Thursday, July 24, 2014



Al Gore posted an important and inspiring article in the June 18 issue of Rolling Stone titled, The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate - It's time to accelerate the shift toward a low-carbon future.  Here are some selected parts: “In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and complete the transition to a low-carbon civilization. There will be many times in the decades ahead when we will have to take care to guard against despair, lest it become another form of denial, paralyzing action. It is true that we have waited too long to avoid some serious damage to the planetary ecosystem – some of it, unfortunately, irreversible. Yet the truly catastrophic damages that have the potential for ending civilization as we know it can still – almost certainly – be avoided. Moreover, the pace of the changes already set in motion can still be moderated significantly.”
The utilities are fighting back, of course, by using their wealth and the entrenched political power they have built up over the past century. In the United States, brothers Charles and David Koch, who run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned corporation in the U.S., have secretively donated at least $70 million to a number of opaque political organizations tasked with spreading disinformation about the climate crisis and intimidating political candidates who dare to support renewable energy or the pricing of carbon pollution.”  (emphasis added)
“The second reality ignored by the Koch brothers is the one they least like to discuss, the one they spend so much money trying to obfuscate with their hired "merchants of doubt." You want to talk about the uncompensated use of infrastructure? What about sewage infrastructure for 98 million tons per day of gaseous, heat-trapping waste that is daily released into our skies, threatening the future of human civilization? Is it acceptable to use the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet as an open sewer? Free of charge? Really?”
“Just as the extreme-weather events we are now experiencing are exactly the kind that were predicted by scientists decades ago, the scientific community is now projecting far worse extreme-weather events in the years to come. Eighty percent of the warming in the past 150 years (since the burning of carbon-based fuels gained momentum) has occurred in the past few decades. And it is worth noting that the previous scientific projections consistently low-balled the extent of the global­warming consequences that later took place – for a variety of reasons rooted in the culture of science that favor conservative estimates of future effects.”
The U.S. military has taken notice of the strategic dangers inherent in the climate crisis. Last March, a Pentagon advisory committee described the climate crisis as a "catalyst for conflict" that may well cause failures of governance and societal collapse. "In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation," said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald. "Now we're saying it's going to be a direct cause of instability."”
“In November 1936, Winston Churchill stood before the United Kingdom's House of Commons and placed a period at the end of the misguided debate over the nature of the "gathering storm" on the other side of the English Channel: "Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. . . . The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays is coming to its close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences. . . . We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now."”
“We have the policy tools that can dramatically accelerate the transition to clean energy that market forces will eventually produce at a slower pace. The most important has long since been identified: We have to put a price on carbon in our markets, and we need to eliminate the massive subsidies that fuel the profligate emissions of global-warming pollution.”  (emphasis added)
It will be essential for the United States and other major historical emitters to commit to strong action. The U.S. is, finally, now beginning to shift its stance. And the European Union has announced its commitment to achieve a 40-percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. Some individual European nations are acting even more aggressively, including Finland's pledge to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.”
Is there enough time? Yes. Damage has been done, and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future. Each of the trends described above – in technology, business, economics and politics – represents a break from the past. Taken together, they add up to genuine and realistic hope that we are finally putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.
How long will it take? When Martin Luther King Jr. was asked that question during some of the bleakest hours of the U.S. civil rights revolution, he responded, "How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever. . . . How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  At:
The NY Times for June 22 had an excellent Opinion piece by Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury from 2006 to 2009 and a Republican businessman, titled, The Coming Climate CrashIn it he draws an analogy between the crash of the financial markets in 2008 and the threat of a coming climate crash.  He wrote, For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do.
We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.”
“We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing.
The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax. (emphasis added)  Few in the United States now pay to emit this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we all share. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies.
It’s true that the United States can’t solve this problem alone. But we’re not going to be able to persuade other big carbon polluters to take the urgent action that’s needed if we’re not doing everything we can do to slow our carbon emissions and mitigate our risks.” 

On June 24 the Risky Business report, The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, was released.  The news release says, “The U.S. economy faces significant risks from unmitigated climate change. The Risky Business report presents a new approach to understanding these risks for key U.S. business sectors, and provides business leaders with a framework for measuring and mitigating their own exposure to climate risk.”  “Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Michael R. Bloomberg, Thomas P. Steyer, and the members of the Risk Committee released the report on June 24 at the Palace Hotel in New York City. Watch the (40.5-minute) video of the event here.”   In the video, Mayor Bloomberg says, “We need smart, rapid prudent action.”  The report looks at climate risks by region and by industry.
The Introduction of the Executive Summary says:The American economy faces multiple and significant risks from climate change. Climate conditions vary dramatically across the U.S., as does the mix of economic activity. Those variations will benefit our economic resilience to future climatic changes. But each region of the country has a different risk profile and a different ability to manage that risk. There is no single top-line number that represents the cost of climate change to the American economy as a whole: We must take a regional approach to fully understand our climate risk.
Given the range and extent of the climate risks the American economy faces, it is clear that staying on our current path will only increase our exposure. The U.S. climate is paying the price today for business decisions made many years ago, especially through increased coastal storm damage and more extreme heat in parts of the country. Every year that goes by without a comprehensive public and private sector response to climate change is a year that locks in future climate events that will have a far more devastating effect on our local, regional, and national economies. Moreover, both government and the private sector are making investment decisions today— whether in property, long-term infrastructure or regional and national supply chains—that will be directly affected by climate change in decades to come.
Our assessment finds that, if we act now, the U.S. can still avoid most of the worst impacts and significantly reduce the odds of costly climate outcomes—but only if we start changing our business and public policy practices today.”

On June 30, EPA issued a new policy statement on climate change adaptation (PDF, 3 pages) as part of Federal and EPA Climate Adaptation Programs.  In addition to EPA and federal interagency efforts, including the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the web site describes adaptation efforts within individual federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD).  That section says, “In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, DoD establishes that climate change will affect DoD in two broad ways. First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that DoD undertakes. Additionally, DoD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on its facilities and military capabilities.”  At: 

A July 1 article in ClimateProgress by Tiffany Germain and Ryan Koronowski, titled What Every Governor Really Believes About Climate Change, In One Handy Map, shows a map of the U.S. with four colors for the states: green for those with governors who believe climate change science and are taking strong steps to address it, orange for those who say they accept the science but haven’t done much, red who are not on record with their views on the science and are weak on addressing it, and stripped red for those who deny the science and oppose addressing climate change or developing clean energy sources.  The article points out that most of the action to address climate change has taken place at the state level, with California in the lead.  Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has reiterated time and again that he’s “not afraid” to call himself a climate change denier. Yet his home state has suffered more climate-fueled disasters than any other, with an astounding 58 climate-fueled disaster declarations since just 2011. The ongoing severe and widespread drought has directly impacted the agriculture industry, which is one of the largest in Texas. 2011 was the driest year in state history, causing a record $7.62 billion in agricultural losses.”
“When asked if he believes in climate change, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) replied “No.” “I have not been convinced.” Yet Florida is one of the first states that will feel the very severe impacts of climate change, as sea-level rise and severe storms threaten to wipe away popular tourist destinations along the coast. In fact, Rolling Stone reported that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has listed Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.
Fossil fuel interests have been funneling millions to Republican governors who are willing to block regulations that could potentially hurt their bottom line. In total, the fifteen governors who have denied climate change have taken $15,013,754 in campaign contributions from oil and gas over the course of their careers, with a large majority of that going to Gov. Perry. Republican governors who haven’t denied climate change have taken only $3,019,123. In contrast, all Democratic governors have taken a total of $1,403,940.”  At:
NOTE: What this article tells me is that those of us who see climate change as the greatest threat of our time need to organize at the grass roots ant throw the bums out.

A June 30 article in Grist by Keleigh Annau was titled, B.C. put a price on carbon. What happened next will surprise you.  His home province of British Columbia, Canada, now has a carbon tax on gasoline that increases the price by 25 cents a gallon.  It did this in stages, between 2008 and 2012.  As a result the province now has carbon emissions per capita 20% lower than the national average.  You might be surprised to learn that the carbon tax is widely supported.  It is revenue neutral, with the proceeds used to reduce income taxes and provide checks to residents of about $100 per year.  At:

A June 30 article in Quartz by Gwynn Guilford was titled, The ocean is swallowing up Virginia so rapidly that its leaders are forgetting to bicker about climate change.   She wrote, The usual US partisan divisions over climate change were absent today in the state of Virginia, where Republican and Democratic officials met to discuss what to do about the threat of rising sea levels to the state. “  “That’s probably because Virginia is more vulnerable to storm-surge destruction than anywhere else on the US’s east coast. Problems are particularly acute in Norfolk, Virginia’s second-biggest city and home to the world’s largest naval base; sea levels there are now 14.5 inches (37 cm) higher than they were in 1930—so high that parts of Norfolk flood when the moon is full. Sea levels are rising faster there than anywhere else along the coast, due to the vagaries of ocean currents.”   The tide gauge at Sewell’s Point, Norfolk, showed that the storm surge during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was just over 5 feet above the astronomical high tide - much less than the 9 feet at the Battery tide gauge in Manhattan.  So Norfolk was relatively lucky - that time.  At:

In the July 7 New York Review of Books (posted on June 29), Bill McKibben reviewed Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?  He begins, “We may be entering the high-stakes endgame on climate change. The pieces—technological and perhaps political—are finally in place for rapid, powerful action to shift us off of fossil fuel. Unfortunately, the players may well decide instead to simply move pawns back and forth for another couple of decades, which would be fatal. Even more unfortunately, the natural world is daily making it more clear that the clock ticks down faster than we feared. The whole game is very nearly in check.”  After reviewing the recent warnings of science and the mixed response of the Obama administration, he writes, “In order to put pressure on all the negotiators, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to New York in September for a climate summit. That gathering will likely feature the usual fine words about future generations, but in view of the twenty-five-year record of diplomatic futility, many of us who have tried to push for action will use the occasion, and the New York backdrop with its fresh memories of Sandy’s inundation, for what may turn out to be thelargest street rallies in the history of the climate movement.”  At:

The Portland Business Journal for July 15 had an article titled, Which Oregon companies have joined the latest fight against climate change?  A 70+ list of Oregon companies have signed onto a new Business Climate Declaration that asks the state to take action on climate change.  The list includes Adidas, eBay, Moda Health, the Portland Trail Blazers and Umpqua Bank.  The Declaration is titled, Tackling climate change is one of Oregon’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century (and it’s simply the right thing to do), and says in part, “There is a clear and present need for action on climate to protect our region’s natural assets, its vibrant communities and its growing economy.  We business leaders of the Pacific Northwest endorse the Climate Declaration because we support using energy efficiently, investing in cleaner fuels, advancing renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Starting today, right here, the Pacific Northwest can lead the way.  We can create a healthy climate and a strong, more resilient economy, by fostering innovations, advancing public health, spurring economic development through job creation and speeding technological advancement throughout our region.”  At:

Philip Wallach and Alex Abdun-Nabi have an article in the July 16 issue of the Washington Post Wonkblog titled, The EPA’s carbon plan asks the least from states that pollute the most.  It says that the carbon emission reduction goals in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan announced on June 2 vary greatly from state to state - from 10.57 to 71.89% - depending on a complex formula that takes into account how expensive and how difficult it will be for each state to reduce its carbon emissions from its electricity-generating power plants.  The article has an interactive graphic that shows the goal the EPA has set for each state and the percentages of each state’s power from coal, natural gas, nuclear and non-hydro renewable energy sources.  You might be surprised to find that the lowest goal (10.57%) is for North Dakota, while gets 78% of its power from coal - the most carbon intensive power source - while the highest (71.89%) is for Washington state, which gets only 3% of its power from coal.  This is hardly a “war on coal.”  At:

Ari Wilson posted an article in ClimateProgress on July 22 titled, Onshore Wind Power Is Now Cheapest Form Of New Electricity In Denmark.  He writes, New onshore wind plants coming online in 2016 will provide energy for about half the price of coal and natural gas plants, according to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), and will cost around five cents per kilowatt hour.”
“Denmark has been a leader in wind energy production for decades, and the efforts are paying off as evidenced by a string of benchmarks. In December, wind power accounted for more than half of the country’s electricity consumption for the first time. This 50 percent threshold is a goal the Danish government has set to be the standard share of wind power in the total electricity consumption mix by 2020.”
“By 2020, the country aims to produce 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources and to raise that to 100 percent by 2050. Onshore and offshore wind power will make up most of this capacity.”  At:

 Chris Mooney has a July 23 article in Grist titled, The strange relationship between global warming denial and … speaking English.  He cites the results of a recent public opinion study in 20 countries, in which one of the questions asked was: To what extent to you agree or disagree?  The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity.  The agreement, as shown in a bar chart, was highest in China (91%), Argentina and Italy and lowest in the U.S. (57%), Great Britain and Australia.  The cause is probably not the major language spoken.   Indeed, the English language media in three of these four countries are linked together by a single individual: Rupert Murdoch. An apparent climate skeptic or lukewarmer, Murdoch is the chair of News Corp and 21st Century Fox. (You can watch him express his climate views here.)”
‘And media aren’t the only reason that denialist arguments are more readily available in the English language. There’s also the Anglophone nations’ concentration of climate “skeptic” think tanks, which provide the arguments and rationalizations necessary to feed this anti-science position. According to a study in Climatic Change earlier this year, the U.S. is home to 91 different organizations (think tanks, advocacy groups, and trade associations) that collectively comprise a “climate change counter-movement.” The annual funding of these organizations, collectively, is “just over $900 million.” That is a truly massive amount of English-speaking climate “skeptic” activity, and while the study was limited to the U.S., it is hard to imagine that anything comparable exists in non-English speaking countries.”

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. 

New Poll Shows Majority of America Backs EPA’s Clean Power Plan
According to a poll released by Washington Post/NBC News Poll on June 18, more than two thirds of Americans support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed carbon dioxide regulations. Twenty-nine percent of Americans do not support the new regulations, which would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector. The poll also showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans would be willing to pay a higher price for electricity if it meant utility companies were cutting CO2 emissions.  The poll reported that 61 percent of Americans believe climate change is happening, and there should be some sort of action to reduce its effects. This number is up from 54 percent five years ago. The new EPA regulations are still contentious because of the possible costs and effects on the coal industry. The EPA has stated that the health and economic benefits will outweigh these costs.  
For more information see:

Four Former EPA Chiefs Push for Action on Climate Change
On June 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a hearing entitled, “Climate Change: The Need to Act Now.” The witnesses were all former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Republican Administrations: the Honorable William Ruckelshaus, who served under Presidents Nixon and Reagan; the Honorable Lee Thomas who served under President Reagan; the Honorable William Reilly, who served under President George H.W. Bush; and the Honorable Christine Todd Whitman who served under President George W. Bush. According to Whitman, “There are a lot of Republicans that do believe that the climate is changing and humans play a role in that . . . if they hear from the public that this is an issue of importance to them . . . you're going to find more and more of them speaking out." Ruckelshaus seconded this sentiment, citing a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which found the majority of the American public supports climate action, saying “That [poll] is indicative of what seems to be a shift in public opinion on that, and if that turns into a demand for action, something will happen."
For more information see:

California Discusses How to Spend the $5 Billion in Annual Cap-and-Trade Revenue
On June 15, California state lawmakers passed their state budget allocating the cap-and-trade revenue generated from the buying and selling of carbon dioxide permits. Notably, 25 percent of the cap-and-trade revenue raised yearly will go toward California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project, which has been in the works since Democratic Governor Jerry Brown proposed the project in the 1980s. Currently, only stationary sources – utilities, manufacturers, and food processors – are required to pay for the release of greenhouse gas emissions, which will account for an estimated $845 million in revenue for 2014-2015. During 2015, however, mobile sources will be required to pay, contributing to increased revenue expected to be $5 billion per year from 2016 on. The budget “invests in cleaning up the single-biggest source of carbon pollution in California — transportation,” says Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Investing in transit and sustainable communities is a major down payment on a clean energy future.” The rest of the funding will go to water and energy efficient programs, natural resource conservation, cleaner transportation, and affordable housing projects.
For more information see:

Berkley Could Be First City to Have Global Warming Warning Sticker on Gas Pump
On June 12, Berkeley City’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission approved a proposal to mandate climate warning labels on gas pumps. If the city council approves this proposal in the coming months, Berkeley will become the first city in the nation to require warning stickers on gas pumps that inform consumers that the state has concluded that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions contribute to global warming. The idea was modeled on warnings on cigarette packaging. A statement on the proposed design reads, “California has determined that global warming caused by CO2 emissions poses a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources and the environment of California." Councilman Kriss Worthington said, “It's a perfect opportunity to remind people that there are greenhouse gas impacts and there are alternatives. . . I’d be happy for every other city to do it first and we could be 101st but so far it looks like we’re on track to be the first.” Campaign manager Jamie Brooks commented, “We want to connect cause and effect for consumers.” However, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the petroleum association, opposed the proposal by sending a letter to the commission stating that the plan would violate gas station owners’ First Amendment rights. Rehis-Boyd explained, “Though the proposed ordinance calls these messages ‘warnings,’ they are, in reality, forced reproductions of the state’s and city’s policy opinions. . . But the messages are not ‘purely factual and uncontroversial information’ – they touch on issues that represent some of the most contentious issues in existence today.”
For more information see:
NOTE: This is an interesting idea - to post warning signs at gas pumps like the warning signs we now see on packs of cigarettes.  People somehow need to learn that using this stuff is dangerous to your health and welfare, and that of your children - and it can be done at the state and local levels.

New Stern Paper Says Economic Damage of Climate Change Underestimated
On June 5, a report released by Simon Dietz and Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics stated that current climate models are “grossly underestimating” the cost of climate change. According to the report, the current model used by organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to predict the impact of climate change on economies, known as the “DICE” model, has serious limitations, including an overly simplistic view of economic growth. Dietz and Stern have developed a new model that includes a more complete analysis of how economies work, climate sensitivity, and the risk and implications of extreme weather events on both the environment and economies. “It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts on the economy,” said Stern. “Models that assume that catastrophic damages are not possible fail to take account of the magnitude of the issues and the implications of the science.”
For additional information see:

Report Warns of Climate Change Impacts to Energy Systems
On June 18, the World Energy Council (WEC) published a study jointly with Cambridge University and with the European Climate Foundation urging energy generators to examine their vulnerability to climate change. The report found that energy systems and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to floods and droughts – but with precautions to ensure power plants are protected from water shortages, and by building resilience into the grid, the worst could be avoided. "Climate change is certain to impact the energy sector,” said Christoph Frei, secretary general of the WEC. “We need robust and transparent policy frameworks to unlock the long-term investments that are urgently needed to deliver the future we want. Leadership will be required at all levels."
For more information:

Senators to Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Cut HFCs, Black Carbon and Methane
On June 26, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced their plans to introduce the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 to cut short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by requiring the Administration to establish a task force to review specific policies and laws to reduce black carbon, methane, and high-GWP hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). SLCPs currently account for 40 percent or more of global warming, and last for a shorter period of time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, so emissions cuts in SLCPs reduce warming significantly in the short term.  The Act calls for the U.S. Agency for International Development to prioritize black carbon mitigation activities as part of aid distribution activities and to give special emphasis to projects that reduce substantial environmental damage. Furthermore, technical guidance will be provided to other countries on containment of emissions from gas drilling, landfills, coal mining, and agriculture when engaging with other governments, including trade delegations, under the auspices of Department of State’s Global Shale Gas Initiative. “The Super Pollutants Act will accelerate and coordinate Administration efforts already underway to reduce SLCPs,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, and “this will reinforce the President’s international leadership on this critical climate strategy. It’s essential to reduce SLCPs along with carbon dioxide to keep the climate within safe bounds.” The proposed legislation will reinforce the Administration’s international efforts to reduce SLCPs. The Secretary of State is directed to help the international community with efforts such as providing vehicle manufacturers with low-emission engine designs to reduce black carbon emissions and establishing partnerships to reduce black carbon in the Arctic.
For more information see:

Mayors Unanimously Pass Resolution to Use Nature to Fight Climate Change
On June 23, during the annual meeting of U.S. Conference of Mayors, conference attendees unanimously passed a non-binding resolution which encourages cities to use natural solutions to “protect freshwater supplies, defend the nation’s coastlines, maintain a healthy tree cover and protect air quality.” The resolution, which recommends steps to adapt to climate change without explicitly mentioning it, was backed by Mayors who affiliate with both Democratic and Republican parties. “What’s so significant is that there was a unanimous vote on an issue that can be so divisive,” commented Laura Huffman, director of the Nature Conservancy (Texas). Bill Finch, mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and co-chair of the conference’s climate task force, said, “Mayors have to go to the grocery store and listen to families complain about kids with asthma . . . that their flooding is getting worse. This is not a cause for mayors. This is a pragmatic problem that requires pragmatic solutions”. Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of U.S. Conference of Mayors, said, "Mayors have single-handedly taken action on climate protection efforts and in many cases, creatively launched local energy efficiency programs to help reduce our carbon footprint in American cities."
For more information see:

Nine Governors Protest EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Rule
On June 16, nine governors wrote a letter in protest of the recently released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulation on carbon emissions from power plants, claiming the regulation would kill energy jobs and dictate states’ energy mix. The proposed EPA regulation places rate caps on carbon dioxide emissions, individually tailored to each state, and would lead to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (see EESI article for more information). The governors of Alaska, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming all signed on. In the letter, the governors said the EPA proposal would “largely dictate to states the type of electricity generation they could build and operate.” The letter also attacks the EPA’s April proposal that would bring more bodies of water under Clean Water regulation. The governors wrote, “If successful, the federal government would become the arbiters of how our citizens, state highway departments, county flood control and stormwater agencies, utilities, irrigation districts and farmers use their water and their land.” Gov. Jindal (R) of Louisiana warned states may also take legal action, “There’s a very good chance of litigation not only initiated by the states, but the industry is another. . . This is such a dangerous overreach in terms of the potential threat to our economy and our ability to restore those manufacturing jobs, I absolutely do think litigation needs to be on the table.”
For more information see:

Bipartisan Report Shows Economic Impacts of Climate Change
On June 24, a report was released by The Risky Business Project, detailing the negative impact climate change will have on the economy if left unchecked. The Risky Business report is part of a bipartisan campaign to encourage policymakers and business owners to take immediate action on climate change. Funded by Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City; Henry Paulson, former U.S Secretary of the Treasury; and Tom Steyer, billionaire and former hedge fund manager, the report focuses on two primary effects of climate change, extreme heat and sea level rise, and how they will affect different regions across the United States. The report predicts that by 2050, rising sea levels will have caused $66 to $106 billion worth of damage to coastal properties and high temperatures in the Midwest and Southwest will cause a 14 percent decline in yearly crop yields.  The creators of the Risky Business Project said they hope the findings in this report will convince lawmakers that early investments in resilience and pollution reduction can mitigate the impacts of climate change. Steyer said in the report, "The Risky Business report confirms what many of us have long suspected: The longer we wait to address the growing risks of climate change, the more it will cost us all."
For additional information see:

World Bank Report Says Fighting Climate Change Helps the World Economy
On June 23, a report, “Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change” was published by the World Bank Group. The report shows that fighting climate change would help the world economy add between $1.8 trillion and $2.6 trillion a year to global gross domestic product (GDP) in the coming decades. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability, but it doesn’t have to be like this. At the World Bank Group, we believe it’s possible to reduce emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity, while also cutting health care and energy costs. This report provides powerful evidence in support of that view.” In this report, economists focused on the specific policies in six leading regions in the world economy and global emissions--Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Mexico, and the United States. The annual benefits of these pro-climate policies are about 1.5 percent higher than under a business as usual scenario. Furthermore, these policies can help avoid 94,000 deaths a year due to air pollution. Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, said, “This study makes the case for actions that save lives, create jobs, grow economies and, at the same time, slow the rate of climate change. We place ourselves and our children at peril if we ignore these opportunities.”
For more information see:

Terry McAuliffe Relaunches Virginia’s State Climate Panel
On July 1, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe resurrected a state climate change panel to mitigate rising sea levels and floods caused by climate change. Originally created by former Gov. Timothy Kaine in 2008, the panel has been dormant since he left office in 2010. The 35-member panel includes climate scientists, local elected officials, industry representatives, business leaders and environmental groups.  Virginia’s coast has recently been identified by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) as one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change in the United States. The Virginia Institute of Marine Scientists (VIMS) reports that in 20 to 50 years sea levels may rise 1.5 feet on the Virginia coast, flooding 289 miles of road in Virginia Beach. McAuliffe said, “Virginia has the opportunity not only to be a leader in finding creative ways to mitigate climate change in the future but also to adapt to the effects of climate change that we have already begun to see here in the commonwealth.”
For more information see:

NASA Launches Satellite To Measure Carbon Dioxide Levels on Earth
On July 1, NASA launched a satellite to track carbon dioxide (CO2) on the global scale. The two-year mission of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will indicate where CO2 is being released into the atmosphere as well as where it is being reabsorbed on the planet’s surface. While half of emitted CO2 stays in the atmosphere, the other half falls back to the surface and is reabsorbed by forests and oceans. The amount of CO2 that is reabsorbed by the earth, however, is variable from year to year, and it is unclear how plants have kept pace with increased emissions. “Understanding what controls that variability is really crucial. If we can do that today, it might inform us about what might happen in the future,” said OCO-2 project manager Ralph Basilio. The OCO-2 will measure the relative intensities of light bouncing off the earth in order to determine how much CO2 the light beam passed through. Project scientist Michael Gunson of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “it's really the fate of carbon dioxide once it's in the atmosphere that we're trying to really put our finger on.”
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GAO Releases Report Revealing American Military Operations Need to Protect Against Climate Change
On June 30, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that detailed potential treats that the Department of Defense (DoD) will have to face because of climate change. The report took into consideration five climate impacts, including rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, increasing storm frequency, rising sea levels and ocean temperature, and how these impacts are predicted to damage military bases or disrupt DoD projects. It also offered recommendations of how the Department should begin to make their bases and other assets more resilient to climate threats. DoD agrees with the report’s findings and has begun surveying weaknesses in their infrastructure. “We are committed to maintaining the resilience of our installations in support of our mission, our warfighters and our communities,” said John Conger, Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment. “We will continue to integrate consideration of climate change and associated impacts across the Defense enterprise.” However, DoD may have difficulty implementing these adaptations as the House passed the Department’s 2015 appropriations bill on July 24, with an amendment attached to prevent any DoD spending on climate change initiatives recommended by national and international reports. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), is unlikely to make it through the Senate.
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UNEP Mandate: Combat Air Pollution, Save Millions of Lives, Cut Global Warming in Half
The week of June 23 to 27, the inaugural United Nations (UN) Environment Assembly, attended by high-level delegations from 160 UN member and observer states, passed a resolution giving the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) a mandate to combat air pollution, in an effort to save millions of lives every year and cut near-term global warming in half. Attendees targeted air pollution as a top priority because it is now the world’s single largest preventable health risk. According to the World Health Organization, one in eight deaths in 2012 can be attributed to air pollution—more than malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS combined. Outdoor air pollution caused 3.7 million deaths globally in 2012, while air pollution from the burning of solid fuels for heating and cooking caused another 4.3 million deaths. Exposure to air pollution from black carbon soot, also known as “particulate matter,” is linked to ischemic heart disease, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, and lung cancer. The Environmental Assembly unanimously urged governments to set national standards and policies to reduce air pollution and mitigate air pollution health and economic impacts in their home states. The delegates directed UNEP to expand its assistance to governments, by providing support such as capacity building and pertinent data and assessments. The resolution will also support UNEP’s ongoing work on air pollution through the international Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and the Atmospheric Brown Cloud program. 

In related news on June 24, the CCAC launched its new publication, Time to Act, to explain the benefits of cutting the four climate pollutants known collectively as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), due to their relatively short atmospheric lifetimes. The SLCPs include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, the main component of urban smog, and hydrofluorocarbons (or HFCs) used primarily as refrigerants. “Fast action to reduce SLCPs can cut the rate of climate change in half, slowing global temperature rise by up to 0.6 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, while preventing 2.4 million air pollution-related deaths per year, and avoiding around 30 million tonnes of crop losses annually,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, speaking at a CCAC side-event at the Environment Assembly.
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Emperor Penguin Populations Facing Steep Population Decline
On June 29, a Nature study found that the global population of emperor penguins is projected to fall 19 percent from its current level by 2100. For two-thirds of emperor penguin colonies, population could decline by more than half. The source of decline is the future loss of sea ice in the Antarctic region which is home to krill, the penguin’s main food source. One of the study’s authors, Hal Caswell, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, says “The population is declining. Unless something changes to stop that, the population will go into extinction.” The report calls upon governments to place the emperor penguin on the endangered species list, which could limit tourism and fishing companies. Additionally, the researchers proposed the creation of marine reserves, which Stephanie Jenouvrier, lead author of the study and scientist at Woods Hole, said “could help buy time to avoid extinction and to put in place needed conservation and greenhouse gas mitigation strategies.”
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June Marks Third Consecutive Month With Atmospheric CO2 Levels Above 400 PPM
June marks the third consecutive month this year in which average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have remained above 400 parts per million (ppm), as measured by the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is one of the biggest drivers of global climate change. CO2 levels first reached this level in May 2013, but dipped back down below the 400 threshold until April of this year. The average atmospheric concentration of CO2 has not been this high in 800,000 to perhaps 15 million years and has increased approximately 120 ppm just since the Industrial Revolution, resulting in an increase in average global temperature of 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Pewter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), “it is urgent that we find a way to transition to non-carbon fuels as our source of primary energy . . . as long as human society continues to emit CO2 from burning fossil fuels, CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans will continue to increase.” Tans believes that by 2016, there will be enough built up CO2 in the atmosphere for the world to remain at or above 400 ppm year-round. 
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City of Oxnard Votes to Delay Power Plant Construction to Take Rising Sea Levels into Account
On July 2, the city of Oxnard voted to block the construction of a proposed replacement NRG Energy power plant along the coast at the site of its aging plants, due to threats from rising sea levels. California law requires that agencies consider climate change implications in planning state, county, and local projects. David Knox, communications director for NRG, said "We've looked at the predicted sea level rises and where the units are going to be and there's not an issue during the life of these plants." However, models by the Nature Conservancy disagree, projecting that the plant site, slated to be located the same place as the plants they will be replacing, would be under water by 2020 or sooner. Carmen Ramirez, the Mayor Pro Tem of Oxnard, said, “If you want the grid to be safe and not vulnerable, to the kinds of flooding that is happening now and will occur with more severe storms, you want to get all these critical facilities off the coast.” The moratorium is not binding, as it must be renewed in 45 days and the final word on the proposed project may lie with the California Energy Commission.
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UN Report Says Slowing Climate Change Possible, But Needs Action Now
On July 8, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), established by the United Nations, released a report outlining pathways for countries to take to limit the increase in global mean surface temperature to below two degrees Celsius. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned, “We know that we are not on track, and time is not on our side.” The project will require organization and cooperation on the global scale, as well as “technology that is not yet operating at scale . . . and for which scalability is not yet proven,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute. The report suggests the employment of tactics such as greater reliance on nuclear power, development of low-carbon technologies, and carbon sequestration. The report also states that additional research is necessary to advance these technologies. Consulting firm Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) in San Francisco led the effort to develop emissions reductions scenarios in the United States, for the UN report. They found four potential pathways for the U.S. to reduce its emissions 85 percent by 2050, with strong economic growth. “People need to understand why decarbonization is necessary. They need to know it is possible. And they need to see that cutting emissions can benefit economics and people’s well-being,” said Ki-moon.
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United Kingdom Flood Resilience Inadequate For Climate Change Impacts
A report released July 9th by the Committee on Climate Change in the United Kingdom says three quarters of the nation’s flood defenses are not adequate to protect against future flood threats. Recent budget cuts to the Environment Agency have lessened the available funding for improving flood defenses, leaving much of the country vulnerable to destructive floods, like the ones seen this past winter. The report says that reducing funding from flood resilience and climate change mitigation projects now will only cause greater spending in the future. Other aspects of infrastructure, including utilities, railways and water treatment sites also are not properly prepared to manage extreme weather. “If we are to meet the pressures of climate change, capital and maintenance investment will simply need to increase,” said David Balmforth, senior vice-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. “Government should commit to a long-term capital and maintenance programme for flood management, which protects funding beyond the current six-year cycle.”
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Oxford Report Says EPA Carbon Emissions Reductions Are Below EU Goal
A report released July 7 by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies concludes that the recently proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon dioxide regulations will not go far enough to curb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Main author David Robinson said the planned regulations, which the report says will reduce emissions 18 percent from 2012 levels by 2030, are not stringent enough to have a serious impact on reducing global temperatures. The reductions are not as strict as Europe’s binding target to reduce CO2 levels 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2040. In the report Robinson also comments on how the partisan divide in the U.S. Congress over climate policy has prevented action on climate, and may threaten the EPA regulations in the future. “It will be a long and contested process because of the numerous parties that will have an interest in challenging the process and the specific proposals,” Robinson. “One cannot rule out the possibility that a change in the Senate majority or the arrival of a new president will slow the process further or lead to a change in the EPA standards.”
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House Passes Amendments Barring Federal Agencies from Using Climate Reports
On July 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to bar many U.S. government agencies from considering climate change and climate change-related science in their policies. The 229-188 vote was almost entirely along party lines. The amendment, proposed by Representative David McKinley (R-WV), prohibits those agencies from using the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) or the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.” It was attached to a $34 billion energy and water appropriations bill, which the House also passed on July 10. Many of the agencies funded by this bill, including the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, work on issues highly impacted by climate change. According to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who spoke out against this amendment, “This amendment requires the Department of Energy to assume that carbon pollution isn’t harmful and that climate change won’t cost a thing. That’s nothing but a fantasy.” The House passed similar amendments  to the defense appropriations bill on May 22 (see Climate Change News June 2) and the commerce, justice, and science appropriations bill on May 29 (see Climate Change News June 9).
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NOTE: Is this stupid, or what?

Australian Parliament Votes to Repeal Carbon Tax
On July 17, the Australian Senate voted to repeal the nation’s carbon tax, three days after the measure was approved by the country’s House of Representatives. The carbon tax obligates 348 of Australia’s largest carbon emitters to pay a tax of Australian $24.15 ($22.70 in U.S. dollars) for every metric ton of emitted carbon. The bill repeals both the carbon tax and legislation to implement an emissions trading scheme, which would have come into effect in 2015. "The changes to the main repeal bill balance new compliance obligations with the need to ensure that households and business customers benefit - already strong protections are being further strengthened," said Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt. The action has been criticized by members of the Labor Party. "We must stand on the right side of history," said Labor leader Bill Shorten. "But this Liberal Party, this once great party of the free market and free enterprise, wants no part of this market solution." The repeal of the carbon tax was one of the main platforms that Prime Minister Tony Abbot ran on in 2013. This is his third attempt at repeal; it was struck down the previous two times it has been brought before Parliament, including as recently as July 10 (see Climate Change News July 14).
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Report Finds Benefits of EPA’s Power Plant Regulations Outweigh Costs
On July 13, the Analysis Group released a study concerning the costs of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. According to the report, there will be some costs associated with cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) from plants, but “the impacts on electricity rates from well-designed CO2-pollution control programs will be modest in the near term, and can be accompanied by long-term benefits in the form of lower electricity bills and positive economic value to states’ and regional economies.” The analysis found that the flexibility of EPA’s plan will allow states to utilize different programs and policy tools, but that distribution of costs and benefits among consumers, power plant operators, and the economy will largely depend on how the compliance plans are designed. According to Susan Tierney, a senior advisor with the Analysis Group and one of the authors of the report, "Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine . . . The bottom line: the economy can handle -- and actually benefit from -- these rules." The study was funded by the Energy Foundation and the Merck Family Fund.
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IEA President Announces Support for EPA Power Plant Regulations
On July 14, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven voiced support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed power plant rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, but warned that further steps must be taken to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. During her remarks at the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual conference, she said, “It is our view that implementing the EPA rule can be achieved without damaging economic growth and while maintaining and even improving energy security.” Van der Hoeven further emphasized the role of the United States in leading climate talks by example, saying other countries may be disincentivized to act if the United States does not make meaning emissions reductions. She added, U.S. commitment to emissions cuts “sends a very clear signal to the international community ahead of the make-or-break climate talks,” referring to the Paris conference in late 2015.
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Florida Scientists Want to Discuss Climate Change with Governor
On July 15, ten prominent Florida scientists delivered a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, asking for the opportunity to explain to him the impacts of climate change on Florida. Gov. Scott initially ran for office in 2010 claiming that he has “not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.” In the letter, the scientists note that often when asked about his thoughts on climate change, Gov. Scott’s response is, “I’m not a scientist.” The letter states, “We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.” Since Scott became governor in 2011, Florida has repealed or defunded most of the climate change initiatives established under former Gov. Charlie Crist. “Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change,” the scientists wrote, “This is not hypothetical.” Jeff Chanton, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, and co-author of the letter said, “This is not a ‘save the earth’ message. This is about the continued comfort and amiability of civilization, or human beings.”
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2014 Was the Hottest June on Record, According to Japanese Agency
On July 14, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported the June 2014 global average temperature was the warmest June in more than 120 years of their records. According to the JMA, June temperatures were +0.32 Celsius higher than the 1981-2010 average and +0.68 Celsius higher than the 20th century average. The JMA had earlier reported that the 2014 spring (March to May) average global temperate was the hottest on record (dating back to1891). The JMA report concluded, “On a longer time scale, global average surface temperatures have risen at a rate of about 0.68 Celsius per century.”
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CDC Releases Report on Climate Change-Related Health Threats
On July 16, the Climate and Health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a framework to help health departments prepare for and respond to the effects of climate change impacts, many of which have been linked to increased prevalence of infectious disease. This report, Assessing Health Vulnerability to Climate Change, is the first in a five-part series done under the auspices of the CDC Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework. The report describes five actions health departments can take to address climate change-exacerbated health vulnerabilities, including: determining the scope their climate vulnerability assessment will have; identifying known risk factors of patients; acquiring information on health outcomes associated with the risk factors; assessing the adaptive capacity for health care providers’ ability to address and reduce hazardous exposure and its health consequences; and mapping this information to visually display communities and places vulnerable to disease or injury. This localized approach can be used to build climate resiliency by identifying where vulnerabilities exist, tailoring solutions to specific communities, and providing necessary information on public health interventions that aim to reduce the rate of hazardous exposures.
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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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