Tuesday, June 21, 2016



The NY TImes posted an article by Diane Cardwell on May 31 titled, Nuclear Plants, Despite Safety Concerns, Gain Support as Clean Energy Sources.  Since new nuclear plants haven’t been built in the U.S. for decades, many assumed that the technology was on its way out - especially with the safety concerns generated by the nuclear meltdowns at Cherbonyl and Fukushima.  However, increasing awareness of the dangers of climate change the and Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions have caused some, including environmentalists, to rethink the future of nuclear power.  Here are some of the pros and cons of extending the life of nuclear plants or building new ones.

  • Nuclear fission is still the largest source of carbon-free electricity generation in the U.S. - currently accounting for about 60% of the carbon-free power.  (The next largest is hydroelectric at 18%.)
  • There may be reactor designs that are safer than those used at Cherbonyl and Fukushima.
  • Continuing nuclear power at least for a while - may be needed if the increase in earth’s surface temperature is to be kept below 2 degrees C.

  • Nuclear power is very expensive - especially in the face of cheap natural gas from fracking.  Nuclear also gets a huge federal subsidy by not having to buy insurance against catastrophes on the open marked; that insurance is provided by us - the tax payers.
  • The problem of long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel has still not been solved.  That problem is made more challenging because many nuclear plants are located near sea level in order to have plentiful cooling water, and they may be inundated as sea levels rise.
  • Spent nuclear fuel from the current technology (fission of U235) produces plutonium, which can be extracted from the spent fuel and used to make nuclear bombs.  (One was dropped on Nagasaki near the end of WWII.)
  • Nuclear reactors and spent fuel could be targets of terrorist attacks - using conventional explosives to spread radioactivity - a so-called dirty bomb.

On June 2 CarbonBrief posted an article by Sophie Yeo titled, IEA: There are now more than one million electric cars on the world’s roads.  She wrote,
The rapid growth of the industry means that it is now the only technology sector on track to meet the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2C scenario.
This is the conclusion of the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 report, which it released on Wednesday. This is the latest edition of their annual progress review of the technologies that will determine the rate of global emissions, including renewables, nuclear, CCS and coal.”

NOTE: CCS is the acronym for Carbon Capture and Storage.

On June 7 The Washington Post published an article by Angela Fritz titled, Atmospheric carbon dioxide just reached a huge record high.  She reported that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in May reached a new record high of 407.7 ppm.  This was an increase of 3.76 ppm over the concentration in May of last year - the largest year over year increase since instrumental measurements by David Keeling began nearly 60 years ago.  She wrote, One thing is for certain — we are in an unprecedented era. “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”
The last time our planet saw such a sustained increase in carbon dioxide was between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago, NOAA says, when levels increased by just 80 ppm. Tans says today’s rate of increase is 200 times faster than that.”
On June 11 the NY Times posted an article by Jeff Sommer titled, Gas Is Going Up, but Maybe Not Enough.  He pointed out that though gas prices going into the Memorial Day weekend are the lowest they have been for the past 11 years, they are going up - by 17 cents per gallon during the past month, according to the AAA.  He writes, What’s more, the latest numbers suggest that many car buyers understand that gas has been getting more expensive. Americans on average have begun to shift back to more fuel-efficient vehicles, the University of Michigan reported.
That’s good news. And it’s an opportune time to consider whether we should take steps that would keep prices moving in the right direction: upward.”
The markets are likely to do that job for a while. While they have given up some ground lately, oil prices have almost doubled since February, so we can expect that gas at the pump, which typically trails wholesale oil prices, will continue to climb in the short term. No one knows, of course, where oil or gas prices will be a year or two from now.
But another measure to raise prices and affect consumer behavior has long been favored by a broad consensus of economists. That is a national tax on carbon or, more narrowly, a booster tax on oil or gasoline — all of which have been opposed by Congress. On Friday, the House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, against both a carbon tax and a tax on oil.
Nonetheless, a broad carbon tax or a narrower gasoline tax surcharge would generate revenue that could go toward neglected infrastructure, like bridges, tunnels, trains and subways, or toward improvement of renewable energy sources, reducing dependence on fossil fuels directly. But it could also be used to offset cuts in other taxes, as proposed in Washington State. Either method could make gasoline, and other forms of carbon, expensive enough to make people think twice before burning it.
Higher fuel prices tend to make vehicles like electric cars, hybrids and smaller, gas-sipping internal combustion engine vehicles more appealing. In a separate study, Mr. Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, a project manager at the institute, calculated that a major improvement in the fuel efficiency of the nation’s light vehicles, including old and new vehicles, to 56 miles per gallon from 21.4 miles per gallon today, would, by itself, reduce total fuel emissions in the United States 10 percent.  Big as that change would be, it would not be enough to meet the goals of last December’s Paris agreement on climate change, which would commit nearly every country in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Consider that President Obama has pledged that the United States will cut total emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. Emissions from many sources, particularly those from coal-fired power plants, would need to be reduced, though the Supreme Court put some of those regulations into a state of limbo with a decision in February. Further legal challenges are underway.
In the meantime, gasoline prices are inching higher. Adding a modest gasoline tax of, say, 25 cents a gallon — or a more ambitious carbon tax — would magnify and consolidate that upward trend.
Given opposition in Congress, it is unrealistic to imagine that either kind of national tax will be enacted right now. Bernie Sanders was the lone major presidential candidate in the race in June to have called for a carbon tax, according to an assessment by PolitiFact. Yet such a tax, or a variation favored by President Obama known as “cap and trade,” makes eminent sense, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have concluded.
One problem with such taxes — aside from the glaring fact that taxes are generally unpopular — is that they tend to be regressive. A gasoline tax, for example, burdens low-wage people who must drive to work, but tax credits aimed at low-income car commuters could offset this.
Taxes and prices affect behavior in fairly predictable ways. Without taxes, the benefits of higher prices can be expected to flow mainly to energy companies and their investors, and Wall Street will certainly calculate those effects. But we all have broader interests, and it may be that the best thing we can do for ourselves and the environment is impose a tax.”

NOTE: The author suggested adding a modest gasoline tax of 25 cents/gallon.  That corresponds to a carbon tax of about $25 per ton of CO2, since burning a gallon of gas produces about 20 lbs. of CO2.

On June 19 the U.S. League of Women Voters (LWVUS) at its biennial national conference passed nearly  unanimously the following three resolutions related to climate change:

  • Therefore be it resolved, the LWVUS consider signing onto an Amicus Brief with the 21 youth plaintiffs from Our Children’s Trust.
  • Therefore be it resolved, LWVUS support the United States ratification of the UN COP 21 Paris Agreement.
  • Therefore be it resolved, that the LWVUS continue working for full implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan, especially at the state level, as a first step, and should call on the White House to implement an updated science-based Climate Action Plan that stabilizes global warming by bringing CO2 levels down to no more than 350 ppm by 2100.

NOTES: Our Children’s Trust is a legal effort on the part of young people to sue the federal government “for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production and combustion of fossil fuels.”
COP 21 is the 21st Conference of the Parties, meeting in Paris in 2015, following the 1st meeting at Rio de Janiero in 1992, which adopted the UN Framework on Climate Change.  The Framework aimed to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” but involved no commitments or time tables.  The Paris agreement included both.
The EPA Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants - the major source of U.S. carbon emissions - and is the keystone of President Obama’s plan to meet the U.S. obligation to reduce emissions 26-28% under the Paris agreement.
The president’s Climate Action Plan, announced in 2013, includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but does not specify a final target concentration.  James Hansen et al., in a seminal 2008 paper titled, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?, wrote, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.”  The CO2 concentration is now over 400 ppm and is increasing every year.  Hansen et al. think that atmospheric CO2 concentration must be 350 ppm or less in order to keep the global average temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees C.
During the discussion of Resolution 3) a question was raised about the cost of removing CO2 from the air in order to remove what humans are currently adding (about 36 billion metric tons in 2014), and reduce the concentration back to 350 ppm.  After the convention I searched for information on the available technologies and costs for removing CO2 (now over 400 ppm or 0.04%) from air.  I found a 2013 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Klaus Lackner et al. titled, The urgency of the development of CO2 capture from ambient air, which describes technologies and gives a range of costs from $100 to $1000 per ton of CO2.  These numbers can be compared with current prices on CO2 emissions which range from $1/ton in Mexico to $168/ton in Sweden.

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. 

pastedGraphic.pdfClean Power Plan Will Be Heard by Full District Court, Not Just Panel

On May 16, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced that challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan regulation on carbon emissions from existing power plants will be heard by the full court, not a three-judge panel as previously scheduled. The Court made the decision on its own initiative (sua sponte), without any party to the case requesting the action. While not unprecedented, the decision is highly unusual, and the exact reasons behind it are unclear - although the decision is likely due to the importance of the case. This decision will push back the case's hearing from its originally scheduled date of June 2 to September.
For more information see:

Clean Power Plan Would Cut Coal Power Generation to 21 Percent Share by 2030

On May 17, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early report of its Annual Energy Outlook for 2016, finding that the future U.S. energy emissions will depend on whether the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan regulation on carbon emissions from existing power plants moves forward. With the Clean Power Plan in place, emissions from the electricity sector will fall to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2022. Without the Plan, emissions would likely be seven percent higher in 2022, and 25 percent higher from 2030 on. EIA also projected that the Plan will cut coal's share of U.S. electricity generation to 21 percent by 2030 and 18 percent by 2040, from its 2015 level of 33 percent.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfEconomic Activity in the Arctic Must Pass Climate Change Test, Says Obama

On May 13, President Obama agreed with leaders from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland to set higher environmental and climate standards on commercial activity, including oil and gas drilling, in the Arctic. A senior official in the Administration, speaking anonymously, commented, "It is quite significant that you now have seven out of eight Arctic nations, representing more than half the Arctic's territorial waters, basically conditioning future economic activity on world-class environmental standards and international climate goals." The new restrictions have not yet been outlined. In March the President came to a similar agreement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the need for better climate change tests in the Arctic.

For more information:

G7 Calls for Swift and Coordinated Response to Climate Change

On May 16, following the Group of 7 (G7) Environment Ministers' meeting, the G7 released a statement announcing their countries would submit respective long-term strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions before the 2020 deadline stipulated under the Paris Agreement. The communique, issued after the two-day meeting in Toyama, Japan, also encouraged use of the Joint Crediting Mechanism, a trading scheme for greenhouse emission reduction credits. The ministers noted their support for a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gasses used in refrigerant products. The G7 ministers noted that "taking the lead in communicating these strategies will send strong signals to the private sector and other countries for the necessary transition towards a low-carbon society."

For more information:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfOntario Finalizes Cap-and-Trade Regulation

On May 19, Ontario announced it has finalized a new cap-and-trade plan, which will come into effect July 1, 2016, with the first auction planned for March 2017. Ontario plans to link its program with Quebec and California. The plan is set by the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act, passed just the day prior on May 18. All the money raised from the plan - approximately $1.8-1.9 billion annually - will be placed in a newly created Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account, which will invest in green projects. The province estimates the plan will cost the average household an extra $13 a month -- $5 for home heating, and $8 for gasoline. Manitoba is also joining the Quebec/California cap-and-trade plan, but is limiting its own plan to 20 large polluters.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfWorld Bank Says 1.3 Billion People and $158 Trillion at Risk from Climate Change

On May 16, the World Bank released a report that says climate change-related disasters, population growth, and urbanization will put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets at risk by 2050. John Roome, senior director for climate change at the World Bank, says "We are woefully unprepared for the climate and disaster risks that are rapidly changing our world." The report advises the cities and coastal regions most at risk from the storms, floods and droughts increasingly amplified by climate change to work to minimize the anticipated damage through better land-use policies and resilient building design. According to Roome, "Without changing decision-making today, we'll only increase the disaster risk for the future. But if we make the right decisions now, we'll be able to avoid a large number of these risks."

For more information:

Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Climate Action

On May 17, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the Conservation Law Foundation, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance and four teenagers in their case against the state for not meeting the carbon reduction goals set by the Massachusetts 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. The Global Warming Solutions Act calls for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050. The court found that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had not implemented regulations sufficient to meet the reductions timeline intended by the legislation. The ruling by Justice Robert Cordy states that the Department of Environmental Protection must adopt regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions annually, in line with the aims of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfApril Is Hottest on Record, by Wide Margin

On May 15, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released data confirming that last month's global temperatures surpassed the hottest April on record by the largest margin ever recorded, making it very likely 2016 will become the warmest year on record. Record global temperatures over the past seven months have been partially attributed to a large El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, although climate change is also contributing. Andy Pitman, director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia, commented, "The interesting thing is the scale at which we're breaking records. It's clearly all heading in the wrong direction." April was the seventh consecutive month with land and sea temperatures at least 1 degree Celsius higher than average levels from between 1951-1980.

For more information:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfUnited States Remains World's Top Oil and Natural Gas Producer

On May 23, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released new data revealing that the United States continues to be the world's largest producer of natural gas and petroleum, despite its greenhouse gas reduction targets and leadership in the Paris Climate Agreement. U.S. natural gas production surpassed other countries' production in 2011, while its petroleum hydrocarbon production took the top spot in 2013. Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University, commented, "The U.S. can lead the world in both climate action and crude oil production, but not for long. To preserve a stable climate we need to phase out fossil fuel consumption as fast as possible, starting as soon as possible."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfRockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Program Announces 37 New Members

On May 25, the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities program announced 37 new members, bringing the global initiative's membership to 100 cities. The program aims to help cities become more resilient to physical, social, and economic challenges by providing resources to help them plan for natural disasters and lessen the day-to-day stresses on their resources. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said "incorporating resilience planning and principles not only prepares cities for disasters and long-term threats, it also improves everyday living standards for all members of an urban community." The program said that it has received applications from more than 1,000 cities seeking to join the network. Michael Berkowitz, the president of the 100 Resilient Cities program, says, "We're using our 100 member cities as a first step - but ultimately we need to get all cities to understand that their differences are not that different."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfExxonMobil Shareholders Vote Down Climate Change Resolutions

On May 25, ExxonMobil shareholders denied 10 proposals that would have helped the company participate in efforts to combat climate change. Investors voted down proposals that would have required ExxonMobil to publicly support the Paris Climate Agreement, produce annual reports on global warming's impact on its business, and select a climate change expert to sit on its board. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson informed shareholders that despite $7 billion in investments in clean energy technology by the company, the breakthroughs required to make these technologies cost competitive with fossil fuels have not yet arrived. He explained, "Until we have those, just saying 'turn the taps off' is not acceptable to humanity." Shareholders did approve a resolution that will allow minority shareholders to nominate outside experts for a board seat, creating the possibility for a climate expert to join company management.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfOil and Gas Company Total Aims for Low-Carbon Business Future

On May 24, Total S.A., one of the largest oil companies in the world, announced that it would now make investments based on a 2 degrees Celsius cap on warming, using a carbon pricing mechanism of $30 to $40 per ton. According to Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne, "COP21 was definitely a watershed... There will be a 'before' and 'after' COP21." Total's $130 billion portfolio will shift to include 20 percent renewables such as solar and biofuels by 2035, with 60 percent of holdings shifting to gas. Total will also reduce its footprint in more expensive oil plays, such as the Arctic and oil sands.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfReport Says Fossil Fuel Investments Risky for Insurers

On May 24, the non-profit group Ceres released a report, Assets or Liabilities? Fossil Fuel Investments of Leading U.S. Insurers, examining the risks of U.S. insurance companies, which have a combined total of half a trillion dollars invested in fossil fuels. Ceres reports that investing in fossil fuels could become increasingly risky; credit downgrades have hit 70 percent of publicly traded oil and gas companies in the past two years and global efforts to deal with climate change may further deaccelerate investments in fossil energy. The report finds that major insurance companies have between 4 to 10 percent of assets invested in fossil energy. According to Cynthia McHale, Director of Insurance Programs at Ceres, insurers "cannot afford to overlook this [risk]."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfOne of Largest Unions in United States Vote to Make Climate Change a Priority

On May 24, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a U.S. service union organization with two million members, adopted a measure to prioritize climate change and environmental justice in both state and federal elections this year. SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry commented on the policy change, "SEIU members live and work in some of the most polluted zip codes in America and are part of communities that are most impacted by climate change. We know first-hand that our fights for economic, racial and immigrant justice are inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice." The news comes on the heels of a dispute between labor unions and the AFL-CIO, with some member organizations calling for the AFL-CIO to cut ties with Tom Steyer, who has invested millions in making climate change a priority in the 2016 elections.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_11.pdfCoral Located in Deeper Waters May Be More Resistant to Bleaching

On May 24, the United Nations (U.N.) released a report urging more extensive research into the resiliency of deeper reef structures. Scientists hope coral species located in deeper waters (40-150 meters deep) will be less impacted by mass bleaching events. A spike in global ocean temperatures over the past year, the result of climate change and a record El Niño, has led to bleaching events that have affected 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef. According to the University of Sydney's Elaine Baker, one of 35 authors of the U.N. report, "More research needs to be done to firmly establish the role of mesospheric coral ecosystems (MCEs) in preserving our reefs; they aren't a silver bullet but they might be able to resist the most immediate impacts of climate change."

In related news, on May 26 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report, World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate. The report names 31 World Heritage sites at particular risk due to climate change. According to The Guardian, the Australian Department of Environment objected to the inclusion of the Great Barrier Reef in a draft of the report, forcing that section to be removed from the final report. An Australian government spokesman explained, "Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism."

For more information see:

Study: Burning All Fossil Fuels Reserves Will Warm the Planet by 14.4 Degrees Fahrenheit

On May 23, Nature Climate Change published a study which models the climatic impact of emitting five trillion metric tons of carbon - the amount contained in a conservative estimate of Earth's fossil fuel reserves. Led by researchers from the University of Victoria in Canada, the study was designed to model a true worst-case scenario. The authors found that releasing this amount of carbon in the atmosphere would raise average global surface temperatures by 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2300. The impact would be more pronounced in the Arctic, where average temperatures would rise by 17 degrees Celsius (30.6 degrees F). The most severe projection from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes only two trillion metric tons of carbon released by 2100, raising global temperatures by 2.6-4.8 degrees Celsius. "The fixation on what happens by the year 2100 is unhealthy and ignores the large risks that become apparent when thinking on longer time scales and with a more complete treatment of real physical and biological processes," said Matthew Huber, an Earth scientist unaffiliated with the study.

For more information see:

NOTE:  There is no doubt in my mind that increasing earth’s global average surface temperature by 8 degrees C would be an unmitigated disaster.  Burning all of the world’s fossil fuels is a prescription for mass suicide on a global scale.  To see what changes are likely to occur - based on be best available science, as the earth’s temperature is increased in 1-degree steps up to 6 degrees C - I recommend the book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas, published by the National Geographic Society in 2008.

pastedGraphic_12.pdfObama Administration Announces Commitment to Double Funding for Clean Energy

On June 2, during the Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco, the United States and 20 other countries announced they were going to double public funding for research and development in clean energy from $15 billion to $30 billion annually by 2021 to support a "transition to a clean energy future," according to Dan Utech, deputy assistant to the president for energy and environment. The pledge expands on last year's Mission Innovation announcement by adding the European Union, 10 subnational governments, and close to 60 companies and organizations, and increasing the funding target from the original baseline of $10 billion annually.

For more information see: USA Today, Press Release  

pastedGraphic_13.pdfCBO Warns Congress of the Fiscal Risk of Climate Change

On June 2, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan agency of the federal government, released a report warning policymakers about the risks and implications for the federal government that climate change poses. The report focuses on the probable "significant" increase in hurricane damage in the next few decades, due to human-caused climate change, finding that the growth in hurricane damage will outpace the U.S. ability to pay for it - despite CBO expectations that U.S. GDP will be four times as large in 2075 as it is now. CBO recommends strategies for mitigating the risks climate change poses, including a "coordinated effort to significantly reduce global emissions," as well as international action to reduce emissions.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_14.pdfEPA Publishes Methane Regulation in Federal Register

On June 3, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its methane regulations in the Federal Register for new, reconstructed and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector. Once rules are officially published, Congress has 60 days in which it can use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass a joint resolution of disapproval, and opponents may file suit. The regulation will come into force on August 2, 2016. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, warming the atmosphere 84 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

In related news on June 2, the American Lung Association (ALA) published a new poll showing that 60 percent of Americans support regulations on methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. Support for the rule is strong in all parts of the United States, as well as among both men and women.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_15.pdfWashington, Oregon, California and British Columbia Sign Climate Pact

On June 2, Washington, California, Oregon, British Columbia and five major West Coast cities all signed onto the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement, which calls for the respective governments to work to cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase clean energy and energy efficiency, among other measures. Other key elements of the agreement include expanding the use of zero-emission vehicles; developing a West Coast electric vehicle charging network; increasing distributed renewable energy; and increasing composting. The agreement, which seeks to fulfill goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement, was signed at the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) held in San Francisco.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_16.pdfWashington Releases Plan to Cut Emissions from Large Polluters

On June 1, Washington State's Department of Ecology released an updated proposed rule to require about 70 of the state's largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases to gradually cut emissions, at an average level of 1.7 percent annually. The companies can comply by sponsoring projects to cut emissions; purchasing emission reduction units from approved markets; or directly reducing emissions. The plan covers seven kinds of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. The rule, planned to come into effect in January, will initially apply to 20 facilities and will expand to 70 over time.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_17.pdfG7 Pledges to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies by 2025

On May 27, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the European Union (a non-enumerated member) set a deadline to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. It is the first such deadline to be agreed to by the G7 nations. Fossil fuel subsidies have already been decreasing in most G7 nations, due in part to falling commodity prices, although the United Kingdom recently increased subsidies for oil projects and Japan has been funding new coal projects. Research fellow Shelagh Whitley at the Overseas Development Institute called the G7 deadline historic but also warns, "We already see [some in] the G7 going in the wrong direction since Paris. Just because they are saying this [about fossil fuel subsidies], it's not a fait accompli."

For more information:

NOTE: It’s good news that major countries have agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies.  Providing financial incentives to develop and burn fossil fuels is like shooting yourself in the foot.  According to the International Energy Agency, the value of fossil fuel subsidies worldwide was $493 billion in 2014 - over four times the subsidies for renewable energy sources.  Is this dumb, or what?

pastedGraphic_18.pdfAnalysis Shows China's Emissions to Hold Steady During 2016

On May 31, an analysis of China's energy strategy by Greenpeace concluded that the country's coal use would fall and greenhouse gas emissions would hold steady in 2016. Greenpeace Analyst Lauri Myllyvirta says that by 2020 China's carbon emissions and coal use could be 10 percent below the targets the government set in 2014, putting the world's leading carbon emitter ahead of schedule. China also surpassed its target for solar and wind energy installed capacity by 40 gigawatts in 2015, putting them on track to reach their 2020 target more than two years in advance. According to Myllyvirta, "All of this means that China's coal use and CO2 emissions are going to keep falling much sooner and faster than anyone expected."

For more information:

pastedGraphic_19.pdfUnited States and India Agree on Paris Climate Agreement Push

On June 7, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi met with President Obama and made new commitments on climate change. Modi pledged to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement this year, and Obama reaffirmed the intent of the United States to join the Agreement as soon as possible. Modi and Obama also agreed to work together on controlling hydrofluorocarbons (a group of chemicals used as refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases), low-emissions development strategies, and tackling airline emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

After meeting with Obama, Modi went to Congress on June 8 to discuss the partnership between India and the United States on climate change. Modi told Congress that "the protection of environment and caring for the planet is central to [Indians'] shared vision of a just world."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_20.pdfUnited States and China Make Further Cooperative Commitments on Climate

On June 6-7, the eighth China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue took place in Beijing, China, and the United States and China renewed their commitment to cooperate on climate change and implement the Paris Climate Agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong to reaffirm their intention to bring the Paris Agreement into force as quickly as possible, phasedown hydrofluorocarbons (a class of chemicals used as refrigerants that are highly potent greenhouse gases), and support the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to put in place a global market-based mechanism to address airline emissions. Next year's China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue will take place in Boston, which Sec. Kerry stated was "in the eye of the climate change storm."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_21.pdfHouse Republicans Pass Resolution Condemning Carbon Tax

On June 10, the House of Representatives, by a 237-163 vote, passed a nonbinding "Sense of the House" resolution (H.R.Con. 89) that a "carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States." Every Republican, and six Democrats, voted in favor of the resolution. The measure, sponsored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), is supported by Americans for Prosperity and the American Energy Alliance, which both receive funding from the Koch brothers. Koch Industries' top lobbyist, Philip Ellender, supported the resolution in a letter on June 9. Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna commented, "When you're trying to make a particular policy toxic, you make people vote on it."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_22.pdfStudy Finds Power Sector Carbon Standards Would Have $29 Billion in Health Benefits

On June 7, researchers with Resources for the Future, Harvard University, and Syracuse University released a new project for the Science Policy Exchange in the journal PLOS ONE that found the United States would gain a net benefit of about $33 billion annually from carbon rules on power plants. The study found that the United States would gain $29 billion annually in health co-benefits and $21 billion annually in climate benefits from power plant carbon restrictions, while paying about $17 billion annually. "We found that the health benefits would outweigh the estimated costs of the carbon standard in our study for 13 out of 14 power sector regions within five years of implementation," said study lead author Jonathan Buonocore at Harvard University.

For more information see:

NOTE: It is important to know that reducing CO2 emissions by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned not only reduces economic losses from climate change, but also provides substantial health benefits by reducing the emissions of other pollutants to the atmosphere like fine particulates that may be carcinogenic, nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to ozone formation, and (in the case of coal) mercury - a known neurotoxin.

pastedGraphic_23.pdfReport Finds that Companies Which Do Not Account for Climate Impacts Risk Decline and Bankruptcy

On June 6, a new report by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economic and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science, written by Dimitri Zenghelis and Lord Nicholas Stern, found that businesses which do not account for climate risks are vulnerable to economic decline or bankruptcy. The report says, "it is becoming increasingly risky for companies to pin all business strategies on the assumption that extensive decarbonisation will not happen." Stern and Zenghelis submitted the report to the Michael Bloomberg-chaired Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

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pastedGraphic_24.pdfArctic Sea Ice Levels Hit New Low

On June 7, the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released an analysis showing that Arctic sea ice in May 2016 was at a record low amount of coverage, at 4.63 million square miles. That is 224,000 square miles less than the previous record lowest extent for May in 2004, and 537,000 square miles less than the 1981-2010 long-term average for May - equivalent to the size of three Californias. Mark Serreze, director of NSIDC, said, "We've never seen anything like this before. It's way below the previous record, very far below it." The center noted that May 2016's sea ice extent were two to four weeks more melted than 2012, the year when the lowest Arctic sea ice extent ever was measured, putting 2016 on track to break 2012's record. January, February, and April 2016 all broke records for low Arctic sea ice extent as well.

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NOTE: The melting of Arctic sea ice does not raise sea levels directly, as floating ice already displaces its own weight of sea water.  However, it loss leads to more rapid uptake of heat energy from sunlight, as highly reflective white sea ice is replaced by dark blue sea.  It is this more rapid warming that accounts for the fact that the temperature of the Arctic is increasing twice as fast as the global average.

pastedGraphic_25.pdfClimate Change Could Prompt Large Migrations of People and Animals from the Tropics

On June 9, a new study published in the journal Science stated that moderate global warming may pressure large populations of humans, animals and plants in the tropics to relocate in order to find the temperature range they are accustomed to. Study lead author Solomon Hsiang at the University of California, Berkeley, commented that "people are not really talking about the tropics," but a little bit of warming can make a large difference there. "Once it's 95 degrees, one more degree can actually be very damaging to crops, very damaging to human health," Hsiang said.

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pastedGraphic_26.pdfEPA Proposes Additional Details for Clean Energy Incentive Program

On June 16, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released additional aspects of the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) and invited additional public comment. The CEIP is a voluntary program available to states and tribes under the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Administration's plan to cut power sector emissions by 32 percent. CEIP provides 'early action' credits to incentivize states and tribal governments to quickly install zero-emissions renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as provide energy efficiency programs in low-income communities. Although states are not required to continue CPP compliance during the Supreme Court's stay on the plan, many states are continuing to engage in planning for the CPP. According to EPA, the CEIP proposal "will provide states [and tribes] with additional clarity, which will help them make timely decisions regarding options for plan development when the stay is lifted."

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pastedGraphic_27.pdfCalifornia and New York House Democrats Support State Investigations into ExxonMobil

On June 9, a group of 19 House Democrats representing California sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, expressing support for her investigation into ExxonMobil's past disclosures related to climate change. The next day, 16 House Democrats from New York sent a letter to House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), criticizing the committee's inquiries into the 17 state attorneys general who are investigating ExxonMobil, New York and California included. The New York delegation's letter says, "Congressional interference with legitimate state law enforcement investigations is particularly alarming and inappropriate in this case." The ongoing state investigations seek to discover whether or not ExxonMobil knew about fossil fuels' accelerating effect on climate change but publicly supported initiatives that advocated otherwise. In their letter, the California Representatives said that "[the First Amendment] ... does not protect companies from defrauding the American people or improperly disclosing information to their shareholders."

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pastedGraphic_28.pdfBankruptcy Filings Reveal Peabody Energy's Support for Climate Skeptics

On June 13, The Guardian reported that Peabody Energy, the largest coal mining corporation in the United States, has donated to dozens of interest groups and scientists that deny climate change and lobby against environmental regulation. The information, which does not include funding amounts, comes from disclosures the company was required to make after filing for bankruptcy protection in April. Nick Surgey, the director of research for the Center for Media and Democracy, commented, "The breadth of the groups with financial ties to Peabody is extraordinary. Think tanks, litigation groups, climate scientists, political organizations, dozens of organizations blocking action on climate all receiving funding from the coal industry." Peabody Energy's bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing and additional financial disclosures are still be released, potentially bringing more funding activities to light.

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pastedGraphic_29.pdfLast Month Was the Hottest May Ever, as Year of Record Global Heat Continues

According to NASA data released on June 13, this year had the hottest May temperatures on record. The month was 1.67 degrees F warmer than the 1951-1980 baseline for the month. Every month so far in 2016 has set a heat record. David Carlson, the director of the United Nations World Climate Research Program, commented, "Exceptionally high temperatures. Ice melt rates in March and May that we don't normally see until July. Once-in-a-generation rainfall events. The super El Niño is only partly to blame. Abnormal is the new normal."

In related news, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) discussed a study modeling global summer temperatures in coming decades. The NCAR study found an 80 percent probability that any summer between 2061 and 2080 will be warmer than the hottest currently on record, assuming carbon emissions continue unabated. Even with significant emissions cuts, the study forecasts that certain regions will not benefit from a lower heat risk, including the eastern United States and many tropical regions. The study will soon be included in a special issue of the journal Climate Change.

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pastedGraphic_30.pdfEl Niño Drives Unprecedented Increases in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

A study published in Nature Climate Change on June 13 found that the recent El Niño event caused a spike in global carbon emissions, leading to a record increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. As a result, CO2 concentrations will remain above 400 parts per million (ppm) all year, a first for the industrial era. Lead study author Richard Betts of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre adds, "Once you have passed that barrier, it takes a long time for CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere by natural processes, even if we cut emissions, we wouldn't see concentrations coming down for a long time." CO2 concentrations reached a record 407 ppm in May and are forecast to fall to 401 ppm in September, after which they will rise again. Explaining the role the recent El Niño played in the record carbon increase, Betts said that the much-warmer-than-normal Pacific Ocean "warm[ed] and drie[d] tropical ecosystems, reducing their uptake of carbon and exacerbating forest fires."

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

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