market-based carbon-trading schemes will be a cost-effective supplement to administrative means,” said Yu Jie, an independent policy observer. In order for China to reach its target of reducing energy intensity, experts say China’s five-year plan will have to incorporate greater use of energy sources such as wind, nuclear, gas and hydropower, which have a smaller carbon footprint, and the plan will have to decrease the use of coal.

For additional information see: China Daily, Reuters, Times of India, BusinessGreen

Climate Change Threatens Poverty Fight, Report Warns

On July 20, Forum for the Future released a report indicating that climate change further threatens the fight against poverty. Poor countries will be the most affected by climate change, the report noted, so governments and aid donors need to include measures to combat climate change in their efforts to reduce poverty and stimulate low-carbon economic growth in these countries. “Climate change and development should be seen as complementary, not competing issues,” said Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future. “By putting climate change at the forefront of development thinking we will not only help the world’s poorest to avoid serious risks, but we can also help them seize new opportunities to create better lives for themselves.” Attempting to project what may happen should the efforts of the developed world fall short of what is necessary, the report created four different scenarios in which the outcomes of actions taken by developed and developing countries to combat climate change and poverty were examined. “Without urgent action, climate change threatens to undo years of work tackling poverty in the developing world. . . . This report will act as an important tool to help poor countries plan for an uncertain future, and underlines our need to build climate change into everything we do,” said Stephen O’Brien, UK International Development Minister.

For additional information see: Independent, UKPA, Forum for the Future Press Release

EPA Rejects Challenges to Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding

On July 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected ten petitions contesting its 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gases (GHGs). “The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. This action by the EPA removes an obstacle barring the agency from regulating GHG emissions from vehicles, power plants, and other sources. Ten groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the states of Texas and Virginia, had asked the EPA to reconsider its decision, saying the finding was flawed or that the agency erred in evaluating scientific evidence. The petitioners have said they will appeal the decision.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, UPI, Reuters, EPA Press Release

Western Climate Initiative Outlines Regional Cap and Trade Program

On July 27, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a coalition of seven western U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, outlined a new regional cap and trade program to reduce regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 beginning in January 2012. “Cap and trade has proven to be a successful means of reducing air pollution. It also is considered one of the most cost-effective and reliable strategies for pricing carbon emissions and providing emitters of GHG emissions with an incentive to limit pollution,” WCI’s Program Design Summary said. “With the trading component, cap and trade allows emitters to be flexible and creative in how to make needed reductions.” Of all the partners of WCI, only California, New Mexico, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia will be participating in the program beginning in January 2012. These states and provinces will create a market for reducing GHG emissions while also reducing GHG emissions considerably, since they account for about two-thirds of total emissions from WCI partners. “Action continues to be needed at the national and international levels to address clean energy and climate change, but California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners are not waiting to take action,” said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For additional information see: AP, Platts, Winnipeg Free Press, WCI Press Release

Study Analyzes U.S. Regulatory Scenarios for Reducing Carbon Emissions

On July 23, the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report analyzing potential U.S. regulatory scenarios for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. “The study highlights both the need to pass climate legislation and the importance of preserving existing authorities,” said Jonathan Lash, President of WRI. “The study’s findings make it very clear that current efforts by Congress to curb U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA authority will undermine U.S. competitiveness in a clean energy world economy, block control of dangerous pollutants, and put the U.S. at odds with its allies.” The report analyzes three scenarios in which potential GHG emissions reductions are projected if the federal and state governments pursue “Lackluster,” “Middle-of-the-Road,” or “Go-Getter” agendas. Under the “Go-Getter” scenario, in which federal and state governments pursue greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions uncompromisingly through 2016, federal agencies like the EPA and the Departments of Energy and Transportation would be able to keep the United States on track towards meeting President Obama’s pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Under the “Lackluster” and “Middle-of-the-Road” scenarios, the United States would fall short of its pledge. “Without federal climate legislation that locks in longer-term economy-wide reductions, the longer-term picture is unclear,” said study co-author Nicholas Bianco. “A long-term declining cap on emissions, creating a robust carbon price, is still very much needed.”

For additional information see: Bloomberg, Environmental Leader, WRI Press Release

Plankton Decline Across Oceans as Waters Warm

On July 29, a study published in Nature revealed that marine phytoplankton populations have declined by 40 percent since 1950 as ocean waters warmed. “What we think is happening is that the oceans are becoming more stratified as the water warms,” said co-author Daniel Boyce. “The plants need sunlight from above and nutrients from below; and as it becomes more stratified, that limits the availability of nutrients.” The study indicated that the drop in phytoplankton levels is particularly drastic in the southern and equatorial Atlantic, equatorial Pacific and the Arctic Ocean. The Indian Ocean was the only ocean in which phytoplankton was not in decline. In addition to the fact that phytoplankton produces a large amount of the oxygen in the atmosphere, it is also an essential part of the food chain – during phytoplankton declines, other species such as sea birds and marine mammals also decline. Additionally, phytoplankton plays a role in cooling the earth by taking carbon dioxide out of the air. A big concern is whether or not this decline will continue. “It’s tempting to say there will be further declines, but on the other hand there could be other drivers of change, so I don’t think that saying ‘temperature rise brings a phytoplankton decline’ is the end of the picture,” Boyce said.

For additional information see: BBC, Science Daily, AP, Study Abstract

State Surveys Confirm Support for Government Action on Climate Change

On August 3, the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University released polling results confirming that Americans believe the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years and that they support government action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The surveys were conducted between July 9 and July 18 in Florida, Maine and Massachusetts and found that 72 percent of those surveyed in Florida, 76 percent in Maine and 80 percent in Massachusetts agree that humans have contributed to global warming. Seventy-four percent in Florida and 77 percent in Maine and Massachusetts believe the government should regulate GHG emissions from businesses. Additionally, only 17 percent in Florida, 20 percent in Maine and 12 percent in Massachusetts said there would be fewer jobs as a result of government action on GHG emissions reductions. Additionally, 68 percent in Florida, 72 percent in Maine and 77 percent in Massachusetts supported a cap and trade permit system. “These in-depth studies of three interesting states suggest that in these key regards, they closely resemble the nation overall and support the notion of climate protection legislation,” said survey author Jon Krosnick.

For additional information see: Woods Institute Press Release, Survey, Medindia

Study: Traveling by Car Warms Planet More Than by Plane

On August 3, a group of scientists published research in Environmental Science and Technology which found that traveling by car is more damaging to the environment than making a trip by plane. Though plane trips are more damaging in the short run, the long-term global temperature increases from a car trip are higher than from a plane trip of the same distance on average. The study used models to consider the gases, aerosols, and cloud effects produced by transport in the long and short term. "As planes fly at high altitudes, their impact on ozone and clouds is disproportionately high, though short-lived,” said Jens Borken-Kleefeld, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, who led the research. "Although the exact magnitude is uncertain, the net effect is a strong, short-term, temperature increase. Car travel emits more carbon dioxide than air travel per passenger kilometer. As carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than the other gases, cars have a more harmful impact on climate change in the long term."

For additional information see: Scotsman, Science Daily, Study Abstract, UPI

Carbon Capture Task Force Notes Need for Price on Carbon

On August 12, a task force established by President Obama concluded that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is viable, but needs a price on carbon emissions and substantial federal incentives to reach its full potential. The Interagency Task Force is made up of 14 executive departments and agencies, with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency taking the lead. The group was charged by Obama to come up with a plan to overcome barriers to widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS technology within ten years. In its report, the group noted that there could be up to ten projects in the United States by 2016, but long-term deployment will likely require stronger policy support. "The lack of comprehensive climate change legislation is the key barrier to CCS deployment,” the report concluded. While CCS technologies exist, "scaling up" these processes and integrating them with coal-based power generation "poses technical, economic, and regulatory challenges,” it noted. CCS technologies are not likely to be used in the next two decades without financial incentives, the report warned.

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

Climate Change Threatens Up to 80 Percent of Rainforests by 2100

On August 5, a study published in Conservation Letters found that, by 2100, only 18 to 45 percent of plant and animal species living in tropical rainforests may survive. “This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces,” said co-author Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution. The researchers looked at global deforestation and logging maps from satellite imagery, along with high-resolution data from 16 climate change projections worldwide. They then ran scenarios on how different types of species could be geographically reshuffled by 2100. "This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world's natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes -- including severe alterations in their species composition -- through the combined influence of climate change and land use," said Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. "Conservation of the world's biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions."

For additional information see: Telegraph, UPI, Science Daily, Study Abstract

Global Warming Lowering Rice Yields

On August 9, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that rising global temperatures are lowering rice yields and that over the past 25 years, rice yield growth rates have been reduced by 10 to 20 percent in some areas. “We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop,” said lead author Jerrod Welch. “Up to a point, higher daytime temperatures can increase rice yield but future yield losses caused by higher night-time temperatures will likely outweigh any such gains because temperatures are rising faster at night.” The study analyzed data from 227 irrigated rice farms from six different countries and is unique in its use of real-world conditions, giving scientists a better idea of how farmers will adapt to a changing climate. "If we cannot change our rice production methods or develop new rice strains that can withstand higher temperatures, there will be a loss in rice production over the next few decades as days and nights get hotter," Welch said.

For additional information see: AP, AFP, BBC, Science Daily, Study Abstract

On Aug. 11 Richard Cowan of Reuters published an article with the heading, Alternative energy investment prospects have shriveled in the United States after the U.S. Senate was unable to break a deadlock over tackling global warming, a Deutsche Bank official said. Kevin Parker, who is global head of the Frankfurt-based bank's Deutsche Asset Management Division, oversees nearly $700 billion in funds that devote $6 billion to $7 billion to climate change products, was interviewed by Reuters. He said that the risks to investors – because of the inability of the U.S. Senate to even introduce climate change legislation – means that they will invest their money elsewhere, especially in Europe and China. Speaking of the United States he said, "They're asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry." At:

[Note: I wrote the summary of the above article, but I learned of it from the Aug. 16 issue of EESI’s Climate Change News.]

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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