Saturday, January 21, 2012



The Dec. 20 issue of National Geographic Daily News has an article by Rick Lovett titled, Melting Glaciers Mean Double Trouble for Water Supplies. He writes, “Mountain glaciers long have been known to be in retreat as the planet warms. But the process is occurring even more rapidly than previously believed …” The article has lots of good information about global freshwater supplies and use. At:

The Dec. 22 web issue of ScienceNews has an article by Devin Powell titled, Groundwater dropping globally. He reports recently published measurements of changes in groundwater around the globe, determined by GRACE satellites, which can measure small changes in gravity. It appears that groundwater is being pumped out for agriculture in many places at rates greater than it can be replaced by precipitation. Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the UC Irvine, says, “Groundwater is being depleted at a rapid clip in virtually of all of the major aquifers in the world's arid and semiarid regions.” “Climate change will only worsen the problem.” At:

The National Academy of Sciences has produced a couple of excellent short (5-7 minute) videos summarizing reports titled, America’s Climate Choices – Advancing the Science of Climate Change, and America’s Energy Future. At: and

The Opinion Pages of the NY Times have an editorial for January 2 titled, Where the Real Jobs Are. The editorial points out that the number new jobs that could be provided by the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing tar sands bitumen from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, has been vastly overestimated by Republican House Speaker John Boehner (20,000) and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (100,000). “A more accurate forecast from the federal government, one with which TransCanada, the pipeline company, agrees, says the project would create 6,000 to 6,500 temporary construction jobs at best, for two years.” The editorial points out that Republican efforts to stall or turn back clean energy development are costing far more permanent jobs and causing the U.S. to fall far behind other industrial countries that are making the transition to a clean energy future. At:

Kathleen Moore and Michael Nelson published a really inspiring piece in Common Dreams on Jan. 3 titled, What is Morally Required? It says, in part, “So let us say it loud and clear: It's wrong to wreck the world. To take what we need for our comfortable lives and leave a ransacked and dangerously unstable world for the future is not worthy of us as moral beings. And when, to enrich a powerful few, rich nations threaten to disrupt forever the great hydrological and climatic cycles that support all the lives on Earth? This is moral monstrosity on a planetary scale. We have a responsibility, individual and collective, to leave a world as beautiful and life-sustaining as the world that has nourished us.” At:
Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson are co-editors of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, a call to climate action from nearly 100 of the world's moral leaders.

The NY Times for Jan. 7 had an editorial titled, One Bad Energy Subsidy Expires, saying that the 45¢ per gallon tax credit for oil companies to blend ethanol into gasoline has finally ended, saving taxpayers $5-6 billion per year. It boosted corn prices, deepened the budget deficit, and did little for the environment, since new land was cleared to replace the food lost to fuel production. Also (not mentioned) is the fact that a lot of fossil fuel is used to produce fertilizer to grow the corn and to distill the dilute solution of ethanol from fermentation up to a concentration where it will burn. Congress should now end the century+ subsidies to the oil industry that now cost about $4 billion a yr. The article says, “Congress should end the subsidies to Big Oil and redeploy the money saved to support truly new energy technologies, like wind and solar power, or even hi-tech biofuels that don’t harm the environment and threaten the food supply.” At:

The Jan. 12 issue of Waste & Recycling News reported the release by the EPA of it new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which allows users to look at greenhouse gas emissions from thousands of large facilities across the country. Users can search by state, facility, industrial sector or the type of greenhouse gas. Power plants were the largest source of GHG emissions with 2,324 MT (megatons or million metric tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent released from 1,555 facilities in 2010. In my state, Delaware, about half of the power plant emissions (2.1 MT) were from the Indian River coal-fired plant in Dagsboro. U.S. landfills released 117 MT of carbon dioxide equivalent from 1,199 facilities, or about 3.6% of the total of all GHGs. In Delaware about a third of the landfill GHG (0.11 MT of CO2-eq) was methane from the large Cherry Island landfill in Wilmington. At:
[A ton of CO2-eq as methane is the mass of methane that will cause the same global warming over 100 years as a ton of CO2 – about 0.04 ton.]

On Jan. 15 the Associated Press in posted an article titled, Firm set to move forward on offshore wind farm near Atlantic City. It said that Fishermen’s Energy of Cape May plans to install five 5 MW wind turbines 2.8 miles off the NJ coast – the first offshore wind turbines in the U.S. – to be operational in 2013. The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, signed by NJ Governor Christie in August 2010, calls for 1,100 megawatts of wind energy by the end of 2012. At:
This us a big step forward for the U.S. Offshore wind has been generated in Denmark for over 20 years.

Sea level rise (SLR) is a growing concern for coastal states as its rate increases along with the increasing rate of loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica. Maryland is ahead of many other states in its adaptation planning. In 2008 its Commission on Climate Change Adaptation and Response Working Group - supported by its Department of Natural Resources and Department of Planning - released a report titled, Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change Phase I: Sea-level rise and coastal storms. On page 8 it says, “Climate change, sea-level rise, and associated coastal storms are putting Maryland’s people, property, natural resources and public investments at risk.” At:

A comprehensive 2008 maryland Climate Action Plan, including targets and a timetable for GHG emission reductions, and updates can be found at:

In October 2011 the Georgetown Climate Center issued a report by Jessica Grannis titled, Adaptation Tool Kit: Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use - How Governments Can Use Land-Use Practices to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise. The Foreword says, “Rising sea levels in the foreseeable future present new challenges now for coastal land use planning. Local governments, which bear the largest responsibility for coastal planning, long have struggled with balancing strong demand for increasing development with protection of fragile environmental and cultural resources. State governments, too, have sometimes created special planning and regulatory bodies to address coastal issues at a larger scale. Now these same governments, in a time of diminished revenues, must consider the threats that substantial sea-level rise pose to current planning, existing development, and beleaguered ecological systems. These threats include inundation, flooding, enhanced storm surges, loss of infrastructure, destruction of wetlands and beaches, and increased risks for public health and safety. Although taking regulatory initiatives to adapt to predicted future threats can be difficult politically, it also can conserve resources, mitigate crises, and protect ecosystems.” This well-written Toolkit “provides local and state governments and their citizens with practical knowledge to help adapt to sea-level rise in a prudent and balanced manner.” It “offers a menu of generally used legal devices that can reduce future harms.” 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.

Climate Change, Drought, Killing Millions of Trees World-Wide

On Monday, the Texas Forest Service released a statement reporting that 100 million to 500 million trees died during the 2011 state-wide drought. Ashe junipers, loblolly pines, cedars, and post oaks trees were among the hardest hit by the prolonged drought. 1.5 million trees in Texas also died in a 4 million acre wildfire that encompassed a large portion of the state, adding to the total amount of trees killed over a one-year period. 

In related news, independent studies lead by scientists at the University of California – Berkeley and Stanford University find that a hotter climate, coupled with an increased number of prolonged droughts, are killing a large number of trees around the world. Trembling aspen trees are dying off in North America, due to several droughts between 2000 and 2004, and one in six trees in Africa have died from droughts between 1954 and 2002. “Rainfall in the Sahel has dropped 20-30 percent in the 20th century, the world’s most severe long-term drought since measurements from rainfall gauges began in the mid-1800s,” said Patrick Gonzalez, lead author on the study at University of California – Berkeley. “Previous research already established climate change as the primary cause of the drought, which has overwhelmed the resilience of the trees.”
For additional information see: Science Daily, Berkeley University, New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post

World Health Organization Declares Climate Change an Emerging Health Issue

At the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting in Durban, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that effects of climate change are creating world-wide health issues, including increased bacterial diseases caused by contaminated water, increased asthma and heart attacks caused by ground-level ozone, and allergies brought on by changes in pollen. Various health professionals, advocates, and policy makers assembled in Durban on December 4 at the first Global Climate and Health Summit, and asked the United Nations to “recognize the health benefits of climate mitigation and take bold and substantive action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect and promote public health.” While attending the Global Climate and Health Summit, Dr. Rajen Naidoo of the Nelson Mandela Medical School in Durban said, "Just as the HIV epidemic caused us to have a reversal in recent gains in public health in this country, so too does climate change now."
For additional information see: Scientific American, Durban Declaration on Climate and Health

Study: Climate Change Shifts Global Ecosystems

A recent study by NASA reports that by 2100, global warming will convert nearly 40 percent of ecosystems from one type to another; converting forests to grasslands, and grasslands to deserts. The study also states that climate change will disrupt the balance between endangered species, and affect the world’s water, food, and energy supplies. "For more than 25 years, scientists have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change," said Jon Bergengren, lead scientist on the study. "Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming. While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most." Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena found their results by using computer models to project 10 different climate simulations using data from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Report Finds ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ Regarding the Public and Climate Change Politics

A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that people insulate their ignorance about a complex issue by deferring to government and scientists. Participants in the study rejected complex negative information and opted to rely on politicians to handle complicated issues. "Climate change is a global issue that, seemingly, is beyond the efforts of any one individual. . . . I think a lot of people feel unable to do anything about it," said Steven Shepherd, author of the report. "The next best thing is to either deny it, or defer the issue to governments to deal with it. . . . In our research we find that one easy way to maintain that psychologically comforting trust that an issue is being dealt with is to simply avoid the issue." Researchers also found that a person’s views change due to pressure from society, often changing their views to escape any stigma from one’s community.
For additional information see: E&E Publishing

South Florida Releases Climate Change Action Plan

On December 9, the South Florida Climate Change Compact released a climate change action plan that combines efforts from Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The action plan is a result of various community leaders, scientists, and local residents working together over a two-year period to study potential impacts of climate change on the South Florida region. The plan recommends 100 various projects to improve local transportation and natural infrastructure, water, energy and fuel supplies over the next five years. “Southeast Florida is uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise, with very few areas of the country having as many economic assets at risk,” said Steve Adams, Climate Adaptation Senior Program Advisor for the Institute for Sustainable Communities. The compact includes 30 percent of Floridians, totaling 5.6 million people from 108 municipalities.
For additional information see: Miami Herald

India Refuses to Sign Agreement to Reduce Emissions

The Indian Government declared that they will not ratify a pact to reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions, stating that an agreement to do so would hurt the country’s economic development. Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said, “There is no question of signing a legally binding agreement at this point of our development. We need to make sure that our development does not suffer. Our emissions are bound to grow as we have to ensure our social and economic development and fulfill the imperative of poverty eradication.”
For additional information see: The Pioneer

World Faiths Unite on Environmental Responsibility

A recent study by the Citizens Climate Lobby states that religious communities worldwide agree that humans need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. Lynn Whitney, head writer of the report, said that she was urged by her mother, retired biologist Ellie Whitney, and other members of the Citizens Climate Lobby to research different religious organizations views on climate change. “I think what surprised me the most was the general consensus from all the different religious groups. Among the Judeo-Christian groups, I was really surprised to find that evangelicals recognized that humans may have had something to do with causing climate change and should be involved in helping to mitigate the effects on those people most in need,” said Whitney.
For additional information see: Ashbury Park Press, Daily Record, Report, Citizens Climate Lobby

Research on Links Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change Face Budget Constraints

In 2011, the United States experienced twelve extreme weather events that caused at least $1 billion each in damages, together totaling over $50 billion. An average year sees only three or four such events, leaving researchers to explain 2011’s severity and determine if similar weather patterns can be expected in the future. NOAA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy all fund studies to better understand the causes of extreme weather events, including the effects of climate change. This research can help to improve short- and long-term forecasting of extreme events, but funding to do so is becoming elusive. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the director of NOAA, cautions that shrinking budgets make it “more and more challenging to devote resources to many of our research programs.”
For additional information see: New York Times

California Proposes Advanced Clean Car Regulations

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed a package of regulations that would reduce emissions 75 percent by 2025 and cut greenhouse gas emissions 52 million metric tons, by swapping out current automobiles for 1.4 million electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered cars. "These rules will make California the advanced car capital of the world, driving the innovation, patents and technology that will generate thousands of jobs here, and set the stage for us to compete in the global clean car marketplace," said James Goldstene, Air Resources Board Executive Officer. The CARB says the new regulations will reduce greenhouse gases by more than 870 million metric tons through 2050, and create an additional 21,000 jobs in 2025, increasing to 37,000 new jobs in 2030.
For additional information see: Business Green

Report Lists Sweden, UK, and Germany as Top Countries Combating Climate Change

The Climate Change Performance Index 2012 lists Sweden, the United Kingdom (UK), and Germany as the countries doing the most to combat climate change. While the report leaves spots #1 - 3 blank, signifying that no country is fulfilling the necessary steps to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, Sweden, UK, and Germany were listed as #4 - 6. Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Iran were the last countries on the list. Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe) compiled the Climate Change Performance Index 2012, listing the world's 58 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. The organizations used a combination of total emissions, trends and an assessment of domestic actions to rank the countries that made the list.
For additional information see: Deutsche Welle

Natural Disasters in 2011 Set Record

Munich Re, the global reinsurance company, announced that 2011 was the costliest year on record from natural disasters at over $380 billion. This figure was largely driven by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but was buoyed by increases in climate-related disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and wildfires. Munich Re maintains a massive database of global natural disasters since 1980, and notes that climate-related disasters have steadily grown in number and intensity over that time. The company believes this to be further evidence of climate change. This continued trend, the company noted, could soon make property insurance in vulnerable areas prohibitively expensive or even uninsurable. Munich Re highlighted the United States, where homeowners last year collected $1.16 in insurance payouts for every $1 paid in premiums. Global insurance industry losses from natural disasters for the year came to $105 billion.
For additional information see: Science News, Reuters, Munich Re Presentation

EPA Publishes Interactive Map of Greenhouse Gas Emitters

On January 11, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an interactive online map that identifies sources of major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the United States, including chemical factories, paper mills, and power plants. The data, current through 2010, covers 80 percent of U.S. GHG emitters from large industries. Environmental groups are using the new online tool to highlight local and national utilities that have the worst emissions, and applaud the map as a major accomplishment that can educate government officials and members of the public about local sources of pollution. David Doniger, policy director for Climate and Clean Air at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “[the EPA database] means that every high school student or local reporter can see who the biggest carbon polluters are in his or her own backyard. . . Carbon pollution and climate change are very abstract when you’re dealing with national or international data. This brings it home.”
For additional information see: New York Times, EPA, Climate Progress

Climate Change Adversely Affecting North American Bird Population

Recent studies show that severe drought, a lack of available food, and a warming winter are killing off several species of North American birds throughout the United States and Canada. In Texas, endangered North American whooping cranes spend the winter in the Gulf of Mexico, gathering enough sustenance to sustain a 2,500 mile journey to their summer nesting grounds in Canada. Because of the record year-long drought in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, the cranes are not finding enough food or water during their winter in the Gulf of Mexico, and are in danger of perishing on the return trip to Canada. Canadian Boreal ducks are also facing similar issues, with scaup and scoter duck populations dramatically decreasing by up to 60 percent in the last 30 years. Scientists at the University of British Columbia found that since the ducks’ wetland habitats were becoming warmer, spring was arriving 11 days earlier than when the ducks return from their winter migration south. "Because of climate change, the ducks don't have the food that they need when they need it," said Stuart Slattery, a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited Canada. 

In related news, a decline in snowfall throughout the mountainous areas of Arizona is threatening five different species of American songbirds. Researchers at the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Montana found that with less snow, the local elk population are staying longer at higher altitudes, and are consuming vegetation usually reserved for the songbirds. “The indirect effects of climate on plant communities may be just as important as the effects of climate change-induced mismatches between migrating birds and food abundance because plants, including trees, provide the habitat birds need to survive,” said Thomas Martin, lead author of the study and USGS biologist.
For additional information see: CBS News, CBC News, New York Times

Rising Sea Levels Endanger Nile Delta Region

A minuscule rise in sea levels could dramatically alter the Nile Delta landscape, putting large metropolitan cities like Alexandria, Port Said, and Damietta underwater. Over half of Egypt’s population live in the Nile Delta region, and any rise in sea levels, even less than ¼ of an inch, could displace millions of people from their homes and threaten the country’s agriculture. As sea levels rise, the saltwater invades the Delta’s fresh water aquifers, contaminating the fresh water supply for inhabitants and local crops.
For additional information see: Egypt Independent

China Considering Carbon Tax

Chinese officials are considering a carbon tax that would tighten regulations on industries and decrease China’s overall carbon footprint. China emitted 8.33 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2011, representing 25 percent of emissions worldwide. The tax plan, to be implemented by 2015, would impose a tax rate of 10 yuan, (or $1.59,) for each ton of carbon dioxide a business discharges into the atmosphere. The rate would gradually increase over time, and tax cuts would be awarded to industries that take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Jia Kang, head of China’s Finance Ministry research center, said that the proposed carbon tax would have many benefits, including, “[raising] companies’ environmental costs and force them to improve their production technology.”
For additional information see: AFP, Financial Review, China Daily

Fast Action Climate Mitigation Measures Can Help Avoid 2°C Danger Limit

A new study in Science led by NASA scientist Drew Shindell identifies 14 fast action measures to reduce emissions of black carbon and ground-level ozone. These measures have the potential to deliver major benefits for climate, public health, and agriculture, and would prevent 0.5°C of warming by 2050—half of the warming otherwise expected. By implementing the climate mitigation measures, nations worldwide could save nearly five million lives per year, increase crop yields up to 135 billion metric tons, and reduce the rate of Arctic warming by two-thirds. “Because black carbon and ozone stay in the atmosphere only for a few hours to a few years, reducing these pollutants can immediately slow down climate change and some of its most harmful impacts while we continue to develop methods to reduce carbon dioxide,” says Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. The study analyzed over 400 control measures and selected 14 that use proven technologies that can be implemented cost-effectively.

For additional information see: NASA Study, Washington Post, AFP, Associated Press

Climate Change Likely to Delay Next Ice Age

Researchers warn that current levels of greenhouse gases (GHG) are not allowing the Earth to naturally cool in response to changes in orbital patterns. Though the natural heating and cooling cycle of the Earth would historically produce another ice age in 1,500 years, climate change would delay the next ice age by tens of thousands of years. Current ice sheets in Antarctica would continue to melt until the next cooling phase, adding to the rise of sea levels worldwide. Jim Channell, co-author of the report, said, “Ice sheets like those in western Antarctica are already destabilized by global warming. When they eventually slough off and become a part of the ocean’s volume, it will have a dramatic effect on sea level. . . considering the proportion of the world’s population that lives close to sea level, the implications of this sort of accelerated sea level rise are enormous.”
For additional information see: Reuters, Daily News and Analysis, Study, Voice of America

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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