Monday, October 20, 2014



Green World Rising  is a series of short films on the state of climate and solutions to the climate crisis. All the films of Green World Rising are for global distribution, free to the public …” 
 It “is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. The series is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners.”  

The series is comprised of four films: 

Episode 1 - Carbon shows how we can keep carbon in the ground through putting a price on carbon. (8.5 minutes)

Episode 2 - Last Hours is about the real threat of the release of methane from the melting arctic, thus triggering an extreme climate change event.  (11.3 minutes)

Episode 3 - Green World Rising shows our pathway forward through renewable technology that decentralizes the current power grid.

Episode 4 - Restoration discusses how the earth's natural ecosystems deal with climate and how we can work with nature to turn the tide.

Green World Rising provides action steps everyone can take, and you can do that by going to "Take Meaningful Action."  

NOTE: Episode 1 Carbon makes the case for a significant price on carbon emissions if we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change.  Episode 2 - Last Hours describes the five great extinction events in geologic history, including the Permian Extinction, in which 95% of plants and animals perished.  It also describes the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which involved a massive methane release and a global oceanic extinction event involving positive feedback and ocean acidification.  I wrote a paper titled, Positive Feedbacks and Climate Runaway - The Need to Act without Delay, for the LWV Climate Change Task Force in 2009, which describes the event in more detail.  

The Economist for Sept. 20 has an article titled, The deepest cuts - Our Guide to the actions that have done the most to slow global warming.  It says,
According to scientists, cutting carbon-dioxide emissions is an essential part of reducing catastrophic risks from climate change. Yet governments are persistently averse to providing estimates of how much carbon a policy saves.” 
“Whatever the reason, the end result is that while the world’s governments have hundreds of policies for tackling climate change, some of them very expensive—China, America and the European Union spend $140 billion a year on subsidising renewable energy—it is hard to say which policies are having the greatest effect.
So The Economist has made a stab at a global comparison of carbon-mitigation efforts. Chart 1 is the result. It ranks 20 policies and courses of action according to how much they have done to reduce the atmosphere’s stock of greenhouse gases. We have used figures from governments, the EU and UN agencies. As far as we know, this exercise has not been carried out before.”  
The five most effective policies and actions considered produced the following estimated reductions in CO2-eqivalent emissions (in units of Gt/yr): Montreal Protocol (5.6), Hydropower worldwide (2.8), Nuclear power worldwide (2.2), China one-child policy (1.3) and Other renewables worldwide (0.6), for a total reduction of the five of 12.5 Gt.  The Montreal Protocol was adopted to reduce damage to the ozone layer caused by CFCs, which happen to be very powerful greenhouse gases.  At:
NOTE: The total of 12.5 Gt/yr of GHG emission reductions produced by the five best Policies/Actions are 25% of the current total global CO2-eq emissions of 50 Gt/yr; a little over 1.8 Gt of reductions are produced by the other fifteen.
The NY TImes for Sept. 22 has an Op-Ed by Daniel Esty titled, Bottom-Up Climate Fix.  Esty worked for the EPA in 1992 on the first international climate agreement (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), and now over twenty years laters feels that meaningful action is much more likely to come from cities, states, corporate chief executives and community leaders - from the bottom-up rather than the top-down.  He ends his article with, Conceding that the present approach isn’t working will be hard for some. But let’s hope this week’s gathering starts us down a new path.”  He is now a professor of environmental law and policy at Yale.

On Sept. 23 Leonardo DiCaprio gave an impassioned speech on the threat of climate change to the UN delegates in New York, titled Leonardo DiCaprio Asks Everyone In The World To Stop Pretending Like Facts Don't Exist.  You can watch a 4-minute video curated by Adam Mordecai at: 

There is another great 4-minute video posted on Sept. 23 on the urgency of global warming - What’s Possible -  which can be seen as part of a 12.3-minute interview by Bill Moyers of the film’s creators, Lyn Davis Lear and Louie Schwartzberg.  At:

On Sept. 25 EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke at Resources for the Future.  Her inspiring comments were posted by NewsroomAmerica under the title, News ADVISORY: Remarks by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at Resources for the Future.  She told the story of U.S. leadership in responding to the depletion of the ozone in the stratosphere that protects us from damaging uv radiation, and called for new American leadership in dealing with the growing damage to the climate system.  She quoted President Obama’s message to the UN two days earlier: “We cannot condemn our children to a future beyond their capacity to repair…not when we have the means…to begin repairing it right now.”  She went on to say, “He’s right. Climate change supercharges risks to our health and our economy. The thing is, we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. They’re not separate—they’re intertwined. A world-leading economy depends on a healthy environment and a stable climate.”
“As seas rise, so do insurance premiums, medical bills, and food prices. From water scarcity to wilting crops, companies like General Mills and Coca-Cola see climate change as a “threat to commerce." Paying more for soda and cereal means less cash to buy other things. That chokes economies and stunts job growth. The bottom line is: We don't act despite the economy, we act because of it.”  At: 

On Sept. 26 Leslie Samuelrich, the President of Green Century Capital Management, posted  an  item on the Green Century Funds web page titled, Making Progress on Climate at the UN Climate Summit and the People’s Climate March.  She wrote, “I was invited to join the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. I met with heads of state and leaders of civil society, business, and finance at the official summit at United Nations Headquarters.”
Investors representing more than $50 billion pledged to divest from fossil fuels, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and actor Mark Ruffalo. Green Century has been helping promote the Divest/Invest campaign since its inception.”
“I was quoted in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal “Morning Risk Report,” on why companies should disclose their climate change risks.”
“Along with other investors managing $24 trillion, we joined in signing the 2014 Statement on Climate Change, published by the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change. This statement will help other asset managers and owners to push governments to support national and global climate policy solutions.”
“And last, Green Century signed on to the World Bank’s high-profile business statement,Putting a Price on Carbon,” which was showcased at the UN Secretary-General’s meetings.”

Mark McCaffrey, the Programs and Policy Director for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the author of a book about teaching energy and climate change in grades 6-16 (Climate Smart and Energy Wise: Advancing Science Literacy) was interviewed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the 25-minute audio file posted as an NSTA  Lab Out Loud on Sept 29.  McCaffrey says that preparing our young people with the knowledge they need to be effective citizens is one of the greatest challenges of our century.  He helped lead the development of the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) and has testified before the House Subcommittee on Research about climate and environmental education.  At:

Tod Gitlin has an article in Common Dreams for Oct. 2 titled, As the Globe Warms, So Does the Climate Movement  He wrote, There is today a climate movement as there was a civil rights movement and an antiwar movement and a women’s liberation movement and a gay rights movement -- each of them much more than its component actions, moments, slogans, proposals, names, projects, issues, demands …; each of them a culture, or an intertwined set of cultures; each of them a political force in the broadest as well as the narrowest sense; each generating the wildest hopes and deepest disappointments. Climate change is now one of them: a burgeoning social fact.”
“The great boom of the last two-and-a-half centuries happened because industrialists took charge of the remains of previous life forms -- fossil fuels indeed! -- to power the most rapid, productive, and destructive transformation in history. They remade the world and, in the process, unmade it. With all its accomplishments, the world they made is well on its way to burning through its assets.
Nature and history have talked back. In a few short centuries, the carbon-based fuels of the industrial breakthrough have come to threaten the entirety of a civilization they made possible. In the People’s Climate March is the suggestion that civilization might rise to the challenge, perhaps in time to avert total catastrophe. After the march, the four-letter word I heard most was: hope.”
There is a short article and 1.2-minute video in Informed Comment for Oct. 3 titled, 35,000 Walruses Can’t be Wrong about Climate Change: Crowd beach b/c “extreme retreat of sea ice”.  This is the first time that so many walruses have been seen on land in Alaska.  The animals need to rest after their deep dives to feed on the ocean floor, which can last for 30 minutes.  The reason for hauling up on land instead of on large chunks of sea ice is that sea ice, which reaches its annual minimum in September and October, is exceptionally scarce this year.  Walruses depend on floating sea ice not only for resting, but for breeding and raising their young.  With the lost of Arctic sea ice, their future is threatened, as is that of the polar bear.  At: 
On. Oct. 4 James Hansen posted a short article titled, 
“In The Wheels of Justice I argued that a multi-front strategy is essential in the fight to stabilize climate and preserve our planet for young people and future generations. One front is provided by our legal system. 
The United States was founded on the “self-evident” concept that all people have equal rights. Our Constitution’s purpose to “provide the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” implies obligations to the young and unborn. The Constitution assures that all people have “equal protection of the laws” and cannot be deprived of property without “due process” of law. These basic rights have global relevance because of substantial commonality of our Constitution with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
We aim to file a case against the government based squarely on these fundamental rights.
 However, an important alternative tack is being pursued by Our Children’s Trust (OCT), headed by Julia Olson. Yesterday OCT took to the U.S. Supreme Court, in an exceptionally elemental form, the demand for effective federal action on climate change. 
Specifically, a petition for certiorari in the matter Alec L., et al v. Gina McCarthy et. al. was filed on behalf of youth and future generations. It challenges a June 2014 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that there is no public trust doctrine in federal law. In this petition OCT is joined by a renowned constitutional attorney, Erwin Chemerinsky. 
Several colleagues and I submitted a friend of the court (Amicus) brief in the D.C. Circuit case that OCT now appeals. We argued “failure to commence CO2 emissions reduction without further delay…would consign our children and their progeny to a very different planet, one far less conducive to their survival.” We suggested that, at minimum, the court should require the federal government to report on whether its plans reduce CO2 to a level conducive to a viable climate system required by present and future generations. 
That advice is still valid. We intend to raise similar points in an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court in support of the OCT petition.”

The Oct. 5 issue of the NY Times Magazine has an article by Nathaniel Rich with the online title, The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever.  It describes a lawsuit, led by a former football coach and author of books on American History named John M. Barry,  who seeks to have the oil and gas industry pay for at least part of the cost of the damage done to the Gulf Coast by 50,000 wells and 10,000 miles of pipelines that connect the wells to processing facilities, and an unspecified number of canals through the marsh that have allowed ships to enter it.  Although the oil and gas industry has extracted $470 billion from Louisiana during the past 20 years, and has admitted responsibility for 36% of the loss of wetlands in southeastern Louisiana, it is reluctant to pay any of the estimated $50 billion to halt the loss of land, estimated to be an acre an hour.  Barry didn’t think that the oil and gas companies would voluntarily give money to halt the loss, but knew that  “nearly every company that has operated in the marshes since the 1920s has used permits obliging them to maintain and repair any environmental damage it caused. In 1980, Louisiana began adhering to a federal law that required companies operating in the marsh — a list that includes ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP, Chevron and Koch Industries — to restore “as near as practicable to their original condition” any canals they dredge.”  However, it appeared that many companies have never filled in the canals they have dredged, and that the state has failed to enforce the law, at least in part because of cozy relationships between public officials and oil and gas industries.  The story makes for fascinating reading of a situation with an old theme - private individuals making massive amounts of money and leaving the cost of cleaning up the mess to the tax payers.  At:

The Oct. 7 issue of Grist has a short article by Sara Bernard titled, Watch the U.S. face off against China on this carbon emissions map.   It has a map of the world  showing circles over different countries with areas proportional to their 2011 CO2 emissions.  Not surprisingly, China’s circle is the largest.  It also has a map with a slider that can move to see you how each country’s emissions changed from 1850 to 2011.  China’s emissions were not as large of the U.S. until 2003, and far less before that.  At:

The Union of Concerned Scientists has recently (Oct. 8) released a report titled, Encroaching Tides (2014): Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years.  The Executive Summary says, Today scores of coastal communities in the United States are seeing more frequent tidal flooding. And as global warming drives sea levels higher over the next 15 to 30 years, flooding from high tides is expected to occur even more often and cause more disruption, particularly on the East Coast and, increasingly, on
the Gulf Coast. This flooding will redefine how and where people in affected areas live, work, and otherwise go about their daily lives. Coastal communities, and the nation as a whole, need to start planning today to cope with sea level rise and unprecedented tidal flooding, and to take swift and decisive action to limit longer-term damage to our coasts.”
The Summary lists four ways to build local resilience:

  • Upgrade the built infrastructure in harm’s way.
  • Avoid putting anything new in harm’s way.
  • Consider the risks and benefits of adaptation measures.
  • Develop a long-term vision.

It also says:

Global emissions are rising rapidly, and are on a trajectory to
push surface temperatures more than 2°C (3.6ºF) above the
preindustrial average—the threshold beyond which scientists
say “dangerous” climate change becomes unavoidable. To stay
below this threshold, and slow the rate of sea level rise later this
century and beyond, global carbon emissions need to peak and
begin to decline by the end of this decade.
Leaders at all levels of government need to take seriously
the risks facing people living along our coasts and the urgent
need for action. And communities faced with tidal flooding need
to hold their local, state, and national leaders accountable for
taking strong action to both adapt to rising seas and mitigate
global warming.”

On Oct. 12 Jim Hansen posted a short paper titled, Iowa Roots, Speaking Truth to Power, in which he describes his support for putting a price on carbon emissions by means of a fee and dividend system like the one supported by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  He also described improved nuclear energy technology that produces much less waste and requires much less mining  of uranium.  At: 

The Oct. 13 issue of Scientific American has an article by John Hogan titled, Atomic Reporters Curbs “Egregious” Coverage of Nuclear PerilsHogan, at the Stevens Institute of Technology, hosted a Workshop on Nuclear Education last
 year.  While his article focuses on the ongoing threat posed by large arsenals of nuclear weapons - especially those of the U.S. and Russia - it also addresses nuclear power, an energy source that has the advantage of not producing CO2 during electricity generation.  
NOTE: We need to keep in mind that operating nuclear power plants in the usual way - using U235-enriched uranium as a fuel - also produces plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons, as we showed in Nagasaki in 1945.

The LA TImes for Oct. 13 has an article by W.J. Hennigan titled, Pentagon unveils plan for military's response to climate change.  He wrote, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addressed the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas on Monday, unveiling a comprehensive plan for how the U.S. military will address the effects of climate change.
Rising global temperatures, increasing sea levels and intensifying weather events will challenge global stability, he said, and could lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease and disputes over refugees and resources.
The Pentagon’s “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” describes how global warming will bring new demands on the military.
Among the report's conclusions: Coastal military installations that are vulnerable to flooding will need to be altered; humanitarian assistance missions will be more frequent in the face of more intense natural disasters; weapons and other critical military equipment will need to work under more severe weather conditions.”  At:
The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

President Obama Announces New Initiatives at United Nations Climate Summit
On September 23, at the United Nations (UN) Climate Summit in New York City, President Obama gave a four-minute address during which he highlighted the work the United States is doing internationally and domestically on climate change. During his speech, Obama issued a new Executive Order requiring federal agencies to factor climate change-resilience systematically into international development work, and to encourage multilateral organizations to do the same. The new Order aims to improve the resilience of US international aid abroad, share US data and tools, and complement domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, President Obama announced a new public-private partnership to disseminate climate data, tools and training in developing countries. This partnership will aim to create a global community of information-sharing of climate data and climate change adaptation efforts. Obama added that the US will also begin to help provide information to meteorologists in developing nations, develop new prediction systems for extreme weather, and release high-resolution elevation datasets to Africa. “There should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate,” Obama said. The United States also assisted in the launch of the new Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, and the Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation, all announced at the Summit. During his speech, Obama underlined the leadership responsibility that the United States and China jointly bear as the world’s largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters.
For more information see:
NOTE: President Obama’s statement came two days after the People’s Climate March in New York City, the largest demonstration for significant climate action ever; as many as 400,000 joined in the march.

Secretary Kerry Co-Hosts Major Economies Forum on Climate Change
On September 21 Secretary of State John Kerry co-hosted the first Major Economies Forum (MEF) Foreign Ministers Meeting, along with the foreign ministers of Peru and France. The State Department says the meeting sought to “build political will and a sense of common cause to address climate change as a foreign policy priority,” and that Secretary Kerry would use the meeting as a venue to both encourage countries to set climate targets and explore ideas for climate mitigation co-benefits. At the Forum, Kerry said in his comments, “Unlike many of the challenges we face, when it comes to climate change we know exactly what it takes to get the job done. There’s no mystery to this. The solution to climate change is energy policy. If we make the right choices about how we build buildings, how we transport people, what we do with respect to providing electricity and power to our countries, this problem gets solved.” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France added in his comments, “We are here, we as foreign affair ministers, in order to try to express this political will [to act on climate change]. And I’m certain we’ll make it number one.” MEF was formed in 2009 to facilitate dialogue between developed and developing nations on climate change issues. Participants in the Forum are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
For more information see:

United Nations Secretary-General Holds Climate Summit
On September 23, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon convened a Climate Summit in New York City. More than 162 government representatives attended the conference, including 126 heads of state and government, making it the largest international climate change meeting since the Copenhagen Summit of 2009. Although the one-day summit was not an official international negotiation conference, it aimed to advance the development of an international agreement to combat climate change before the UN Climate Change Conference of 2015 in Paris, France. During the opening ceremony, Ban Ki-moon stated, “Climate change threatens hard-won peace, prosperity and opportunity for billions of people. Today, we must set the world on a new course.”  During the event, President Obama issued new directives to federal agencies to help developing countries tackle climate change; French President François Hollande promised $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund; 200 mayors, representing 400 million people, signed a Mayor’s Compact to reduce annual emissions 12.4 to 16.4 percent; 40 companies, dozens of NGOs, several governments and indigenous peoples took a pledge to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030; and many other significant voluntary commitments were taken. Countries are expected to make many more commitments and deals before the anticipated climate deal is crafted in Paris, December 2015.
For more information see:

Mayors of LA, Houston, and Philadelphia Pledge More Action on Climate
On September 22, the mayors of Los Angeles, Houston, and Philadelphia announced a new initiative to take stronger action against climate change, through city level projects focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The plan, called the Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda, supports carbon emissions cuts, a global agreement on climate, and the prioritization of environmental justice in climate plans. It includes projects such as new annual tracking and reporting standards for pollution, urban forestry, landfill gas capture, and destruction of substances that have ozone-depleting effects. “Mayors must confront this challenge not only at the local level, but also by calling for binding emission reductions at the federal and global level,” wrote Los Angeles Mayor Eric Gracetti. The mayors are all members of a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience developed by President Obama last year. They have also promised to recruit other city leaders to sign the Agenda. Houston Mayor Annise Parker showed pride in these developments, saying, “Houston has proven that it can maintain its title as the energy capital of the world while at the same time pursuing green policies that lift our reputation as a leader in sustainability.”
In related news, on September 23 at the United Nations Climate Summit, mayors from around the world made commitments to increase energy efficiency programs, climate resilience projects, and resilient financing mechanisms. The new initiative, called the Compact of Mayors, aims to reduce GHG emissions by 454 megatons within the decade. The Compact’s membership includes mayors from over 2,000 cities, who committed to more than 200 targets and strategies for GHG reduction. “Cities are economic and population hubs, making them critical actors in the fight against climate change,” remarked Mpho Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg, who added that this compact represents over 500 million people around the world. With 60 percent of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2030, making cities sustainable is an important part of any emissions reductions strategy. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed the necessity of both local and national action, stating, “Now is the time for nations to partner with cities as they create more ambitious climate targets over the next year, both to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change and to benefit millions of people.”
For additional information see:

World Bank Announces Half the World Supports a Carbon Price
On September 21, led by China and European Union (EU), 73 national and 11 regional governments and about 1,000 companies voiced support for setting a price on carbon emissions, announced the World Bank. Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President, said, “Governments representing almost half of the world’s population and 52 percent of global GDP have thrown their weight behind a price on carbon as a necessary, if insufficient, solution to climate change and a step on the path to low carbon growth.” According to the World Bank, there are almost 40 countries and more than 20 states, cities and provinces with a carbon price already in effect or coming online soon.  A recent CDP study showed 638 companies worldwide supported a carbon price, saying it offered business opportunities (see Climate Change News September 22).  However, UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson said a carbon price could be “potentially unfair on the poorest,” by increasing the price of food and fuel. “We really need to understand the dimension of it,” she added.
For additional information see:

$860 Million Rockefeller Brothers Fund to Divest from Fossil Fuels
On September 22, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced plans to begin divesting its $860 million fund from fossil fuel stocks, the latest act in a global movement to shift capital from fossil fuel extraction to renewable energy. Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and a trustee of the foundation, said, “There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet.” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, added, “The action we are taking is symbolism, but it is important symbolism. We’re making a moral case, but also, increasingly, an economic case.” Participants in the movement have said their decisions are not just environmentally based, but increasingly investment-based as well, given growing uncertainty about the future of coal and other fossil fuels. Since the movement’s rise a few years ago, 180 institutions—philanthropies, pension funds, local governments and others—and hundreds of individual investors, have pledged to divest more than $50 billion in assets, according to Arabella Advisors. Even though the movement began on college campuses, movements for divestiture by these institutions has had mixed results. Harvard University's president, Drew Phillip Faust, said the university’s endowment is “a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.” However, Stanford University recently announced it would divest coal assets, and Yale University is examining how its investments affect climate change and how to avoid companies that don’t take “steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
For additional information see:

Global Carbon Report Shows Carbon Emissions Will Be at New High in 2014
On September 21, the Global Carbon Project released an annual update report of the global carbon budget and trends. The report, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows that global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities reached a new high in 2013, and will rise even higher in 2014. China, the United States, the European Union, and India released the most emissions in 2013, accounting for 58 percent of global emissions. Glen Peters, a scientist at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research who helped to collect the data, said, “You can no longer have some countries go first and others come in later, because there is no more time. It needs to be all hands on deck now.” Scientists have said that emissions need to peak in the next few years and then begin to decline in order for countries to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, an internationally agreed upon target. While emissions from developed counties have been decreasing in recent years, emissions from emerging economies and developing counties have been rising, in part due to construction of new coal-burning power plants. In 1990, about two-thirds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions came from developed countries, whereas today that number is closer to one-third.
For additional information see:

US Power Plants Emit More Carbon than Entire Economy of Japan, Russia or India
On September 18, the Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report titled America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, showing that US power plants produce more carbon emissions than the entire economies of any nation aside from China. The report says the 500 dirtiest power plants in the United States contributed about 6 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. The 50 dirtiest power plants alone were responsible for 30 percent of all power-sector carbon emissions. “It's time to stop ignoring our largest global warming polluter, and start a major transition to clean power,” announced Elizabeth Ouzts of the Environment America Research and Policy Center. The research was done by gathering emissions data from the Department of Energy’s fuel consumption figures, and using the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimates of the carbon content of each fuel source. According to the report, if the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is successfully implemented, it could eliminate as much carbon pollution as is created by the entire nation of Canada, who ranked as the 8th largest carbon emitter. “For too long, power plants and other major polluters have enjoyed a holiday from responsibility,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), calling for the country to embrace federal carbon pollution standards.
For additional information see:

Report Finds Cost of Wildfires Will Rise Due to Climate Change
On September 16, a report analyzing the wildfire and social cost of carbon was released through the Cost of Carbon Project, which is a joint project conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). According to the report, wildfires burn 7 to 9 million acres each year in the United States, and are predicted to burn 50 to 100 percent more land by 2050, due to climate change effects. This additional burn area could cost the country up to $62.5 billion per year by 2050. Laurie Johnson, chief economist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said, “Wildfires that already destroy millions of acres of forests and thousands of homes will cause much more damage if we don’t take strong steps to reduce the carbon pollution driving climate change.” The report says the US government currently spends $2 billion to $2.5 billion per year on wildfire suppression. However, report authors say the price of suppression is about 10 to 50 times less than its total cost, and when you factor in added costs such as the lost benefit of forests and the price of re-inhabiting burned areas, wildfires actually cost between $20 billion and $125 billion annually. The report urged the government and society to take action against climate change now. Laurie Johnson added, “It would be very clear that taking action now would give us a very, very good return… We’re losing time but not solutions to this grave threat, and we must act now.”
For more information see:

Senators Urge Action on Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Sector
On September 26, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and 14 of his fellow Senators wrote a letter to the Obama Administration, urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas production. The letter wrote, “Ton for ton, methane causes at least 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Voluntary standards are not enough. Too many in the oil and gas sector have failed to adopt sound practices voluntarily, and the absence of uniform enforceable standards has allowed methane pollution to continue, wasting energy and threatening public health." Earlier this year, the Obama Administration published a methane strategy, but EPA has not yet made a final decision in proposing methane regulations. In the letter, the Senators expressed their support for EPA’s future actions to cut methane emissions, stating, “EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to address methane throughout the oil and gas sector. We urge you to ensure that EPA exercises its authority expeditiously to control methane pollution and its harmful effects." The other 14 senators who participated in writing the letter are: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
For more information see:

Chile Puts Tax on Carbon
On September 26, the Chilean government ratified legislation for South America's first tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The tax, which will initially be set at $5 per tonne of carbon emissions, will target the power sector, and in particular generators operating thermal plants with an installed capacity of 50 Megawatts (MW) or greater. Thermal plants of a smaller capacity, as well as those fueled by renewable sources such as biomass, will be exempt from the tax. Four companies—Endesa, AES Gener, Colbún, and E. CL.—will likely contribute most of the $160 million in expected revenue, which the government says will be invested predominantly toward education. The implementation of this carbon tax is meant to force power producers to transition to cleaner fuel sources to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions and meet the nation's voluntary target of 20 percent reduction from 2007 levels by 2020. Chile joins around 30 other countries, regions, and states around the world that have adopted or plan to adopt a price on carbon, although Australia recently became the first nation to repeal its carbon tax.
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EIA Finds Increase in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On September 25, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its latest Monthly Energy Review, which found that total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been steadily increasing—a 2.7 percent increase in the first six months of 2014 over the same period in 2013, or a 6 percent increase compared to the first half of 2012—despite federal initiatives to lower emissions.  According to the report, the biggest source of GHG emissions came from the residential energy sector, accounting for 17 percent more emissions from January through June of this year than in 2012—which was most likely due to “increased natural gas and retail electricity use” as residents all over the country struggled to heat their homes during the polar vortex. The commercial energy sector was also a major factor in these rising GHG emissions, due to the economy’s rising recovery, “as American businesses (including factories, retail stores and utility plants), burned more gas and oil to meet higher demand.” In a statement directed to world leaders at the U.N. headquarters in New York, President Obama stressed that “the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth, but we have to do more.” Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, seconded President Obama’s statement, “The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is a clear wake-up call that much more needs to be done to accelerate the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency, if the nation is to successfully address climate change.”
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Harvard, Boston and Syracuse Universities Release Health Analysis of Clean Power Plan
On September 30, scientists from Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston University announced new study findings linking strong carbon standards to nationwide health benefits. The study, “Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants,” analyzed various policy options for reducing the carbon emissions of existing power plants, which currently account for 40 percent of domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The option found to be most effective was the scenario most similar to the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, showing that under the Clean Power Plan all states could witness multiple health benefits, including reduction of heart attacks and hospital admissions, saving lives and money. "Hundreds of thousands of people suffer serious health problems from air pollution in the U.S. every year, and these health problems mostly occur in areas where pollution is not meeting current EPA standards," said Harvard School of Public Health’s Dr. Joel Schwartz, the lead author of the study. The three scenarios researched in the study included various levels of stringency in carbon targets, flexibility in compliance options, and levels of consideration of energy efficiency on the end user’s behalf. The top-performing scenario was “moderately stringent and highly flexible,” resulting in prevention of heart and lung problems caused by air pollution. The EPA is taking public comments on the Clean Power Plan until December 1, and will issue a final rule next June. "Whether communities experience these health gains from cleaner air will depend on the details of the final power plant standards," explained Dr. Jonathan Levy of the Boston University School of Public Health.
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Report Reveals Global Military Perspectives on Climate Change
On September 22, the nonpartisan American Security Project (ASP) updated its Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change. This report was published with preliminary results last year, and lays out how various governments and their militaries assess the threat of climate change. The countries in the report include Brazil, Canada, China, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, among others. After last year’s report showed that 70 percent of nations explicitly identified climate change as a national security issue, the new update goes into further detail, analyzing individual nations’ vulnerabilities, perceptions, preparedness, and climate change’s links to potential conflicts. A central theme to this report is the connection between climate preparedness and the military. According to the ASP website, “Almost all nations that have official military planning have stated that their government considers missions like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as critical responsibilities of their armed forces.” When looking at the United States specifically, the report found that the East Coast is threatened by more frequent and stronger hurricanes, while the Southwest is becoming drier and hotter. Overall, the United States was ranked as “vulnerable, but prepared,” with acknowledgement of the unique role of the U.S. in global security, with potential for military involvement in conflicts overseas. As Secretary of State Chuck Hagel stated in Nova Scotia last year, “Climate change does not directly cause conflict, but it can add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, dispute over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters – all place additional burdens on economies, societies and institutions around the world.”
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Global Animal Population Has Declined By Half Since 1970; Climate Change Contributed
On September 30, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its latest Living Planet Index, which found that animal populations have dropped by 52 percent on average since 1970, due in part to climate change, as well as habitat destruction, overhunting and environmental degradation. “Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half,” Marco Lambertini, WWF’s international general director, stated. The report covers nine “planetary boundaries” which, if crossed, could catastrophically threaten life on Earth. “Three of these nine planetary boundaries appear to have been already crossed,” the report says. Among them is climate change – the report states, “the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already causing significant changes to our climate and ecosystems.” The last report, produced two years ago, found a 30 percent decline in animal populations – however, new and more sophisticated methodologies show the situation has been much worse over the years than the Index revealed. “Applying the new method to the 2008 dataset we find that things were considerably worse than what we thought at the time. It is clear that we are seeing a significant long-term trend in declining species populations,” said a London Zoological Society (LZS) spokesperson. LZS collaborated with WWF to create the report, along with the Global Footprint Network and the Water Footprint Network. The report covers 10,000 vertebrate species, over the period from 1970 to 2010.
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Miners Protest EPA Climate Regulations in Washington, D.C.
On October 7, over 700 protesters held a rally outside the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The union miners, who came from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, were protesting the EPA's proposed regulations on greenhouse gases from existing power plants, and carried signs that read "EPA Rules Destroy Good Jobs" and "EPA Rules Put Seniors at Risk." James Gibbs, an at-large vice president at UMWA, said, "We have to let the President know, we need to let both parties know that we will support the candidates that support us." Leaders from the UMWA said the union had committed resources to elect Obama and worked on behalf of progressive causes like improved labor laws and fair wages, but now they have been forgotten. According to Daniel Kane, UMWA's secretary-treasurer, "We fought for those progressive causes, and there are people today in the progressive movement who have forgotten us. If you try to foist this devastation on Appalachia, on our brothers and sisters, we will remember." Miners at the protest blamed the EPA rules for continued job losses, and one retired miner, Tom Powell, from Crooksville Ohio, said the EPA "has too much power." Mike Mallernee, a retired miner from Ohio, said the rules were too strict and that "if you shut down all the coal-fired power plants now, what would you use for electricity in the U.S." The EPA defended its new rules. EPA Press Secretary Liz Purchia said, "Coal will remain a critical part of America's energy mix for the foreseeable future. In 2030, it will represent a third of our nation's energy mix."
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Youth Group Files Petition in Supreme Court for Government Climate Change Action
On October 3, a youth-led nonprofit, Our Children’s Trust, filed a petition with the US Supreme Court in the hopes of a ruling stating the federal government has an obligation to preserve the environment, specifically essential natural resources such as the climate. “The narrow window of time left to address global climate change and the significant consequences to the welfare of our nation’s children and future generations add urgency to the legal issue,” the petition states. The suit is centered on the principle of the Public Trust Doctrine, which holds that the government must maintain certain resources so the public can reasonably use them. There is plenty of precedent behind this principle, according to attorney Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s trust. “Public trust principles go back to the Emperor Justinian, the Magna Carta, and our country’s founding documents. Our petition asks the Supreme Court to determine whether, under this standing doctrine, the federal government must act to protect essential natural resources,” Olson said. A previous decision from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the government is not obligated to protect natural resources, calling it a matter for individual states. The Supreme Court Petition is an appeal of this decision, and urges action to be taken soon. “We are running out of time. If our government does not act now, we endanger the lives of our youngest generations and generations to come,” said Alec Loorz, one of the plaintiffs and founder of iMatter and Kids vs. Global Warming.
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Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Operations Jumped after 2008
On October 6, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and The Wilderness Society released a report produced by Stratus Consulting which found that methane releases from energy production have increased in recent years. Using data from the Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR), the authors estimate that venting and flaring grew 135 percent between 2008 and 2013 on federal land. These processes are used to release natural gas that cannot be transported or contained because of the limitations of existing infrastructure. According to Matt Lee-Ashley, director of CAP's public lands project, "The rising volume of taxpayer-owned gas that is being wasted is not only costing tens of millions of dollars in lost royalty payments, but it's putting dangerous amounts of methane pollution into our air." Methane makes up 95 to 98 percent of natural gas and is about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 100 year period. Currently, fossil fuel operations on public lands are one of the country's biggest sources of greenhouse gases. The authors also indicate that well-site processing, production, and other upstream, midstream, and downstream activities also contribute significantly to indirect, or "fugitive," methane emissions, which in 2012 were approximately equivalent to the annual emissions of 42 million cars. That is more than three times as much as previously estimated emissions from venting and flaring. The report stands in contrast to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing declining methane emissions from natural gas production in recent years.
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Study Says Single Hotspot Releasing Largest Methane Emissions Ever Seen in United States
On October 9, a study conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Michigan found a “hot spot” in the Southwest United States is releasing the largest concentration of methane ever recorded in US air. The hot spot, located at the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah (referred to as the “Four Corners”) is 2,500 square miles, and is likely due to “fugitive” methane emissions, or leaks from natural gas operations. The study authors note this is not attributable to fracking, as the hot spot began before the method became popular. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which can warm the atmosphere 28 times more than carbon dioxide over a hundred year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study followed the hot spot from 2003 to 2009, and found it released 0.59 million metric tons of methane. “The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried,” said study lead author Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “There’s been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.”
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New Analysis Shows Studies May Have “Massively” Underestimated Ocean Warming
On October 5, a study on ocean warming in the Southern Hemisphere conducted by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) found that ocean warming in the top level of the sea has been underestimated by 24 to 58 percent. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, investigated long-term warming in the top 700 meters of the ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. Sea levels across the globe have been assessed in recent years by satellites that bounce radio waves off the ocean’s surface and measure the differences in ocean height; this indicates ocean temperature, as water swells and sea levels rise as water warms. The satellite information reveals that prior estimates were inaccurate, likely due to a lack of data collection from 1970-2004. Lead-scientist of the study, Dr. Paul Durack from LLNL, said, “The reason for these underestimations is likely that due to poor observational coverage, we haven’t been able to say definitively what the long-term rate of Southern Hemisphere ocean warming has been. . . we’re trying as hard as we can, as scientists, to provide the best information from the limited observations we have.” Dr. Jan Zika, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton, agreed with Dr. Durack in an interview with BBC News that more information is necessary, adding, “Heat uptake by the ocean is a stronger contribution than we previously thought and the heat content of shallow layers is a particular concern, as that warmth is more likely to return to the atmosphere.” Oceans are estimated to absorb 90 percent of the heat generated by global warming.
In related news, a separate study published in Nature Climate Change on October 5 conducted by researchers at the California Institute of Technology also found that the top 2 kilometers (km) of the ocean have experienced warming while temperatures below 2 km have not changed. This team of researchers used information provided by an advanced system of floating probes on the ocean’s surface. Since 1999, over 3,600 automated profiling floats (Argos) have surveyed the southern ocean’s surface and, for the first time, have been able to provide researchers with systematic coverage.
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Study Shows Fish Not Adapting Well to Changing Ocean Conditions
On October 5, a study on spiny damselfish conducted at the ARC Center of Excellence for coral reef studies, based out of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia was published by Nature Climate Change. The study concluded that higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in water had a negative effect on fish, even if they were the offspring of fish that had also been exposed to increased CO2 levels. The study used two groups of spiny damselfish: a control group which had minimal CO2 levels and the other with rising CO2 levels. The offspring of the fish kept in the increased CO2 level tank did not show any improved ability to cope with greater CO2 levels when exposed to the same conditions as their parents, showing it will take generations to develop resistance to a new environment. Professor Philip Munday, co-author of the study, commented “How quickly that adaptation will take, we don’t quite know. . . but we do know that projected CO2 levels will seriously affect the behavior of fish in ways that won’t be good for populations.” The study concluded by stating that their results showed little potential for transgenerational acclimation in the spiny damselfish species. This finding means that genetic adaptation in certain fish species will be vital to overcome the effects of ocean acidification on behavior. If current trends continue several fish species will be at risk of extinction.
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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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