Monday, April 28, 2014



On October 9 2012, Dr. John D. Sterman, Director of the System Dynamics Group at MIT, gave an excellent lecture and made a 1.3-hr (including audience participation) must-see video, titled Soapbox - Climate and Conflict, in which he said that we are playing Russian roulette with the climate system.  The difference with the traditional game is that in it, you put one round in a 6-shot revolver, spin the cylinder, and put the gun to your head.  In the climate game we are playing there are 20 chambers, 19 of which are loaded, and we put the gun to the heads of our grandchildren.  At: John D. Sterman, MITTechTV, MIT Museum, Oct. 9, 2012.

Scott S. Knowles posted an article on March 23 in Slate titled, Flood Zone Foolishness – Politicians from disaster-prone states lead the fight against real disaster reforms.  It describes the passage in March by comfortable margins in both the House and the Senate  and a signature by the president, of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, greatly slowing the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to raise the premiums on federal flood insurance high enough so that the income would enough to cover the payments, as required by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.  At that time NFIP was $24 billion in the hole as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  But 2014 is an election year, and long-term planning and fiscal responsibility appear to be secondary to being reelected.  At: 
Note: You can learn more about the history of flood insurance and NFIP at;

On March 28 the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) in Washington held a webinar on the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency (EE) and Renewable Energy (RE) programs  and their proposed budget for FY2015, which begins in July.  You can find the webinar - The 2015 Budget: Impacts on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - at, along with 
·        Speaker Slides
·        Video Recording
·        Audio Recording
·        Highlights

On March 31,Working Group II (WGII) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Assessment Report 5 (AR5) titled, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.  It represents the work of  over 300 authors and over 1000 reviewers from 70 countries.  A 12-minute video describing some of the key findings, the Summary for Policy Makers, and the complete final report can be found at:

On April 1 Suzi Parker posted an article in Takepart titled, Science and Oil Don’t Mix: Wyoming Becomes First State to Reject New U.S. Science Standards for Schools.  The article says, “The state’s board of education chairman also denies climate change. “I don't accept, personally, that it is a fact,” Ron Micheli said in the same article. “[The standards are] very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development.””    At:
NOTE: I’m sorry to learn the Wyoming has become so backward.  It was the first state to allow women to vote in 1920.

On April 6 Elizabeth Chuck produced a special 1-hr program program on
Ann Curry’s NBC, with interiews and clips from around the world, called, Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home?.  A couple of 2.3-minute clips and some of the text from the program can be found at:

On April 20 Wendy Koch of USA Today posted an article on titled, Climate changes visible by ZIP code with new online tools.  She reported that a new on-line mapping tool will be available by the end of the summer that allows the user to see maps of all U.S. Coastal communities and see what areas are likely to be flooded with future sea level rise, as well as the numbers of buildings and residents that could be flooded.  So far the Surging Seas website has data only for New York, New Jersey and Florida, but stay tuned for much more.  At: 

During a week in April, starting on April 22, there has been an action on the National Mall in Washington DC by western cowboys and indians called Reject and Protect, urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline which would bring polluting Alberta tar sands crude oil across the middle of the U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast.  You can see a short video 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. 

Obama Partners with Silicon Valley to Prepare for Climate Change

On March 19, White House officials announced a collaboration, the Climate Data Initiative, with Google, Intel, Microsoft, Esri, and others, to make climate data and its impacts more accessible to local communities. The tech giants will provide both their innovations and their cloud storage for data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop tools for disseminating local climate change projections. As part of the initial efforts, Esri plans to partner with cities to produce climate maps and apps for state and local governments; Intel is hosting a “hackathon” to create new apps and tools from federal data; and Google is creating high-resolution mapping of droughts, sea level rise and other climate change impacts. The next stage will expand into including data on health, energy infrastructure, and food security. The White House hopes this new approach will bring home the realities of climate change across the country. “Every citizen will be affected by climate change — and all of us must work together to make our communities stronger and more resilient to its impacts,” said John Podesta, head of the Climate Data Initiative. The pilot-stage site is located at, with information already available on coastal flooding and sea-level rise.
For additional information see: White House, USA Today,, New York Times

House Democrats Write to Secretary Kerry on Keystone XL Climate Impacts

On March 14, 27 House Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, encouraging him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline because of its climate impacts. The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Kerry has said that he is approaching a decision related to Keystone XL with a “blank slate,” but that hasn’t stopped environmental activists from appealing to him with the negative climate impacts of the pipeline. In the past few weeks, student activists met with State Department officials and submitted a letter to Secretary Kerry; Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a press conference with the organization National Nurses United to discuss the health impacts of the pipeline; and now House Democrats have detailed the potential negative climate impacts of the project. The letter reads, “if the United States is truly committed to avoiding a 2 degree temperature increase, we have to start by resisting this pipeline.”
For additional information see: The Hill

Brown University Students Work With Rhode Island Senator to Introduce Climate Change Bill in State Legislature

On March 11, Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston) introduced the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 (2014-H 7904), a bill crafted in partnership with 15 students and one faculty member at Brown University, to help the state of Rhode Island mitigate, adapt and prepare for climate change. The bill would set targets for Rhode Island to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050,create a climate change science advisory council of experts, and authorize the use of green and low impact infrastructure to strengthen resiliency. Brown Professor J. Timmons Roberts and students in the environmental studies department had previously worked with Rep. Handy to write the legislation which created the Rhode Island climate change commission, and participated with the student groups to draft the Resilient Rhode Island Act. The collaboration was the result of Brown University President Christina Paxton’s offer to discuss options to make Brown a leader in climate change efforts, after she and the Brown Board of Trustees chose not to divest the school from coal investments. After listening to various recommendations from students and faculty, Paxton offered the students the opportunity to work with two hired consultants to write climate legislation for Rhode Island. Paxton brought on Ken Payne, Food Policy Council Chair in Rhode Island, and Meg Kerr, the treasurer of the Rhode Island Blueways Alliance, to provide expertise to the students in crafting legislation. Professor Roberts commented, “[The partnership] has provided an opportunity for students to be a part of a really exciting potential change in the state to be more resilient, to be ready for the future.”
For additional information see: Brown Daily Herald, Providence Journal, Eco RI News, Bill

Australian Senate Votes Against Repeal of Carbon Tax

On March 20, the Australian Senate voted 33 to 29 against a package of nine bills which would have repealed the country’s upcoming 2015 Emissions Trading Scheme and allowed 348 of the country’s largest companies to forego paying a carbon tax. The package had support in the Australian House of Representatives, which on the same day moved a bill to abolish the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. “We will repeal the carbon tax if there is a credible plan to address climate change,” said Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler. “Without a credible alternative, Labor cannot support the abolition of existing clean energy policies.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott has offered an alternative “direct action plan,” which would create a fund to pay companies to emit less greenhouse gases (GHG) in order to cut GHG to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australian Green party leader Christine Milne said the plan was an expensive method of reducing emissions, commenting, “Tony Abbott should now abandon the so-called direct action plan, which is little more than a slogan.” The current carbon tax charges companies A$24.15 per tonne of carbon dioxide. Three months must elapse before the bill can be introduced again, and with the arrival of new senators in July, the outcome may be different. 
For additional information see: The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters, The Guardian

NOTE: At the current exchange rate of A$1.00=US$0.94, A$24.15/tonne= US$22.46/tonne.  Since a tonne is a metric ton (2200 lbs), the price of CO2 in Australia is very close to $20/ton.  In the U.S. that would raise the cost of gasoline about 20 cents/gal and the cost of electricity from coal about 2 cents/kWh.

AAAS Study Urges Political Action on Climate Change

On March 18, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) launched the initiative What We Know to communicate the realities, risks, and potential responses to climate change to the public. The accompanying report states there is an overwhelming consensus that human-caused climate change is occurring, which leads to a risk of sudden and irreversible changes triggered by global warming. The scientists urge early intervention to lower the cost of action and minimize the risk of reaching a catastrophic tipping point. The initiative was formed in response to AAAS scientists’ concern that Americans do not appreciate the severity of the risks associated with climate change. The report offers hope if people decide to take action, stating, “There's much we can do to respond to the challenge and risks of climate change, particularly by tapping America's strength in innovation.” Dr. Mario Molina, co-chair of the initiative, said, “What’s extremely clear is that there’s a risk, a very significant risk. You don’t need 100 percent certainty for society to act.”
For additional information see: The Guardian, New York Times, What We Know/AAAS site, Report

Greenland’s Ice Sheets Melting More Rapidly than Predicted, Accelerating Sea Level Rise

On March 16, a study in Nature Climate Change revealed that a northeastern part of Greenland’s ice sheet once thought to be stable has been melting at a rapid rate. Researchers found a positive feedback between melting at an outlet glacier connected to a massive ice stream, and increased ice mass loss from the center of Greenland’s ice sheet. As barriers to the nearly 373-mile outlet ice stream “Zachariae” have melted, the stream’s melt has sped up, pulling more ice from the interior to the periphery. Because this previously unaccounted for drainage of the northeastern ice sheet connects to 16 percent of the Greenland ice sheet, researchers believe that sea-level rise predictions have been underestimated. “This should be a wakeup call for the world,” stated Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “No amount of continued warming can be considered safe when we have no idea when we’ll pass these thresholds for irreversible and abrupt climate change. The best way to slow down warming, particularly in the critically vulnerable Arctic is to cut black carbon soot and other short-lived climate pollutants, which can cut the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds.”
For additional information see: Ohio State University Press Release, Time, Study

Study Says Climate Change Will Lower Crop Yields

On March 16, the University of Leeds published a study in Nature Climate Change which found that 2 degrees Celsius of global warming will reduce world-wide crop yields sooner than previous predictions. Researchers predict diminishing yields beginning in the 2030s and on. The findings show that crops in temperate and tropical regions will be the most sensitive to impacts, although climate change impacts will vary year-to-year and geographically, with variability increasing as more climate change occurs. The researchers compiled and compared results from 1,700 published studies on the effects of climate change on maize, rice and wheat, in order to create the largest dataset to date on climate’s effects on crop yields. Study authors were able to double the research which was available to authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, which predicted that temperate regions could continue to produce similar levels of crop yields even after 2 degrees Celsius global warming. “As more data have become available, we’ve seen a shift in consensus, telling us that the impacts of climate change in temperate regions will happen sooner rather than later,” said study lead author Professor Andy Challinor at the University of Leeds.
For additional information see: Zee News

White House Announces New Methane Emissions Standards

On March 28, the White House released its most recent component of the Administration’s Climate Action Plan, its Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions. The new strategy will take steps to reduce methane emissions from four sources of methane emissions: landfills, coal mines, agriculture, and oil and gas operations. The strategy directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose updated standards for methane emissions from landfills and assess emissions from the oil and gas sector, in order to determine whether further regulations are needed. EPA would also work with the Department of Energy to identify opportunities for industry to voluntarily reduce methane emissions, through the Natural Gas STAR program. The strategy also directs the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to gather input on the potential use of captured methane from coal mines, as well as propose updated standards to reduce flaring and venting from oil and gas production on public lands. “Methane pollution is an intense contributor to global climate change, and the White House methane strategy is a smart roadmap for taking on the biggest sources of emissions, including natural gas leaks from the oil and gas sector,” commented Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in a 20-year period. Currently, methane accounts for almost 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
For additional information see: USA Today, The Guardian, White House Fact Sheet

Senator Unveils New Carbon Capture and Sequestration Legislation

On March 24, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the Advanced Clean Coal Technology Investment in Our Nation Act (ACCTION), which would support the expansion of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of coal. The bill would redirect 25 percent ($2 billion) of existing Department of Energy loan guarantees for advanced fossil fuels projects towards CCS, increase tax credits for CCS, and increase support for research and development of CCS. CCS involves the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main driver of climate change, and subsequent injection into deep rock formations. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Source Performance Standards, introduced September 2013, mandate that coal-fired power plant’s CO2 emissions be limited to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour. Existing source performance standards are expected to be released by June 2014. Opponents of the regulation say CCS technology is currently unable to meet these standards, making new coal plants unviable. According to Senator Heitkamp’s office, the bill would provide a “viable path forward for the source of energy that provides the United States with almost 40 percent of its electricity.” In February, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited North Dakota to hear about the role of coal in the state economy. Eighty percent of the electricity generated in North Dakota comes from coal power generation, and the industry is a major employer of state residents.
For additional information see: Senator Heitkamp, Senator Heitkamp, Bloomberg BNA

NOTE: Coal produces about twice as much CO2 per MWh as natural gas.  It can’t meet the new 1100 lbs CO2/MWh limit unless about half of the CO2 produced is captured and sequestered.

Representatives Plan Tour to Get African-Americans Involved in Fighting Climate Change

On a press call on March 21, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) said that many African-Americans are disproportionately affected by climate change, as they live in urban sites with exposure to water and air pollution, and which are more vulnerable to natural disasters. The Hip-Hop Caucus, along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are working to get young African-Americans on board in the fight against climate change, and expand the idea of what makes someone an environmentalist beyond “some white person, probably wearing Birkenstocks,” to encompass broader communities. Both Rep. Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) are touring colleges with the Hip-Hop Caucus in an “Act on Climate” Campus Tour, with this goal in mind. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will also make an appearance at the tour. “If you've ever wondered about test scores between black students and white students, if you've ever wondered about health disparities, if you've ever wondered about who gets to make it through the flood and the big bad storm and who doesn't, you really don't have to look any further than this issue of climate change,” Rep. Ellison said. The tour will make stops at Hampton University, Howard University, Wayne State University, Central State University, North Carolina A&T, and Clark Atlanta University.
For additional information see: The Hill, Hip-Hop Caucus

President Obama and European Union Continue Climate Diplomacy, Including HFC Phasedown

On March 26, leaders of the European Union and the United States issued a Joint Statement, noting the economic and security risk of climate change, and reaffirming the “strong determination to work towards the adoption in Paris in 2015 of a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, to strengthen the multilateral, rules-based regime . . . with the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees C.”  The EU and US governments further noted that the 2015 agreement should “include ambitious mitigation contributions, notably from the world’s major economies and other significant emitters.” The state leaders also affirmed their cooperation on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; decreasing the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol; promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency; slowing deforestation; and mobilizing both private and public finance for these efforts. Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, commented, “Amid an agenda crowded with other global and regional crisis, it’s heartening to see President Obama continuing his high-level climate diplomacy, including promoting the use of the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs—the single biggest, fastest, and cheapest near-term mitigation, capable of avoiding up to 0.5C of warming by the end of the century.”

World Health Organization Report Links 7 Million Annual Preventable Deaths to Climate Pollutants

On March 25, a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that one in eight deaths in 2012 was caused by exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Exposure to particulate matter air pollution, which includes major climate forcers such as black carbon soot, is linked to such diseases as ischaemic heart disease, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, and lung cancer. The report states that globally in 2012, 4.3 million deaths were linked to indoor particulate matter air pollution and 3.7 deaths to outdoor particulate matter air pollution, with low- and middle-income countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific the hardest hit by air pollutants. Black carbon soot, one of four climate pollutants known collectively as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) due to their relatively short atmospheric lifetimes, is the second leading cause of global warming behind carbon dioxide (CO2). “The big news is that we have a better understanding of how large a role air pollution plays in strokes and coronary heart attacks. Given the astronomical costs, countries need to find a way to prevent these non-communicable diseases,” commented Dr. Carlos Dora, public health and environment coordinator at the WHO.
For additional information see: The New York Times, The Guardian

Exxon Mobil to Produce “Carbon Asset Risk” Report

On March 20, Exxon Mobil announced that it would begin to prepare a report on “carbon asset risk” after receiving pressure from environmental activists. This report would address how climate change could affect Exxon’s business model, including the potential for climate regulations to require the oil giant to leave some of its oil and gas holdings in the ground.  The British group Carbon Tracker started the campaign to get oil companies to investigate their carbon risks, but Exxon is its first major victory. According to Natasha Lamb of Arjuna Capital, the firm investigating Exxon’s climate risks, “more and more unconventional ‘frontier’ assets are being booked on the balance sheet, such as deep-water and tar sands . . . these reserves are not only the most carbon intensive, risky, and expensive to extract, but the most vulnerable to devaluation.” This report is especially necessary as the United Nations reported in September that much of the remaining fossil fuel would need to remain in the ground in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
For additional information see: The Guardian

NOTE: Reporting of carbon asset risks could drive investors away from fossil fuel companies - especially if they realize that a lot of those carbon assets are going to remain in the ground.

Report Shows Progress in Oregon Policies to Reduce Carbon Emissions

On March 19, Environment Oregon released a report examining the impact state and federal renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean fuel policies have on U.S. carbon emissions. According to the report, Moving America Forward, a patchwork of state and federal clean energy policies were responsible for reductions of 162 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2012, the equivalent of removing 34 million vehicles off the road. However, the report also found that in order for America to meet its goal of reducing climate change-causing pollution 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, much more will need to be done at all levels of government. (emphasis added)  Oregon ranked 14th out of 50 states in terms of carbon emissions, with more than half of the state’s carbon reductions coming from its renewable energy policies and another 34 percent from energy efficiency policies. According to Charlie Fisher, a field organizer for Environment Oregon, “we have the technology we need, and we see that every time we set these big ambitious goals, we can achieve them and it doesn’t have the dire consequences that are predicted.”
For additional information see: Oregon Live, Study

Study Indicates Further Global Warming May Trigger Freshwater Methane Emissions

On March 27, the journal Nature published findings that rising global temperatures could activate the release of freshwater sources of methane, further exacerbating global warming. Scientists from the University of Exeter examined data from hundreds of field survey and laboratory experiments to determine that temperature rise increases the flow of methane from freshwater bodies such as bogs, rivers, lakes, deltas, swamps, marshlands and rice paddies. Most of the freshwater methane is produced by a group of microbes called Archaea that live in oxygen-free sediment and help with decay processes. When researchers compared Archaea methane release to natural processes that produce and consume carbon dioxide (CO2), they found that methane is more sensitive to increased temperatures than CO2, indicating that further warming will increase the ratio of methane released relative to CO2. “The discovery that methane fluxes are much more responsive to temperature than the processes that produce and consume carbon dioxide highlights another mechanism by which the global carbon cycle may serve to accelerate rather than mitigate future climate change,” said Dr. Gabriel Yvon-Durocher at the University of Exeter, lead author of the study.
For additional information see: Climate News Network, AZO Clean Tech, Study

GOP Budget Proposal Cuts Funding for Climate Initiatives

On April 1 Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, unveiled his 2015 fiscal budget proposal, which slashed much of the programmatic spending for President Obama’s climate agenda. Implementing the Ryan budget would result in the general reduction of approximately $5.1 trillion from estimated spending over the next 10 years. Ryan targets federal agencies that oversee climate change initiatives, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers carbon emissions reductions rules, and the Clean Technology Strategic Climate Funds, established in 2010 to provide assistance for climate mitigation projects abroad. While climate and clean energy programs are slashed in the budget, Ryan encourages the expansion of oil and gas exploration across the United States, including approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
For additional information see: The Hill

EPA Sends Draft Rules for Existing Power Plants to White House

On March 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered its draft rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). EPA is developing the regulations using its authority under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, spurred by a presidential memorandum from June 2013. OMB will now review the draft rule before it is released publicly. No timeline for this is certain, but President Obama previously set a June 1, 2014 deadline. A public comment period will follow, with enactment of the final rule planned for the summer of 2015. The proposed rule for existing power plants is coming on the heels of EPA’s proposed rule for carbon emissions from new power power plants (See January 13, 2014 edition of CCN).
For additional information see: The National Journal, The Hill, OMB Rule Page

IPCC Working Group II Report Released, Saying Climate Change Will Be Overwhelming and Ubiquitous

On March 31, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that widespread climate change impacts have already begun and are expected to get worse, according to updated data in the Fifth Assessment Report released this week. The impacts include heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires, which will affect impoverished peoples and nations disproportionately. The report notes that no one will be unaffected by future climate change, which is expected to threaten economic growth and global security. Some impacts, such as the release of the powerful climate pollutant methane from the melting permafrost, have the potential to trigger accelerating feedback loops that will push temperatures even higher. The authors say climate change could also indirectly increase the incident of under-nutrition, water-borne diseases, violent conflicts and human displacement. A temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius is expected to cause 0.2 to 2 percent of global income to be lost. The WGII Summary for Policymakers is the work of 309 climate scientists and almost 2,000 experts world wide, backed up by 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers. WGII co-chair Chris Field, a professor at Stanford University, commented, “The climate changes that have already occurred have been widespread and have really had consequences. It is not the case that climate change is a thing of the future.”

Soon after the report was released, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement addressing the need for climate action, saying “read this report and you can’t deny the reality: unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy.” This report warned that climate impacts are happening now and future risks are more immediate than once believed, including in the areas of food and water availability, natural disasters, global temperature, human health, national security, and global income. Secretary Kerry reiterated that, “the United States is meeting this challenge [of climate change] through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and we’re committed to reaching an ambitious agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions with other countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”   
For additional information see: New York Times, BBC, IPCC, The Hill, Statement, EESI, IGSD

Oxfam Report Says World is “Woefully Unprepared” For Food Scarcity from Climate Change

On March 24, Oxfam America released a briefing report, Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change from derailing the fight against hunger, indicating that global food supply is "woefully unprepared" for the challenges climate change will present. The report examined 10 main policy gaps between current government actions and what is needed, including: humanitarian aid, agricultural investment, food stocks, fighting gender discrimination, weather forecasting, social protection/safety nets, agricultural research and development, crop irrigation, crop insurance, and international adaptation finance. The report says, "There could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of 5 in 2050, compared with a world without climate change - that's the equivalent of all the children under 5 in the US and Canada combined." Countries where high levels of food insecurity already exist generally also face the greatest threats from climate change impacts - although the report states that countries such as Ghana, Vietnam and Malawi, which are taking action on some of the indicated 10 policy gaps, will enjoy higher levels of food security than countries with comparable risk. The report concludes, "The climate change impacts which are already locked in do not make hunger inevitable if the right action is taken."
For additional information see: The Hill, UPI, Press Release

Study Finds Up to a Third of the Earth Could Dry Up from Rising Temperatures

On March 31, a study on changing precipitation patterns and evaporation rates was published in Climate Dynamics. The study found that changes in rainfall patterns alone could subject 12 percent of land globally to drought by 2100, but when higher evaporation rates are considered, the drying is predicted to spread to 30 percent of land. The study utilized rainfall and evaporative demand projections from the climate model simulations developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013 climate report to predict that increased evaporative drying will tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes – like the US Great Plains and the fertile lands of southeastern China – into aridity. "For agriculture, the moisture balance in the soil is what really matters," said study coauthor Jason Smerdon, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "If rain increases slightly but temperatures also increase, drought is a potential consequence." University of New South Wales researcher Steven Sherwood, who was not associated with the study, stated, "Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.”
For additional information see: Science Daily, Climate Central, Study

IPCC Working Group III Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

On April 7, Members of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change Working Group III (IPCC WG III) began a meeting in Berlin, Germany, to approve the Summary for Policymakers of WG III, which focuses on climate mitigation. According to the site, the IPCC WG III “[assessed] all relevant options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere.”  The meeting concluded on April 12, with a finalized assessment report released on Sunday, April 13, at
For additional information see: IPCC

Chile Releases Plan for Carbon Tax

On April 7, Chilean President Michele Bachelet presented a proposal for an environmental tax on thermal power plants with over 50 megawatts of capacity, which would place a $5 tax on each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. The proposed tax would also target other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Chile, the world’s top producer of copper, has encountered censure from environmental groups for using coal-fired power plants to power its copper mines. The new policy will encourage these power plants to reduce harmful emissions. The environmental tax is also part of a larger strategy of fiscal reform meant to increase revenue and support social policies. The government in Chile commented, “This measure has the objective to encourage the shift to clean technologies.” Mexico imposed a carbon tax on January 1, 2014, which taxes carbon at the average rate of $3 a tonne. Chile’s Congress must approve the tax before it can go forward.
For additional information see: Reuters, Environmental-Expert

Shell and Unilever Join 68 Businesses in Advocating for a 1-Trillion Ton Limit on Carbon Emissions

On April 8, Unilever, Shell, BT and EDF Energy were among 70 large companies which released a communiqué demanding that governments institute policies to put in place a cap of one trillion tonnes of carbon on emissions from the Industrial Revolution on. The letter, organized by The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, also asked governments to set a timeline to achieve zero net emissions before the end of this century, create a strategy to transform the energy system, and reform the global economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal. “We need to get beyond the concept that progressive climate change policy is bad for business: it can be a huge driver of innovation and create opportunities for growth and prosperity,” said Niall Dunne, chief sustainability officer at BT. “Conversely, there isn’t an organization I know of which isn’t already being impacted by climate change at some level.” This is the seventh letter the Corporate Leaders Group has released on climate change; in November 2012, they called for a global price on carbon.
For additional information see: The Guardian, Bloomberg, Trillion Ton Communique

NBC Plays One-Hour Documentary on Climate Change

On April 6, NBC aired a one-hour documentary, “Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home?” In the documentary, NBC reporter Ann Curry travels from the Arctic to drought-stricken regions in the American West, explores rising sea levels in Florida, and looks at the storm-devastated coast of Long Island. Curry also more broadly covers extreme weather events all over the world. In Alaska, many Inuit families are leaving their homes because they are no longer able to live from the land. Curry met with Aqqaluk Lynge, a leader of the Inuit, who had a message for the world: “Protect it, take good care of it.” In Miami Beach, $400 million is being spent to build pumps to keep water off the peninsula. Keren Bolter, a research scientist at Florida Atlantic University's Center for Environmental Studies, said, “We don't have time to argue. It's here. It's happening and we need to do something, and there's an urgency about it.”
For additional information see: NBC, NBC

Climate Change Is Focus of New Showtime Series, Years of Living Dangerously

On April 16, a new nine-part series on climate change premiered on the premium channel Showtime, starring famous correspondents including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Mark Bittman, Harrison Ford, Thomas Friedman, Ian Somerhalder, and more. The show, produced by James Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Jerry Weintraub, Daniel Abbasi, Maria Wilhelm, and former 60-Minutes producers who have won 12 Emmys between them (Joel Bach and David Gelber), offers a human face to climate change. In addition to the television series, Years of Living Dangerously has teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation to create appropriate curriculum and online experiences to allow middle and high school teachers, college faculty, and parents to incorporate the curriculum into their work. “The goal of Years of Living Dangerously is to galvanize a national conversation on the realities of climate change and inspire people to share their own stories and empower them to get involved in solutions,” commented David Gelber. The first episode is available for free on YouTube.
For additional information see: The Guardian, Years of Living Dangerously

Gallup Poll Shows a Third of Americans Concerned With Climate Change

On April 4, Gallup released polling results showing that Americans show low levels of concern on global warming. When asked about how much Americans worry about climate change, 35 percent said they worried a “great deal” about climate change, which is up two percentage points from March 2013. According to the Gallup article, “Americans’ generally low level of concern about global warming compared with other environmental issues is not new; warming has generally ranked last among Americans’ environmental worries each time Gallup has measured them with this question over the years.” The highest level of concern about global warming occurred in 2007, with 41 percent of Americans saying they worry about it a “great deal.” Gallup has found that political party affiliation is a powerful indicator of worry over global warming, with 56 percent of Democrats worrying a “great deal,” with only 29 percent of Independents and 16 percent of Republicans feeling that they worry about global warming a “great deal.” These results are part of a series analyzing climate change public opinion and how these views have changed over time; Gallup has been measuring climate change opinion since 1989. Gallup identifies the role of politics and the fact that many Americans do not feel that they have been personally affected by climate change as key reasons why the majority of Americans do worry more about this important issue.
For additional information see: Gallup Poll

New Report Judges How Accurately Cable News Channels Represent Climate Change

On April 7, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report on how accurately several major news networks – CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – covered climate change, if they covered it at all. The report found that in all examined coverage within the last year, MSNBC was in the lead with 92 percent accuracy, CNN in second place with 70 percent accuracy of climate science coverage, and Fox News brought up the rear with 28 percent accuracy. Aaron Huertas, a science communications officer at UCS and leader of the study, said that it seemed like the major news networks were “covering different planets.” UCS studied a total of 569 clips of cable news coverage from these networks over the course of 2013 for the key words “climate change” and “global warming,” and compared them against “actual published, peer-reviewed climate science.” Each network's segments were then classified as misleading or accurate based on this comparison, a single inaccuracy marking the entire segment misleading. Huertas explained it was crucial that the major news networks took care about how they covered climate science for the public eye, especially when choosing speakers for the topic, as “[the] audiences will then share and spread this information based on their beliefs and principles.”
For additional information see: Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Study, Report

United Nations Climate Panel: Governments Must Do More in Face of Climate Change

On April 13, Working Group III (WGIII) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report on what can be done to mitigate climate change across sectors. Between 1970 and 2000, GHG emissions rose at an annual rate of 1.3 percent; now, they are rising at a rate of 2.2 percent per year, largely due to an increase in coal usage from developing countries. The scientists contributing to the IPCC argue that clean technologies will need to overtake traditional fossil fuels in order to address climate change. However, scientists are still optimistic that the world can stay below a global rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels. Fossil fuel burning would need to peak in the near future and then fall to between 40 to 70 percent of 2010 levels by 2050 and then continue falling until 2100, in order to stay within a 2-degree Celsius rise. The IPCC also reports that the most ambitious mitigation plan would only reduce economic growth by about 0.06 percentage points per year. This doesn’t even take into account the co-benefits of climate action, such as improved public health and increased energy efficiency savings, which could further reduce the impact to the global economy and perhaps even lead to a net benefit. Rajendra K. Pachauri, one of the co-chairs of WGIII, argued for the need of cooperation among countries to limit global temperature rise, saying that “what comes out very clear from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board.” U.S. researchers, including Leon Clarke, senior research economist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and one of the report's lead authors, seconded this feeling with the sentiment that, “the longer we wait, the harder this is going to get.”
For additional information see: EESI Article, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters

World Bank President Talks Climate Change

In an interview before the biannual World Bank meeting, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that within the decade climate change will cause conflict in societies battling for water and food. Kim identified areas where the World Bank could assist in mitigating climate change: promoting sustainable urban areas and sustainable agriculture, stabilizing the market for carbon pricing, and doing away with all fuel subsidies. Kim said, "The water issue is critically related to climate change. People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There's just no question about it.”
For additional information see: The Guardian

Rising Carbon Dioxide in Oceans Harming Marine Life

On April 13, a study published in Nature Climate Change found that prolonged exposure to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) changed the behavior of reef fish. The study was conducted in naturally occurring CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), James Cook University, the National Geographic Society, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. AIMS scientist, Alistair Cheal, stated that "we found that living in an acidic environment makes small reef fish become attracted to the smell of their potential predators.” More than 90 percent of the time, fish in these waters swam to locations with predator species, while the control fish in non-acidified waters regularly avoided predator areas. According to Cheal, this shows that, ". . . fish become bolder and they venture further away from safe shelter, making them more vulnerable to predators." Professor Philip Munday from James Cook University said that despite living their whole lives in those conditions, the fish failed to adapt to the high CO2 levels.

Heartland Institute Releases Non-Peer Reviewed Report On Climate Change

On April 8, the Heartland Institute released a report that they believe “debunks” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released early last week. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) released an over 1,000-page report, the fourth in a series of six “Climate Change Reconsidered” reports, arguing that global climate change has a positive impact on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. Since its release, the NIPCC and Heartland Institute have received a wave of criticism from a variety of different groups, stating that the think tank used out-of-date, non-peer reviewed science to state its claims. While media outlets such as Fox News have equated the NIPCC report with the IPCC, many experts disagree. According to Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “the NIPCC has no standing whatsoever . . . this is irresponsible journalism.” The Heartland Institute plans to release a sixth report in May regarding human welfare, energy, and policies.
For additional information see: The Salon, The Coloradoan, Media Matters, Fox News
QUESTION: Where do you think the money came from to fund this 1000+ page report by the Heartland Institute?

If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to: 

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue.  Recent issues are available at:

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

No comments:

Post a Comment