CC NEWS FOR DEC. 2012
This year the EPA published a report titled, Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012, describing changes in 26 indicators ranging from loss of Arctic ice to dates of plant flowereing. A printable pdf file of the report can be downloaded or printed copies can be ordered at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators//
A set of slides showing key findings is available at the same site.
Also this year Lester R Brown of the Earth Policy Institute released a book titled, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. It can be ordered and a 5-minute video of Brown talking about it seen at: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/fpep
Brown is an excellent writer and speaker, and explains how climate change and a rapidly increasing demand for meat and animal products like milk and eggs are threatening food security for the world’s poorest people.
In May the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a book published by Island Press called Cooler-Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, based on a 2-year study by UCS staff. It shows the practical steps you can readily take to reduce your personal carbon emissions by 20%, and can be ordered from the UCS website at: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/what_you_can_do/practical-steps-for-low-carbon-living.html The website also has an online tool for helping you reduce your carbon footprint after answering a few basic questions about your current lifestyle.
Climate Central has put together a web site titled, Surging Seas, which describes the impacts of sea level rise on the coastal states in the lower 48 and what they are doing to deal with it. The site points out that global sea level has risen about 8 inches since 1900, but could rise a further 2 to 7 feet (24 to 84 inches) by 2100 - depending largely on how much more carbon dioxide humans put into the atmosphere between now and then.
Catherine Bowes and Justin Allegro of The National Wildlife Federation posted an article Nov. 13 about a new report titled, The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future. They write, “As America struggles to revitalize our economy, create jobs, secure an energy independent future, and protect our communities and wildlife from the dangers of climate change, one energy source offers a golden opportunity to power our homes and businesses without creating more pollution —– Atlantic offshore wind.” Their article contains a link for downloading the full report. At: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2012/09-13-12-The-Turning-Point-for-Atlantic-Offshore-Wind-Energy.aspx
The New York Daily News published an article by NY Governor Andrew Coumo on Nov. 15 titled, We will lead on climate change - New York must press ahead with urgency to equip itself for the new age of extreme weather. The governor wrote, “Extreme weather is the new normal. In the past two years, we have had two storms, each with the odds of a 100-year occurrence. Debating why does not lead to solutions — it leads to gridlock. ... Recent events demand that we get serious once and for all.” He went on to say, “There is no more time for debate. This is our moment to act.” At: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/lead-climate-change-article-1.1202221?print%20
On Nov. 19, RGGI Inc. had a press release titled, RGGI Investments Avoid 12 Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide Pollution, Generate $1.3 Billion in Lifetime Energy Bill Savings. RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has involved 10 states from Maryland through New York and New England in a regional clap-and-trade system that reduced CO2 emissions from large power plants in the region through the sale of emission allowances - one for each ton of CO2 emitted. States in the region have used 66% of the money raised for energy efficiency, 5% for clean and renewable energy, 17% for direct energy bill assistance, and 6% for greenhouse gas abatement and climate change adaptation. Collin O’Mara, Delaware’s Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, chairs the RGGI Inc. Board. He said, “By helping to modernize the region’s energy infrastructure, RGGI investments are lowering consumer utility bills through energy efficiency, supporting development of cleaner energy sources, and reducing emission from criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide.” At: http://www.rggi.org/docs/Documents/2011-Proceeds%20Report%20Press%20Release.pdf
The Inter Press News Service posted an article on Nov. 20 by Patricia Blogg titled, Tomorrow Is Too Late for Adaptation to Climate Change. It described the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy on Cuba, which saw winds of up to 200 km/hr (120 mph) and waves up to 9 meters (30 feet) high. The United Nations office in Cuba estimated that 137,000 houses were damaged in Santiago de Cuba, 65,000 in Holguín and 8,750 in Guantánamo. At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/11/tomorrow-is-too-late-for-adaptation-to-climate-change/
The Nov. 23 issue of The Virginian-Pilot has an article titled, Earth to Marco Rubio. Mr. Rubio is an up-and-coming Senate Republican from Florida and a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, who showed in an interview that he has no idea of how old the earth is, even though scientists have established the age at 4.54+/-0.05 billion years. In the interview he said, “At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.” At: Earth to Marco Rubio on Page B7 of Friday, November 23, 2012 issue of The Virginian-Pilot Unfortunately, many of our political leaders seem to be as ignorant of earth’s climate as they are of its history.
Erica Etelson posted an article in care2 on Nov. 24 titled, What to Expect When You’re Expecting Clean Energy. It points out that the rate of development of wind power in the U.S., and the many thousands of jobs that go with it, depends critically on Congress’ renewal of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), due to expire at the end of this year. The PTC provides a tax credit of about2 cents per kWh for energy generated by wind power, and makes it much easier for wind companies to get financing from banks and power purchase agreements with utility companies. The continued rapid development of solar power depends on renewal of the Investment Tax Credit) ITC, which helps homeowners and power generators pay for the installation of solar panels, whose price has been dropping rapidly with economies of scale. It’s worth noting that federal support for renewable energy is still much less that federal subsidies for fossil fuels, which are not needed and contribute to damage like that caused to NY and NJ by Hurricane Sandy. At:
Benjamin Strauss and Robert Kopp have an Opinion piece in the Sunday Nov. 25 issue of the NY Times, titled Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines. In it they point out a recent paper by climate scientist Michiel Shaeffer indicating that no matter how quickly we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are unlikely to keep seas from rising 5 feet above their current level at high tide. Add to that wind driven storm surge and the authors conclude that flooding as high as Hurricane Sandy’s may occur every 15 years. They quote another study, let by geochemist Andrea Dutton, looking back at Earth’s climate and sea level history, which shows that about 125,000 years ago - during the previous interglacial period - global average temperatures were only a few degrees warmer than now (and less than temperatures projected for the end of this century), sea levels were 20-30 feet higher! At: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/opinion/sunday/rising-seas-vanishing-coastlines.html?smid=tw-nytenvironment&seid=auto
NBCNews for Nov. 29 broadcast a description of an article in Science by an international team of climate science experts showing that the loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating. The rate in Greenland has increased by a factor of about 5 in 20 years; the West Antarctic ice sheet is also losing ice, although less rapidly. After a short ad, you can see a video of the broadcast at:
The Science article, appearing in the Nov. 30 issue with the title, A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance, says that the current contribution of the loss of polar ice to sea level rise is about 0.6 mm/yr. At: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6111/1183.abstract?sid=e2c58437-48a4-43f5-9c49-a0950f93f3b3. A shorter summary of the findings by Rickard Kerr in the same issue of Science, titled, Experts Agree Global Warming Is Melting the World Rapidly, says that ice sheet loss now contributes about 20% of current global sea level rise. At: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6111/1138.summary. That will no doubt increase greatly in the future. Complete loss of ice from Greenland would raise sea global levels by 6.55 m (21 ft), while loss of ice on both Greenland and Antarctica would raise them by over 80 m (265 ft). See Willett Kempton, Sea level Rise and its Effect on Delaware. At: http://co2.cms.udel.edu/SeaLevel_DE.htm
On Dec. 1 Katie Valentine posted an article on care2.com titled, Irony Alert: American Petroleum Institute Calls For Obama To Aid ‘Economic Catastrophe’ Due To Warming-Fueled Drought. In it she pointed out that the last year or two of mid-continent drought has reduced the depth of the Mississippi River by 15-20 feet, so that it may soon to too shallow for many river barges that carry grain, fuel and other commodities. The Great Lakes are also low, with Lakes Michigan and Huron at near-record lows. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground reports that the economic damages to the U.S. due to drought in 2011-12 could be as high as $150 billion.
Read more at: http://www.care2.com/causes/irony-alert-american-petroleum-institute-calls-for-obama-to-aid-economic-catastrophe-due-to-warming-fueled-drought.html#ixzz2DvMTiugJ
On Dec. 3 PBS broadcast an interview of Coral Davenport, the energy and environment correspondent for National Journal, by Gwen Ifill. It points out that CO2 emissions last year from fossil fuel burning increased by 3% over the previous year, for a new record of 38 Gt (billion metric tons) - making it nearly impossible to achieve the goal set by the international community of not allowing the global average temperature to rise more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above what it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. After a 20-second add you can watch a 7.5-minute video of the interview. At: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/climate-change/july-dec12/climate_12-03.html
On Dec. 4 the NY TImes published an article by Justin Gillis titled, To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/business/energy-environment/to-fight-climate-change-college-students-take-aim-at-the-endowment-portfolio.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&hpw&pagewanted=all&
It describes a movement by students at Swarthmore College and other schools to bring attention to the need for action on climate change by asking their colleges and universities to divest themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies - similar to the actions by many students took during the 1980’s to challenge apartheid in South Africa. Bill McKibben, a professor at Middlebury College in VT and the man behind www.350.org is on a tour of 21 cities to get others to join in. His message is based on an article published in Rolling Stones in July titled, Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
Wendy Koch of USAToday posted a report on Dec. 6 titled, NOAA sees sea level rise of up to 6.6 feet by 2100. The report said that there is a 90% chance that the global mean sea level will rise somewhere between 8 inches and 6.6 ft by 2100. The high upper limit is based in part on the accelerating rate of ice loss from Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Four scenarios for sea level vs time are shown in a figure, with the lowest showing a linear increase with the same rate as during the 20th Century. The caption reads, “Global sea levels will likely rise between 8 inches (0.2 meters) and 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by the end of this year (emphasis added), depending on four scenaria that look at different amounts of ice sheet loss and ocean warming, according to a report Dec. 6 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” At:
I know things are speeding up, but not that much. Mid-Atlantic states of course need to add about 6 inches to the global mean sea level rise because of subsidence (sinking) of the coast. The Delaware Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee, on which I serve, has been considering three scenarios with increases in average sea levels along its coast of 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 m (about 20, 40 and 60 inches or 5.0 ft), based on the best estimates available in 2009. At:
I presented a paper to the committee in February 2011 titled, Rising Seas and Stronger Storms - Delaware’s Adaptation in the Face of Uncertainty. At:
On December 7 Eli Kintisch posted an article on Science Now titled, Ticking Arctic Carbon Bomb May Be Bigger Than Thought. It reported results reported at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union on improved estimates of the amount of carbon currently frozen in Arctic permafrost. The new estimate of 1.9 trillion metric tons can be compared with the current carbon content of the atmosphere of about 0.2 trillion tons (200Gt C). The author writes, “Disappearing Arctic ice, which gets most of the attention from climate scientists, is an effect of humanmade climate change. By contrast, the melting of frozen soil, or permafrost, can drive warming. As it thaws, microbes devour carbon previously locked inside, unleashing carbon dioxide—a potent greenhouse gas—in the process. The carbon dioxide amplifies the warming power of carbon pollution in a vicious feedback loop.“ At: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/12/ticking-arctic-carbon-bomb-may-b.html
One thing the author didn’t mention is that microbial action of thawing soil under anaerobic (oxygen deficient) conditions, while slower that aerobic, can convert the soil carbon into a 1:1 molar mixture of CO2 and methane - a much more powerful greenhouse gas.
On Dec. 13 J. Matthew Roney of the Earth Policy Institute posted a report titled, World Nuclear Electricity Generation Down 5 Percent Since 2006. He writes that world nuclear electricity-generating capacity has been flat since 2007 and is likely to fall as more plants are retired than come on line. Following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, 13 nuclear reactors in Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom were permanently taken offline, while 7 new reactors - 3 of them in China - were added. At:
With a plague of cost overruns, construction delays, and a lack of interest by private investors, the world’s nuclear power future is not very promising - except perhaps in China and Iran.
Also on Dec. 13 Seth Borenstein posted an article on Xfinity titled, AP-GfK Poll: Science doubters say world is warming. The poll, conducted with about 1000 U.S. adults contacted by phone, showed that a growing majority of Americans think that the climate is changing, the consequences will become serious, and the government should do something about it - even those who were skeptical of climate scientists. By political party, 83% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 70% of Republicans believe in global warming. Those numbers can be compared to 97% of peer-reviewed climate scientists. At:
On Dec. 13 Readers Support News posted an article titled, Seven States to Sue EPA Over Methane Emissions From Fracking. Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the states are taking legal action because the EPA has failed to regulate the large amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere by fracking shale, even though the technology for greatly reducing the emissions is well known. Methane has about 25 times the global warming potential as CO2 on a per pound basis. At:
On Dec. 13 James Hansen posted a short article titled, Storms of My Grandchildren’s Opa, in which he makes a strong case for a carbon fee and dividend system, where companies that produce carbon fuels pay a rapidly increasing fee (e.g., $10 per ton of CO2 produced when the fuel is burned, increasing by $10 per ton each year). All of the money raised is returned to the people on an equal per capita basis - a strong incentive for improving energy efficiency and switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. At: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20121213_StormsOfOpa.pdf
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.
President Acknowledges Importance of Climate Change, Vague on Responses
On November 14, at the first press conference since his re-election, President Obama addressed climate change. The President said, “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.” When questioned about actions to combat climate change during his second term – after highlighting fuel efficiency standards and deployment of renewable energy during the first term – the President stated, “So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can – what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.” The President said that he would not support anything that would jeopardize jobs or the economy but said, “If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.” He continued, “So you know, you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support.”
Governor Cuomo Says New York Will Lead on Climate Action
In response to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote an opinion article in the New York Daily News propounding the need to be proactive on climate change. “Extreme weather is the new normal,” Cuomo said, “The denial and deliberation from extremists on both sides about the causes of climate change are distracting us from addressing its inarguable effects. Recent events demand that we get serious once and for all.” Cuomo will establish three commissions to address augmenting emergency response mechanisms. The governor appealed to the gripes of New Yorkers, describing power utilities as “the equivalent of vinyl records in the age of the iPod: antiquated, 1950s-style institutions that don’t serve our current needs.” Cuomo suggested the need of more readily available generators, pumping systems and contingency plans for when public transportation and telecommunications are affected, especially with regard to first responders getting to those in need. He said when rebuilding, infrastructure should be better equipped to withstand extreme weather, and when possible, located in less vulnerable areas with upgraded building codes and lower energy consumption. Cuomo continued, “We will not allow the national paralysis over climate change to stop us from pursuing the necessary path for the future.”
In related news, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposed that $20 billion be put toward addressing the affects of climate change. The proposal’s primary tenets address flood prevention and infrastructure safeguarding. While she has full backing from environmental organizations like the New York League of Conservation Voters and the Urban Green Council, Mayor Bloomberg suggested that obtaining funds for the proposal might prove elusive.
Federal Flood Insurance Comes Under Fire after Hurricane Sandy
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, long-standing concerns about federal flood insurance administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have come to the forefront of climate change discussion. The concerns center around outdated flood maps that have not been updated since the 1980s, budgetary shortfalls (the program was $17.75 billion in debt before Hurricane Sandy), and perverse incentives to rebuild property and infrastructure exactly in the same manner and in the same locations that are prone to damage from floods and hurricanes. Experts agree that in the rush to develop coastal and flood-prone properties, adequate planning for flooding was not taken into account as there was the knowledge that FEMA would always insure these properties. Robert Hunter, an insurance administrator in the Ford and Carter administrations stated that, “FEMA. . .encourages unwise construction instead of discouraging it. . .We’ve created coastal bowling-pin communities; we set ‘em up and the weather takes ‘em down.”
A major problem with the flood insurance program is that flood planning is based on historical data instead of future projections that take into account the effects of climate change: rising sea levels, increased flooding due to intense precipitation events, and an increase in the intensity and occurrence of hurricanes. Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have come together to critique and begin to reform the policy of federal flood insurance. Congress has made some progress in considering climate change in developing new flood maps and federal insurance policies. This past summer, Congress allowed FEMA to increase the premiums paid by vacation home owners for houses that are routinely flooded. Senate Democrats added language to the Transportation Bill, also passed this summer, which requires the Department of Transportation to consider, “any relevant information. . .relating to the best available science regarding future changes in sea levels, precipitation, and intensity of hurricanes.”
CIA Commissioned Report Finds United States Ill Prepared for Climate Change Effects on National Security
On November 9, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that analyzed the impacts that climate change will have on U.S. national security. The report found that climate change will place colossal strains on the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, and states, “Some of this [climate] change is already discernible. Many of these events will stress communities, societies, governments, and the globally integrated systems that support human well-being.” The study cautions that the United States is not prepared to assess and prepare for climate change-induced disasters. As an example, the report points to the Nile River watershed where climate-related conflict over water and farmland could occur as the total population of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia reaches 300 million. In a finding similar to a recent American Security Project study (see November 5 issue), the NRC report suggests that underlying tensions will be exacerbated due to increased flood, famine, disease and population migration, and international agencies will struggle to respond. Lead author John Steinbruner, director of the University of Maryland Center for International and Security Studies, stated, “We know there will have to be major climatic adjustments – there’s no uncertainty about that – but we just don’t know the details. . .We do know they will be big.” The report recommends that a “whole-of-government approach to understanding adaptation and vulnerability to climate change. . .[is necessary] to inform choices about responses to climate change.”
Extreme Climate Model Predictions More Accurate, Study Finds
A study published November 9 in the journal Science that compares climate modeling results with actual atmospheric humidity temperatures indicates that, thus far, the more extreme results have served as better predictors of atmospheric conditions. The study analyzed 10 years of atmospheric humidity data from NASA satellites and examined 24 of the most sophisticated climate simulations to see how much warmer the atmosphere would become, should atmospheric carbon dioxide levels double. The analysis was based on the accuracy of computer models in reproducing recorded cloud coverage in the tropics and the sub-tropics. The study found that models that best reproduced the cloud cover also projected higher global temperatures. Co-author John Fasullo, atmospheric scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), stated, “There is a striking relationship between how well climate models simulate relative humidity in key areas and how much warming they show in response to increasing carbon dioxide. Given how fundamental these processes are to clouds and the overall global climate, our findings indicate that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections.”
Climate Change Disproportionately Impacts Low Income People
On November 16, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report that concluded that more frequent occurrences of extreme weather events disproportionately affect middle- and low-income families in the United States. Since 2011, most of the cases of flooding, drought, wildfires, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms impacted counties with household incomes between three and 14 percent less than the median annual household income of $51,914. The report states, “These findings reflect a cruel phenomenon sometimes called the ‘climate gap’ – the concept that climate change has a disproportionate and unequal impact on society’s less fortunate.” A post election poll conducted by the National Wildlife Federation indicates that 57 percent of voters believe that climate change is a major factor causing more frequent extreme weather events and 65 percent would like policymakers to take action against climate change. In order to reduce climate change risks and better prepare middle- and low-income counties, the report outlines a series of policy recommendations, such as implementing carbon pollution reduction standards for new and existing power plants, improving infrastructure resiliency, making flood insurance more affordable, and funding disaster relief and home energy programs.
In related news, a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) report released November 16 found that low-income and minority communities are also disproportionately exposed to the health and environmental impacts of coal-fired power plants. After surveying 378 coal-fired power plants across the U.S., researchers found that 39 percent of the six million people living within three miles of the plants were people of color and that the average per capita income was $18,400, well below the national average. NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous stated, “It's very easy right now to talk about climate change as something that is theoretical, to talk about the dirtiness caused by coal plants as something that is aesthetic. But when you. . .actually meet with people in these communities, the stories that they tell you – about their children's lives being diminished, about older people in the communities lives being shortened by the presence of these plants – are disturbing.” Closing the top 75 most damaging coal plants to the environment and human health would reduce the number of families living within a three mile radius of coal plants by 67 percent.
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach 391 ppm
On November 20, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rose to 390.99 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, 40 percent above the pre-industrial level. The WMO also reported that in the past 260 years, roughly 375 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been released into the atmosphere. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud stated, “These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth.” Jarraud continued, “Future emissions will only compound the situation.” The WMO also warned about the effects of elevated atmospheric levels of potent greenhouse gases methane – which reached 1813 parts per billion (ppb), or more than 259 percent of pre-industrial levels – and nitrous oxide – which reached 324.5 ppb, or 120 percent of pre-industrial levels.
The World Bank Assesses the Impact of a Four Degree Celsius Warmer World
In a report published November 18 about climate change, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree Warmer World Must be Avoided,” the World Bank stated that while all nations will suffer from the effects of climate change, the poorest nations will be hit the hardest. The report finds that poorer, developing nations will be disproportionately hit by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones, and droughts. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated that countries have a moral responsibility to take action, stating, “We will never end poverty if we don't tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today.” The World Bank analysis concludes that an average temperature increase of four degrees Celsius is likely by 2060, if governments do not start to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report highlighted the devastating impacts of a four degrees Celsius warmer world, such as shrinking Arctic ice and more frequent extreme heat waves and droughts. The World Bank report was released a week before the international climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar. Kim expressed his hope that the findings of the World Bank report would spur people into serious negotiations and "shock people into action."
New Jersey Shore Considers Reconstruction Post-Sandy
Superstorm Sandy caused nearly $30 billion dollars of damage in New Jersey, most of it along the coast. In light of extreme property destruction, there is an ongoing debate, which is now entering political discourse, as whether it is time to pull back development from the shore. Both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and State Senate President Stephen Sweeny warn that it is not in people's best interest to build or rebuild houses along coastal, flood prone areas. Sweeny stated, “Just to put a house back on blocks when you know you're getting flooded, none of that makes sense anymore. The New Jersey I'm living in today is not the New Jersey I grew up with. The storms are stronger and more frequent, and we need to adapt.” Accompanying the debate is the question of whether the federal government should buy out flood-prone areas to prevent development. Since 1989, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent close to $10 billion in buying out homes in threatened areas. Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ), argued that a better investment would be investing in man-made dunes. He stated, “The dunes that were rebuilt by the Army Corps [of Engineers], they did a really good job of protecting houses. . .I think that's a better investment.” Favoring the latter mitigation technique, residents of the Jersey Shore indicate that family and personal connection to the shoreline will prevent people from moving and consider the hurricane risk as, “A trade off for living near the ocean,” said Robert Snyder, a shore resident.
For additional information see: Philadelphia Inquirer
German Renewable Energy Policies Drive Emissions Reductions
The German Environment Agency reports that in 2011 Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions fell 2.4 percent from 2010 levels. The reduction in emissions can be attributed to Germany’s feed-in tariff policy that subsidizes investments in renewable energy technologies. During the first half of 2012, the percentage of German electricity generated from renewable sources increased from 20 percent to 25 percent – of which 38 percent came from wind power and 16 percent from solar – according to the government agency Germany Trade and Invest. “We are on a good track in regard to the increase in the share of renewables,” said Brigitte Knopf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. However, the national energy policy or Energiewende poses significant challenges, including increasing energy prices and increased reliance on coal-fired power plants due to a phase-out of nuclear power, that Knopf says will need to be addressed to keep Germany on track to meet its 35 percent renewable energy target by 2020. Germany’s emissions reduction goals are more stringent than European Union targets, placing Germany at the forefront of the renewable energy push in Europe. Hermann Ott, a Green Party Member of the Reichstag, says of Germany’s renewable energy and climate leadership, “If something goes wrong, you have to speak up and do something otherwise your children will ask you in 20 to 30 years, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?’”
For additional information see: Guardian
UN Warns of Emissions from Melting Permafrost
A report released November 27 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Doha climate negotiations warns that melting permafrost layers could release between 43 and 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane by 2100. As frozen regions in Russia, Canada, China, and the United States begin to thaw, gases from decaying organic matter that has been trapped for thousands of years in the permafrost could be released and amount to 39 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions. Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, stated, “Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet’s future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us into a warmer world. Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long.” Researchers worry that melting tundra will have significant impacts not only for the carbon and nitrogen cycles but also for oil pipelines, communities, roadways, and animal species. “I think it's easy for people to feel that the Arctic is just a faraway place that will never have any direct effect on their life,” comments Ben Abbott, a researcher at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology. “Too often climate change is depicted as a story of drowning polar bears and third world countries. Human-caused climate change has the potential to change our way of life. Mix in the potent feedbacks from the permafrost system and it becomes clear that we need to act now.” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said, “Warming that feeds upon itself, like we’re seeing in the Arctic, is the wild card of climate. If it gets out of control, we’ll lose the game. Our best strategy is a crash course to reduce black carbon, which is responsible for half of Arctic warming. Along with cuts in the other short-lived climate pollutants, this can cut the rate of Arctic warming by two-thirds.”
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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light