Monday, June 17, 2013



The Summer 2013 issue of earthwise from the Union of Concerned Scientists has an article on sea level rise titled, Rising seas represent a costly threat.  It says:

By sharply reducing global warming emissions, we can help limit the pace of sea level rise - and the costs to coastal communities of adapting to it.
  • About 3.7 million people in the contiguous United States live less than 3.3 feet above high tide levels. Scientific research projects that seas are most likely to rise one to four feet above current levels by the end of the century, but could rise higher. 
  • A rise of just two feet could put more than $1 trillion in U.S. property and structures - roughly half of which is concentrated in Florida - at risk of inundation. 
  • Sea level has already risen 30 inches in Virginia Beach, VA, since 1880 due in part to land subsidence. In nearby Norfolk, a naval base is replacing 14 of its piers - at $60 million each - to protect ship repair facilities over the next few decades. 
On April 14 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) posted a Fact Sheet titled, Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012: Impact of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Changes.  It is very informative.  Since most private insurance companies stopped providing flood insurance by 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which  “ ... was designed to incorporate community adoption of minimum standards for new construction and development to minimize future risk of flood damage. Pre-existing homes and businesses, however, could remain as they were. Owners of many of these older properties were eligible to obtain insurance at lower, subsidized rates that did not reflect the property’s true flood risk. (emphasis added)
In addition, as the initial flood risk identified by the NFIP has been updated, many homes and businesses that had been built in compliance with existing standards have received discounted rates in areas where the risk of flood was revised. This “Grandfathering” approach prevented rate increases for existing properties when the flood risk in their area increased.
After 45 years, flood risks continue and the costs and consequences of flooding are increasing dramatically. In 2012, Congress passed legislation to make the NFIP more sustainable and financially sound over the long term.” In order to bring the insurance payments to the government in line with its payouts after floods, those with subsidized insurance will see increases in premiums of as much as 25% per year until their payments cover the full risks to their property.  Risk tables with full risk rates are should be available in June 2013.  For the Fact Sheet see:
On April 16 the Union of Concerned Scientists posted an article titled, Infographic: Sea Level Rise and Global Warming, with a lot of good information and graphics on global warming a s sea level rise.  Global average sea level rise (SLR) during the past century has been about 8 inches, with about half of that from warming and expanding sea water and about half from the melting of ice on land.  Local SLR relative to the land at the coast has been much more or less than the global average during the century - depending on whether the land is sinking or rising - from 46 inches at Grand Isle, LA and 14 inches at New York City to 4 inches at Los Angeles. Recent satellite and tide gauge measurements show that the global average rate is increasing as the world warms. Projections for future SLR depend both on how fast heat is added to the climate system and to how that heat is distributed between heating ocean and melting ice on land.  At:  The science behind SLR is described in a related report titled, Causes of Sea Level Rise: What the Science Tells UsTwo of its findings are:
  • The most vulnerable coastal communities may increasingly need to consider the stark option of some form of retreat from the rising seas.
  • To limit the long-term risks of sea level rise and the costs of adapting to it, we must work toward deep reductions in the global warming emissions that are the primary cause of rising sea levels.
On May 17 Ira Glass broadcast This American Life from WBEZ for Pubic Radio International.  The program, which lasted for an hour, was called 495: Hot in My Backyard and is well worth hearing.  The three main sections involve conversations with the Colorado state climatologist, a conservative Republican who used to be a member of Congress from South Carolina until he said he believed in climate change, and Bill McKibben, a writer and environmental activist who founded  The whole program is available at: 

On May 7 Jennifer Ludden of NPR News (WBUR Radio in Boston) broadcast a piece titled, Filling In The Gap On Climate Education In Classrooms.  In it she describes the work of the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), which has made multimedia presentations on climate change to more than a million high school students in the last few years.  The article says, “ACE aims to fill a big gap. Polls show most U.S. students learn little about climate change at school, and even many adults have a fuzzy notion of what causes it.”  Matt Lappe, ACE's education director, says, "They're going to be the generation to feel the impacts [of climate change] hardest and first.  And so in some sense we target high-schoolers, and young people in general, because they really have a right to know climate science."  A 4-minute audio recording is available at:
On May 20 Sennator Sheldon Whitehouse gave a 15.7-minute speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate titled, Like It or Not, We’re All in This Together, asking his Republican colleagues to stop denying climate change and stop supporting fossil fuel interests to the detriment of the country - and eventually the Republican Party.  At:
On May 21 the National Academies Press released a report titled, Overcoming Barriers to Electric Vehicle Deployment: Interim Report (2013).  It describes the progress so far of a committee looking at barriers to the widespread use of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) - both Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).  BEVs have batteries as their sole on-board energy source, while PHEVs have a liquid fuel - usually gasoline - to supplement the energy stored in the battery, making longer trips possible before recharging with electricity from the grid.  Both currently have higher purchase prices than conventional vehicles, but have a number of benefits, including lower “fuel” costs and  lower pollution, including carbon emissions.  
On May 22 Brad Johnson at Forecast The Facts sent me an email about the EF5 tornado that devastated Moore, OK, including destroying two elementary schools full of kids, most of whom survived.  The Forecast the Facts team asked Kevin Trenberth, who studies the influence of climate change on extreme weather as head of the Climate Analysis Section at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, to help them understand the complex science of tornadoes and the ethical implications of climate change and the pollution that causes it.  He said,
 “There is no doubt that humans are changing the weather, mainly through changes in the atmospheric composition from burning fossil fuels.  The resulting global warming is clearly evident in temperature increases, melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, and changes to more extreme rain storms.  Stronger drought, heat waves and wild fires are also a result.
“Tornadoes are very much a weather phenomenon. They come from certain thunderstorms, usually super-cell thunderstorms that are in a wind shear environment that promotes rotation.
“The main climate change connection to tornadoes is via the basic instability of the low level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place. Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air. So there is a chain of events and climate change mainly affects the first link: the basic buoyancy of the air is increased. Whether that translates into a super-cell storm and one with a tornado is largely chance weather.
“We understand to some degree how the weather is changed from human activities but the weather and climate system are complex, there is a tremendous amount of natural variability, and it is easy for the human influences to be overwhelmed.  We still expect seasons, hot and cold spells, droughts and floods, but the odds are changing in favor of more extreme events.   (bold italics added for emphasis)
The human-induced climate change is thought of as a great geophysical experiment, but one which we are not carrying out on purpose.  It would be unethical to run any such experiment without the consent of all affected. Yet this is what we are really doing, because we now know enough to know that this experiment is underway.”
A May 28 post on the Opinion Pages of the NY Times by Clive Hamilton is titled, Geoengineering: Our Last Hope, or a False Promise?  Hamilton is a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University and the author of the recently published book, Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering.  He describes the ethical issues involved in engineering solutions to global warming, such as spreading sulfate particles in the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight out into space or adding iron to the oceans to promote growth of green phytoplankton that take up CO2 for photosynthesis.  There are problems such as Who controls the global thermostat? or What if dropping the temperature by geoengineering improves U.S. agriculture but interferes with the Indian monsoon - causing the starvation of millions?  Is geoengineering just an excuse for not changing our wasteful fossil-fuel burning lifestyle?  At: 

Bloomberg News for June 3 had an article by Alex Morales titled, Fair Climate Fix Gives U.S. Three Times Effort Assigned to China.  It describes work by the Stockholm Environmental Institute to define each nation’s fair share of reductions in emissions needed to avoid serious climate disruption.  Using its methodology, which included each country’s past emissions, the reductions assigned to various nations are: USA, 29.1%; EU, 22.9%; China, 10.9%; Japan, 6.6%; Russia, 4.3%; India, 1.2%; and South Africa, 1.1%.  At:

The June 10 NY Times had an article by Justin Gillis titled, What to Make of a Warming Plateau, pointing out that the rate of warming of the earth’s surface during the last 15 years has not been as large as expected, based on the preceeding decades.  Two possible explanations are the cooling effect of sulfate particles put into the atmosphere by Chinese coal burning with little acid gas emission control and movement of heat from the ocean’s surface water into the deep ocean.  We really need to know the difference between the heat absorbed by the earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere and ice and the energy radiated out into space in the infrared.  At:

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

Study Finds 97 Percent of Journal Articles over 20 Years Conclude Climate Change is Human-Caused

A study published May 15 in Environmental Research Letters concludes that 97.1 percent of peer-reviewed journal articles find that climate change is human-caused. The study reviewed almost 12,000 studies related to climate change published from 1991-2011. Of the more than 4,000 articles that examined the causes of climate change, only 83 concluded that climate change was not human-induced. These results align closely with a paper published in Science in 2004, which used a different methodology, but also found that 97 percent of peer-reviewed articles concluded that there was an anthropogenic element to climate change. The authors conducted the study to address public misconceptions about climate change. “There is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary. [. . . ] When people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they're more likely to support policies that take action on it,” explained lead author, Dr. John Cook, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia.
For additional information see: Guardian, Reuters,Study

GAO: Local Governments Need More Guidance from Feds to Prepare Infrastructure for Climate Change

In a Congressionally requested study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests that the federal government needs to offer better guidance to help local communities prepare for climate adaptation. The report states, “[A] range of studies and local decision makers GAO interviewed cited the need for the federal government to improve local decision makers’ access to the best available information to use in infrastructure planning.” The report finds that local governments regularly fail to incorporate climate change information into infrastructure planning, often because they lack resources, climate knowledge, or immediate experience with climate disasters. Although the GAO found that there are currently some federal programs in place to begin addressing climate and infrastructure issues, more needs to be done to provide accessible and coordinated information that local governments can put to use. The GAO recommends that the White House designate the Global Change Research Program or another federal office to work with agencies to identify the best available data about local climate impacts for infrastructure planners. In addition, the report requests that the Council on Environmental Quality provide guidance about the inclusion of climate change impacts as part of the analysis required for federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act.
For additional information see: GAO Report, The Hill

Australia’s Carbon Price Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Increasing Renewable Energy

Since the introduction of Australia’s carbon fee in July 2012 –set initially at a fixed price of $23 per tonne (see July 2, 2012 issue) – carbon emissions from the electricity sector have fallen 7.7 percent. Electricity produced by highly-polluting brown coal power plants has fallen 14 percent and generation from black coal is down 4.7 percent, while on the other hand, renewable electricity generation – including hydropower – has increased 28 percent. “This change in fuel mix means cleaner electricity is being delivered to households and business,” said Greg Combet, Australian Minister for Climate Change. Analysts note that this change in the country’s energy mix is also partly attributable to factors such as flooding at a coal power plant last year and an increase in natural gas generation. Australia still generates most (74.7 percent) of its electricity from coal, although the amount has dropped 4.4 percent since implementation of the carbon price.
For additional information see: The Age

Insurance Industry Sees Economic Risk from Climate Change

As a matter of financial sustainability, the insurance industry incorporates climate change and increasing severe weather events into its risk and planning models. Furthermore, insurance companies are comfortable with the science behind climate change and with acknowledging that climate change is human-caused. Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America explained that, “Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought. It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.” At an EESI briefing in December 2012, Nutter spoke about the effect of extreme weather events on the insurance and reinsurance industry, noting that 10 of the 12 most costly hurricanes in insurance history (adjusted for inflation) occurred in the past eight years (2004-2012), and that approximately 50 percent of costs from hurricanes are picked up by the reinsurance industry (see briefing summary).
In related news, an analysis performed by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concluded that responding to damages from extreme weather events in 2012 cost U.S. taxpayers almost $100 billion and private insurers $33 billion.

For additional information see: New York Times, NRDC Paper

Extreme Weather and Climate Change Displaced More Than 32 Million People Last Year

A report released May 15 by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre finds that more than 32 million people in 82 countries were displaced by climate- and weather-related disasters in 2012, nearly twice as many as in 2011. Hurricane Sandy was the third largest displacement event in 2012 – following typhoons and massive flooding events in China and India – forcing 776,000 people to leave their homes. The report states, “The USA was among the ten countries worldwide with the highest displacement levels in 2012. Months before Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Isaac displaced 60,000 people in August. Widespread forest fires forced over 39,000 people to evacuate their homes.”
For additional information see: The Hill, Report

Ancient Arctic Much Warmer than Today

A report published May 9 in the journal Science finds that the Arctic climate was significantly warmer and wetter millions of years ago, providing insight into the possible effect of global warming on the region. Researchers studied a 1,000-foot ice core taken from the Russian Arctic that provides a record of the climate over the past 3.6 million years, revealing that until 1.4 million years ago, the region was 14 degrees warmer than it is currently. However, the carbon dioxide levels during that time period were roughly the same as they are today, at 400 parts per million. “Our data is supporting the notion that carbon dioxide in the Pliocene must have been similar to what it is today,” explains lead author Julie Brigham-Grette, professor of geology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Brigham-Grette continued, “There are sites all over the Arctic that have little pieces of information. [. . .] All these little pieces of information tell us that the Arctic had tremendous forest cover in the past.”
For additional information see: Christian Science Monitor, Study

One-Third of Animals and Half of Plants under Threat from Climate Change

A study published May 12 in Nature Climate Change found that a significant portion of common plants and animals around the world are at risk due to climate change. Researchers looked at the effects of rising warming levels on 50,000 species, and found that approximately 57 percent of plants and 34 percent of animals could lose at least half of their habitable terrain by 2080. The worst effects are likely to be experienced in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region, and Australia; these areas could lose the majority of their current plant and animal life. Even in less heavily affected regions, there is the possibility for significant loss. Spruce, fir, and aspen forests in Minnesota, for example, could move north into Canada if warming continues on the projected path. However, the researchers conclude that if peak emissions are reduced by 2030, 40 percent of global loss could be prevented.
For additional information see: Los Angeles Times, BBC, Study

Study Finds Methane Emissions to Be Higher than Previously Reported

A study published May 11 in the journal Atmospheric Environment finds that methane emissions in the United States are higher than previously believed. The study was led by Dr. Ira Leifer, researcher at University of California Santa Barbara, who drove 4,500 miles across the continental United States and took 6,600 measurements with a gas chromatograph to determine the source and strength of emissions. Refineries, wildfires, oil and gas production, and a coal loading terminal were found to be major point sources of methane. “Methane is the strongest human greenhouse gas on a political or short timescale, and also has more bang for the buck in terms of addressing climate change,” said Leifer. “This research supports other recent findings suggesting that fugitive emissions from fossil fuel industrial activity actually are the largest methane source. This clearly indicates a need for efforts to focus on reducing these methane emissions.”
For additional information see: ScienceDaily, Study

Note: I am concerned that fracking of shale for natural gas may be a significant source of fugitive methane emissions.

CBO Assesses the Impacts of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and Environment

On May 22, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report detailing the effects a carbon tax could have on the U.S. economy. The report notes that much depends on how the tax is structured, stating, “The effects of a carbon tax on the U.S. economy would depend on how the revenues from the tax were used.” The report concludes that without incorporating how the revenue is used, a carbon tax would increase fossil fuel prices and in turn, increase the costs of goods across the economy, especially those that are fossil fuel intensive. The increased costs of fossil fuel would reduce their consumption and therefore improve public health, but would also have a negative effect on the economy and a disproportionate impact on low-income households. The report suggests that the negative economic effects could be mitigated or even reversed if the revenue is used to cut marginal income or payroll tax rates or reduce the federal deficit. The CBO also concludes that the costs of not implementing a carbon tax could be significant in the long run, stating, “[D]elays would increase the expected damage from climate change by increasing the risk of very costly, potentially even catastrophic, outcomes. [. . .] In general, the risk of costly damage is higher as the extent of warming increases and as the pace of warming picks up; thus, failing to limit emissions soon increases that risk.”
For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Report

Report: Britain Can Save $150 Billion through 2050 and Cut GHG Emissions by Investing in Clean Power

A report from the British Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change found that Britain could save $150 billion through 2050 by focusing energy development on clean technologies. The report concludes that clean energy investments will cost more than natural gas-fired plants upfront, but will produce significant financial benefits by the 2030s. Additionally, an emphasis on wind power, nuclear power, and carbon capture systems would still be financially beneficial even if significant natural gas resources are found in Great Britain over the next several years. Conservative Minister of Parliament Tim Yeo noted, “There has clearly been quite a big attempt to portray decarbonisation as a huge burden to the consumer. But this report provides a robust rebuttal to that argument on anything but a short-term basis.”
For additional information see: Bloomberg Businessweek, The Independent

Scientists Revise Projected Temperature Sensitivity to Carbon Dioxide Increase

A study published May 19 in Nature Geoscience revises the sensitivity of global temperatures to increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). The study incorporates global temperature data over the past 10 years to model long-term equilibrium warming due to increased atmospheric CO2 emissions as well as near-term, transient temperature increases. The researchers find a doubling of CO2 would increase temperatures between 1.2 and 3.9 degrees Celsius over the long-term, skewed slightly lower than previous predictions of between 2.2 and 4.7 degrees Celsius. The researchers find the near-term warming could be 20 percent less than previously expected, at 1.3 degrees Celsius versus previous estimates of 1.6 degrees Celsius. While temperature increases have not kept pace with CO2 increases over the past decade, there are a number of factors involved, including the ocean absorbing a greater amount of heat (see April 8 issue). Study coauthor Jochem Marotzke, professor at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, cautions, “It is important not to over-interpret a single decade, given what we know, and don't know, about natural climate variability. Over the past decade the world as a whole has continued to warm but the warming is mostly in the subsurface oceans rather than at the surface.” Richard Allen, climate scientist at the University of Reading, said in reference to the new study, “With work like this our predictions become ever better.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, Reuters, Study

Sulfates Have Less of a Cooling Impact on the Climate Than Previously Thought

A study published May 10 in Science concludes that sulfates may not have as strong of a climactic cooling effect as previously believed. Current climate models typically include the process, by which sulfur dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels oxidize to produce sulfate aerosols. Sulfates reflect sunlight, cooling the atmosphere. Sulfates also influence cloud formation, which has additional climate impacts. However, these models do not account for a second pathway, in which sulfur dioxide oxidizes with bits of minerals, producing heavier sulfates that fall out of the atmosphere faster, and consequently reflect less light. A research team, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute, concludes that this second pathway may be far more common than previously believed, and suggests that it consequently needs to be incorporated into climate models. The authors state, “Future aerosol cooling may be strongly overpredicted by current climate chemistry models.”
For additional information see: Max Planck Institute, Los Angeles Times, Study

Study Finds Heat Related Mortality to Increase with Climate Change

A May 19 article published in Nature Climate Change concludes that climate change could increase the number of heat-related deaths in New York City by 22 percent by the 2020s, and by as much as 91 percent by the 2080s. The researchers also found that even when warmer winters were taken into account, the overall temperature-related mortality rate would likely still rise by as much as 31 percent by 2080. Cities like New York are especially vulnerable to increasing temperatures due to the absorption of heat by the built infrastructure, which turn cities into “heat islands” and maintain warm temperatures at night. Study coauthor Dr. Patrick Kinney, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, stated, “What our study suggests is that the heat effects of climate change dominate the winter warming benefits that might also come: climate change will cause more deaths through heat than it will prevent during winter.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, Time, Study

Most Countries Will Face Fresh Water Shortages Due to Climate Change

In the next two generations, most of the nine billion people living on Earth will face serious water shortages, due to the effects of climate change, pollution and resource depletion. Five hundred water experts put out a warning on May 17 that the world's water systems were approaching a tipping point which "could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences." The experts requested that governments begin conserving water, as people are removing such quantities from underground sources that it will take generations to be restored. Currently 4.5 billion people around the world live near "impaired" water sources – meaning they are already dealing with wells that are running dry or water that is too polluted to use. If this issue is not addressed, millions more could experience water scarcity.
For additional information see: The Guardian

Federal Agencies Increase the Social Cost of Carbon

A new report released May 31 by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon has revised the estimated social cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) used by the U.S. government in economic analyses to $36 per ton in 2013, up from previous federal estimates of $22 per ton. This is part of a scheduled 2013 update to an original 2010 government report that put a social price on CO2 emissions. The costs were revised higher due to new climate models, which predict that climate change will cause greater damage from sea level rise and greater agriculture losses than earlier models had shown. Ari Isaacman Astles, assistant press secretary for the Office of Management and Budget, explains, “These updated values are well within the range of mainstream estimates. Indeed, similar estimates are used by other governments, international institutions, and major corporations.”
For additional information see: Bloomberg BNA, Washington Post, Report

U.S. Forest Service: Climate Change Causing Longer Fire Seasons

Thomas Tidwell, chief of the United States Forest Service, addressed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 4, stating that the average U.S. wildfire season lasts two months longer and fires burn twice as much land as compared to 40 years ago. Tidwell ascribed this to hotter and drier conditions related to climate change. He explained, “Ten years ago in New Mexico outside Los Alamos we had a fire get started. Over seven days, it burned 40,000 acres. In 2011, we had another fire, Las Conchas. It also burned 40,000 acres. It did it in 12 hours.” Longer wildfire seasons are a substantial economic challenge for the Forest Service, which is already facing budget constraints.
For additional information see: The Guardian

Study: Earth “Very Likely” to Warm More than Two Degrees Celsius by End of Century

A study published May 26 in Nature Climate Change concludes that if current greenhouse gas emissions trends continue, the Earth will likely warm more than two degrees Celsius, but not more than six degrees Celsius, by 2100. Researchers used historical measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations and global temperature observations to help reduce uncertainty of the future behavior of the carbon cycle – which according to study’s climate model, is the second most important contributor to uncertainty in temperature projections for the 21st century. “This study ultimately shows why waiting for certainty will fail as a strategy. Some uncertainty will always remain, meaning that we need to manage the risks of warming with the knowledge we have,” stated lead author Roger Bodman, a climate researcher at Victoria University.
For additional information see: Mongabay, The Conversation, Study

RGGI Auction Raises $124 Million

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) quarterly auction on June 5 raised $124.5 million, the largest amount to date. A total of 38.8 million carbon allowances sold for $3.21 each, compared to $2.81 last quarter. Collin O'Mara, chair of RGGI and secretary of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, stated, “With 20 auctions completed, RGGI continues to generate hard data showing that market-based emission reduction programs are an effective way to realize environmental goals, save consumers money, and create jobs. [. . . ] Delaware's reinvestment of auction proceeds in energy efficiency programs has not only avoided carbon pollution, but helped businesses and families reduce their electricity bills, and workers find jobs weatherizing homes, retrofitting outdated industrial equipment, and constructing more energy-efficient buildings.” In February, RGGI members announced a 45 percent reduction in the carbon cap starting in 2014 (see February 11 issue).
For additional information see: Sustainable Business

California Cut Black Carbon Concentrations 90 Percent Since 1966

In a study examining the impact of black carbon on climate in California, researchers found the state’s efforts to reduce air pollution, particularly from diesel engines, has reduced black carbon concentrations 90 percent since 1966. The three-year study – commissioned by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and led by V. Ramanathan, distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography – concludes that black carbon reductions did not noticeably disrupt the lives of the citizens of California, but yielded substantial benefits to public health and emissions reduction. Concentrations have decreased 50 percent since the late 1980’s, equivalent to reducing 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually or taking four million cars off the street every year. California’s controls on emissions from diesel engines beginning in the 1970’s were largely responsible for the reduction, although controls on other sources in the transport sector, as well as industrial sources and decreased burning of wood and waste, were also contributors. “We know that California’s programs to reduce emissions from diesel engines have helped clean up the air and protect public health,” said CARB Chair Mary Nichols. “This report makes it clear that our efforts to clean up the trucks and buses on our roads and highways also help us in the fight against climate change.” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said, “Reducing black carbon globally, along with other short-lived climate pollutants . . . can cut the rate of global warming in half and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next few decades. California is the model mega cities of the world can use to clean up their deadly air pollution.”
For additional information see: San Francisco Chronicle, IGSD Press Release, Report

Bloomberg Releases $20 Billion Plan to Reduce New Yorkers’ Risk to Climate Change

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration released information on June 10 about the city’s increasing risk to climate change. The report projects that sea levels will rise four to eight inches by the 2020’s and estimates that more than 800,000 residents will live in the 100-year floodplain by the 2050’s – more than double the current estimate. The following day, Bloomberg revealed a $20 billion proposal to protect New York City from climate-related disasters. The plan, titled “the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency,” would create new floodwalls, levees and surge barriers. The report details a total of 250 recommendations, including changes to city building codes and proposals to redevelop areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Bloomberg commented, “We can’t completely climate-proof our city. That would be impossible. But we can make our city stronger and safe – and we can start today.”

Mexico Releases National Climate Plan

On June 3, Mexico released a National Climate Change Strategy detailing how it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050, as required under the 2012 National Climate Change Legislation. The cross-sector plan contains eight sections, including adapting cities and industries for climate change and extreme weather events, and reducing emissions from transportation, energy production, agriculture, and forestry. The plan will also gradually ensure the cost of fossil fuels and water includes their external environmental values, although the government will likely subsidize those extra costs for vulnerable populations. The government intends for the plan to strengthen Mexico’s clean energy economy, which currently accounts for 0.6 percent of the gross domestic product.
For additional information see: Sustainable Business, OOSKAnews

The bold emphasis above was added because of the critical importance of this feature - pricing fossil fuels to reflect their true cost to society.

Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise 1.4 Percent in 2012

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a study June 10 reporting that the global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose to a record high of 31.6 billion tonnes in 2012, an increase of 1.4 percent from the prior year. The study concludes that if emissions continue to increase at this rate, global temperatures could increase up to five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, greatly exceeding what is considered to be a safe limit to avoid the worst climate impacts. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, said, “Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite.” In order to limit global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius, the IEA proposed a number of policies titled “4-for-2 Degrees Celsius Scenario," as worldwide implementation of the suggestions by 2020 could cut the expected global temperature rises in half. The policies include: energy efficiency measures in buildings, limiting the construction and use of coal-fired power plants, cutting methane emissions in half and reducing fossil fuel subsidies. All of the suggestions deploy commercially-available technology.
For additional information see: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Study

Climate Change Increases River Flood Risk in Asia, East Africa, Andes

A study published June 9 in Nature Climate Change found that climate change will increase the risk and frequency of river flooding in India, China, East Africa and the northern Andes. The climate impact on 29 river basins was based on estimates from 11 climate models, which predicted that a two degree Celsius rise in global temperature will mean 27 million people exposed to more floods, and a four degree Celsius rise will mean 62 million affected. The study also concluded 100-year floods will occur about every 10 to 50 years in the 21st century. Lead author Yukiko Hirabayashi, assistant professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo, stated, “Floods are among the most major climate-related disasters. In the past decade, reported annual losses from floods have reached tens of billions of U.S. dollars and thousands of people were killed each year.”
For additional information see: Agence France-Presse, NBC, Report

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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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