Saturday, March 21, 2015



Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons gave an excellent 16.9-minute talk on climate change, published on June 11, 2014.  It’s well worth listening to, and is on the web at

David Roberts has an interesting article in the Feb. 13 issue of Grist titled, The fight over Obama’s Clean Power Plan heats up in the states.  In it he analyzes what is likely to happen in each of the states in dealing with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) for reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants.  The rule is to be finalized this summer; it will require each state to develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP).  If a state doesn’t develop one, EPA will develop one for it.   Roberts concludes that 14 states are very likely to cooperate as they have already signed a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy voicing strong support for the CPP.  Ten have Democratic governors - California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Four have Republican governors, but are heavily blue: Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Maine. Among the 14 are all nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the three states on the West Coast - California, Oregon and Washington.  Twelve states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming — have already signed on to a lawsuit against EPA, which they are likely to lose, but which allows them to score political points from their Republican base.  The other 34 states that have been more quiet are described by Rogers as ‘bet hedgers’.  At:

The NY Times for Feb. 22 has an article by Justin Gillis and John Schwartz titled, Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher They write, For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.
One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.
But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.”
“The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.
Though Dr. Soon did not respond to questions about the documents, he has long stated that his corporate funding has not influenced his scientific findings.
The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center, shared them with several news organizations last week.
The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is, and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.
Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.
Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.
“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.””  At:
NOTE1: The first link in this piece (climate change) will take you to an extensive list of resources selected by researchers and editors at the New York Times.
NOTE2: Willie Soon and David Legates, neither of whom is a climate scientist, were the keynote speakers at a March 18, 2013 “Truth about Climate Change” dinner in southern Delaware sponsored by the Positive Growth Alliance and the Caesar Rodney Institute, titled, The Truth about Climate Change: Sea Level Rise and Delaware.  You can see their slides at  A 29.6-minute video of Legates talk can be seen at,
and a 34.4-minute video of Soon’s talk is at 

On Feb. 23 the World Resources Institute posted a blog by Manish Bapna titled, What do Apple, Citi and Shell Have in Common?, previously published for Forbes.  He wrote, “Everywhere you look, renewable energy is in the news this year. Corporate leaders like Apple, Google and GM are making significant new investments – blink and you may miss the latest deal. While I included falling clean energy prices as one of 2014’s biggest stories, it’s becoming clear this is a longer-term trend.
Surprisingly, players like Shell and BP are signaling the shift to low-carbon energy is a serious proposition. Both have endorsed shareholder resolutions demanding the companies test whether their business models are compatible with limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
But the swelling ranks of corporate entities, including fossil fuel companies, aren’t just doing this for the good of the earth; it’s smart business, too. As renewable energy comes to scale, early movers will have an advantage.”
“Apple’s $848 million investment in First Solar’s California Flats project grabbed headlines for good reason. Apple’s California operations will now run on solar energy, following similar investments to supply their Arizona data centers with 100 percent renewables.
But Apple is far from alone:
Google signed long-term contracts for 43 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to help power its California headquarters with 100 percent clean energy, adding to the $1.5 billion already invested in renewables.
  • Citigroup just unveiled a $100 billion, 10-year commitment to finance renewables and energy efficiency, cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change impacts.
  • Kaiser Permanente agreed to buy more than 150 MW of wind and solar power, and to install 70 MW of solar arrays at its California facilities through NRG Energy.
  • Amazon announced it would invest in a new 150 MW wind farm to power its data centers in Indiana.
  • General Motors will build a 34 MW wind farm to power Mexico manufacturing facilities, and when completed, will derive more than 12 percent of total North American energy supply from renewables.”
“Shifting energy supply from volatile-priced fossil fuels makes sense for large electricity consumers, but it’s a pleasant surprise to see growing acceptance for the importance of low-carbon power from some of the world’s biggest traditional energy firms.”
“This shift comes against the backdrop of plummeting oil prices. The dramatic decline in oil prices makes this an opportune time to reduce fossil fuel subsidies and even establish a carbon tax. (emphasis added)  A revenue-neutral carbon tax could help improve the quality of growth in many countries worldwide.”  
On Feb. 27 AP The Big Story posted an article by Luis Andres Hanao and Seth Borenstein titled,  The big melt: Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape EarthIt says that warmer water is eating away at the Antarctic ice from below, taking off 130 billion tons during the past decade, and the rate of ice loss is accelerating. In the worst case scenario Antarctica could raise global sea levels by 10 feet (3 m) within a century or two.  The ice is going most rapidly on the Antarctic peninsula, where the land sticks out into the warmer water.  Air temperatures there have increased by 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) during the past half century - much more than the global average.  What’s happening there should act as a red flag.  The authors wrote, “What's happening is simple physics. Warm water eats away at the ice from underneath. Then more ice is exposed to the water, and it too melts. Finally, the ice above the water collapses into the water and melts.”

On March 2 Herald Online posted an article titled, Block Island Wind Farm Now Fully FinancedFinancing for the more than $290 million project will be provided by Societe Generale of Paris, France, and KeyBank National Association of Cleveland, Ohio.  It will consist of five 6 MW capacity wind turbines, capable of supplying all of the electricity for 6000 homes when operated at full capacity.  It will be the first offshore wind project in the United States, with plans to have steel in the water this year.
NOTE: There is an abundant offshore wind resource  off the East Coast of the U.S., located near several major cities, and with relatively shallow water on the Continental Shelf suitable for mounting the turbines on the sealfloor.  In Delaware we thought we were very close to getting the first U.S. offshore wind farm off the coast in 2008, but the financing could not be arranged.  At an international offshore wind conference in Baltimore a few years ago, I asked why THe U.S. had no offshore wind farms  even though they have been in operations for decades in Europe.  The answer was that the U.S. has no coherent renewable energy policy - with federal Production and Investment Tax Credits sometimes available and sometimes not - so that investors went elsewhere.  We’ve had regular fossil fuel subsidies for a long time.  See Energy Subsidies in Wikipedia.

Scientific American for March 5 had an article by David Biello titled, CO2 Levels for February Eclipsed Prehistoric HighsHe wrote, “February is one of the first months since before months had names to boast carbon dioxide concentrations at 400 parts per million.* Such CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have likely not been seen since at least the end of the Oligocene 23 million years ago, an 11-million-year-long epoch of gradual climate cooling that most likely saw CO2 concentrations drop from more than 1,000 ppm.”  ( ppm  is an abbrevation for parts per million (by volume).)
Homo sapiens sapiens—that’s us—has subsisted for at least 200,000 years on a planet that has oscillated between 170 and 280 ppm, according to records preserved in air bubbles trapped in ice. Now our species has burned enough fossil fuels and cut down enough trees to push CO2 to 400 ppm—and soon beyond. Concentrations rise by more than two ppm per year now. Raising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 0.04 percent may not seem like much but it has been enough to raise the world's annual average temperature by a total of 0.8 degree Celsius so far. More warming is in store, thanks to the lag between CO2 emissions and the extra heat each molecule will trap over time, an ever-thickening blanket wrapped around the planet in effect. Partially as a result of this atmospheric change, scientists have proposed that the world has entered a new geologic epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene …”
NOTE: With the seasonal sawtooth CO2 concentration measured at Mauna Loa the months of April, May and June in 2014 saw monthly average concentrations above 400 ppm.  The concentration in the northern hemisphere drops after May as the weather warms and photosynthesis kicks in,  then increases again in the fall as photosynthesis slows.  This year is thought to be the first time in 23 million years that the average February CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm.

On March 6 Davie Biello had another article in Scientific American titled, How to Win Friends and Bamboozle People about Climate Changein discussing the new documentary film, Merchants of Doubt, he wrote, “What is the difference between a magician and a man who obscures the truth about global warming for the fossil-fuel industry?”  He answers that magicians “… use expertise in the art of deception and misdirection to entertain. Shills for the fossil fuel-industry, such as Steve Milloy, Marc Morano and others examined and accused in this film, use their expertise to fool people about matters of life and death.”
“The film (and the book before it) lays out how the fossil-fuel industry funds talking heads to sow confusion about climate change in a deliberate imitation of the successful doubt-sowing tactics of the tobacco industry. That industry famously employed experts in public relations, starting with venerable PR firm Hill+Knowlton, to cast doubt on the idea that smoking causes lung cancer or that nicotine was addictive, tactics that delayed regulation of the tobacco industry for decades.
 Sowing these doubts ensured at least 50 years worth of profits on tobacco and condemned millions of smokers to a premature death in the U.S. The success of that effort has led a host of industries with environmental or health problems—asbestos, chemicals, coal and pharmaceuticals, among others—to adopt this playbook to protect their profits.”

The Sabine Center for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School has developed a website called Climate Change Laws of the World to keep people informed on the rapidly changing body of laws and treaties around the world dealing with energy and climate.  For the United states one can see the relevant laws for individual states.  It is a wonderful resource.  At:

The March 15 issue of Grist has an article by Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann titled, How does climate activism differ in the U.S. and Germany?  Germany seems to be way ahead of the U.S. in phasing out coal and nuclear power and in promoting renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV.  Why are they so different?  The authors surveyed leading climate activists in both the U.S. and Germany to find out their priorities.  The top American priorities were: growing the climate movement, fighting fossil fuels and enforcing existing climate policies.  Top German priorities were: accelerating the phaseout of coal, making the UN climate negotiations in Paris a success, and expanding the energy transition beyond electrical power to include heating, cooling and transportation.  The thing that struck me about the analysis of the discussions is that the U.S. is still home to very powerful and wealthy oil, gas and coal companies and money is much more influential in U.S. politics than it is in German.  The Germans are also much more interested in international climate efforts than the Americans are, while Americans are more concerned about energy and climate effects on racial and social justice.  
NOTE: While not mentioned in the article, I’ll bet that a much smaller percentage of Germans think that climate change is a hoax or that dealing with it will seriously damage the economy; but then they they haven’t had the very effective and well financed campaign of disinformation and climate science denial, funded by fossil fuel interests, that we have had in the United States.

On March 19 the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) released a 2.9-minute YouTube video called, Climate Change in Delaware, describing impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the state, and what it is doing as a result of the Governor Markell’s Executive Order 41, which came out of the work of the Delaware League of Women Voters, an interfaith group that became part of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, the University of Delaware’s Students for the Environment, the Sierra Club, and several other groups.  The video says that 79% of Delaware residents are convinced the climate change is happening and 76% say we should act on climate change now, with 65% saying they can take personal actions.  At the end of December the state issued a document of recommendations for climate change mitigation and adaptation titled, The Climate Framework for Delaware.

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. 

Citigroup Pledges to Double Funds to Mitigate Climate Change Effects
Citigroup Inc. announced on February 18 that it will facilitate, invest and lend $100 billion total over the next ten years to support climate change mitigation and sustainability programs. The investments will finance projects such as greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and helping communities adapt to climate change. “Simply put, it is a $100 billion investment in sustainable growth,” said Citi CEO Michael Corbat. “These efforts do not constitute philanthropy, nor do they represent costs. In fact, they reduce costs.” Environmental finance programs are one part of Citi’s five-year sustainability and social responsibility plan. By 2020, Citi plans to reduce its GHG emissions by 35 percent, energy and water use by 30 percent, and waste by 60 percent.
For more information see:

Sea Level Could Rise Six Feet in NYC, According to Report
On February 17, the New York City Panel on Climate Change released their 2015 report, which found that New York City can expect more extreme precipitation, more frequent heat waves, and more sea level rise. Local temperatures are expected to rise 4.1-5.7 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century and 5.3-8.8 degrees F by 2080. The report projects sea levels in New York will rise 11-21 inches by 2050, 18-39 inches by 2080, and up to six feet by 2100. The report recommends the city both reduce harmful greenhouse gases and use innovative engineering and existing ecosystems to adapt to climate change. “Adapting the city for the risks of climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” Daniel Zarrilli, director of the mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said in a press release. “That’s why we are moving forward on projects across the city in partnership with a wide array of community partners and other stakeholders.”
For more information see:
The Huffington Post, Inside Climate News, Observer, Report

Climate Change Could Be Responsible for Increased Infectious Disease Outbreak
An article published February 15 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B linked climate change to an increased risk of localized epidemics. Two zoologists, one in the tropics and another in the Arctic, independently found that natural habitats altered by climate change will force humans, plant life, and wildlife to relocate and become exposed to new pathogens. “There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts,” said Daniel Brooks, lead author of one of the studies, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Researchers recommended that medical and veterinary health systems will need to adapt to this changing landscape in order to better respond to future epidemics.
For more information see:

Maryland Rep. Van Hollen Introduces Cap-and-Trade Bill
On February 24, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) proposed HR 5721, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2015. The bill would create a ‘carbon cap and dividend’ system, meaning 100 percent of the funds generated from auctioning off carbon permits would be passed on equally to every US resident with a social security number. This bill treats the skies above the United States as a public commons, requiring companies that emit carbon to the atmosphere pay to use it. The bill aims to gradually reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050. Congressman Van Hollen estimates individuals could receive a dividend of as much as $1,000, and families of four up to $4,000, every year.
For more information see:

MEPs Vote to Change European Carbon Markets
On February 25, Ministers of the European Parliament (MEP) voted on reforms to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Current carbon allowance prices in the ETS are seven euros per metric ton, too low to encourage a shift from coal to cleaner electricity generation. The low prices have been caused by free allowance allocations, the economic recession, and overshooting compliance with clean energy targets, leading to a two billion surplus of carbon allowances. The new compromise will withdraw 1.6 billion carbon allowances, beginning in 2018. This should allow the carbon allowance prices to rebound towards 30 euros, which is roughly the price needed for an energy market shift. Some have called for the reforms to take effect even earlier to provide increased market confidence.
For more information see:

European Union Releases Draft Compliance Plan for the Paris Accord
On February 26, the European Union released a draft Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for upcoming global climate negotiations in Paris in November/December this year. The 28 nations in Europe will all follow this plan, which commits them to cut greenhouse gases a minimum of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This goal is identical to an October 2014 EU commitment, although the INDC has updated the commitment by including firmer numbers and a reporting regime which includes guidance from December’s UN summit in Lima, Peru. This is the first INDC draft released, and will be finalized at the scheduled EU council meeting on March 6 before being submitted to the UNFCCC.
In related news on February 26, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released the official negotiating text for the Paris climate summit, based on a draft document produced at the recent Geneva meeting.
For more information see:

Famous Climate Change-Denying Scientist Caught Violating Ethical Science Guidelines
On February 23, Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center released documents showing that prominent Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon received $1.25 million over the past 14 years from fossil fuel interests, such as Southern Company, Exxon Mobil, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Mr. Soon is one of a few scientists vocally skeptical of anthropogenic climate change science. He says climate change is a result of the sun’s energy output, not human activities. These donations funded at least 11 papers in several journals since 2008 without appropriate reporting of conflicts of interest. In response to this revelation, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has said he will launch an investigation into fossil fuel funding of scientific climate research. The Smithsonian’s inspector general is also investigating the charges.
For more information see:

NOTE: Here in Delaware, Willie soon and David Legates, another climate science denier, from the University of Delaware, spoke at a meeting sponsored by the Caesar Rodney Institute and the Positive Growth Alliance - two organizations that do all they can to deny that sea level rise is accelerating or that the government should encourage reducing carbon emissions.  Guess where their funding comes from.

Investors Ask Five Largest U.S. Oil Companies to Disclose Climate Risks
On February 26, investors and nonprofits sent a letter to the five largest U.S. oil companies (Valero, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66) asking them to disclose climate change vulnerabilities in their infrastructure. The letter is in response to a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on February 25, which found that coastal refineries of each of the companies are at risk from rising sea levels and associated increased storm surges. Investors included Calvert Investments, Pax World Management, and Walden Asset Management. “Refineries have low profit margins and are situated on vulnerable coastal locations. Any disruptions in refining operations could have material impact on companies’ cash flows,” said Gretchen Goldman at UCS.
For more information see:

Majority of Americans Think Fighting Climate Change Is a Moral Issue
On February 27, Reuters and IPSOS released a new poll of 2,827 Americans, finding two-thirds of respondents say world leaders are “morally obligated” to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Another 72 percent of respondents said they are “personally morally obligated” to reduce CO2 emissions in their own lives. The poll was conducted to examine the impact of recent comments from Pope Francis and others on the moral imperative of action on climate change. “The climate debate can be very intellectual at times,” commented Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network. “This makes it about us, our neighbors, and about doing the right thing.”
For more information see:

Majority of Citizens in Delaware Think Climate Change Is Happening
On February 23, the University of Delaware’s Sea Grant and Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment released the results of a 2014 telephone survey. The poll shows 79 percent of Delawareans believe climate change is happening, and 70 percent of respondents say sea level rise is ocurring. Three out of four respondents say action is needed to reduce the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. “This survey confirms that a strong majority of Delawareans believe climate change is occurring, and we are committed to taking key actions to reduce its impact,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell.
For more information see:

Ocean Acidification Threatens Coastal Economies
On February 23, a study published in Nature assessed the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish populations. The study found that high ocean water acidity levels, caused by the ocean’s absorption of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, could severely diminish shellfish populations in the United States – threatening economies in 15 out of 23 coastal states. “In the US, our economic impact so far has been primarily in the Pacific Northwest,” said Lisa Suatoni, an author of the study and senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our vulnerability assessment says that the impacts are going to be much broader geographically and more hard hitting than people really thought.”
For more information see:

Sea Levels in Northeast US Have Risen Two Inches in Last Two Years
On February 24, a study published in the journal Nature Communications found that sea levels from New York to Newfoundland rose about four inches in 2009 and 2010 due to changing ocean circulation. The University of Arizona and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led team of scientists are the first to report a link between sea level rise and the slowdown in a major current in the North Atlantic Ocean called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC (due in part to a reversal of the North Atlantic Oscillation, an atmospheric climate pattern that regularly reverses). Most climate change models predict AMOC will continue to weaken, potentially leading to more sea level rise.
For more information see:

Senator Flake Introduces Bill to Limit Funding for EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations
On March 3, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a bill (S. 639) in the Senate to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide funding offsets from the EPA to any other agency which sees an increase in costs from any proposed EPA regulation on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works, has seven cosponsors, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD). Flake has called the bill the “Agency PAYGO for Greenhouse Gases Act,” and says it is similar to the Senate pay-as-you-go rule, and would require the EPA to cut its own budget to match any increases a GHG regulation caused in another agency’s budget.
For more information see:

Switzerland Is First Country to Submit Climate Plan to UN
On February 27, Switzerland became the first country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations (UN) for cementing an international climate change deal at talks this November/December in Paris. Switzerland’s INDC commits it to cut greenhouse gases (GHG) 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, and the country is considering additional reductions of up to 70-85 percent by 2050. Swiss officials say 30 percent of the GHG emissions cuts will come from within the country, with the remaining 20 percent coming from offsets abroad. “This objective . . . reflects Switzerland’s responsibility for climate warming and the potential cost of emissions reduction measures in Switzerland and abroad over the 2020-2030 period,” says a Swiss communication. All major global economies have been requested to propose their INDCs by October 1 this year.
For more information see:

VICE Premiers Documentary Series on HBO with Episode on Rising Seas
On March 6, VICE premiered the third season of its documentary series on HBO with an episode, “Our Rising Oceans,” which focused on climate change-exacerbated sea level rise. The episode featured Vice President Joe Biden, who stated that denying climate change is “almost like denying gravity now.” Biden added, “It gets to the point where you can’t look anyone in the eye seriously and say, well, it’s nothing to do with manmade.” The episode will examine the United Nations climate conferences, the New York People’s Climate March, climate change science denial, sea level rise in Bangladesh and the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
For more information see:

Report Says EU Needs to Take More Action on Climate Change
The European Environment Agency (EEA) published a five-year report on March 3 assessing the effectiveness of European Union (EU) environmental policy. The report found that the EU has much more to accomplish to meet its 2050 goal of cutting emissions by 80 to 95 percent below a 1990 baseline. Despite Europe’s strict environmental legislation, the EEA found that EU policy is still insufficient to meet its objective of “living well, within the limits of our planet.” Hans Bruyninckx, head of the EEA, commented, “This is not a threat to well-being . . . For Europe this is a major opportunity.” The European Commission has said the EU will need to invest an extra 270 billion Euros ($303 billion) per year in low-carbon initiatives to meet its objectives.
For more information see:

New Study Links War in Syria to Climate Change
On March 2, 2015, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found climate change contributed to sparking the Syrian civil war in 2011. A serious drought from 2007 to 2010 caused over 1.5 million farmers to abandon their lands and move to urban city centers, which were already stressed by the influx of over 1 million refugees from neighboring Iraq. These issues, along with others, catalyzed the civil war in Syria. The study found that climate change has made serious droughts, such as the 2007-2010 drought, two to three times more likely in the region.
For more information see:

Study Shows Insects Consume More Leaves Under High Carbon Emissions Scenario
On March 2, a University of Wisconsin Madison-led study published by Nature Plants found that under raised carbon dioxide (CO2) conditions, leaf-eating insects consumed more than double the amount of leaves – restricting how efficiently trees absorb and store carbon. The study utilized a Free-Air Carbon Dioxide (FACE) facility to replicate projected 2050 CO2 levels of 560 parts per million (ppm), finding that with higher carbon emissions insects consumed 88 percent more leaf matter. The increased insect consumption reduced trees’ CO2 absorption by 35 percent. “It's kind of a double whammy: not only is the leaf area removed, but the potential growth that the removed area could have produced is not realized,” explains Dr. John Couture, a biologist at the University.
For more information see:

NOTE: The above projected CO2 concentration in 2050 of 560 ppm is twice the 280 ppm prior to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750.  With a moderate climate sensitivity to CO2 concentration, doubling CO2 would be expected to raise the global average surface temperature by 3 degrees C.  It is likely, however, that the concentration in 2050 will be more than double what it was in 1750. since going from the present 400 ppm in 2015 to 560 ppm in 2050 would require an annual increase in global emissions of only 1% per year - much less than the 2.4% per year average increase during the 7-year period of 2006-2013 - reaching 36.7 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2013 from fossil fuels, cement production and deforestation. 

Senate Republicans Write Letter Questioning Social Cost of Carbon
On March 9, 11 Republican Senators led by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), addressed a letter to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to express concern over the White House estimated social cost of carbon emissions. Currently valued at $37 per ton (emphasis added), the administration uses the social cost of carbon when calculating the cost-benefit analysis of regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The OIRA did not have a public comment period on the carbon accounting methodology, but in November of 2013 decided to allow input. The Senators said, “While we continue to have significant concerns over the process establishing and the substance underlying the [social cost of carbon], public information on the estimates is paramount given its increasing application to federal—and state—programs;” they asked OIRA to respond to their concerns by March 30, 2015.
For more information see:

Arkansas Joins Suit Against Proposed EPA Climate Regulations
On March 9, Arkansas State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that Arkansas would join a coalition of states opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. The proposed regulations would require Arkansas to reduce its emissions 45 percent by 2030, due to the state’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants. “This rule goes beyond the EPA’s authority granted by Congress,” said Rutledge, “and seeks to impose a national energy policy that will harm Arkansas’ economy.” Arkansas joins 12 other states fighting the rule, including Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
For more information see:

Craft Beer Breweries Sign Climate Declaration
On March 10, 24 craft beer breweries signed onto a climate declaration letter organized by nonprofit Ceres. These breweries recognize man-made climate change impacts their businesses. In 2012, beer companies generated $246.5 billion in economic output and directly and indirectly employed over two million Americans. Climate change impacts such as changing weather patterns, droughts and rising temperatures are affecting hops production and water availability in the Pacific Northwest, where most hops are grown. “We believe that a strong economy and a stable climate go hand in hand,” said Jenn Vervier at New Belgium Brewery. Many breweries have already invested in renewable energy and implemented energy, water, and waste reduction technologies at their breweries across the country.
For more information see:

Study Says Global Warming May Accelerate Rapidly, Soon
On March 9, Nature Climate Change published an article on the rate of global temperature change, finding that Earth’s temperatures, which increased by 0.4 degrees F per decade over the last 40 years, are going to accelerate to a rate of 0.7 degrees F/decade by 2020, a rate unseen in at least 1,000 years. Lead scientist of the study, Dr. Steven Smith of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said, “Essentially the world is entering a new regime where what is normal is going to continue to change, and it’s changing at a rate that natural processes might not be able to keep up with.” Researchers measured rates of change over 40-year periods of time to show that temperatures will not only increase in our lifetimes, but also continue to accelerate over time.
For more information see:

Teenagers Visit Capitol Hill for Climate Change
On March 10, nonprofit advocacy group Avaaz brought six teenagers from states affected most by climate change to Capitol Hill to meet with their Congressional representatives. The teens from Nebraska, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina hoped to visit a dozen offices and meet with Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rand Paul (R-KY), among several others. The students said they wanted to test the Senators knowledge on climate change, using a quiz originally developed for teenage students.
In related news, a recent poll commissioned by Avaaz and conducted by Ipsos found that nearly 90 percent of 1,002 participating eighth graders thought climate change was real and caused by humans. Avaaz also helped organize the 2014 people’s climate march in New York, which attracted over 300,000 people.
For more information see:

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Chad A. Tolman
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light

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