Monday, July 20, 2015



One June 25, the National Water and Climate Center published an image displaying the irregular rainfall over the contiguous United States over the period June 19 to June 25, as compared to historical averages for the same time period. The image shows the precipitation leftover from tropical storm Bill in the Ohio Valley, and much lower than average rainfall throughout the West. 

The percentages vary from 2% of average (brown) to 400% (violet).

I just reread an article in the February issue of Scientific American by Michael E. Webber titled online, Energy, Water and Food Problems Must Be Solved Together - Our future rides on our ability to integrate these three commodities.   He wrote, “Energy, water and food are the world’s three most critical resources.  Although this fact is widely acknowledged in policy circles, the interdependence of these resources on one another is significantly underappreciated.  Strains on any one can cripple the others.  This situation has made our society more fragile than we imagine, and we are not prepared for the potential disaster that is waiting for us.”  His first example was the failure of three power grids in India in July of 2012, leaving 620 million people without power.  The cause was a strain on food production because of insufficient power.  “Because of major drought, farmers plugged in more and more electric pumps to draw water from deeper and deeper belowground for irrigation. Those pumps, working furiously under the hot sun, increased the demand on power plants. At the same time, low water levels meant hydroelectric dams were generating less electricity than normal.”  New wholistic policy thinking is going to be required in this strange new climate we are entering.

On June 4 NOAA published a note titled, Science publishes new NOAA analysis: Data show no recent slowdown in global warming.  It said, “A new study published online today in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or "hiatus" in the rate of global warming in recent years.”  The new data analyzed included a correction for the fact that older sea surface temperatures measured from ships tend to be lower than newer more accurate ones measured from buoys, and included the year 2014 - with the highest global average temperature ever measured.  The global average temperature data for the period 1950-2014 can be fit with a straight line with a slope of 0.68 degree C per century.

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has a new website called Yale Climate Opinion Maps with a series of maps of the U.S. showing the percentages of people in the Nation, by State, by Congressional district and by County who say whether or not they agree with 14 statements related to climate change.  Some examples are:
o Global warming is happening.
o Global warming is caused mostly by human activities
Global warming is already harming people in the U.S.
o Global warming will harm future generations.
o A carbon tax if refunded to every American household.  (emphasis added)

On the statement that global warming is happening, the agreement is highest in DC and Hawaii (75-80%), followed by the coastal states of CA and NY (70-75%), then OR, WA, MD, DE, NJ. NY, CT, RI, MA and VT (65-70%); the lowest agreement is found in WV (54%).  The average for the nation as a whole on this statement if 63%.  The national average for a refunded carbon tax is 44%, with the colors by state very similar those for the first statement.

In June Interfaith Power and Light published its 2014 Annual ReportInterfaith Power & Light is a religious response to global warming.”
Its mission is “to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.”  Since 2000, IPL has grown to have chapters in 40 states, supporters in all 50, and to encompass 18,000 congregations of all faiths.  The president and founder, the Rev Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest from San Francisco, wrote: “We have been honored with brilliant, influential friends like the former NOAA Director , Dr. Jane Lubchenko and climate scientist Dr. Katherine Hayhoe who joined us for special events during the year.   They both, like you, recognize the value of faith voices in the dialogue for climate protection.  They have inspired us to continue advocating for congregations to lead by examples in their communities.  None of this could have happened without generous support from people like you who want to see a low carbon economy and a healthy and safe future for the generations that follow us.”  Rev. Bingham quoted from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations: “Climate change is a defining issue of our time.  I is a moral issue, it is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

The Guardian for June 25 has an article by Alison Moodie titled, Credit rating agencies are miscalculating risks of climate change, report finds.
Credit rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s are miscalculating the risks of climate change, which could lead to the next big financial crisis, a new report claims.
The paper, released on Wednesday by the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel), an advocacy group in Washington DC, claims that much like the 2008 housing crisis, when banks overvalued so-called “subprime mortgages”, credit rating agencies are doing the same thing with fossil fuels like coal and oil.”  To avoid environmental catastrophes like rising sea levels and mass extinctions, scientists have agreed that the Earth’s temperature cannot exceed 2C above pre-industrial levels. To meet this goal, estimates suggest around 80% of coal reserves, half of gas and one third of oil must remain untouched.  Yet credit rating agencies are still taking a “business-as-usual” approach to fossil fuel investments, claims the report. By not factoring in the risks climate change could have on these investments, it says, they may be overinflating the credit ratings and value of companies that are contributing to global warming, putting investors at risk, and opening themselves up to potential legal liability.”
Dr. James Hansen of the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program at Columbia University has a website where he shares a number of videos, scientific papers and communications.  His most recent communication, posted on June 27 and titled On the Legal Front describes some legal successes he has contributed to.  “First, the Dutch case. The Netherlands, which will cease to exist within a century or so if the world stays on its present carbon path, is an appropriate place for the first European case in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its inaction in the face of clear danger. The Dutch district court in the Hague ruled for the plaintiff, Urgenda, an environmental organization. The court ordered the Dutch government to reduce emissions 25% by 2020…”
“In Seattle, the King County Superior Court Judge ordered the State to reconsider the petition of eight youth, who brought their case with the help of Our Children’s Trust, requesting that the state reduce emissions consistent with dictates of the best available science. The latter was provided in testimony to the court by Pushker Kharecha, Deputy Director of CSAS, based on our paper in PLOS One, which was not disputed by Washington State, and which calls for a reduction of emissions by 6% per year.”  The paper by Hansen et al. is titled, Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature, was published in Dec. 2013 and has a very thorough analysis of the dangers we face.  It has many useful figures, and its Abstract says, “Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels (emphasis added) and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.”

On June 29 Bill McKibben published an article in the New Yorker titled, Power to the People - Why the rise of green energy makes utility companies nervous.  He points out that “innovative energy-saving and energy-producing technology is now cheap enough for every day use.”  “For average Americans … the biggest source of carbon emissions is their home, so the utilities’ help is crucial in making the transition.”  With the development of more effective, lower cost batteries, its making it possible for home owners with solar PV to become completely independent of the grid operated by utility companies.  “Power companies now face uncertainty of a kind that traditional phone companies faced when cellular technology emerged.  A few utilities welcome the challenge, others are resisting it, and the rest are waiting to someone to tell them what to do.”  “Arguably, the era;s most disruptive echnoogy is the solar panel.  Its price has dropped ninety-nine per cent in the past four decades, and rougly seventyfive per cent in the past six years; it now produces poser nearly as cheaply as coal or gas, a condition the energy experts refer to as “grid parity.”  It’s clearly time for some new thinking on the part of both customers and utility companies.

On June 30 Tim Radford posted an article in the June 30 RTCC News titled, Alaska glaciers melting faster as planet overheats.  He wrote,Scientists from the University of Alaska and the US Geological Survey analysed studies of 116 glaciers in the Alaska region over a 19-year-period to estimate the rate at which ice melted and icebergs calved.
They used airborne lidar remote sensing technology and other techniques, historical data and a global glacier inventory to establish a kind of taxonomy of glacier change.
The Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound had retreated more than 19 kilometres because of iceberg calving and had thinned by 450 meters in height since 1980. But, unexpectedly, tidewater glaciers – those that end in the ocean – seemed to make comparatively little contribution to sea level rise.
“Instead we show that glaciers ending on land are losing mass exceptionally fast, overshadowing mass changes due to iceberg calving, and making climate-related melting the primary control on mountain glacier mass loss,” Dr Larsen said.”  Larsen (from the University of Alaska, Faribanks) and his colleagues calculate that Alaskan glaciers are currently losing ice at a rate of 75 billion tons a year.  They conclude that the basic cause of ice loss and increasing temperatures is the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.  A related article in RTCC News by Alex Kirby (Arctic ice melt sends Alaskan temperatures soaring by 7C) reported that the average October temperature in far northern Barrow, Alaska has increased by 7.2 degrees C in just the past 34 years.  Scientists attribute this to the fact that sea ice in northern Alaska reaches its lowest extent in October - exposing the air to warmer ocean water.  This is an example of a positive feedback: the more the ice melts the faster the melting goes.

On July 7 the Global Commission on Energy and Climate released a new report, Seizing the global opportunity: partnerships for better growth and a better climate.  It “provides 10 practical recommendations that will boost economic growth and reduce climate risk. These recommendations could deliver up to 96% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to keep our planet on a pathway to keep global warming under 2°C. And these are actions that would also deliver multiple economic benefits.”  The Executive Summary can be downloaded in pdf format.  Of the 10 recommendations, I was particularly struck by 5. Implement effective carbon pricing
All developed and emerging economies, and others where possible, should commit to introducing or strengthening carbon pricing by 2020, and should phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  
Strong, predictable and rising carbon prices send an important signal to help guide consumption choices and investments in infrastructure and innovation; the fiscal revenues generated can be used to support low-income households, offset reductions in other taxes, or for other policy objectives. An estimated 12% of annual GHG emissions are now covered by existing or planned carbon taxes or trading systems around the world. Businesses are increasingly calling on governments to implement carbon pricing, and over 150 now use an internal carbon price (typically around US$40/t CO2 for oil companies) to guide investment decisions. International cooperation on carbon pricing and subsidy reform, including through the G20 and with the support of the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), can help mitigate concerns about competitiveness impacts from unilateral policy measures, improve knowledge-sharing and transparency, provide opportunities to link emission trading schemes, and reduce the costs of action.”
The final paragraph of the Summary reads:
The Global Commission urges the international community to seize the opportunity of the unique series of meetings occurring in 2015 to put the world on a pathway to low-carbon, climate-resilient growth and development. Cooperative action, between governments at all levels and with the private sector, international organisations and civil society, can help achieve both better growth and a better climate. This will require strong and sustained political leadership.  But the prize is immense. Together, a secure, prosperous and sustainable future is within our reach.

The Guardian published an article on July 8 by Suzanne Goldenberg titled, Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years.  The admission that Exxon was interested in climate change in 1981 came from a recently unearthed email sent by Lenny Bernstein, a 30-year industry veteran and former in-house Exxon climate expert. The email was written in response to an inquiry on business ethics from the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University.
“What it shows is that Exxon knew years earlier than James Hansen’s testimony to Congress (note added: in 1988) that climate change was a reality; that it accepted the reality, instead of denying the reality as they have done publicly, and to such an extent that it took it into account in their decision making, in making their economic calculation,” the director of the institute, Alyssa Bernstein (no relation), told the Guardian.
One thing that occurs to me is the behavior of the tobacco companies denying the connection between smoking and lung cancer for the sake of profits, but this is an order of magnitude greater moral offence, in my opinion, because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilisation (emphasis added), not to be melodramatic.”
Bernstein’s response, first posted on the institute’s website last October, was released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday as part of a report on climate disinformation promoted by companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Peabody Energy, called the Climate Deception Dossiers.”
NOTE:  Another good source on the disinformation campaign is the book, Merchants of Doubt - How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway , Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010.  It has also recently been made into a movie.
Alex Kirby posted an article in Truthdig on July 13 titled, Record Torrential Rainfall Linked to Warming Climate.  It described a report in the journal Climate Change by a German research group at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).  The scientists report that the record breaking rainfall events are to be expected in a world warming by the continued burning of fossil fuels.  “One out of 10 record-breaking rainfall events observed globally in the past 30 years can only be explained if the long-term warming is taken into account,” says co-author Dim Coumou, a PIK researcher into the links between atmospheric circulation and extreme weather events. “For the last year studied, 2010, it is even one event out of four, as the trend is upward.”  “The pronounced recent increase in record-breaking rainfall events is, of course, worrying,  Yet since it is consistent with human-caused global warming, it can also be curbed if greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are substantially reduced.”

On July 14 Paul J. Hibbard it al. of the Analysis Group published an extensive report titled, The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States.  It was a review of RGGI’s second 3-year compliance period (2012-2014)  the first covered years 2009-2011.  RGGI, initiated by New York state, was the country’s first attempt to use a market-based cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  Contrary to the fears of some that it would raise electricity rates and damage the economies of the participating states, the study found that it decreased carbon emissions, aided the economies of the participating states, reduced carbon emissions, and reduced retail electricity prices over time, reducing energy costs to consumers.  This was because most of the money raised by the auctions of the emission allowances (one for each ton of CO2 emitted) was reinvested by the states to promote energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy sources.  The losers were those who owned large old dirty inefficient power plants burning coal.  Figure ES-2 show that the actual CO2 emissions from RGGI plants decreased from about 180 million short tons to about 90 million - with about 70 million tons of the drop because of the withdrawal of New Jersey in 2011.  Over the first 6 years the sale of the emission allowances raised about $2 billion.  There is a good summary of the report in Inside Climate News.
An article by Jeff Mordock in the Wilmington, DE News Journal for July 15 report said  that Delaware’s membership in RGGI over the 3-year period of the report had created about 950 new jobs and generated about $107 million in economic activity.  Over the 3 years Delaware has spent about $40 million of the funds generated to increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce electric bills for low-income residents, and provide grants to companies working on renewable energy technology.  The article said, “Governor Markell praised RGGI’s impact on the Delaware Economy.”

Jeff Montgomery published an article in the July 17 Wilmington News Journal titled, Delaware clean-fuel vehicle buyers offered subsidies.  The governor announced that the Clean Transportation Incentive Program will provide rebates of up to: $2,200 for the purchase of a new battery or plug-in hybrid vehicle, $500 to help buy and install electric vehicle charging equipment, $1,100 for a new or retrofitted propane or natural gas vehicle or retrofitted electric vehicle, and $20,000 per vehicle for natural gas fuel systems for tractor-trailers.  These amounts are in addition to any federal incentives.  The initial $2.7 million for the program comes from the price on carbon emissions from power plants established by the auction of CO2 emission allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which involves eight other Mid-Atlantic and New England States.  Perhaps some of them might follow Delaware’s lead.
Professor Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration said that the incentives could speed adoption of electric vehicles, whose numbers, though small, are growing rapidly.  The electrical energy for them costs the equivalent of only about $1 per gallon of gasoline, but battery costs push purchase prices for electric cars far above those that use convention fuels.
NOTE: A transportation system based on electric vehicles could greatly reduce CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, especially if the electricity is generated from renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  The problem of their intermittency (the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine) can be addressed by using the batteries of the electric vehicle fleet to store the energy when these renewable sources are producing.  Kempton has championed this concept in what he calls V2G (vehicle to grid).

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. 

pastedGraphic.pdfPope Releases Encyclical on Climate Change

On June 18, Pope Francis released the first ever papal encyclical on human-caused environmental degradation, with a strong emphasis on climate change, directed to "every person living on this planet." The 184-page document, called Laudato Si or "Praise Be to You," emphasizes that climate change exacerbates global inequality, and calls for the developed nations of the world to take responsibility for the impact their actions have had and are having on the world's poor. "I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet," Pope Francis writes. "It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter . . . can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face." The document is divided into six chapters, examining environmental education; potential actions and approaches; the idea of taking an attitude of love toward the world; the human roots of current environmental degradation; the gospel of creation; and the current environmental situation. The encyclical comes in advance of the highly anticipated U.N. climate conference in Paris this December, in an effort that the Pope hopes will help catalyze global action in the fight against climate change. 

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfIEA Says Current Pledges on Climate Change Won't Limit Dangerous Warming

On June 15, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report finding that the sum of country-based climate commitments being formed in advance of the Paris negotiations will likely fail to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius, the internationally agreed upon limit to prevent dangerous climate change. Based on the current trajectory of pledges, IEA predicts average global temperature will increase 2.6 degrees C by 2100. The release said countries should revisit emissions targets every five years and emphasized the need to cap global emissions quickly if warming is to be slowed sufficiently. Improving energy efficiency, increasing investment in renewables, reducing methane emissions, banning new coal plants and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies could result in an emissions peak by 2020, IEA said. 

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfStates with Strong Environmental Movements Make Better Progress Cutting Emissions

On June 15, the scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published a study showing a correlation between a state's level of environmentalism and their level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The study found that states such as Vermont or Rhode Island ranked highly on the "green" scale and have significantly lower GHG emissions than states such as Texas, Wyoming, and Louisiana, which were ranked lowest on the green scale. The study determined a state's level of environmentalism by using the voting records of their Congressional representatives, as provided by the League of Conservation Voters, and compared that to GHG emissions beginning in 1990. The study authors concluded that the presence of a strong environmental movement has a direct impact on state GHG emissions. Sociologist and study co-author, Kenneth Frank, remarked, "The movement is having an effect - it's just happening on a state-by-state basis."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfPolling Shows Catholics Are Divided on Climate Change

On June 16, the Pew Research Center published poll findings revealing that Catholic beliefs on climate change are much the same as the general public's beliefs on climate change - along partisan lines. The study found that 30 percent more Catholic Democrats than Catholic Republicans thought global warming to be occurring, and 40 percent more Catholic Democrats accepted global warming to be caused by human activity than did Catholic Republicans. The study also found that Catholic Republicans are slightly more concerned about global warming than non-Catholic Republicans. Overall, 68 percent of the general public believe that global warming is occurring, compared to 71 percent of Catholics. These results may change in the wake of Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change. The same Pew poll noted that Catholics gave the Pope a 53 percent approval rating of his job on the environment. 

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfNASA Releases Data Showing 2015 Likely to Be Record-Setting Hot

On June 15, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released global temperature data for the month of May, indicating that May was 0.71 degrees C, or 1.3 degrees F, hotter than the long-term global average for that month. This comes as part of a continuing trend over the first five months of 2015, where average global temperatures have been 0.1 degrees C, or 0.17 degrees F, warmer than last year, the hottest year on record. NASA's temperature data shows that the beginning of 2015 has been the hottest first five months of any year ever recorded, and suggests that 2015 will likely be the hottest year on record. Climate expert and founding editor of Climate Progress, Dr. Joe Romm, commented that, "It now appears we are headed for a step-jump in global temperatures that scientists have been expecting."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfScientific Consensus on Climate Change Is Close to 99.9%

On June 16, James Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, allowed MSNBC to see an exclusive draft of his research finding that over 99.9 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is occurring. Powell said he was sharing the draft so the pope would use the most up to date numbers in his encyclical announcement on Thursday. "I don't want the pope to say 97 percent. It's wrong, and it's not trivial," he said. Powell reviewed over 24,000 peer-reviewed papers published in 2013 and 2014, authored by about 70,000 independent climate scientists, and found only five papers, authored by four individuals, that explicitly reject climate change. Powell assumed that papers lacking an explicit rejection are aligned with the prevailing scientific conclusion that anthropogenic climate change is happening. Powell stated, "It's now a ruling paradigm, as much an accepted fact in climate science as plate tectonics is in geology and evolution is in biology."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdf EPA Sends Methane Regulations to OMB for Final Review

On June 23, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its draft regulation on methane emissions from newly drilled or modified oil and natural gas wells to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a statement, "This routine step is part of EPA's January 2015 commitment under President Obama's Climate Action Plan to address methane and smog-forming emissions from the oil and gas industry." The EPA has said it will share details of the rule and invite public comment on the rule following the OMB review. The draft regulation is part of the Administration's initiative to cut methane emissions between 40 and 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. 

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdf DOE Says Canadian Oil Releases More Greenhouse Gas Emissions than US Oil

On June 9, the Department of Energy (DOE) published a peer-reviewed study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, reporting that oil extracted from Canadian tar sands produces 18 to 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional U.S. crude oil. According to the study, Canadian tar sands development will double over the next 15 years to 4.81 million barrels a day. The report authors conclude, "Without significant reduction in the energy intensity of extraction, separation, and upgrading of oil sands . . . higher emissions for gasoline and diesel production in the U.S. are expected when oil sands products become a larger fraction of the U.S. fuel mix." The study authors studied the life cycle emissions since 2008 of tar sands oil at 27 extraction sites in Alberta, Canada. 
In related news on June 26, Alberta's newly elected New Democratic Party government announced it will double Alberta's carbon tax by 2017. Its current price, C$15 per metric ton, will increase to C$20 in 2016 and C$30 in 2017. In addition, industrial facilities emitting over 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which are currently required to cut emissions 12 percent, will be required to cut emissions 15 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2017.

For more information see:

 Climate Change Threatens 50 Years of Global Health Progress

On June 23, a report published in medical journal The Lancet's Commission on Health and Climate Change said the impacts of climate change threaten to undermine the major strides made in human health over the last 50 years, declaring that addressing climate change is "the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century." The report found the largest barrier to climate action is political will, and that public health effects is underrepresented in political and general climate discourse. The report highlights a range of direct and indirect consequences of climate change-air pollution, disease, famine, floods and droughts, heat waves, mental health impacts, mass migration, severe weather, etc-which present serious risks to health. "When climate change is framed as a health issue . . . it becomes clear that we are facing a predicament that strikes at the heart of humanity," said Lancet Asia editors Helena Wang and Richard Horton.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfEPA Study Says Global Action on Climate Would Prevent 70,000 US Deaths

On June 22, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report, "Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action," which found that a global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions could avert 70,000 annual premature American deaths and hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars in economic costs by 2100. The report analyzed the impacts of meaningful mitigation efforts as well as the cost of inaction in six broad sectors: water resources, electricity, infrastructure, health, agriculture and forestry, and ecosystems. "Left unchecked, climate change affects our health, infrastructure and the outdoors we love," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "But more importantly the report shows that global action on climate change will save lives."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfNew G7 Report Links Climate Change and Security Issues
On June 19, the Group of 7 (G-7) released an independent report that they commissioned, "A New Peace for Climate," which assesses the risks climate change poses to political stability, and recommends actions to address them. The report identifies and focuses on seven compound risks that increase the possibility of conflict and instability: local resource competition, livelihood insecurity and migration, extreme weather events, volatile food prices, transboundary water management, sea-level rise and coastal degradation, and unintended effects of climate policies. The report's recommendations focus on efforts in current climate change adaptation, development cooperation, humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding policies G-7 countries can take to mitigate these threats.

For more information see:

Most Extreme Weather Linked to Climate Change, Study Says

On June 22, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change presented a scientific case that most severe weather events are affected and influenced by man-made climate change. Lead author Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) stated that contemporary trends in weather represent a "new normal," as "the environment in which all weather events occur is not what it used to be: all storms, without exception, are different." Among other instances, the study lists 2010's East Coast "snowmageddon," 2012's superstorm Sandy and 2013's supertyphoon Haiyan as "influenced by high sea surface temperatures that had a discernible human component."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfGov. Cuomo Issues Strong Plan to Advance Renewable Energy and Tackle Carbon Pollution 

On June 26, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to double the state's renewable energy sources by 2030, which would bring the proportion of NY's power generation from renewables up to 50 percent. Attaining this target would reduce the state's carbon emissions by 40 percent. NY's ambitious goals are rivaled only by California. According to Heather Leibowitz, Environment New York's Director, "The plan also reinforces that cleaning up power plants is achievable, desirable and has real benefits for citizens and the world." Cuomo's plan comes in advance of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan for states to limit emissions, with the final rule expected to be released in August.   

For more information see:

China Releases Climate Plan to Cap Emissions by 2030

On June 30, China, the world's leading greenhouse gas emitter, submitted its climate action plan to the United Nations (UN) in preparation for the UN climate conference in Paris this December. In its plan, China vowed to peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest, and cut its carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) 60-65 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. China's commitment to reduce emissions relative to GDP is reflective of its desire to combat climate change without stifling economic growth. China's pledge includes goals to increase renewable and nuclear power to 20 percent of the country's energy portfolio, and increase its forest cover by 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2030. Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, said, "This commitment will benefit China and represents a serious and credible contribution to tackle climate change. China's commitment was made possible by its ambitious clean energy policies and investments enacted over the past decade."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_11.pdf$40 Billion of National Parks in Danger from Sea Level Rise

On June 23, a National Park Service (NPS) report estimated that $40 billion of national park assets could be at risk due to a rise in sea level. The ongoing study, which focused on 40 of the 118 national parks considered vulnerable to sea levels, revealed that one meter of sea level rise (which is predicted to happen over the next 100-150 years) would expose park assets, such as historic sites, museum collections, and cultural resources, to billions of dollars' worth of damage and degradation. The report details that Cape Hatteras National Seashore alone may see $1.2 billion dollars in damage from destroyed exhibits, lighthouses, and other areas. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell commented, "Climate change is visible at national parks across the country, but this report underscores the economic importance of cutting carbon pollution and making public lands more resilient to its dangerous impacts."

For more information see:

White House Updates "Social Cost of Carbon" 

On July 2, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a blog post with changes to its calculation of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), the long-term dollar value of one ton of carbon dioxide's (CO2) damage to society. The OMB blog stated that the new 2015 SCC updated value is $36/ton of CO2, and announced the publication of a formal response to the 150 substantive comments and 39,000 form letters submitted in 2013 during the last public comment period on the SCC. In addition, OMB has requested the assistance of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to assist with future updates to ensure the value is as accurate and effective as possible. The public will continue to receive opportunities to comment on the SCC.

For more information see:

NOTE: The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is the incremental cost to society caused by the emission of one metric ton of CO2, and is meant to include damage to agriculture, human health, property, and changes in energy costs (e.g., for heating and air conditioning), but does not include all costs, for example premature human death or species extinctions.  It’s value depends strongly on the discount rate used and on the time period between when the emission occurs and when the damage occurs.  For more detail see the EPA’s website titled, The Social Cost of Carbon.

pastedGraphic_12.pdfSenators Introduce Competing Amendments on K-12 Climate Education 

On July 9, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MI) introduced an amendment to "The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015" which would require federal agencies to give K-12 teaching materials to states and local educational agencies that describe the "natural causes and cycles of climate change." Specifically, Sen. Wicker's amendment tells the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide materials which describe "the uncertainties inherent in climate modeling and the myriad factors that influence the climate of the Earth." Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has offered two competing amendments, the first of which would set up a federal grant program to promote climate science curricula, and the second of which is a nonbinding resolution that the United States has a responsibility to educate children about climate change.

For more information see:

Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Amendment to Fund Green Climate Fund 

On July 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 to pass an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill. The approved amendment allows the State Department to put aside funds for investment in the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Two Republicans voted for the amendment, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Sen. Kirk is also a co-sponsor. The South Korea-based GCF is an international fund set up by the United Nations (UN) which seeks to invest money from developed countries in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in the developing world. President Obama promised $3 billion to the GCF in 2014. Follow-through on this promise will be important for an ambitious deal on climate during UN negotiations in Paris this December.

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pastedGraphic_13.pdfStates and Regions in North and South America Sign Climate Change Action Statement

On July 7-9, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change hosted the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto. The summit brought together indigenous leaders, environmental groups and representatives from states, provinces, cities and regions in the Western Hemisphere to discuss the urgency of climate action. A pledge signed by 22 state and regional governments (including Ontario, Quebec, Sao Paolo, and Vermont) called for their governments to support carbon pricing (emphasis added), undertake climate action in key sectors, meet existing greenhouse gas reduction targets, and undergo public reporting. The first ever Pan-American climate action statement also called for more to be done ahead of the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris this December.

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Report Calls for $1 Trillion in Annual Spending on Climate

On July 6, the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate published a report with recommendations on how to transition to a global low carbon economy. Among its recommendations, the report called for a global annual investment of $1 trillion in clean energy. The report says if its ten recommendations are followed, by 2030 they will save cities $1.58 trillion on annual energy costs and achieve 96 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to avoid two degrees Celsius in global warming. The recommendations include strategies such as improving urban infrastructure, public transit, energy efficiency, and waste management. Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico and current Chair of the Commission, said, "This report shows that success is possible: we can achieve economic growth and close the dangerous emissions gap."

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NOTE: $1 trillion is a little over 1% of the world GDP.  Nicholas Stern, the author of the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change urged the governments of the world to invert 1-2% of its GDP annually to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

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

1 comment:

  1. The main cause of the Global warming is excess temperature on the earth.
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    Global Warming Times