Saturday, November 17, 2012



NOTE:  Double click on the links to reach the sources.

Loss of ice near the poles as the Earth’s climate warms will become the dominant factor in determining future sea level rise and the survival of coastal cities.  The work of Penn State Geoscience Professor Richard Alley has focused on studying glaciers on Greenland and Antarctica in order to understand Earth’s past climate and sea level history, and to predict its future.  PBS broadcast a 54-minute video in April 2012, called EARTH – The Operator’s Manual.  It gives an excellent easily understood description of how earth works and what we can do to avoid passing on terrible suffering and economic loss to our children and grandchildren.  You can watch it and see short previews of other videos titled, Energy Quest USA and Powering the Planet at:

On Oct. 23 PBS FRONTLINE aired a 54-minute program titled, Climate of Doubt, exploring the success of climate change deniers in challenging climate change science and molding public opinion so that many Americans think the science is in doubt, and many political leaders are afraid to address the issue for fear that they will be punished by the big money available to fossil fuel interests.  Leaders from a number of denier organizations were interviewed, including the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and the American Tradition Institute, among others.  A slogan from one AFP rally was, “Reducing emissions is a cover for reducing freedom.”  David Koch, a billionaire who contributed $1,000,000 to the Proposition 23 attempt to repeal California clean energy legislation, is its Chair.  The FRONTLINE program and associated information are available online at:  You can also go to it directly to see it online at  or read the transcript at A DVD can be ordered from 1-800-PLAY-PBS or downloaded from iTunes.  This is something everyone should see.  The secret money contributed to promote fossil fuel interests is not only subverts our democracy, but greatly increases the chances that a global response to climate change will be so delayed that the human suffering caused by increasing fossil fuel use will be unprecedented in human history.  

The Oct. 24 issue of Science News had an article by Tanya Lewis titled, Gulf Stream might be releasing seafloor methane, which says,Changes in the temperature or direction of the Gulf Stream, which carries warm water north from the Gulf of Mexico, have heated sediments in a strip along the North Atlantic seafloor by 8 degrees Celsius, unlocking 2.5 billion metric tons of methane from deep-sea caches, scientists report in the Oct. 25 Nature.”  Methane, which is a gas at room temperature and pressure, can co-crystallize with water at low temperature and high pressure to form a solid that can release the methane if the temperature is increased.  This is the first report that methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - is being released from the sea floor off the East Coast of the U.S.  At:  For the original Nature article by Benjamin J. Phrampus and Matthew J. Hornbach see:
This warming - releasing methane gas that results in more warming - is an example of a positive feedback.

Bloomberg Businesweek for Oct. 25 had an article by Ken Weils titled, Solar Energy is Ready.  The U.S. Isn’t. It points out the clean energy has become a dirty word in the presidential race, with Obama and Romney in the 2nd debate each claiming to be the champion of fossil fuel development.  The article points out that the cost of solar PV panels has fallen 75% in the past 5 years, largely because of inexpensive Chinese imports.  The article says that most of the 4 trillion MWh consumed each year in the U.S. could be generated by solar PV on residential rooftops.  It says,The trouble is, many of the big, investor-owned utilities that provide about 85 percent of America’s electricity see solar as both a technical challenge and a long-term threat to their 100-year-old profit models.”  The result is that we are falling behind other industrialized countries in the use of a technology invented here.  At:

Chris Hayes of MSNBC News produced a 6-minute video on Oct. 27, after the last of this year’s presidential debates, pointing out that this year marks the first time in several election cycles that climate change - one of the most important issues the country and the planet face - was not addressed in the debates. See his video at: 

Melanie Gosling reported in IOLSciTech on Oct. 27 that wind energy in South Africa is now less expensive that electricity from a new coal-fired power plant, and that it should be possible to get 25% of the country’s electricity from wind by 2025.  The variability of power from a single turbine can be addressed by spreading turbines over the large geographical area of South Africa, which has one of the world’s best wind resources.  At:

The Virginian-Pilot has a Nov. 6 article by Jillian Nolin titled, Norfolk’s idea to stem damage from flooding: Get the houses higher.  The article points out that Norfolk has one of the highest rates of sea level rise along the East Coast - about 4.5 mm per year.  Norfolk’s leaders are weighing a proposal to mandate that residents in low-lying areas who build new houses or make significant alterations elevate their homes 2 feet above their community’s flood level, instead of just 1.  The cost of raising existing homes can be in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $200,000 per house.  The article says, “In 2007, Norfolk used $4.5 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to elevate 30 homes. The city recently acquired another million dollars to raise five homes.”  At: Norfolk’s idea to stem damage from flooding: Get the houses higher on Page A1 of Tuesday, November 06, 2012 issue of The Virginian-Pilot  The problem is going to be: Where will the money come from in the future when sea level rise may be a lot more than 2 feet?

The Nov. 7 issue of MIT Technology Review has an article by  titled, What Can Obama Do About Climate Change?   He writes, “One of the most important steps Obama can take in the next four years will be to make climate change the focus of an intense, high level, national debate.”  He also proposes stepping up scientific research, for example for improved batteries for motor vehicles.  At: 

CAMEL Climate Change Education has developed and posted a college-level course on climate change that appears to be very well done.  It’s described as a free, comprehensive, interdisciplinary, multi media resource for educators,” and has lots of resources, including shore videos on important topics.  Check it out.

The Inter Press Service News Agency posted an article on Nov. 15 by Stephen Leahey titled, “Writing Is on the Wall” at Upcoming Climate Summit.  It says, “Two-thirds of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves cannot be used without risking dangerous climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this week.
Preventing the consumption of those two-thirds will be the primary task of the annual U.N. climate negotiations that resume at the end of this month.  
Late Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama surprised many by saying climate change will be a personal mission in his second term.”  At: 
If this is true, it represents some really good news, as Obama has been largely silent on this important issue.
The Marc Steiner radio show ( posted
a 22-minute interview with guest speaker Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech and an evengelical christian  At:  Well worth listening to.

On Nov. 14-15 The Climate Reality Project held 24 hours of activities broadcast over the internet around the world to bring attention to the climate crisis and the need to act.  Many videos of the activities are available 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. 

Climate Change Not Discussed during Second Presidential Debate

Despite both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney spending a great deal of the October 16 debate discussing energy policy, neither candidate mentioned climate change. After the debate, the moderator, CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, said that she had a question prepared about climate change but ran out of time before she could ask it. Adam Fetcher, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, defended the President’s decision not to discuss climate change, saying, “Whether it’s on the stump or at the White House, President Obama has long focused on ways to develop clean energy as a core economic pillar. By advocating for the growth of renewable energy, as he did in Tuesday’s debate, President Obama has continually called for action that will address the sources of climate change.”
Recent polls – including a Pew Research Center study released October 15, a University of Texas study released October 16 and a George Mason and Yale University study released October 18 – show that an increasing majority of Americans accept climate change (see October 1 and October 8 issues). The Pew study found that 67 percent of Americans say that there is solid evidence that the Earth’s average temperature is warming, a 10 percentage point increase from a similar study performed in 2009. The University of Texas study found that 73 percent of respondents accept climate change, an eight point increase from March 2012. The George Mason and Yale University study found that 70 percent of Americans accept global warming, an increase of 13 percentage points from January 2010.

Norway to Increase Carbon Tax on Oil Industry

On October 8, Norway’s Ministry of the Environment announced that it will almost double its carbon tax on its North Sea oil and gas industries. In 2013, the carbon tax rate will increase from 210 to 410 Norwegian Kroner (from about $37 to $74) per ton of carbon dioxide, which will make it one of the highest carbon tax rates in the world. Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norwegian minister of the environment, states, “The commitment to the environment must be followed up on in the budget and resolutions.” In addition to an increased carbon tax, Norway is establishing a one billion pound fund to help mitigate the effects of climate change in the developing world. The fund will focus on investments in renewable energy, food security and conversion of existing generation to low-carbon energy sources.

Natural Gas Companies Support Scientific Study to Assess Refuge Methane Emissions

The University of Texas, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and nine major natural gas companies announced a new joint effort to accurately measure methane gas leakage from the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing. The study group will examine the life cycle of natural gas, measuring methane leakage from drilling, preparation, and production at the well and then moving to measure leakage from the gathering and processing of gas, transmission and storage, local distribution to homes and businesses, and natural-gas vehicles and their fueling stations. Previous assessments that have estimated methane gas leakage from as little as less than one percent to as much as eight percent have been scrutinized by both industry and environmentalists for their methodology and scope. A leakage rate of one percent versus eight percent means the difference between natural gas serving as a net decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when compared to coal and oil, or a net increase. The new effort is unprecedented in the amount of access that university researchers will have to well sites and in how the data will be published in a raw format. “A lot of the studies that have been done are based on assumptions. What we’re trying to do is get past the assumptions and the ‘he said, she said’ that comes with that, and having the measurements speak for themselves,” said EDF project manager Drew Nelson. Michael Levi, director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations, stated that, “The EDF effort is exciting because they are going to have real data, they are going to have a variety of participants that will give it credibility. . .the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough smart people trying to interpret the data; the problem is that we don’t have enough good data.”
For additional information see: E&E Publishing, Houston Chronicle

Climate Change Increasing Frequency of Weather-Related Disasters

According to a study released October 17 by the world’s largest reinsurance company, Munich Re, weather-related disasters have increased dramatically across the globe over the past thirty years, causing upwards of one trillion dollars in insured damages. The greatest increase occurred in North America, costing approximately $510 billion and claiming nearly 30,000 lives over the thirty year period. According to the report, “Insured losses from disasters [in North America] averaged $9 billion a year in the 1980s. By the 2000s, the average soared to $36 billion per year.” Professor Peter Hoppe, head of the Munich Re geological risks group, stated, “In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate change footprint in our U.S. loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, suggested, “Quickly addressing SLCPs (short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane and black carbon) is the only mitigation strategy that can protect climate vulnerable people and regions, such as low-lying island states, over the next thirty to forty years.” Zaelke continued, “This is critical for the survival of the world’s most vulnerable countries, and it also can save insurance companies billions of dollars.”
For additional information see: Munich Re Press Release, Huffington Post

Coastal Cities Plan for Rising Sea Levels

Scientists reveal that the rise of sea levels has accelerated over the past 20 years and is now on pace to surpass previously estimated levels. Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann warns, “Once again, we’re ahead of schedule.” In light of new estimates, coastal cities are bracing for a one to two meter rise in sea levels by century’s end. Although the land is capable of absorbing some excess seawater, the predicted rise will be more than land capacity allows. Rising sea level engenders coastal erosion and threatens groundwater contamination. An even greater risk of flooding ensues when high tides coincide with major storms. The U.S. Global Change Research Program report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.,” outlines three primary avenues to combat sea level rise. Building protective structures, such as levees or seawalls, is a method that extends a city’s protection from the encroaching sea and creates jobs in difficult economic times. A giant flood barrier, visible from outer space, is already in place in St. Petersburg, Russia. Another option is to elevate or redesign existing infrastructure, enhance surrounding wetlands, or beach re-nourishment. City planners in New York City, for example, are envisioning Wall Street as the new “Venice” of the west by considering redesigning the streets to flood. The last resort is to retreat from the coastline towns. Some island nations are already grappling with this possibility. Ambassador Masao Nakayama of the Federated States of Micronesia states, “The world has written us off.”
For additional information see: ABC News

Study Finds that the United States Will Meet 2020 GHG Emissions Goals

A new study released this October by Resources for the Future (RFF) concludes that the United States is on track to achieve the 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 to which President Barack Obama committed at the 2009 international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. The study makes this prediction based on market forces shifting away from coal-fired generation and the implementation of various federal and state regulatory measures, including the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and state renewable energy portfolio standards. The RFF study predicts that these forces will reduce U.S. GHG emissions more than the proposed federal cap and trade system would have. “This comes as a surprise, and should be seen as good news for those concerned about global climate change,” said lead author Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at RFF.
For additional information see: Bloomberg Businessweek, Study

Study Reveals Mixed Antarctic Ice Changes

A study published October 21 in the journal Nature finds that previous estimates of Antarctica’s ice melt and contribution to global sea rise were overestimated. Previous studies estimated Antarctic ice melt as high as 246 gigatonnes a year. Using new data and analysis from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites, a team from the University of Tasmania found that while the western Antarctic is experiencing glacial melting, the eastern Antarctic glaciers are growing, and the net result is an annual ice loss of 69 gigatonnes. This amount equates to approximately a one millimeter rise per year in ocean water levels. Lead author Matt King, a professor at the University of Tasmania, stated that, “We’re confident that the ice cover is shrinking, and the rate along the Amundsen [eastern] Sea coast is accelerating.” Moreover, Professor King stated that the study found that, “Sea level rise can be expected to change quite sharply if the melt rate continues to increase, on top of what’s already happening.”
For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald, Study

East Coast Seabed Methane Shows Signs of Destabilizing

A study published October 24 in the journal Nature finds that a shift in the Gulf Stream has caused methane sequestered deep in the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast to destabilize. The methane is stored in a frozen mixture with water called methane hydrate. The warmer waters from the Gulf Stream have unsettled the frozen methane hydrates which could weaken sediments and also release methane into the atmosphere. The study estimates that 2.5 gigatonnes of methane hydrate along the U.S. Atlantic Coast could be destabilized. Study co-author Matthew Hornbach, professor of marine geology at Southern Methodist University said, “We know methane hydrates exist here [along the U.S. Atlantic Coast] and, if warming continues, it can potentially lead to less stable sediments in this region.” The study cautions, “It is unlikely that the western North Atlantic margin is the only area experiencing changing ocean currents. Our estimate. . .may therefore represent only a fraction of the methane hydrate currently destabilizing globally.” The climate impact of the melting methane hydrates is still unclear. Carolyn Ruppel, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, states, “We don’t need to worry about any huge blow of methane into the atmosphere.”
For additional information see: Nature, NBC News, Study

Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change

In the wake of the tragic Hurricane Sandy, many in the media inquired whether climate change caused the superstorm. While many climate scientists caution that climate change cannot be directly linked to one event, Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said, “The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” Michael Rawlins, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, stated, "The latest research suggests that a warming climate will lead to more extreme weather events such as flooding rains and drought.” Stefan Rahmstorf, professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, added, "Sea level rise makes storm surges worse and will continue to do so in the future.” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, called the superstorm “a foretaste of things to come." Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said, “We can slow the fury of future hurricanes and other extreme events by taking fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, tropospheric ozone, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, actions that have the potential to cut the rate of global warming in half over the next thirty to forty years.” Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, said in an interview with Voice of America, “Scientists have been warning us about this for decades, and unfortunately it is all happening much earlier than what they had originally predicted back in the 80s.” Some media outlets were less equivocal. On November 1, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Hurricane Sandy’s Political Impact

The devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy compelled politicians to address climate change in an election season that has left the topic largely untouched (see October 29 issue). Political officials in New York stated that increasingly frequent extreme weather is an unsettling phenomenon that must be addressed. On October 30, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “We have a 100-year flood every two years now. We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns. We have an old infrastructure and we have old systems and that is not a good combination.” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added, “What is clear is that the storms that we’ve experienced in the last year or so around this country and around the world are much more severe than before. Whether that’s global warming or what, I don’t know. But we’ll have to address those issues.” On October 31, Governor Cuomo went a step further saying, “Part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality. Extreme weather is a reality. It is a reality that we are vulnerable.”
For additional information see: Politico, San Francisco Chronicle

Students Push Universities to Divest from Fossil Fuels

On October 24, driven by concern about climate change and following the tactics of the anti-apartheid movement, students at 18 universities and colleges held a day of action to push their administrations to divest from fossil fuels. Students at institutions including Harvard, Cornell, Amherst and Bryn Mawr, called on their administrations to follow the lead of Hampshire College and to divest their endowments from fossil fuel investments. A leader of the Harvard movement, sophomore Alli Welton, said, “This issue [climate change] will really determine the sort of planet that we live on and the society in which we have our lives. And I think it’s particularly strong to students because we see our entire lives spread out ahead of us.” Harvard officials responded in a written statement, “The university maintains a strong presumption against divesting itself of securities for reasons unrelated to investment purposes.”
For additional information see: Public Radio International, Divest for our Future

Report: Climate Change a National Security Threat

The “Climate Security Report” was released on November 1 by the American Security Project. The report analyzes the international and domestic threats to national security posed by climate change. The analysis finds that, “Climate change acts as an accelerant of instability around the world, exacerbating tensions related to water scarcity and food shortages, natural resource competition, underdevelopment and overpopulation.” Lt. General Daniel Christman (Retired) says, “Climate Change is already a national imperative. Combatant Commanders are preparing now for the consequences of climate change in their areas of operation. The destabilizing impacts in key regions of the world are indisputable and will likely only worsen in the years ahead.” These issues will be especially prevalent in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, forcing civilian and military institutions to adapt. The report cites extreme weather events and rising sea levels as domestic threats to military bases and infrastructure. Furthermore, the report calls for a redefining of security, suggesting that, “Governments must prepare from threats to the security of people, not just states.” The report continues, “Just because a nation has secured its territorial integrity does not mean it has ensured the security of its citizens.”
For additional information see: Press Release, Report

Former Republican Congressman Calls on Party to Acknowledge Climate Change

At an October 31 event hosted by the Climate Desk, former Representative Mike Castle (R-DE), a former Delaware Governor and nine-term Member of Congress, stated that the Republican Party is "falling away from scientific opinion" when it comes to climate change science. Castle suggested that Republicans need "to do a much better job of making sure that [they] are examining the science.” Castle indicated that Republicans who live far from coastal regions are less likely to show support for climate change science as they are not as directly affected by rising sea levels and coastal erosion; however, this past year's droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and the recent destruction brought on by Hurricane Sandy “are factors that may start to change some of the thinking of some of the Republicans in the Congress.” He also suggested the possibility that some conservative politicians reject climate change science in order to oppose legislation, “It may be that people are for example opposed – people being conservative Republicans – to cap and trade because of the cost aspects of it. It’s not just the science of it, but the science is an excuse." Castle stated that his support for climate legislation led to his defeat in the 2010 GOP primary for the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden.
At the same event, Kevin Knobloch, representing the Obama campaign as a private citizen and president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, also spoke of the need to more seriously address climate change. In light of Hurricane Sandy, he stated, "We’re at a place where we have to focus on both mitigation – reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and adaptation – starting to move our vital infrastructure out of harm’s way. We know this is going to be our future. This is our new normal.”

For additional information see: The Hill – 1, The Hill – 2

Lead Climate Negotiator for Developing Countries Pens Open Letter to President Obama

The chair of the United Nations (UN) climate change negotiations for the coalition of the 48 Least Developed Countries, Pa Ousman Jarju, wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama calling for leadership on climate action. In the buildup to the UN climate negations in Doha, Qatar at the end of November, Jarju praised the President for his response to Hurricane Sandy, but stated, “When you were first elected president, your words gave us hope that you would become an international leader on climate change. But you have not lived up to this promise.” He continued, “The framework that you put in place sets the planet on course to warm dangerously, and delays action until 2020 – this will be too late. This year's meeting in Qatar may be our last chance to put forward a new vision and plan to reverse this course. Your legacy, and the future of our children and grandchildren depend on it.” Jarju suggested that ambitious national emissions reduction targets and climate adaptation funds for developing nations are required.
For additional information see: Guardian

In the Wake of Superstorm Sandy, Groups Call for Revaluation of NYC Planning

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, officials are not only deciding the best way to rebuild and repair damage caused by the storm, but also how to improve New York City infrastructure to be more resilient to future extreme weather threats. New York City is home to a very dense population of people in very close proximity to the water, with more than 200,000 living within four meters of the high tide mark. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that apart of moving forward after Sandy, "Is the recognition that climate change is a reality, and it’s a reality that we’re vulnerable to." He continued, “Protecting this state from coastal flooding is a massive, massive undertaking but a conversation that is overdue and a conversation that should begin.”
Many train and subway lines have only recently begun to reopen, with a total of seven subway tunnels having been flooded. As New York continues to move forward, Cuomo suggested, “The challenge is not just to build back, but to build back better than before." Discussion about the best way in which to prevent damage from future storms had increased in the past two weeks. Some changes have already been made, such as raising subway entrances, much lot more needs to be done. Phil Bedient, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, suggested that a three-meter high dike around Battery Park near Ground Zero could provide some protection for lower Manhattan. Other suggestions for future protection include: flood walls and surge protectors; using dredged material to build out natural defenses including restoring marshes and wetlands; planting trees along the shoreline; installing oyster beds and green roofs; creating a flood-proof subway system; installing a more resilient electric grid; building stronger buildings; and creating dams in areas such as Staten Island. Although these improvements are expensive, building a storm surge barrier could cost up to $10 billion, the damages from Hurricane Sandy are likely to surpass $50 billion. In addition, a 2009 study by Stony Brook University Storm Surge Research Group finds that similar extreme weather events affecting New York City are likely to increase in frequency, suggesting the need for resiliency measures. As Governor Cuomo indicated, “We have a 100-year flood every two years now," and we need to plan for them.

For additional information see: National Journal, New York Times, E&E Publishing

Insurance Industry First to Adapt After Hurricane Sandy?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many insurance companies are beginning to examine their current risk models to deal with expected increases in property damage and insurance claims from hurricanes, flood, and wildfire damage due to climate change. Insurance companies are among the first industries that have begun to acknowledge the effects of climate change, as they have been the first to face financial loss due to increased extreme weather events. The main problem for insurance companies is that they are operating under models that look at historical patterns instead of projecting into the future in which there is expected to be more property damage due to climate change.
"We're seeing more of everything [floods, fires, hurricanes], and what we're doing is trying to factor that in going forward as we work with others to have a better sense of what the future holds," says State Farm spokesman David Beigie. Experts believe that if insurance companies begin to change their risk models, they could have a major impact on zoning, building codes, and infrastructure design; just as they impacted fire codes in the late 19th century and seat belt laws in the late 20th century. Insurance companies could lobby the government, or use market incentives, to locate homes away from coastal flood zones, require electrical systems to be moved from basements to rooftops, and storm proof new infrastructure. Peytor Fleming, senior director of communications at Ceres, stated that, “The insurance industry is more focused on this issue than probably any other business sector.” If the insurance industry acts on climate change to protect their own profits, government, as the reinsurer of last resort, will save money as these extreme weather events will not cause as much damage in the first place.

For additional information see: NPR, Wired

PricewaterhouseCoopers Report Warns of Surpassing Two Degree Target

On November 5, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released its annual carbon report, concluding that the continued global use of fossil fuels will drive global temperatures six degrees Celsius higher than average by the end of the century. Global temperatures have already increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. At the 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen, more than 150 countries agreed in a non-binding pact to limit the average global temperature increase to no more than two degrees Celsius by 2050. The PwC report studied carbon intensity levels – the amount of emissions per unit of gross domestic product – and found that while carbon intensity has decreased in certain nations, it has increased or stalled in other countries, leading to an overall increase in carbon intensity. This overall increase has made “ambitions to limit warming to two degrees Celsisus appear highly unrealistic,” according to the report. The report found that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to a 17-year low, mostly due to an increase in the use of natural gas. However, increased coal exports to emerging economic countries such as China and India have offset the decrease in U.S. emissions. Furthermore, the report warned that increased reliance on natural gas could lower investment in renewable energy. Leo Johnson of PwC stated that, “Even doubling our current rate of decarbonisation, would still lead to emissions consistent with six degrees of warming by the end of the century. To give ourselves a more than 50 percent chance of avoiding two degrees will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation.” The report stated that to achieve a six-fold improvement would require the world to reduce its carbon intensity by 5.1 percent per year through 2050.
For additional information see: Reuters, Guardian, The Hill, Study

Climate Scientists: Climate Change Contributed to Hurricane Sandy

In an opinion piece published November 5 in Politico, three climate scientists – Dr. Bob Corell, former chair of the U.S. Global Change Research Project, Dr. Jeff Masters, founder and director of meteorology for Weather Underground, and Dr. Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research – discuss the connection between global warming and the occurrence of extreme global weather events. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, questions are being raised about the extent to which climate change is a predominant variable in the devastation. The scientists say, “We’ll probably never know the exact point when the weather stopped being entirely natural. But we should consider Sandy – and other recent extreme weather events – an early taste of a climate-changed world, and a grim preview of the even worse to come, particularly if we continue to pump more carbon pollution from the smokestacks and tailpipes up into the atmosphere.” Scientific research shows that warmer atmospheric temperatures increase the intensity of hurricanes by increasing rainfall and wind speeds. The U.S. East Coast is already experiencing sea level rise at a rate four-times greater than the global average, and with higher sea levels comes ever greater storm surge damage. The scientists warn that extreme storm events could cost the United States $218 billion annually by 2025 if measures are not taken to reduce carbon emissions. “It’s time to stop asking when climate change will arrive. It’s here, and we need to move aggressively to curb carbon emissions while also preparing for a changed world. We are at nothing less than a critical juncture.”
For additional information see: Politico

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action

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