CC NEWS FOR DECEMBER 2010
Christopher Martin of Bloomberg News wrote an article published in the Nov. 22 Wilmington News Journal titled, Mass. regulators OK deal to sell power from offshore turbines. It says that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has approved an agreement between Cape Wind and National Grid Pic for a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for half of Cape Wind’s power from offshore wind for 18.7¢/kWh, increasing by 3.5% per year. The maximum power from the 130-turbine wind farm off Cape Cod is reported to be 468 MW. The cost of the project, excluding transmission lines will be about $2.4 billion, or a little over $5 per peak watt. The article said that Cape Wind may be the first U.S. offshore wind farm, but the date to start delivering power was not given. At: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20101122/GREEN/101122040/Mass-regulators-OK-deal-to-sell-power-from-offshore-turbines
Delaware, which got the first approved PPA for offshore wind in the U.S. – between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power – is expected to begin generation in 2014 or 2015, at a starting price of 11¢/kWh.
On Nov. 23 Ken Salazar, Director of the Department of the Interior, announced a new federal Smart from the Start initiative to facilitate the siting, leasing and construction of new offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coast and to spur the rapid and responsible development of this abundant renewable energy resource. At:
Some of us were concerned about delays in the permitting of offshore wind projects after the Minerals Management Service was dissolved in the wake of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That agency has now been replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). See:
Climate Science has put together a web-based Rapid Response Team of climate science experts who have agreed to answer questions on climate change from members of the government or the media. They are responding to the wide gap between the current understanding of leading climate scientists and what is believed by the general public, most reporters and government officials. Questions from the latter groups can be sent to http://www.climaterapidresponse.org/
Others can find educational material and information at Central Coast Climate Science Education at: http://www.centralcoastclimatescience.org/ and Skeptical Science at: http://www.skepticalscience.com/
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has posted a tool on the web for looking at maps of the state showing areas that will be inundated (flooded) with sea level rises of 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 meters. At: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Pages/SLRMaps.aspx
Other coastal states may want to develop something similar.
On Nov. 28 Bruce Usher wrote an Op-Ed piece for the NY Times titled, On Global Warming, Start Small. In it he pointed out that meaningful progress on dealing with climate change is not likely to come at large international meetings, like the one in Cancun, Mexico, but from the bottom up, at the local and state levels. He pointed out that 31 states now have laws requiring increased production of renewable energy – 11 of them that vote largely Republican. At: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28usher.html
If national energy/climate legislation was difficult in the past, it will be even more so after the new Tea Party members of Congress take their seats.
The NY Times for Nov. 27 has an Op-Ed by Jack Hedin, a Minnesota farmer, titled An Almanac of Extreme Weather. Heavy rains and flash flooding in southern Minnesota have made him concerned about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. He writes, “In August 2007, a series of storms produced a breathtaking 23 inches of rain in 36 hours.” “The weather in our area has become demonstrably more hostile to agriculture, and all signs are that this trend will continue. Minnesota’s state climatologist … has concluded that no fewer than three “thousand-year rains” have occurred in the past seven years in our part of the state.” At: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28hedin.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2&sq=extreme%20rain%20minnesota&st=cse&scp=1
Janet Raloff has an article in Science Times for Dec. 1 titled, Food security wanes as world warms. She writes, “Since summer, signs of severe food insecurity — droughts, food riots, five- to tenfold increases in produce costs — have erupted around the globe. Several new reports now argue that regionally catastrophic crop failures — largely due to heat stress — are signals that global warming may have begun outpacing the ability of farmers to adapt.” At: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/66902/title/Food_security_wanes_as_world_warms
Vinod Koshla, an investor in biofuels, has a Dec. 3 article in greentechmedia titled, Time to Move On. In it he argues that federal subsidies for new energy technologies should be limited to the time required for new industries to innovate, reduce costs, and grow to scale. Corn-based ethanol in the U.S. is 99.8% of the 11 billion gallon biofuels market, and has been receiving federal subsidies for 6 years. According to his calculations, the cost of reducing CO2 emissions through corn-ethanol is about $750/ton. That is very high compared to many other emerging technologies, such as solar PV, which are still in an early stage of development and discovery. It’s time for ethanol to stand on its own feet. At: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/corn-ethanol-time-to-move-on/
At the web site of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (http://environment.yale.edu/climate) you can find a number of videos, including Global Warming’s Six Americas, which describes six very different views of the reality and seriousness of climate change within the American public. There is also a PDF file of a presentation, Climate Change in the Public Mind, given by Anthony Leiserowitz, the Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, at the Forum on Climate Change Communication at COP (Conference of the Parties) 16 in Cancun, Mexico. The COPs are an ongoing activity of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which grew out of the work of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). See:
Christopher Joyce has a 4 min 20 sec audio piece dated Dec. 5 on NPR titled,
Climate Groups Retool Argument For Global Warming. It suggests that a better way to get most people take the actions needed to address global warming is not to emphasize the worst that could happen, but to emphasize the benefits of those actions like improving human health, developing green jobs and industries, and improving energy security. At:
On Dec. 8 EarthTimes posted an article titled, Deepwater Wind Energy Center to be Nation's First Regional Offshore Wind Farm to Supply Multiple East Coast States. Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island based company, has applied for a federal permit to build a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island that could generate as much as 1000 MW to supply electricity to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, with as many as 200 large turbines. It is called “second generation” because the turbines will be large (perhaps 5 MW each), located in deep water (over 100 feet deep) and far from land (mostly 20-25 miles). The farm could be producing electricity as soon as 2015. 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.
Cameron Urges More Unified Climate Action Ahead of Cancun
On November 16, UK Prime Minister David Cameron argued that fragmented approaches to tackling climate change would not cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently, and that global action was needed to make substantial progress. While he acknowledged that a global treaty was unlikely to occur during December’s climate negotiations in Cancun, he still urged the U.S. and Chinese governments to take action to set the stage for a global, legally binding deal. “To get a proper international deal, we need the Chinese to really agree to proper monitoring and evaluation and recording of their emissions,” Cameron said during this week’s climate summit organized by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "But we also... need to persuade the American administration that it is worthwhile to have a deal that they enter into, as part of the rest of the world all making offers." He went on to say, “we need to work towards a global deal, otherwise we're all going to do our own individual bit. If we can't get the whole of the US and China on board, we're not going to get the kind of action we need to prevent dangerous climate change."
China Considers Cap and Trade to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On November 17, Chinese officials announced they were studying a cap and trade system to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Zhang Junko, head of development and strategy at the State Council’s development research center, said that the government may set emissions quotas for large industries and allow a certain portion of them to be traded. The study is still in early stages, and Zhang said that other options included a carbon tax. Richard Sandor, who helped establish the London-based climate exchange platform in 2003, said that a cap and trade market in China could be functioning as early as 2013.
For additional information see: Bloomberg
India Releases Second Climate Change Assessment
On November 17, the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) released a report that predicts a net temperature increase of 1.7-2.2⁰C in the Northeast, Western Ghats, Himalayas and coastal region of India by 2030. According to the report, India’s four key sectors of agriculture, water, forest, and health will be significantly affected in these vulnerable regions due to an increase in temperature and precipitation. The report predicts that yearly extreme precipitation events in India may increase by 10 and cyclone storms may increase in intensity. The number of malaria infections is expected to rise in the Himalayan region but fall in coastal regions due to changes in moisture and temperature. "There is no country in the world that is as vulnerable, on so many dimensions, to climate change as India is,” said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh following the release of the report. “This makes it imperative for us to have sound evidence-based assessments on the impact of climate change."
Staple Crop Prices to Rise Partly Due to Climate Change
On November 17, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report warning that food prices are expected to climb, partly due to extreme weather events that occur because of climate change. The biannual Food Outlook report states that a global food crisis could occur in 2011 due to climate change, speculation, competing land use, and soaring demand from markets in East Asia. The report reads: "adverse weather effects are undoubtedly a primary driver of wheat production shortfalls and, with climate change, may increasingly be so." Food prices on staple crops will rise by up to half by next year, which is especially troubling for the poorest people on the planet.
Heat Stress Caused Record Losses to Caribbean Coral
On November 15, a study published in PLoS ONE shows that coral reef ecosystems in 2005 in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean suffered record losses as a consequence of high oceanic temperatures. Collaborators from more than 22 countries reported that more than 80 percent of the surveyed corals bleached, and more than 40 percent died in 2005. This event is now the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin. Coral bleaching occurs when stressed corals expel their symbiotic algae, and can result in death. “Heat stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed in the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in at least 150 years,” said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch Program. “This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems, and events like this are likely to become more common as the climate warms.” The decline and loss of coral reefs has severe social, cultural, and economic consequences throughout the world. The economic services alone of coral reefs are estimated to be around $375 billion a year.
56 Religious Groups Urge Senate to Save the Clean Air Act
On November 23, a diverse group of 56 faith-based groups released a joint letter urging the Senate to continue allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. The joint letter opens as follows: "As communities and people of faith, we are called to protect and serve God's great Creation and work for justice for all of God's people. We believe that the United States must take all appropriate and available actions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change; we therefore urge you to oppose any efforts to undermine the authority of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.” Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has submitted a proposal to delay EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions by two years. The proposal may receive a vote before the end of the year.
For additional information see: PR Newswire
California Plans for Climate Change
On November 22, the California Adaptation Advisory Panel released a report that provides plans for California to adapt to climate change impacts. The report calls for Governor-elect Jerry Brown to appoint a Climate Risk Council that would assess relevant science and provide guidance to the Governor on risks associated with climate change. The report focuses largely on coastal counties, and urged a more cohesive approach to three threats: diminishing water supplies, sea level rise, and severe fire outbreaks. “The picture is global and yet there are regional differences," Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences said. "California wants to make sure they understand what may happen in the case of sea level rise - not just along the coast, but inland as well. They want to take actions that will keep them ahead of the game."
Norway Calls for More Research into Climate Impacts and Adaptation Measures
In the third week of November, the government of Norway released a report documenting Norway’s vulnerability to climate change and the possible adaptation measures that it could take to combat the effects of climate change. The report found that average annual temperatures in Norway are projected to rise 2.3-4.6°C, average annual precipitation is expected to increase five to 30 percent by 2100, ocean temperatures will rise along the entire Norwegian coastline, and sea levels could rise in varied amounts along the coast. The report supports long-term research programs that will specifically address climate change impacts and actions to adapt to those impacts. The report also emphasizes the need for knowledge dissemination and specially prepared climate projections that enables technical users to comprehend the models and make better decisions.
Carbon Emissions Set to Be Highest on Record in 2010
On November 21, the Global Carbon Project published a study in Nature Geoscience showing that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions levels in 2009 fell just 1.3 percent below 2008 levels, less than half of the 2.8 percent drop that was expected. The recession caused CO2 growth rates to be lower in the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Russia and the United States. However, CO2 emissions from China increased by eight percent in 2009. Additionally, the overall amount of global fossil fuel emissions was still the second highest in human history, at 30.8 billion tons, just below the record set in 2008. CO2 emissions levels in 2010 are expected to rise again and could reach record levels; this is largely due to the burning of oil, coal, and gas in countries like China and India as their economies grow. The study did show that CO2 emissions from deforestation have decreased by over 25 percent since 2000. The study was part of Global Carbon Project’s annual carbon budget update.
Cloud Study Predicts More Global Warming
In the third week of November, researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa published a study in the Journal of Climate showing that warmer climates are more sensitive to increases in greenhouse gases than previously thought. Currently, there is disagreement in many climate models about the magnitude of global warming due to the feedback caused by clouds. Some models predict that global average cloud cover will increase in a warmer climate, and other models predict that global average cloud cover will be reduced. This study applied a model developed at the International Pacific Research Center to study the clouds of a limited region of atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean, which are known to greatly influence the present climate, but were previously poorly represented in climate models. Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, "If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see."
Secretary Chu Warns that U.S. Faces a Sputnik Moment in Clean Energy Race
On November 29, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu spoke at the National Press Club, warning that the United States faces a “Sputnik moment” in the global clean energy race with China. Chu said that the United States needs to respond like it responded to the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first space satellite in 1957 to remain a leader in clean energy innovation. Chu outlined efforts currently underway at the Department of Energy to give America’s entrepreneurs and manufacturers an edge in clean energy investment and innovation, and defended the potential costs of climate change by comparing climate skeptics to homeowners who are repeatedly told to change wiring but keep looking for electricians to tell them they do not need to. Chu also focused on the threat of China as a technological competitor. "From wind power to nuclear reactors to high speed rail, China and other countries are moving aggressively to capture the lead,” Chu said. “Given that challenge, and given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy, it's time for America to do what we do best: innovate. As President Obama has said, we should not, cannot, and will not play for second place."
Representatives Threaten Funding Cuts for EPA
On November 30, House Republicans hoping to lead the Appropriations Committee in the new Congress threatened to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act. On November 29, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, writing, “in addition to scrutinizing the agency’s entire FY 2012 budget, with particular attention to the agency’s rulemaking process, the House Appropriations Committee will be exercising its prerogative to withhold funding for prospective EPA regulations and defund through the rescissions process many of those already on the books.” Specifically, Lewis said that he wants to target EPA’s “ongoing arbitrary interpretation of the Clean Air Act.” He said he will refuse to support funding to EPA to regulate GHGs “unless Congress passes bipartisan energy legislation specifically providing the authority to do so.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who is also seeking to lead the Committee, said of the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, “I will look at it very carefully with that in mind. There are things that the Appropriations Committee and the legislative branch can defund or modify or do things about, and we now have a ticket to the table which we have not had for four years.” The EPA is scheduled to begin regulating GHGs in January 2011.
Republican Senators Urge Climate-Aid Spending Freeze
On December 2, four Republican Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the United States must freeze climate-aid payments to developing nations. "We remain opposed to the U.S. commitment to full implementation of the Copenhagen Accord, which will transfer billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to developing nations in the name of climate change," they wrote. "We do not believe that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars should be transferred to developing countries through unaccountable multilateral or bilateral channels for adaptation, deforestation and other international climate finance programs." The letter states that President Obama has requested $1.9 billion for 2011 out of $3.6 trillion in annual government spending. The money is part of the fast-track financing that Obama agreed to at last year’s UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen.
Island Nations: We Won’t Survive Temperature Rise Over 1.5°C
On November 29, the Alliance of Small Island States pleaded their case at the UN climate negotiations taking place in Cancun, Mexico, to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5°C. The Alliance represents 43 member states, but those most at risk include Kribati, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives. The islands face catastrophic consequences with increased sea level rise, and are already coping with eroding beaches and salt water contaminating fresh water supplies. “We are facing at this moment the end of history for some of us,” said Antonio Lima, an envoy from Cape Verde and vice- chair of the Alliance. He said of the countries most at risk, “all these countries are struggling to survive. They are going to drown. I have mountains in my country. I can climb. They cannot climb.”
Global Temperatures Could Rise 4°C by 2060s
On November 29, a series of journal papers was published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, showcasing how climate change could increase average global temperature by 4°C as early as the 2060s, and what that might mean for different societies and ecological systems. The international study team behind the researchers wrote that increasing greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decade rendered the target of keeping global warming below 2°C "extremely difficult, arguably impossible, raising the likelihood of global temperature rises of three or four degrees Celsius within this century." The scientists analyzed the non-binding emissions agreements made last year at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and found that the cuts are not enough to prevent food shortages, rampant spread of disease, and mass migration. While a 4°C rise in temperature was once seen as an extreme scenario, researchers argue that it is becoming more plausible without a binding agreement to limit to greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon Cycle More Active in Frozen Soils than Previously Thought
On November 15, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that catabolic (carbon dioxide (CO2) production) and anabolic (biomass synthesis) processes in frozen soils are similar to those in unfrozen soil. Previously, scientists believed that microbes in frozen soils were inactive during colder months, but this study shows that the microbes remain active. The amount of CO2 sequestered in frozen soils is not completely known, although most scientists agree that the amount is massive. A group of soil scientists recently estimated the amount to be double that of atmospheric CO2. Ted Schuur, a permafrost expert and ecologist at the University of South Florida, estimates that under thawed conditions, 40 to 70 percent of the carbon stored in the permafrost would escape into the atmosphere within a decade, and vegetation would not be able to keep pace. These findings have important implications for carbon models and cycles. "These microbes are doing a lot more than staying alive," Ben Bond-Lamberty, a scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland, said. "And as we construct annual carbon budgets, this raises the possibility that there's a lot more wintertime CO2 coming out of these systems than we realized."
Court Denies Request to Block EPA Regulations
On December 10, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing new rules on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Industry groups had appealed to the court, arguing that the EPA did not conduct enough of its own research when it found that carbon is a danger to human health. Critics of the rules also argued that the agency was not equipped to control GHG emissions and the rules would harm the economy. However, the court said the opponents' case did not meet the "stringent standards" necessary for the court to stop the rules. Opponents did not prove that the rules were "certain" to create negative consequences and not "speculative", the court said. Several lawsuits, however, still proceed against the EPA's climate-related rules.
Committee Urges UK Government to Increase Carbon Emissions Cuts
On December 7, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report urging its government to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 60 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. This means that the 2020 target would have to be revised from a 34 percent to a 37 percent reduction. Prior CCC targets were turned into laws, and this target is a step to having a legally binding 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 as required by the nation’s Climate Change Act. "We are recommending a stretching but realistic fourth carbon budget and 2030 target, achievable at a cost of less than 1% of GDP. We therefore urge the government to legislate the budget, and to develop the policies required to cut emissions," said CCC Chair Adair Turner. The CCC also recommends a fundamental change in the UK’s electricity market. CCC recommends a better planned approach by having the government tender long-term contracts for low-carbon power generation and commit to buy a certain percentage of the power. The CCC also recommends that 60 percent of new vehicles in 2030 should be electric.
Report Ranks Countries on Climate Change Performance
On December 6, Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe released its sixth annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) during the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. The index “compares the climate protection performance of 57 industrialized countries and emerging economies that together account for more than 90 percent of the global energy related carbon dioxide emissions.” The index is based on the strength of climate policies and how well countries control greenhouse gases. The first three spots were left vacant because no country did enough to earn the honor. The index ranks Brazil as the top climate protection performer (fourth) due to its efforts to cut emissions and reduce deforestation. Sweden, Norway, and Germany followed Brazil on the list. Canada was ranked fifty-seventh, followed by Australia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. was ranked fifty-fourth.
Ocean Acidification Could Threaten Food Security
On December 2, the United Nations Environment Program released a report showing that ocean acidification linked to climate change may threaten food security. The report shows that shellfish, mussels, shrimp, and lobsters could be most at risk because ocean acidification makes it harder for them to form protective shells. Additionally, the damage to coral reefs could cause problems for many commercial fisheries as the reefs for are critical for nurseries. The oceans have become 30 percent more acidic since the industrial revolution due to increased absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2). Ptetropods — tiny mollusks at the bottom of the food chain — may reduce in number due to the inability to form protective shells, which will affect a number of larger fish higher on the food chain. Carol Turley, lead author of the report, said, "we are seeing an overall negative impact from ocean acidification directly on organisms and on some key ecosystems that help provide food for billions. We need to start thinking about the risk to food security." The report states that fish supplies 15 percent of the protein requirements for three billion people, and another one billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein. The report urges cuts in CO2 emissions to reduce ocean acidification and more support for research to quantify the risks and identify the species most at risk.
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action