Tuesday, February 18, 2014


There is a great 3.1-minute video posted by Doug McNeall on Feb. 19, 2013 that I just learned about, titled, The Pump Handle, which shows the history of CO2 concentrations in earth’s atmosphere going back 800,000 years - with the older data from Antarctic ice cores, and data since 1953 from instrumental measurements at stations around the Earth at different latitudes in both hemispheres.  This wonderful video was produced by people at NOAA’s Earth System Research LaboratoryThe video is available at: 

In Nov. of 2013 the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication issued a report titled, Public Support of Climate and Energy Policies.  Here are some of the highlights.  
Majorities of Democrats and Republicans support several climate and energy policies. For example:

  • Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support this).
  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources (84% and 60% respectively).
  • Regulating CO2  as a pollutant (85% and 55%).
  • Eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (67% and 52%).

While there are important policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, there is also some common ground on which the nation could build an effective response to climate change.”

An article by Travis Gettys was posted in The Raw Story on Jan. 13, titled, Global warming denier Jim Inhofe: ‘Fewer and fewer’ senators believe in climate change ‘hoax’The article says, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told WABC-AM that he was initially intrigued when former Vice President Al Gore began warning about human-induced climate change but became skeptical after discovering that environmental regulations might prove costly to business.”  Inhofe is quoted saying, “I thought there might be something to it – until we found out the cost it would be to the United States of America of $300 billion to $400 billion a year.”  At: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/13/global-warming-denier-jim-inhofe-fewer-and-fewer-senators-believe-in-climate-change-hoax/  A pretty sad commentary on the U.S. Senate.

Jeff Zimmerman of Grist has a post on Jan. 23 showing photos from space of the Central Valley of California now and last year.  The parched Central Valley is clearly seen from space.  At: http://grist.org/list/californias-drought-is-kind-of-staggering-when-seen-from-space/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%2520Jan%252024&utm_campaign=daily

The Jan. 23 issue of The Weather Channel has an article by Terrell Johnson titled, Startling Number of Scientific Papers Disputed Human-Caused Global Warming Last Year.  It reported the results of a literature search by James Powell, a retired geology professor and former college president who served for 12 years on the National Science Board.  His review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature from Nov. 2012 through Dec. 2013 revealed 2258 papers by 9136 authors with only one, in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, titled The Role of Solar Activity in Global Warming, that disputed the role of fossil fuel burning in global warming.  Enough said?  At: http://www.weather.com/news/science/environment/startling-number-scientists-dispute-human-caused-global-warming-20140122

 ExxonMobile recently published its 56-page 2014 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.  It projected that global demand for energy will continue to increase, growing by about 35% by 2040, with most of the growth in developing countries.  It projects that global CO2 emissions will plateau around 2030, and then begin to decline - in spite of increasing energy consumption - because of improvements in energy efficiency and conversion to lower carbon (especially methane) or zero carbon (nuclear and renewable) energy sources.   The Outlook says, “In recent years, many nations have begun to identify and address climate risks associated with rising GHG emissions. Since energy use is a significant contributor to GHG emissions, climate policies that target these emissions are likely to play a significant role in the world’s energy future by directly and indirectly affecting people’s energy choices.”  It goes on to say, “To help model the potential impacts of a broad mosaic of future GHG policies, we use a simple cost of carbon as a proxy mechanism. For example, in most OECD nations, we assume an implied cost of CO2 emissions that will reach about $80 per tonne in 2040. OECD nations are likely to continue to lead the way in adopting these policies, with developing nations gradually following, led by China.”  At: 
Note: It is very significant that ExxonMobil - the largest U.S. oil company. and a past climate change denier - is planning that governments are going to put a price on carbon to mitigate the environmental impacts of its emissions.

The Jan. 24 NY Times had an article by Srah Wheaton titled, Keystone XL Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement.  It pointed out the environmental organizations have been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline for two years, including bombarding the State Department with more than a million emails and letters opposing it, and had 1200 people arrested at the White House for civil disobedience.  The issue has been a boon for raising money, bringing in recruits, and fostering collaboration among environmental groups.  The pipeline would bring 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico for refining.  The Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said that if President Obama approves the pipeline, it will be “the Vietnam of his presidency.”  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/us/keystone-xl-pipeline-fight-lifts-environmental-movement.html?hp&_r=1

Amel Ahmed posted an article on Jan. 26 in Aljazeera America titled, Prominent scientist suing climate change deniers for libel.  He wrote,Speaking to Al Jazeera America just days after a court ruled that his defamation lawsuit against the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and conservative news magazine National Review could proceed, Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, accused his detractors of resorting to old allegations that had been disproved time and time again.”  DC Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg said, “To state as a fact that a scientist dishonestly molests or tortures data to serve a political agenda would have a strong likelihood of damaging his reputation within his profession, which is the very essence of defamation.”  Mann’s lawyer told Al Jazeera that his “detractors have deep ties to the fossil-fuel industry and are “largely funded by oil interests and anti-regulatory interests.””  At: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/26/judge-allows-climatescientisttomoveforwardwithdefamationcase.html

The Feb. 3 issue of Rolling Stone has an article by Tim Dickenson titled, How the U.S. Exports Global Warming.  He writes, “Even as our nation is pivoting toward a more sustainable energy future, America's oil and coal corporations are racing to position the country as the planet's dirty-energy dealer – supplying the developing world with cut-rate, high-polluting, climate-damaging fuels. Much like tobacco companies did in the 1990s – when new taxes, regulations and rising consumer awareness undercut domestic demand – Big Carbon is turning to lucrative new markets in booming Asian economies where regulations are looser.”  One of these high-polluting fuels whose exports are increasing is petcoke - what is left over after refining Canadian tar sands crude to produce gasoline and diesel fuel.  It’s too dirty to be burned in the U.S.  At: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-u-s-exports-global-warming-20140203

On Feb. 5 Gary Braasch posted a great article with lots of outstanding photographs in TheDailyClimate, titled, Photo essay: North Dakota's energized landscape.  It shows what is happening to North Dakota now that fracking has come to the Bakken oil shale big-time, with little or no regulation.  Most of the crude oil is being taken out by rail - while changing a way of life.  At: 

On Feb. 7 Moyers & Company aired an interview with Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, titled, Bill McKibben to Obama: Say No to Big Oil.  In the 26.5-minute video, McKibben says it’s time for President Obama to stand up and just say no.  At: http://billmoyers.com/video/#59363

The Feb. 10 issue of the NY Times has an article by Claudia Dreyfus titled, Chasing the BIggest Story on Earth.   It describes an interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, about her new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which describes the devastating impact of humans on the environment - particularly the extinction of plant and animal species.  There have been five major extinctions in the last 500 million years of life on earth - the most recent of which was the extinction of the dinosaurs and other large animals 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period.  The third and largest was at the end of the Permian, about 250 million years ago, when 90% of species were wiped out by a large release of CO2 from volcanoes.  Humans are responsible for the Sixth, which is now in progress.  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/science/the-sixth-extinction-looks-at-human-impact-on-the-environment.html?_r=0
Note: Her first book on the environment, “Field Notes From a Catastrophe,” was about climate change.

The Washington Post for Feb. 14 had an article by Zachary Goldfarb titled, Obama to propose $1 billion to prepare for climate change.  The announcement was made in California, where nearly 92% of the state is suffering from severe or extreme drought.  The funds are to help states and communities become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.  Perhaps the Republicans in Congress can agree to help people who are suffering and minimize future losses, even if they won’t agree on what’s causing the problem.  At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-to-propose-1-billion-to-prepare-for-climate-change/2014/02/14/d18d3712-95a5-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html

The Feb. 17 issue of the NY TImes had an article by Michael Gordon and Coral Davenport titled, Kerry Implores Indonesia on Climate Change Peril.  They reported on a talk in Jakarta (part of which is shown in a 1-minute video), in which Secretary Kerry warned Indonesia that it is extremely vulnerable to climate change because of sea level rise, typhoons, warming sea water and ocean acidification.  It also has rapidly growing carbon emissions, and is the third highest emitter after China and the United States.  The talk was part of a State Department effort to get developing nations to reduce their own emissions.  The article said,Mr. Kerry, who has long been outspoken concerning climate change, hopes to make it a signature issue of his tenure as secretary of state. He aims, in particular, to be the lead broker of a 2015 United Nations treaty committing the world’s economies to significant cuts in carbon emissions and sweeping changes in the global energy economy.”  Kerry arrived in Indonesia from China, where the U.S. and China agreed to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, improve technology for power grids and carbon capture, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and collect and manage greenhouse gas data.  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/kerry-urges-indonesia-to-help-stem-climate-change.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

On Feb. 27 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society invite the public to the release and discussion of Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, a new produced jointly publication, written by a team of leading climate scientists from both the U.S. ad the U.K.  It “is intended as a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on some of the questions that continue to be asked. The publication makes clear what is well-established and where understanding is still developing.”  You can attend in person at the NAS in Washington, DC or by webcast from 10:00-11:30 EST, by registering on a link at http://view.newsletters.nas.edu/?j=fe5815767c6003787117&m=fe5f15707065077b721d&ls=fdbd157172640278771d797663&l=fe8d1677766d067576&s=fdfc1571716c04787511727c&jb=ffcf14&ju=fe2b157974660079731075&utm_medium=etmail&utm_source=Division%20on%20Earth%20and%20Life%20Studies&utm_campaign=Climate+Change+Newsletter+6&utm_content=&utm_term=&r=0
The publication and webcast will be available at: http://americasclimatechoices.org and at http://royalsociety.org

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. I have added bold italics for emphasis.

Green Groups Say White House Needs to Get More Aggressive on Climate Change/ John Podesta Defends White House Climate Strategy

On January 16, 18 environmental, environmental justice, and public health advocacy groups published a letter to President Obama urging him to drop his “all of the above” energy strategy, which promotes oil, coal, and natural gas alongside renewable energy sources. The letter suggests that the White House should subject all decisions on new fossil fuel development to a strict climate test, and urges that the “all of the above” energy strategy be replaced by a “carbon-reducing clean energy” one. The authors note that the administration must soon make decisions concerning the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in Alaska, and they encourage the White House to make climate impacts a critical consideration in these decisions. While the letter says the Obama administration has made moves to tackle climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants and improving fuel efficiency, Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice and one of the letter signatories, added “the president has in many places supported expansion of fossil fuel development and extraction . . .  under his ‘all of the above policy,’ after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf, the president approved a record number of offshore oil rigs.” This letter came on the same day the American Petroleum Institute and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both launched attacks on the President’s energy policy, hoping to move the country in the opposite direction.

On January 17, a day after the release of the green groups’ letter, John Podesta, senior advisor to the president on energy and environment issues, wrote back to them. Podesta said he was “surprised” that the groups wrote such a letter, adding, “the President has been leading the transition to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.” Podesta did not directly address the main point of the original letter, that the Obama administration is undercutting its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging fossil fuel production. However, he outlined many of the administration’s efforts under the Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013, including the first carbon pollution standards for power plants, efforts to limit the release of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), new Department of Energy (DOE) energy efficiency standards, and additional fuel economy standards for heavy duty vehicles.

World Leaders Meeting in Davos Push for Climate Action

On January 22, roughly 40 world leaders and 1,500 business leaders congregated in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, which includes a full day of conversations on the economic costs of climate change. During one of the 23 scheduled sessions on climate change and energy policy, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will discuss President Obama’s domestic global warming agenda. McCarthy commented she wanted to ensure “climate change is understood as [a] fundamental economic decision going forward.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christina Figueres and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will both address climate change issues on Friday, the designated “climate day.” To coincide with the event, the World Economic Forum released its annual report on the top ten risks facing the world economy: climate change, water crises and extreme weather all made the list.

European Union Proposes Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions 40 Percent by 2030

On January 22, the European Union announced a proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. To meet this goal, the E.U.’s 28 member countries would need to invest a total of 38 billion euros ($52 billion) annually during the next decade. The plan calls for an E.U.-wide carbon reduction target, instead of extending renewable energy targets for individual member states. The European Environment Bureau (EEB) has said the carbon limit should be at least 60 percent, with EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates adding, “the Commission’s proposal falls well short of what science tells us is needed to address the devastating consequences of climate change.” According to E.U. Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, “the 40 percent greenhouse gas target is probably the maximum of what can be achievable,” due to opposition from fossil fuel-reliant nations, such as Poland. The E.U.’s long-term plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 80 percent by 2050.
For additional information see: Bloomberg News, New York Times, The Guardian

New Report Details Executive Actions the White House Could Take on Climate Change

On January 21, the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University released a report with 200 recommendations on how President Obama could use executive authority to advance his Climate Action Plan (CAP). The report grew out of a meeting last year between the President and Bill Ritter, former Colorado Governor and Director of CNEE, and was developed with input from over 100 CEOs and experts from research and policy. The report contains five action areas: doubling energy efficiency, financing renewable energy, more responsible natural gas production, alternative fuels and vehicles development and assisting utilities in adapting to new forms of energy. The President’s Cabinet, senior White House staff, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, as well as top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Services Administration (GSA) and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) were briefed on the report in January. The report recommends a “best of the above” energy strategy, instead of the President’s current “all of the above” strategy. Heather Zichal, former White House energy and climate policy advisor, who contributed to the report, remarked “the president is going to put pressure on his agencies to identify areas of opportunity,” in order to meet the President’s goal of 17 percent emissions reduction relative to 2005 levels by 2020.  
For additional information see: Reuters, Coloradan.com, Oilprice.com

President Obama Addresses Climate Issues in State of the Union Address

On January 28, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union, where he proclaimed that “the debate is over. Climate change is a fact.” President Obama remarked that the United States has to act “with more urgency” on global warming, as “a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.” He added, “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way . . . when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world . . . I want us to be able to say yes, we did.” A majority of Democrats greeted his remarks on climate change with a standing ovation, although Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) notably abstained from applauding. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said he was satisfied with the remarks and the level of attention the administration is giving climate change.  
For additional information see: The Hill, Salon

Massachusetts State Senator Introduces Bill to Examine Local Climate Change

On January 28, Massachusetts State Senator Marc Pacheco (D), chairman of the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, introduced a bill to require the state to quantify and address climate change impacts. The bill comes shortly after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s announcement of a $52 million investment in efforts to combat climate change across the state (see EESI article). Pacheco said the Governor’s initial investment must be promulgated in state law in order to hold future governors accountable, as well as “save billions of dollars that could be spent in the future as a result of the impending threats of climate change.” Under the proposed law, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs and Public Safety and Security Committee would create an advisory committee to prepare a report on the state’s resiliency and vulnerabilities to climate change, especially in the areas of coastal communities, infrastructure, grid systems and transportation. The bill would also provide funding for regional planning and a coastal buy-back program to acquire property from willing sellers in floodplains, to convert vulnerable areas into conservation or recreation lands. While the Senator did not have a price tag for the bill, Pacheco noted, "the cost of inaction, of not doing anything about it, not trying to prepare, that cost far outweighs any investment that we would be making in terms of trying to prevent the worst effects of climate change."  Bill co-sponsors include Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) and Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield).
For additional information see: MassLive, Cape Cod Times, Boston Herald

First Climate Day at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

On January 24, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland held its first Climate Day, featuring 23 scheduled sessions that examined climate change and related world impacts. Among the issues discussed were green investment, clean energy initiatives, the economic risks of climate change, updates on current science concerning melting polar ice caps and resulting sea level rise, extreme weather risks, short-lived climate pollutants, and the role of youth in moving forward a climate agenda. “This is the kickoff of a new political season on climate change,” commented Nigel Purvis, CEO and president of Climate Advisers.

One of the panels, “Changing the Climate for Growth and Development,” had big-name speakers such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, and former Vice President Al Gore. The panelists looked at global development through a “climate lens,” by addressing the growing population rate in low-income countries, such as in Africa, and how resources will be further stretched by the projected higher rate of extreme weather events due to rising global temperatures. Gore suggested “fertility management” as a key component in tackling climate change and bringing the world out of poverty. According to Gore, “depressing the rate of child mortality, educating girls, empowering women and making fertility management ubiquitously available . . . is crucial to the future shape of human civilization.”

The conference emphasized work that needs to be done on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), black carbon, methane and other short-lived climate pollutants, which have shorter life-spans and higher warming levels than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres pledged to look at “how complementary action on short-lived climate pollutants can be dramatically scaled up . . . including in respect to refrigerant chemicals known as HFCs.” United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Major business leaders and public officials agreed to join hands in moving on HFCs, methane and black carbon, which drive global warming but also affect our health and economies.”
For additional information see: CNBC, The Daily Caller, The Guardian, E&E News, UNFCCC Blog, IISD News, UNEP

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Calls for 2014 to be the Year of Climate Action

On January 25, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim published a statement on the World Economic Forum blog highlighting the need for climate action in 2014. To create a green growth economy, Kim points to a variety of policy solutions to encourage future growth, more jobs, and competitiveness. These include putting a price on carbon, creating low carbon performance standards, encouraging energy efficiency, and redirecting fossil fuel subsidies (which account for approximately $1.9 trillion) to clean growth. Kim also calls on financial regulators to address the risks associated with climate change by requiring disclosure of climate risks and to double the green bond market. According to Kim, “this is the year to take action on climate change. There are no excuses . . . We need leaders who are not thinking about short-term returns or election cycles. We need leaders who are thinking foremost about taking care of the most vulnerable in this generation and generations ahead.”
For additional information see: The Climate Group, Jim Yong Kim’s Blog

Court Rules that Climate Scientist Can Carry on Defamation Suit Against Detractors

On January 22, Washington D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg rejected a motion to throw out a defamation suit filed by climate scientist Michael Mann against the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and National Review magazine. Michael Mann filed suit against CEI and National Review in 2012 after the National Review republished statements CEI wrote which accused Mann of committing academic fraud and data manipulation in his work on climate change, and additionally called him the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a convicted child molester. In his dismissal, Judge Weisberg said that the accusations against Mann were not opinion, which is protected under the First Amendment, but rather factual allegations. Weisberg wrote, “To state as a fact that a scientist dishonestly molests or tortures data to serve a political agenda would have a strong likelihood of damaging his reputation within his profession, which is the very essence of defamation.” In a statement to Al Jazeera, Mann commented that the accusations of data fraud “. . . have been reviewed by the highest scientific authorities in the land. None of them found any evidence of impropriety. And yet they continue to be laundered by climate-change deniers.”
For additional information see: Al Jazeera, Mother Jones

Black Carbon Levels in China and India Twice Previously Suggested Levels, With Major Impacts on United States

On January 27, researchers at Peking University in Beijing released estimates showing black carbon emissions in northeast India and southwest China could be two to three times greater than previously calculated. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used a new model to measure the amount of black carbon pollution in the air and found that parts of India and China could have as much as 130 percent higher black carbon concentrations than shown by previous models. Black carbon is a major element of soot, and is generated by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel or biomass. It is the second most powerful climate pollutant behind carbon dioxide.

In related news, on January 20, a second study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese air pollution is contributing to higher levels of smog and air pollution in the western United States. They found as much as 17 percent of the black carbon emissions in China are linked to producing goods for export. “Black carbon contributes to more than six million deaths annually, the majority in Asia,” stated Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Reducing black carbon globally, along with other short-lived climate pollutants, can cut the rate of global warming in half and save millions of lives.”
For additional information see: Live Science, Washington Post, PNAS BC study, PNAS Export study

Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Appointed as UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change

On January 31, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he was appointing former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. According to Ki-moon, Bloomberg will be involved in “consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders, in order to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his [Ki-moon’s] long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change.” Bloomberg focused on climate change during his 12 years as mayor of New York City, and as president of the board of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international group of mayors dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under his leadership as mayor, greenhouse gas emissions in New York City have dropped 19 percent since 2005, with the eventual goal of reducing emissions 30 percent by 2030. Bloomberg commented, “cities account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of the world’s energy use today, and their total population is projected to double by 2050 . . . cities have shown they have the capacity and the will to meet this challenge.”
For additional information see: Reuters, The Guardian, UN News Centre

European Parliament Votes for Stringent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rules

On February 5, the European Parliament voted in favor of binding national targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The proposal is stronger than a January European Commission proposal that had only one binding goal, to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030, as well as other non-binding targets in renewable energy. In comparison, the parliamentary proposal calls for a 40 percent cut in GHG emissions compared with 1990 levels, 30 percent of energy to be sourced renewably, and a 40 percent increase in energy efficiency. The independent European Wind Energy Association estimates that a binding 30 percent reduction scheme would produce 570,000 new jobs and save 500 billion euros in fuel costs. Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change commented, “The right 2030 package will unlock low carbon investment, while keeping consumers’ energy bills down.” While the European Parliament vote has no legal force, it stimulates conversation on the topics of energy and environment prior to the European Union summit in March. No formal legislative proposals are expected until after elections later this year. Jason Anderson, head of Climate and Energy at the World Wildlife Fund commented, “energy efficiency and renewables are integral to achieving a low-carbon future and can't be downgraded to afterthoughts. A comprehensive package of binding targets for 2030 will reduce Europe’s dependence on volatile energy imports, create employment in low-carbon sectors, deliver health benefits for EU citizens and help ensure the avoidance of dangerous climate change.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, Irish Examiner, Reuters

Sixty-three Largest World Cities Almost Double Climate Action in Last Two Years

On February 5, at the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the C40 Climate Leadership group released a report saying since 2011 the world’s 63 largest cities have doubled activities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The report shows over 8,000 implemented climate actions, including use of bikeshare programs, LED streetlights, emission reduction, hybrid buses, and others. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, C40 chairman, commented, “mayors have real power to cut emissions and improve climate resilience, and they are taking action.” C40 is a conference of mayors and officials from 66 cities worldwide, collectively representing 600 million people, 5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 21 percent of gross domestic product. C40 is focused on city-led climate actions on climate change and is planning on pushing the United Nations to include an urban component in their sustainable development goals. Speaking at the event, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau detailed the progress Johannesburg has made in public transportation and renewable energy and said the world is increasingly looking towards cities for global leadership on climate change. The group says that mayors and cities are particularly well suited to drive national policy on climate change. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, commented, “If cities do not grip the issue of climate change, we will fail to address climate change.”
For additional information see: Bloomberg, The Atlantic Cities, Joberg.org, Report

ENE Energy Offers Key Reforms to Reduce Carbon Pollution in Northeast United States

On February 3, Environment Northeast (ENE), released a report titled, “EnergyVision: A Pathway to  Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future,” which outlines a strategy for New England states to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary driver of climate change, by 80 percent. Their recommendations include further integration of electric vehicles, updating regional power grids, increased use of renewable energy and further gains in energy efficiency. According to Daniel Sosland, president and chief executive officer of ENE, the Northeast is already reducing pollution from electricity generation primarily from the downward trend of coal-fired power plant and oil use, but could recognize deeper savings with integrated efficiency measures alone capable of providing New England with $19.5 billion in economic benefits and avoiding an additional 51.3 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sosland added, “the system we envision gives consumers greater control over their energy bills, provides significant economic benefit and achieves deep reductions in carbon emissions.”
For additional information see: Middletown Press, Fierce Energy, PV Magazine, Study

Study Finds Glacier Responsible for Sinking the Titanic Now Moving at Record Speed

On February 3, the University of Washington and Germany's space agency published findings in The Cryosphere that Jakobshavn Glacier, the glacier believed to have produced the iceberg responsible for sinking the Titanic, is the fastest moving glacier in Greenland, traveling approximately 10 miles per year, as well as contributing significantly to sea level rise. Ian Joughin, a researcher at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington and lead author, said between 2000 and 2010 Jakobshavn “increased sea level by about 4/100 of an inch (1 mm), [and] with the additional speed, it likely will contribute a bit more than this over the next decade.” Researchers found a huge amount of surface melt caused the glacier to move a record speed of 17 kilometers per year, equivalent to 46 meters per day, in the summer of 2012. Studies of the glacier’s speed were measured via the German Space Agency’s satellite system, and were taken over a period of two years, 2012-2013. Warming regional surface temperatures due to climate change, the retreat of the glacier inland as more icebergs break off its front, and the increased rate of ice-sheet melting during summer in Greenland, are all contributing to Jakobshavn’s record speed.

DOE Official Says Carbon Capture Will Significantly Raise Cost of Coal Generated Electricity

On February 11, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on “clean coal,” which focused on the current deployment status of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at coal-fired power plants. During the hearing, Department of Energy (DOE) witnesses shared documents stating current CCS technologies would increase the cost of building and firing coal-fired plants by up to 80 percent. Half of these costs can be recouped by selling the carbon dioxide (CO2). Witness Julio Friedmann, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal of the DOE, emphasized the importance of continued federal support of energy technology research, commenting that 75 percent of all coal-fired power plants depend on technology developed at DOE, and as the technology advances, the cost of CCS could be halved within the next decade. He also recognized that “challenges remain to promote currently available technologies and develop more economic and broadly available technologies for deployment of CCS.” Under the EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards, coal plants will have to install CCS in order to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour. Critics of CCS say the technology is not viable yet and could add burdensome costs to the building and firing of coal-power plants. According to Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), “it has not yet been demonstrated that CCS systems will work reliably at full-scale coal power plants.”
For additional information see: House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Bloomberg

California to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent Below 1990 Levels

On February 10, California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) released an update of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. California is currently on track to meet its 2020 emissions goals, but after the 2020 goals are met reductions will be much more difficult due to large emissions from agriculture and waste management. According to the ARB, “emissions from 2020 to 2050 will have to decline at more than twice the rate of that which is needed to reach the 2020 statewide emissions limit.” California’s most notable policies to combat climate change, the cap-and-trade program and low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), have both been unsuccessfully challenged in the courts. While these policies are some of the most progressive in the nation for combating climate change, more aggressive policies and technological innovations will be required to meet California’s 2050 goals.
For additional information see: LA Times, Reuters

San Francisco Releases Climate Action Strategy

On February 11, the San Francisco Department of the Environment released the San Francisco Climate Action Strategy, a report which outlines approaches for the city's government, businesses and residents to reduce carbon emissions. The report, an update to San Francisco's 2004 Climate Action Plan, also demonstrates the city's success so far in deploying strategies to reduce carbon emissions, as well as promoting green jobs in the local area. The Climate Action Strategy recommends reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2017, and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2025. To achieve those benchmarks, San Francisco needs to meet its zero waste goal, ensure that 50 percent of trips happen outside of personal vehicles, implement energy efficiency improvements, and source 80 percent of commercial and 100 percent of residential electricity from renewable energy sources. "Climate change affects the entire world, and the time for action is now and must be local," said Edwin Lee, Mayor of San Francisco. "This updated Climate Action Strategy charts the way forward, and shows that we can both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs." 
For additional information see: ClickGreen.org

Church of England Focuses on Climate Change

On February 12, during a General Synod meeting, the Church of England voted to approve the formation of a group to monitor the church’s action on climate change and environmental issues. The meeting included a conversation about the church’s moral imperative to continue engaging with industry on climate change, especially the possibility of fossil fuel divestment. To date, the church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has not divested from fossil fuels, maintaining that engagement on climate change is the best way forward. EIAG’s decision has been widely criticized, including from within the church, with Canon Giles Goddard of Southwark diocese commenting that they should “align the mission of the church with its investment arm and with the life of the parishes.” Reverend Canon Professor Richard Burridge, Deputy Chair of the EIAG, said the problem requires a more sophisticated solution than divestment, adding, “pointing the finger at the extractive industries gets us off the hook and avoids the fundamental problem which is our selfishness and way of life . . . fuelled by plentiful, cheap energy.” The Church has worked with several large UK companies to significantly reduce their emissions. At the meeting, the church also renewed its commitment to help bring about an ambitious 80 percent reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Dr. Alison Doig, Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Advisor, remarked, “climate change is increasingly becoming one of the moral issues of our time and the church has a powerful voice with which to speak.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, Responding to Climate Change

Interagency Special Report on Climate Change Impacts on Human Health in the United States

On February 7, the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (INCA) announced the beginning of work on a special report detailing the impacts of climate change on human health. The report will outline risks to human health in eight areas, including heat waves, air quality, disease vectors, food and water borne diseases, extreme weather, and mental health. New analyses may be conducted for the report within the areas of heat mortality, ozone and fine particulate (PM 2.5) health effects, and lyme disease. The report will focus particularly on those who belong to vulnerable groups, with the goal of assisting public health officials and resource managers in planning for the effects of climate change. According to the EPA, while “it is often difficult to attribute the exact impact of climate on many health indicators . . . such indicators will be instrumental . . . in identifying areas where public heath intervention is most needed.” The report will build on the findings of the 2008 INCA report entitled Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health, Welfare and Human Systems, as well as the forthcoming National Climate Assessment (NCA). The agencies coordinating the report on human health are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agencies will accept public input on the report planning up through the end of March.
For additional information see: The Sunlight Foundation, Courthouse News, Globalchange.gov

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Chad A. Tolman

New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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