Tuesday, January 21, 2014



Wendy Koch of USA Today posted an article on May 31 last year, titled Why You Should Sweat Climate Change, announcing an extensive series of articles and videos on climate change in 2013.  It and the ones to follow (at http://www.usatoday.com/search/climate%20change/) are clearly written and easy to understand.  Wendy ended 2013 with an article on Dec. 31 titled, How technology can halt climate change.  She listed six promising technologies at
1.   Solar geo-engineering
2.   Carbon capture
3.   Artificial photosynthesis
4.   Solar and wind power
5.   Nuclear power
6.   Efficiency

An Op-Ed that I missed earlier appeared in the NY Times on Aug. 1, 2013 titled, A Republican Case for Climate Action.  The authors were William D. Ruckelshouse, Lee M. Thomas, William K. Reilly, and Christine Todd Whitman - EPA Administrators under Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush. They wrote, “There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.  The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous.”  “The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.”  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/opinion/a-republican-case-for-climate-action.html?_r=0

The National Research Council of the National Academies issued a report in 2013 titled, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.  Its Description says, “Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth's atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world's nations, it is clear that the planet will be warmer, sea level will rise, and patterns of rainfall will change. But the future is also partly uncertain -- there is considerable uncertainty about how we will arrive at that different climate. Will the changes be gradual, allowing natural systems and societal infrastructure to adjust in a timely fashion? Or will some of the changes be more abrupt, crossing some threshold or "tipping point" to change so fast that the time between when a problem is recognized and when action is required shrinks to the point where orderly adaptation is not possible?”
On January 10 there was a 1-hour public webinar featuring James White from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Chair the report's authoring committee, and committee members Anthony Barnosky from the University of California at Berkeley and Richard Alley from Penn State University.  The webinar was free but required preregistration.  The website announcing the event has links to a number of other reports on climate change by the National Academy of Sciences.  You can also subscribe to the Climate Change email list of the NAS Division of Earth and Life Studies.  At: 

One of the papers in the Academies’ America’s Climate Choices series is about mitigation, and is titled, Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change.  The 2010 paper recommends a U.S. policy goal of limiting cumulative CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions to 170 to 200 gigatons during the period of 2012-2050.  This means reducing emissions from 1990 levels by 80% to 50%, respectively by 2050 - a far cry from the business-as-usual path where emissions continue to increase each year.  In the Recommendations section, “The report concludes that there is an urgent need for U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  Among the seven recommendations, one was “to adopt an economy-wide carbon-pricing system (through cap-and-trade, taxes, or some hybrid of the two).” (emphasis adedAnother was to consider equity (social justice) issues when implementing climate change policies, with special attention to disadvantaged populations.  A 4-page summary of the report can be found at: 

Another of the papers in the America’s Climate Choices series is titled, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change.  The 4-page summary of the report says, “Even if emissions of greenhouse gases were substantially reduced now, climate would continue to change for some time to come and the potential consequences for humans and ecosystems are significant.”  The report “discusses the impacts of climate change and how we as a nation can begin adapting to them in beneficial ways, exploring activities underway at state and local levels, adaptation options, and how the nation can become better prepared to make adaptation choices.”  “Actions taken so far to cope with climate variability are likely to have limited value in coping with impacts of the large or rapid changes in climate that are projected if efforts to limit emissions are not successful.  (emphasis aded) Abrupt changes that push the climate system across thresholds are possible, creating novel and potentially irreversible conditions such as ice-free arctic summers or extreme rises in sea level.  Adapting to those impacts could require major structural changes in government and society and consideration of currently unacceptable, or at least very difficult, adaptation measures such as large-scale retreat of populations from at-risk areas.”  At: 

The National Academies have produced a 26-minute video titled, Climate Change: Lines of Evidence.  It has great graphics and a speaker who explains in easily understood language why the earth’s climate is changing and how we know.  At: http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/videos-multimedia/climate-change-lines-of-evidence-videos/

On December 31 the Guardian published a paper titled, Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn.  It reports on a study led by professor Steven Sherwood at the University of New South Wales, published in Nature, on the effect of a warming planet on cloud formation.  It found that clouds -  which have provided one of the greatest uncertainties in the response of earth’s global average surface temperature to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases - will become less effective in reflecting sunlight back into space as the planet warms.  This means that the sensitivity of the climate to doubling greenhouse gas concentrations will be on the high end of those considered - perhaps 5 degrees C.  Sherwood told the Guardian, "4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous."  "For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet", with sea levels rising by many meters as a result.  He added: "Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don't urgently start to curb our emissions."  At: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/31/planet-will-warm-4c-2100-climate

Note: David Archer (a geologist University of Chicago) in his book The Long Thaw - How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate (Princeton University Press, 2009), has a Figure 17 showing the relationship between sea level and global average temperature for the geologic past, going back 40 million years.  It suggests that 4C might be enough, given enough time, to melt all of the ice on the planet - raising sea levels by 70 meters (230 feet).

NPR’s Morning Edition for Jan. 1 had a 4.3-minute audio featuring Christopher Joyce, titled, Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?  You can hear it by clicking on the title.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps people after disasters but also supplies people in flood-prone areas with flood insurance that has cost much less than the payouts.  Because of increasing flooding during the past ten years, and more buildings in risky areas, FEMA has paid out $24 billion more than it has  received in premiums.  Because this is unsustainable, Congress instructed FEMA to raise premiums to reflect the real costs.  Because of the hue and cry that went up when premiums were raised, Congress now wants to backtrack.  At: http://www.npr.org/2014/01/01/258706269/federal-flood-insurance-program-drowning-in-debt-who-will-pay

Note: Congress needs to get some spine, and people need to realize that flooding and property loss, which are increasing with climate change, are only going up.

TheDailyClimate for Jan. 2 posted an article by Douglas Fischer titled, Climate coverage soars in 2013, spurred by energy, weather.  He reported that media coverage of climate change issues increased by 30% world-wide, compared to coverage in 2012 - fueled by reporting on energy issues like fracking, tar sands oil, and pipelines, and by weather extremes worldwide.  At: http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2014/01/2013-climate-change-reporting
TheDailyClimate, published by Environmental Health Sciences, reports daily media coverage around the world and has an e-letter to which readers can subscribe.

The NY Times of Jan. 2 had an article by Coral Davenport titled, Kerry Quietly Makes a Priority of Climate Change.  It says, “ .. while the public’s attention has been on his diplomacy in the Middle East, behind the scenes at the State Department Mr. Kerry has initiated a systematic, top-down push to create an agencywide focus on global warming.  His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.  Whether the secretary of state can have that kind of influence remains an open question ..”  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/world/asia/kerry-shifts-state-department-focus-to-environment.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

The Scotsman for Jan. 4 had an article by Matt Siegel and Colin Packham titled, Searing Heat Down Under, Whiteout in North America.  It pointed out that a heatwave is baking central and northern Australia, with the highest temperatures ever recorded - reaching over 118 degrees F in one town.  Farmers have been slaughtering livestock for want of feed and water, and firefighters are battling bushfires.  In the meantime, at least nine people are dead as a result of winter storms and cold weather in the U.S., and thousands of flights have been cancelled.  Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency.  At: 

Tom Friedman, in an Op-Ed in the NY Times for Jan. 5 titled, Compromise: Not a 4-Letter Word, wrote, “We should exploit our new natural gas bounty, but only by pairing it with the highest environmental extraction rules and a national, steadily rising, renewable energy portfolio standard that would ensure that natural gas replaces coal — not solar, wind or other renewables. That way shale gas becomes a bridge to a cleaner energy future, not just an addiction to a less dirty, climate-destabilizing fossil fuel.”
In the same article he called for more tax incentives for start-ups to increase entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and the substitution of carbon taxes for payroll and corporate taxes.  He challenged the G.O.P. to take on the Tea Party, and form a center-right party interested in governing.  “Absent that, we’re going to drift, unable to address effectively any of our biggest challenges or opportunities.”  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/opinion/sunday/compromise-not-a-4-letter-word.html?ref=columnists&_r=0

ClimateProgress for Jan. 13 posted an article by Joe Romm titled, Showtime To Launch Landmark Climate TV Series ‘Years Of Living Dangerously’ In April“This April, Showtime will start airing its ground-breaking climate change TV series on the experiences and personal stories of people whose lives have been touched by climate change. Years Of Living Dangerously is an 8-part series produced by the legendary storytellers and film-makers James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub -– together with three former 60 Minutes producers who have 18 Emmys between them.”  The Chief Science Editor said, “ I’ve been blown away by just how visually and narratively compelling the show is. It is not just going to be a landmark climate change series, it is going to be a landmark television series, like Ken Burns’ The Civil War.”  You can watch a 2.3-minute trailer at the website; it looks too good to miss.  At: 

The Jan. 15 issue of Scientific American had an article by Charles Q. Choi and LiveScience titled, Epic Antarctic-Ice Shelf Collapse Caused by Chain Reaction.  The article said, Scientists investigated the spectacular 2002 breakup of Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf, a vast plate of ice larger than Rhode Island that once covered more than 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers). The ice shelf (the tongue of a glacier that floats on the ocean had been stable for thousands of years but crumbled into thousands of icebergs over the course of just a few days.”  “Before the ice shelf fell apart, more than 2,750 lakes existed on top of it. These "supraglacial lakes" formed as ice and snow gradually melted over the preceding years,” but then drained in a matter of days as the shelf broke upThe scientists suggested “that the drainage of one single 'starter' lake can produce multiple fractures that are able to drain hundreds of surrounding lakes through a chain-reaction process ... which contributed to the abruptness of the explosive disintegration of the Larsen B Ice Shelf."  “It's important for scientists to determine the risk of Antarctic ice-shelf collapses because these vast blocks of ice essentially serve as dams for the glaciers flowing into them. The removal of these buttresses causes glaciers to feed more ice to the ocean,” adding to sea level rise.  At: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=epic-antarctic-ice-shelf-collapse-caused-by-chain-reaction&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20140116

Note: This very rapid disintegration of an ice shelf is an example of the abrupt impact of climate change addressed in the third item from the top in this issue.

An article by Irene Quaile in Deutsche Welle for Jan. 16 was titled, Antarctic glacier's retreat unstoppable.  The Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica was in the news last year because a giant iceberg broke off.  Now scientists find that the glacier is retreating in a self-sustaining and irreversible way, even if the local temperature were to decrease. The rate of ice loss “was estimated at around 20 gigatons per year during the last decade, and that will probably increase by a factor of three or five in the coming decade. That means this glacier alone should contribute to the sea level by 3.5 to 10 millimetres a year, ... For one glacier, that is colossal," said one of the scientists doing the study.  At: http://www.dw.de/antarctic-glaciers-retreat-unstoppable/a-17363380

Note: 10 mm a year would be nearly 40 inches per century - from one glacier!

On Jan. 17 Dr. Jeff Masters posted an article on his WunderBlog titled, Earth's Record 41 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters of 2013.  It shows that in 2013 earth had a record number of disasters costing $1 billion or more.  The most costly was Central European flooding, costing $22 billion, though only 25 people died.  The second most costly was Super Typhoon Taiyan in the Philippines; it cost $13 billion and killed nearly 8000.  The article has a great collection of photographs.  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 http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

Climate Change Could Kill Off Marine Life Four Miles Deep

On December 31, a study published in the journal Global Change Biology provided the first quantified projections of future deep-sea marine life loss due to impacts of climate change. The researchers found that by the year 2100, marine life in the northeast Atlantic deep sea will decline by up to 38 percent, due to a decline in surface nutrients with a resultant decrease in nutrients sinking to the seafloor. Globally, marine life will decline by over five percent in the same time period. The changes are mainly driven by climate change impacts such as the slowing of global ocean circulation and increased separation between water masses, a process known as “stratification,” caused by warmer and rainier weather. The study also predicts that the decreased availability of nutrition will lead to decreased sizes of seafloor marine life, with affects on the larger forms of sea life that feed on them. "We were expecting some negative changes around the world, but the extent of changes, particularly in the North Atlantic, were staggering," said Dr. Daniel Jones, lead author of the study. "Globally we are talking about losses of marine life weighing more than every person on the planet put together." The study was conducted by an international team of researchers, who used eight advanced climate models to predict the change of nutrient supply across the world’s oceans, calculating the resulting biomass change using the relationship between nutrient supply and biomass from existing marine databases.
For additional information see: Scientific American, Motherboard, News-Medical, Study

IEA Says “Radical Action” Needed on Climate Change in Five Year Outlook

On December 16, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its “Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2013,” stating that the global demand for coal will grow at an average rate of 2.3 percent through 2018, in comparison to last year’s forecast of 2.6 percent through 2017 and the actual growth rate of 3.4 percent per year between 2007 and 2012. "Like it or not, coal is here to stay for a long time to come,” Maria Van der Hoeven, the executive director of IEA, said. “But it is equally important to emphasize that coal in its current form is simply unsustainable." Van der Hoeven explained that “radical action is needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” and although the knowledge has existed since the 1960s to build “efficient, supercritical coal-fired power plants,” countries have so far failed to do so. According to EIA, China will maintain dominance over the global coal market, accounting for 60 percent of new global demand over the next five years. Meanwhile, stronger Chinese regulations on reducing coal dependency will help slow the global demand growth with the rest of Asian demand staying buoyant. The report also projects that in the United States "while growing shale gas production will push coal prices down, environmental regulation will cause the closure of considerable coal capacity and carbon dioxide policy will prevent investments in new coal plants," and that increasing shale gas production will continue to encourage the coal-to-gas switching.
For additional information see: The Hill, IEA Press Release, IEA Report

Climate Change Is Reducing Reindeer Population

On December 15, the journal Nature Climate Change published a study that shows Canadian caribou populations, commonly referred to as reindeer, are in jeopardy due to climate change. The researchers found that the roughly 2 million caribou in Canada are less genetically diverse than populations worldwide, making them more sensitive to changes in environment.  If greenhouse gas emissions remain steady, 89 percent of the Canadian caribou will be at risk for losing their habitat by 2080. Globally, caribou herds could lose up to 60 percent of their range by 2080. Already, some herds in Canada are collapsing, with populations of the George River herd found in Northern Quebec and Labrador falling from 800,000 animals in the 1980s to fewer than 20,000 currently.   Researchers at Laval University examined DNA samples from 1,300 caribou from North America, Europe, Russia and Greenland to determine how the animals have adapted to past climate changes, and to predict how they might respond to future spikes in temperature due to climate change. The researchers estimate that in addition to climate change, disease, over-hunting, and habitat degradation due to mining, logging and oil and gas extraction are contributing to the steep decline. Besides carrying Santa’s sleigh, caribou are a staple of the Canadian First Nations’ diet. Steeve Cote, professor of Biology at Laval University and lead author, has advocated for a moratorium on caribou hunting in the George River area until the herd can recover, which has met with resistance from some First Nations hunters.  According to Cote, the cultural and dietary significance of the caribou to the First Nations means that “they are the ones that will suffer the most.”
For additional information see: Canada.com, Study

Earth’s Sensitivity to Carbon Dioxide Could Be Double Previous Estimates

On December 10, the Geological Society of London (GSL) released new findings that the Earth’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide (CO2) could be twice that of earlier estimates. The authors explain that climate models usually examine short-term factors, such as annual snow and ice melt, to calculate the Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 (defined as the average global temperature increase caused by doubling the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere). By adding long-term factors from paleoclimatology, including the slow melt of large ice sheets, the researchers discovered that the Earth could be twice as sensitive as the previous models had suggested. Dr. Colin Summerhayes, a scientist at the Scott Polar Research Institute and the working group chairman, commented, “The climate sensitivity suggested by modern climate models may be fine for the short term, but does not encompass the full range of climate expected in the long term.” The findings were presented as an addendum to a GSL 2010 report on climate change.
For additional information see: Climate News Network, Press Release, Study

Note: James Hansen et al. published a seminal paper in 2008 titled, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? In it they wrote that the commonly accepted value of climate sensitivity of 3 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 concentration is fine for the short term, but longer term changes that take surface albedo into account require a climate sensitivity of about 6 degrees C.  This high sensitivity requires reducing the current ca. 400 ppm CO2 to 350 ppm or less to keep the global average surface temperature change below 2 degrees C.  See: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

Climate Change Will Severely Increase Water Scarcity This Century

On December 16, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research published findings that a global warming of 2 degrees Celsius over present global temperatures will confront 15 percent more people with a severely diminished water supply, and put 40 percent more people at risk of absolute water scarcity. Currently, between one and two people in 100 are subject to absolute water scarcity, defined as living with under 500 cubic meters of water annually, per person. Climate change and population growth could raise that ratio to ten people out of 100. Because of the variable local effects of climate change, regions such as the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the southern United States and southern China may experience a substantial decrease in available water, while areas in eastern Africa, western China and southern India could experience an increase. Study co-author Pavel Kabat, of the International Insitute for Applied Systems Analysis, noted, “From a risk management perspective, it becomes very clear that, if human-made climate change continues, we are putting at risk the very basis of life for millions of people, even according to the more optimistic scenarios and models.” Study authors applied five global climate models with different greenhouse gas concentration scenarios to observe their effects on 11 global hydrological models (GHMs).
For additional information see: Bloomberg, US News, Press Release

EPA Publishes Final Carbon Capture and Sequestration Regulations

On January 3, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final rule on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), removing barriers to the implementation of CCS which will allow coal power plants to continue operation while meeting proposed carbon emissions standards. The referenced carbon capture technology will capture carbon emissions before they are released from a power plant and sequester the carbon underground for storage. The new rule will exempt underground carbon storage from the EPA’s hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as create a national framework to facilitate use of the technology. The EPA explained that regulating carbon streams underground was not necessary, as they had found that this stored carbon dioxide did not present a strong risk to human and environmental health. The rule states, “EPA expects that this amendment will . . . facilitate the deployment of [sequestration] by providing additional regulatory certainty.” Interested parties have 75 days to submit comments on the rule.
For additional information see: The Hill, Federal Register

New York City’s Carbon Emissions Have Decreased 19 Percent from 2005 Levels

On December 30, outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported that New York’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 19 percent from 2005 levels. Mayor Bloomberg’s climate change policy PlaNYC 2030 was enacted in 2007 with a goal of reducing the city’s emissions 30 percent by 2030, through initiatives such as hybrid taxi cabs and energy efficiency retrofits of municipal buildings. “The key message is that local governments can work together with utilities, regulators, environmental partners, developers and communities to test-bed new concepts and sharply reduce emissions with state-of-the art analytics, financial products and technical resources,” said Sergej Mahnovski, New York City’s director of long-term planning and sustainability. “PlaNYC continues to set the precent for what cities can do to improve the quality of life for their residents.” Mayor Bloomberg left office on January 1 after 12 years of service. He told reporters in early December that he plans to continue his work on climate change through philanthropic involvement.
For additional information see: Reuters, Blue and Green Tomorrow

Quebec and California Formally Link Their Cap-and-Trade Systems

On January 2, California and Quebec formally began their joint cap-and-trade system, a market-based program that will allow the State and province to trade carbon emissions allowances. Under the new system, industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in California and Quebec will be awarded “allowances” for each ton of carbon dioxide they released to the atmosphere. Most of the allowances will be distributed for free, although industries in both jurisdictions will be able to purchase credits from each other through auctions to cover future emissions and meet reduction targets. The Parti Quebecois (the liberal party currently in power in Quebec) plans to reduce the province’s carbon emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, with a key focus on this cap-and-trade system. California and Quebec are the only two governments to move forward with a joint cap-and-trade system, from an original alliance of 11 states and provinces in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) in North America. Robin Fraser, Toronto-based analyst with the International Emissions Trading Association commented that there is a “potential for this market to serve as an example for other North American subnational jurisdictions to follow if it can prove to be successful.”
For additional information see: The Globe and Mail

Environmental Protection Agency Releases Carbon Pollution Standards for New Sources

On January 8, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its carbon pollution standards for new power plants, the first federal regulations to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants. Announced in September by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the rule is seen as a key component of the President’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The new source performance standards include mandates that new coal-fired power plants deploy carbon capture and storage (CCS), in order to meet the new 1,100 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt hour emissions limit. While new source performance standards are not expected to result in a dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions, as carbon-intensive coal power use has already been declining, the final rules will set a precedent for the future regulation of existing power plants. Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, questioned the feasibility of CCS, saying the new regulations “effectively ban coal from America's power portfolio by conditioning new power generation on the use of unproven technologies.” Although the EPA states that the technology is ready, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, also expressed doubts, saying “We will continue our vigorous oversight of this rulemaking, which has been fraught with irregularities, and we continue to believe that EPA is acting far beyond the scope of its legal authority." The EPA is accepting comments on the proposed rule until March 10, and will hold a public hearing on February 6 in Washington, DC. Draft regulations for CO2 emissions from existing power plants are expected to be released in June.
For additional information see: Bloomberg BNA, The Hill, The Huffington Post, Federal Register

State Department Releases 2014 Climate Action Report

On January 1, the Department of State submitted the 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This report lays out how the United States plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change inside and outside its borders, by cutting domestic greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and assisting developing countries through strategic international climate finance. The report relies heavily on actions outlined in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), which focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing the United States for climate change impacts, and leading international efforts to curb global warming (see EESI’s article on the announcement of CAP). Due to energy efficiency increases, the recession, and the expansion of renewable energy, U.S. emissions fell in 2011 to approximately 6.5 percent below 2005 levels. However, the report shows that emissions are set to rebound between now and 2020 unless new policies are enacted.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in the report foreword that, "we are not just the 'indispensable nation'—today we must be the indispensable stewards of our shared planet." To avert a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature the United States and other countries must also focus on reducing emissions beyond 2020, which are predicted to rise in the U.S., according to the report.
For additional information see: U.S. Climate Action Report, Washington Post

Value of Global Carbon Permits Dropped in 2013

On January 2, Thomas Reuters Point Carbon published a study on the declining value of global carbon markets. Analysts found that the value of global carbon markets declined by 38 percent in 2013 to $52.9 billion, or 38.4 billion euros. The decrease in global price is due to a pattern of falling prices and volume in the European Union and United Nations carbon markets, with price diminishing from $130 billion (96 billion euros) in 2011 to $84 billion (62 billion euros) in 2012, and volume dropping from 10.7 billion emission units to 9.2 billion. The smaller North American carbon markets were the only ones to have grown in 2013, with the highest carbon permit prices in the new market spanning California and Quebec, at $10.71 per metric ton (see January 6 Climate Change News). Benchmark European Union carbon permit prices were already below that level in 2012 at $7 (5 euros) per metric ton. However, emerging markets in China could reverse the overall global decline in carbon market pricing and volume. Point Carbon's Anders Nordeng explained, "The main explanation for the falling prices in carbon markets around the world is the very modest emission reduction targets adopted for the period up to 2020." He added that a deal is needed on ambitious reduction targets during the 2015 climate change negotiations in Paris to effectively tackle climate change.
For additional information see: The Guardian, Environmental Leader

New Jersey Is One of States Most Threatened by Sea Level Rise

In a research article published December 4 in AGU Publications, scientists at Rutgers and Tufts released findings that the sea level in New Jersey is currently rising faster than at any point in the last 4,300 years, and will likely continue to rise more than the global average. Depending on how sensitive the Gulf Stream will be to the melting of ice sheets from global warming, future sea level rise could be 1.5 to 2.3 feet by mid-century, and 3.5 to 5.9 feet by the end of the century. At the low end of the spectrum, that places New Jersey’s sea level rise at 11 to 15 inches higher than projected global averages up to 2100. Study author Ken Miller at Rutgers commented, “In the sands of the New Jersey coastal plain, sea level is also rising by another four inches per century because of sediment compaction – due partly to natural forces and partly to groundwater contamination. But the rate of sea level rise, globally and regionally, is increasing due to melting of ice sheets and the warming of the oceans.”  Already, the eight inches of climate change-related sea level rise along the New Jersey and New York City regional coasts exposed an additional 83,000 people to flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. To arrive at their conclusions, the scientists evaluated past sea level rise using geological and tide-gauge data, and modeled potential future sea level rise by accounting for five effects, including local subsidence, ocean dynamics and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Ben Strauss at Climate Central commented that the research “clearly indicates that New Jersey is one of the regions of highest concern in the United States, as far as risk from sea-level rise is concerned.”
For additional information see: Rutgers, Philly.com, Study

Climate Change Could Kill Off Marine Life Four Miles Deep

On December 31, a study published in the journal Global Change Biology provided the first quantified projections of future deep-sea marine life loss due to impacts of climate change. The researchers found that by the year 2100, marine life in the northeast Atlantic deep sea will decline by up to 38 percent, due to a decline in surface nutrients with a resultant decrease in nutrients sinking to the seafloor. Globally, marine life will decline by over five percent in the same time period. The changes are mainly driven by climate change impacts such as the slowing of global ocean circulation and increased separation between water masses, a process known as “stratification,” caused by warmer and rainier weather. The study also predicts that the decreased availability of nutrition will lead to decreased sizes of seafloor marine life, with affects on the larger forms of sea life that feed on them. "We were expecting some negative changes around the world, but the extent of changes, particularly in the North Atlantic, were staggering," said Dr. Daniel Jones, lead author of the study. "Globally we are talking about losses of marine life weighing more than every person on the planet put together." The study was conducted by an international team of researchers, who used eight advanced climate models to predict the change of nutrient supply across the world’s oceans, calculating the resulting biomass change using the relationship between nutrient supply and biomass from existing marine databases.
For additional information see: Scientific American, Motherboard, News-Medical, Study

Senate Committee Holds Hearing to Discuss President Obama’s Climate Task Force

On January 16, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), held a hearing to review federal programs that are part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Testimony was heard from several federal agencies, including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, the White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley, Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) Dan Tangherlini, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe. The hearing centered on key actions related to CAP, including EPA’s new and existing source performance standards for power plants, GSA’s initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions from government agencies by 50 percent in 2013, and Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to protect land and wildlife from sea level rise and climate change. Expert testimony was also heard from Bill Ritter, the Director of the Center for the New Economy and former Governor of Colorado; Dr. Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University; Dr. Daniel Lashof, Director of the Climate and Clean Air Program, Natural Resources Defense Council; and other atmospheric and energy experts. Nancy Sutley commented, “The president believes that we have a moral obligation to our children to do what we can to reduce carbon pollution for the sake of their future.”  

In related news on the same day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 41 Republican co-sponsors introduced a joint resolution that would repeal the EPA’s forthcoming regulations of greenhouse gases from power plants, a key part of CAP. During the hearing, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) commented that the regulation will be an unnecessary burden on poorer, rural areas. The minority side called as a witness Kathleen Harnett White, former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who testified that the administration is trying to implement untested carbon sequestration technologies on power plants and, therefore, jeopardizing oil and gas-related jobs and the US economy.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) explained, “I’m prepared to accept that there are going to be economic impacts on families that you are here to represent . . .  and it’s important that in our solution we address that concern, because that’s a legitimate concern. What I can’t accept is that the coal and oil jobs are the only jobs that are at stake in this discussion . . . I will work with you to a solution that solves our mutual concerns and helps those industries but I am not going to ignore those problems.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, Politico, Stamford Advocate, R.I.Future.org

Massachusetts Unveils Climate Action Plan

On January 14, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick presented a climate action plan for the state of Massachusetts.  Included in the plan is a $40 million municipal resilience grant program, which will be administered by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to help the state's cities and towns prepare their energy services for extreme weather patterns, using clean energy technologies and microgrids. To reduce the risks associated with sea level rises, the plan earmarks $10 million to restore Massachusetts coastlines, waterways, and infrastructure.  Patrick said during the announcement that climate change is no longer a “theoretical debate,” and he called for immediate action from the state.  "The question is not whether we need to act. We're past that," Patrick said. "The world's climate is changing and human activity is contributing to that change. Massachusetts needs to be ready." The plan included appointment of a state climatologist, and a website that lists resources to assist residents with climate preparedness.  The plan also calls for a statewide vulnerability assessment from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) by 2015, to help the DOT identify and initialize climate adaptation procedures to protect facilities statewide.  Existing funds will pay for $48 million of the $50 million plan, with the remaining $2 million accounted for in Patrick’s 2015 budget proposal.
For additional information see: NECN.com, Westford Patch, Boston.com, Mass Live, Boston Herald

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Shrinks Its Carbon Cap

On January 13, the nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, announced their 2014 plan to reduce the carbon emission cap to 91 million pounds a year, 45 percent lower than the previous level. The successful carbon pollution reduction program plans to further strengthen the RGGI cap by declining its level by 2.5 percent each year from 2015 to 2020, at which time power plant carbon emissions are projected to be half of 2005 levels in all nine RGGI states. In the previous year, all nine RGGI states achieved lower emissions than the cap level. “RGGI is a cost-effective and flexible program that can serve as a national model for dramatically reducing carbon pollution for other states throughout the nation,” said Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. The RGGI states also announced the first interim adjustments to the cap, to account for the banked allowances held by market participants before the new cap is implemented. The second adjustment is scheduled to be announced on March 17, 2014, and applied to each state’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) allowance budget for 2015-2020. The first auction under the new cap will be held on March 5, 2014.

Risky Business Initiative Announces Committee to Assess Economic Impacts of Climate Change

On January 13, the Risky Business initiative announced its Risk Committee membership, a group of experts that will oversee the creation of a report that quantifies the risks to economic sectors engendered by climate change. The Risk Committee members will be responsible for reviewing the initiative’s climate risk assessment, and then disseminating it through the industries and markets in the regions that will face the greatest challenges. Kate Gordon, executive director of Risky Business, commented, “energy and climate are inherently regional issues, and most regions of the U.S. lack a good quantitative analysis of the risks they face from catastrophic climate change.” The Risky Business co-chairs Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer all sit on the Committee, which is composed of prominent politicians and business leaders. According to Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, “these new members of our Risk Committee have deep expertise across different sectors of the American economy, and they will be instrumental in helping us develop the rigorous metrics we need to battle climate change effectively.” Committee members are Henry Cisneros (former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), Gregory Page (Chair of the Board of Cargill, Inc), Robert Rubin (former US Secretary of the Treasury), George Shultz (former US Secretary of State, Treasury and Labor), Donna Shalala (former US Secretary of Health and Human Services), Olympia Snowe (former US Senator of Maine), and Al Sommer (Dean Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health). The Initiative is a project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Office of Hank Paulson and Next Generation. Their report is to be released in the summer of 2014.

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Chad A. Tolman

New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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