CC NEWS FOR FEB. 2010
James Hogan, a public relations professional, has written a book with Richard Littlemore titled, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, published in Sept. 2009 by Greystone Books. A review of the book and some of its findings can be found in the bright green blog of the Christian Science Monitor, titled, Global warming skepticism is fueled by public relations, author says. Hogan is quoted as saying that the campaign to create skepticism about climate change is 'by far and away the biggest public relations campaign that I've ever seen.' At: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Bright-Green/2009/1224/Global-warming-skepticism-is-fueled-by-public-relations-author-says/(page)/2
A Washington Post article on Jan. 30 by Juliet Eilperin, titled, Obama sets targets on agencies' greenhouse-gas emissions, reported that the president has issued an executive order telling federal agencies to reduce their GHG emissions by 28% by 2020. The Defense Department pledged to reduce its GHG emissions 34% in noncombat operations by 2020. Combat operations, which are not included, account for 62 percent of the department's carbon footprint. At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/29/AR2010012904145.html
Mike Tidwell, the Exec. Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, has produced a 10-minute video (The CLEAR Act: A New Hope) explaining a cap-and-dividend bill by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senator Susan Collins of Maine that is simple, fair, and built to last. At: http://www.chesapeakeclimate.org/blog/?p=2710&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CcanBlog+%28CCAN+Blog%29
A cap-and-dividend system is also supported by James Hansen (see: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/james-hansen-tax-c02-emitters-pay-citizens/) and sounds like a way to deal with both climate change and peak oil that is better than either cap-and-trade or a direct tax on carbon. It has a big advantage in being simple and easy both to understand and to administer.
Taxpayers for Common Sense published an article on Jan. 29 titled, Top Nuclear Loan Guarantee Contenders in Financial Shambles. It pointed out that in December 2009 the Department of Energy announced that it would soon issue Treasury (taxpayer)-backed loan guarantees of $18.5 billion for one or two new nuclear power plants. The article says that in the past, “proposed reactors have been riddled with cost overruns, delays and significant design problems, all of which can easily lead to taxpayers losing billions of dollars if and when these risky projects default. Even in the heyday of lending on Wall Street, private backers were not interested in investing in new nuclear reactors because of these serious uncertainties.” My questions are: If private investors are unwilling to accept the risk of new nuclear power plants, why should the public? Are nuclear power plants also “too big to fail”? At: http://taxpayer.net/projects.php?action=view&category=&type=Project&proj_id=3130
An excellent detailed report was issued by KEMA, Inc. for the California Energy Commission in August 2009 titled, Renewable Energy Cost of Generation Update. It describes current and projected technologies and costs for biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind, wave, integrated gasification combined-cycle (with and without carbon capture and sequestration) and advanced nuclear power.
I found the nuclear power discussion especially informative. At:
A companion Draft Staff Report of the California Energy Commission issued at the same time titled, Comparative Costs of Central Station California Electricity Generation, describes in detail the definition and calculation of levelized costs, which include: costs of capital, financing and insurance, operations and maintenance, fuel costs and taxes. At:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a new web site that is a great place for good information and well-written articles on energy and climate. At:
Thinking of buying a hybrid for your next vehicle? The Union of Concerned Scientists has a new web site that rates 31 hybrid models on emissions, the cost effectiveness of emissions reductions, and the forced extra features that come as standard equipment on some hybrids – that may increase vehicle cost and decrease mpg. There is also a good description of the various technologies involved, from conventional vehicles to plug-in hybrids. At: http://www.hybridcenter.org/
In December the World Resources Institute published a graph showing how U.S. GHG emissions are expected change with time under various cap and trade bills under consideration by Congress. U.S. GHG emissions in 2005 were equivalent to about 7 billion tons of CO2 – about 20% of the world total. At:
The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate has issued a 4-minute video called, Climate Patriots, describing in a series of short interviews the threat that U.S. dependence on foreign oil and climate change pose to our national security. At:
CBS 60 Minutes aired a piece on February 21 called The Bloom Box. It’s a fuel cell that converts methane (natural gas) and oxygen from air into CO2 and water with the production of electricity. Several large companies have already bought them. The inventor claims that two boxes with a volume of about 2 liters should be able to power the average house and cost only $3-4 thousand. At: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6228923n&tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel
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.
Over 1000 State Legislators Call for Action on Clean Energy Jobs Legislation
On January 25, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now (CLEAN) issued a call to President Obama and Congressional leaders to pass federal clean energy legislation that would create clean energy jobs, promote national security by reducing oil imports, and foster the domestic innovation of clean energy industries. The letter was written by Minnesota State Rep. Jeremy Kalin (D) on behalf of 1,198 state lawmakers from both parties in 49 states. The letter called for the federal government to pick up where the states have started, in order to combine the patchwork of state incentives with a uniform federal framework. The letter also mentioned that state renewable electricity standards have been responsible for creating many jobs, and that states with clean energy priorities often see sector investment outstrip the rest of the economy 10 to 1. Kalin went on to describe the current situation in global clean technology innovation and investment as one where other countries such as China have overtaken the United States as leaders in the clean technology innovation and investment race. Kalin wrote, _The clean energy and climate challenge is America_s new space race. The United States has never backed down from a challenge on this scale, and we urge you to again place our country at the forefront of innovation and prosperity._
SEC Sets Corporate Climate Change Disclosure Standard
On January 27, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decided in a 3-2 vote that companies must consider the effects of climate change and efforts to curb it when divulging business risks to investors. In its adopted guidelines, the SEC said that companies should consider whether existing environmental and climate laws are material to their businesses. In some cases, they must also consider whether to share information about the impact of pending legislation or regulation. Furthermore, the SEC decided that anticipated physical risks must be disclosed if, for instance, increased coastal flooding were to cause additional risks to a company_s insurance holdings or physical capital. The ruling came on the heels of requests by investor groups worried that they do not have enough information regarding the risk to their investments posed by climate change.
Global Warming Ranks Last as a Top Priority: Pew Survey
On January 25, a poll released by the Pew Research Center found that respondents ranked "global warming" last among a list of 21 possible national priorities. For each of the 21 categories, respondents were given the option of answering yes or no as to whether the category should be a top national priority. Respondents selected "global warming" 28 percent of the time, down from 30 percent in 2009. _Protecting the environment_ fared better at 44 percent, up 3 percent since 2009. _Dealing with the US energy problem_ declined from 60 percent in 2009 to 49 percent in 2010. The three issues at the top of the list were strengthening the nation_s economy (83 percent), improving the job situation (81 percent), and defending the United States against terrorism (80 percent).
Painting Roofs White Could Cool Cities
On January 28, the American Geophysical Union announced the results of a recent study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research which showed the potential cooling effect on cities and climate that could be achieved through painting city roofs white. While there are many practical issues relating to the implementation of large scale roof painting_heating and cooling vents, public use, discoloring from dust and weathering_the study indicated clearly that the more white roofs there are, the less heat a city retains. This is particularly significant as cities already suffer from the heat island effect, whereby their average air temperatures are 2-5°F higher than the surrounding countryside due to extensive heat-trapping black rooftops and asphalt streets. The estimated effect a city-wide white roof program would have is a 33 percent reduction in the heat island effect. The authors noted that different cities would receive different levels of benefit, based on three characteristics: 1) roof density and spacing, 2) roof construction and insulation properties, and 3) latitudinal location and climate. White roofs have the secondary advantage of cooling temperatures within buildings, resulting in lower energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Micronesia Leads Czechs to Seek Review for Power Plant Emissions
On January 26, Czech regulators ordered the environmental impact assessment for the refurbishment of the Prunerov II coal-fired power plant owned by Czech utility CEZ AS to be completed by independent groups outside the country. The upgrade has been challenged by the Federated States of Micronesia, located roughly on the other side of the earth from the Prunerov II plant. Micronesia argued that the power station’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a direct threat to its future due to flooding of its low-lying areas; parts of the nation have already been lost to rising tides. Czech law allows such challenges from another nation, and the decision for an external assessment was made to ensure a non-politicized analysis. While it does not expect its demands to result in much, the island nation is demanding that the new plant make use of the "best available" technology. The utility has reiterated many times that the refurbishment will result in a 20 percent decrease in CO2 emissions. The current plans will bring Prunerov II to an estimated energy conversion efficiency of 39.06 percent. However, European Union documents on "best available" technology say it is possible to reach 42-45 percent efficiency. The Czech ministry has stated it will demand "best available" technology upon granting a permit to refurbish.
Over 50 Nations Submit GHG Targets; UN Fears It May Not Be Enough
On January 31, more than 50 nations _ together producing 78 percent of the world's GHG emissions _ submitted emission reduction plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Among them were many of the world_s biggest emitters, such as the United States, China, the European Union, India, Japan and Australia. Most commitments were reiterations of pledges made during the Copenhagen negotiations in December. Many commitments came with conditional provisions promising greater reductions if other major emitters would simultaneously commit to higher reductions. In making their pledges, China and India referenced obligations pursuant to the 1992 UNFCCC and omitted any reference to the non-binding Copenhagen Accord. Both China and India committed voluntary pledges that focused on reducing GHG per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), rather than limiting actual emissions.
On February 1, UN officials announced that goals for reducing GHG emissions announced by major industrialized nations are a step forward but not enough to forestall the disastrous effects of climate change by midcentury. "It is likely, according to a number of analysts, that if we add up all those figures that were being discussed around Copenhagen, if they're all implemented, it will still be quite difficult to reach the two degrees," said Janos Pasztor, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's top climate adviser.
UK Introduces Feed-in Tariff For Low-Carbon Power
On February 1, the UK introduced incentives for small-scale low-carbon electricity generation and low-carbon heating technologies. Starting on April 1, households and communities that install low-carbon electricity technology, such as solar panels and wind turbines, will be paid for doing so via _feed-in tariffs,_ even if they generate only enough energy for their own use. Businesses and households installing renewable energy equipment will gain a return on their investment of 5-8 percent a year, according to government estimates. "The feed-in tariff will change the way householders and communities think about their future energy needs, making the payback for investment far shorter than in the past. It will also change the outlook for a range of industries, in particular those in the business of producing and installing small-scale low carbon technology," said UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband. Deloitte Energy Director Tim Warham said there was concern the tariffs may not be high enough to encourage consumers. "Higher returns may be necessary in order to stimulate widespread adoption, especially to encourage intermediaries such as energy service companies to initiate major programs," Warham said.
The introduced renewable heat incentive, which would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, is to come into effect in April 2011 and guarantees payments for installing technologies such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and air source heat pumps. According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), which represents the UK's renewables industry, demand for heat dominates UK energy use and is responsible for 47 percent of the country_s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. "Renewable heat is the sleeping giant of renewable energy in the UK with a major contribution to make," said REA policy director Gaynor Hartnell.
Climate Change Threatens Waterfowl in Prairie Regions
On February 3, the journal BioScience published a study explaining the negative effects on millions of waterfowl caused by the loss of wetlands in the prairie pothole region of central North America. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey developed a model to predict the impacts of warmer temperatures on the region. The results projected a drastic decrease in water volume, shortening of water residence time, and changes in regional vegetation. The study concludes that if temperatures rise by 4°C, parts of the North American prairie will become too dry for waterfowl and other parts will have too few functional wetlands to support nesting. The region currently supports the nesting and rearing grounds for millions of waterfowl.
NOAA Announces New National Climate Service
On February 8, the Obama administration announced plans to create a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Service. The proposed entity would create a central federal source "user-friendly" information to help businesses and governments adapt to the effects of climate change. While attention on Capitol Hill has focused on efforts to mitigate global warming by slashing greenhouse gas emissions, state and local governments as well as the private sector have asked for help understanding how the shifting climate will affect their operations. _By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change,_ said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, whose department includes NOAA. "American citizens, businesses and governments - from local to federal - must be able to rise to the challenges that lie ahead. And that's where NOAA's climate service will prove absolutely invaluable."
Utah Legislature Formally Questions Climate Change
On February 9, the Utah House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 56-17 to express its doubt towards the scientific basis for climate change. Proponents declared skepticism toward climate change evidence supplied by scientific and government bodies and called for the federal government to cease all regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2). Rep. Mike Noel (R-Kanab) insisted CO2 is unrelated to air pollution, can encourage plant growth, and is _essentially harmless to humans._ Rep. Kerry Gibson (R-Ogden) said, _I'm afraid of what could happen to our economy, to our rural life, to our agriculture, if such a detrimental policy continues to be pursued for political reasons." Rep. David Litvack (D-Salt Lake City) defended climate change evidence, saying the resolution went too far.
Critics of California's Climate Law Consider Plan to Repeal
On February 5, proponents of an effort to suspend California's climate change law announced that they were seeking an initiative to place the issue on the November state ballot. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also referred to as Assembly Bill (AB) 32, is set to take effect in 2012 and mandates that Californians cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and another 80 percent by 2050. The primary sponsor behind the initiative to suspend AB 32 is state assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Marysville), who recently told the Los Angeles Times that his campaign had $600,000 available to fund the attempt to gather 433,000 signatures by April 16 to qualify for the general election. His measure as currently drafted would repeal AB 32 until the state's unemployment rate reaches at or below 5.5 percent. Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which is implementing the law, called the initiative "a campaign that has to be taken seriously." She said, "It would put all our efforts at energy efficiency and renewable energy in the deep freezer for a long time._
United States to Consider Endangered Species Protection for Coral Species
On February 10, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced a finding of _substantial scientific or commercial information_ suggesting that 82 Caribbean and Indo-Pacific corals may be threatened or endangered. The federal register publication starts a formal status review process by federal biologists to determine whether or not to list the coral species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If listed as endangered, the species would be protected by regulations making it illegal to harm or kill the species. Miyoko Sakashita, the Oceans Director for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), explained, _The status review is an important step forward in protecting coral reefs, which scientists have warned may be the first worldwide ecosystem to collapse due to global warming._ Environmentalists have warned that corals in U.S. waters could be wiped out by mid century if protective measures are not taken. Corals are at risk from warming temperatures and acidification caused by rising carbon dioxide concentrations in ocean waters, coupled with other human stressors like coastal development and agricultural runoff.
Pew Report: Melting Arctic Could Cost $2.4 Trillion by 2050
On February 5, the Pew Environment Group released a report that quantified for the first time the global cost of melting in the Arctic region -- a minimum price tag of $2.4 trillion by 2050. The report estimated that the value lost by retreating Arctic sea ice and snow could be an estimated $61 -- $371 billion this year alone. To arrive at the economic cost of Arctic melting, the report_s authors converted projected trends in snow and ice loss and methane releases into carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions equivalents. These values were then multiplied by the social cost of carbon, an estimate by economists of impacts from climate change on agriculture, energy production, water availability, sea level rise and flooding and other factors. _Putting a dollar figure on the Arctic_s climate services allows us to better understand both the region_s immense importance and the enormous price we will pay if the ice is lost,_ said Dr. Eban Goodstein, co-author of the report.
Dramatic Changes in Agriculture Needed as World Warms, Population Grows
On February 12, an international panel of senior researchers called for the agricultural industry to fully embrace genetically modified (GM) crops as a way to meet the dual challenges of population growth and global warming. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers urged world leaders to do more to promote GM technologies so that scientists can create crops that produce higher yields and are able to grow in the harsh conditions of a warmer planet. _There is a critical need to get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology and develop forward-looking regulatory frameworks based on scientific evidence,_ the researchers wrote. With the world_s population forecasted to rise from 6.8 billion today to about 9 billion by 2050, demand for food will increase drastically. Concurrently, climate change is likely to reduce the yields of much of the land currently under cultivation, creating a risk that food production will fall as demand for it rises. _You're looking at a 20 percent to 30 percent decline in production yields in the next 50 years for major crops between the latitudes of southern California or southern Europe to South Africa," said co-author David Battisti, from the University of Washington. The authors advocated developing systems that have the potential to decrease the land, energy and fresh water needed for agriculture and at the same time to reduce the pollution associated with agricultural chemicals and animal waste.
16 Lawsuits Filed to Challenge EPA's Decision to Regulate Greenhouse Gases
On February 16, 16 lawsuits were filed challenging the Environmental Protection Agency_s (EPA) endangerment finding for greenhouse gases (GHG). By declaring GHGs a danger to public health and welfare, the EPA is obligated to regulate these gases under the Clean Air Act. The recent lawsuits came from a variety of groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the states of Texas, Alabama and Virginia. The challenges do not directly test the science of EPA's decision to find GHGs a danger to public health and welfare, but rather the agency's process of doing so. Many industry groups and states have argued that forthcoming EPA regulations will have devastating economic consequences, while the agency has argued that it is required by law to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions under a Supreme Court ruling in 2007. The agency plans to finalize new GHG rules for automobiles and large stationary sources by next month.
Report Shows Economic Potential for Clean Energy in Wisconsin
On February 18, the Center for Climate Strategies released a macroeconomic analysis of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), recently proposed legislation in Wisconsin. The measures in CEJA were drawn from the Governor_s Global Warming Task Force Report created under an executive order. Over the next 15 years, the report projects that the bill would create more than 16,200 new jobs in the state. The the legislation would also boost the state's economy by $4.85 billion (in net present value) over the 2011-2025 period. The analysis focused on nine specific proposed policy actions that address clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, industrial processes, transportation and agriculture.
For additional information see: Center for Climate Strategies' Macroeconomic Analysis of the Wisconsin Clean Energy Jobs Act, Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
Acidity in Oceans Rising Rapidly
The February 14 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience published a study detailing historical changes in ocean acidification and its connection to the extinction of tiny marine organisms on the bottom of the ocean and the bottom of the food chain. As lead author Andy Ridgewell explained, _Unlike surface plankton dwelling in a variable habitat, organisms living deep down on the ocean floor are adapted to much more stable conditions. A rapid and severe geochemical change in their environment would make their survival precarious._ Ocean acidity plays a critical role in the lifecycles of tiny ocean organisms because of its inhibiting effect on the formation of carbonate shells. They found that as ocean acidification accelerated, mass extinctions of these species occurred, likely endangering entire ancient ocean food chains.
In addition, the study highlighted the fact that current day ocean acidification is rising at a rate much faster than any observed in the study period of about 55 million years ago. Since industrial activity began in the 1700s, ocean acidity has risen 30 percent. This is due almost entirely to atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide which mixes with ocean water to form a weak acid. The study authors expressed worries that without action this effect is going to ultimately endanger human beings who depend on fish stocks that derive their sustenance from these tiny ocean organisms.
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action