Tuesday, August 19, 2014



I recently became aware of a wonderful resource for climate change news and information - the web site of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) Climate Portal, developed by Jan W. Nash, which celebrated its 5th birthday on Aug. 13.  You can find it at http://climate.uu-uno.org/ or just google “climate uu”.  You can hear a 26-minute audio interview by Connie Barlow, where Dash, a PhD physicist and financial analyst, describes his constantly evolving web site and why he created it.  One of the sections I particularly enjoyed is the Big Kids Climate Corner, which has Pete Seeger and ensemble singing the Solartopia Song and another group of young people doing The Carbon Tax Song.  The words of both are provided so you can sing along.  There are also great videos and other resources for kids young and old.  Check it out.

Gardiner Harris had a heart-wrenching article in the NY Times dated March 28 and titled, Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land - Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change.  It points out that Bangladesh contributes on 0.3% of the carbon pollution that drives climate change, but is already suffering from its effects in the form of sea level rise and coastal storms.  The Ganges River Delta contains 160 million people - roughly half that of the U.S., but is only one fifth the size of France and is very low-lying.  Where will its people go as sea level rises and the land becomes too salty to grow crops?  It is estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis may flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rise as expected.  At: 

Katie Valentine wrote an article in the July 10 issue of ClimateProgress titled, Parents Blast Climate Denial In Schools: ‘You Have To Teach Real Science’.
She wrote, “New national standards for teaching science in public schools have sparked backlash in several states, particularly from officials who want teachers to teach climate change as a scientific debate, rather than accepted science.  But several groups that are concerned about the future of climate science education in the U.S. are pushing back. Today, four environmental organizations released the Climate Science Students Bill of Rights, a document that the groups hope will help them rally support around the Next Generation Science Standards from companies, scientific organizations, and local activists, as well as from students, parents, and teachers. The document asserts that students have five rights when it comes to climate education, including receiving high-quality education “free from ideological or political interference,” and exploring “the causes and consequences of climate change.””
“John Friedrich, member of Climate Parents, a group that advocates on behalf of science education in schools and was one of the main sponsors of the Bill of Rights, said on a press call that the Bill of Rights represents the launch of a new national campaign to spread the idea that all students, in every state, have the right to learn about climate change.
“It’s unacceptable for students to be denied information about this crisis. Young people need to be given the tools to develop solutions” to help solve the the problem of climate change, he said.
The immediate solution to the climate education problem in this country, the groups say, is the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, which were put together by 26 states as well as science and education organizations and seek to provide guidelines for science education, helping to standardize what kids in every state are learning in science classes.”
“In March, Wyoming became the first state to reject the standards altogether, a decision based in part to some Wyoming lawmakers’ concerns over the standards’ inclusion of climate change as a scientifically-accepted phenomenon.
“I don’t accept, personally, that [climate change] is a fact,” Wyoming State Board of Education Chairman Ron Micheli said in March. “[The standards are] very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development.””
NOTE: A list of CO2 emissions per capita for U.S. states (in 2011) shows that Wyoming, with 112.8 metric tons (mt) per person are far higher that the second and third highest states, North Dakota with 73.5 and Alaska with 52.7 mt/person.  These figures can be compared with the 17.3 of the U.S. as a whole, and with the three lowest emitting states of New York, California, and Vermont with 8.1, 9.2 and 9.4 mt/person, respectively.  See: 

Professor Kerry Emanuel gave a 90-minute lecture and Q&A titled, What We KNOW About Climate Change, to the MIT Club of Northern California.  It was published on April 11 this year on YouTube, and is well worth watching.  Emanuel describes the history of the science - starting with Fourier nearly 190 years ago and and including Tyndall, Arrhenius, Malenkovich and Keeling.  He describes what we know with certainty and how we know it, the strengths and weakness of computer models, and the great remaining uncertainties, including the future behavior of clouds, sea level rise, and how humans will respond to the growing threat.  At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7so8GRCWA1k
NOTE: The above web site has a number of additional videos related to climate change you may want to check out.  I have not seen them yet, but the titles are interesting.  Examples are A Green Road - 2014 State of the Planet, Melting Ice, Tipping Points and Abrupt Climate Change in the Arctic (And Beyond) An Update.

On July 23 the National Academy Press released a new study titled, Reducing Coastal Risks on the East and Gulf Coasts.  The description says, in part, Hurricane- and coastal-storm-related losses have increased substantially during the past century, largely due to increases in population and development in the most susceptible coastal areas. Climate change poses additional threats to coastal communities from sea level rise and possible increases in strength of the largest hurricanes. Several large cities in the United States have extensive assets at risk to coastal storms, along with countless smaller cities and developed areas. The devastation from Superstorm Sandy has heightened the nation's awareness of these vulnerabilities.”  The report is available for purchase or download at: 

Robert Rubin had an Opinion in the July 24 issue of the Washington Post titled, Robert Rubin: How ignoring climate change could sink the U.S. economy.  He writes, Good economic decisions require good data. And to get good data, we must account for all relevant variables. But we’re not doing this when it comes to climate change — and that means we’re making decisions based on a flawed picture of future risks. While we can’t define future climate-change risks with precision, they should be included in economic policy, fiscal and business decisions because of their potential magnitude.”
“When it comes to the economy, much of the debate about climate change — and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling it — is framed as a trade-off between environmental protection and economic prosperity. Many people argue that moving away from fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions will impede economic growth, hurt business and hamper job creation.  But from an economic perspective, that’s precisely the wrong way to look at it. The real question should be: What is the cost of inaction?”
The U.S. economy faces enormous risks from unmitigated climate change. But the metrics we currently use to measure economic growth, fiscal prospects and business earnings do not incorporate these risks. If we are going to have a well-informed and accurate debate about the economic costs of action vs. inaction, the public and private sectors need metrics that honestly reflect climate-related risk.
First, future federal spending to deal with climate change is likely to be enormous and should be included in fiscal projections, whether in existing estimates or in additional estimates that include climate change. If nothing is done to prevent climate-related crises, the federal government will be forced to deal with them later — from property losses to public health crises to emergency aid. These huge risks are not currently in official future estimates or federal budget plans.”
“We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc. And a major step toward changing the debate is to change the way we measure the health of our economy, our fiscal conditions, and the health of individual companies and businesses to better reflect the world as it will be.”  At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/robert-rubin-how-ignoring-climate-change-could-sink-the-us-economy/2014/07/24/b7b4c00c-0df6-11e4-8341-b8072b1e7348_story.html
There is an interesting article in the July 24 Boston Globe by Jennifer Weeks titled, What would Jesus do (about climate change)?  It’s about Gordon College science professor Dorothy Boorse, who wants evengelical Christians to connect practicing their faith with caring for the environment.  Boorse, herself an evangelical Christian, teaches biology and environmental science at the Christian school.  She writes, The effects of climate change are “threat multipliers for the many problems faced by the poor around the globe,” “ and sees scientific inquiry and religion as being completely compatible. Boorse believes strongly in the idea of creation care, which asserts that God tasked humans as the earth’s stewards, not its owners, and holds us accountable for the job we do.”  She was the lead author on a report on religion and the environment titled, Loving the Least of These - Addressing a Changing Environment.
The title echoes a passage in the book of Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers that God judges them based on how they care for the hungry, naked, and sick, saying, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.””  At: http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/07/24/what-would-jesus-about-climate-change/iXB3iYEkdlwQz6MqCpX3YJ/story.html.

On July 30, Congressman Chris Van Hollen from Maryland’s 8th District introduced the Healthy Family and Climate and Security Act of 2014.  The bill caps carbon emissions and reduces them steadily to 20% of their 2005 total  by 2080, auctions emission allowances to the first sellers of coal, oil and natural gas into the U.S. market, and returns 100% of the proceeds equally to every American with a valid Social Security number.  At: http://vanhollen.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/van-hollen-introduces-the-healthy-climate-and-family-security-act-of?utm_source=enews&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=july_2014
NOTE: This bill would set an increasing price on carbon, as proposed in a resolution passed by the delegates to the LWVUS Convention 2014 - perhaps one of the best ways to avoid catastrophic climate change.  A related way to significantly reduce carbon emissions is through a carbon fee and dividend system, as proposed by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  In that case, the cost of emissions would be set directly (e.g., at $15/ton of CO2 for the first year, followed by annual increases of $10/ton) rather by by auction.

The Upshot of the NY Times for August 2 had an excellent article by Robert Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell Unitersity, titled Shattering Myths to Help the Climate.  He addresses six myths that are hindering us from taking the steps necessary to address potentially catastrophic climate change:
Myth 1: The enormous uncertainty of climate science argues for a wait-and-see strategy.  
Myth 2: Slowing the pace of climate change would be prohibitively difficult.  
Myth 3: A carbon tax would destroy jobs.  
Myth 4: The cost of reducing CO2 emissions would be prohibitively high.  
Myth 5: It’s pointless for Americans to reduce CO2 emissions, since unilateral action won’t solve global warming.  
Myth 6: Penalizing greenhouse gas emissions would violate people’s freedom.
He ends his article saying, ‘There’s still time to eliminate this catastrophic risk at surprisingly modest cost. If we fail to act, future historians may wonder from behind high sea walls why we allowed the more effective responses we could have pursued to be blocked by an easily debunked collection of myths.”  At: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/upshot/shattering-myths-to-help-the-climate.html?_r=0

Eduardo Porter had an article in the Aug. 5 issue of the NY TImes titled, Reducing Carbon by Curbing Population.  In it he points out that earth’s human population is expected to increase from the present ca. 7 billion to between 9 and 10.1 billion by 2050.  That increase, along with higher incomes and richer diets in developing countries will add greatly to the rate of carbon emissions and the rate of climate change - unless strong action is  taken to improve energy efficiency and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.  While limiting family size is a sensitive subject, women who are educated and have access to family planning have fewer children dying before the age of five and choose to limit their family size without external coercion.  Money invested now in helping women become empowered is one of the smartest investments we can make.  At: 

Ben Geman and Clare Foran posted an article in the Aug. 8 issue of the NationalJournal titled, EPA Chief: Teach Global Warming in Schools.  Gina McCarthy, the EPA Administrator, was asked in an interview whether climate change should be part of the public education system.  She replied, "Very much so; I think part of the challenge of explaining climate change is that it requires a level of science and a level of forward thinking and you've got to teach that to kids. People didn't have a sense of how dramatic climate change really is, and what it means for all of us.”  The article went on to say, “Among climate scientists and those who heed their consensus, McCarthy's sentiment is noncontroversial. The basic conclusion—that the climate is changing and that human activity is largely driving it—is overwhelmingly supported by peer-reviewed research.”  At:

Mother Jones for Aug. 15 has an article by Chris Mooney titled, Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger. The subtitle is: Anthony Ingraffea argues that fugitive methane emissions turn natural gas from a climate benefit into yet another strike against fossil fuels.  Ingraffea is a Cornell University engineering professor who argues that the problems with fracking go beyond possible groundwater contamination with the chemicals used in fracking fluid to promoting earthquake activity and adding methane to the atmosphere by leaking in several steps of the recovery and piping operation.  “In 2011, Ingraffea and two other Cornell researchers published a highly discussed scientific study in the journal Climatic Change, arguing that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of methane gas from shale drilling operations actually escapes into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming. If true, … the implications could be dramatic. Natural gas could swing from being a net climate benefit (because it burns cleaner than oil or coal) to a climate harm, because of all the escaping methane.”   At:

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
 at http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

Pentagon Official Says Climate Change Affects All Operations
On July 22, Dr. Daniel Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), said climate change is affecting all national defense operations. Along with other officials from U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Chiu testified in a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the national security implications of international energy and climate policies. In his testimony, Dr. Chiu said, "The effects of the changing climate affect the full range of Department activities, including plans, operations, training, infrastructure, acquisition, and longer-term investments.” He added that he believed more government efforts are required on this issue. He added, “By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Department can keep pace with the impacts of changing climate patterns, minimize effects on the Department, and continue to protect our national security interests.” Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member on the subcommittee, doubted that climate change must be considered as a key issue in U.S. national security and foreign policy. He said the $7.5 billion spent on the Obama administration’s international climate change programs from 2010 to 2012 should instead have funded military and counterterrorism actions in the Middle East or Eastern Europe. He said, "Folks in my home state of Wyoming would call this spending wasteful and irresponsible at best, especially as our friends and allies struggle with violent, deadly crises that have real implications for our security.”
For more information see:

ACEEE Report Shows U.S. Bottom of World Rankings for Energy Efficiency
On July 17, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) published the “2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard.” The report concluded that the United States, with a score of 42 out of 100 on energy efficiency, ranked 13th on energy efficiency out of 16 countries, behind China and India. "The United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since our last report (in 2012), even as Germany, Italy, China, and other nations surge ahead," said Steven Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director. The report gave Germany the top score of 65, while noting that China leads the world in energy efficient buildings and Italy has the world’s best transportation sector efficiency. “Countries can preserve their resources, address global warming, stabilize their economies, and reduce the costs of their economic outputs by using energy more efficiently,” the report states. Nate Aden, research fellow at the World Resources Institute, commented, “There is a growing realization that energy efficiency is the lowest-cost energy and greenhouse gas emission option. This is especially important for developing countries that are trying to address energy access while also addressing climate change.” Rachel Young, an ACEEE research analyst, suggested the United States should “implement a national ‘energy savings’ target, strengthen national model building codes, support education and training in the industrial sector, and prioritize energy efficiency in transportation.”
For more information see:

NOAA’s State of the Climate 2013 Report
On July 17, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published the “State of the Climate Report 2013” in the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Bulletin, revealing that indicators of climate change increased during 2013. The report was written by 425 scientists from 57 different countries. The report contains detailed accounts of the conditions experienced regionally, as well as the broader climate conditions and trends that were seen in 2013. The report shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, sea level and global temperatures are continuing to rise, while the concentration of sea ice in the Arctic continued to be low. The report also noted that the extreme weather incidence was slightly above average for the world in 2013, with 94 storms, including Super Typhoon Haiyan, which set the all-time record for the highest wind speed ever recorded from a tropical cyclone. "These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”
For additional information see:

NOAA Releases Data Showing Last Month Was Warmest June Since Records Began
On July 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report on average global temperature in June 2014, showing that this was the warmest June on record since 1880. NOAA previously reported that May was the hottest May on record. These conclusions are in agreement with a Japan Meteorological Agency finding, released last week, that May and June were the hottest on record since 1891 (see Climate Change News July 21).  Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Climate Data Center, explained, “The warmth was fueled by record warm ocean temperatures.” The NOAA report showed that although the global land temperature of last month ranked seventh highest on record, the global ocean temperature was the highest on record, 1.15 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average global ocean temperature for the month of June. NOAA also pointed out that the ocean temperature is rising although there has not yet been a declaration of El Nino conditions, which raise ocean temperatures.  In addition, NOAA stated the global temperature of the last 38 consecutive Junes, as well as the last 352 consecutive months, were all above the 20th century average.
For additional information see:

Georgetown Climate Center Report Highlights Climate Adaptation Efforts
On July 18, the Georgetown Climate Center released a report, “Preparing for Climate Change: Lessons from the Front Lines,” which details the lessons Georgetown staff have learned by advising different levels of government on the actions they can take to combat climate change. The report stresses the importance of cooperation between local, state and federal jurisdictions in the planning and implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The authors found that adaptation plans are more successful when they align action that protects a community or state from climate damage with existing policies and plans. The report also discusses how destructive natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, are often catalysts for climate change action. People are more likely to make changes and implement action plans when they witness how climate change can destroy their homes and communities. Those towns and states with climate adaptation plans in place before disasters hit are more resilient and quicker to rebuild.  
For additional information see:

TV Shows Increasing Media Coverage of Climate Change
On July 21, a Media Matters analysis found that Sunday television shows have covered the topic of climate change more in the first half of 2014 than the last four years combined. Climate change-related events have been attracting more attention in the wake of published reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) which warn that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, and are largely deleterious. Media Matters analyzed coverage between January 1 and June 30 on four Sunday morning talk shows and three nightly news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News channels, keeping track of any substantial mentions or segments on the topic of climate change or global warming. In response to low coverage in 2013, nine U.S. senators wrote to the executives of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, expressing concern over the lack of focus on climate change, “the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet.” According to the analysis, the increase in media coverage is significant because “Sunday shows often have an impact on news coverage in other media throughout the week.”
For additional information see:

Beef Emits Five Times More Greenhouse Gas than Other Meats
On July 21, a study on the environmental impacts of livestock production was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study found that the environmental burden of beef production is ten times higher – requiring 28 times more land, 11 times more water, 5 times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 6 times more reactive nitrogen (Nr) – than other livestock categories. Compared to agricultural products such as wheat, rice and potatoes, beef production’s greenhouse gas emissions are even higher, releasing 11 times more GHGs. While beef has been generally recognized as a high carbon emitter for a long time, this study is the first to quantitatively compare the relative impacts of the livestock industry. Cows are not efficient at converting feed to protein. “Only a minute fraction of the food consumed by cattle goes into the bloodstream, so the bulk of the energy is lost,” said Gido Eshel lead author of the study. Eshel proposed the “remov[al of] the artificial support given to the livestock industry. . .  In that way you are having less government intervention in people’s diet and not more.” Eshel concluded, “The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat.”
For additional information see:

NOTE: I don’t think many people realize that what they choose to eat can have a big effect on the greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for.  There is  not only more carbon dioxide with beef, but also more methane and nitrous oxide (N2O).

White House Releases Report on Economic Costs of Climate Change
On July 29, the White House published a report, “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change,” revealing that the net costs of climate change mitigation will increase by 40 percent “for each decade of delay” to reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, the report says a global rise in temperature of 3 degrees Celsius over preindustrial temperatures carries an economic cost of $150 billion annually, equivalent to roughly 0.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) this year. “Each decade we delay action results in added cost,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). To conduct this report, the CEA examined 16 studies covering more than 100 actions on climate change, and gathered advice on economic policy. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “It’s becoming clearer and clearer that if you care about the deficit, you need to care about climate change. We’ve got a responsibility to leave a stronger country for our children and grandchildren, and that means addressing climate change to help the environment, help the economy, and help the federal budget.” Mr. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), chairman of the House Energy and power subcommittee, commented, “Today’s report reads more like a blueprint to create jobs in China. Our emissions levels are at their lowest in nearly two decades, and yet President Obama, despite tens of billions of dollars already spent, is intent on eradicating the coal industry and its affordable energy and jobs.”
In related news, on July 31 the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Initiative to Help Modernize Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure, which aims to lower methane emissions from natural gas transmission and distribution systems as part of the White House Climate Action Plan’s methane emissions strategy. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz commented, “We have heard from several different groups about the benefits to finding workable solutions to the problem of methane leakage. These benefits include job creation through pipeline and other equipment replacement, cost recovery for infrastructure investments that increase safety and save energy, and opportunities for addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The initiative will improve the efficiency of natural gas compressors, as well as conduct research and development to improve the general efficiency of natural gas systems and reduce overall methane leakage. This announcement comes just days after a July 25 report from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General finding that the EPA must do more to regulate methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems.
For more information see:

EPA Holds Hearings on Clean Power Plan
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a series of public hearings on the Clean Power Plan, proposed in May 2014, which would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from currently operating power plants. The hearings were held in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, DC on July 29 and July 30, and in Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “We know the purpose of this rule is so important, and that’s why we’ve been so focused on the process.” According to EPA, there were more than 1,600 scheduled speakers, and available slots to speak filled up in Atlanta, Denver and Washington a week before the hearings. Thus far the EPA has received more than 300,000 comments on the Clean Power Plan, and they will be accepting comments for three more months (last date to submit a comment is October 16, 2014). Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, said, “This is the main event for climate action in this administration. EPA actually crafted it to be a very broad approach, and so that brings in a large number of actors.” Frances Beinecke, president of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), commented, “It’s the biggest step we’ve ever taken against climate change, which today is already harming our health and environment.” On the other hand, John Pippy, former state senator and now CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, said, “This regulatory attempt to displace coal will have profound and sweeping consequences, not just on the coal industry and its workers, but also on those communities that host coal-fired power plants, those employed at these facilities and every ratepayer who depends upon the reliable provisioning of electricity at competitive rates.”
For more information see:

Rep. Cartwright Introduces PREPARE Act to Improve Climate Resilience
On Thursday, July 31, Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the PREPARE (Preparedness and Risk management for Extreme weather Patterns Assuring Resilience) Act (H.R. 5314) which addresses the need for government to become more resilient in the face of increasing extreme weather. According to Rep. Cartwright, “In the past two years alone, extreme weather events resulted in: 109 presidential major disaster declarations, 20 events that each inflicted at least $1 billion in damage, and 409 fatalities and $130 billion in economic losses in 44 states caused by these 20 events. We simply cannot afford to ignore the increasing threat of such events in the future.” A 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that extreme weather events will increase due to climate change, and that the federal government does not have a government-wide approach to address extreme weather. The PREPARE Act would create an overarching structure and process requiring agencies to implement resiliency, preparedness, and risk management priorities; facilitate the adoption of these practices at the state, local and tribal level; and establish regional coordination plans to ensure cost-effectiveness and stakeholder outreach. The bill is written to be carried out with zero cost to the government. Cartwright notes that this bill is a win for both political parties and the American people, as “we can spend no money while also having the possibility of saving taxpayers billions of dollars from future extreme weather events.”
For more information see:

Poll Shows a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax Has Popular Support
On Monday, July 21, the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy and Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public Opinion released a survey which found that the majority of Americans would support a tax on carbon, depending on what was done with the revenue it generated. The survey found that only 34 percent of respondents supported taxing fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases; however, 60 percent back the tax if the funds were used to research and develop renewable energy, and 56 percent supported it if they received all of the money back in the form of a rebate. The third option, which involved using the tax revenue to reduce the government’s debt, was not popular among respondents. The survey gathered opinions of 800 randomly selected people from across the country between the months of March and April. Co-author Barry Rabe noted that the margin of error, which was plus/minus 3.5 percent, was a good number for a national poll. These results are timely, as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced a cap-and-dividend bill (H.R. 5271) in the House on July 30. According to the report’s authors, “conventional wisdom holds that a carbon tax . . . is a political non-starter. The survey results reported here suggest that this conclusion may be premature.”
For more information see:

Senators Convene Two Hearings to Discuss Climate Change
On July 29, two Senate hearings were held to discuss climate change. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, held a hearing, “Examining the Threats Posed by Climate Change,” which discussed the threats climate change brings to economies and societies. One of the hearing witnesses, Carl Hedde, head of Risk Accumulation at Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., pointed out, “One area where we do see an upward trend is in regard to losses from weather catastrophes, which, over time, have increased in both frequency and severity.” On the other hand, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked, “Anybody else ask themselves this question? What caused this? I know there are a number of theories and everybody [testifying] raised their hand and said, 'Oh, [climate change] is for sure. It's man-made.' Again, I won't deny that man has an effect on our environment. But what caused this?"
On the same day, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing, “The Costs of Inaction: The Economic and Budgetary Consequences of Climate Change.” The hearing examined the cost of waiting to act to mitigate climate change on the economy, for both the private sector and the federal government. Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), said, "This [climate change] isn’t just an environmental issue. It also poses serious risks to our economy and the federal budget. And if we fail to address these threats, it will weaken economic growth and increase costs for the federal government." Alfredo Gomez, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), also stated in written testimony, “Infrastructure is typically designed to withstand and operate within historical climate patterns. However, according to [the National Research Council] as the climate changes, historical patterns do not provide reliable predictions of the future.” During the question period, all witnesses agreed that climate change is happening. Washington Governor Jay Inslee commented on the hearing, “Taking action to reduce carbon pollution is not only important for our children, our environment and our health, it is essential for our economy. The costs of inaction are simply too high. Meanwhile, there are enormous opportunities in developing the clean energy technologies that will cleanly fuel our homes and businesses for decades to come.”
For more information see:

Pacific Island Leaders Meet to Discuss Climate Change
From July 29 to August 1, leaders from the 15 countries of the Pacific Island Forum met to discuss climate change issues, maritime protection and public health. Many of the nations represented at the forum are located only one meter (about three feet) above sea level and are directly threatened by rising sea level. Nations in the Pacific have already been taking actions to protect themselves from climate change and mitigate further climate damage. Last year the Forum signed the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, which called for all members to reduce their carbon emissions. These small island nations are some of the smallest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, but they face some of the greatest dangers from rising sea levels. Australia’s recent decision to discontinue its carbon pricing system has been of concern for the other nations of the forum, but has not caused a disruption in climate change actions of other nations. "Climate change is causing the seas to rise at unprecedented rates, increasing the intensity of storms and threatening to wipe entire states off the map," said Tommy Remengesau, Jr., the president of Palau in January during testimony to the United Nations. "Pacific Islands are among those that contribute least to global warming, yet suffer most."     
For additional information see:

Groundwater Supply in Western United States Far Lower Than Expected
On July 24, a joint study was published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of California at Irvine, finding that the American West has been rapidly depleting its groundwater resources. The researchers used NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite to find that more than three quarters of the water lost from the Colorado River Basin since 2004, 65 cubic kilometers of fresh water, came from underground. The authors concluded that 30 percent more water than was actually available was allocated for use among the basin’s seven states. Groundwater resources do not replenish as quickly as surface water, and the basin has been suffering from a prolonged drought since 2000 – the driest 14 years in the region’s last hundred years. “If [ground water basins] continue to be depleted, they don’t come back up,” said Stephanie Castle, lead author of the study and water specialist at the University of California at Irvine. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”
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NOAA Study Reveals Ocean Acidification is Drastically Threatening Fisheries in Alaska
On July 29, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a study in Progress for Oceanography projecting that fisheries in Alaska are already being impacted by ocean acidification from sea water absorption of carbon dioxide, and will experience more impacts in the future. Alaskan fisheries support 90,000 full-time-equivalent Alaskan jobs, are worth an estimated wholesale $4.6 billion on the world market, and are a substantive part of the diet of 20 percent of Alaska’s population (generally native peoples in rural areas). According to the study, the southern, rural areas of Alaska are facing the most severe consequences of ocean acidification. This trend is due in part to low-income, limited employment opportunities, high food prices and great reliance on fish for subsistence in those communities, as well as more rapidly projected acidification and a high quantity of vulnerable species in those areas. Steve Colt, an economist at the University of Alaska Anchorage and study co-author, said, “Ocean acidification is not just an ecological problem – it’s an economic problem. The people of coastal Alaska, who have always looked to the sea for sustenance and prosperity, will be most affected.”
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Air Pollution and Climate Change Threaten Food Security
On July 27, a study published in Nature Climate Change revealed that ground-level ozone pollution is expected to increase with rising temperatures due to climate change and cause additional damage to food production. The research was conducted by Colette Heald, at MIT, Amos Tai at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Maria Val Martin at Colorado State University. Ground-level ozone is the major component of smog, formed as pollution when emissions from mobile and stationary sources interact with sunlight. Ground-level ozone increases as temperatures rise, and slows photosynthesis and otherwise harms plants, including food crops.  According to a press release from MIT, “While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact. For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 percent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.” The study calculated that climate change is likely to reduce crop yields at least 10 percent by 2050 from 2000 levels. In a “pessimistic” scenario with higher ozone pollution, crop yields would decrease 15 percent by 2050, while the "intermediate” scenario reduced yields 9 percent. The study also calculated that undernourishment — the number of people not getting enough food — would go up 49 percent by 2050 in the “pessimistic” scenario, and 18 to 27 percent in the “intermediate” scenario. “The bad news is that the double barrel damage from air pollution and climate change will be devastating for food security,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.  “The good news is that we know how to clean up air pollution and save millions of lives a year, while significantly improving food security for a growing population.”
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Senator Patty Murray Released Memo on How to Discuss Climate Change
On August 1, a memo about climate change was released by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. In the memo, Murray discussed the harm of climate change to the federal budget. Sen. Murray wrote, “. . . this is not just an environmental issue. Climate change will also have serious ramifications for our economy and the federal budget, and failure to confront it will make it harder to meet our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.”  The memo outlined climate change impacts on the federal budget, including national security, extreme weather disaster relief, agriculture, and transportation and water infrastructure. Sen. Murray urged the government to take actions in fighting climate change as soon as possible.
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USAID and Rockefeller Foundation Announce $100 Million Partnership for Climate Resilience
On August 4, a $100 million Global Resilience Partnership was announced at the US-Africa Leaders Summit by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Rockefeller Foundation. The purpose of this public-private partnership is to reduce the vulnerability of poor and at-risk communities when confronting the climate change. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, the disasters caused by extreme weathers have tripled over the last 30 years, and 48 percent of death in poor countries was caused by weather related disasters. USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said, "Disasters and shocks pose an unparalleled threat to the world's most vulnerable communities and hamstring the global humanitarian response. This new bold partnership will help the global community pivot from being reactive in the wake of disaster to driving evidence-based investments that enable cities, communities, and households to better manage and adapt to inevitable shocks.” This partnership will help African countries by activities such as investing in resilience building technologies and improve the disaster early warning systems. Shah believed that this $100 million is an “initial investment in what we hope, over time, is a shift of billions of dollars from dealing with disasters after the fact, to building better communities up front to avoid disasters to begin with.”
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States Sue EPA Over Carbon Emissions Rules
On August 1, 12 states sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over EPA’s power-plant rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions, known as 111(d). The states used a 2011 high court ruling in their argument, stating, “EPA may not employ section 111(d) if existing stationary sources of the pollution in question are regulated under . . . the ‘hazardous air pollutants’ program.” The lawsuit is led by West Virginia, and co-signed by Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming. David Doniger, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “This is a laughable lawsuit . . . I don’t think the courts will take more than 15 minutes to dismiss this.”
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African Leaders Call US Action ‘Critical’ For UN Climate Deal
From August 4 to 6, head climate negotiators from several African countries – including Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Ethiopia – met in Washington, DC, at the first United States-Africa Leaders Summit. Reuters reported the climate negotiators were optimistic the US would craft a global deal to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP) United Nations meeting, although they noted that the partisan divide in the US makes a climate agreement more difficult. According to Jennifer Morgan, Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) climate program, African countries, which produce only three percent of the world’s GHG emissions, are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change. During the Summit, the United States announced several initiatives to address both causes and impacts of climate change in Africa. This included a new $300 million annual commitment to the Power Africa initiative (announced in 2013), as well as a $100 million Global Resilience Partnership between USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation. The White House commented, “Climate Change poses serious challenges for Africa, as it does for regions around the world, from extreme weather to sea level rise to drought. But building resilience to climate impacts and expanding clean energy resources will create opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators and young people across Africa – and help the continent continue its progress toward building sustainable, dynamic economies for decades to come.”
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Wildfire Smoke Shown to Cause Mortalities and Climate Change
On July 30, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres that found smoke from wildfires and open burning biomass is contributing more to climate change, and causing more mortalities, than previously stated. “We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,” Jacobson said. “That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year,” and perhaps up to 435,000 a year. Jacobson calculated that 8.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution is caused by biomass burning, about 18 percent of the anthropogenic CO2 emitted each year. In addition to CO2, biomass burning produces black carbon and brown carbon, which cause further warming. According to Jacobson, the planetary warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases – including the warming caused by black and brown carbon – amount to a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius during the 20-year period in their computer simulation. There is a cooling effect from light-colored particles in organic carbon pollution, which cause cooling of “slightly more than one degree Celsius,” Jacobson said, “So you end up with a total net warming gain of 0.9 degrees Celsius or so. Of that net gain, we’ve calculated that biomass burning accounts for about 0.4 degrees Celsius,” or more than 44 percent of the total. “As raging wildfires are becoming increasingly common, these studies reiterate the escalating effect of climate change right now,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Fast action to reduce agriculture burning and to manage the fire risk of our forests can provide critical mitigation, and save millions of lives a year.” 
In related news on August 3, a second research paper in Nature Geosciences further confirms the warming effect of brown carbon released from biomass burning.  In addition, on August 5, White House Counselor to the President John Podesta sent a message called The Cost of Inaction to the White House email list, which stated that anthropogenic climate change is happening, climate change is contributing to wildfires, and waiting to act on climate change is increasing economic costs to communities threatened by wildfires. In the email, Podesta said, “Make no mistake: The cost of inaction on wildfires and climate change is too high a price for Americans to pay, particularly when we have a chance to address this right now.”
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Texas May Not Follow EPA’s Power Plant Greenhouse Gas Rules
On August 7, the top environmental regulator of Texas, Bryan Shaw, suggested the state will not follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, a proposed regulation to limit carbon emissions from currently operating power plants. Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said, “I’m concerned that if this is not contested, if we don’t dispute this, if we don’t win, the implications . . . are only the camel’s nose under the tent.” Texas can either file a lawsuit against EPA’s rules, or simply ignore the rules and take no actions. However, Texas has not so far chosen to join a suit filed by 12 states against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (see Climate Change News August 11.) Texas previously chose not to follow a federal greenhouse gas permit rule in 2010, and filed suit against the EPA. As a result, EPA took over the permitting process, which caused years of delays for industries in Texas to receive permits, and led to millions of dollars in economic losses. In addition, Texas lost the lawsuit, and spent about $350,000 of Texas taxpayer money.
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Medical Scientists Call on Australia’s Prime Minister to Address Climate Change
On August 11, twelve Australian medical scientists issued an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urging him to include climate change on the agenda of the G20 conference arguing, “adverse health outcomes related to climate change are already evident in many regions of the world.” Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the letter stated the health of present and future generations of Australian citizens are at risk from a variety of stressors resulting from rising global temperatures, including: extreme heat waves, forest fires, water shortages, an increase in pest borne illnesses, food shortages and the increase of mental health conditions and chronic illnesses. Though climate change is not included in the G20 forum’s agenda, Abbott said the topic might come up in conversation. Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of Australia’s Labor Party, further explained Abbott’s statement in an earlier meeting with U.S. business leaders, stating that while “nobody expects the G20 to be the meeting where people make binding commitments or talk about how exactly each country is going to reduce its climate emissions, [ . . . ] the G20 can be a statement [about climate change] that the G20 members understand -- that this is a pressing economic issue.”
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America’s Largest Public Relations Firm Will No Longer Represent Climate Change Deniers
On August 7, Edelman, the largest public relations (PR) firm in America, issued a formal statement saying they would refuse to accept any new clients or campaigns that are backed by climate skeptics. According to the company website, Edelman “fully recognises the reality of, and science behind, climate change, and believes it represents one of the most important global challenges facing society, business and government today. To be clear, we do not accept client assignments that aim to deny climate change.” Kert Davies, the founder of Climate Investigators, an organization that works with PR firms, referred to Edelman’s formal statement as a ‘big step’ in the right direction. Davies said, “It might pull the rest of the industry along to take a firm stance on climate change.”
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Study Says Keystone XL Pipeline Will Produce Four Times the Greenhouse Gases Estimated by State Department
On August 10, the Stockholm Environment Institute published a study, “Impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on global oil markets and greenhouse gas emissions,” written by scientists in the journal Nature Climate Change. This study concluded that the carbon dioxide emissions from the Keystone XL pipeline could be around 121 million tons per year, four times higher than previous estimates from the State Department. Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus, study co-authors, explained, “The sole reason for this difference is that we account for the changes in global oil consumption resulting from increasing oil sands production levels, whereas the State Department does not.” The study finds that when the Keystone XL produces one extra barrel of oil, world consumption increases by 0.6 barrels, which in turn increases greenhouse gas emissions. This is attributed to the study’s estimate that the price of oil will drop $3 a barrel if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, providing incentives to use more oil than before. Furthermore, Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Stanford, California, also pointed out, “My concern is not so much the increase in emissions caused by Keystone XL, but that Keystone XL is part of a broader pattern of behavior.” He stated that a disapproval of Keystone XL project could be a signal to the market, implying that future projects with heavy greenhouse gas pollution might be disapproved as well.
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Antarctic Ice Melt Could Accelerate Sea Level Rise
Published on August 14, a recent study found that melting ice in the Antarctic region could increase sea levels worldwide by up to 37 centimeters (14.6 inches) this century. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research led the study, which used climate models and observational data of the Antarctic to find the results. Lead author Anders Levermann said, “If greenhouse gases continue to rise as before, ice discharge from Antarctica could raise the global ocean by an additional 1 to 37 centimeters in this century already.” Co-author Robert Bindschadler of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center added, ““Rising sea level is widely regarded as a current and ongoing result of climate change that directly affects hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers around the world and indirectly affects billions more that share its financial costs.”
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Chad A. Tolman

New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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