Wednesday, April 25, 2012


CC NEWS FOR APRIL 2012 A 50-minute YouTube video, Debunking Climate Skeptics, was recently posted by SkepticalScience showing Chuck Kutscher of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory speaking in January to legislators at the Colorado State Capitol about the misleading and often heard claims of climate change skeptics. Kutscher’s talk is both well done understandable, and presents some of the best and most recent climate science. At: On March 21 NOVA and National Geographic posted a 53-minute video titled, Extreme Ice, with inspiring footage of pictures by James Balog showing the melting and calving of the world’s glaciers in a warming world. The site also has still photos of what different parts of the world’s coastline would look like if we went back to the last ice age, when sea level was much lower; melted Greenland (17 feet higher than now), or melted Antarctica (170 feet higher). At: The video first aired on PBS on Dec. 28, 2011. During March 26-29 there was a Climate Under Pressure 2012 conference in London involving physical scientists, social scientists, industry leaders and decision makers. Members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that extreme weather events, including high temperatures and heavy rainfall, will increase in frequency and severity. Climate change may cut profits from oceans by nearly $2 trillion per year by 2100 because of storms, sea level rise, and loss of income from fishing and tourism. See and On March 29 posted an article by Stephen Lacey titled, A True 'All of the Above' Energy Policy: Denmark Affirms Commitment to 100% Renewable Energy by 2050. Danish lawmakers recently on a new set of programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy that will put the country on the path to get 100% of their electricity, heat and fuels from renewable sources by 2050. Denmark is an international leader in moving to a clean and sustainable energy future. The Danish island of Malmø has already done it. At: For Malmø see On April 21 the UDaily of the University of Delaware issued a news item titled, A place for offshore wind, describing work at the University of Delaware (by Willett Kempton and Christina Archer) and Stanford University (Mark Jacobson) analyzing weather models that showed that much of the variability (intermittency) of offshore wind power could be removed by proper placement of a number of connected wind farms off the coast, with some closer to land and others farther out at sea. They simulated four wind farms, each with 100 5 MW turbines, with a total capacity of 2000 MW, located off the coast of Long Island to Georges Banks, 100 miles east of Cape Cod. Because the daily patterns of wind speed are different near the coast and farther out, it was possible to substantially reduce the variability of the power output. At: The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
 at EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. California Gradually Implementing Climate Change Law After five years of effort, California’s global warming law, AB 32, has enacted all four components: cap and trade, lower-carbon gasoline, increased fuel efficiency requirements and encouragement of sustainable communities. AB 32 seeks to reduce California GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and its successes or failures could have national and international effects. The cap-and-trade program is the most controversial part of the law; environmentalists, state regulators and industry advocates do not agree regarding a fair price for emissions, which has been set at a low $10 /per metric ton, and legal experts say that the law might be taken to court. The lower-carbon gasoline law has been ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill for discriminating against fuel producers from other states, causing 18 other states considering the law to re-evaluate their position. The California Air Resources Board mandated that 15 percent of all new cars sold in the state by 2025 should run with zero or near-zero emissions, which would result in 1.4 million such vehicles on California roads within 13 years. Tom Bowman of the Bowman Design group, which redesigned the town of Santa Rosa under the sustainable communities section of AB 32 said, “AB 32 is an impressive effort, and even though it is being implemented gradually over time it is already delivering benefits to California.” Other states are watching closely for the economic impacts and environmental gains of the legislation. For additional information see: The Christian Science Monitor Bangladesh Asks for Support of People-Oriented Climate Change Programs Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized the need for industrialized countries to take the lead in mitigating climate change effects. Hasina called for people-oriented mitigation and adaptation programs that address the negative impacts of climate change and ensure the happiness, peace and prosperity of the people. She emphasized the need for countries to act responsibly and quickly enact legally binding emission reduction agreements. Bangladesh, a low-lying, population-dense country has voluntarily committed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and has established a Climate Change Trust Fund. For additional information see: The Daily Star Asian Development Bank Report on Climate-Induced Migration Released The Asia-Pacific region is most likely to be affected by climate change and natural disasters, relative to other areas of the world, according to a report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) titled, “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific.” The region is especially vulnerable to involuntary migration caused by climate change; 42 million people were displaced due to environmental disasters in the last two years. ADB estimates that preparing for climate change will cost the region US $40 billion annually. ADB’s Bindu Lohani has described current funding to climate-proof infrastructure including roads and sewers as “grossly inadequate.” Lohani commented, “Governments should not wait to act. By taking steps now, they can reduce vulnerability, strengthen resiliency, and use migration as an adaptation tool rather than let it become an act of desperation.” The report urges governments to work with the private sector to manage the damage of climate change. For additional information see: The Nation, UPI, Yahoo News, Asian Development Bank Report Study Shows How Sea Level Rise Threatens U.S. Coastal Cities A project led by Dr. Benjamin H. Strauss for Climate Central, a non-profit organization, has identified 3.7 million Americans that live within one meter (3.3 feet) of high tide, the predicted sea level rise by 2100. In New York, 141,000 people live in areas prone to flooding due to climate change, 284,000 in New Orleans, and 312,000 in southeast Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties. More than 500 US cities have at least 10 percent of their population at increased risk, according to the study. Co-author Jonathan Overpeck said, “It’s shocking to see how large the impacts could be, particularly in Southern Florida and Louisiana, but much of the coastal U.S. will share in the serious pain.” Strauss cautioned, “We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for high seas.” For additional information see: New York Times, Washington Post, Study Emissions to Increase 50 Percent by 2050, OECD The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says global greenhouse gas emissions may rise 50 percent by 2050, unless more aggressive policies are implemented to reduce fossil fuel usage. "Unless the global energy mix changes, fossil fuels will supply about 85 percent of energy demand in 2050, implying a 50 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and worsening urban air pollution," the OECD said in its Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction. Without reducing fossil fuel consumption, the global average temperature could rise 3-6 degrees Celsius by 2100, exceeding the internationally agreed warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius. The report says the cheapest way to reduce fossil fuel usage is carbon pricing through market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. For additional information see: Reuters Africa, OECD Report Carbon Dioxide Levels at 800,000 Year High Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 800,000 years, according to Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) scientists in Australia. Dr. Paul Fraser says the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has reached 390 parts per million and, "We find no evidence going back 800,000 years of CO2 levels above 300 parts per million." The State of the Climate 2012 report also found average day and night-time temperatures in Australia are now approximately one degree Celsius higher than they were a century ago, and the last decade is the warmest on record. The warmer temperatures are causing sea levels to rise between one and five millimeters per year around Australia and have already risen about 21 centimeters globally since 1880. For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News (Australia), Report Scientists Stress the Need for a Stronger Global Governance System Scientists from universities around the world expressed the need to improve the United Nations (UN) in order to successfully mitigate climate change. Members of the Earth System Governance Project recently published an article in the journal Science, stating that the current global governance system does not adequately address climate change issues. "Societies must change course to steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that could lead to rapid and irreversible change. Incremental change is no longer sufficient to bring about societal change at the level and with the speed needed to stop Earth system transformation," said lead author, Frank Biermann. The group is advocating a structural change in global governance including a shift from consensus decision making to qualified majority voting, creation of a UN Council on Sustainable Development to consolidate agencies and treaties, and a stronger role for non-governmental agencies in decision making. For additional information see: Forbes, Science, Environment News Service China to Restrict Coal Output and Consumption China will limit domestic output and consumption of coal to 3.9 billion metric tons per year by 2015, according to a five-year plan for the coal industry released by the Chinese National Energy Administration. The five-year plan also calls for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent per unit of gross domestic product, strengthening air pollution controls and actively participating in international efforts to combat climate change. China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon emissions as well as the largest consumer and producer of coal. For additional information see: Bloomberg Sea Level Could Rise 70 Feet A study led by Professor Kenneth G. Miller at Rutgers University concluded that sea levels could rise 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) with global warming of two degrees Celsius. According to Miller, “The natural state of the earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 20 meters higher than present.” Scientists studied sedimentary cores from the late Pliocene (2.7 to 3.2 million years ago), the last time atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as today and temperatures were two degrees Celsius higher. Miller says, “Such a rise of the modern oceans would swamp the world’s coasts and affect as much as 70 percent of the world’s population,” but the rise will take several centuries under current trajectories. For additional information see: Rutgers University Climate Change to Worsen Respiratory Disease A paper published in the journal Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society predicts climate change will elevate rates of asthma, allergies, infections and cardiovascular diseases. Heat-related diseases are the most serious health threat from climate change, especially as higher urban temperatures stimulate ground level ozone formation, which can asthma, lung cancer, and acute lower-respiratory infection. Study co-author Kent Pinkerton cautioned, “Our greatest concern is infants, children, the elderly and other sensitive populations. They will be the first to experience serious climate change-related health problems.” Pinkerton calls for public health measures to support vulnerable populations during extreme weather events. For additional information see: UC Davis School of Medicine Climate Change Damage in World Oceans to Cost $2 Trillion Annually A study led by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) calculated that under current emissions trends and a four degree Celsius global temperature increase by 2100, climate change damage to Earth’s oceans could cost $1.98 trillion, 0.37 percent of global GDP. Ocean acidification, warming and oxygen depletion from climate change is expected to stress coral reefs, disrupt fisheries and cause species migrations, which is already occurring. Diminished tourism and loss of the ocean carbon sink are the two largest costs, at $639 billion and $458 billion per year in 2100 respectively. Global emissions cuts and a 2.2 degree warming scenario may reduce the total cost to $612 billion in 2100, 0.11 percent of global GDP. "The faster we stop emissions rising, the lower the damage will be. But on current technology, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up on a four degree Celsius pathway," said Frank Ackerman, one of the report’s authors. For additional information see: Reuters, Bangkok Post EPA Unveils Greenhouse Gas Rules for New Power Plants On March 27th, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a draft rule that places the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The proposed rule will require any future fossil fuel-based electric utility generating units producing more than 25 megawatts to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The rule does not affect existing plants and provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. The rule would allow new power plants to begin operating with higher levels of emissions as long as the average annual emissions over a period of 30 years met the standard. The proposed rule is rooted in Massachusetts v. EPA, the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required the EPA to decide whether carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. EPA decided it was a pollutant in 2009. Jackson called the proposed rule, “a common-sense step to reduce pollution in the air, protect the planet for our children and move us into a new era of American energy.” EPA is accepting comments on the proposal for 60 days. For additional information see: New York Times, Washington Post, EPA Oil & Gas Industry Can Reduce Methane Waste by 80 Percent A March 28 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that by fixing leaks and introducing affordable technologies throughout the production chain, oil and gas companies could cut methane emissions by 80 percent, or by one-third of total U.S. methane emissions. This is equivalent to removing the GHG emissions from over 50 coal-fired power plants. Efforts to reduce emissions are expected to pay for themselves within a few months or years; at 2011 gas prices, the retained methane would be worth $2 billion annually. Methane is a powerful global warming pollutant, at least 25 times more potent than CO2. For additional information see: NRDC, The State Journal New Study Predicts 1.4-3 Degrees Celsius Warming by 2050 A study by the BBC’s Climate Change Experiment and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, borrowed home computer time to run a climate change model about 10,000 times using different physical parameters. The study concluded that, “If people keep emitting fossil fuels in the way we expect, with no price on carbon or no future policy initiatives, we expect a range of 1.4 to 3 degrees [Celsius] by 2050,” according to David Frame, an author. The researcher’s methodology of running the same forecast model under slightly different conditions is often used in weather forecasting. Unlike running a single “best” model, this strategy gives researchers a sense of the range of possible climate responses and allows them to predict broader trends. The study’s low-end warming predictions match those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but the high end of possible warming is higher than the IPCC analysis. For additional information see: BBC, ABC (Australia), Wired (UK), USA Today Global Warming Approaches Critical Tipping Point Scientists at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference in London, England warned that global warming trends are at a tipping point. Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute said, “We are on the cusp of some big changes. We can . . . cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state.” Steffen said that ice sheets are past the tipping point; the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 200 cubic kilometers annually since the 1990’s. Questions remain about the release of sequestered carbon from melting Siberian permafrost and the point at which drought-stricken rain forests release more carbon through tree death than they absorb. London School of Economics Professor Anthony Giddens commented on the dominance of fossil fuels in global energy, “We have enormous inertia within the world economy and should make more of an effort to close down coal-fired power stations.” For additional information see: Scientific American, Planet Under Pressure Insurance Costs Rise as Insurers Acknowledge Climate Change Risks Connecticut insurers are recognizing climate change risks and are reacting by raising insurance rates, attempting to predict future losses based on scientific predictions, lobbying for tougher building codes, and encouraging customers to build further from the coast and drive less. Insurers are also setting an example by going green; Hartford Insurance was ranked twelfth on a Newsweek ranking of green businesses last year. In Connecticut, the average homeowner premium has risen 30 percent since 2004. Last year, for every dollar earned in premiums, Connecticut insurers spent $1.50 due to weather, including Hurricane Irene, blizzards and storms. State regulators who have traditionally considered historic trends are under pressure to consider climate change effects. Peter Kochenburger, executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut, said, “Global warming is something that can dramatically impact your market. Not to be on top of it is a matter of bad corporate governance." For additional information see: The Connecticut Mirror NRDC Report Ranks State on Tackling Climate Change A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report, “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning," ranked the 50 states based on preparedness for climate change, with California topping the list. Report author Ben Chou cited a 2010 water efficiency bill that seeks to reduce urban water use 20 percent per capita by 2020 and the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) as two of California’s important climate change preparedness policies. Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin are other top ranked states with plans to deal with droughts, shrinking snowpack and other climate change-related water problems. The report said 29 states have done little to prepare, Texas, which experienced severe droughts last year, is low on the list. Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio have no preparedness plans. Chou comments, “This issue is really about protecting our future generations, our public health, our communities and the economy. It’s not a partisan issue.” For additional information see: San Francisco Chronicle, Report Climate Change May Contribute to Global Conflict Military planners predict worldwide security threats from climate change which is expected to hit developing nations particularly hard, raising the importance of humanitarian response efforts and infrastructure improvements. For example, the Arab Spring uprisings have been linked to high food prices caused by the failed Russian wheat crop in 2010, a result of an unparalleled heat wave. According to Bob Corell, of the Environment and Technology Foundation, Africa is particularly vulnerable to droughts, which can lead to increased conflict; ethnic cleansing in Darfur was linked to drought in Sudan. Future military conflicts may erupt in the Arctic as sea ice melts, opening up shipping lanes which will provide easy access to Asia while avoiding potential conflicts in the Middle East and piracy in the Straits of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change has noted impacts of flooding in Thailand on the regional supply chain, and predicts that flooding and drought in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries may cause mass migrations, increased ethnic tensions and repression. “Expect this to play out again and again in the future,” Corell warned, "There are going to be Darfur's all over the place." For additional information see: The Daily Climate Report: Combating Climate Change Is Not Expensive A report from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change (CCC), “Statutory Advice on Inclusion of International Aviation and Shipping,” concluded that the UK emissions reductions goal of 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050 will cost only 1-2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050. David Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of the CCC, commented, “You don’t need radical behavior and lifestyle changes to achieve our climate objectives. It’s a very, very small impact on growth. And what you get for that is a whole range of economic benefits.” The results are similar to findings by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which indicated that reductions similar to the UK goal would reduce U.S. GDP by one to 3.5 percent in 2050. "There is action in various states of the U.S. But at the national level, clearly the US has not got anything like the ambition we have, and I think in the long term that will be to the economic detriment of the U.S.," said Kennedy. For additional information see: Mother Jones Report: Mental Health Effects of Climate Change A report published by the National Wildlife Federation estimated that “200 million Americans will be exposed to serious psychological distress from climate related events and incidents.” A panel of psychiatrists, psychologists, and public health and climate experts predicted increased depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, grief, eating disorders, suicide, violence, and substance abuse. The report concluded that children, military personnel and families, elderly and low-income populations with low mobility, and people with pre-existing mental illness are at highest risk. The panel recommends training in psychological effects of extreme weather for medical professionals, especially first responders, and pediatricians and the mental health care community, including school counselors. For additional information see: Forbes, National Wildlife Federation Report UK Pushes for Tougher EU Carbon Targets The United Kingdom is on track to “comfortably exceed” 20 percent reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, and, along with France and Germany, continues advocate to increase emissions targets up to 30 percent by 2020. Greg Barker, UK Climate Change Minister, said that stricter targets would strengthen prices in the EU carbon market, which have fallen more than 60 percent in a year, while signaling commitment to a low-carbon future. "There is plenty of scope for us to increase the level of ambition and push up the carbon price, but still do it in a way that's good for business,” said Barker. He continued, “We're working patiently and quietly behind the scenes, making not just the environmental case, but the economic case as well, looking at the huge opportunity in low-carbon and clean tech markets." Barker plans to press for the stronger target at informal talks in Denmark on April 19. For additional information see: Financial Times, Business Green Ocean Acidification Causes Major Declines in Oyster Populations Since 2006, baby oysters have been dying by the billions at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon. A recent study has concluded that increased oceanic acidification as a result of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is the cause. "It's now an incontrovertible fact that ocean chemistry is affecting our larvae," said Alan Barton, one of the study’s authors. The study linked the high oyster mortality rates at the hatchery to the CO2 levels in the water in which the larval oysters were spawned. Oceans absorb a significant portion of CO2 in the air and become more acidic. “As the water becomes more acidified, it affects the formation of calcium carbonate, the mineral in shells. As the CO2 goes up, the mineral stability goes down, ultimately leading to reduced growth or to mortality," according to George Waldbusser, a benthic ecologist, Commercial oyster production on the West Coast of North America is a $273 million industry each year and relies heavily on hatcheries. For additional information see: National Science Foundation, The Seattle Times, The New York Times Eating Less Meat Can Reduce Climate Change Decreasing meat consumption by 50 percent per person in developed countries by 2050 is one of the best ways to decrease global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a report published in Environmental Research Letters by Woods Hole Research Center scientist Eric Davidson. “In the developed world there is considerable room for us to manage our portion sizes and the frequency with which we eat meat. We’re not talking about everybody suddenly needing to become a vegetarian. Rather it’s kind of reversing the supersize trend and being more mindful of the impacts of the amount of meat and the types of meat, both for the environment and our own health,” he said. Reduced meat consumption decreases fertilizer use, manure production, and the production of GHGs, especially nitrous oxides. Nitrous oxides, which are released from synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and manure storage and use, are much more potent GHGs than CO2 and methane and can linger in the atmosphere for over 100 years. For additional information see: Voice of America, Environmental Research Web, Environmental Research Letters (paper) 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 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: Thanks, Chad A. Tolman Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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