Tuesday, December 20, 2011



On Nov. 30 the National Climate Ethics Campaign was launched with an announcement and meeting in Washington D.C. The Statement of Our Nation’s Moral Obligation to Address Climate Change says in part:
“Although reducing carbon pollution will have costs, it will also produce incalculable benefits. Our response must therefore be driven not solely by near-term economic or national self-interest. We must also acknowledge and act on our long-standing moral obligation to protect current and future generations from suffering and death, to honor principles of justice and equity, and to protect the great Earth systems on which the wellbeing of all life, including ours, depends.” You can find the full statement at: http://climateethicscampaign.org/statement/ and can sign on as an individual or the leader of an organization at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NationalClimateEthicsCampaign
I have signed and hope you will too.

Science News for Dec. 2 has an article by Janet Raloff titled, Arctic has taken a turn for the warmer. She says that the Arctic is losing ice both on land and sea as air and water temperatures increase. The melting of floating ice doesn’t contribute to sea level rise directly, but it does contribute indirectly because it exposes areas of dark blue water that absorb more of the sun’s energy, speeding the rate of warming. She writes, “Sea-ice loss in 2011 was the second most severe in the 32-year satellite record of Arctic monitoring.” At: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/336669/title/Arctic_has_taken_a_turn_for_the_warmer

The LA Times Greenspace posted an article on Dec. 8 titled, Advocacy group's extreme weather map brings climate change home. The report shows a new Natural Resources Defense Council interactive map of the U.S., showing the locations and types of over 2900 weather records broken during the period of January through October 2011. Records broken include temperature, rainfall, snowfall, flooding, drought and wildfire. An interesting feature of the map plays the records broken like a video. At: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/12/nrdc-extreme-weather-map-brings-climate-change-home.html

The December 17 issue of the NY Times has an article by Justin Gillis titled, As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks. It points out that bubbles of methane gas can be seen bubbling out of the lakes formed from melting permafrost ice. Radioactive dating of the carbon shows that it was last in the atmosphere tens of thousands of years ago, before the coldest part of the last great ice age. It comes from plants that captured carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converted it into carbohydrates by photosynthesis. That biological material is rotting as the permafrost melts – just like food in your freezer will rot if it warms up. If there is a lack of oxygen, as there is in peat bogs or at the bottom of partly frozen lakes, methanogenic bacteria convert the carbohydrates into a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane – a much more powerful greenhouse gas. Its release into the atmosphere can accelerate the warming and the release of more methane, until the situation gets out of hand. Scientists estimate that the amount of carbon in the permafrost could be as much as 1700 billion tons – twice the amount that is currently in the atmosphere, The article says, “In the minds of most experts, the chief worry is not that the carbon in the permafrost will break down quickly — typical estimates say that will take more than a century, perhaps several — but that once the decomposition starts, it will be impossible to stop.” At: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/17/science/earth/warming-arctic-permafrost-fuels-climate-change-worries.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

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.

International Greenhouse Gas Emissions Goals Unlikely to Be Set in Durban

Nearly 200 nations began global climate discussions on Monday, November 28, in Durban, South Africa. The talks are the last chance to establish legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. European Union (EU) climate negotiators have called for a global deal on climate change mitigation to be reached by 2015 and in place by 2020. The EU expressed willingness to recommit to the Kyoto Protocol, but stated that the protocol will be effective only if other nations such as Russia, Japan, and Canada participate. The success of climate negotiations in Durban also depends on the United States and China, the world’s two top emitters, but both nations have consistently refused to commit to binding climate goals. The United Nations International Energy Agency says that current efforts of individual nations to mitigate climate change will not be enough to avoid a 2 degree Celsius rise in global average temperature. According to the agency, a comprehensive global treaty is necessary. The European Union, New Zealand, Australia, Norway and Switzerland may ratify a new deal on greenhouse gas emissions reductions in Durban, but the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters remain reluctant
For additional information see: Reuters, Reuters (2nd Article), Associated Press, Wall Street Journal

2011 One of the Hottest Years on Record

According to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization, or WMO, 2011 was one of the hottest years on record, and the hottest year on record with a La Nina event. According to the preliminary data, 2011 is only 12 (0.12) * degrees cooler than 2010, the hottest year on record. However, 2011 was the hottest year starting with La Nina, an upwelling of cooler water in the Pacific Ocean, which affects the weather patterns and typically lowers the global average temperature by 0.1 to 0.15 degrees. The largest variation from the average temperature was recorded in Russia, where temperatures were 4 degrees Celsius warmer from January to October. The report stated that this rise in temperature is caused by human activity, and it suggests that the earth is “rapidly approaching” a 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius rise in temperature that would render the impacts of climate change dire and irreversible. "There is a consistent patter of a changing climate, with the last decade warmer than the previous one, and that decade warmer than the one before,” said Peter Stott of the UK Met Office, which provides climate data to the WMO. “There’s clearly a warming trend. That’s supported by other indicators such as disappearing Arctic sea ice, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels.”
For additional information see: Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, WMO Press Release Note: 2011 was 0.12°C cooler than 2010, according to Bloomberg.

China Reduces Carbon Intensity, Enforces Energy Efficiency

China’s energy intensity—or the rate of energy consumption relative to gross domestic product—dropped 19.1 percent from 2005 levels in the past year. In the past five years, China has seen an 11.2 percent increase in economic growth, but an annual energy consumption increase of just 6.6 percent. Between 2006 and 2010, China reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 billion tons. According to a press release from a research team from the Institute of Global Low-carbon Economy, University of International Business and Economics, and the Social Sciences Academic Press, this reduction in carbon emissions is largely due to strict and effective energy policies, including efforts to shut down inefficient power plants and increasing the energy efficiency of the heating supply network.
For additional information see: Shanghai Daily

Scientists Project Less Extreme Climate Change Scenario

A recent study by an international team of scientists lead by Andreas Schmittner of Oregon State University suggests that the impacts of climate change are not likely to be as extreme as previous studies project. Scientists predicted that a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) would cause a temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Celsius to 2.6 degrees Celsius. Using a computer model to formulate projections, researchers analyzed paleoclimate data that extends back 21,000 years, projecting that the temperature and sea level changes will not be as severe as the more pessimistic range of estimates presented by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The authors of the study stressed that global warming is a serious issue and that there will be considerable climatic impacts as a result of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. In related news, a recent statement by a leading energy expert from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested that current global energy consumption levels could cause a temperature change of up to 6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to the IEA’s analysis, current rates of fossil fuel consumption will lead to a two degree rise in temperature that will lead to irreversible changes to the earth’s climate systems, eventually causing a six degree Celsius rise in temperature.
For additional information see: Science Daily, BBC, Abstract

U.S. Experienced Record Amount of Weather Disasters in 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 12 separate U.S. weather disasters that each caused over $1 billion in damage in 2011. The list of extreme weather events include the drought in Texas, Hurricane Irene, and the flooding events in Mississippi. The weather disasters totaled over $52 billion in cumulative damages, with more than 1,000 casualties lost during the storms. “We have good reason to believe that what happened this year is not an anomaly, but instead is a harbinger of what is to come," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said in an interview. Not only are storms becoming more severe due to a warming climate, but there are more people living in areas in the U.S. that are prone to serious weather events. This list does not yet include damages for either Tropical Storm Lee or the Northeast snowstorm in October, but if the damages from either one of those storms climb over $1 billion, NOAA said they will be added to the list.
For additional information see: CBS News, Houston Chronicle, NPR, NOAA

Top Emitters Still Refusing to Reduce Carbon Consumption

At Durban, the European Union (EU) is urging a 2015 deadline to rework the Kyoto Protocol, and to update the Protocol to include the changing environmental impacts developing emerging countries. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, leaving little time to create a new pact before it runs out, but the EU has stated that developing nations with substantial carbon emissions should still be held to emissions cuts. However, the world’s three largest emitters of CO2—China, the United States, and India—remain firm in their refusal to ratify an agreement to curb emissions. Chinese negotiators have stated that China is ready to consider emissions reductions, but have avoided specific obligations or plans. India claims that it is still behind China in economic development, and thus should not be held accountable for carbon cuts. Climate change mitigation in the United States has been inhibited by political wrangling over environmental legislation. Negotiators from the United States at Durban insisted that the United States will achieve its goal of reducing emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade, but no clear-cut plans have been made. Emissions from the United States, China, and India account for over half of global greenhouse gas emissions.
For additional information see: Reuters, EENews

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Spike After Financial Crisis

Worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis (GFC), but emissions rebounded in 2010 according to a study supported by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Total emissions increased from 8.6 billion tons in 2009 to 9.1 billion tons in 2010.* However, the study also showed that 2009 was the first year where consumption-based emissions were larger in developing countries than in developed countries. "Previously, developed countries released more carbon dioxide, but that's no longer true due to emerging economies in developing countries," said Tom Boden from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center." The GFC did not impact major developing countries, such as China and India, like it did the United States and the European nations." The study was published in Nature Climate Change.
For additional information see: Science Daily, New Scientist, Study Abstract
*Note: These numbers refer to the mass of carbon released in 2009 and 2010; the mass of CO2 released in each case is larger by a factor of 3.67 - 31.5 and 33.4 billion tons, respectively.
Global Carbon Emissions Rose Three Percent in 2011

According to a recent study by the Australian Global Carbon Project, global carbon emissions rose three percent in the past year, and six percent in 2010. This increase, equal to about half a billion tons of carbon, is largely due to rapid economic growth in several developing countries. Countries with the greatest increase in emissions include China, Brazil, and South Korea. In the United States, emissions rose 4.1 percent in the past year. On average, global emissions increased by 3.1 percent each year between 2000 and 2010. Global carbon emissions have now reached 10 billion tons, a situation that the authors note is likely to lead to a two degree Celsius rise in temperature that would cause irreversible climate change.
For additional information see: New York Times, Business Green, Science Daily

Himalayan Region at Risk

Recent research from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) suggest that the Himalayan region is increasingly vulnerable to climate change, as rising temperatures are expected to affect precipitation patterns and the melting pattern of ice and snow on the peaks. This report, which makes use of mathematical models and data about glacier and lake levels, is the first study to account for the extent of glaciers and the patterns of snowfall in the Himalayan region. Climate change in the Himalayas would affect over 1.3 billion people who live downstream along river basins that depend on the water cycle of the mountain range. The threatened region is also home to a vibrant ecological network that includes 25,000 species of plants and animals.
For additional information see: Times of India, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development

New Climate Models Confirm Human Impact on Climate

New analysis from Swiss climate modelers reconfirms that humans are responsible for the pace and severity of climate change. Scientists used a model of the Earth’s energy budget and ran a mathematical model thousands of times using combinations of parameters that contribute to Earth’s energy and climate systems, including incoming shortwave solar radiation, solar energy that is reflected away from the earth, heat absorbed by oceans, and climate feedback mechanisms. Their results concluded that humans are responsible for at least 74 percent of temperature rise in the past 60 years. These results are remarkably similar to other climate model investigations and analyses of climate trends, suggesting that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the greatest contributor to the 0.5 degree Celsius temperature rise since 1950.
For additional information see: Nature, Abstract

New Historical Record of Antarctic May Influence Climate Models

The Arctic and Antarctic ice shelves may have melted simultaneously at the end of the last ice age, according to a new study published in Science. Until now, the size of the ice sheet in the Arctic was well known, but comparatively little was known about the long term changes in size of the southern ice sheet. "Our results suggest that Antarctica was not as climatically isolated as previously assumed," said Dr. Gerhard Kuhn. "Now we have to presume that the reaction of the large ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic to climate change is more closely linked in time than thought." Dr Weber, of the Geological Institute of the University of Cologne, specified that "forecasts of the future rise in the sea level caused by climate change will also have to be adjusted accordingly."
For additional information see: Science Daily, Science News, Study Abstract

United Nations Climate Talks Conclude in Durban

On December 11, the 194 countries comprising the United Nations Conference of Parties agreed on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The Durban Platform calls for a "protocol, or a legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention and applicable to all parties" by 2020, and will hold all major emitters, including the United States, China and India, to the same obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as other industrialized nations. The action plan calls for "an agreed outcome with legal force" involving all countries by 2015, and for the ratification and implementation of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action by 2020. The COP17 meeting also concluded with the extension of the Kyoto Protocol until 2017. The 194 countries also agreed on the Green Climate Fund, a global account comprised of public and private funding that would raise $100 billion a year for aid to go to developing countries to use for climate change adaptation and conversion to clean energy technologies. 

Throughout the climate talks, delegates from developing nations and small island states sought a more stringent deal to hold the major emitter countries to tougher reductions. "I would have wanted to get more, but at least we have something to work with. All is not lost yet," said Selwin Hart, chief negotiator on finance for the coalition of small states. The delegates, along with representatives from leading environmental groups that attended the climate talks, say that the Durban Platform is not enough on its own to slow global climate change. But, overall, the delegates were satisfied that they were able to come to an agreement, "We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come," said COP17 Chairman and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
For additional information see: Politico, New York Times: Article 1, and Article 2, Reuters, The Guardian

South Sudan Speaks to United Nations about Effects of Climate Change

Alfred Lado Gore, the Minister of Environment for South Sudan, requested assistance for South Sudan during his country’s first appearance at the UN climate meeting. "Climate change in Southern Sudan has very, very serious negative effects. In terms of agriculture, this is really catastrophic," said Gore. South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is plagued by droughts and infrequent sudden heavy downpours. With thousands of refugees fleeing conflict with Sudan, South Sudan’s citizens are constantly searching for food and water. Gore continued, "People want to cultivate but no longer know when rains come. And when they come, sometimes they are even floods and they destroy the crops. . . .If the crops fail, people have no food. Food security now becomes a threat."
For additional information see: Associated French Press

Carbon Emissions Increase by Half Since 1990

Worldwide carbon emissions have risen by almost 50 percent over the last two decades, according to a study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. This 50 percent increase amounts to an annual average growth of 3.1 percent, despite the Kyoto Protocol’s goal to reduce emissions to below 1990 levels. Scientists leading the study are concerned, given that the year 2020 is considered the necessary peak for carbon emissions in order to limit global average temperature to the 2 degree increase—the amount thought necessary to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate change. However, with the new climate deal forged in Durban, no new emissions reduction treaty would take effect until 2020. "That would be too late, unless strong actions are taken in the ­meantime," said Corinne Le Quéré, author of the paper.
For additional information see: Mail and Guardian, The Guardian, Science Daily, Study Abstract

California Approves Cap and Trade, Creates World’s Second Largest Carbon Market

A San Francisco judge has approved California’s cap-and-trade plans which will make it the largest carbon market in North America and the second largest in the world. The bill was passed in 2006 but has come under fire from opponents claiming that it will destroy jobs and harm the economy. However, in May the court approved the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) authority to implement the program. According to the judge’s ruling last week, the state has adequately studied alternatives to its climate goal and the program is now slated for implementation in 2013. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the state has received more than $9 billion in venture capital for clean energy technology since the bill was passed.
For additional information see: Forbes, San Francisco Gate, Bloomberg

New Methane Plumes Rising from Arctic Ocean Discovered

Warmer temperatures and decreased sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean are causing massive amounts of underwater methane to bubble to the surface, according to findings released at last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting. Methane is rising to the surface and into the atmosphere in large plumes or fountains, some as large as one kilometer in diameter. In a 10,000 square mile area off the northern coast of Siberia, Russian scientists discovered more than 100 methane plumes. The research team has been monitoring the region for nearly two decades and was shocked by the latest results. The destabilization of underwater methane is considered one of the most significant climate change tipping points that will accelerate the rate of warming, as methane is at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a one hundred year period.
For additional information see: The Independent

Study Shows that Methane Gas from ‘Fracking’ Damages the Climate

A soon to be released study by Cornell University concludes that using hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale releases as much greenhouse gas emissions as coal. Professor Robert Howarth states, “The [greenhouse gas] footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.” The study also states, “The large GHG footprint of shale gas undercuts the logic of its use as a bridging fuel over coming decades, if the goal is to reduce global warming.”
For additional information see: The Hill, Report, Cornell University Press Release

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

Thursday, November 24, 2011


CC NEWS for NOV. 2011

In January of 2011 a nice paper by Robert J.Nichols et al. appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A titled, Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century. It says, “The range of future climate-induced sea-level rise remains highly uncertain with continued concern that large increases in the twenty-first century cannot be ruled out. The biggest source of uncertainty is the response of the large ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica. Based on our analysis, a pragmatic estimate of sea-level rise by 2100, for a temperature rise of 4°C or more over the same time frame, is between 0.5 m and 2 m …” This could result in the forced displacement of over 180 million people (2.4% of the global population). The most vulnerable countries are low-lying island nations, and poor countries in Africa and Asia. (Some low-lying coastal states in the U.S. - like DE, MD, FL and LA - are also at risk.) The rate of sea level rise is likely to increase as the temperature increases. A cost-benefit analysis of building dikes and beach replenishment vs. abandonment is suggested. At:

In May the National Academy of Sciences issued the last of a series of four reports titled, America’s Climate Choices. There is an excellent 6.3-minute video describing the four studies, available at:
The four studies are:
Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change

Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change
All can be read or purchased online. They can also be searched by words or phrases. The third report, on adaptation to the climate changes that cannot be avoided, has a Chapter 3 (Pages 61-120) titled, What Are American’s Options for Adaptation?, which includes consideration of sea level rise and storm surges. Several possible strategies for coastal states and communities are listed in Table 3.8, starting on Page 117. (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12783&page=117)

The August 1-8 issue of The Nation carried an article by John Nichols titled, ALEC Exposed. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a far right organization funded by the Koch Brothers and others determined to get legislation across the country to suit their extreme agenda. Their priorities for 2011 included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. The Nation has obtained more than 800 documents representing decades of model legislation. Other priorities are weakening environmental regulations and opposing attempts to limit climate change. You can learn more at: http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed. The article in The Nation is at:

On Nov. 3 CBCNews reported a story titled, CO2 Levels Soared in 2010. The increase of 512 million tons of carbon emissions in 2010 was the largest annual increase on record - 6% over 2009 - and was due largely to increased emissions by China and the U.S., the world’s largest emitters. Emissions are now higher than the highest scenarios considered in the 2007 Report of the IPCC. Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said, "We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren." At: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2011/11/03/carbon-dioxide-atmosphere.html?cmp=rss

Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, posted an article by Gernot Wagner on Nov. 14 titled, Making the Case for the Value of Environmental Rules. The introduction says, “Some U.S. politicians have been attacking environmental regulations, arguing that they hurt the economy and that the costs outweigh the benefits. But four decades of data refute that claim and show we need not choose between a clean environment and economic growth.” The article points out that four decades of data show that the Clean Air Act of 1970 has provided economic benefits 30 times as large as its costs. The article goes on to say, ‘“Green growth” isn’t just a catch phrase. It’s the only way to reconcile our relentless pursuit for material wealth on a finite planet with an atmosphere at the boiling point. The fact is that sound environmental regulations — whether they address dirty air or an overheating planet — can create jobs and be a boost, rather than a burden, for the economy.” At:

The Analysis Group posted an article on Nov. 15 titled, New Analysis Quantifies Economic Impact of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Ten States. Some of the key findings include:
• The regional economy gains more than $1.6 billion in economic value added.
• Customers save nearly $1.1 billion on electricity bills, and an additional $174 million on natural gas and heating oil bills, for a total of $1.3 billion in savings over the next decade through installation of energy efficiency measures using funding from RGGI auction proceeds to date.
• 16,000 jobs are created region wide.
At: http://www.analysisgroup.com/rggi.aspx

On Nov. 15 The Hill posted an article by Jonathan Easley titled, Iowa scientists urge candidates to accept climate change. A letter from 31 scientists from 22 Iowa colleges and universities was delivered to the governor, urging candidates in next year’s election to “acknowledge the science of climate change.” The article points out that most of the GOP candidates for president this year – with the exception of John Huntsman (currently polling about 1% of Republican voters) is the only one to acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change. It’s a sad day for the Grand Old Party of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. At: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/193713-iowa-scientists-urge-candidates-to-acknowledge-climate-change

A Nov. 17 article by Todd Griset in Offshore Wind Wired is titled, ANALYSIS: Debate Over Federal Tax Credits For Offshore Wind. It points out that two federal incentives for offshore wind power development, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (PTC), are both scheduled to expire in 2012, unless they are renewed by Congress. The on-again off-again nature of U.S. tax incentives is one of the reasons that investors choose to put their money into offshore wind projects into other countries, where this new, clean renewable energy source is rapidly growing – in spite of the fact that we have a huge renewable energy resource along our coasts and on the Great Lakes. We are being left behind environmentally and economically, once again. At: http://offshorewindwire.com/

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.

California Adopts Cap and Trade System

On October 20, the California Air Resources Board unanimously decided to adopt a state-administered cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This success marks the end of a court battle that delayed its development. The law, AB32, was originally signed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, requiring California to reduce CO2 pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. By 2013, California’s largest carbon emitters will have to either adhere to carbon limits or buy carbon credits. A second compliance phase that will likely include around 85 percent of California’s carbon emissions sources will begin in 2015. About $10 billion in carbon allowances are expected to be traded by 2016, making California the second largest carbon market in the world following the European Union.
For additional information see: LA Times, NY Times

China Won’t Let Per Capita CO2 Emissions Reach U.S. Levels

China will not allow per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions levels to reach United States levels, according to a recent statement by vice chair of the National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua. Though Chinese per capita CO2 emissions have been projected to reach U.S. levels by 2017, Xie stated that China would not “follow the path of the U.S.” China’s most recent five year plan includes a 17 percent decrease in CO2 per unit of economic growth. By 2020, China aims to increase energy efficiency to 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels. In response to the idea of cutting emissions rather than restraining their development, Xie said that it could be possible to cut emissions after 2020, depending on the level of economic growth that has been achieved.
For additional information see: BBC

Scientists: Two Degree Increase Limit Unlikely Without Serious Emissions Reductions

A team of scientists recently concluded that, unless rapid changes are made in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions levels, temperatures will rise more than two degrees Celsius above industrial levels. Scientists revised computer models to fit current data, and found that to avoid the two degree Celsius limit, annual CO2 emissions would need to fall to 44 gigatons per year by 2020, an 8.5 percent reduction. By 2050, a median of 20 gigatons annual emissions must be maintained in order to achieve climatic stability. This two degree target, deemed necessary by climate scientists to avoid the most detrimental effects of climate change, was set in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. However, with current annual CO2 emissions at a median of at about 48 gigatons, reaching this goal is increasingly unlikely, according to reports by the United Nations.
For additional information see: Wired, Abstract

Scientists Study Self-Contained Melting on Greenland Ice Sheet

A new study suggests that the Greenland ice sheet undergoes intense melting even when temperatures do not reach extreme highs, because of positive feedbacks that cause more melting and are difficult to control. Data gathered from a microwave feedback satellites and output from an ice sheet model imply that there is a positive feedback system involving albedo that causes continued melt, independent of rising temperatures. Dark patches of ice warm and melt rapidly. A year following a particularly warm season can reveal more subsurface dark ice that will melt as soon as the temperatures begin to rise. North Atlantic Oscillation indexes, runoff and bare ice impact the melting system further, according to the authors of the study. The research was produced by the City College of New York.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Mapping Study Analyzes Climate Change Threats

A recent survey ranked almost 200 nations for vulnerability to climate change in relation to population growth. The study included a map of the world that illustrates regional assessments of population and projected climate impacts. Cities with rapid population growth in Africa and Asia—such as Dhaka, Manila, Kinshasa, Kolkata, Jakarta, Delhi, and Guangzhou—tend to top the list. Socioeconomic factors and problems, such as corruption and poverty, worsen the issues posed by rapidly rising population and climate change. The objective of the project was to define potential risks for cities, economic zones, and investors. The study was part of the fourth Climate Change and Environmental Risk Analysis by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft.
For additional information see: Reuters, Study

Department of Energy Calculates an Unprecedented Rise in Global CO2 Emissions

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are rising faster than the worst case scenarios projected only four years ago. The 2007 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) correlated the rate of greenhouse gas pollution to the rate of warming, stating that temperatures will rise between 4 and 11 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. However, world CO2 emissions in 2010 exceeded 2009 emissions by about 564 million tons, a 6 percent increase. This exceeds the pollution output used by the IPCC in climate models. The United States and China were accountable for about half of the global CO2 emissions increase. The study was conducted by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Environmental News Online

Study: Policymakers Need to Plan for Increased Climate Change-Induced Migration

A new University of Florida study found that as average global temperatures increase, even by a few degrees, human migrations are expected to increase as well, and governments must plan accordingly. When temperatures rise, weather patterns change and the severity and frequency of storms and natural disasters increase. Governments will need to prepare for the mass movement of people displaced by these disasters – something which is frequently mishandled when the complexities involved are underestimated. "Transplanting a population and its culture from one location to another is a complex process -- as complicated as brain surgery," lead author Anthony Oliver-Smith said. A simple cost-benefit analysis would show that the long-term costs of failed resettlements—including disease, malnutrition, and destroyed family and social networks—will waste more resources than if the resettlement is properly planned from the start. The study was published in the October 28 edition of Science.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

Climate Change Exacerbates Wildfires, Threatens Peatlands

A new study suggests that the drying of northern wetlands has caused more severe peatland wildfires. Wetlands are usually resistant to wildfires, but as they drain and the water table is lowered, the dry carbon mass is susceptible to fire. The fires have caused a nine-fold increase in the amount of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere. This is equal to about 450 years of peat accumulation. Peatlands are important to the global carbon cycle. A large peatland fire in Indonesia in the late 1990s caused a carbon release that totalled 40 percent of annual carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Sea Level Rise Threatens Washington DC

According to a recent analysis of several different modeled scenarios for climate change, rising sea levels will swamp Washington DC by 2150. Depending on the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted in the future, the temperature could rise enough to cause a sea level rise anywhere between four inches by 2043, to 16 feet by 2150. Researchers used geographic information systems to model and illustrate the outcome of sea level rise on the city and its underlying infrastructure. Low-end projections of sea level rise yield estimates of property damage around $2 billion. A sea level rise of 5 meters could result in $24.6 billion of property damage in Washington DC. This study was published in the journal Risk Analysis.
For additional information see: USA Today, Abstract

UN Report Confirms Link Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change

According to a recent draft of a U.N. report, climate change is causing more frequent and severe weather events, such as heat waves, wildfires, and floods. The report connects rising atmospheric temperatures, rising sea levels, and warmer ocean surface temperatures to recent extreme weather events. According to the report, peak temperatures are likely to increase up to 3 degrees Celsius by 2050. These changes in ocean conditions will cause more destructive cyclones. Melting glaciers, melting permafrost, and increased precipitation will cause more landslides. The document is the result of an intensive review of reports and data, and includes a 20 page summary for policymakers. The draft will be reviewed by hundreds of scientists working under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) later in November.
For additional information see: AFP

Georgetown Climate Center Introduces Online Forum to Share Climate Change Tools

The Georgetown Climate Center recently launched the Adaptation Clearinghouse, an online tool to find and share resources and information that pertain to climate change policy issues and adaptation measures. This new online community will serve as a database of new research about climate change adaptation, as well as a forum to spread newly developed models and techniques. Some of the recent resources shared in the online community include a comprehensive model that explores sea level rise and coastal land use, and an adaptation plan for the city of Chula Vista that weighs the potential infrastructural impacts of climate change on the city. The Georgetown Climate Center is a nonpartisan group that aims to connect policymakers and share best practices and resources concerning climate change.
For additional information see: Georgetown Climate Center

Australian Senate Passes Carbon Tax

Australia’s parliament passed the most comprehensive carbon pricing scheme outside of the European Union (EU) on November 7. The law will put a tax of $23 (around $23.78 U.S. dollars) on each ton of carbon emitted by the top 500 polluters from July 2012 until July 2015, after which it will become a carbon trading emission scheme. Even though Australia only accounts for 1.5 percent of the world’s emissions, they have the highest per capita emissions intensity of any country because coal generates 80 percent of the country’s electricity. The government expects the tax will incentivize a multibillion dollar investment in cleaner fuels and will move their energy economy away from coal. The law also provides compensation for export-exposed industries, such as aluminum, zinc and steel, and provides personal tax cuts for workers (totaling up to $300 per year on average). In addition, the export-exposed industries will receive 94.5 percent of their carbon permits for free for the first three years. Once the scheme moves to a tradable permit system, it will be integrated with EU’s trading scheme.
For additional information see: The Guardian, Reuters

Three Hundred Square Mile Iceberg to Detach from Antarctica

After initially spotting an 18 mile long crack in the ice on Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, NASA scientists concluded that a 300 square-mile iceberg will break off in the next few months. The newly formed iceberg is likely Antarctica’s largest contribution to global sea level rise so far. Warmer water has melted the deeper portions of the ice shelf that would otherwise have kept the ice mass grounded, leaving the mass of ice unstable. Scientists studying the ice shelf are unsure whether the ice will recover its size, or continue to become thinner and weaker, continually contributing to sea level rise.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NASA

Report: Climate Change Consequences Both Dire and Likely

According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, irreversible climate change consequences are unavoidable if dramatic changes are not made within the next five years. If current pledges to reduce emissions are successful, the temperature average is projected to rise 3.5 degrees Celsius, says the report, which is still considerably higher than the two degree rise in temperature considered safe by scientists. The authors of the World Energy Outlook report said they are not optimistic that these planned measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will even be successful, and a failure to meet emissions reduction goals could result in a temperature rise of at least six degrees Celsius. Some factors that are expected to aggravate emissions problems include reluctance to continue using nuclear energy following the Fukushima disaster, unwillingness to abandon current industry and infrastructure, and growing numbers of fossil fuel-dependent power plants and inefficient buildings.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Business Green

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Benefits Participating Northeastern States

According to a new report by the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners (NARUC), the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has raised over $1.6 billion for the ten participating states since the program began in 2008. RGGI requires the largest producers of power to buy allowances for emitted carbon dioxide (CO2). The states spent a large part of the money raised on energy efficient programs, saving regional customers $1.1 billion in electricity bills, and over $174 million on natural gas and heating bills over the past three years. RGGI programs created 16,000 jobs throughout the region, and the region’s payments for out-of-state fossil fuels decreased by over $765 million. Participating states are Conneticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Rhose Island, and Vermont.
For additional information see: Reuters, Baltimore Sun, Report

New Report Urges Transparency in Government Climate Change Research

A new report from the Defense Science Board recommended that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) should be more transparent in its monitoring of climate change. The report, titled Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security, criticizes the classified nature of the CIA’s climate center data, stating that compartmentalizing research and keeping data classified will only deter progress. The report highlights the impacts of climate change, stressing the need for mitigation and adaptation strategies. Suggestions for further climate change research and preparation included compiling a comprehensive set of data about climate change, action by the Department of Defense to prepare foreign militaries to deal with climate issues, and analyzing regions in which climate change and water supply could cause economic and government instability.
For additional information see: Guardian, Report

EU Passes New Resolution on Greenhouse Gas Reduction

On November 16, a resolution for the European Union (EU) to bolster plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions passed with 532 members of the European Parliament in favor, 76 opposed, and 43 abstaining. The goal set by the EU would decrease emissions by 20 to 30 percent by 2020, a target that was noted in the resolution to have the potential to create green jobs and economic growth. EU ministers also committed to a new phase of the Kyoto Protocol, under the condition that countries with larger carbon footprints join as well. The resolution also encouraged all nations to work towards cutting emissions enough to avoid exceeding a global average temperature rise of two degrees Celsius.
For additional information see: Reuters

If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to:

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to climate_change_news-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com. If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue. Recent issues are available at: http://tolmanccnews.blogspot.com

Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

Wednesday, October 26, 2011



In July an international team of scientists including Benjamin Horton at UPenn published an important paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled, Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia. Based on analysis of marsh sediments in North Carolina and elsewhere, the authors found that sea level was stable from 100 BC to 950 AD, then rose for 400 years at a rate of 6 cm (2.4 inches) per century (Medieval Warm Period), followed by a cooler period with slightly falling sea level until the late 19th Century. Then the rate increased to 21 cm (8 inches) per century during most of the last century. The rates of sea level rise parallel the global average temperature, consistent with both thermal expansion of seawater and increasing loss of ice from glaciers on land. We can expect an accelerating sea level as long as the temperature continues to rise. At: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/27/11017.short?rss=1&ssource=mfr
The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is a major driver of global warming.

The Pew Center for Global Climate Change has an outstanding web site showing what various states and regions are doing by way of energy and climate change policy. It also shows what renewable energy resources are available across the U.S. and what is being done to develop them. At: http://www.pewclimate.org/states-regions. For a map of renewable energy resources, except of offshore wind, see: http://www.pewclimate.org/what_s_being_done/in_the_states/nrel_renewables_maps.cfm

The Unitarian-Universalist UN Office has a Climate Change Task Force website with a 9.7-minute audio track and slide show called, Global Warming: Is it True?, presenting scientific evidence for global warming from several disciplines. At:

An important paper on climate change science and public opinion, Communicating the science of climate change, by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, appeared in the October issue of Physics Today. They write, “It is urgent that climate scientists improve the ways they convey their findings to a poorly informed and often indifferent public.” They have some good ideas for how to communicate a very important message. At: http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/PT.3.1296

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at Cal Tech reported on Aug. 7 that NASA satellites used to monitor sea level show that global mean sea level had been rising by about 3.2 mm (1/8 inch) each year from 1993 to 2010, when it fell. The reason was a shift during the year from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific, changing global weather patterns and causing so much rainfall on land in some regions that global mean sea level dropped about 6 mm! Scientists expect sea level will rise again as the water runs back into the ocean and heat continues to be added as a result of greenhouse gases and black soot. At: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-262

Janet Raloff has an article in the Sept. 8 ScienceNews titled, HIPPO reveals climate surprises. HIPPO stands for HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations, and HIAPER is an acronym for High Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research, an NSF research plane that has been flying over a range of altitudes (500 to 45,000 feet) from pole to pole analyzing concentrations of over 50 atmospheric gases and black carbon. Surprising results included high concentrations of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, near the equator, and high concentrations of methane, carbon dioxide and black carbon particles in the Arctic. The methane and CO2 are consistent with digestion of carbohydrates by methanogenic bacteria as the permafrost melts and warms, and help account for the fact that the Arctic is warming faster than the global average. At: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/334245/title/HIPPO_reveals_climate_surprises

Alexandra Witze reported on Sept. 14 in ScienceNews that the volume of Arctic sea ice in 2011 was the smallest on record. The area of ice was very close to that in 2007, which holds the record for the smallest area. At: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/334360/title/Summer_Arctic_melt_among_worst_ever
A decreasing area of sea ice is important because it means that less sunlight is being reflected back into space, increasing the rate of warming.

The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Green Jobs Alliance, and Virginia Interfaith Power and Light have put up a great website at http://va4wind.com/ (most recent entry Sept. 17) to promote the development of offshore wind power in VA. It has a couple of good short videos and endorsements from some important labor unions that are hoping for new manufacturing jobs building wind turbines and components.

Lauren Markoe has a story in the Sept. 22 issue of the Huffington Post titled, On Evolution And Climate Change, Evangelicals Stand Apart According To Poll. The new poll shows that majorities of Americans believe in evolution (57%) and climate Change (69%). Evangelicals and Tea Party members are much less likely to believe in either. Only 41% of Tea Party members believe there is good evidence for global warming, compared to 49% of Republicans generally, 70% of Independents, and 81% of Democrats. 33% of Tea Party members are more likely to support a candidate who denies climate change, compared to 16% of Republicans generally and only 5% of Democrats. Partly because of a disinformation campaign by fossil fuel interests, only 40% of Americans believe that a consensus exists among scientists on climate change, even though over 95% of climate scientists support the consensus position that it’s real, is caused primarily by human activities, and constitutes a growing threat. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/22/evangelicals-evolution-climate-change-poll_n_975699.html

On Sept. 28 Jim Hansen (Columbia University) posted a short article titled, It's a Hard-Knock Butterfly's Life - Can a Lady Monarch Provide a Role Model? In it he describes the struggles this year of a family of Monarch butterflies on his farm in Eastern Pennsylvania, and ties it to the struggles that young people face in a warming world whose politics are dominated by wealthy and powerful fossil fuel interests. He argues against a cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions and for a tax-and-dividend system in which fossil fuel companies are taxed directly for carbon at the source, and the proceeds are distributed to all citizens on an equal per capita basis (half that much to each child). Most Americans – those who emit more than the average per capita amount of carbon – would come out ahead; the energy hogs would pay more. He suggests gradually raising the carbon tax to $115 per ton of CO2, and says that this would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 30%. At: http://www.columbia.edu/%7Ejeh1/mailings/2011/20110928_Butterfly.pdf

Charmaine Noronha of the Associated Press posted an article in YahooNews on Sept. 30 titled, Canadian Arctic nearly loses entire ice shelf. She reported that two ice shelves that have been there since before Europeans settled Canada broke up this summer, with one nearly disappearing altogether. This loss of ice is a reflection of the fact that the temperature in the Canadian Arctic has been warming rapidly – about 1°C (1.8°F) per decade for the past half century. Loss of the ice shelves – about 3 billion tons of ice – portends more rapid future flow of the glaciers behind them and more rapid sea level rise.
At: http://news.yahoo.com/canadian-arctic-nearly-loses-entire-ice-shelf-214311365.html

Justin Gillis wrote an excellent article for the Oct. 1 NY Times titled, With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors. It points out that, of the approximately 10 billion tons of carbon that human activities put into the atmosphere as CO2 each year, about 25% is taken up by forests, 25% goes into the ocean, and 50% stays in the atmosphere. That could change as forests are killed by pine bark beetles and forest fires – not only reducing their ability to capture and store carbon, but releasing their stored carbon through combustion and decay. Efforts to save forests in developing countries are being hampered by U.S. economic problems and climate change denial. At: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/science/earth/01forest.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print&adxnnlx=1317554334-zW7WYq+mPnZRiQUMFjwZqQ

On October 8 the Huffington Post put up a 1-minute coal energy drink parody YouTube video titled, Coal Isn’t Just Clean Anymore, It’s Refreshing. Good for a laugh. At: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/07/coal-energy-drink-clean-coal_n_994829.html

During 2006-2008 the NY Times published a series of articles it called The Energy Challenge. See: www.nytimes.com/ref/science/earth/energy.html

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.

Asian Development Bank Outlines Food Security Threat Due to Climate Change

A recent study from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) illustrated the effect of climate change on hunger and malnutrition in the Pacific. The report detailed how globalization has led to increased reliance on foreign food imports, and how declining growth in agricultural production since the mid nineties will be exacerbated by changes in precipitation patterns and increased frequency of natural disasters. Crop output is expected to continue to decline, while increased acidification of seawater and coastal destruction will render fisheries a less reliable source of food. The ADB suggested methods for mitigating the impact of climate change on food supply such as planting more resilient crops, enhancing traditional food production processes, and careful management of local fisheries. Weather-based crop insurance and emergency input subsidies have also been considered as approaches to alleviating problems faced by Pacific farmers dealing with fluctuating climate patterns and increasing natural disasters.
For additional information see: The Hindu, Report

Carbon Disclosure Project Examines Business Climate Change Plans

According to the 2011 edition of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Global 500 report, 68 percent of the world’s largest companies include climate change in their business plans. In 2010, only 48 percent of businesses included climate change in their business plans. Of the 396 companies included in the investigation, 74 percent reported having greenhouse gas emissions targets, and 45 percent reported reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Key reasons for addressing climate change included the rising price of oil and recognition of the financial benefits of emissions reduction. Over the ten year history of the CDP reports, a correlation between the CDP’s Carbon Performance Leadership Index and higher stock market performance has been observed.
For additional information see: Sustainable Business, Report

Ecosystem Research Reveals Impact of Climate Change on European Coasts

A recent report by the Climate Change and European Ecosystem Research (CLAMER) project observed that the most dramatic changes to Europe’s marine environments on record have occurred in the past 25 years. Marine temperatures and sea levels data indicated a rate of sea water warming 10 times faster than the average twentieth century warming rate. Rising sea levels and more intense winds have eroded 15 percent more of the European coasts, and estimates suggested that the sea level could rise between 60 and 190 centimeters in the next 90 years. CLAMER, which involved 17 of Europe’s marine research institutes, also outlined the societal impacts of marine ecosystem change. Health care costs due to changing marine environments are projected to include contaminated seafood, water-born pathogen infections, and a proliferation of marine bacteria such as the warm-water Vibrio bacteria. CLAMER estimated that 1 trillion Euros of physical assets are vulnerable due to property damage and economic loss caused by rising sea levels and more intense storms, and the fact that 35 percent of Europe’s GDP is generated within 50 kilometers of the coast.
For additional information see: Reuters, Science Daily, Report

2011 Summer Sees Second Most Arctic Ice Melt on Record

In the summer of 2011, the Arctic sea ice melted more than any other summer on record except for the record lows of 2007, and air temperatures were 1 to 4 degrees Celsius higher than average, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. However, according to daily ice map records from physicists at Bremen University, with a week more of expected ice melt the one-day minimum ice area for 2011 will be 4.24 square kilometers, breaking the 2007 record of 4.27 square kilometers. The Arctic ice melts and refreezes each year, but scientists have recorded more and more dramatic cycles of melting since 1972. This August, both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route were open. Each decade, about 10 percent of the arctic ice is lost. If the rate of melting observed this summer continues, Arctic summers will likely be ice-free within 30 years, an estimate that is 40 years earlier than the figure proposed at the last International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research suggested that the present volume of ice in the arctic is only 62 percent of the volume of Arctic ice in 1979.
For additional information see: The Guardian, University of Bremen, Abstract

Poll: More Americans Acknowledge Climate Change

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on September 15 revealed that 83 percent of Americans believe in climate change, compared to 75 percent last year. According to the poll, about 72 percent of Republicans achnowledge global warming and 92 percent of Democrats do. Of the participants who believed in global warming, 71 percent are convinced that it is at least partially caused by humans. About 15 percent of voters see global warming as a primary concern. The poll also indicated that, although more Americans recognize climate change, those who are skeptical are increasingly sure of their convictions. Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University, has suggested that the tendency of Republican presidential candidates to deny or criticize evidence of climate change has prompted people to reflect on their own views about global warming.
For additional information see: Reuters, Scientific American, International Business Times

Virginia Appeals Court Sides with Insurance Company in Climate Change Case

On September 16, the utility AES emerged as the winner of a decision over whether its insurer, Steadfast, was obligated to defend it in a lawsuit over climate change. AES is a defendent in the court case Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil Corp. et. al., in which the village of Kivalina, Alaska, accused AES and others of negligence because they knowingly emitted greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change, and subsequent rising sea levels. While the larger Kivalina case is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, AES sought a decision in Virginia courts on its insurer’s obligation. The decision not to obligate Steadfast hinged on the particular wording of the policy, according to Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bernard Goodwyn. "The relevant policies only require Steadfast to defend AES against claims for damages of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence or accident," he wrote. Climate change did not meet the “accident” or “occurrence” definition in this instance, according to the ruling.
For additional information see: New York Times, Insurance Journal

“24 Hours of Reality” Project Addresses Climate Change Skeptics

“24 Hours of Reality”, a new project led by former vice president Al Gore, illustrated the effects of climate change in 24 locations around the world through live online videos broadcast in 24 different time zones. The website’s counter indicated the program, which was available in 13 different languages, attracted 8.5 million viewers. The purpose of the videos was to raise awareness about the cause and effects of climate change, directly addressing climate change skeptics and deniers. The videos included an investigation into how climate change skeptics are funded and 200 new slides that outline the connection between climate change and increasingly intense natural disasters.
For additional information see: Reuters, NPR, Presentation, New York Times

Number of People Displaced by Climate Change Reaches 30 Million

Over 30 million people were displaced last year by environmental and weather disasters in Asia, according to a recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. This number is expected to rise as disasters intensify due to impacts caused by climate change such as rising sea levels, floods, droughts, and food shortages. Problems associated with the influx of migration are estimated to cost around $60 billion. Areas that face the greatest challenges are low-lying regions such as the Maldives, where populations of entire islands have already been forced to move. The report states that rather than creating a new category of migrant people, climate change will likely influence existing migration factors and patterns, such as reinforcing the strong urbanization trend in the region. The ADB is currently working on a report that will outline potential policies that governments could consider to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
For additional information see: The Guardian, Report

Leaked World Bank Report Calls for Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies to Fulfill Climate Finance Pledges

Wealthy countries should eliminate $50 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies, a leaked World Bank report said. The report, which was intended to be presented to the G20 finance ministers in November, also said that countries should spend their pledged climate change funds on financing carbon markets. It is unlikely that the funds which rich countries have pledged—$30 billion for 2010-2012 and $100 billion per year by 2020—will actually be provided. Removing fossil fuel subsidies could be a starting point though, according to the study. The report further supports a carbon tax on the aviation and maritime industries. "A globally implemented carbon charge of $25/ton CO2 on fuel used could raise around $13 billion from international aviation and around $26 billion from international maritime transport in 2020, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions from each industry by around 5 to 10 percent.” Developing countries have become increasingly frustrated by rich nations failing to fulfill their climate finance pledges. "Rich nations cannot try and pass the buck to private companies who will be more interested in delivering high returns than meeting the needs of some of the world's poorest people,” said Murray Worthy, a policy officer with the World Development Movement.
For additional information see: Guardian, World Bank Draft Report (Via Guardian)

Deep Ocean Layers Can Absorb Heat

A recent study revealed that ocean layers deeper than 1,000 feet can absorb heat for up to a decade. This discovery provided insight into why global temperature does not rise consistently. The study was prompted by the realization that even though carbon emissions have climbed steadily in the past decade, the highest global temperatures on record in 1998 were not exceeded until 2010. By using a software tool known as Community Climate System Model to illustrate complex relationships between the atmosphere, land, oceans, and ice, scientists were able to create five simulations of global temperatures. The simulations projected that there would be periods of relatively stable temperatures that could last about a decade, during which heat energy is buried in deep oceanic layers.The study was published in Nature Climate Change.
For additional information see: Science Daily, International Business Times, Abstract

New Technologies Could Reduce Cost of Climate Protection

New research suggests that funding for new technology is one of the most cost effective ways to address climate change. Funding for new energy technologies with a high potential for cost reduction is more financially beneficial than investing in more familiar technologies. The research was conducted at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research using a computer simulation that processed data from the past 100 years. The analysis shows that companies are uncertain about long term profits from new technologies, and consumers have little incentive to pay more for electricity that was produced with new technology, so inferior and ultimately more expensive technology tends to dominate the market. Funding targeted at new technologie, such as solar energy, offshore wind power, and biomass energy, over a 30 year period, have a more positive cost-benefit ratio, compared to financial support for well-established technologies such as nuclear energy and hydroelectric power. The study was published in the journal Resource and Energy Economics.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Guardian, Study

Study: “Negative Emissions” Necessary if CO2 Emissions Continue Beyond 2020

Cutting carbon emissions may no longer be sufficient to stay within the 2 degree temperature limit on global warming, a series of studies have predicted in the November issue of the journal Climate Change. According to one study, the atmosphere may be saturated with enough carbon to reach the 2 degree increase within 20 years, after which carbon must be removed to compensate for increased emissions. Such an approach, known as “negative emissions”, is getting more attention as emissions continue to grow and global temperatures rise. The atmosphere has already warmed by .8 degrees since before industrial times. "If we want to stay below 2 degrees Celsius and possibly achieve 1.5 in the 22nd century then we're not going to get around these negative emissions," said Malte Meinshausen, lead author of one study. According to Meinshausen’s study, in order to achieve this, we must halt increases in carbon emissions within 5 years, and 3.5 billion tons have to be removed from the atmosphere annually by 2070. If emissions continue to rise after 2020, excess carbon must be removed from the atmosphere at a rate of 18 billion tons annually for about 100 years.
For additional information see: Reuters

Updated Global Adaptation Index Illustrates Regional Climate Risks Around the World

The Global Adaptation Institute recently released a new update to its annual Global Adaptation Index (GAIn) that tracks the potential risks of climate change impact around the world. The goal of the GAIn project is to provide information for governments and private sector investors about climate change adaptation measures and potential around the globe. GAIn consists of a color coded map that assesses both the vulnerability of a region to dramatic climate shifts, and the readiness of different regions to adapt to the changing climate. The readiness component accounts for economic, social and government factors that are considered based on indicators such as financial and investment freedom, political stability and control of corruption, and tertiary education. According to the index, Denmark, Switzerland, and Ireland are among the best equipped to deal with potential threats, while Burundi, Zimbabwe, and the Central African Republic face some of the greatest challenges.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Global Adaptation Index

Global CO2 Emissions Increased 45 Percent in Past Decades

According to a new report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased 45 percent between 1990 and 2010, reaching 33 billion tons last year. Industrialized nations subject to the Kyoto Protocol, however, are on track to meet their goals. The report stated that a surge of emissions from developing nations such as China and India, whose CO2 output increased 257 and 180 percent, respectively, over the course of the decade, were largely responsible for the global increase. In the United States, CO2 emissions increased by five percent. Nations in the European Union decreased CO2 emissions by seven percent, and Russia saw a decrease of 28 percent. Nations that ratified the Kyoto Protocol and the United States were responsible for about two-thirds of global emissions in 1990, but these countries are now responsible for less than half of global emissions. The report was based on results from the Emissions Database for Atmospheric Research, and recent statistics for energy use.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Environment 360, Report

Panel Urges Government to Implement New Climate Change Mitigation Measures

A panel of scientists and former government officials at the Bipartisan Policy Center recently urged the U.S. government to consider directly manipulating the earth’s temperature to mitigate climate change. Proposed techniques included injecting the atmosphere with particles that would mimic the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions, trapping and storing atmospheric carbon underground, and solar radiation management. Solar radiation management, the most controversial of the proposals, involves reflecting solar energy away from the earth’s atmosphere before it can be absorbed. Such techniques are typically referred to as “geoengineering,” but the panel used the term “climate remediation” throughout the report to emphasize the goal of counteracting past greenhouse gas emissions.
For additional information see: New York Times, Report

Officials from Across Americas Discuss Public Health and Climate Change

On September 30, health officials from throughout the Americas met to discuss public health risks and necessary responses related to climate change. The discussion was part of the 50th Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO/WHO experts agreed that the health effects of climate change are numerous, and the impact of global warming will include both direct effects, such as heat stress and injuries from natural disasters, as well as indirect effects, such as the spread of disease to new areas and malnutrition due to crop failure. Officials agreed that rapid and unplanned urban growth, population displacement, and increased drought and flood risks related to climate change pose new public health issues. Proposed solutions to these climate change-induced problems included improving infrastructure necessary to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, promoting national campaigns to raise awareness about climate change, advancing primary health care services, and establishing a new PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center to study the health effects of climate change.
For additional information see: PAHO

Climate Change Challenges Migrating Species

A new study from Brown University predicted that about 50 percent of existing species will be unable to adapt to changing climates. Researchers concluded that species would need to be able not only to disperse quickly and relocate to more favorable climates, but also endure fluctuating climatic conditions. Using mathematical models to project climate change and observed migration patterns, researchers found that migration—the typical method that animals use to cope with climate change—will be difficult for many populations because fluctuating temperatures will halt migration patterns, confining populations to a specific area that is only temporarily inhabitable. According to a sample study of species of amphibians, about half of the species would survive the migration and fluctuating conditions, while half would be either extinct or endangered. The stdy was published in Ecology Letters.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Examiner, Abstract

Businesses Urge Government Action on Climate Change

Over 175 companies issued a statement urging governments to make progress on ensuring that underfunded developing nations have sufficient climate aid funds by 2020, and to create agreements and financial partnerships to tackle climate change, regardless of the poor chances of a new climate treaty being signed. The communique was sent to the October 14 and 15 G20 meeting in anticipation of the Durban climate discussions. The companies noted that climate change poses an immense threat to future global prosperity, and the continued delay in progress could undermine government credibility. Stimulating private sector investment in cleaner technologies and job creation were among the incentives cited for greater government action. Among the businesses involved were Shell, Tesco, Unilever, Lloyds Bank, and EDF.
For additional information see: Reuters, Business Green, Environmental Finance, National Geographic

Amazon Drought in 2010 Emitted More CO2 Than India

The massive Amazon drought in 2010 resulted in more carbon emissions than the sum of emissions from Amazonian deforestation over the same period of time, according to a study conducted by researchers at the NASA Ames Research Centre and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The drought released nearly 500 million tons of carbon (1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, exceeding the annual emissions of India, one of the world’s top emitters. The source of emissions was the decomposition of decaying plant matter and the reduced CO2 uptake that should have occurred—but didn’t—due to the limited water necessary for plant growth. The researchers used satellites to measure the differences in net primary production to determine overall changes in plant growth throughout the drought. While some of the losses may be recouped during the forest’s subsequent recovery—as occurred after the drought in 2005—researchers fear that the increasing severity of such droughts may be an indication that the rainforest is on the verge of collapse as a result of fragmentation, deforestation and climate change.
For additional information see: Monga Bay, Yale 360, Study

Study Suggests Climate Change Will Cause Rapid Alterations in Tree Cover

According to a new study, the effects of climate change on tree cover in forests and savannas may be much more rapid than expected. The study used satellite data for global rainfall to observe and predict which areas of Africa, Australia, and South America are most ecologically fragile, and which could readily transform from a forested region to a savanna, or from a savanna into a forested region. The results suggested that, rather than smoothly transitioning from one state to another, tree cover fluctuated between three contrasting alternatives of forest, treeless regions, and savanna, depending on precipitation levels. The study was published in the journal Science.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to:

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to climate_change_news-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com. If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue. Recent issues are available at: http://tolmanccnews.blogspot.com

Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

Monday, September 19, 2011



On Feb. 4, 2011 Ira Flatow of NPR’s Science Friday hosted Kerry Emanuel, a climate science professor at MIT and an expert on hurricanes. Kerry authored an excellent book called Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes. The interview was called, Taking the Politics Out of Climate Science. Emmanuel is a conservative and a Republican, even though it seems that denying the science of climate change has become a litmus test for Republican candidates running for major political office. He has some very interesting views - well worth listening to. At: http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201102045

Another oldie but goodie from Science Friday is a Dec. 3, 2010 broadcast in which Ira Flatow interviewed Anthony Leiserowitz 
Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, and Bob Inglis, an outgoing Republican representative from the 4th Congressional District of North Carolina and former member of the House Energy Committee. Again, well worth listening to. At: http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201012031

On May 9, 2011 IPCC Working Group III on Climate Mitigation released the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). It concluded that 80% of the world’s energy demand in 2050 could be supplied by six renewable energy resources: bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy. The press release is at: http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/press/content/potential-of-renewable-energy-outlined-report-by-the-intergovernmental-panel-on-climate-change
The Summary for Policy Makers is at:

On July 21 Chris Jordan-Bloch of Earth Justice posted a 7-minute video titled, An Ill Wind – The Secret Threat of Coal Ash. It shows a number of members of a Piute Indian tribe who have the misfortune of living with a coal-fired power plant just upwind of their village. The prevailing wind blows the fine particles containing chromium, arsenic and lead into their homes and lungs, causing unnecessary illness and death. The site allows you to sign a petition asking that coal ash be regulated as a hazardous waste – a common sense thing to do. At:

On July 28 the Government Accountability Office issued a report titled, Climate Engineering: Technical Status, Future Directions, and Potential Responses. Climate engineering includes large-scale efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change, such as chemically removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or putting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to reduce the intensity of sunlight falling on Earth’s surface. A public opinion poll done as part of the study indicates that people generally support research, but are concerned about the possible adverse consequences of trying to modify Earth’s climate. At: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-71
While the full report is 135 pages, a 1-page summary can be found at: http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1171high.pdf

Robert Bradley, The CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, posted an article on Forbes on Aug. 15 titled, Where Energy Federal Subsidies Really Go. He wrote that the federal government provided $37.2 billion in direct energy subsidies in 2010, an increase of more than $19 billion over 2007. He said that wind power was the largest recipient of federal energy dollars, with $5 billion in subsidies; solar got $1.13 billion. Biofuels (mostly ethanol) got $6.6 billion. When I add these numbers up, I get $12.7 billion, much less that half of the $37.2 billion total, yet he claims that federal spending to promote renewable energy has very little to show for the dollars spent, and that it’s part of the out of control federal spending driving the deficit. At:
Bradley ignores the illness and death resulting from fossil fuel use, and the climate change costs of continuing to burn them. When I did a quick Google search for the Institute for Energy Research, I found a Sourcewatch report on the organization saying that the “think tank” has received funding from ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers, is opposed to renewable energy, and thinks that climate change is a hoax. Nuf said? See:

On August 18, NASA posted the first complete map of Antarctic ice flows, based on radar data from satellites. There is even a short video so that you can watch the flows. The report quoted Thomas Wagner, NASA's cryospheric program scientist in Washington, saying, "The map points out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping along the ground it rests on. That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior." At: www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/aug/HQ_11-269_Glaciers.html

On August 19 the University of Delaware’s UDaily posted an article titled, Energy Conservation Initiative. It described the proceeds of a sale of a nearly $73 million bond, which, when added to $11 million from the state, will provide $84 million to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy development in Delaware. Others may look at what Delaware has done as a model. At: http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2012/aug/SEU-081911.html

Bill Chameides, Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, posted a Huffington Post story on August 23 titled, Confirmed: U.S. Emissions Up in 2010. He reported that CO2 emissions were up by 3.9% over what they were in 2009 – partly as a result of the economic recovery and partly because of a hot summer in 2010, with increased demands for air conditioning, much of whose electrical energy comes from coal. The article has a bar graph showing the sources of increased electrical generation in several states. Kentucky and Wisconsin got most of their increase from coal. California and Colorado got most of theirs from wind. Other states used natural gas. At:

On August 24 the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media posted an article titled, Earth Science Teachers Surveying Members;
Climate Seen ‘Second Only to Evolution’ in Controversy. “The National Earth Sciences Teachers Association, NESTA, is asking its members and other teachers to respond anonymously to a 71-question “Survey Monkey” online questionnaire.” The results on the teaching of climate change in grades of K-12 will be posted in November. The article goes on to say, “Science magazine reported in its August 5 issue that “the U.S. political debate over climate change is seeping into K-12 science classrooms, and teachers are feeling the heat.” Reporter Sara Reardon wrote in that story of conflicts among secondary school science teachers, school boards, and sometimes parents and students over expectations to teach climate change science in a “balanced” way.” “Her article pointed to a law passed in 2008 in Louisiana listing climate change, along with evolution, as “‘controversial’ subjects that teachers and students alike can challenge in the classroom without fear of reprisal.”” At: http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2011/08/climate-seen-second-only-to-evolution-in-controversy/

On August 25 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) posted an interview with Dr. Timothy Persons, the Chief GAO scientist, about a recent report titled,
Climate Engineering: Technical Status, Future Directions, and Potential Responses. The interview can be heard or downloaded as a podcast at: http://www.gao.gov/podcast/watchdog_episode_69.html. The full report is available at:
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-71, and a 1-page summary of highlights is at:

On Aug. 31 Justin Gillis of the NY Times posted an article titled, Documenting a Collapsing Ice Shelf. The article describes the breakup of the ice shelf in front of the Petermann Glacier in Northwestern Greenland. This is the first loss of a Greenland ice shelf this far north, and is consistent with rising temperatures of seawater in the area, though direct measurements of waters temperature beneath the shelf before it broke up are not available. At:

On Sept. 2 Helen Turner of WalesOnline posted an article titled, Scientist left speechless as vast glacier turns to water. The article quoted Dr Alun Hubbard from the Aberystwyth University’s Centre for Glaciology, after his return from the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland. He said: “Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless. It was just incredible to see. This glacier is huge, 20 km across, 1,000 m high. It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it’s full of water.” At: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/go-green/go-green-climate/2011/09/02/scientist-left-speechless-as-vast-glacier-turns-to-water-91466-29349051/

On Sept. 7 the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and a number of other organizations sent a letter to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives opposing the legislative agenda proposed by Majority Leader Cantor. If successful he would greatly reduce environmental protections for U.S. citizens and cause in untold death and illness – all in the name of promoting jobs and reducing the deficit. At: http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=17947

On. Sept. 7 Climate Communications hosted a press conference with expert reviewers discussing the connections between extreme weather and climate change. The full audio recording of the conference can be downloaded at: 9/7/11 Climate Communication Press Conference. The article has a number of interesting graphs and explanations, including why small increases in temperature can cause large increases in extreme weather events. At:

On Sept. 8 the Department of Energy announced awards of $43 million over 5 years for 41 R&D projects to promote the development of the huge offshore wind resource waiting to be tapped off U.S. coasts. At: http://energy.gov/articles/department-energy-awards-43-million-spur-offshore-wind-energy. While the amount of money is small relative to federal subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels, it’s a step in the right direction.

On Sept. 10 a video aired on energyNow! called the “Oil Shockwave’ Simulation. The simulation involved an armed Al-Qaeda attack on a major oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia, causing a sudden drop in world oil supply. The video lasts about 5.5 minutes and shows how vulnerable we are to disruptions in oil supply, since we now import more than 60% of the oil we use. At: http://www.energynow.com/video/2011/09/09/oil-shockwave-simulation
energyNow! Is a weekly TV news magazine that deals with important energy issues, like the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Texas for refining.

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.

Sea Level Rise to Continue Despite Efforts to Reduce Emissions, Study Finds

A new study suggests that sea levels would continue to rise in the coming centuries even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted today. The study by a University of Arizona-led team of researchers examined the interaction of the atmosphere and ocean during the warmest period of the Last Interglacial Period -- roughly 125,000 years ago. At that time, sea levels were roughly 26 feet higher than today. Average ocean temperatures, however, were only 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than today. “This means that even small amounts of warming may have committed us to more ice sheet melting than we previously thought,” said lead author Nicholas McKay. The oceans warm more slowly than the atmosphere. Water also expands when heated. But the study also found that most of the sea level rise during ancient times was because of melting ice sheets, rather than the thermal expansion of water. The study has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.
For additional information see: Science Daily

Volcanoes, Pollution Helped Curb Rate of Warming, Study Reports

Volcanic ash and man-made pollution from burning fossil fuels helped slow the rate of global warming in the past decade, a new study found. Although average global temperatures were higher in the 2000s than during the 1990s and 1980s, the rate at which the planet was warming slowed. Six French and American researchers, including staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientists at the University of Colorado, found the trend may be explained by an increase in the stratosphere of persistent aerosols that block sunlight. Although no massive volcanic eruptions have occurred since 1991, smaller eruptions occurred in 2006, 2008 and 2009. The addition of the volcanic ash to the haze of man-made pollution in the upper atmosphere was enough to help slow the rate of warming by 20 percent since 1998, according to the study. However, the brake on the rate of warming is only temporary. Eventually, the shading effect will be overwhelmed by greenhouse gases building in the atmosphere. The study provides more information on the interaction of forces shaping the global climate. It was published online July 21 in Science.
For additional information see: The Washington Post, ScienceNOW, Study Abstract

Climate Change May Doom Wisconsin Fish

University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers estimated that the cisco, a cold water fish and important food source for many of Wisconsin’s iconic game fish, could disappear from most of the state’s lakes by 2100 because of the warming climate. In a new study in the journal PLoS One, lead author Sapna Sharma found that climate change could pose a greater risk to the cisco than even invasive species such as the rainbow smelt. "By 2100, 30 to 70 percent of cisco populations could be extirpated in Wisconsin due to climate change," said Sharma. Cisco are found in approximately 170 inland lakes in Wisconsin currently, but face risks above habitat loss from invasive species because it depends on colder water.
For additional information see: Press Release, Abstract

Arctic Permafrost Melting Will Turn North from Carbon Sink to Source: Study

The layer of permanently frozen plant and animal matter in the Arctic, known as permafrost, will turn the region into a major source of carbon emissions if it melts, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Previous predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that the far north would become a carbon sink as warmer temperatures allowed more vegetation to grow, which would store more carbon. The IPCC prediction, however, did not factor into its model the amount of stored carbon in permafrost that would be released from the warmer temperatures. The study predicted that the Arctic could release as much as 62 billion tons of carbon over the next 100 years, an amount equal to Canada’s 2009 carbon emissions. "This is just a fraction of the amount of carbon that we emit as a species per year, but it’s important," said lead author Charles Koven. "The big question is whether that’s going to continue.” In addition, annual emissions of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas, are expected to double, according to researchers.
For additional information see: CBC

Tar Sands Pipeline Poised to Clear State Department Hurdle Amid Large Protest at White House

Amid a two-week long protest in front of the White House, the State Department was due to publish its final environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline on August 26, which would make it easier for the pipeline to be built. The proposed pipeline would traverse several Western and Midwestern states to bring oil from tar sands in Western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Canada’s environment ministry estimated that production of the tar sands would double in the next decade and increase the greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s oil and gas sector by one-third. Meanwhile, the protest has resulted in the arrest of more than 275 demonstrators, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “This is the primary test for Obama and the environment in the period between now and the election. [Denial of the pipeline permit] is his chance to do something on his own, without interference from Congress,” said McKibben. Release of the final environmental assessment triggers a 90-day public comment period before the decision goes to President Obama for approval or denial. While TransCanada, developer of the pipeline, stated the United States would become more dependent on Nigeria, Venezuela, and Libya if the pipeline is not built, analysts note that the oil coming from Canada to be refined in Texas may very well end up in Latin America or Europe because the companies Shell, Total, and Valero, who have signed agreements to take oil from Keystone XL, run refineries in Texas’ free trade zone which makes it easier to ship oil overseas.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Guardian, Politico

Proposed Australian Coal Mine Taken to Court Over Climate Impact

Landowners and the environmental organization Friends of the Earth have filed a lawsuit against a proposed coal mine in Australia on the basis of climate change, on August 22. The case seeks to ban development of the $6.2 billion Wandoan mine, which would export approximately 30 million tons of coal per year. Litigants in the case said the project will cause irreversible damage to Australia’s natural icons like the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rain forests in the northeast from climate change. The mining company Xstrata will call witnesses who will testify to the local economic benefits of the mining project, while local landowners claim the project will destroy much of the region’s grazing and crop land as well as affect the air, soil and water quality, local wildlife and the health of livestock.
For additional information see: AFP, AUDIO: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Bhutan PM: Climate Change Impact on Our Hydrology is Severe

The prime minister of Bhutan, a country situated in the Himalayan mountains of Asia, issued a dire warning of the impending negative impacts of climate change on the productivity of his country. Speaking to Agence France Presse, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said that his country is already facing challenges from dryer winters and wetter summers. "The glaciers are retreating very rapidly, some are even disappearing. The flow of water in our river system is fluctuating in ways that are very worrying," he said. Bhutan gets the majority of its power from hydroelectric dams that are fed by glaciers in the Himalayan mountains. In the summer months, river systems are overflowing, threatening people who live in the valleys below. During the winter months, the rivers dry up much more than before, creating a shortage of hydroelectric power that the country relies upon. Bhutan has plans to build more hydroelectric capacity to foster its growth and export power to neighboring India. However, climate change threatens that plan. Bhutan will host a conference with India, Nepal, and Bangladesh in November to discuss ways to reduce climate change impacts on the Himalayas, which are a source of water for 1.9 billion people.
For additional information see: AFP

Study Proves that Climate Change is Tipping Point for World Conflict

On August 25, a study published in Nature found that during the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather pattern, civil conflict increased by six percent from non-weather related conflict. The ENSO cycle changes rainfall and temperatures throughout Africa, the Mideast, India, Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Australia, and disrupts weather patterns in over 90 countries worldwide. Researchers used data from 1950 to 2004 to show that the probability of new civil conflicts in the tropics doubles during El Nino years compared to La Nina years. "What [the study shows] and [shows] beyond any doubt is that even in this modern world, climate variations have an impact on the propensity of people to fight," said Mark Cane, a scientist at Columbia University. Some scientists are skeptical of the connection the study drew between climate change and violence. "The study fails to improve on our understanding of the causes of armed conflicts, as it makes no attempt to explain the reported association between ENSO cycles and conflict risk," said Halvard Buhaug, of the Peace Research Institute. Though not all scientists agree on the correlation between El Nino and political instability, they do agree that at-risk governments could use the data to prepare for potential conflicts during times of ENSO-related weather.
For additional information see: AFP, Science Daily, Nature, Abstract

Drought Limits the Positive Effects of CO2 and Heat On Plant Growth in Future Climate

On August 23, a research paper in the journal Global Change Biology found that prolonged exposure to heat limits plant growth, even if there is an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. The study concluded that prolonged exposure to heat dries the soil, effecting nitrogen production and plant growth. "When you've previously seen a significantly higher plant growth at elevated CO2 concentrations, it is typically because it has been controlled studies, where only the CO2 concentration was changed. We fundamentally had the theory that you have to look at the combination of the different climate variables, since the plants in the future will be exposed to multiple changes simultaneously," stated Klaus Steenberg Larsen, lead author on the study.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Study Finds Mental Illness Increases as Result of Climate Change

A study released by the Climate Institute found that increased incidence of mental illness stemming from severe weather events will increase due to climate change. The study focused on the effects of Australia’s 10-year drought, the increased frequency and intensity of bush fires, and cyclones and floods. A loss of social cohesion after these events may lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse, according to researchers. For example, the suicide rate in rural areas has increased by 8 per cent, while one in ten elementary school children have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after Cyclone Larry in 2006. “[R]ecent conditions are entirely consistent with the best scientific predictions: as the world warms so the weather becomes wilder, with big consequences for people's health and well-being,” the report says.
For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald, International Business Times, Report

Reducing Soot Emissions May Be Fastest, Most Economical Approach to Global Warming

According to a new study, cutting soot emissions could be one of the fastest and more economical ways to reduce global warming. Soot emissions consist of tiny particles known as “black carbon” and come from diesel cars, buses, trucks, ships, aircraft, agriculture and construction machines and even from dung burned as fuel in developing countries. It warms the planet by absorbing light and emitting heat back into the atmosphere and also by blocking light reflected from Earth’s surface. Even though soot is second only to carbon in terms of its contribution to global warming, it is often overlooked in climate models. According to Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson, author of the study, reducing soot emissions could lower the temperature in parts of the Arctic by up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit within just 15 years. The reason is that while carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for years, soot only remains for a few weeks. Reducing soot emissions would have a more immediate impact on the atmosphere than reducing carbon emissions. Further, the technology already exists to reduce up to 90 percent of soot emissions in only 5-10 years if aggressive policies are enacted.
For additional information see: Science Daily, American Chemical Society

Heat-Related Deaths Among Elderly to Rise in California

An aging population and global warming will lead to a steep increase in heat-related deaths, according to a new report commissioned by the California Air Resources Board. The report found that heat spells lasting 10 days or more could rise two to 10 times by 2090 and the number of heat-related deaths among people 65 and older could rise five to 17 times. Researchers from the University of Miami and Kent State University used two climate models and various population growth and socio-economic scenarios to estimate the impacts in nine major urban areas of the state. Currently, an average of 508 elderly people die from excessive heat in these areas each year. “The public is generally under-educated about the dangers of extreme heat and heat waves," said the researchers. "Because of this, many of the most vulnerable people are unaware of the risks associated with excessive heat events or of the proper steps to take to reduce their risk to heat exposure.” The report recommends that California set up extreme heat warning systems to inform weather forecasters of which days are most dangerous to human health, and that every major California city establish a heat-health task force.
For additional information see: Environmental News Service, Orange County Register

Climate Change May Increase Asthma-Related Emergency Room Visits

A study conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine has revealed that changes in atmospheric ozone levels could increase asthma attacks in children by an estimated 7.3 percent over 1990s levels by the 2020s. Researchers calculated the increase by comparing regional climate and air quality data to asthma-related emergency room visits for 14 counties within the New York Metropolitan area. They used regional and atmospheric chemistry models to simulate the expected changes in ozone levels for the months of June through August in the 2020s to determine the increases in asthma-related emergency room visits. While the median increase was 7.3 percent, each county varied from as low as a 5.2 percent increase to as high as a 10.2 percent increase. According to lead author Dr. Perry Sheffield, "This study is a jumping off point to evaluate other outcomes including cost utilization, doctors' visits, missed school days, and a general understanding of the overall burden of climate change on children with asthma." The study was published in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

GAO Study: Geo-Engineering Technologies Not Yet Ready to Combat Climate Change

Climate engineering technologies are not yet developed enough for large-scale implementation, according to a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The proposed technologies fall into one of two categories: carbon dioxide removal or solar radiation management. Carbon dioxide removal would reduce atmospheric CO2 and, therefore, reduce heat trapped by the atmosphere. Alternatively, solar radiation management involves dispersing reflective materials into the atmosphere or space in order to scatter and deflect incoming radiation from the sun. The GAO ranked the “technological readiness” of each option on a scale of one to nine, with the “direct air capture of carbon dioxide” receiving a three, the highest rank. The GAO cited cost, effectiveness and adverse consequences as the highest causes for concern in geo-engineering technologies. The GAO also surveyed 1,006 U.S. adults unfamiliar with geo-engineering technology and stated that “when given information on the technologies, they tend to be open to research but concerned about safety.”
For additional information see: Scientific American, GAO Report

Climate Change Threatens California Chinook Salmon

A recent study found that populations of spring-run Chinook salmon may be depleted in California by the end of the century because the waters will be too warm to spawn. The researchers used a model of the Butte Creek watershed, and considered hydropowered dams located on the river, as well as several models that project climate change through 2099. Nearly every scenario suggested that rising temperatures will render the salmon incapable of spawning. According to the lead author of the study, the depletion of salmon is avoidable, but the solutions would affect hydroelectric power generation. One option would likely require reducing hydroelectric power generation during the warmest months, which are also the peak months for energy consumption in California. Other potential solutions include holding water for salmon at other locations, and dumping cooler water into the stream during heat waves. The study was published in the Journal of Water Resources and Management.
For additional information see: Summit County Voice, Science Daily, Abstract

Pole to Pole Data Collection Flights Reinforce Mathematical Models of Global Warming

Data collected from several years of pole-to-pole flights in a project known as HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) reinforce the mathematical model predictions that climate change is impacted by human activities, according to scientists associated with the project. Data from HIPPO have been used to quantify processes of carbon cycling that are important in managing greenhouse gas emissions. The flights enabled scientists to observe the distribution of carbon dioxide (CO2) to test the predictions of previous mathematical models about climate change. One of the most significant research milestones for the project was quantifying seasonal fluxes of CO2 that are processed by the land plants and the ocean. The studies, which included collecting and quantifying over 80 different gases, also include strong evidence that areas of the ocean surface that have been exposed due to melting ice caps are emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas. (emphasis added)
For additional information see: LA Times, Science Daily, Science News
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action