Saturday, January 22, 2011



There is a nice 8.5-minute YouTube video of a talk by James Hansen discussing the last 65 million years of Earth’s climate history, including the relationship between CO2 concentrations and glaciation of Antarctica and Greenland. It’s called The 8 Minute Epoch: 65 million Years with James Hansen. At:

The National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices commissioned Collaborative Economics, Inc. to analyze the emerging green economy in each state. Fifteen segments of the green economy were considered: 1) energy generation, 2) energy efficiency, 3) transportation, 4) energy storage, 5) air and environment, 6) recycling and waste, 7) water and wastewater, 8) agriculture, 9) research and advocacy, 10) business services, 11) finance and investment, 12) advanced materials, 13) green building, 14) manufacturing and industrial, 14) and 15) energy infrastructure. A map of the U.S. can be used to click on states of interest. At: ran an article on Dec. 30 by George Will titled, U.S. coal exports feed carbon footprint. In it he points out that exports of U.S. coal to China could undermine efforts to reduce carbon emissions here. China, which used to export coal, imported 150 million tons last year. The only thing that limits how fast its power companies increase their use of imported coal is its transportation system. Since CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere, we will feel its effects just as much as if the coal were burned here. At:

Joe Romm has a January 10 post in Climate Progress titled, The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm. In it he describes the various actions and the scale required if we are to keep the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 350-450 ppm by the end of the century. Romm is a regular and well-informed blogger and gives lots of links to other work. Well worth reading. At:

On January 13 Science News announced that 2010 tied with 2005 for the warmest global average temperature ever recorded. The past decade has been the warmest decade on record. At:

The NY Times for January 22 has an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled, For Many Species, No Escape as Temperature Rises. The article points out that populations of many bird and local mountain animal species around the world are in rapid decline as a result of habitat loss through human activities - either through direct destruction or indirect reduction in habitat through global warming. The article says, “Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict, 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3°C). If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent …” At:

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

EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community.

60,000 Businesses Urge Congress to Support EPA

On December 15, 60,000 businesses sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act (CAA). The groups argued that a six-month delay in pending ozone (smog) rules will be costly to U.S. companies because of higher health costs due to increased employee sick-day absenteeism and related medical costs. "The business case for a vigorous EPA enforcing well designed and efficient Clean Air Act rules is clear,” said Christopher Van Atten, spokesperson for American Businesses for Clean Energy. “We support policy measures that will create new economic opportunities and drive the transition to a clean energy economy. This includes support for the adoption of effective federal climate legislation, EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and regulation of NOx, SO2, mercury, and other hazardous air pollutants from power plants and industrial sources.”

For additional information see: Sustainable Business, Press Release

UK Releases Plan to Reform Energy Market

On December 16, UK Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne unveiled a proposal to shift the country toward more renewable energy. The proposal sets a tax on fossil fuels and establishes a minimum “floor” price for carbon in addition to providing for long-term contracts that give investors a guaranteed price for providing energy. The proposal will undergo a two month consultation period and could be implemented in an energy bill by the end of 2011. More than £110 billion of investment is needed in new power stations and grid upgrades over the next decade to make renewable energy the dominant form of energy by 2030. It is estimated that prices for consumers will initially rise, but will be lower in 2030 than if the market had not been reformed. Huhne told the House Commons, "we have a once in a generation chance to rebuild our electricity market, investor confidence and our power plants. This will be seismic shift, securing investment in cleaner, greener power and ensuring low-carbon, affordable power for decades to come."

For additional information see: Guardian, Financial Times, BBC, The Telegraph

Climate Change Threatens Seal Habitats

On December 3, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed listing the ringed seal and the bearded seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to climate change impacts. NOAA is proposing to list four subspecies of ringed seals, found in the Arctic Basin and North Atlantic, and two distinct population segments of the bearded seal, found in the Pacific Ocean, as threatened. NOAA used climate models to predict the future habitat of the seals, and determined that diminished sea ice and snow cover due to climate change warranted listing the species as threatened. Ringed seal pups are normally born in snow caves in the spring, and are vulnerable to freezing and predators without them. Ringed seals produce only one pup per year, so they may be unable to adapt to changes in the timing of ice break-up and less snowfall. The bearded seal also uses sea ice during reproduction and molting stages, and the reduction of sea ice may threaten their ability to reproduce.

For additional information see: Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News, Sustainable Business, NOAA Press Release

Pricing Carbon Delivers Low-Cost Emissions Cuts

On December 7, an Australian think tank, Grattan Institute, released a report that found placing a price on carbon is a cheaper way to curb carbon emissions than targeting green projects with taxpayer money. The think tank analyzed six market schemes in Europe, the United States, and Australia and found that technology was the key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and markets were more likely than governments to identify low-cost technologies, ''If [governments] try to forecast what is going to deliver the most cuts at the least cost, chances are they will get it wrong,'' Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said.

For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald, Report

Fire in Israel Confirms Predictions in Climate Change Effects

On December 15, Israeli scientist Guy Pe’er warned that the fire in Israel earlier this month is an indicator of future Mediterranean conditions. The fire in the Camel Mountains lasted four days, destroyed some five million trees across 12,000 acres, killed 40 people, and was said to be Israel’s worst fire ever. Pe’re was a co-author of Israel’s National Report on Climate Change, which predicted that fires will increase in frequency and intensity due to extended droughts in the region brought on by increased water evaporation and intense heat waves. "The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a taste of the future," said Pe'er.

For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald, Agence France Presse, Science Daily

Researchers Study How Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Affects Ocean’s Nitrogen Cycle

On December 21, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), similar to what scientists predict the Earth will be like in 20 to 30 years, will have a profound effect on the nitrogen cycle of the oceans. As the oceans gradually absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, they will become more acidic and disrupt the process of converting one form of nitrogen, ammonium, into nitrate, a form many plants and marine animals need to survive. Researchers collected six samples from four different oceanic research stations and induced pH decreases either by bubbling CO2 through the samples or adding diluted acid. Nitrification decreased in all samples relative to the control samples, from 8 to 38 percent. A potential side effect of the disruption of the marine nitrogen cycle, researchers noted, could be a decrease in the ocean’s natural release of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. However, this effect may be altered by other global environmental changes, such as increased deposition of nitrogen into the ocean. "What makes ocean acidification such a challenging scientific and societal issue is that we're engaged in a global, unreplicated experiment," said Michael Beman of the University of Hawaii and lead author of the PNAS paper, "one that's difficult to study--and has many unknown consequences."

For additional information see: Scientific American, Science Daily, Report

GOP Files Three Bills Intended to Block EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations

On January 6, three Republican representatives filed separate bills to block the Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing rules intended to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a leading cause of climate change. A bill filed by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) would prohibit the EPA from using any money to enforce GHG regulations. A bill by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the regulation of GHGs. A third bill filed by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) would delay the implementation of GHG regulations for two years, similar to the bill filed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) publicly stated that she will use “every tool available” to her to block any attempt to scuttle the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act, which now includes regulation of GHGs.

For additional information see: Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Politico, Guardian

Changes in Landscape, Climate Increase Flooding in Iowa

On January 2, the Des Moines Register published a review of changes in the landscape and weather patterns of Iowa in an effort to find out why Iowa’s risk of flooding has increased. From examination of climate records, stream data, flood forecasts, weather modeling, dam operations and interviews of scientists, the newspaper found that Iowa’s rainfall has increased gradually over the last 60 years--by as much as 15 to 20 percent along some rivers, and Iowa State University researchers predict another 20 percent jump by 2040. The review also found that rivers and streams were running faster--noting that the Des Moines river was running 137 percent faster than in 1951. Improved drainage systems in rural areas and urban sprawl were cited as land use changes that also have increased flooding. Ron Fournier, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said that the Corps was not convinced that climate change has permanently changed the natural variation of rainfall patterns in Iowa. Gene Takle, an atmospheric scientist at Iowa State University, disagreed, noting the trend toward wetter weather in Iowa was clear. In related news, on December 31, researchers from three Iowa universities published a report entitled, Climate Change Impacts on Iowa, which found that Iowans are already affected by climate change through longer growing seasons, and increased precipitation and temperatures. "High-intensity storms and climate extremes are part of the normal climate, but they are becoming more frequent than happening just by chance," said University of Northern Iowa professor Laura Jackson, who was part of the research team.

For additional information see: Des Moines Register, WCF Courier, Report, Heartland Connection

Researchers Find Dramatic Shift in Atlantic Ocean Current

In November, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found evidence of a dramatic shift in North Atlantic Ocean currents since the 1970s. These currents play a significant role in determining weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. According to the researchers, changes detected by studying the growth rings of deep sea corals indicated a declining influence of the northern Labrador current, which interacts with the Gulfstream current. This interaction affects weather patterns across North America and Europe. Research was based on the nitrogen isotope signatures of the corals, which feed on sinking organic particles. The Gulfstream current is rich in nutrients while the Labrador current carries fewer nutrients. Since the change in currents is unique in the last 1,800 years, researchers raised the prospect of a direct link to global warming.

For additional information see: AFP, Statement, Abstract

Supreme Court Declines Case Blaming Energy Companies for Hurricane Katrina Disasters

On January 10, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reopen a case blaming greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by energy companies for contributing to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Mississippi homeowners filed to sue about 30 energy companies, claiming that their GHG emissions worsened global warming and thus strengthened Katrina’s wrath. The issue regarded whether the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should have dismissed the request to reopen the lawsuit after deciding that it lacked a quorum. The Supreme Court’s decline of the challenge means that the original decision of Mississippi U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. remains valid. While the Supreme Court in the past acknowledged the existence of global warming and its associated harms, it did not give an explanation as to why it denied to rehear the request. Defendants in the lawsuit claim that no conclusion can be drawn between their emissions and Katrina’s strength.

For additional information see: Times Picayune

Carbon Sequestration Technique Fails, According to Saskatchewan Farmer

On January 11, a farming couple in Saskatchewan, Canada released a report linking unusually high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in their soil to CO2 injected into the ground by energy company Cenovus in a practice known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Cameron and Jane Kerr, who live over the world’s largest CCS project, said that the CO2 stored underground is now leaking to the surface. Cenovus has injected about 16 million tons of CO2 underground since 2000 to extract oil more easily from the oil field. Beginning in 2005, the Kerrs began noticing algal blooms, foam and scum in two ponds on their property, and the regular death of small animals around the ponds. An independent consultant found that soil CO2 concentrations were several times the normal amount, and concluded that the source was the injected CO2 leaking from the Weyburn reservoir. Cenovus denied the findings, citing a 2004 report on the project by Saskatchewan's Petroleum Training and Research Centre that concluded, “there is no evidence so far for escape of injected CO2 from depth,” and in fact recommended the area for long-term CO2 storage. On January 12, Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert re-confirmed his stance on the province’s $2 billion government-sponsored commitment to develop CCS technology, despite the Kerrs’ allegations of CO2 contamination on their farm.

For additional information see: Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Herald

Scientists Suspect Climate Change Link to Australian Floods

On January 11, one of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gifford’s top climate change advisors said that a direct link hasn’t been proven to exist between a warming planet and the devastating flash flooding that has ravaged the state of Queensland. However, scientists do believe that climate change has had an impact on the strength of the rain during this La Nina year, and they say that a warmer world most likely will lead to more intense droughts and flooding. Matthew England, of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales, pointed out, "the waters off Australia are the warmest ever measured and those waters provide moisture to the atmosphere for the Queensland and northern Australia monsoon,” which make the rain stronger. David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction at the Australia Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, added that the hotter temperatures mean more evaporation from land and water surfaces, more moisture in the atmosphere, and thus stronger weather patterns. In general, climate scientists agree that climate change will likely lead to intensified weather patterns in the future, and that it will take several years of study before any conclusions can be drawn.

For additional information see: The Australian, Reuters, AP

Climate Change Likely to Continue for 1,000 Years

On January 9, a team of Canadian researchers published a study in the journal Nature Geoscience that featured the first full climate model simulation that predicts climate patterns up to 1,000 years into the future. The study was based on a zero-emissions scenario, and it found that even if we cease all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, trends from the current atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to affect the planet in catastrophic ways for the next millennium. The researchers predict parts of North Africa will experience desertification as land dries out by 30 percent, and oceans warm up to 5°C (9°F) off Antarctica, likely causing a complete collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and rising sea levels by 13 feet (4 meters). Researchers hypothesize that the Northern hemisphere will fare better, with patterns of climate change reversing within the 1,000 year period. Dr. Shawn Marshall, geography professor at the University of Calgary and Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, said that this disparity is probably because “the global ocean and parts of the Southern Hemisphere have much more inertia, such that change occurs more slowly.” However, Marshall added, “If we keep business as usual, the sea ice in the Arctic is mostly gone.”

For additional information see: Science Daily, Globe and Mail, Bloomberg

Earth's Hot Past Could Be Prologue to Future Climate

On January 14, a study published in the journal Science predicted that the magnitude of climate change in the future will mimic the climate change from the Earth’s ancient past if the current trend of increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations continues. If atmospheric concentrations reach the same levels that existed 30 to 100 million years ago, about 900 to 1,000 parts per million (ppm), the planet could experience similar temperatures, about 29°F above pre-industrial levels. Today’s GHG levels hover around 390 ppm, and pre-industrial levels were about 280 ppm. The study also found that the Earth’s climate system may be twice as sensitive to CO2 as currently projected by computer models, since these models generally only focus on short-term time spans and have yet to incorporate long-term critical processes, like glacial melt. Since CO2 is being pumped into the atmosphere at unprecedented levels, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, author of the study, could not predict how quickly the Earth would warm up. However, he did warn that if emissions continue as they do now, "the human species and global ecosystems will be placed in a climate state never before experienced in human history.”

For additional information see: Science Daily, Press Release, Abstract and Full Text

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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