Monday, May 26, 2014



The NY Times for April 20 had an article by Beth Gardiner titled, Setbacks Aside, Climate Change is Finding It’s Way Into the World’s Classrooms.  She wrote, “Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow the process.”  Climate education can be a hard sell in some places.  Legislators in Wyoming, a big oil and gas producer, have blocked funding for new U.S. science education standards that recommend including climate change; they said teaching climate change could hurt the local economy.  At:

On April 24 the EPA reposted a blog titled Climate Justice by Charles Lee, the Deputy Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice at the EPA.  He wrote, Climate change is impacting our lives today, including record high temperatures, reduced air quality, extreme weather, severe droughts and sea-level rise, just to name a few examples. While we all share this burden, these impacts greatly exacerbate the many environmental and public health challenges in minority, indigenous and low-income communities.”  “The impacts of climate change on our lives, families and communities are felt by everyone. In low income communities, these impacts are often devastating, including compromised health, financial hardship, and social and cultural disruptions. Often they are the first to experience heat-related illness and death, respiratory ailments, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and crushing natural disasters.”  At:

According to Dennis Normile in an article in Science News on April 25 titled After the Deluge, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November was the most powerful  ever to make landfall.  It seems like records continue to fall as climate extremes become more common.  At:  

The NY Times for April 26 had an editorial titled, The Koch Attack on Solar Energy.  It says, For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.”  So why are they doing this?  “This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.”  At:

A study in Clean Technica recently released by a German firm (Agora Energiewende) was tited, Wind & Solar Can Generate Electricity For Half The Cost of Nuclear.  It found that a system based on coal with carbon capture and storage (CSS) to reduce carbon emissions was even more expensive than nuclear.  At:

Daniel Lippman published an article on April 28 in E&E Publishing titled, EPA: McCarthy slams critics' 'dangerous game' of trying to discredit agency science.  In it he quotes well known climate scientist, Michael Mann of PA State University, who has been attacked by the  same people who try to discredit the science used by the EPA.  Mann says. “"Administrator McCarthy hits the nail on the head."  "What is such a shame is that we could be having a worthwhile and important dialogue about how to deal with the risk to our planet of escalating greenhouse gas emissions. But instead, fossil fuel interests and, in particular, the Koch Brothers, have spent tens of millions of dollars on bad faith attacks on the science and scientists. ... That has to stop."  At:

On May 6 the Third National Climate Assessment was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, with input from 13 U.S. agencies. as requested by Congress.  Impacts can be searched by region and by topic.  For example the section on the Northeast, which stretches from Washington, DC north, says, Infrastructure will be increasingly compromised by climate-related hazards, including sea level rise, coastal flooding, and intense precipitation events.”  Under the topic Sea Level, it says,Global sea level rise has been a persistent trend for decades. It is expected to continue beyond the end of this century, which will cause significant impacts in the United States. Scientists have very high confidence (greater than 90% chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meter) and no more than 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by 2100.”  At:

On May 6 in the NY Times published a thoughtful article by Jon Huntsman titled, The G.O.P. Can’t Ignore Climate Change.   He urged the Republican Party to return to its environmental roots established by Teddy Roosevelt a century ago.  Huntsman wrote, So obtuse has become the party’s dialogue on climate change that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra.”  “This approach reached a new low last month during a North Carolina congressional debate at which all the Republican candidates chuckled at a question on climate change — as if they had been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. Is climate change a fact, they were asked. All four answered no. This is a shortsighted strategy that is wrong for the party, wrong for the country and wrong for the next generation. It simply kicks a big problem farther down the field. And it’s a problem we — as solution-seeking Republicans — have the opportunity to solve.”  At:

NOTE: Joh Huntsman was the Governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, and the U.S. Ambassador to China from 2001 to 2011.  He ran for President in 2012, and was the only Republican candidate to acknowledge the reality of climate change.  It’s a sad day for the G.O.P.

On May 13 an article by Alex Kuffner appeared in the Providence Journal titled, R. I. coastal guardians OK Deepwater Wind’s 5-turbine project off Block Island.  He reported that the Coastal Resources Management Council voted unanimously in favor of the Deepwater Wind’s project off Block Island.  The project would consist of a wind farm with six 5 MW turbines, for a capacity of 30 MW. Some additional approvals are needed, including one from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but this is likely to be the first off-shore wind farm in U.S. coastal waters, and be a milestone in the development of a major new U.S. renewable energy source.  At:
The  May 13 issue of ClimateProgress had an article by Kiley Kroh titled, Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy.
He reported that Germany’s renewable energy sources recently set a new daily record, generating nearly 75% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources.  The average for the first quarter of 2014 was 24%, also setting a new record.  Germany plans to generate 80% of its electricity from renewable sources - primarily wind and solar PV - by 2050, while phasing out nuclear power. This will be a remarkable achievement by a major industrial nation.  It can be done.  At:

Jon Queally of Common Dreams published an article on May 13 titled, 'Energy [R]evolution': Nearly 100% Renewable Is Doable, says Report.  It describes a report recently issued by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council —titled Energy [R]evolution - A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook —detailing “how by 2050, renewable energy sources could be producing close to 97% of electricity in the U.S. and approximately 94% of the country's needs for heating and cooling homes and businesses.”  “… the report argues that the following policies—at the local, state, and/or federal level—should be enacted to make such an "energy [R]evolution" possible:

  1. Abolish all subsidies, including any policies which confer a financial benefit, to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The End Polluter Welfare Act, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) is an example of federal action that must move forward.
    2. Internalize the currently socialized cost of industrial climate pollution, such as with a federal carbon fee. (emphasis added)
    3. Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles.
    4. Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation.
    5. Reform electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators.
    6. Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff schemes.
    7. Implement better labeling and disclosure mechanisms to provide more environmental product information.
    8. Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

Evan Lehmann published an article on May 14 in E&E Publishing titled, Insurance company sues Ill. cities for climate damage.  He reported that the Illinois Farmers Insurance Company “filed nine class-action lawsuits last month alleging that dozens of Chicago-area municipalities are responsible for the damage caused by a two-day downpour last year in April. The company claims that local officials are aware that climate change is causing heavier rainfalls but failed to prevent sewage backups in more than 600 homes by draining water from the region's system of tunnels and retention basins before the storm.”  This could become a landmark legal case helping to define who is legally responsible for damage caused by flooding and other losses attributable to climate change.  At: 

The NY Times of May 18 ran a front-page article by Nicholas Confessore titled, Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network.  In it he detailed how Charles and David Koch, who inherited a fortune in oil refineries and marketing, became involved in politics and have become a formidable political and ideological force determined to remake American politics, driven by opposition to government power and hostility to restrictions on money in campaigns.”  “… they have built a powerful network of political nonprofit groups that is exempt from most campaign reporting requirements and contribution limits but will spend tens of millions of dollars to influence the 2014 election. They have exerted enormous influence on American politics, battling government regulation and casting doubt on the urgency of climate change. (emphasis added)  Instead of replacing the Republican Party, they have helped to profoundly reshape it.”  They formed a Koch-supervised political-donor fund that put $400 million into the 2012 campaign.  They attacked legislation to improve fuel-economy standards, have given lots of money to libertarian “educational” institutions like the Cato Institute, supported Proposition 23 in California in an effort to suspend the state’s legislation dealing with climate change, and formed a donor club called Freedom Partners that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle.  At: 
NOTE: In 2010 the New Yorker published a long article titled, Covert Operations - the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, by Jane Mayer detailing the history and views of the Koch Brothers.  She writes, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kin
gpin of climate science denial.” (emphasis added) The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.”  At:

On May 21 Robert Cunningham of R&D posted an article titled, New tide gauge uses GPS signals to measure sea level change.  He reported that scientists at a university in Sweden can use satellites to measure both the distance of coastal from the center of the earth and the distance of the water to the same point - making it possible to measure changes in the heights of the land and the water at the same time.  Traditional tide gauges measure can measure only the water height relative to the land.  At:

The NY TImes for May 24 had an interesting article by Robert Schiller titled, Buying Insurance Against Climate Change.  He quoted from the 3rd National Climate Assessment report -  released on May 6, saying, “Commercially available mechanisms such as insurance can also play a role in providing protection against losses due to climate change.”  He writes that efforts to curb substantial global warming may fail - resulting in devastating financial losses.  “The problem is an age-old one: Each country has a strong individual incentive to take a free ride on the rest of the world — to find self-serving or nationalistic justifications for adding carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the global air supply. Such behavior, which in some ways might benefit the individual country while hurting everyone else, is known in economics as an externality problem, and the world has never solved one of this magnitude. We must face facts: There is a real risk of new kinds of climate-related disaster.”  At:

Thomas Friedman had an article titled, Memorial Day 2050 in the NY Times for May 25, 2014.  He wrote, Of the many things being said about climate change lately, none was more eloquent than the point made by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State in the Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously,” when he observed: “We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”  He went on to say, “Even if we can’t attribute any particular storm to climate change, by continually pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere we are “loading the dice” in ways that climate scientists are convinced will continue to raise average temperatures, melt more ice, raise sea levels, warm oceans and make “normal” droughts drier, heat waves hotter, rainstorms more violent and the most disruptive storms even more disruptive. It is crazy to keep loading those dice and making ourselves more vulnerable to disruptions that will make us less free to live the lives we want. How free will we be when paying the exorbitant cleanup costs of endless weather extremes?”
“Moreover, acting today as if climate change requires an urgent response — like replacing income and corporate taxes with a carbon tax, (emphasis added) introducing a national renewable portfolio standard to constantly stimulate more renewable energy and raising the efficiency standards for every home, building and vehicle — actually makes us healthier, more prosperous and more resilient, …”  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. 

Climate Change: Top Priority for EPA

On April 21, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy kicked off her weeklong “Earth Week” tour, which centers on people’s ability to reduce carbon pollution in their daily lives. On Monday night she was a guest on the Daily Show where she stated, “I share the president’s priority of dealing with the issue of climate change first and foremost.” McCarthy discussed the importance of the proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, which are set to be released in June. At the end of the week, McCarthy visited a few of the Southeast states to discuss the impacts and costs of climate change.
For additional information see: The Hill, The Hill

Sen. Nelson Holds Climate Change Hearing in Miami

On April 22, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) convened a field hearing in Miami Beach with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s subcommittee on science and space to discuss the impacts of climate change. Sen. Nelson, who chairs the subcommittee, held this subcommittee meeting to provide an overview of climate science adaptation plans being developed at the local and state level. Miami Beach is “ground zero” for sea level rise caused by climate change, with forecasts saying there could be a three-foot rise in sea level by the next century, which would be worsened by storm surges from hurricanes. Sea level rise also has economic implications; Kristin Jacobs, Broward County Commissioner and White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience member, stated that, “at one foot [of] sea level rise, $4 billion in taxable property is inundated [in Broward County].” Sen. Nelson believes this issue needs to be addressed because, “by the end of the year, we will be the third largest state with close to 20 million people . . . seventy five percent of that population lives on the coast.”
For additional information see: Miami Herald, CBS Local, Senate Commerce Committee

Apple Releases Environmental Impact Report

On April 21, Apple released a video detailing its environment progress, with narration from CEO Tim Cook, as well as a letter from its environmental initiative vice-president and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. Apple’s updated website now states, “We believe climate change is real. And that it’s a real problem.” In the video, Cook says 94 percent of Apple’s corporate facilities and 100 percent of its data centers are powered by renewable energy. New Apple headquarters currently under construction in Cupertino, CA, are slated to use 30 percent less energy than a comparable-sized building.  Apple’s new iPad Air uses one-third less material, by weight, than the original iPad. Additionally, Apple stores will now accept all Apple products for recycling at the end of their useful life. Lisa Jackson said in a statement, "We feel the responsibility to consider everything we do in order to reduce our impact on the environment. This means using greener materials and constantly inventing new ways to conserve precious resources."
For additional information see: The Guardian

NYC Flood Risk from Storm Surge 20 Times Greater than 170 Years Ago

According to a new study released April 23, storm waters are at least 20 times more likely to breach New York City’s seawall than storms in the mid-1800s. The increased risk is due to a 1.5 foot rise in sea levels and a one foot increase in storm tide (a combination of storm surge and the predicted astronomical tide). Storm waters are now expected to overcome Manhattan’s 5.75 feet-high seawall every four to five years. In the 1800s, the seawall would have been insufficient for a storm expected every 100 to 400 years. The study, from researchers at Portland State University and Stevens Institute of Technology and published in Geophysical Research Letters, was based in part on handwritten tide gauge data dating back to 1844. While the connection between climate change and higher sea levels is well-documented, the cause of higher storm tides is still in question. It is likely a number of factors, including decades-long natural variations in atmospheric pressure over the North Atlantic, deeper shipping channels in New York harbor, and man-made climate change.
For additional information see: Climate Central, Mashable, Study

1. President Obama Asks Young Leaders in Southeast Asia to Speak Out on Climate Change
On April 27, President Obama spoke about climate change at the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The President encouraged the students, many of whom are already working in these issues, to address climate change in Asia. “You have to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. You have to say, this is important . . . You don’t have to be a climate science expert, but you can educate yourselves on the issue. You can discuss it with your peer groups. You can organize young people to interact with international organizations that are already dealing with this issue. You can help to publicize it. You can educate your parents, friends, coworkers. And through that process, you can potentially change policy.  So it will take years. It will not happen next week. But our hope is that through this network that we’re going to be developing that we can be a partner with you in that process.” This is President Obama’s fifth trip to Asia as president in an attempt to foster stronger U.S.-Asia relations.
For more information see:

2. Washington Governor Inslee Signs Executive Order to Reduce Carbon Pollution
On April 29, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State signed an executive order outlining steps to cut the state’s carbon pollution and encourage the development of clean energy technologies. The executive order calls for the reduction of emissions through a cap-and-market program; terminating the use of coal-generated electricity; developing clean transportation options and cleaner fuels; accelerating the development and use of clean energy technologies; improving energy efficiency; and reducing the government’s carbon footprint. Inslee’s executive order builds on work done by independent consultants that found the state would be unable to meet its climate goals with current legislation. Public comments and hearings also showed that citizens were in support of reducing carbon pollution. According to Gov. Inslee, “this is the right time to act, the right place to act and we are the right people to act . . . we will engage the right people, consider the right options, ask the right questions and come to the right answers—answers that work for Washington.”
For more information see:

3. Supreme Court Upholds EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rules
On April 29, the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate cross-state air pollution rules (CSAPR), also known as the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision or the “Transport Rule.” Under CSAPR, 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states will be required to cut power plant emissions of ozone-forming compounds including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter that become airborne and travel downwind into neighboring states. Power utilities and 15 states had filed suit against the law. The 6-2 decision in the case, EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P., reversed the 2012 decision to vacate CSAPR by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which had stated that the regulations were too costly and arbitrary. The Supreme Court majority opinion found that “EPA’s cost-effective allocation of emission reductions among up-wind States is a permissible, workable, and equitable interpretation of the Good Neighbor Provision.” According to the EPA, exposure to ozone and particulate matter is accountable for one in 20 U.S. deaths, 200,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 90,000 hospital admissions and contributes to 2.5 million cases of childhood asthma. EPA estimates that CSAPR would save $280 billion annually in healthcare costs and avoid 34,000 premature deaths a year. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a separate case in February 2014 regarding whether EPA’s authority to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of new motor vehicles also extends to stationary sources, such as existing power plants. A decision in that case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, is expected this summer.
For more information see:

4. BlackRock and the FTSE Group Create Investing Index Which Excludes Fossil Fuel Companies
On April 29, London's FTSE Group, along with financial giant BlackRock, unveiled plans for a 'fossil fuel free' investment index, which would help potential investors divest in shares from companies linked to fossil fuels such as oil, coal or natural gas. To be excluded from the index, companies will have a demonstrated involvement in the production or exploration of fossil fuels, receive revenue from their production or extraction, or 'have proved and probable reserves' in fossil fuels in their accounts. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provided seed investment for the index, which will help investors avoid funding fossil fuel projects, which are directly linked to increasing climate change. According to Mark Makepeace, the CEO of FTSE Group, “We are increasingly seeing demand from our clients for indices that reflect their overall business culture and values." Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, echoed this sentiment, “A fossil fuel-free future is where we see opportunity and promise, and that’s where NRDC wants to direct our financial resources.” Although a full list of excluded companies has not yet been released, expected targets include British Petroleum (BP), and mining company BHP Billiton.
For more information see:

5. Jimmy Carter Says Koch Brothers Have Funded Climate Change Denialism
On April 22, former president Jimmy Carter spoke out against the Koch brothers while at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences (Sciences Po). “The Koch brothers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into every political campaign to support candidates that will support their position,” Carter said. “The struggle for the hearts and minds of the general public, especially young people, is intense and is going on today, sometimes without their knowledge.” According to Greenpeace, the Koch brothers have donated over $67 million to think-tanks and organizations with anti-climate agendas between 1997 and 2011. Carter lamented the recent Supreme Court decisions to remove electoral spending limits by corporations and individuals on political candidates and parties. He said these rulings had resulted in “very successful” campaigns to undermine the science of climate change. Carter, who opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, also emphasized the importance of the development of clean energy technology. “Don’t let the false debate being put forward by fossil fuel companies deter you from enthusiastic endorsement of this crusade,” he said. “Realize it’s not an economic sacrifice but an economic boon to every country on earth.”
For more information see:

7. ACEEE Report Says Energy-Efficiency Can Cut 26 Percent of GHG Emissions from Power Plants
On April 29, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a study, Change is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution, which evaluated four energy efficiency policies which states could use to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ACEEE called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create its upcoming power plant emissions standard under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act using the following policies: a target for energy efficiency savings, national model building codes, greater construction of combined heat and power systems, and more efficiency standards for products and equipment. ACEEE modeled out a scenario in which every state assumed its recommendations, and found that by 2030 the policies would avert the emission of 600 million tons of GHG emissions,  save over 925 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, and make 494 power plants unnecessary. The standard would effectively reduce emissions to 26 percent below 2012 levels, while growing the national gross domestic product (GDP) $17.2 billion and creating 611,000 new jobs. Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, said, “If the Environmental Protection Agency is looking for a way to cheaply cut carbon pollution and boost the economy while giving states the freedom to use their energy resources, energy efficiency is the answer.”
For more information see:

10. Air Quality Threatened by Climate Change
On April 29, the American Lung Association released its 2014 State of the Air report, which found that trends of improvement in air quality across the country are threatened by climate change impacts. Rising temperatures create conditions ripe for the formation of ground-level ozone, a harmful gas formed by sunlight interacting with the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds released from vehicles, industrial facilities and chemical solvents such as paint. Climate change also lengthens the duration of wildfire seasons and increases the severity of droughts, both of which cause the release of particulate matter into the air, further degrading air quality. Janice Nolan, assistant vice president of the American Lung Association, commented, “While the nation continues to clean up air pollution, we also see a change in climate that will make it harder for us to protect human health.” The report covered national air quality through 2012, stating that 47 percent of the United States – 147 million people – live in places where air quality threatens public health. Next year’s report, with information through 2013, is expected to reflect some further air quality degradation from incidents such as the prolonged drought and large wildfires in the Southwest.
For more information see:

12. Scientists Find Evidence Ocean Acidity Is Dissolving Shells of Key Ocean Species
On April 30, Proceedings of the Royal Society B published a study on the effects of ocean acidification on the dissolution of a key shell species: tiny, free-floating snails called pteropods which are important food sources for many other species, including salmon, herring, and mackeral. The study revealed that 53 percent of pteropods are experiencing moderate to severe dissolution damage to their shells. "These are alarm bells," said Nina Bednarsek, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle who helped lead the research. "This study makes us understand that we have made an impact on the ocean environment to the extent where we can actually see the shells dissolving right now." For the study, researchers conducted biological sampling along the Washington-Oregon-California coast in August of 2011. The researchers said the increased level of ocean acidification is not killing the pteropods outright, but rather causing their shells to dissolve, which makes them more vulnerable to disease, slows their ability to evade predators, and reduces their reproductive rates. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans retired researcher, Dave Mackas, who was not related to the study, said, “It’s a bit scarier than you might have expected. It’s an outcome you expected to happen eventually, but it’s surprising how severe it is so soon.”
For more information see:

1. New Government Report Says Climate Change Is Happening Here and Now
On May 6, the federal government released the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), a comprehensive examination of peer-reviewed science on climate change impacts in the United States. The NCA echoes the findings of the latest reports from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, which state with high certainty that emissions from human activities are causing global climate change. The NCA reveals that climate change is already impacting Americans across the country, and its effects are predominantly negative. “For a long time we have perceived climate change as an issue that’s distant, affecting just polar bears or something that matters to our kids,” commented Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist, professor at Texas Tech University, and an author of the NCA. “This shows it’s not just in the future; it matters today. Many people are feeling the effects.” Mandated by the Global Change Act of 1990, the report examines climate change over a long-term timescale, observing past trends, current changes, and projecting future scenarios. Thirteen federal agencies oversaw the completion of the work under the auspices of the Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). More than 240 scientists from across public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors volunteered their time as authors.

In related news on the same day, President Obama gave eight rare individual interviews with TV meteorologists from across the country, in order to bring more widespread attention to the NCA. While polls have revealed that local television meteorologists are some of the most trusted scientists in the country, a 2011 George Mason University poll found that only 18 percent of American television weathercasters agree the climate is changing due to human activities. The President also recently gave an hour-long interview on climate change to the Showtime documentary series, “Years of Living Dangerously.”
For more information see:
5. Stanford University to Divest Its $18.7 Billion Endowment from Coal
On May 6, Stanford University announced that it would be divesting its $18.7 billion endowment from coal-mining companies. Stanford’s Board of Trustees approved the resolution to avoid investing directly in companies that extract coal due to the fact that coal is a major source of carbon pollution that causes climate change. Although only a small fraction of the University’s endowment is invested in coal, it represents a substantial amount of money.  John Hennessy, President of Stanford, commented, “moving away from coal in the investment context is a small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future." Stanford joins 11 other universities that have chosen to remove fossil fuel stocks from their endowments, but Stanford is by far the largest university to join this campaign. Bill McKibben, president and cofounder of, the nonprofit which brought the national Divestment Campaign into the media spotlight, said Stanford “knows the havoc that climate change creates around our planet  . . . Other forward-looking and internationally minded institutions will follow, I’m sure.”
For more information see: 
6. Report Says $1 Trillion in Oil Investments Will Not See a Return, If Governments Act on Climate
On May 8, the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) launched its new research series on the highest risk projects in the oil, gas and coal sectors, with the release of a study, “Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating financial risk to oil capital expenditures.” The study found that if the world’s governments fulfill their commitments to act on climate change, $1 trillion of capital expenditure in fossil fuels expected over the next decade will be lost. “This risk analysis shows that many oil companies are betting on a high demand and price scenario,” James Leaton, the research director at CTI, commented. “Investors need to [challenge oil company strategies] to ensure capital is not being wasted.” The CTI report stated that smaller companies are more exposed, as they often specialize in unconventional oil, which can be more expensive to exploit and require larger prices to break-even. When the report extended the timescale beyond 2025 to 2050, it found a larger amount - $21 trillion - which could be wasted. Projects most at risk include deepwater oil works in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Brazil, and in the Arctic, as well as projects in the oilsands in Alberta, Canada. 
For more information see:
7. Huge Ice Shelf in East Antarctica at Risk from Climate Change
On May 4, the journal Nature published research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, which found that in East Antarctica an ice shelf called Wilkes Basin is being held in place by a few wedges of ice, which if dislodged, would release the ice held in the Basin into the ocean — causing three to four meters of sea level rise. “East Antarctica’s Wilkes Basin is like a bottle on a slant,” said Matthias Mengel, lead author of the study. “Once uncorked, it empties out.” The research indicates that a rise in ocean temperatures would likely take 200 years or more to melt the ice wedges, or plugs, which are holding the shelf in place. Once the shelf is destabilized, it would take 5,000 to 10,000 years for the Wilkes Basin to empty completely. Co-author Anders Levermann added that once the ice flow began, it would be irreversible. “The full sea-level rise would ultimately be up to 80 times bigger than the initial melting of the ice cork,” Levermann commented. “Until recently, only West Antarctica was considered unstable, but now we know that its ten times bigger counterpart in the East might also be at risk.” 
For more information see:
9. Study Says Shale Gas Will Not Significantly Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On April 22, a study about the implications of shale gas development on climate change was published in Environmental Science and Technology. The study’s authors Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi, both energy economists at Duke University, concluded that while the use of natural gas in place of more carbon-intensive fuels such as coal or oil can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, an overall increase in energy use could negate this reduction of GHG emissions. Their analysis showed that by 2040, shale gas would displace more coal than renewable energy or nuclear power in electricity generation, effectively cutting emissions 5.1 percent below the baseline scenario for US GHG emissions. However, when the increased use of energy is factored in, total emissions reductions would only be 0.3 percent. Newell said that while the use of natural gas has “no impact on greenhouse gases,” other researchers have found that when the use of natural gas is coupled with policies that place a price on carbon, natural gas can be a functional bridge fuel to transfer the electric grid off coal. Hillard Huntington, a researcher from Stanford University who was not involved with the study, said, “If we had a carbon policy in place, economic forces would be operating in concert to back out of carbon-intensive sources of energy and to reduce the total amount of energy used, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”  (emphasis added)
For more information see:
11. Climate Change Causing Nutrition Decline in Food Crops
On May 7, a study published in the journal Nature found a link between rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the decreasing nutritional value of our food supply. The study found that in several staple crops, including wheat, rice, corn, and legumes, the levels of essential nutrients – iron and zinc, as well as some proteins – showed a significant decrease in value. With projected CO2 emission rates in 2050, the models predicted the zinc content in wheat would decrease by 9 percent, iron by 5 percent and protein by 6 percent. To arrive at these conclusions, the scientists contrasted the nutrient levels of crops grown in the ambient CO2 levels at the time of the study (380-390 parts per million (ppm)), with those grown in the estimated CO2 levels for 2050 (545-585 ppm). The scientists examined 41 different strains of staple crops, grown on three continents in seven locations. According to Samuel Myers, an environmental health professor at Harvard University and leader of the study, 2 billion people already suffer from deficiencies in iron and zinc. This is especially prevalent in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Iraq, and Algeria, where these staple crops are the major sources of these nutrients. Myers states, "The concern is that there is already an enormous public health problem and rising CO2 in the atmosphere will exacerbate that problem further." David Wolfe, a professor of plant and soil ecology at Cornell University who was not a part of the study, stated that the reason for this nutrient depletion was the quickening growth rates of the plants due to rising CO2 emissions, which causes the roots to insufficiently uptake iron, zinc or nitrogen. Thus, Wolfe states, “people would have to eat more pounds of corn or rice to get the equivalent amount of protein, iron, [or] zinc in their diet.”
For more information see:

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