Friday, October 28, 2016



On Sept. 2 Ed Stein posted a cartoon and article at EdSteininkcom titled, The One Weird Place Climate Change Just Isn’t Happening.  He writes, “Climate change appears to be happening faster than scientists predicted. Storms are more violent and more devastating. Coastal areas in Louisiana, Florida and Virginia are flooding regularly as polar ice melts and the seas rise. Diseases formerly confined to the tropics are spreading northward as the Earth warms. Evergreen forests in Colorado are decimated by pests that no longer die off during the warmer winters. Tropical birds in Hawaii are disappearing as the temperature rises. And the list goes on and on.

Yet there is one area where global warming seems not to be taking place, and scientists are unable to explain why. The brains of Republicans in Congress seem to be almost entirely resistant to the forces that are changing the climate everywhere else on Earth.”

“There are a number of theories being floated to explain the phenomenon. One idea is the effect of campaign contributions from industries that would be hurt by policies needed to address climate change. The theory is that wads of money tend to insulate the brain from invasive thoughts. Another hypothesis is that gerrymandered districts have led to the election of people whose brains are more rigid and less able to process new information. Or possibly the threat of losing a primary election to an extreme climate denier changes something in the brain of an otherwise rational person.”

Our Children’s Trust is an organization suing the federal government on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs, claiming that they have a constitutional right to a stable climate suitable for life for future generations.  Dr. James Hansen (Columbia University) has supported the effort. There is a petition you may sign, as I have, co-sponsored by Our Children’s Trust and  the following is given as background:
This petition backs the 21 kids from across the U.S., ages 8-19, who have taken the U.S. government to federal court, demanding science-based action on climate change. Every person, regardless of age, race, gender or religion has the right to a clean environment and a safe future - and the U.S. government's continued acts that prevent meaningful climate recovery undermine that right. 
When these kids spoke up, Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Koch Industries got scared and through their trade associations joined the U.S. government in trying to stop the lawsuit. 
Our children know that we can’t wait to achieve a binding climate justice deal. We stand with them in demanding that the U.S. government stop the continued permitting and subsidy of the fossil fuel industry and adopt a national science-based Climate Recovery Plan to bring atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 350 ppm by the year 2100.”
You can also watch a 9-minute video of a press conference by Julia Olson of Our Children’s Trust following a hearing of the case in federal court in Eugene, Oregon on Sept. 13.  You can also link to the full transcript of the hearing. The argument for the plaintiffs begins on page 39. An amicus brief filed by the League of Women Voters in support of the plaintiffs is mentioned on page 59.

NOTE: If the President and the Congress are unable or unwilling to guarantee the constitutional right to life, liberty and the protection of property, then it will be up to the courts.  Donald Trump has promised that if he is elected President, he will undo all the progress President Obama has made in addressing climate change.

On Sept. 19 North American WindPower posted an article by Betsy Lillian titled, Los Angeles Takes Enormous Step Toward 100 Percent Renewables.  She wrote that the City Council unanimously adopted a measure instructing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to chart a path toward 100% clean energy in the city - making it the largest city in the country to do so.  Seventeen American cities have committed to achieving 100% clean energy so far, including Salt Lake City, San Diego and San Francisco.  Cities in other countries with 100% clean energy targets include Paris, Sydney and Vancouver.

On Sept. 22 USA Today posted an article by Doyle Rice titled, Greenland’s ice melting faster than we thought, study finds.  He wrote, Greenland's ice sheet is losing 40 trillion additional tons of ice each year, melting about 7% faster than previously thought, according to a new study.
The new calculated loss is equivalent to more than 50,000 Empire State Buildings, the Associated Press reported. Overall, the sheet is losing about 590 trillion tons of ice each year.
Melting ice from Greenland and Antarctica contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens low-lying countries and cities around the world. Greenland's ice sheet is the world's second-largest behind Antarctica. Warmer air and sea temperatures caused by man-made climate change is one of the main reasons the ice is melting.”
According to the National Snow and Ice data Center, loss of all the Greenland ice would raise global sea level about 20 feet.

NOTE: One of the mechanisms contributing to Greenland ice loss not mentioned in the article is the increased rates of ice sliding downhill and calving, the breaking and falling off into the sea of large chunks of ice from the faces of the outlet glaciers - those that empty directly into the sea. (To see what’s been happening see the video of the largest calving event ever photographed, from the National Geographic Documentary, Chasing Ice.)   As soon as the ice falls into the sea, it displaces its own weight of sea water.  It can then melt at its leisure without further affecting sea level.  While global average sea levels rose only about 8 inches during the last century, they are projected to rise by as much as 2 m (nearly 80 inches) or more during the coming one - mostly as a result of loss of ice now on  Greenland and Antarctica.  Jim Hansen (Columbia University) has warned of possible multi-meter sea level rise during the next century.  A lot depends on how rapidly and how thoroughly humanity reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases - especially carbon dioxide.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon recently gave a 34-minute speech describing a plan to get the United States to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050.  The title of the video is 100% Clean and Renewable Energy: The Challenge of Our Generation.

On Sept. 26 the NY TImes posted an article by Hiroko Tabuchi and Clifford Krauss titled, A New Debate Over Pricing the Risks of Climate Change.  They wrote, Some companies, including Exxon Mobil, say the economics of climate change are too hard to predict for them to give investors hard numbers about the business impact of global warming.  
Federal regulators may disagree and are considering requiring Exxon to do just that for the value of its oil reserves.
Now a long-shot legislative effort by a Florida congressman to prevent such a move by the federal government has become an unexpected flash point in the battle over disclosing climate-related risks — with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in the balance.
The congressional measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, originally introduced in July by Representative Bill Posey, a Florida Republican, has been picked up in the Senate version of the legislation. Because the bill is tied up in a partisan debate over spending, there is no certainty the amendment will pass.
But at a time when many Republicans dispute the very notion of climate change, the Posey measure has focused the debate over whether it is reasonable — or even possible — to expect companies to put a price tag on the environmental impact of climate change.
Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has called climate change “a hoax” and promises to slash environmental regulations to bolster economic growth.
The issue is not limited to Exxon and oil companies. The Posey amendment would allow real estate companies to stay mum on the risks posed to waterfront properties by rising seas, for example, and let food companies leave the impact of future water shortages unaddressed.”
And scientists estimate that as much as three-quarters of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if the world has a shot at keeping carbon emissions under levels set by the Paris climate accord — unless there is a technological breakthrough in capturing carbon and keeping it out of the atmosphere.”

On Sept. 29 Elizabeth Kolbert posted an article in the New Yorker titled, Donald Trump and the Climate Change Countdown.  She pointed out that the Clean Power Plan - meant to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s electricity generating sector by about 30% (relative to 2005) - is President Obama’s most important effort to reduce U.S. carbon emissions in order to meet it’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.  If the U.S. doesn’t live up to its pledge, It’s unlikely that other countries will. William Ruckelshaus and William K. Reilly - Republicans who both served as heads of EPA- in a Sept. 26 NY Times Op-Ed, titled, Why Obama Is Right on Clean Energy, wrote, “The debate about whether the climate is changing is over. The consequences will be drastic if the United States and other countries do nothing.”
“The actions this country is taking to reduce greenhouse gases exemplify American exceptionalism. Our leadership is indispensable to international progress. Failure to accept and assert that responsibility guarantees that future generations of Americans will face a world markedly different from today’s and bear a cost far in excess of addressing the challenge now.”
Twenty seven states, led by West Virginia and supported by a group of oil and coal companies, have sued the EPA to prevent the plan from going into effect.  Oral arguments  against it were recently heard in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  If it goes to the Supreme Court, the result may well depend on who is chosen to replace Justice Scalia, who recently passed away.  Hillary Clinton has said she will support the Clean Power Plan, while Donald Trump has said he will rescind it.  Kolbert wrote, “This could be seen as yet another reason to be terrified of a Trump victory.  Or it could be seen as the reason to be terrified of a Trump victory.”  (my bolding added to her italics)

Alister Doyle and Roberta Rampton posted on article on Oct. 5 on Reuters titled, Paris climate accord to take effect; Obama hails 'historic day'.
They reported that the European Union agreed to support the Paris Climate Accord, pushing the total carbon emissions of the supporting nations over the 55% threshold required to have the agreement go into effect.  There are now 72 countries out of 195 that have ratified the agreement.  The deal will formally start in 30 days on Nov. 4, four days before the U.S. presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump opposes the accord and Democrat Hillary Clinton strongly supports it.”
 “Obama called Wednesday "a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations" and he told reporters on the White House Rose Garden: "If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet."”

The Sacramento Bee posted an article on Oct. 5 by Brad Branan titled, Disappearing Yosemite glacier becomes symbol of climate change.  It is accompanied by a 3.3-minute video clip showing what is left of the Lyell Glacier,, which has lost 78% of its area and no longer has enough ice to flow.  The article says, In a speech about climate change at Yosemite this summer, President Barack Obama highlighted Lyell Glacier as a warning for the future.
“Climate change is no longer just a threat; it’s a reality,” he said. “Yosemite’s largest glacier, once a mile wide, is almost gone.””
On Oct. 12 the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) posted an article in Today in Energy titled, Energy-related CO2 emissions for first six months of 2016 are lowest since 1991.  The article reported that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions reached an historical high near 6 billion metric tons/yr during the period 2005-2009. Based on the results for the first half of 2016, the EIA projected that the total this year will be only 5.175 million metric tonnes - their lowest level since 1992.  The 14% drop is attributed primarily to switching from coal to natural gas for a lot of electricity generation, and to a lesser extent, the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources - especially wind.  Solar power is growing rapidly on a percent per year basis, but its contribution is still small relative to wind’s.
On Oct. 20 PBS published a 9.4-minute video featuring Paul Salmon on YouTube titled, Paying for carbon pollution? Why some environmentalists don’t support this state tax.  It’s interesting to watch.  Audubon supports I 732 but the Sierra Club opposes it.  
Initiative 732 - the Washington Carbon Tax and Sales Tax Reduction Act -  is on the ballot in Washington state in November.  To quote from the above BallotPedia article, 
Initiative 732 would establish a tax on carbon emissions at $15 per metric ton of emissions in July 2017, $25 in July 2018, and then 3.5 percent plus inflation each year until the tax reaches $100 per metric ton. The tax would be phased in more slowly for farmers and nonprofit transportation providers.
The designers of Initiative 732 sought to neither increase nor decrease state revenues. Rather, the general goal behind the tax is to encourage families and firms to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To meet this goal of remaining "revenue neutral," Initiative 732 would lower the state sales tax from 6.5 to 5.5 percent, increase the Working Families Tax Credit for low-income families, and reduce the business and occupation tax rate from 0.484 to 0.001 percent.”
If the Washington carbon tax passes, it would be the first such tax  designed to reduce CO2 emissions  in the U.S.  It is modeled on a carbon tax just to the north of Washington in British Columbia.  That tax is also used to offset other taxes.  It started at $10 (Canadian) per metric tonneof CO2 in July 2008 and increased by $5 per year until it reached $30/tonne in July 2012, where it remains.  To leanr more see British Columbia’s Carbon Tax: By the Numbers.

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. 

White House Announces Initiative to Integrate Climate and National Security Actions

On September 21, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum requiring climate change be considered in the future development of national security policies and plans. The memo orders 20 federal agencies and offices to share information and collaborate on addressing issues overlapping climate and security. The memo will create a Federal Climate and National Security Working Group to be staffed by National Security Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy staff. The working group's task is to identify climate security priorities and propose steps to enhance science and intelligence sharing to better inform policies. An action plan outlining these actions will be published by the group within 90 days. Individual agencies will be responsible for developing their own implementation plans to identify climate-related threats, economic implications, and international outcomes relevant to their missions. The National Intelligence Council also released a report detailing the risks climate poses to national security operations and facilities over the next two decades, including country destabilization, food access, human health, economic disruptions, and extreme weather events.
For more information see:

California Governor Signs Stricter Standards on Black Carbon, Methane, HFCs

On September 19, a pivotal law applying new standards to black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and tropospheric ozone was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown. The standards require a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and a 40 percent reduction in methane and HFCs by 2030 versus 2013 levels. These "super pollutants" exacerbate the effects of global warming at a much higher rate than carbon dioxide (CO2). Since the 1960s, California has been able to cut black carbon emissions by more than 90 percent through the regulation of car and truck emissions, as well as a ban on new open-hearth woodstoves. The new law will ramp up efforts to reduce pollution from the state's large freight industry. A compromise with the dairy industry did not cap livestock methane, but advised controls be implemented "when economically viable." According to Gov. Brown, the emissions reduction law is the strictest in the nation targeting black carbon and methane.
For more information see:

Paris Climate Deal Surpasses 55-Country Ratification Threshold

On September 21, 31 additional countries ratified the Paris climate accord, surpassing a major threshold necessary for the agreement's entry into force. In order for the agreement to take effect, at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global emissions must ratify it. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "convinced that the Paris Agreement will enter into force before the end of 2016." The Paris agreement has progressed at an unprecedented rate for a modern international treaty and has a chance to enter into force before the start of the next climate conference (COP-22) to be held this November in Morocco. Swift action has been motivated by the urgency to act on climate change and uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Among the countries officially joining the agreement were Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates.
For more information see:

United States and China Peer Review Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Identify Inefficiencies

As part of a continuing effort to reduce global carbon emissions, the United States and China are participating in a transparent peer review assessment of their domestic fossil fuel subsidies. According to Peter Wooders, director of the energy program at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, "This gesture of openness signals a genuine desire to remove subsidies that are both environmentally and economically harmful." Of the $8.2 billion in fossil fuel subsidies issued by the United States, $4.8 billion were deemed inefficient (emphasis added) (a major exception was the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP). The Obama administration has presented eleven proposals to Congress since 2010 to end fossil fuel subsidies, but all have died in the House. An international review panel determined that American citizens needed to be better informed and motivated to exert pressure on Congress in order for subsidy reform to occur. Chinese officials have yet to lay out a timeline for altering their current subsidy policies, but encouraged other nations to also submit their subsidy practices for review.
For more information see:

NOTE: Subsidizing fossil fuels is stupid and counterproductive, when that money could be used to hasten the transtiion to a. more efficient and renewable energy future.  It’s self-destructive - like shooting yourself in the foot.

pastedGraphic.pdfCanada to Adopt National Carbon Reduction Standard in 2016

The Canadian government announced plans to adopt a new national carbon price by October 2016. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna discussed the upcoming regulation during a CTV interview on September 18. According to McKenna, Canada's 10 provinces would be allowed to pursue emission reductions on their own terms, but must ultimately comply with the national standard. The four largest provinces of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta have already established either a carbon tax or cap and trade system. Provincial authorities have requested autonomy over crafting their own carbon reduction policies. Under the proposed regime, provinces that fail to implement their own regulatory schemes would be subject to a carbon price determined by the federal government.
For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfSEC Investigating Exxon's Calculation of Climate Risk in Asset Valuation  

An investigation by the SEC into the asset evaluation formula employed by Exxon Mobil to value petroleum reserves and projects may have a significant impact on energy firms moving forward. Exxon is under investigation for how the firm calculates the effect global climate change regulation will have on the business operations of the firm. For instance, the price of carbon is used by Exxon to calculate how their profits would be affected by the implementation of a cap and trade program. These calculations have implications for the overall value of an energy firm, since they can dictate whether it would be profitable to pursue future activities, such as oil exploration and drilling, within the global regulatory and economic landscape. The investigation has come on the heels of mounting pressure from members of Congress and advocacy organizations demanding increased efforts by the SEC to accurately assess risks associated with climate change.
For more information see:

Federal Appeals Court Hears Key Oral Arguments for Clean Power Plan

Oral arguments in the D.C. circuit court over the legality of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP) were held on September 27. The hearing for West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency is the latest development for the CPP since the Supreme Court issued a stay on the plan in February 2016. The CPP mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector by 2030 and is a critical tool in the United States' efforts to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement. Opponents of the CPP argued the rule is too "transformative" for the utility industry and that EPA lacks clear authority from Congress for implementation. Supporters cited the Supreme Court ruling that first declared carbon dioxide a pollutant, as well as precedent for the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. The 10-judge panel appeared to split largely along party lines, per the president who appointed them, but a healthy degree of skepticism was directed towards both sides of the argument.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfPrime Minister Modi Declares India Will Ratify Paris Treaty on October 2, 2016

On September 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India will ratify the Paris climate agreement on October 2. The symbolic date coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. India accounts for about 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is vulnerable to many impacts of climate change, such as coastal flooding. Modi said, "The world is now talking about how to stop global warming; to prevent the temperature of the earth to rise by another two degrees ... and we know what it could mean for coastal cities and countries. We need to play a part." For the Paris agreement to enter into force, at least 55 countries must ratify the treaty and at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions must be accounted for among the signatories. The impending ratification by India would push the treaty's captured emissions to around 52 percent.

For more information see:

Hundreds of Top Scientists Endorse U.S. Climate Action, Denounce GOP Presidential Nominee's Views

On September 20, hundreds of the world's top scientists published an open letter addressing the perils of dismissing climate science and the risks associated with a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. The letter was signed by 375 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates, as a direct rebuttal to the views of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has said he would remove the United States from the Paris agreement if elected. The letter states a U.S. exit "would send a clear signal to the rest of the world ... 'You are on your own.' Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences ... would be severe and long-lasting - for our planet's climate and for the international credibility of the United States." The signatories clarified that they were signing as individuals and not on behalf of the Academy or their institutions.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfStudy: United States Would Fail to Meet Its Emission Reduction Targets under Current Policy Plans

With the Paris climate agreement's entry into force appearing imminent, attention has begun to shift toward whether countries are actually following through with their pledged emissions reductions. The United States vowed to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 - an ambitious goal that has prompted critics to question its feasibility. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change, Jeffery Greenblatt and Max Wei of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that even with today's existing and proposed climate policies, the United States will likely fall short of its targets. Nonetheless, Greenblatt is hopeful, stating that "There is certainly need for further policy action, [but] I think the U.S. should be complimented. They set their own target and they set out a path to meet it as best they could. I think if they need to work a little harder, [meeting their goal is] not an unexpected outcome."

For more information see:

Coastal Bangladesh Already Suffering from Climate-Induced Storms and Water Shortages

A community in Bangladesh is quickly succumbing to the effects of climate change. Water scarcity has forced the impoverished residents of Koyra number 6 (named under colonial British rule) to travel to a town nine miles away to gather their daily water supply. After Cyclone Sidr hit in 2007, the entire fresh water supply turned saline. Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, says climate change has made such cyclones more severe due to changing sea temperatures. Neighboring towns are experiencing the same fate as intensifying cyclones destroy their crops, cattle, and infrastructure. The flooding alone has caused irreparable damage to hundreds of small towns, causing many to live in makeshift housing on a permanent basis. According to Dr. Huq, "Inevitably over time millions of people in the coastal areas will lose their livelihoods and will have to move. They simply will not be able to continue living there."

For more information see:

State-Wide Carbon Tax in Washington Would Be First for United States

Voters in Washington State will decide the fate of the first U.S. carbon tax during the November elections. The ballot measure, Initiative 732, would place a $15 per ton tax on carbon produced in Washington state, starting in July 2017. The price per ton would increase to $25 the following year, with annual increases until the tax reaches its ceiling of $100 per ton. A one percentage point decrease in the state sales tax, phased in over two years, would accompany the carbon tax upon implementation. Separate analyses by the Washington State Department of Revenue and the left-leaning Sightline Institute project a loss of $800 to $320 million, respectively, over the first four years of the carbon tax. Yoram Bauman, a contributor to the tax's design, says the proposal was based on a carbon tax already in use in British Columbia, Canada. The Washington state Democratic Party and state Sierra Club have opposed the initiative, claiming it would only complicate the state's budget woes.

For more information see:

Legal Insiders Indicate EPA's Defense of Clean Power Plan Will Succeed

Legal experts are expecting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to win the legal battle over the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as the DC Circuit Court considers the arguments brought forth during a pivotal September 27th hearing. In lieu of traditional procedure, the court decided to hear oral arguments as a whole instead of the typical three-judge panel. The "en banc" format reflects the court's significant interest in the case, as eight of the ten presiding judges spent a large portion of the 7.5 hour hearing questioning attorneys on both sides. Arguments focused on the interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the authority of the EPA to regulate power plants as part of a national CO2 emission reduction strategy. Bruce Huber, a law professor at Notre Dame, observed the consequences of inaction may be weighing on the judges' minds: "[Climate change is] a social problem for which a massive solution has been generated by the sitting administration and if I'm going to declare that to be outside the bounds of the statute, I better be darn sure that I'm right about that."

For more information see:

Paris Climate Agreement Crosses Finish Line, Will Enter into Force November 30, 2016

On October 5, the Paris climate agreement passed a final threshold and will officially enter into force on November 30, 2016. The European Parliament approved the deal on Tuesday and submitted their paperwork earlier than expected to avoid being "upstaged." European Union members Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal and Malta had previously completed domestic procedures for ratification and were able to sign on to the Paris agreement on Wednesday. Canada, Bolivia, and Nepal also joined, raising the ratification count to 74 countries representing nearly 59 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The threshold for enactment was 55 countries and 55 percent of emissions. Commemorating the international milestone, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet." Two United Nations agreements to cap airline emissions and phase out HFCs (a potent greenhouse gas) under the Montreal Protocol are also expected to gain approval in the coming weeks.

For information see:

Airline Industry and 191 Nations Agree to Cap International Aviation Carbon Emissions

On October 6, the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approved a carbon emissions reduction scheme for the global airline industry. The scheme will be voluntary from 2021-2027, but will become mandatory from 2028-2035. The agreement's upper limit for emissions will use the year 2020 as the baseline. Any airlines that exceed that upper limit on carbon dioxide emissions must make up the difference through the purchase of carbon credits. The new emissions cap only applies to international flights, since domestic flights are already captured by the Paris climate accord. Each of ICAO's 191 member states must still undertake domestic action to implement the terms of the agreement. The airline industry has backed the ICAO agreement, despite projected costs to the industry ranging from 5-24 billion dollars by 2035. Sixty-five nations have already agreed to participate in the voluntary phase of the agreement, including the United States, China, and the European Union's 44-member aviation conference.

For more information see:

Canadian Provinces Required to Adopt a Carbon Pricing Plan by 2018

On October 3, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a carbon pricing mandate for every provincial government. The provinces have until 2018 to adopt a carbon pricing plan of their choosing, or else the federal government will impose its own price for any non-compliant provinces. Plans may take the form of a cap and trade system or a direct price on carbon emissions, so long as the scheme meets the federal "floor price." The floor price will be $10 per ton in 2018, but will increase by $10 annually until it reaches $50 in 2022. The initiative is part of Canada's goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. Representatives from Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador expressed their displeasure with the Trudeau administration's plan by walking out of a meeting with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta already have carbon pricing schemes in place.

For more information see:

NOTE: Since it takes about 100 gallons of gasoline to make a ton of CO2, a price of $10 per ton of CO2 is expected to raise the cost of a gallon of gasoline by about 10 cents, and $50 about 50 cents.

pastedGraphic_5.pdfAfrican Coalition Brings Adaptive Farming to Forefront of Climate Conference

A coalition of 27 African states hopes to spark a discussion on the world stage concerning food supply issues related to climate change. The Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) group will champion the issue at the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco. A white paper published by AAA concluded increased temperatures and erratic precipitation could cause a 20 percent reduction in crop production in Africa by 2050. Africa's farmers often lack access to financing options and technologies to help them adapt to extreme weather. According to Mohamed Ait Kadi, president of Morocco's General Council of Agricultural Development, "There is a general consensus that our countries are already affected by the impacts of climate change. African farmlands and ranges are increasingly degraded and face declining yields." Considering that climate change impacts are projected to reduce Africa's GDP by 1.4 percent annually, and that 70 percent of the continent's population derives revenue from farming, projected climate impacts could be severe.

For more information see:

Poll: Americans Follow Party Line on Climate Science, but Embrace Renewable Energy

On October 4, the Pew Research Center published a poll revealing deep divides over the nature and causes of climate change among Americans, with significant differences along political lines. When asked if climate change is mainly a result of human activity, seven out of ten Democrats responded affirmatively, while fewer than a quarter of Republicans did so. There is broad skepticism of climate scientists among both parties. Only 54 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans trust climate scientists to report "full and accurate" information. Broad bipartisan support exists for renewable energy. Over 80 percent of respondents favor building more solar and wind farms, versus only 41 percent approval for more coal mining. Former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis said "addressing climate change would result in greater independence, more mobility and more freedom," but that the language typically used to discuss climate had led to a perception gap between liberals and conservatives.

For more information see:

American Southwest at High Risk of "Megadroughts" Unless Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Reduced

Temperature increases and reduced rainfall driven by climate change will place the American Southwest at significant risk of "megadroughts," according to a new study published in Science Advances. The study estimates certain southwestern regions face up to a 99 percent risk level of getting hit by a multi-decade megadrought this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Different warming scenarios were modeled, including a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, 4 C, and 6 C compared to pre-industrial levels. The models showed holding global warming to no more than 2 C could cut the risk of catastrophic drought in half. Earlier studies have shown natural fluctuations in the Earth's climate generated megadroughts once or twice a century over the past 1,000 years. However, scientists warn that the addition of human-caused climate change factors increases the likelihood of these events in the future. Climate models currently project global emissions will elevate global average temperatures by 4 C by 2100 if action is not taken.

For more information see:

NOTE: The amount that the global average surface temperature (GAST) increases by 2100 depends not only on how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released into the atmosphere by human activities, but on the sensitivity of the GAST at equilibrium to the type and concentration of the GHGs, and how fast equilibrium is achieved once human-causes GHG emissions stop.  It is also possible to raise GAST enough to set off a self-sustaining massive release of methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - from methane hydrates that could spiral out of control.  All indications are that GHG emissions caused directly by human activities should be reduced to zero ASAP.

pastedGraphic_7.pdfZimbabwean Farmers Turn to Indigenous Crops to Adapt to Climate Change

A new farming practice may bring hope to communities suffering from the environmental effects of El Niño and La Niña. In recent years, Zimbabwe has experienced unrelenting drought and devastating flooding due to extreme seasonal weather fluctuations. Many living in the region have begun to adapt by farming small grains and indigenous crops resistant to the worsening conditions brought about by climate change. Machinda Marongwe, country director for Oxfam International, stressed that the government must invest in agricultural resilience programming and encourage the development of local seed banks. "Commercial seeds are not locally available or affordable, so smallholders rely on farmer seed system to access the varieties they need. Access is especially important in cases of drought, as farmers may be forced to replant several times." Food insecurity has become a mounting issue throughout the country, forcing communities to spend more money on food at the expense of funds that would normally be allocated elsewhere, such as education.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfLandmark Deal to Ban HFCs Agreed to by 197 Nations

On October 15, representatives from 197 nations agreed upon a legally binding deal to phase out the use of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), a potent greenhouse gas commonly used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The legally binding deal, finalized in Kigali, Rwanda, was a result of seven years of negotiations and will solely target HFCs. Unlike the Paris climate accord, the Kigali deal features enforcement mechanisms in the form of trade sanctions to punish non-compliant countries and includes financial assistance to ease the transition for poorer nations. Scientists predict the resulting ban on HFCs will prevent an increase of atmospheric temperatures of almost one degree Fahrenheit, since the chemical is 1,000 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2. To accommodate concerns from less-developed countries, the deal will be implemented along three tracks. The richest nations will halt production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, while most other countries will end usage by 2024. A special subset (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) will not have to phase-out HFCs until 2028. Though given the option to join the most lenient timetable, the entire African delegation chose to join the mid-level group instead. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda's minister of natural resources, said, "Africa is a continent that is deeply vulnerable to climate change. We need to address climate change if we are to address poverty."

For more information see:


Clinton and Gore Stump on Climate Change in Miami
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore made climate change a major theme of their campaign stop in Miami, Florida, on October 11. Forgoing her usual stump speech, Clinton focused on climate change, an important issue to Florida as sea level rise threatens the state's coastal communities. Clinton promised to combat climate change and partner with global leaders to implement and enforce international agreements. Clinton also hinted at a potential role for Gore in her prospective administration, stating, "I can't wait to have Al Gore advising me [on climate change]." Citing the views of the Republican nominee Donald Trump, Clinton said voters "cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House." Gore framed the election as an opportunity for the United States to continue addressing climate change, saying, "The world is on the cusp of either building on the progress and solving the climate crisis, or stepping back."

For more information see:

NOTE: On Oct, 21 the Wilmington, DE News Journal published the following  letter-to-the-editor I (Chad Tolman) submitted after the second presidential debate:

Another Reason Not to Vote for Trump

A number of readers have written letters with reasons not to vote for Trump for president.  There is another that is very important that I have not seen.  
One of the major responsibilities of a president is to protect the lives and property of our citizens.  I see global climate change as one of the greatest threats to our grandchildren, our country, and to people around the world.  Addressing the issue vigorously and rapidly requires U.S. leadership, as the U.S. has the world’s largest economy and is responsible for more of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than any other country.  Trump has promised that he, if elected, will pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and promote the burning of more coal  - undoing decades of progress and ignoring the warnings of our best climate scientists.  His views are ignorant and his promises are dangerous.  
You may not like Hillary Clinton, but she at least recognizes the danger of the threat of climate change and has promised to address it using the best available science.  For the sake of your families and future generations, please help elect her president.

pastedGraphic_9.pdfColorado Counties Follow Divergent Paths toward Addressing Climate Change

In 2001, the divide between Republicans and Democrats on whether global warming is human-caused stood at 17 percentage points. In 2016, the gap has spiked to 41 points. This increasing divide can be observed in Colorado, where two counties have become a microcosm of American politics. Fort Collins, the largest city in Larimer County, has developed a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. In contrast, the city of Greeley in Weld County, a heavily-fracked area deeply rooted in the oil and gas industry, is much more resistant to climate action. Greeley Mayor Tom Norton, who also served in the Colorado state legislature, recognizes that climate change is "something we need to deal with [but], ... we have to pay a lot more attention to the cost to the general public." Elsewhere in Weld, candidate for county commissioner, Carl Erickson, observes, "There are the polarized groups that are going further away, but there's a vast majority in the center that are starting to actually listen and think [about climate] and that's the group we really have to [engage]."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfMajor Investment Group Urges Auto Industry to Better Prepare for Low-Carbon Economy
A new report from the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is placing pressure on the automotive industry to accelerate its preparations for a low-carbon economy. The report calls for automotive companies to appoint climate change specialists to their boards, extend cooperation with policymakers on sustainability initiatives, and invest heavily in the development of low-emission vehicles. IIGCC also cites the recent Volkswagen emissions testing evasion scandal and "the gap between real world and emissions testing" as motivation to reform the industry's reputation as a climate action hold-out. IIGCC, a group of 250 investors controlling assets worth over $24 trillion, also pointed to a growing number of emissions regulations and government incentives for electric vehicles as cause for the industry to improve its market resiliency. According to Chris Davis, a program director at the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk, "a growing number of institutional investors recognize that climate change will impact their holdings, portfolios, and asset values in the short and long-term."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_11.pdfNOAA: Global Rogue Methane Emissions Have Been Significantly Undercounted
A two-year study recently published in Nature revealed that the amount of global methane resulting from fossil fuel production is 20-60 percent higher than originally thought. The study also found that livestock and waste disposal sites are a leading cause behind previously-observed methane spikes. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is difficult to track. Rogue emissions from the fossil fuel industry account for 20-25 percent of global methane emissions, according to the study. The study's methane emissions assessment is one-fifth higher than existing IPCC estimates and 60 percent higher than those of Europe's Global Atmospheric Research center. Scientists used data from 7,500 natural gas, oil, and coal extraction facilities in 45 different countries to obtain accurate measurements of the emissions. The findings show that methane leaks have decreased over the past 30 years due to technological advancements and improved oversight, but an increase in fossil fuel extraction activities has prevented an overall decrease in global methane emissions.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_12.pdfResearch Uncovers Feedback Loop Accelerating Loss of Greenland Ice Sheet
Two novel papers in Geophysical Research Letters investigate the relationship between "supraglacial lakes" and meltwater "plumes" in glaciers. As ice sheets melt, accumulating water forms glacial lakes, which can then penetrate the glacier and flow to a discharge point in the ocean. Some of the resulting plumes occur at a submerged portion of the glacier, allowing warm ocean water into the base and further destabilizing the ice sheet. According to Dustin Carroll, a scientist at the University of Oregon, the largest and deepest glaciers suffer the most degradation from the interaction between glacial lakes and underwater plumes. Carroll said, "The more melt we have on the Greenland ice sheet, the more water drains down to the bed, the plumes are more vigorous, and they're going to draw in more ocean water and transport heat to the ice. This is a direct ocean feedback that's really going to amplify as there's more melting on the ice sheet."

For more information see:

Study: Climate Change Adds Fuel to Wildfires in Western United States
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that climate change has exacerbated both the effects and causes of wildfires in the western United States. An increase in temperature and changes in precipitation have resulted in drier vegetation more prone to burning. The study connected these factors to a doubling of lands marred by forest fires since 1984. Through their research, authors Park Williams and John Abatzoglou determined that over half of the vegetative dryness recorded since 1979 can be attributed to human-caused climate change. These climate-driven effects are expected to grow over time, resulting in more severe wildfires. "The fact is that this relationship between fuel aridity and forest fire area is exponential," said Williams, "that means that every degree of warming has a bigger impact on forest fire area than the previous degree of warming. ...That explains to me why every year we hear career-long firefighters saying they've never seen fires burning the way that they're burning."

For more information see:

New York City Faces Elevated Risk of "Sandy-Like" Flooding Events This Century

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts a significantly greater risk of Hurricane Sandy-like flooding for New York City during the next century. The study used two factors to model future storm surge events: sea level rise and the size and severity of storms. The model integrates historical data and projections, while accounting for the influence of climate change. Based off a moderate emissions scenario, the likelihood of a flood as severe as that experienced during Hurricane Sandy is 3-17 times more likely over the next 100 years compared to the present day. The scenario predicts a major flooding event could hit New York City every 23 years. Study author Ning Lin, a professor at Princeton University, expressed the value of such research for cities: "New York has started the planning of building coastal protection defense. Our analysis can help determine what magnitude of such defense - e.g., height of levees - is needed to protect the city from future increasing surge inundation."

For more information see:

If you would like to receive my Climate Change News automatically by email and don’t already, just send an email message to: 

If you want to stop receiving it, just send a message to If you come across some really interesting information, please send it along and I may include it in the next issue.  Recent issues are available at:

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

1 comment: