Tuesday, October 20, 2015

CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR OCTOBER 2015

CC NEWS FOR OCT. 2015

The Guardian on Sept. 15 published an article by Suzanne Goldenberg titled, Edelman ends work with coal producers and climate change deniers.
She wrote, The world’s biggest public relations company has decided it will no longer work with coal producers and climate change deniers.
Edelman said it believes such clients pose a threat to the company’s legitimacy and its bottom line.  
The exclusion of coal and climate denial, as well as fake front groups that oppose action on global warming, is outlined in internal communications obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by company executives. It signals an important shift in a company that reported earnings of $833m (£540m) and has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the US and globally about climate change.”
Michael Stewart, the President and CEO, said, “When you are trying in some way to obfuscate the truth or use misinformation and half-truths that is what we would consider getting into the work of greenwashing, and that is something we would never propose or work we would support our client doing.  Greenwashing, fake front groups, anything like that is completely inappropriate.”
NOTE: Significantly “the company lost a number of big clients and key executives earlier this year, in part because of its position on climate change.”  PR is, after all, a business.
The NY TImes for Sept. 23 had an article by Justin Gillis and Nicholas St. Fleur titled, Global Companies Joining Climate Change Efforts.  The authors wrote, “Some of the world’s most prominent companies are expected to set a long-term target on Wednesday of powering their operations entirely with renewable energy, the latest in a wave of commitments suggesting that corporations are becoming more serious about battling global warming.
In addition, backers of a campaign to divest from fossil fuels announced Tuesday that investment managers controlling assets of $2.6 trillion had joined their effort, a 50-fold increase from a year ago and a sign that the divestment movement had spread far beyond its modest origins on American college campuses.
Nine major companies are expected on Wednesday to join a global coalition of firms intent on converting to renewable energy. The new members include Johnson & Johnson, Procter & GambleStarbucksWalmart and Goldman Sachs.” 
“Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer-products company, said it would convert to 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, up from 7 percent today. The new target, a culmination of years of environmental efforts by the company, means that Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, Tide detergent and many other goods commonly found in American pantries will increasingly be made with green energy.
“We’ve been very clear that we think climate change is something that’s real and needs to be addressed,” Len Sauers, P.&G.’s vice president for global sustainability, said in an interview. “People that use our products expect a company like P.&G. to be responsible.””
“In a briefing on Tuesday, leaders of the American Petroleum Institute criticized the divestment campaign as unrealistic, and released a report stating that their industry is helping to finance technologies that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. “There are those who would advocate for no fossil fuels at all, which is frankly irresponsible, since the United States depends on fossil fuels to meet 80 percent of its energy needs,” said Jack N. Gerard, president of the petroleum institute.
One coal company, Peabody Energy, has begun warning investors that the divestment campaign could be a material risk to its business. But most fossil fuel companies are not offering any such warning.
In fact, though the companies have discovered several times more reserves of fossil fuels than scientists say the world can safely afford to burn, they are spending several hundred billion dollars a year looking for additional coal, oil and natural gas.”

The Sept. 25th issue of The New Yorker has an article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled, 

She writes, In an announcement timed to coincide with today’s summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama, the Chinese government said that it would institute a national cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, starting in 2017. Under the system, large emitters, such as power plants and steel manufacturers, will be assigned a certain number of tons of allowable emissions. If they emit fewer, they can sell the resulting credits; if they emit more, they’ll need to buy credits. The obvious point of such a program is to use financial incentives to spur emissions reductions and limit global warming.”
“Credit for coming up with the idea of using a cap-and-trade system to cost-effectively cut pollution is usually given to an economist named Thomas Crocker, who’s now retired from the University of Wyoming. …. A Republican Administration was the first to put such a system in place. The Reagan Administration used a cap-and-trade approach to phase out lead in gasoline. Then, under President George H. W. Bush, the U.S. set up a cap-and-trade system to curb power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide.”
Kolbert points out that somewhere along the line, Republicans turned against cap-and-trade, calling it a “cap-and-tax,”  even though it’s market-based.  President Obama tried to get a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions in his first term, but it couldn’t pass the senate without some Republican support; even some Democrats balked.  Now he’s trying to reduce U.S. carbon emissions through the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for plants that generate electricity using fossil fuels.  While it will take years to tell how effective the Chinese will be in reducing carbon emissions, she writes, “Certainly, for the sake of the planet, Republicans and Democrats alike should hope that they can. If the program works, then maybe they can export it to the United States.”

The NY TImes for Sept. 27 had an article by David Gelles titled online, Microsoft Leads Movement to Offset Emissions With Internal Carbon Tax.  He wrote, When Microsoft business unit managers calculate their profits or losses each quarter, they consider more than just sales and expenses. They also factor in the price of carbon. Even more radically, the business units are charged an internal tax by Microsoft based on their energy usage. The money goes into a common fund that invests in environmental sustainability projects. The company’s program is at the forefront of a fast-growing effort called carbon pricing. This year, 437 companies are calculating an internal price on carbon, up sharply from 150 last year, according to a new report by CDP, a nonprofit group that monitors carbon disclosures for companies.
Motivated by a mixture of moral conviction, hard-nosed economic forecasting and expectation of tougher regulations down the road, companies are scrambling to understand just how much energy they use. Like Microsoft, some, including Disney and Shell, are voluntarily charging themselves, and using that money to build solar panels and wind farms.”
The carbon fee is already changing behavior at Microsoft. Because business units are charged on the basis of their energy usage, they have a real incentive to reduce their energy consumption. Over all, Microsoft is using more power from renewable sources.  Other companies voluntarily monitoring their carbon usage include Exxon Mobil and General Motors. An additional 583 big companies told CDP they planned to start carbon pricing within two years.”
Real carbon taxes — and not just voluntary efforts — may not become commonplace anytime soon. Yet more big companies and their investors appear likely to decide that internal carbon pricing makes sense ethically and economically.  “This year the level of investor engagement on this topic has turned a corner,” said Ms. Simpson of Calpers. “You now have trillions of dollars asking for this, rather than millions. And as with everything, money talks.””
NOTE: Calpers  is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which manages more than $300 billion. It supports carbon pricing. 

Yahoo News posted an article on Sept 28 by Julie Bykowicz titled, Republican megadonor urges talk on climate change solutions.  It says, Republican businessman Jay Faison says his party should stop fighting science and start talking solutions to climate change. He has $175 million in potential political donations to help inspire them. And if that's not enough, he's commissioned a survey, released Monday, that he says shows voters agree.
"I'm pretty frustrated about the political divide," Faison said. "This is too important to leave to the Democrats."
Faison made his fortune in 2013 with the sale of his majority stake in his audio-visual equipment company, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He sank much of his profit into the ClearPath Foundation and a separate politically active policy group; both are devoted to moving Republicans beyond saying that the climate is not changing — or, if it is, that humans have nothing to do with it.”
NOTE:  While denying climate science might have been a useful political strategy for the Republican Party at one time, since it brought in a lot of money from fossil fuel companies and individuals like the Koch brothers, it’s becoming increasing untenable as the damage from unbridled climate change becomes more obvious to nearly everyone.  I predict that unless the G.O.P. comes around, as Faison is encouraging it do, the denial and misinformation will destroy the Republican Party.
On Sept. 30 Bob Simison of InsideClimate News posted an article title, ExxonMobil Faces Heightened Risk of Climate Litigation, Its Critics Say.
The interest in pursuing legal action against Exxon has been sharpened by new disclosures from an eight-month InsideClimate News investigation documenting extensive concern within the company about the risks of global warming dating back nearly 40 years, according to environmental advocates, litigators and legal experts.
The evidence, much of it drawn from internal Exxon documents, shows Exxon understood that climate change posed catastrophic risks to people if nothing was done to control pollution from fossil fuels. It was also aware of material risks to the company if the use of fossil fuels had to be limited.”
“"I think the case is already there to be made," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island. He has raised the possibility of a Justice Department investigation under federal racketeering law. A former prosecutor, he is one of the Senate's leading voices for action to address the climate crisis.”
The NY Times for Oct. 2 published an article by Ellen Barry and Coral Davenport titled, India Announces Plan to Lower Rate of Greenhouse Gas EmissionsIt says, Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energyIndia, the world’s third-largest carbon polluter, was the last major country to issue its plan before a major summit meeting in Paris in December aimed at forging a sweeping new accord that would for the first time commit every country on earth to enacting new policies to cut fossil fuel emissions.  At the heart of the Paris deal will be the plans put forth by each government detailing how it will help its economy make a transition to low-carbon energy sources.
For years, India has been viewed as an intransigent outlier in global climate-change talks. Indian leaders have long argued that their priority was lifting a vast population out of poverty, and that this could not be done swiftly without the rapid expansion of coal-fired power, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution.  They also maintain that rich countries like the United States bear moral responsibility for global warming and should not deny poor countries the chance to build their economies.”
India is not promising to reduce their carbon emissions, like the world’s other major emitters (India is the 3rd largest after the U.S.) but to show their rate of growth.  Lifting most of their people out of desperate poverty is their highest priority.
NOTE: On a per capita basis India’s carbon dioxide emissions (ca. 2 metric tons/yr) are much lower that those of the U.S. (16), China (7), and other major emitters; however it has a huge and growing population, rivaling that of China.
The Guardian on Oct. 5 published an article by Dana Nuccitelli titled, The Republican Party stands alone in climate denial.  The article reported on a study of the positions of conservative political parties in 9 major industrial countries, and found that the Republican Party in the U.S. - at least its leadership - is the only one to deny the reality or importance of climate change.  
So, what’s different about the United States? One factor is the immensely profitable and politically influential fossil fuel industry.”
“The answer may lie in a combination of fossil fuel industry influence, and increasing, record levels of political polarization.”
“… poll results are consistent with previous surveys finding that while Republican voters generally don’t see climate change as a top priority, a majority of Republican voters support regulating carbon as a pollutant, and a plurality even support President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.”
“With the entire rest of the world in agreement about the need to tackle the threats posed by human-caused climate change, and with a rift forming in the Republican Party over the extreme stance of its leaders on this and other issues, it’s only a matter of time before we see an inevitable shift back towards moderation, realism, and real conservatism in the Republican Party position on climate change.”
NOTE: Let’s hope and pray that the author is right.
On Oct. 7 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences posted an article by Benjamin Strauss, Scott Kulp and Anders Levermann titled, Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level.
A section titled Significance says, As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the window to limit global warming below 2 °C appears to be closing. Associated projections for sea-level rise generally range near or below 1 m by 2100. However, paleontological and modeling evidence indicates long-term sea-level sensitivity to warming that is roughly an order of magnitude higher. Here we develop relationships between cumulative carbon emissions and long-term sea-level commitment and explore implications for the future of coastal developments in the United States. The results offer a new way to compare different emissions scenarios or policies and suggest that the long-term viability of hundreds of coastal municipalities and land currently inhabited by tens of millions of persons hang in the balance.”
The Abstract says in part, “Analysis based on previously published relationships linking emissions to warming and warming to rise indicates that unabated carbon emissions up to the year 2100 would commit an eventual global sea-level rise of 4.3–9.9 m. (emphasis added)   Based on detailed topographic and population data, local high tide lines, and regional long-term sea-level commitment for different carbon emissions and ice sheet stability scenarios, we compute the current population living on endangered land at municipal, state, and national levels within the United States. For unabated climate change, we find that land that is home to more than 20 million people is implicated  and is widely distributed among different states and coasts. The total area includes 1,185–1,825 municipalities where land that is home to more than half of the current population would be affected, among them at least 21 cities exceeding 100,000 residents. Under aggressive carbon cuts, more than half of these municipalities would avoid this commitment if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet remains stable.”
NOTE1: ClimateCentral, from which Benjamin Strauss comes, has developed an interactive mapping tool called Surging Seas Mapping Choices, which allows the user to enter the names of cities or the numbers of zip codes in the U.S. and explore the effects of different carbon emission scenarios on the areas flooded,  based on global emissions from now to 2100 and assuming that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet remains stable.
NOTE2: As serious as Strauss et al. portray the sea level rise issue, I’m afraid that they seriously underestimate the actual threat.  They wrote, “unabated carbon emissions up to the year 2100 would commit an eventual global sea-level rise of 4.3–9.9 m.” (emphasis added)  In his book, The Long Thaw (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009), geologist David Archer shows the relationship between sea level (meters) and global mean temperature (degrees C) in his Figure 17 - from the glacial maximum 20 kyr ago, when the global temperature was about 6 degrees lower than today and sea level was 120 m lower,  to the Eocene 40 Myr ago when the temperature was about 4 degrees warmer than today, there was no glacial ice, and sea level was 80 m higher than now.
Archer’s Figure 17.  Correlation of sea level with  global average temperature in the geologic past, compared with the IPCC forecast for sea level level rise by the  year 2100.
The IPCC forecast of a temperature about 3 degrees warmer than today and sea level about 1 m is shown as the open point.  It is not on the dashed line because enough time will not have passed by 2100 to reached thermal equilibrium.  My calculations show that if global emissions increase by 2% per year from now till 2100, we will reach more than 900 ppm CO2 - more than enough to increase the global temperature by 4 degrees and eventually melt all of the ice.
Grist magazine for Oct. 7 posted an article by Raven Rakla titled, California just signed a landmark bill to tackle climate change.  She reported that Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed SB 350, requiring that 50% of California’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030.  This will give the state the third highest renewable energy requirement in the country, with Hawaii first at 100% renewable by 2045 and Vermont second at 75% by 2032.  Forty percent of the state’s carbon emissions come from burning transportation fuels, and the original bill had a goal of reducing these emissions 50% by 2030.  Unfortunately, intense lobbying by the oil industry succeeded in removing that section from the bill.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) sent out an email on Oct. 9 announcing a briefing in Washington, DC on Oct. 13 titled, The PREPARE Act for Extreme Weather: Saving Lives and Taxpayer MoneyPREPARE stands for Preparedness and Risk Management for Extreme Weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness  It is to be introduced later this month with sponsors from both parties  as H.R. 3190.  In describing the hearing EESI writes, “Over the past four years, the United States has been hit by 42 major weather disasters across 44 states, resulting in 1,286 deaths and $227 billion in economic losses. In its two latest High Risk Lists, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited extreme weather as one of the greatest threats to the federal government's balance sheet.”  Materials from this briefing will be posted here.
NOTE: If the House can pass this bill with bipartisan support, it will be a blow for common sense.

The NY Times published an article by the Editorial Board on Oct. 11 titled, Teaching the Truth About Climate Change.  It says, Misinformation about climate change is distressingly common in the United States — a 2014 Yale study found that 35 percent of Americans believe that global warming is caused mostly by natural phenomena rather than human activity, and 34 percent think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is even happening. (In fact, an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is here and that it is caused by humans.) One way to stop the spread of this misinformation is to teach children about climate change.
The Next Generation Science Standards offer one guide for doing so. Developed by a committee of scientists and education experts and honed by teams in 26 states before their release in 2013, the standards set forth a variety of scientific practices and concepts for students from kindergarten through 12th grade to master.”
Fifteen states, including New Jersey, California and Kentucky, have adopted the standards, as have about 40 school districts in other states. Some states that have yet to adopt them, including New York, already have standards that incorporate climate change. In September, Alabama adopted standards that differ from the Next Generation Science Standards but still require students to understand how humans contribute to changes in climate.”
In Tennessee, however, “new science standards now under review call for high school students to “analyze data linking human activity to climate change” and to “design solutions to address human impacts on climate change.” At the seventh-grade level, however, they require students to use data “to engage in argument the role that human activities play in global climate change.” That standard appears to be in line with Tennessee’s 2012 law allowing teachers to help students “review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” That law was widely seen as supporting the teaching of evolution and climate change as controversies rather than as settled science.” (emphasis added)
NOTE: Keeping young people and citizens generally ignorant of the latest science on climate change is no way to prepare them for the climate crisis to come.  Some of you may remember the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, where a teacher named John Scopes was taken to court for violating a Tennessee law that forbade the teaching of evolution in any state-funded school.  It’s amazing that Al Gore was elected to the Senate from Tennessee.

While most of have heard about the severe drought  and wildfires in California this year, Doug Stanglin and Dolye Rice posted an article in USA Today on Oct. 16 titled, Mudslide buries I-5 north of Los Angeles. in 5 feet of mud.  They reported that flash floods caused mudslides that stranded hundreds of vehicles and closed the normally busy highway.  “One rain gauge in the Leona Valley reported 3.38 inches of rain in one hour (of which 1.81 inches was in 30 minutes), which the National Weather Service in Los Angeles described as a "1,000-year rainfall event."
NOTE: Both more extreme droughts and more extreme rainfall events are expected in a warming world.  Higher temperatures increase the rate of evaporation and also allow the atmosphere to hold more water, which can come down in a short period of time.

Doyle Rice had another article in the same issue titled, While Atlantic has been mild, Pacific storm season has been wild.  Typhoon Koppu, which is is expected to hit the Philippines the weekend of Oct. 17-18 and may strengthen to a Category 4 typhoon, is the 46th named tropical cyclone in the Pacific this year - a new record.  Typically at this time of year there have been 36.  One way to measure a season’s total potential for damage is called the Accumulated Cyclonic Energy (ACE), which takes into account the strength and duration of all of the cyclonic storms in a season.  (They are called hurricanes to the east of the International Date Line and typhoons to the west.)  The ACE in the Pacific so far this year of 615 is the highest till now since accurate records began in 1971.  Warm water fuels the storms, and ocean temperatures near Hawaii are near record highs.  While the Pacific has been unusually warm, that Atlantic has been unusually cool, with only three hurricanes this year and an ACE so far of only 55.  A warmer Pacific and cooler Atlantic are called ‘El Nino’.

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

Action on Climate Change Sought by Group of House Republicans 

On September 17, a group of eleven House Republicans led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) introduced a resolution calling for increased study and ways to address climate change, including mitigating human activities that contribute to climate change. The resolution does not call for any specific action to be taken in regards to emissions. Rep. Gibson commented, "The most important first step forward is recognizing that this is also a fundamentally conservative issue." The Republican lawmakers introduced the resolution exactly one week prior to Pope Francis' address to a joint session of Congress.

For more information see:
  

pastedGraphic.pdfFaith Activists Deliver 166 Letters to Catholic Lawmakers on Climate Change

On September 16, faith activists convened by the Franciscan Action Network and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network delivered 166 copies of the Pope's encyclical on climate change and a letter supporting HR 1027 to every Catholic member of Congress. HR 1027, the "Healthy Climate and Family Security Act," sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), would place a fee on U.S. carbon emissions and return the revenue to all American citizens in quarterly "carbon dividends." The pope is speaking to a joint session of Congress on September 24.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_1.pdfUN Climate Chief: International Commitments Add Up to Increase Greater than 2 degrees C

On September 15, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), stated that current proposed national climate commitments would limit global temperature increases to three degrees Celsius by 2100. Scientists have agreed that a global average temperature increase above two degrees C will cause dangerous climate change. During a presentation the following day, Figueres said that in order to cap warming at two degrees C by 2030, the global community would have already needed to reduce emissions by approximately 15 gigatons; current proposed commitments add up to a reduction of about five gigatons by 2030. Figueres said commitments were "movement in the right direction, but it does not get us to the two degree pathway."

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_2.pdfAlmost Half of World's Largest Companies Are Trying to Stop Climate Action

On September 16, a new study released by InfluenceMap, using a methodology developed with the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that 45 percent of the world's largest companies are working to obstruct legislation that tackles climate change. A further 95 percent of the companies belong to a trade association which is working to halt climate action. InfluenceMap judged companies in industries from transportation to energy, and gave them a grade of A for positive action to F for negative action. The bottom four companies were Koch Industries, Phillips 66, Reliance Industries, and Duke Energy, three of which are located in the United States.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_3.pdfStudy Finds Sierra Nevada Snowpack at Lowest Level in 500 Years

On September 14, a study published in Nature Climate Change estimated that the snowpack on April 1, 2015 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was five percent of its historical average. "The 2015 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is unprecedented," said author Valerie Trouet from the University of Arizona. "We expected it to be bad, but we certainly didn't expect it to be the worst in the past 500 years." The study relied on tree-ring data series from 1,500 centuries-old blue oaks to analyze precipitation, and therefore snowfall. The Sierra Nevada Mountains supply 33 percent of California's water.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_4.pdfSenate Democrats Introduce Energy Bill
On September 22, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) proposed a bill, the American Energy Innovation Act of 2015, which will comprehensively address the energy sector and cut greenhouse gas emissions two percent every year until 2025. The bill, which has 28 cosponsors, would repeal some fossil fuel subsidies, give tax incentives and grants to clean energy, and promote energy efficiency in buildings. Sen. Cantwell said the bill is a "technology-driven pathway to a clean energy future."
For more information see:


Global Regional Leaders Sign Climate Pledge in New York
On September 24, regional leaders and mayors from countries all over the world gathered in New York to sign a pledge to cut greenhouse gases 80-95 percent below 1990 levels, on the same day Pope Francis arrived in New York. The voluntary pledge, called the "Under 2 MOU," now has about 40 signatories, including major cities and provinces, representing 313 million people and $8.7 trillion in gross domestic product. "By making cooperative commitments and supporting one another, we are already doing what many national governments are failing to do," commented Glen Murray, Ontario's environment minister.
For more information see:


Israel Announces New Emissions Reduction Target
On September 20, Israel approved a new emissions reduction target, committing to cut emissions by 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, five percent less than the target recommended by the Environmental Ministry in July. Setting this target is a step toward submitting Israel's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations in advance of climate negotiations in Paris this December. To meet this target, Israel will need to increase its renewable energy generation from two percent of total power generation to 17 percent, decrease electricity consumption 17 percent and lower private vehicle use 20 percent, all by 2030.
For more information see:


pastedGraphic_5.pdfMobile Game "Angry Birds" Releases Climate Change-Themed Version
On September 21, Earth Day Network and Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds, released Champions for Earth, a mobile game where players encounter facts about climate change and must take action to protect the planet. To kick the game off, Rovio is hosting a tournament from September 21-27 during United Nations Environment Week. The game creators hope this new take on Angry Birds, which has been downloaded three billion times, will spread awareness of climate change. "Incorporating climate change messages into the most popular video game ever is a great way to communicate with a broad and diverse audience," said Lucia Grenna from Connect4Climate, one of many organizations to partner to promote the game tournament.
For more information see:


 NOTE: I’ve long thought that games could provide a powerful way to educate people - especially the young - about climate change and what can be done about it.

pastedGraphic_6.pdfNumber of Carbon Pricing Policies Implemented Has Nearly Doubled since 2012
On September 20, the World Bank released its annual State and Trends of Carbon Pricing study, which reports that the number of carbon pricing policies has increased from 20 to 38 since 2012. However, the study says current low prices (more than 85 percent of prices are less than $10/ metric ton) do not adequately incentivize countries to prevent dangerous global warming. The World Bank expects more nations to put carbon prices in place after the United Nations Paris conference. "Carbon pricing is central to the quest for a cost-effective transition toward zero net emissions in the second half of the century," said Angel GurrĂ­a, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
For more information see:


pastedGraphic_7.pdfPope Speaks to U.S. Congress on Climate Change
 From September 23-24, Pope Francis visited Washington, DC, giving a public address outside the White House and then, for the first time ever, addressed a joint session of Congress. A major focus of the Pope's comments was the moral imperative to act on climate change. At the White House, Pope Francis congratulated President Obama on the Clean Power Plan. During his address to Congress, the Pope urged politicians to take "courageous actions" on climate change, stating, "I am convinced that we can make a difference."
For more information see:


pastedGraphic_8.pdfCalifornia Updates Regulations to Adopt Low Carbon Fuel Standard
On September 25, the California State Air Resources Board voted to restore a low carbon fuel standard, which requires the state to cut 10 percent of the carbon emissions from transportation fuels by 2020. The regulation is estimated to cost just a few cents per gallon extra, leading the average consumer to pay an additional annual $5-$21 in 2017, and $12-$48 in 2020. The regulation was originally enacted in 2009, but after industry court challenges it was delayed until 2011. The Air Resources Board was required to re-approve the rule in 2015 after ethanol companies won a suit over procedural issues.
For more information see:


pastedGraphic_9.pdfCalifornia Releases Draft Strategy on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
On September 30, the California Air Resources Board released a draft plan to reduce the concentration of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) in the atmosphere. SLCPs (black carbon, fluorinated gases, and methane) may leave the atmosphere rapidly, but their potency as greenhouse gases can be hundreds or thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2). The plan notes that SLCPs "are estimated to be responsible for about 40 percent of current net climate forcing." Stanford environmental professor Mark Jacobson commented, "Because they're short-lived, if you control their emissions, you can slow global warming faster."

For more information see:


Current Climate Pledges Insufficient to Prevent Two Degrees C of Warming
On September 28, Climate Interactive projected that national pledges to date, which cover over 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, would still allow 3.5 degrees C of global warming by 2100, reducing "business-as-usual" warming by only one degree C. "National actions are mounting, but it is clear that these alone are not enough to address this global threat," commented Jennifer Morgan of World Resources Institute. Climate Interactive used the Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support (C-ROADS) climate policy simulation model, calibrated to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report results, and concluded that to keep warming to two degrees C, all countries need to peak GHG emissions around 2030, and then reduce them 3.5-4 percent per year.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_10.pdfMajority of GOP Voters Indicate They Think Climate Change Is Happening
On September 28, ClearPath, a nonprofit promoting climate change discussion among Republicans, released results from a poll conducted mid-August. The survey found 85 percent of the 500 Republicans surveyed think the climate is changing, and 56 percent think human activity is a contributing factor, a striking contrast to the overall climate denial from many GOP presidential candidates. "At the moment some of the louder voices in the party are dominating this debate. But as we move out of the entertainment phase of the campaign and look at more of the policy platforms, there's a way for Republicans to talk about this that depoliticizes climate," expressed Kristen Anderson, one of the three pollsters who conducted the survey.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_11.pdfBank of England Chief Warns of Climate Change Threats
On September 29, Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned insurers during a dinner at Lloyd's of London (the world's oldest insurance market) about the future threats of climate change on financial stability. "The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come," said Mr. Carney, noting that almost 20 percent of FTSE 100 companies are in the natural resources and extractions sector and should therefore pay close attention to increasing weather-related disasters that would greatly impact their industries. Mr. Carney added that most of the cost associated with climate change will fall on future generations, and that this may be a reason why there is not more action being taken to fix the problem.

For more information see:


pastedGraphic_12.pdfEnergy Systems in Danger from Increasing Extreme Weather
On September 30, the World Energy Council (WEC) released a report, "The road the resilience - managing and financing extreme weather risks," which found that extreme weather events occurred four times as often in 2014 as in 1980. The report states that the energy sector needs to prepare for increased risks associated with extreme weather, using innovative financing mechanisms such as adaptation bonds, catastrophe bonds, and weather derivatives. "We are on a path where today's unlikely events will become tomorrow's reality," said WEC's secretary-general Christoph Frei. "Current estimates . . . do not fully account for the additional financing required to accommodate these new emerging risks."

For more information see:


 People More Motivated to Act on Climate When Aware of Co-Benefits
On September 28, a study was published in Nature Climate Change, "Co-benefits of Addressing Climate Change Can Motivate Action Around the World," which found that people are more likely to take action on climate change when they were aware of the co-benefits. Specifically, when climate action led to advances in science, economic gains, or increased caring and moral behavior in a community, people were more motivated to move on climate. The study also found that people who are unconvinced climate change is happening were still motivated to take climate action when informed of co-benefits. The study states, "Communicating co-benefits could motivate action on climate change where traditional approaches have stalled."  

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pastedGraphic_13.pdfNew Top United Nations Climate Scientist Elected

On October 6, Professor Hoesung Lee of South Korea was elected as the new chair of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), after former chair Rajendra Pachauri of India resigned earlier this year. Lee won the vote 78-56 in a run-off with Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of Belgium; they were selected from an original group of six, all-male nominees. Lee is now the fourth person to lead the IPCC in its 27-year history. "I believe it's very important that for the next round of assessment, we should be able to increase the intellectual contributions from developing countries," Lee said. "And also improving gender balance in our author teams is very, very important." He will lead the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, which will be completed in five to seven years.

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pastedGraphic_14.pdfOECD Report Says Rich Countries Are Leveraging Two Thirds of Promised Climate Finance

On October 7, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Climate Policy Initiative released a report which found rich countries are providing two-thirds of their target $100 billion in annual climate financing to developing countries, a goal they committed to reach by 2020. The report said developed countries raised $61.8 billion in public and private climate finance in 2014, and averaged $57 billion annually from 2013-2014. Two-thirds of the money provided thus far has gone to cutting emissions in developing countries, with 16 percent going to climate adaptation measures. "Our estimates paint an encouraging picture of progress. We are about halfway in terms of time [between the pledge made in 2009 and the 2020 deadline] and more than halfway there in terms of finance, but clearly there is still some way to go," said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the OECD.

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pastedGraphic_15.pdfOil Companies Have Differing Views on How Best to Cut Emissions

The week of October 5th, oil executives advocated for different ways to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during the Oil and Money conference in London, co-hosted by Energy Intelligence and the International New York Times. U.S.-based ExxonMobil Corp. chief executive officer (CEO) Rex Tillerson said free market competition and technological innovation alone should be sufficient to curb GHG emissions. In contrast, Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell PLC CEO Ben van Beurdan said market forces were insufficient, and government intervention was needed to cut emissions - specifically, a global carbon tax. Tillerson did note that he would be amenable to a revenue neutral carbon tax.  (emphasis added)

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 Citigroup to Cut Its Coal Financing to Fight Climate Change

On October 5, Citigroup Inc., the 3rd-largest U.S. bank, announced it would reduce its financing of coal mining projects, especially projects that use mountaintop removal methods. Citing climate change, the company's new Environmental & Social Policy Framework guidelines state, "Going forward, we commit to continue this trend of reducing our global credit exposure to coal mining companies." Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, said, "With Bank of America, Credit Agricole, and now Citigroup withdrawing support for coal mining, this announcement shows major momentum away from financing coal by the banking sector." Earlier this year Citigroup announced that it would lend, invest, and/or facilitate $100 billion towards climate and environmental solutions.  (emphasis added)

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House Democrats Call for DOJ Investigation into ExxonMobil

On October 14, California Democratic Congressmen Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote to the Department of Justice asking them to investigate ExxonMobil for behavior "similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public." In 1999, DOJ found that tobacco companies had violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act by lying to the public about the connection between cigarettes and cancer. The Congressmen think ExxonMobil may have also violated the RICO act by lying about links between climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The letter follows investigative journalism by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times which uncovered evidence that ExxonMobil has been downplaying the scientific certainty of climate change.

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New York Governor Proposes Linking RGGI and California Carbon Markets

On October 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his intentions to link the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with carbon markets in California, and potentially Quebec and Ontario as well. "Connecting these markets would be more cost-effective and stable, thereby supporting clean energy and driving international carbon emission reductions," Cuomo's office said in a statement. On the same day, Governor Cuomo announced three other major actions to combat climate change in his state. He signed the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding, a California-led agreement for local governments worldwide to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) by 2100. Cuomo also pledged to bring solar power to 150,000 homes and businesses and to install renewable energy at all 64 campuses of State University of New York by 2020.

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New UN Climate Science Chief Calls for Price on Carbon

On October 12, Hoesung Lee, the new head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke at a news conference in South Korea, calling for a price on carbon dioxide emissions as a practical tool for curbing climate change and encouraging more investment in renewable energy technology. Although he did not specify whether countries should adopt a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or other policy mechanism, Lee said, "The pricing methods vary and it must be chosen based on each country's conditions. (emphasis added)  But one thing is sure that they need to pay as much as they release greenhouse gases. There's an unavoidable need to price the carbon emissions." Lee also said the IPCC should shift from only identifying problems to also examining opportunities and solutions.

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Coal Companies Call for International Action on Climate Change

On October 14, over one dozen carbon-emitting industries, including major coal-mining companies, power utilities, and industrial-equipment makers, released a statement urging government action on climate change, especially at the upcoming Paris climate negotiations in December this year. Among the 14 signing companies were BHP Billiton Plc, Rio Tinto Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc, and Alcoa Incorporated. "We recognize the rising environmental, social, economic, and security risks posed by climate change, and that delaying action will result in greater risks and costs," the statement declared. "An effective response to climate change requires strong government leadership, and presents both enormous challenges and significant economic opportunities for the private sector."

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pastedGraphic_16.pdfNext Decade of Emissions Will Determine Whether Most Antarctic Ice Melts

On October 14, a study was published in the journal Nature which stated that if the global temperature increase is more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, Antarctica's ice shelves will collapse, creating an unstoppable flow from the Antarctic ice sheet which will contribute 15.8 inches to sea level rise by 2100. By 2300, the ice shelf will add 0.6-3 meters (1.9-9.8 feet) to sea levels. The study authors state that only by limiting greenhouse gas emissions to the most constrained emissions pathway examined in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can significant ice loss be avoided. That pathway, RCP 2.6, requires substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions (40-70 percent cuts globally) by 2100. The study authors add that the world can only avoid the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves by cutting emissions in the next few decades.

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

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