Monday, May 23, 2016



ScienceDaily posted an article on April 7 from Cornell University titled, 'Climate-smart soils' may help balance the carbon budget.  They wrote. 
“Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon and using prudent agricultural management practices that tighten the soil-nitrogen cycle can yield enhanced soil fertility, bolster crop productivity, improve soil biodiversity, and reduce erosion, runoff and water pollution. These practices also buffer crop and pasture systems against the impacts of climate change.
Currently, Earth's atmosphere holds about 830 petagrams (1 trillion kilograms) of carbon and humans add about 10 petagrams of carbon to the atmosphere every year, because of industrial and agricultural waste, and fossil-fuel burning vehicles, according to Lehmann. Soils, however, hold about 4,800 petagrams of carbon to a depth of 2 meters, which is six times the amount of carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere. The good news is that soils have the potential to hold even more, said the scientists.”
"The mitigation potential of existing and future soil management practices could be as high as 8 petagrams per year, but how much is achievable depends on the implementation strategies, and socio-economic and policy constraints," ..
NOTE: A petagram (1 trillion kilograms) is a billion metric tonnes.  It sounds as though the right soil management practices are capable of absorbing a large fraction - perhaps as much as 80% of current human CO2 emissions - at least until the soil becomes saturated with carbon.  I question however whether such practices could be employed soon enough and on a large enough scale to avoid catastrophic atmospheric concentrations of CO2 without also vigorously reducing fossil fuel burning.
US News and World Report on April 11 posted an article by Alan Neuhauser titled, The Best Thing for Coal Country: A Carbon Tax?  The author points out that West Virginia coal production has dropped  by more than a third since 2011 - putting over 8,000 people out of work.  He agues that a federal tax on carbon emissions might be just the thing those people need - provided that part of the money is used to retrain displaced coal miners to do other kinds of work.

The Insurance Journal on April 12 posted an article by Don Jergler titled, RIMS 2016: Sea Level Rise Will be Worse and Come Sooner.  He wrote,
“Think sea level rise will be moderate and something we can all plan for? Think again.  Sea levels could rise by much more than originally anticipated, and much faster, according to new data being collected by scientists studying the melting West Antarctic ice sheet – a massive sheet the size of Mexico.  That revelation was made by an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday at the annual RIMS conference for risk management and insurance professionals in San Diego, Calif.”
“Margaret Davidson, NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science and services, and Michael Angelina, executive director of the Academy of Risk Management and Insurance, offered their take on climate change data in a conference session titled “Environmental Intelligence: Quantifying the Risks of Climate Change.
Davidson said recent data that has been collected but has yet to be made official indicates sea levels could rise by roughly 3 meters or 9 feet by 2050-2060, far higher and quicker than current projections. Until now most projections have warned of sea level rise of up to 4 feet by 2100.”  (emphasis added)
National Geographic, NOAA and a number of other organizations on Feb. 18, 2015 published a 2.7-minute YouTube video titled, What the Earth would look like if all the ice melted
NOTE: It’s sobering - especially since continuing to increase CO2 emissions by 2.5% each year as we have in recent decades could increase the CO2 concentration to over 1000 ppm by 2100 and virtually guarantee that, in time, all the ice would melt, raising sea levels by about 260 feet.
The NY TImes for April 23 posted an article by Coral Davenport titled, Carbon Pricing Becomes a Cause for the World Bank and I.M.F.  Davenport wrote, 
“The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are pressing governments to impose a price tag on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, using economic leverage and technical assistance that institutions like the United Nations cannot muster.
The campaign by two of the largest international lenders comes as world leaders have begun to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, the United Nations accord that is supposed to commit nearly every country to take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The document opened for signatures on Friday and will remain open for a year.
But the leaders of the World Bank, the I.M.F. and other major global institutions say cutting emissions enough to stave off the worst effects of climate change will not be possible unless all fossil fuel polluters are forced to pay for the carbon dioxide they emit.
“There is now an overwhelmingly obvious scientific consensus that the more carbon pollution we put into the air the more impact it has on warming the massive melting of the Arctic, the cycles of droughts and flooding, the die-offs of coral reefs,” the World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, said in an interview. “And to our economists, who have been studying this for quite some time, there is an equally obvious consensus that putting a price on carbon pollution is by far the most powerful and efficient way to reduce emissions.””
“Any policy that drives up the cost of fossil fuels can be expected to generate intense opposition. In the United States, voters — especially in the depleted middle class — are leery of the economic pain, and political groups funded by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch stand in the way.”
“The point of a carbon price is to make fossil fuels more expensive, charging for the toll they take on the environment and guiding markets toward cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar.
About 40 countries, including the 28 members of the European Union, along with 23 cities, states and regions around the world, have introduced carbon pricing policies. They cover about 12 percent of the world’s carbon pollution.”
“Among the 2016 presidential candidates, only Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has publicly embraced carbon pricing, calling for a national tax. Hillary Clinton backs the Paris agreement and has pledged to strengthen Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, but she has stopped short of calling for a carbon price. Both Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who question the established science of human-caused climate change, have vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord.

The NY Times for April 24 had an article by Peter Brennan titled, Lessons from Underwater Miami.  He wrote, “IN Miami’s fashionable financial district, a slab of limestone juts out of the ground beneath the elevated tracks of the commuter rail line, across the street from a new apartment building. The pockmarked rocks sit about 25 feet above sea level. But 120,000 years ago, this limestone outcrop was part of a white sandy shoal beneath a sea that covered the lower third of Florida.
“If one wants to see evidence of a higher sea, downtown Miami is a good place,” said Daniel Muhs, a United States Geological Service geologist who has studied these rocks from the Eemian Interglacial Period, which began about 130,000 years ago and ended 15,000 years later.
Back then, the sea was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is today. These high seas were fed by ice melt from Greenland and Antarctica in a world that was perhaps less than 1 degree Celsius warmer than our own, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.  (emphasis added)
For that reason, what happened during the Eemian has drawn intense interest from geologists and climate scientists who have tried to resolve the period’s central mystery: How could temperatures so similar to today’s cause the sea to rise so high? And what does it mean for our own future in a warming climate caused by the burning of fossil fuels?”
“In recent weeks, two studies by prominent climate scientists, one led by James Hansen of Columbia, the other by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University, have tried to resolve the mystery of the Eemian, as well as earlier, slightly warmer times in the earth’s past with even higher seas. Both teams argue that collapsing Antarctic ice sheets, like those that might have drowned Florida during the Eemian, may alter the world’s coastlines again in a matter of decades.”

NOTE:  Two key questions related to sea level rise are: How far can sea levels rise for a given change in global average temperature? and How fast can they rise?  An answer to the first can be found in a figure on Page 138 of a book by David Archer, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Chicago, titled, The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s ClimateThe figure shows a nearly linear dependence of equilibrium sea level on global average temperature, with a slope of about 20 meters (65 ft) for each 1degree C increase in temperature.  Equilibrium means that enough time has passed (centuries) at a given global average temperature that sea level is no longer changing.  The figure also shows an open point for one IPCC estimate of a temperature in 2100 that is 3 degrees C higher than today with a sea level 1 m higher - clearly far from equilibrium. 
Jonathan Ramseur of the Congressional Research Service published a paper on April 27 titled,  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress.  It gives a clear thorough explanation of the history of RGGI, the first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the U.S. for reducing GHG emissions.  The first cap went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, and covers CO2 emissions from power plants with capacities over 25 MW in nine Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states.  (New Jersey was originally a member, but later dropped out.)  While the clearing prices in the quarterly auctions for emission allowances have ranged from under $1 per ton of CO2 to under $7 per ton, the RGGI states have been able to reduce their total CO2 emissions from electricity generation by over 40% in spite of the low prices - largely because most of the funds raised have been used by the states to improve energy efficiency and promote the development of renewable energy sources.  Another contributor is the switch of many power plants from coal to natural gas, which produces about half as much CO2 per MWh of electricity generates.
The original emissions cap was set to degrease gradually by 10% from 2009 to 2019, but when it became clear that emissions were declining much more than anticipated, the cap was dropped substantially in 2014 and set to decline by 2.5% per year until 2020.

NOTE: As Linda Swift shows on her informative Price on Carbon website, many other countries have introduced carbon pricing as a way to reduce CO2 emissions to help mitigate climate change.  Some, like RGGI,  use a system of cap-and-trade that sets a diminishing cap and lets the market set the price; others use a direct tax or fee that increases on a fixed schedule and lets the market set the emission reductions.  Prices on CO2 emissions cover a wide range, from $1/metric ton of CO2 in Mexico to $168/ metric ton in Sweden.   As is clear from the RGGI experience, how the funds raised are used can have a large effects on the emission reductions achieved.

The Guardian for April 28 has a post by Sheila Dean titled,  Readers recommend playlist: songs about climate change.  Twelve songs are listed.
 I especially liked Liberated Carbon by Andrew Revkin and I Need To Wake Up by Melissa Etheridge.

NOTE: I have long felt that the movement to save civilization and a livable planet needs to have some inspiring music - like the Battle Hymn of the Republic was for an earlier time. 
R&D Magazine for April 29 had a news article by Dartmouth College titled, Ice Loss Accelerating in Greenland's Coastal Glaciers.  The study shows that surface meltwater the runs down through and under tidal outlet glaciers in greenland can accelerate loss of ice by calving and by submarine melting by warmer ocean water.

Politico on May 9 published an article by Andrew Restuccia and Elena Shor titled, Exxon scrambles to contain climate crusade.  They wrote,
A green campaign to make the company pay for climate change is besieging the oil industry and its conservative allies.”
“The notion of holding oil companies responsible for global warming, in the same way tobacco companies had to pay billions of dollars in damages over the health effects of cigarettes, had long been seen as a quixotic quest led by scruffy, oil-hating extremists. But POLITICO’s interviews with dozens of activists, industry officials and lawmakers suggest that support for a legal crusade against Exxon is growing far beyond the political fringe — and now poses the biggest existential threat the company has faced in decades.”
“Interviews with advocates on both sides of the feud reveal how quickly the anti-Exxon movement has sprouted, to the point that it’s now consuming op-ed pages, airwaves and courtrooms across the country. Once merely intent on shaming the oil giant into better behavior, environmentalists are pursuing a strategy to discredit the company, weaken it politically and perhaps make it pay the kinds of multibillion-dollar legal settlements that began hitting the tobacco industry in the 1990s.”
“At the heart of any legal strategy is proof of a conspiracy or fraud — in this case, an alleged effort by oil companies to conceal their internal knowledge of their product’s contributions to climate change. The activists’ big break came in September and October, when the nonprofit investigative website InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times published stories alleging that Exxon’s scientists had known as far back as the 1970s that the company’s fossil fuels would cook the planet, even as its executives hid that knowledge.”

The June issue of Scientific American has an article by Andrew Holland, published online May 17, 2016,  titled, Preventing Tomorrow’s Climate Wars.  In the summary he writes:
  • “Climate change is accelerating instability in certain regions and multiplying threats in others. The American military is taking action to prevent consequences that could endanger U.S. interests.
  • In Africa, the military is trying to lessen conflicts arising from extended drought and loss of farmland. In the Asia-Pacific region, it is helping small nations recover from severe storms so they can remain strong to resist Chinese assertiveness. In the Arctic, it is promoting international laws that would limit Russia from claiming resources and shipping routes.
  • It is unclear whether the military will commit enough money to sustain such operations. And a Republican president might end support, dismissing climate change as not real.”

“Demcrats and Republicans may often be at odds over climate change, but the u.S. military is not waiting for the debate to be settled.  It is preparing for a hotter world, which is already altering geopolitical relations and could lead to armed conflict”
“The U.S. military does not explicitly say that climate change will directly cause wars, but it does cause it an “accelerant of instability” or a”threat multiplier.”  Suxh language appears in the DOD’s formal 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, it’s major planning document for the next four years.”
“Concern over climate change feeding violence extends beyond the Defense Department.  In October 2015 three former defense secretaries, two former secretaries of state, and 40 senators, military commanders and national security experts - Republican and Democrat - purlished a full-page as in the Wall Street Journal saying the climate change is “Shaping a world that is more unstable, resource constrained, violent, and disaster-prone.””

NOTE: Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war there was a severe drought lasting 4 or 5 years.  Tensions were heightened because President al-Assad is a member of the Alawite minority, which is Shia; the majority, who felt that they were treated as second class citizens, are Sunni.

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.pdfParis Agreement Receives Record Support from Nations at the Signing Ceremony

On April 22, representatives from a record 171 nations gathered in the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City to officially sign into effect the historic deal on climate change agreed to last December - the Paris Agreement. "We are breaking records in this chamber. But records have also been broken outside . . . global temperatures, record ice loss, record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time," commented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the agreement with his toddler granddaughter in his arms, and said, "I am reminded of Nelson Mandela's very simple words, 'It always seems impossible until it is done.' While it isn't done yet, today we are on the march." The agreement needed 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global emissions to sign it in order to come into force; it far exceeded the threshold.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfParis Agreement on Climate Is $13.5 Trillion Opportunity

On April 20, the We Mean Business Coalition released a report finding that national plans to address climate submitted in the lead-up to the United Nations Paris climate agreement last December represent a minimum $13.5 trillion economic opportunity through 2030 - just for energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies. As nations invest in transportation, energy, buildings and other infrastructure, and change their policies, the report says there will be expanded market opportunity, benefits from policy alignment across borders, more long-term investment certainty and increased confidence for investors in climate management. We Mean Business is a coalition of 374 companies and 183 investors, which have a combined $7.8 trillion in revenue and manage $20.7 trillion in assets, respectively.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfObama Administration to Propose New Transportation Emissions Rules

On April 18, officials in President Obama's administration told Politico that they are poised to propose rules which could compel transportation projects that receive federal funding to track emissions and make plans to cut them. The proposal, which will come from the Federal Highway Administration, would not impose penalties or emissions targets, instead asking funding recipients to do their own monitoring, reporting and target-setting. A Department of Transportation (COT) official commented to Politico, "You can't manage what you don't measure. This is groundbreaking stuff." The administration plans for the rule to be finalized in 2016. Obama proposed a $320 billion plan in February to cut transportation emissions with a tax on oil, but Congress rejected the proposal.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfSenate Passes First Comprehensive Energy Bill Since 2007

On April 21, the United States Senate voted 85-12 to pass S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, a bipartisan and comprehensive energy bill that supports energy efficiency projects, updating the country's aging energy infrastructure, and energy research and development. Debates on offshore drilling and funding for the Flint water crisis initially delayed passage of the bill, but a compromise reached this month moved the bill forward. It's the Senate's first comprehensive energy bill since 2007. S.2012 will have to be reconciled with a House energy bill passed in December, which President Obama has threatened to veto. Bill co-sponsor Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she wanted the bills reconciled and passed before August.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfNew York Governor to Supply Funding for Climate Adaptation

On April 18, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that cities and towns in the state can apply to receive part of a new $11 million fund for clean energy projects and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Coinciding with Earth Week, Gov. Cuomo said that they would be awarding grants ranging from $100,000 to $2 million. New York's latest budget appropriation increased the state's environmental protection fund to $300 million. An additional $1.4 million in grants will be awarded to farmers to support water conservation, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. Governor Cuomo said in a statement, "With this funding we are continuing to take a proactive role in creating greener and more resilient communities while growing our economy and improving the quality of life statewide."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdf93 Percent of the Great Barrier Reef Is Bleached

On April 20, researchers from Australia's National Coral Bleaching Task Force released the results from a recent survey which found that 93 percent of the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef are bleached. Bleaching means that the colorful symbiotic algae living in the coral have left due to unfavorable water conditions such as high water temperatures and acidity, leaving the coral white. The 911 reefs in the Great Barrier are bleaching to different degrees; severe bleaching can kill coral, while corals that experience mild bleaching can recover. In the northern half of the reef 81 percent of the coral is severely bleached, and close to 50 percent is already dying. Scientists attribute recent coral bleaching trends around the world to an unusually-strong El Nino event, and worsening global climate change.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfNew Report Says Earth Will Hit Natural Resources Limits Within Decades

On April 19, the All-Party Parliamentary Group, made up of cross-party British Members of Parliament, released a new report showing evidence that human society might reach the production peak for several important nature resources, including fossil fuels, this century. The report revisited the famous 1972 MIT report Limits to Growth, which hypothesized that resource constraints could lead to an economic collapse, and found that society's current trajectory is as the original study predicted. "Faced with these challenges, there is also clearly a premium on creating political space for change and developing positive narratives of progress. A part of the aim of the APPG is to create that space, "said Tim Jackson, co-author of the report. The authors warned policy makers to be prepared and encouraged policy adjustment for incoming limits of the resources.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfEPA Moves Forward on Clean Power Plan Incentive Program Despite Stay

On April 26, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), a part of the final Clean Power Plan, to the Office of Management and Budget for review. EPA said that although the Clean Power Plan is on hold, some states and tribes have indicated they would like to continue preparing for the regulation, and asked for support from EPA. The CEIP incentivizes investment in wind, solar, energy efficiency, and energy efficiency projects in low-income communities, by giving states extra credits to apply to their overall emissions reduction targets. OMB will likely review the proposal over the next 60 days, after which, if approved, the CEIP will be available for public comment.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfInvestors Worth $23 Trillion Say Utilities Need to Cut Emissions

On April 29, a world-wide group of over 270 investors with collective assets valued at over $23 trillion published a guide calling on electric utilities to bring their strategies in line with global ambitions to cut emissions enough to limit global average temperature increase to two degrees C (3.6 degrees F). Lead author of the guide Matthias Narr, a specialist at Robeco, commented, "This guidance is designed to shape constructive engagement between investors and electric utilities through dialogue on the long-term risks and opportunities these companies face from climate change." The guide is the third in a series focusing on how different sectors should address climate change risks and management, following guides on oil and gas, and mining. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) led the guide's production, with help from several other groups of investors.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfRising Temperatures to Cut Working Hours, with Economic Losses in Developing Countries

On April 28, the United Nations Development Programme, International Labour Organization, Climate Vulnerable Forum and other UN agencies released a joint report finding that unless countries reduce emissions beyond the targets set in the Paris Agreement, rising temperatures will cut up to 10 percent of the daytime working hours in developing countries. The Paris Agreement sets a goal of keeping global average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, but nations have submitted emissions reductions commitments only sufficient to keep temperatures to an increase of 2.7 degrees C - if they do everything they say they will. Rising temperatures will impact working hours the most in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and part of West Africa.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfNew Poll Shows Partisan Differences on Climate Change Shrinking

On April 25, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication published new polling revealing that a majority of registered voters across political ideologies think climate change is happening, and an increasing number view climate change as a threat. Although the main findings of the report are consistent with previous surveys showing Democrats are more likely than Republicans to think human-caused climate change is happening, the report shows a distinct difference between conservative Republicans and liberal/moderate Republicans. Conservative Republicans have seen the largest growth, rising 19 percentage points in two years so now 47 percent think climate change is happening, while 71 percent of liberal/moderate Republicans are convinced by climate science.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_11.pdfRepublican Donor Faison to Spend "Seven Figures" on Clean Energy Campaign Support

On April 27, Republican donor Jay Faison announced he was endorsing Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for re-election, and putting "seven figures" into a digital campaign to call attention to their clean energy policies and support them in their election races. "For right or wrong, the Republican party is branded as non-environmental," Jay Faison commented. "We want to help fix [that]." Back in February, Faison announced a new Super PAC with $5 million in funding to spend defending Republicans in Congress with good clean energy and environmental track records. Faison also runs the ClearPath Foundation, launched in June 2015, which is spending $165 million to push Republicans to support climate change and clean energy.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_12.pdfFormer Mexican Foreign Minister Nominated to Lead United Nations Climate Efforts

On May 3, officials announced that former Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has been nominated by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). If Espinosa's appointment is approved by an 11-member U.N. bureau, as expected, she will replace Christiana Figueres this July. Espinosa, who currently serves as Mexico's ambassador to Germany, earned a standing ovation at UNFCCC talks in 2010 for her role in getting negotiations on track following the breakdown at the summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Her work helped contribute to the Paris Climate Agreement recently signed by 175 nations in New York.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_13.pdfAnalysis Shows Oil and Gas Bankruptcies Close to Size of Past Telecom Bankruptcies

On May 4, Reuters published an article with data analysis by law firm Haynes & Boones, and Reuters, finding that 59 U.S. oil and gas companies have gone bankrupt in the last two years, approaching levels seen in 2002 and 2003 when there were 68 filings from the telecommunications industry. Reuters talked to a restructuring partner at Akin Gump, Charles Gibbs, who said the oil and gas industries have not had half of the bankruptcies they eventually will. The first quarter in 2016 saw 15 companies file for Chapter 11 protection; Gibbs projected the second quarter will see a larger number filing. The energy sector's struggles are due in part to a 60 percent reduction in oil prices, which the Dow Jones U.S. Oil and Gas Index estimates cut $1.02 trillion in value from U.S. energy companies.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_14.pdfPhasing Out Fossil Fuels in United States Would Have Large Impact on Climate Change

On May 3, the Stockholm Environment Institute released a study finding that U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would decrease by 100 million metric tons annually by 2030 if the government denied new mining leases and let existing leases expire on public lands. The report found that in order to meet the Paris Agreement's target to keep the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, the United States must cut fossil fuel production by 40-60 percent from current levels. (emphasis added) As a quarter of current U.S. fossil fuel extraction occurs on federal land, this represents a good start. Michael Lazarus, co-author of the report, clarified, "If we are serious about addressing climate change, there's no silver bullet. We need policies working hand in hand, not policies that work against each other."

For more information:

pastedGraphic_15.pdfIndex Measuring How Well Investors Factor Climate Risk in Portfolios Released

On May 2, the Global Climate 500 Index, run by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, released an analysis of how well asset owners globally are including climate risks in investment decisions. The Global Climate Index ranks the 500 world's largest asset owners, such as sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, giving them a rating from AAA to D for those that pass, and an X for companies that have done nothing to mitigate climate risks. The number one asset owner was the Environment Agency Pension Fund (EAPF) in the United Kingdom, and the highest ranking U.S. owner was the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF).

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_16.pdfPolling Shows Most Americans Do Not Know What Clean Power Plan Is

On May 4, a new national poll released by the Citizen Cabinet Initiative and the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland showed that seven in ten registered voters in the United States said they had heard "just a little or nothing at all" about the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is a recently finalized Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on carbon emissions from existing power plants, and is the keystone of President Obama's efforts to reign in climate change. However, after the respondents were given a briefing on what the Clean Power Plan is, seven in ten saw its value for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and eight in ten saw its value for helping public health by improving air quality. Notably, the poll found that of respondents with ties to the coal industry (either they are in it, or have family in it), six in ten support the Clean Power Plan.

For more information see:

Sierra Club Responds to Koch Spokeswoman Affirming Climate Change Happening

On May 3, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune posted an open letter to Charles Koch in response to last month's Wall Street Journal forum, where a Koch Industries spokeswoman said that Koch acknowledges man-made climate change. In the letter, Brune welcomes Koch to the "not-very-exclusive club that includes the strong majority of Americans, 99+ percent of scientists, nearly all Democratic candidates and a growing number of Republicans, who all believe the same thing." He goes on to ask that Koch stop using his money to contribute to candidates and organizations that deny climate change exists and join efforts to use more sustainable, renewable sources of energy. Michael Brune commented, "We're looking at this positively . . . It potentially represents a sea change in climate politics."

For more information:

World Bank Report Says Climate Change Will Hurt Us Through Water Impacts

On May 3, the World Bank released a report that says climate change will exacerbate water scarcity even as demand for water increases, potentially leading to negative economic impacts and security challenges. According to the report, "Within the next 3 decades, the global food system will require between 40 to 50 percent more water; municipal and industrial water demand will increase by 50 to 70 percent; the energy sector will see water demand increase by 85 percent; and the environment, already the residual claimant, may receive even less." Without enough water to meet increased demand, conditions will worsen in in the Middle East and Africa, costing these regions up to six percent of their GDP by 2050. The report suggests that the increase in water scarcity due to climate change can be combatted with policy decisions and investments that emphasize improved resource allocation, incentives that encourage efficiency, and building better infrastructure.

For more information:

NOTE: The decrease in the availability of clean water may be one of the most negative impacts of climate change.  Since cooling systems in conventional fossil fuel-powered plants (and nuclear plants) that generate electricity require large amounts of water, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar PV makes a lot of sense - especially if the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel use are also considered.

EPA Releases Methane Regulations on New and Modified Sources in Oil and Gas Industry

On May 12, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the first time issued federal regulations aimed at curbing methane emissions from oil and gas production. The regulations will apply to new and modified oil and gas wells and fracking operations, and will not only reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but also volatile organic compounds which form smog and toxic pollutants such as benzene. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy commented, "These new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country." Oil and gas companies will earn a net benefit of $160 million thanks to reduced waste, according to EPA estimates, while lowering methane emissions 510,000 tons by 2025.

For more information:

Governments Gather to Negotiate Deal on Aviation Emissions

On May 11, government representatives from some of the 191 member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) began a three-day meeting on a deal that would make aviation growth carbon-neutral by 2020. ICAO figures suggest the curb in emissions will cost airlines $6.2 billion by 2025 and $24 billion by 2035. Airlines are pushing the ICAO to reach a global agreement soon, because costs will rise if the industry has to comply with many different national and regional agreements instead of an overarching target. The International Air Transport Association's Chief Executive Tony Tyler explained, "A market-based cost will be much more efficient, and much fairer than the alternative which is a patchwork of inefficient and ineffective charges and taxes which are cooked up primarily just to raise cash rather than to tackle climate change." The agreement will be voted on at the full ICAO assembly meeting in October.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_17.pdfRecord-Setting Canadian Wildfire Shuts Down 40 Percent of Oil and Gas Production

On May 6, the oils sands projects, pipelines, and electrical facilities near Fort McMurray, Canada were forced to shut down as workers fled due to an ongoing, out of control wildfire. The shutdown in production stopped the flow of 40 percent of Alberta's oil output, estimated to be one million barrels a day. Goldman Sachs estimates total lost production at about 14 million barrels, if companies can get back to work in the next ten days. Mike Flannigan, a professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in wildfires, commented, "In Canada, our area burned [by wildfire has] more than doubled since the early 70s . . . because of human-caused climate change."

For more information:

Five Islands in Solomon Islands Have Disappeared as Sea Levels Rise

On May 7, a study published in the Environmental Research Letters found that sea-level rise and coastal erosion caused five of the Solomon Islands to disappear, with six more suffering severe shoreline recession. A combination of extreme weather and inappropriate development has eroded shorelines, destroying villages that existed since 1935 at two sites on the islands and forcing several communities to relocate. Simon Albert, civil engineer at the University of Queensland and co-author of the study, says, "In the short term things may stabilize . . . (but) the rates we have recently seen in the Solomons will be experienced globally in the second half of this century." The 560,000 people who inhabit the 15 remaining vegetated reef islands in the Solomon Islands are at risk of losing their land to the continued sea level rise caused by climate change.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_18.pdfNew York State Announces New Renewable Energy Investments

On May 12, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state was investing up to $220 million in solar energy and energy efficiency efforts aimed at generating half of New York's electricity from renewable energy by 2030. New York's Green Bank closed four transactions, three of which support solar energy deployment and one which supports energy efficiency financing in private homes. Cuomo commented, "New York is a national leader in combatting climate change and investing in clean energy technology to grow the state's economy." New York State plans to invest $5 billion over the next decade in clean energy.

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pastedGraphic_19.pdfCompanies Cooperate to Reach for 60 GW of Renewable Energy by 2025

On May 12, 60 U.S. companies, including Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, and Walmart, joined with environmental groups to announce the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which will aim to develop 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2025. The group hopes to install six GW of renewables annually up until 2025 to reach its goal of 60 GW, which is enough power capacity to replace every coal-fired power plant retiring in the next four years in the United States. Bill Weihl, director of sustainability at Facebook, commented, "We want to invest in renewable energy in ways that are not just a marketing claim, but are really driving change on the grid."

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pastedGraphic_20.pdfRed Knot Shorebirds Are Shrinking and Declining Due to Climate Change

On May 12, a new study published in the journal Science revealed that Red Knots, a species of migratory shorebirds, are experiencing population decline and small body sizes due to climate change impacts. Red Knots fly 9,300 miles from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to West Africa every year. Due to warming temperatures in the Arctic, snow melts two weeks earlier than it has historically, causing the insects that Red Knot hatchlings feed on to reach peak population early. Red Knots have not adjusted their hatching time to account for the difference, so chicks have far less food when they hatch, leading to smaller body sizes in adulthood. The smaller birds have smaller beaks and cannot harvest their traditional food of clams, leading to higher mortality. "If this continues, they're going to go extinct," said lead author Dr. Jan A. van Gils at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

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NOTE: There is another problem for Red Knot survival.  On their long flight to the Arctic to nest, they stop in the Delaware Bay to refuel for the last leg of the trip by eating lots of horseshoe crib eggs.  The crabs lay their eggs on the beaches along the bay.  If the timing of the egg laying doesn’t match the arrival time of the birds, or if sea level rise eliminates the beaches, the adult Red Knots will not make it to the Arctic.

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

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