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.
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
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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action