Monday, September 22, 2014



A short 16.2-minute film, "A Climate of TRUST", featuring Jim Hansen, is the story of the scientists who developed the scientific prescriptions necessary for climate recovery, the attorney who figured out the legal basis for the right to a healthy atmosphere, and one of OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST's attorneys who is supporting these youth in court.  It was posted on March 28, 2014, and is well-worth watching.  At:

On Aug. 2, 2012 James Handley posted an article for the Carbon Tax Center titled,  Rep. McDermott (D-Wa) Introduces Bold "Managed Price" Carbon Tax Bill.  Rep. McDermott, a 12-term House member, sits on the Ways and Means Committee and called his bill the Managed Carbon Price Act of 2012.”  His bill would start with an “upstream” tax of $12.50 per ton of CO2 the first year, and increase by that much again each year until it reach $125 per ton in the 10th year.  Other greenhouse gases (such as methane, nitrous oide or hydrofluorocarbons) would also be taxed on a CO2-equivalent basis.  Handley writes,CTC estimates that within a decade, McDermott’s price path would reduce greenhouse gas emissions almost twice as much as the most optimistic projections for prospective EPA regulations or the targets in the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House in 2009 but dropped in the Senate the following year” - by 30% within a decade.  The bill would return 75% of the revenue raised directly to U.S. adults as a monthly dividend (with a half share to each dependent), and use the other 25% to reduce the federal deficit.  “CTC estimates that the revenue stream available for deficit reduction in the tenth year after enactment would be roughly $100 billion, ..”  At: 

Robin McKie posted an article in the Aug. 23, 2014 TheGuardian TheObserver titled, 'Incredible' rate of polar ice loss alarms scientists.  He reports that the CryoSat-2 satellite of the European Space Agency, lunched in 2010 and capable of measuring ice loss by accurately mapping the surface elevation of glaciers and ice sheets, has made measurements showing that Greenland and Antarctica are now losing ice at a total rate of 120 cubic miles per year - with about 90 from Greenland and 30 from Antarctica.  The results show that the contribution of ice loss from these two sources has about doubled in the five years since 2009.  
“The researchers say they detected the biggest elevation changes caused by ice loss at the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, which was recently found to be shifting ice into the oceans faster than any other ice-sheet glacier, and at Pine Island glacier, which like other glaciers in West Antarctica, has been thinning rapidly in recent years.  The discovery of these losses of ice is particularly striking and represents yet another blow to claims by some climate-change deniers, who argue that the rapid loss of ice in the Arctic currently being observed is being matched by a corresponding increase in Antarctica. CryoSat's measurements show that Antarctica – although considerably colder than the Arctic because of its much higher average elevation – is not gaining ice at all. Indeed, it is – overall – losing considerable volumes, and in the case of West Antarctica is doing so at an alarming rate.”  At:
NOTE: The “shifting of ice into the ocean” described above for the Jakobshavn glacier on Greenland , called ‘calving’ can be a major contributor to sea level rise and provides a mechanism for heat transfer from warming water to ice that is much more rapid that heat transfer from warming air to ice at the top of the glacier.
Coral Davenport has an excellent article in the Aug. 26 issue of the NY TImes titled, Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of TreatyDavenport writes, The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.  
In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.  
To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.”
What the President is trying to do is strongly opposed by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican Minority Leader.  Kentucky’s economy is strongly dependent on coal and will be affected by any significant effort to reduce carbon emissions.  At:
Nancy Kopp, the Maryland State Treasurer, posted an excellent piece on Sept. 2 in The Hill’s Congress Blog titled, EPA regs a smart investment for utilities.  She wrote, “Earlier this year, Barclays sent ripples through the U.S. electric power industry when it downgraded the entire sector’s credit rating Traditionally deemed one of the most reliable investment opportunities, the sector’s downgrade to “under weight” means that electric power providers may have a harder time accessing cheap credit.
Barclays' move didn’t surprise me.  As an institutional investor responsible for safeguarding my state’s $45 billion pension fund, I pay a lot of attention to industry bond ratings.  And over the past several years, I’ve noted mounting challenges to the way electric utilities do business, from the rise of distributed generation like solar PV, and competition from non-utility players, to stronger environmental policies, and resource constraints like water scarcity in certain regions of the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan will help utilities to address these challenges and to transform their century-old business model of selling increasing amounts of energy to increase their revenues. It will hasten the transition, already under way, to a new era in which utilities grow their revenues by helping their customers lower their carbon footprints.
The Clean Power Plan, which reduces carbon emissions from existing power plants, is precisely the kind of long-awaited market signal the electric power industry needs so that it can plan with some certainty for what most know is both necessary and inevitable: the transition to a low carbon economy.”   At:

Jeff Goodell has an excellent article in the Sept. 15 issue of RollingStone titled, China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet.  He writes, If the world's biggest polluter doesn't radically reduce the amount of coal it burns, nothing anyone does to stabilize the climate will matter.”  He goes on, “For nearly a decade, the U.S. and China, the two most powerful nations on the planet, have met every year to talk about how to run the world together.” “In the past couple of years, Obama has made some important moves, including investing billions in clean energy, jacking up vehicle-efficiency standards and proposing rules to limit pollution from U.S. coal plants. But climate change is a global issue. Unless the West can persuade other countries to take climate action seriously, nothing any single nation does is going to matter much when it comes to solving the problem.”
“Except, that is, for China. The blunt truth is that what China decides to do in the next decade will likely determine whether or not mankind can halt – or at least ameliorate – global warming. The view among a number of prominent climate scientists is that if China's emissions peak around 2025, we may – just barely – have a shot at stabilizing the climate before all hell breaks loose.”  “China is set to become the largest economy in the world this year, and in 2006, it passed the U.S. as the planet's largest carbon polluter. China now dumps 10 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That number is expected to grow to 15 billion tons by 2030, dwarfing the pollution of the rest of the world.”
“After 25 years of failed climate negotiations, it's easy to be cynical about the upcoming talks in Paris. But there are at least three factors that make a meaningful agreement next year possible.
The first is that climate change is no longer a hypothetical problem – it's happening in real time all around us. Droughts, floods, more destructive storms, weird weather of all sorts – just look out your window. In the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's top scientists called the fact that the Earth is warming "unequivocal" and stated that humans are the cause of it. Without dramatic action, the planet could warm up as much as 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 F) by the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. As Kerry said of a report last September, "The response must be all hands on deck. It's not about one country making a demand of another. It's the science itself demanding action from all of us."”  At:

The New Yorker for Sept. 18 had an article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled, Bringing the Noise on Climate Change.  Describing the People’s Climate March, which took place in New York City Yesterday, and the climate discussions starting tomorrow at the UN, she wrote, “Almost certainly, the leaders will disappoint the marchers, not to mention anyone else who cares about the future of the planet, though by how much, exactly, will probably not be clear for many months.”  She describes the history of climate change negotiations, beginning with the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and writes, “In the years since the Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated, global greenhouse-gas emissions have risen by nearly fifty per cent, which means that the task of staving off “dangerous anthropogenic interference” has become that much more daunting—if, indeed, it is even possible any more. For next year’s meeting in Paris to produce an agreement that’s meaningful, that agreement is going to have to somehow yield truly significant emissions reductions, and do so quickly. After twenty-two years of failed attempts, it’s hard to be optimistic about this prospect.”  She ends the article with a recent quotation from Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it.”   At:
A NY TImes article by Lisa Foderaro dated Sept. 21, titled, Taking a Call for Climate Action to the Streets, reported that an estimated 311,000 marchers participated, and featured a slide show of 13 photographs and a short video taken at the march.  At:
NOTE: A highlight of the march was 2-minutes of silence, starting at 12:58 to honor all those who have already died as a result of climate change, and the many more that will die from it’s effects in the future.   At 1:00 the silence was followed by all the noise we could make.  I was very glad to have gone.

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. 

MIT Researchers Predict UN Climate Talks Will Fall Short of Necessary Carbon Emissions Cuts
On August 18, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a report entitled “Expectations for a New Climate Agreement.” The report predicted that the most likely United Nations (UN) climate treaty to come out of the upcoming 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations is unlikely to stop the world from warming more than 2 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels, an internationally agreed upon target. While international efforts can decelerate the global warming trend, the report stated, “Our results also show that these efforts will not put the globe on a path consistent with commonly stated long-term climate goals.” This report was operates on the assumption that the new UN treaty for climate change will be based on voluntary efforts from countries, consistent with the 2009 Copenhagen agreement. MIT researchers Henry Jacoby and Henry Chen developed a computer model to conduct their analysis, and talked to many people engaged and familiar with the negotiations “to formulate judgments regarding the efforts nations will be willing to pledge by 2015.” The report was written in the hope it would help effect a better global outcome by “stimulating timely and open discussion of potential national actions and their consequences.”
For more information see:

Asian Development Bank Says Climate Change Could Shrink GDP of South Asian Countries by 2100
On August 19, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) published an analysis stating that climate change is having a growing negative impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Asian countries. The report, based on the prediction that average global temperature will rise by 4.6 degrees Celsius if no efforts are taken to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, concluded that South Asian annual GDP could be 1.8 percent lower by 2050, and 8.8 percent lower by 2100. Within South Asia, Bangladesh and Nepal could lose more than 2 percent of their annual GDP by 2050, and India could lose 1.8 percent. These losses, according to the report, are mainly from vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, energy, health, water and ecosystems. Bindu Lohani, ADB vice president for sustainable development, said, “South Asia’s economy is under serious threat and the lives and livelihoods of millions of South Asians inhabiting the region’s many mountains, deltas, and atolls are on a knife edge.” In addition, the report’s analysis showed if the global community cooperates to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees, South Asia will lose only 1.3 percent of annual GDP by 2050 and 2.5 percent by 2100. Lohani said, “Countries must respond individually and collectively to cope with rising sea levels, disrupted water, food, and energy supply and increased disease.”
For more information see:

Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Announces Youth Video Competition
On August 15, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project launched a campaign to increase awareness of climate change among youth. The campaign, called “Why? Why Not?”, focuses on encouraging young people between 13 and 21 years old to be advocates on climate change. This campaign is organized by eight creative agencies owned by WPP, the largest group for communications services in the world. The campaign is organized as a video competition: children and young adults participate by submitting short videos of them asking world leaders “why” or “why not” questions related to climate change and the environment. Jon Steel, WPP group planning director, explained, “Our aim is to frame the problem in a simple, personal way, and to convince people that we cannot leave this to future generations to solve.” Through the competition, participants who submitted the six best videos will go to the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23 to ask their questions face to face with world leaders. Andrew Dowling, managing director at WPP agency GPY&R, said, “We want people of all ages to continue to ask these questions of their elected representatives to help highlight the problem in the current approach to climate change, and advocate the future solutions we should be sanctioning now.”
For additional information see:

Study Shows Glacial Melt Increasingly Due to Human Emissions
On August 15, researchers announced that global warming from anthropogenic sources has become increasingly responsible for glacial retreat in recent decades, according to a publication in Science this week. The study found that glaciers can take decades to centuries to respond to variations in climate, and so only about 25 percent of global glacial melt over the last century and a half can be linked to anthropogenic emissions. However, since 1991 anthropogenic emissions have been responsible for almost 70 percent of glacial melt. As the world’s glaciers adjust to a warmer climate, they are likely to be locked into accelerated ice loss in the coming century. Shrinking glaciers are a major contributor to sea-level rise, which threatens coastal communities and infrastructure through flooding and increased vulnerability to storm surges. “The need for fast action is critical,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Delaying short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) mitigation by even 25 years will decrease the impact of CO2 and SLCP mitigation, and will make it difficult if not impossible to keep warming below 2 degrees C by the end of the century.”
For additional information see:

Ice Loss from Greenland and Antarctica Accelerating
On August 20, The Cryosphere journal published a new study finding the volume of ice loss in West Antarctica over the last three years was three times greater than ice loss from 2003 to 2009; in Greenland, recent ice loss was 2.5 times greater than earlier in the 2000s. Study authors estimated the current total volume loss from both ice sheets to be 507 cubic kilometers a year. “The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” commented Angela Humbert, study author and scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. “To us, that’s an incredible number.” The scientists arrived at their conclusions by comparing data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite from the period from January 2011 to January 2014 against data from the U.S. National Atmospheric and Aeronautics Administration (NASA) IceSat satellite from 2003 to 2009.  
For additional information see:

GAO Has No Objection to Social Cost of Carbon Process
On August 25, a report was released by Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that the “social cost of carbon” estimate done by the U.S. Government was properly developed. The social cost of carbon, an estimate of the indirect damage from the increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels which cause climate change, was originally introduced in 2010 and then increased 50 percent by the Obama administration in 2013. It currently stands at $35 per metric ton of CO2. While the raised estimate was included in the cost-benefit analysis for the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, opponents argued it overestimated the costs of carbon emissions, and in turn overstated the benefit of climate policies. The GAO report was requested by several members of Congress, including Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). GAO conducted its review by interviewing more than 20 members of the interagency task force which raised the social cost of carbon estimate. GAO said, “None of the participants we spoke with expressed concerns about how their contributions were incorporated into the final Technical Support Document. Many participants confirmed that the working group relied largely on existing academic literature and models to develop its estimates.” Based on the findings, GAO did not recommend that the agencies or the White House change the estimate of the social cost of carbon.
For more information see:

Climate Reality Project to Present “24 Hours of Reality” in September
On August 27, The Climate Reality Project (CRP), one of the world’s biggest organizations “dedicated to mobilizing action around climate change,” announced it would be airing its fourth annual broadcast of “24 Hours of Reality” from Brooklyn, New York on September 16-17 of this year—one week before the United Nations Climate Summit. The 24 Hours of Reality event first aired on the idea that “much can change in a day,” and encourages viewers to dedicate a day to combat climate change. During each hour of the broadcast, former Vice President and Chairman of the CRP Al Gore, along with various other celebrities and public figures, will introduce efforts already underway addressing climate change around the world, and will discuss how the public can help by taking further action. “Climate change is big and complex, but that means there are hundreds of ways to contribute. Whether it’s a parent organizing a renewable energy fair at school, or a young professional pledging to become a Climate Reality Leader, or a student working to elect a clean energy candidate, we all have different ways and different days to contribute,” commented Ken Berlin, the CEO and president of CRP.
For more information see:

Offshore Methane Leaks Discovered Along East Coast USA
On August, 24, a new study on methane leakage was published in Nature Geoscience, finding that 570 seeps on the seafloor are releasing methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, along the East Coast of the United States. The study estimates 90 tonnes of methane may be released annually, due to the break down of ice on the seafloor with high methane content. The ice is likely thawing due to warming waters on the bottom of the ocean. Adam Skarke, one of the lead authors of this study and professor at Mississippi State University, said, “The discovery of widespread methane seepage on the northern U.S. Atlantic margin was indeed surprising. This is because [it] lacks the geological properties commonly known to be associated with widespread seafloor methane emissions.” Before this study was published, scientists had only identified three methane seeps on the edge of the continental shelf. This means that significant amounts of methane emissions have not been accounted for in carbon budgets for global warming. However, authors of this study also explained that the actual influences on climate change from these methane emissions from the sea floor are unclear. Skarke said, “The methane is dissolving into the ocean at depths of hundreds of meters and being oxidized into carbon dioxide. But it is important to say we simply don’t have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere.” Scientists suggest that further research is needed on seafloor methane release – the study states, “tens of thousands of seeps could be discoverable.”
For additional information see:

Study Shows Cutting Carbon Emissions Has Health-Benefits that Outweigh Costs
On August 24, a new study was released from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which stated that the rate of health problems, such as asthma, will decrease if carbon emissions decrease. Noelle Selin, an assistant professor engineering systems and atmospheric chemistry at MIT, said, "Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality. In fact, policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions improve air quality by a similar amount as policies specifically targeting air pollution." By studying three policies that reduce the same amount of carbon emissions, the study concluded that savings on health care spending could be up to 10 times more than the cost of implementing a carbon reductions policy. One of the study authors, Tammy Thompson, said, “If cost-benefit analyses of climate policies don't include the significant health benefits from healthier air, they dramatically underestimate the benefits of these policies.” The connections between air pollution and health have been well-established by other reports from institutions such as World Health Organization (WHO), Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director –General Family, Women and Children’s Health, said, “Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents non-communicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly.”
For additional information see:

Study Says Climate Change May Happen More Slowly the Next Ten Years
On August 22, the journal Science published a new study, Varying Planetary Heat Sink Led to Global-Warming Slowdown and Acceleration. Main authors Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung, found that global warming will continue to be slower than predicted rates due to heat transference from the surface to deep water in the Atlantic Ocean. The transfer is part of a 30-year cycle which has one decade remaining. The study authors say this cycle has caused the recently observed “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming, adding that the pause will continue for the next ten years, after which surface temperature rise will accelerate. Tung said, “The finding is a surprise, since the current theories had pointed to the Pacific Ocean as the culprit for hiding heat. But the data are quite convincing and they show otherwise.” John Michael Wallace, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, said, “I’m glad to see that it is attracting attention in the scientific community . . . I hope this will lead to a broader discussion about the contribution of natural variability to local climate trends and to the statistics of extreme events.” Some scientists expressed caution about the study’s findings. Andrew Dessler, professor at Texas A&M University, commented, “I do think that ocean variability may have played a role in the lack of warming in the middle of the 20th century . . . But the argument that the hiatus will last for another decade or two is very weak and I would not put much faith in that.” Joshua K. Willis, who is from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also expressed hesitation about relying on the study findings. He said, “Until we clear up whether there has been some kind of accelerated warming at depth in the real ocean, I think these results serve as interesting hypotheses about why the rate of surface warming has slowed-down, but we still lack a definitive answer on this topic.”
For additional information see:

EPA Gives Permits for Coal Plant to Store Carbon Dioxide Emissions Deep Underground
On September 2, after executing a technical review and responding to more than 280 public comments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved permits for a group of coal companies called the FutureGen Industrial Alliance Inc. to begin a carbon capture project. The FutureGen Alliance “plans to capture and inject 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year for 20 years, [which is] equivalent [to] eliminating carbon emissions from 232,000 cars,” the EPA said in a news release. The annual 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a total of about 22 million metric tons over 20 years – will be sourced from a refurbished coal-powered power plant in Meredosia Illinois, and then pumped through four ground wells in Jacksonville, Illinois for long term storage, which are set to be created as early as next month. The carbon capture project can begin only after the ‘integrity’ of the wells is established. FutureGen’s CEO, Ken Humphreys, called EPA’s approval of this project, “a major milestone that will allow FutureGen 2.0 to stay on track to develop the first ever commercial-scale, near-zero emissions coal-fueled power plant with integrated carbon capture and storage.”  
For more information see:

Virginia Panel Advises the State to Hire Leader on Sea Level Rise
On September 2, a subpanel of the Secure Commonwealth Panel circulated a draft report with about 24 recommendations on actions Virginia can take to prepare for increased flooding and rising sea levels caused by climate change. The draft report, written by Jim Redick, the director of Norfolk’s emergency preparedness and co-chair of the subpanel that produced the report, advised Virginia to appoint a “resilience coordinator” to focus entirely on flooding. Redick based much of the report on a 2013 study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which said Virginia should be ready for a minimum sea level rise of 1.5 feet over the next two to five decades, with a three foot storm surge. Among other recommendations, the panel’s draft report advised the state to locate funding to help communities deal with flooding; consider requiring property owners to reveal flood risks before sales; and create a four-year plan for projects to help citizens, such as educational programs or floodwalls. “There would be a phased approach to knocking these out,” commented Redick. “None of these solutions would happen overnight.” The Secure Commonwealth Panel is an advisory board in the executive branch of the government of Virginia, and advises and issues recommendations to Governor Terry McAuliffe on the state’s emergency management and preparedness. The Secure Commonwealth panel will operate adjacently to a recently created General Assembly panel, as well as a climate-change commission created by Governor McAuliffe.
In related news on September 2, the first meeting of the General Assembly panel dedicated to studying flooding impacts in Virginia caused by rising sea levels from climate change took place. At the meeting, the panel appointed Delegate Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) as Chairman of the panel, and discussed the risks and expenses from increased flooding. Del. Stolle and Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) partnered earlier this year on the resolution that created the panel. “There is no doubt that Virginia is at significant risk for property damage and loss of life from flooding,” said Del. Stolle. “We know we have a problem; we have studied it thoroughly, and it is time to take action.”
For more information see:

China Confirms Plans for National Carbon Market
On August 31, China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, announced plans to develop a national carbon market as early as 2016. China was originally reluctant to do so, according to the Carbon Brief, as “doing so could impede their economic growth.” This is a big step for China, which has pledged to reduce its current GHG emissions, per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) to “40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.” In a cap and trade carbon market, regulators set an initial cap on the permissible amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that participating companies can emit, gradually tightening it over time. The participating companies are then assigned one permit per tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowed. Those that emit more CO2 than is permitted can buy ‘allowances’ from those who have successfully curbed their GHG emissions. In 2011, Chinese government officials originally launched several “experimental markets” in the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangdong, and Hubei. Together these individual markets, although founded on different criteria, “covered just over a billion tonnes of CO2.”
For more information see:

NOTE: China is moving to put a price on carbon emissions though a national cap-and-trade system - something which failed in Congress in the United States.  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which involves nine states from Maryland to Maine has done this in the U.S. since 2009, but applies only to emissions from power plants - not transportation or other sources of CO2.

New Poll Shows Democrats View Climate Change as Equally Threatening as ISIS
On August 28, Pew Research published a poll asking Americans what they see as the greatest threats to the United States. The findings reveal that Americans registered as Democrats view climate change as a much greater threat than registered Republicans. “Global climate change registers for Democrats as among the greatest threats to the US,” with 68 percent saying it is a major threat, according to the poll. “By comparison, just 25 percent of Republicans see global climate change as a major threat to the US.” When asked about Islamic militant group ISIS, 78 percent of Republicans saw it as a “major threat” to the United States, as did 65 percent of Democrats – interestingly, fewer than the amount of Democrats who see climate change as a major threat. These responses were gathered between August 20 and 24 from a sample of more than 1,500 people nationwide. The partisan difference in views on climate change was the largest among the nine “threats” surveyed.
For more information see:

Years of Living Dangerously Wins Emmy for Best Documentary
On August 25, the climate change series Years of Living Dangerously won the Emmy for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.” The show was also nominated for “Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.” The series, which premiered in April 2014 exclusively on Showtime, has now been sold to broadcasters in more than 75 countries and regions. “Years of Living Dangerously’s Emmy win further proves that the far reaching effects of global warming and the producers and stars willingness to bring this major worldwide issue to the forefront of the public’s consciousness provide for ground breaking television,” commented John Pollack, the president of Electus International, the company which owns international rights to Years of Living Dangerously. “The drastic effects that climate change is having on our world is a global problem, and nobody can tell that story better than James Cameron, Joel Bach, David Gelber and Dan Abbasi.” The show features many famous actors, actresses, scientists, writers and political figures, including Matt Damon, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Don Cheadle, New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman, Harrison Ford and Jessica Alba. Its executive producer staff is also star-studded, including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and former producers from 60 Minutes Joel Bach and David Gelber (who had already won 12 Emmys between them).
For additional information see:

Mid-Atlantic Carbon Auctions Have Generated $1.8 Billion in Revenue
On September 8, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced that the nine participating Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have successfully raised $1.8 billion overall in carbon auctions since its inception six years ago. The most recent auction, held last week on September 3rd, saw all 18 million carbon allowances available sell for $4.88 each, $87.8 million in total. RGGI sets a cap on the total permissible greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electric power generators in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, which then pushes them to buy allowances for any excess emissions. The funding raised in the carbon auction is then put to use through “energy efficiency, renewable energy, consumer utility bill assistance, and other consumer programs.” According to the environmental commissioner for New York State and one of the participants in the RGGI auction, “The initiative is a national model for reducing carbon pollution and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.”
For more information see:

Charges Dropped Against Activists Who Blocked Coal Shipment in Massachusetts, Attorney Says They Were Right
On September 8, the felony charge against two environmental activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, were dropped just before the trial began. The prosecuting district attorney, C. Samuel Sutter, agreed with them that climate change is “one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced,” and said he dropped the charge with the “children of Bristol County and beyond in mind.” They will retain three counts of misdemeanor, which will be settled as civil offenses. All penalties and fines have been dropped, except for a $2,000 fee each man will pay to local police to reimburse their costs. Ward and O’Hara had four charges filed against them by the district police in Massachusetts because they used a lobster boat to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to Brayton Point Power Station on May 15, 2013, citing the risks of climate change. “We were trying to shut down Brayton Point,” O’Hara said. “The odds of doing it that day were low. . . [but] it was absolutely necessary for public well-being and public safety to shut this plant down.” District Attorney Sutter commented, “In my humble opinion, the political leadership on [climate change] has been sorely lacking . . . I am also extremely pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.” Ward and O’Hara were pleased, with O’Hara saying, “This is the response we need to be getting from elected and appointed officials if we’re going to change our trajectory on the climate.” Matt Pawa, lead defense attorney for Ward and O’Hara said, “What they did was the right thing to do under the circumstances. If there is a threat that’s looming to property or life, to yourself or a loved one, or, in this case, to all of our loved ones, you can act in ways that would otherwise be considered criminally illegal.” 
For additional information see:

NOTE: There is an interesting story in the words of Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara that you  can hear from them directly by clicking on the Video link above.  It raises a key question for all of those who care about the future of the planet and the kind of lives our descendants will have on it: When is breaking the law the right thing to do?

Climate Change Threatens Half of All North American Bird Species
On September 8, the National Audubon Society released a report revealing that climate change is having significant impacts on North American bird populations and their habitats. Over 300 species in Canada and the United States are facing climate shifts, which by 2080 could reduce the habitats where they live and breed by half or more. The US national bird, the bald eagle, was among those studied, and could see its habitat shrink to a quarter of its current size. Although some birds will migrate to new areas of the continent, others will be unable to, as birds with relationships to stationary plant species will encounter difficulties. “What happens to a yellow-billed magpie in California that depends on scrub oak habitat? What happens as that bird keeps moving higher and higher and farther north and runs out of oak trees? Trees don’t fly. Birds do,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, explained. Stuart Butchart, head of the science department at BirdLife International, said studies like this “give us a first understanding of how climate change is likely to impact such a range of species.” The report utilized United Nations climate projections for 2050 and 2080, as well as annual surveys of birds done by both the federal government and the Audubon Society since the early 1900s. “What’s important about this particular study,” says Joshua Lawler, an ecologist at the University of Washington, “is that it’s built with a really solid data set.”
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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Cut Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
On September 18, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and nine others introduced the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 (S. 2911) to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), or “super pollutants.” These emissions – including black carbon (soot), methane, and certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – currently account for 40 percent or more of global warming. They have relatively short atmospheric lifetimes but a much higher warming potency than carbon dioxide (CO2), particularly in the Arctic and other vulnerable regions (For more science background on SLCPs, see this EESI Fact Sheet). “We are so thankful to see these two leaders come together to fashion a bipartisan solution to the enormous problem posed by these ‘super pollutants’ – a solution that offers a great opportunity for fast-action climate mitigation and improved public health,” said EESI Executive Director Carol Werner. The bill requires the White House to establish an interagency task force to review how federal programs and policies are or could be reducing SLCPs, as well as to identify current gaps; directs the State Department and USAID to develop more comprehensive international efforts to reduce black carbon, a form of particulate matter typically emitted from inefficient combustion of fossil fuels and biomass; and urges EPA to ban some of the most-potent HFCs and approve climate-friendly alternatives to use as refrigerants. The bill’s 11 original co-sponsors include Sen. Murphy, Sen. Collins, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
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State Attorneys General Ask EPA For Regulations on Methane Emissions from Oil & Gas
On September 12, a group of seven state attorneys general sent a joint letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe calling on the Agency to regulate methane emissions from the distribution of oil and gas. The letter, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, was also signed by the attorneys general of Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere about 84 times more than carbon dioxide over 20 years, is of serious concern in mitigating climate change. The letter was in follow-up to the same states’ comments, submitted in June, regarding EPA’s five white papers on methane leak reduction technologies for the oil and gas sector. The states are concerned because EPA’s white papers exclude methane leaks from oil and gas distribution, which EPA estimates is responsible for approximately 20 percent of fugitive emissions from the sector. The letter highlighted a July 2014 EPA Inspector General report that determined leaks from natural gas distribution pipelines resulted in $192 million in losses in 2011, with Maryland, Massachusetts and New York particularly affected. The letter adds that in light of the EPA’s draft Clean Power Plan’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions in part by transitioning electricity generation to natural gas plants, methane leakage is especially important to address to ensure greenhouse gas benefits are maximized. The states pointed to their own ongoing efforts to fix methane leaks for the purposes of combating climate change and improving public safety, but stressed that EPA action is needed.
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United Nations Climate Summit Releases List of Attendees
On September 11, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General published the list of attendees for the United Nations Climate Summit in New York on September 23, confirming there will be more than 162 government representatives attending. About 126 of the attendees are top officials, such as heads of state and heads of government, while the rest are ministers of foreign affairs or environment. Although President Obama will attend the summit, many other countries with high greenhouse gas emissions are sending lower rank officials, including foreign ministers from Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Ukraine, and environmental ministers from India and Canada, as well as the Vice Premier from China. President of China Xi Jinping had originally promised UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August that he would come to the summit, but it was confirmed on September 12 that Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will represent China in the summit. Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said, “The Chinese side will participate in the summit and related activities in a constructive manner. . . The Chinese side expects to join efforts with the international community to push for positive results in the summit, advance international cooperation on climate change and contribute to addressing climate change.” The Climate Summit in New York is the largest meeting of international climate change negotiations since the Copenhagen Summit of 2009, and may surpass Copenhagen’s attendance. UN head of climate Christina Figueres said, “I would not recommend we read too much into the person who is going to be speaking for the Chinese and India governments. The fact is that they had fully intended to be represented at the top level and for reasons that have nothing to do with the climate summit at the last minute they are not able to be there.”
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Leonardo DiCaprio Named United Nations Messenger for Peace on Climate Change
On September 16, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named Leonardo DiCaprio as a Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change. The 39-year old American actor will join eleven other Messengers of Peace, prominent world figures from the arts, entertainment and sports fields who use their global recognition and connections to spread the UN's message. The Secretary General said, “Mr. DiCaprio is a credible voice in the environmental movement . . . and I am pleased he has chosen to add his voice to UN efforts to raise awareness of the urgency and benefits of acting now to combat climate change.” DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to help protect wild lands, species and the ocean. Since then, he has brought attention and funding to protecting biodiversity, ocean and forest conservation, and the climate. In response, DiCaprio said, “It is an honor to accept the role of UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change and to support the Secretary General in his efforts to address one of the most important issues we face as a global community. I feel a moral obligation to speak out at this key moment in human history—it is a moment for action. How we respond to the climate crisis in the coming years will likely determine the fate of humanity and our planet.”
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Institutional Investors Call for a Price on Carbon and An Ambitious Global Climate Deal
On September 18, six organizations with a membership of almost 350 institutional investors from all over the world, worth a combined $24 trillion in assets, called for governments to put a price on carbon and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Concurrent with the statement and on the same day, the same groups released a report with examples of ways investors are already taking action on climate change, through means such as funding renewable energy projects, allocating pension funds to low carbon and energy efficient investments, and growing the green bond market. The report emphasizes the importance of public-private partnerships, and says “government policies that provide the industry with more transparency, longevity and certainty are critical.” “The perception prevails that we need to choose between economic well-being or climate stability,” said United Nations Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner. “The truth is that we need both. What is needed is an unprecedented re-channeling of investment from today’s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.” The statement and report were coordinated between the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and four groups of investors which focus on climate change – Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand, and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC).
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European Environment Fund Calls for Philanthropy Foundations to Fund More Global Warming Action
On September 15, the European Environment Foundation (EEF) published an advertisement in the International New York Times calling for philanthropists and foundations to take strong action on climate change. The “Environmental Laureates’ Declaration on Climate Change,” signed by 160 environmental prize-winners from 46 countries, appeals to foundations and philanthropists to use their endowments to fight global warming, warning that “all good works of philanthropy. . . will be devalued or even destroyed in a world en route to 6 degrees of global warming or more.” The environmentalists say they are “devastated that our governments have not succeeded yet in slowing, much less stopping, the flow of greenhouse gases into our thin atmosphere . . . despite a quarter century of trying” and that “the Earth is heading for 4 to 6 degrees Celsius of global warming, given current policies on the burning of coal, oil and gas.” They say the world's philanthropic foundations hold the key to “trigger a survival reflex in society,” and push governments to negotiate a climate treaty at the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris during December 2015. EEF also plans to write foundations petitioning them to work collaboratively to fight climate change in three ways: through clean energy and low-carbon direct investments; by either divesting in fossil fuel companies or campaigning for them to cease developing new reserves; and by issuing grants to stimulate clean energy start-ups and low-carbon markets. “The world’s philanthropic foundations fund work which improves the lives of millions of people around the world, but if they want that work to last they can’t afford to ignore climate change. Investing in a clean energy future is the best way to safeguard their work and their finances,” commented Dr. Jeremy Leggett, an EEF Trustee who was in charge of the declaration.
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Report Finds Many Corporations Are Planning for a Carbon Price
The international non-profit CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, released a report on September 15 examining corporate carbon pricing on a global scale. In the United States (which has no nation-wide carbon price), 29 major companies, including Dow Chemical Company, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, are incorporating a carbon price into their business planning and risk management strategies. The companies use a range of carbon prices, from Microsoft's low of $6 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted to ExxonMobile's $80 per ton. The report found that of 6,000 global companies surveyed, 638 say carbon regulation offers business opportunities, and 200 companies are actively lobbying governments to implement carbon-pricing legislation. Already, 150 major companies worldwide are using carbon pricing to drive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. CDP requests corporate disclosures from companies on behalf of its members, which include 767 investors with a combined $92 trillion in assets. The report comes one week before 125 world leaders will convene in New York for a United Nations (U.N.) climate change summit, where it is expected that private firms will urge governments to aid carbon pricing efforts to help them plan future investments. Zoe Antitch, spokeswoman of CDP North America, said, "We're seeing companies taking steps they're not required to, and they're doing this to be competitive in a carbon-constrained world. They're looking ahead . . . They're climate ready."
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August 2014 Warmest on Record, Says NASA
On September 15, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released data that shows August 2014 was the hottest August since records began in 1881. May of this year was also the hottest ever recorded, and recent trends have shown this is part of a series of months with record or near-record breaking temperatures. According to the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), Dr. Gavin Schmidt, "The key issues for climate are the long-term trends, not individual months." Schmidt finds the trend of warming temperatures to be more important than broken records, as he conceded that “different analyses will likely give a different ranking.” In their data analysis, scientists found that the oceans are rising in temperature as well. “For the past few months we've been seeing impressive warmth in large parts of the Pacific . . . and Indian Oceans in particular,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center’s ERT, Inc.
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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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