Monday, December 19, 2016



On October 5 the Risky Business Project, founded by Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry M. Paulson, and Thomas F. Steyer, published a report titled, From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy.  It finds that reducing the risk of climate change is both economically and technically achievable, and could provide significant new opportunities for American business.  The Executive Summary says:
In our 2014 inaugural report, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” we found that the economic risks
from unmitigated climate change to American businesses and long-term investors are large and unacceptable. Subsequent scientific data and
analysis have reinforced and strengthened that conclusion. As a result, we, the Co-Chairs and Risk Committee of the Risky Business Project, are united in recognizing the need to respond to the risk climate change poses to the American economy. Now we turn to the obvious next question: how
to respond to those risks. Seriously addressing climate change requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 in the U.S. and across all major economies. (emphasis added) We find that this goal is technically and economically achievable using commercial or near-commercial technology. Most important, we find that meeting the goal does not require an energy miracle or unprecedented spending. 
The transition to a cleaner energy economy rests on three pillars: moving from fossil fuels to electricity wherever possible, generating electricity with low or zero carbon emissions, and using energy much more efficiently.  (emphasis added)  This means building new sources of zero- and low-carbon energy, including wind, solar, and nuclear; electrifying vehicles, heating systems, and many other products and processes; and investing in making buildings, appliances, and manufacturing more energy efficient.  Meeting these targets requires a large-scale shift away from ongoing spending on fossil fuels and toward up-front capital investments in clean energy technologies. Many of those, such as wind and solar, have little or no fuel cost once built. Given an appropriate policy framework, we expect these investments to be made largely by the private sector and consumers, and to yield significant returns. Because of the large capital investments and the long-term savings in fuel costs, this shift presents significant opportunities for many American investors and businesses. Notably, shifting the U.S. to a low-carbon, clean energy system presents not just long term benefits but also immediate, near-term opportunities, particularly for those actors best positioned to capitalize on these trends.”

In November National Geographic downloaded to YouTube a 1.6-hour documentary film narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio titled, Before the Flood.  
I believe it is now available for rent or purchase.  You can see the official trailer here.  The film includes interviews with a number of world leaders and historical footage.

There was a 5-minute radio  interview with an energy expert on WNYC on a program called The Takeaway hosted by John Hockenberry.  The program, titled, Reversing the Decline of Coal, addresses the promise of President-Elect Trump to bring back lost of coal mining jobs.  He can’t do much because of automation, cheap natural gas, environmental concerns, and the growth of renewable energy - mostly from the sun and wind.

On Nov. 22 Marianne Lavelle posted an article on Inside Climate News titled, Here are 9 Obama Environmental Regulations in Trump’s Crosshairs.  Here are some titles and effective dates:

Clean Power Plan (Aug. 3, 2015)
Waters of the U.S. Rule (Aug. 28, 2015)
Methane Rule: New Facilities (May 12, 2016)
Methane Rule: Existing Sites (Underway)
Blowout Preventer Rules (April 14, 2016)
Greater Sage Grouse Protections (Sept. 25, 2015
Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal Lands (March 20, 2015)
Crystalline Silica Worker Safety Rule (March 23, 2016)

NOTE: I was unable to open Inside Climate News.  The article was sent to me in an email by a friend.

On Nov. 23 The Real News Network (TRNN) posted a 6.7-minute video titled, Filmmaker Facing 45 Years for Covering Keystone Pipeline Protest  Wins Suspension of Prosecution.  The video features Deia Schlosberg describing her arrest and the criminal charges brought against her for filming  an act of civil disobedience by others cutting off the flow of Alberta tarsands oil through the Keystone Pipeline.  She was not involved in breaking the law in any way and was filming the act from public property.  She was informed that if she remained felony-free for six months, the charges against her would be dropped.

NOTE: Since when is telling the truth against the law?

On Nov. 24 an article was posted in the NY Times by Ian Urbina titled, Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate.  He wrote, 
Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps?
Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
A warming planet has already forced a number of industries — coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them — to account for potential future costs of a changed climate. The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding.
But many economists say that this reckoning needs to happen much faster and that home buyers urgently need to be better informed. Some analysts say the economic impact of a collapse in the waterfront property market could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.” (emphasis added)
Over the past five years, home sales in flood-prone areas grew about 25 percent less quickly than in counties that do not typically flood, according to county-by-county data from Attom Data Solutions, the parent company of RealtyTrac. Many coastal residents are rethinking their investments and heading for safer ground.”
“These concerns have taken on a new urgency since the presidential election of Donald J. Trump, who has long been a skeptic of global warming, claiming in 2012 that it was a concept “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”
A real estate developer, Mr. Trump is also the owner of several South Florida properties, including Mar-a-Lago, a 20-acre site that stretches between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach.
Mr. Trump’s recent selection of Myron Ebell to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team intensified these worries in Florida and among many climate scientists. Mr. Ebell has helped lead the charge against the scientific consensus that global warming exists and is caused by people.”

On Nov. 27 the Wall Street Journal published an article by Sarah Kent and Brian Spegele titled, Oil Firms Anticipate Day of Reconing.  They write:
This month, European oil company MOL Group delivered a stark message to investors: Demand for fuel in its key markets is bound to fall.
So-called peak oil demand is a mind-bending scenario that global producers such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC and state-owned Saudi Aramco are beginning to quietly anticipate. But MOL has a transformation plan that is among the most explicit responses to the trend, indicating how the landscape may change for big energy providers over the next decade.”
“Although there will still be customers for its fuel, the company reckons demand will soon flatten and then start falling in its Eastern European markets around 2030. “We see that as an inevitability,” MOL Chief Financial Officer Jozsef Simola said.
Big oil players such as Exxon Mobil Corp, BP PLC and Saudi Arabia—which is leading recent efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost oil prices—are also anticipating significant shifts in demand, though there is no consensus on the timing and their moves have been gradual. They are increasing their investment in petrochemicals, pumping more natural gas, driving down costs and even diversifying into alternative energy sources like solar power.”
“The International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized countries on energy policy, says consumption will continue to rise for decades in its most likely scenario. But that picture shifts radically if governments take further action to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius with more stringent policies like carbon pricing, strict emissions limits and the removal of fossil-fuel subsidies. If that happens, oil demand could peak within the next 10 years, the IEA says.”  (emphasis added)
The Guardian on Dec. 1 published an article by Damian Carrington titled, Climate change will stimulate ‘unimaginable’ refugee crisis, says military.
Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.
The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.
Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.”
Brig Gen Stephen Cheney, a member of the US Department of State’s foreign affairs policy board and CEO of the American Security Project, said: “Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal.”
““Countries are going to pay for climate change one way or another,” said Cheney. “The best way to pay for it is by tackling the root causes of climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, the national security impacts will be increasingly costly and challenging.””
NOTE: Overlaying maps showing land areas inundated by various increases in sea level and population densities shows that a sea level rise of only 1 meter (40 inches) - very likely by the end of this century - will displace over 100 million people.  The number of people who will be forced to flee from this effect of climate change alone is staggering. 
On Dec. 2 James Hansen published a 30.6 minute video titled, We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident, featuring a conversation between him and his granddaughter Sophie, who is one of the plaintiffs in the Our Children’s Trust law suit - suing the federal government for knowingly violating the children’s rights to a healthy climate.
On Dec. 8 Reuters posted an article by David Ljunggren titled, Canada set to agree carbon price, making climate split with Trump.  The author writes, Canada's government and 10 provinces are set to agree a national carbon price on Friday, doubling down on a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions just weeks before avowed climate change skeptic Donald Trump becomes U.S. President.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the carbon price - the first of its kind in Canada - will help the country meet its targets under the 2015 Paris environmental accords and boost the Canadian clean technology sector.”
“Under Trudeau's plan, carbon pollution would cost C$10 ($7.60) a ton in 2018, rising by C$10 a year until it reaches C$50 in 2022. The provinces can either implement a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market and hold-outs will have a price imposed by Ottawa.”
Climate Action has posted a 1.5-minute video  titled, Scientists Take to the Streets to Stand Up for Science.  It shows clips from a rally in San Francisco, organized by ClimateTruth and the Natural History Museum,  protesting Trump’s anti-science views and his nominations for a number of high level positions in his administration.  One of the speakers is Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science from Harvard University and the author of the book, Merchants of Doubt.

NOTE: To learn more about the rally and the background for it, see the Dec. 14 article in EOS, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, by Randy Showstack titled, Fearful of Trump, Hundreds in San Francisco Rally for Science.

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

pastedGraphic.pdfProposal to Eliminate NASA's Climate Change Programs Draws Sharp Rebuke from Scientists

A senior adviser to President-elect Trump's transition team indicated that the new administration plans to pull all funding for climate programs within NASA's Earth science division. The incoming administration has characterized NASA's climate work as "politicized science," arguing the agency should focus on space exploration. The comments and accompanying plan have drawn widespread criticism from the scientific community, citing the importance NASA's data collection activities hold for global climate research and policymaking. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, emphasized the importance of satellite data in transforming how society understands climate change issues: "It could put us back into the 'dark ages' of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted." NASA's satellite-collected data has been essential to the work of climate scientists. Officially, NASA remains "committed to doing whatever [it] can to assist in making the executive branch transition a smooth one."

For more information see:

States Take Up Climate Action in Federal Government's Stead

In the wake of campaign promises from President-elect Trump to rescind federal environmental regulations, uncertainty about the future of climate change mitigation efforts has spurred local-level activists to take the fight to their state governments. Communities across the nation already feeling the effects of climate change are unwilling to wait on the federal government to take action. In response, state governments, including California, New York, and Massachusetts, are moving forward with their own initiatives. These states have passed legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and encourage utilities to adopt renewable energy technologies. However, tackling emissions at the state level can create compliance issues, as parties seeking to participate in inter-state electricity markets will be forced to consider multiple individual regulatory schemes instead of a unified set of federal rules. Meanwhile, the lack of a federal standard is clouding the path forward for states like Virginia, where the pro-climate action governor is stymied by the state legislature and utility sector.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfMayors from 37 U.S. Cities Ask President-elect to Embrace Climate Action

On November 22, the mayors of 37 major American cities submitted an open letter to President-elect Trump urging him to partner with municipal governments to address the threat of climate change. The cities are part of the "Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda" (MNCAA), which advocates for climate mitigation and adaptation measures and shares best practices for achieving those goals. The letter states that climate change impacts could cost the U.S. economy $500 billion annually by 2050. The letter frames climate action in cost-benefit terms for the President-elect, declaring, "The cost of prevention pales in comparison to cost of inaction, in terms of dollars, property and human life." The signatories request that the federal government assist cities in achieving the "transit, energy, infrastructure, and real estate development necessary" for them to succeed in the future, as well as support renewable energy, extend tax credits for electric vehicles and clean energy, and stand by the Paris climate agreement.

For more information see:

China Unlikely to Stray from Climate Mitigation Commitments if United States Waivers

While the U.S. leadership and involvement in climate policy has been thrown into doubt, it is unlikely that China will follow a similar path. China's national policy on environmental standards and renewable energy has faced pressure to include emission reduction measures due to anger and resentment from citizens living in cities with chronic air pollution problems. In response to the pollution, since 2012 China has become the largest investor in clean energy, spending over $380 billion on clean energy technologies. Already in 2016, China has invested $48 billion in new clean energy projects while the U.S. has spent just $32 billion. Since 2015, China has led the world in installed solar capacity and possesses twice the installed wind capacity of the United States. According to Sophie Lu, head of China research for BNEF, China has more reasons than not to continue supporting international climate policy: "If China stays green, it maintains both moral leadership abroad and helps to support green industries, which it dominates."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfLuxembourg Unveils National Sustainability Plan in Partnership with the European Investment Bank

The government of Luxembourg has unveiled a new sustainability "roadmap" as part of a national effort to transition to a clean energy economy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, titled the "Third Industrial Revolution," was commissioned by Luxembourg's government and led by Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist. Rifkin presented the plan at the Luxembourg Sustainability Forum, where he emphasized the advantages of leveraging renewable energy sources, stating, "What happens when your business plugs into [solar and wind resources] and everything is marginal cost? It changes the business model. That's the revolution." Luxembourg's plan is based around nine pillars of sustainability, including energy, transportation, finance, food, and industry. Luxembourg is the first European Union member state to receive European Investment Bank funds for the specific purpose of implementing a nationwide sustainability plan. Other European governments are monitoring the initiative closely to gauge its success.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfBusinesses Plan to Boost Sustainability and Reduce Emissions, Despite Federal Government Signals

American companies have reaffirmed their commitment to implementing sustainable, environmentally-friendly business practices in the weeks following the presidential election. Wisconsin is one state where this sentiment runs deep, as over 160 companies have enrolled in the state-run Green Masters Program to improve their sustainability efforts. According to Tom Eggert, executive director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Building Council, business are pursuing sustainability programs to "save money [and] reduce risk" and "because [customers and investors] are asking about what they're doing to be green." Companies are pursuing sustainable initiatives that cut carbon emissions from supply chains and are implementing sustainable building practices. Jack Wilson, a businessman based in Milwaukee, said, "Too often domestic companies remain caught up in the misconception that if something's sustainable it's going to cost more, [but] it may be more economical than what they're doing right now." In addition, 200 multinational corporations have adopted "science-based targets" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by their operations.

For more Information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfStudy: 71 Percent of Americans Support U.S. Participation in Paris Climate Agreement

Although President-elect Trump had expressed a desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement during the campaign, a new survey conducted by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs has revealed 71 percent of Americans support U.S. participation in the agreement. While respondents self-identifying as Democrats overwhelmingly supported the climate deal, 57 percent of Republicans were also in favor. A more severe split existed over whether the United States should take immediate climate actions, even if they may involve "significant costs," with 62 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans answering affirmatively. Republican support for climate action jumped to 46 percent when faced with "gradual" and "low in cost" steps. Dina Smeltz, lead author of the study, shared, "When we ask about agreements in general, especially in our wording, Americans do seem to support a lot of international agreements which are collective agreements."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfWorrying Trend Sees Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice Levels Reach Record-Lows for November

November is typically a month in which Arctic sea ice expands as temperatures decrease, but the latest data indicates the sea ice extent is nearly one million square kilometers less than the previous record-low experienced in November 2012. This trend is not just confined to the Arctic, as Antarctica's November sea ice levels also hit a record low based on data dating back to 1979. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, attributes the decline in ice cover to increasing average global temperatures. "I think that it's fair to say that the very slow ice growth is a response to the extreme warmth (still ongoing as of today)," Serreze said. The decline in sea ice has a dangerous compounding effect, as lower amounts of light-colored ice allow the more darkly colored ocean to absorb more solar radiation, further increasing ocean temperatures. In turn, warmer ocean and air temperatures during winter months hinder sea ice formation and further accelerate the rate of melting in the polar regions.

For more information see:

 pastedGraphic_6.pdfClimate Change Is Bringing Major Changes to the Arctic's Food Web

Researchers have confirmed that climate change is drastically altering the state of the Arctic's food web. In 2016, the Arctic region has seen temperatures as high as 36 degrees Fahrenheit above average in November, while October sea ice levels were at their lowest since 1979. These changes are impacting the production of algae, which is integral to the Arctic's food web. Algae production has increased 47 percent between 1997 and 2015, leading to a significant spike in growth in the Arctic Ocean. Researchers found that algae blooms are occurring up to two months earlier due to the warming conditions. The algae feed many other organisms, such as krill, which then support fish, mammals, and birds. However, the rapid changes to algae production may be happening too swiftly for many organisms to adapt, leading to disruptions in their life cycles. For example, migrating whales and birds may arrive too late and fish larvae may not develop fast enough to take advantage of the algae before it descends to the sea floor.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfMilestone, Youth-Driven Case Calling for Federal Action on Climate Change Headed to Trial in 2017 

Our Children's Trust, a nonprofit representing 21 young people aged 9-20, has been allowed to take its case against the U.S. government to trial as it attempts to force the country to take more stringent action toward curtailing the impacts of climate change for future generations. The trial is slated for summer or early fall of 2017. The case is built upon several legal claims, including the "public trust doctrine" which holds the federal government accountable for the preservation of public resources, such as clean water and air. The case also leans on the concept of "substantive due process," which prevents the government from hindering an individual's right to "life, liberty, or property without due process of law." The plaintiffs are arguing that these liberties and common resources are under threat due to the government's inadequate action to address climate change and reduce fossil fuel consumption. James May, a law professor at Widener University, calls the case "terrific," but says its unique nature will prove challenging: "The federal judiciary of the United States is not yet ready, by and large, to apply federal common law public trust doctrine and substantive due process to climate change. I think it's likely that the cases will be struck." However, legal experts agree that the case represents a milestone in environmental law. Mary Wood, a law professor at University of Oregon, argues the case advancing this far sets a precedent for the plaintiffs to sue for their constitutional right to a safe and clean environment. Wood added, "If the [plaintiffs] can show that the federal government is neglecting its fiduciary duty of trustee ... then they can force a remedy."  

For more information see: 

Obama's Environmental Legacy Weighed Down by Export-Import Bank's Financing of Fossil Fuel Projects 

The Obama administration's environmental legacy has come under renewed scrutiny following a report on the U.S. Export-Import Bank's (EXIM) involvement in the development of fossil fuel-based projects. EXIM, housed in the executive branch, provides American companies with loans to sell goods and services abroad when private lenders do not. Since 2009, EXIM has financed nearly $34 billion in low-interest loans and guarantees to expand the use of fossil fuel-based projects overseas. The amount of activity under President Obama is three times what EXIM spent on fossil-based projects under President George W. Bush and twice the amount spent under Presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton combined. According to EXIM calculations, the 70 fossil fuel projects it has financed since 2009 will contribute 164 million metrics tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to 95 coal-fired power plants currently operating in the United States. However, the calculation does not include the foundries, mines, smelters, and other projects EXIM has also financed during that period, making its portfolio's carbon footprint even larger. Most of EXIM's fossil fuel-oriented activity occurred before 2014 when the Obama administration began to put a stronger emphasis on climate mitigation policy. 

For more information see: 

pastedGraphic_8.pdfCalifornia to Regulate Emissions from Livestock Operations for the First Time 

In September 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to regulate emissions emanating from livestock operations for the first time. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is a byproduct of digestive cycles for cattle. According to a United Nations report, livestock account for 14.5 percent of global emissions stemming from human activity. In the past decade, California has passed sweeping legislation to regulate vehicles, buildings, and factories, but has not yet addressed livestock emissions despite being the largest milk-producing state in the United States. Dairy farmers in fierce opposition of the legislation are worried that with drought, rising labor costs, lower milk prices, and new legislation increasing overtime pay, they will be forced to shut down their operations. One option is for farmers to buy methane digesters to convert cattle waste byproducts into energy, but farmers are concerned about the technology's cost. To alleviate the financial burden on farmers, California has allocated $50 million to subsidizing the digesters. 

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfEuropean Union Sets Binding 30 Percent Energy Efficiency Target to Reduce Carbon Emissions 

A newly proposed regulatory package from the European Commission is showing the depth of Europe's commitment to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. The proposal looks to decrease total energy consumption by establishing a binding target of 30 percent for energy efficiency. In support of the target, new incentives will be implemented for the deployment of smart meters and technological innovation. The utility industry will have to achieve a 1.5 percent reduction in energy usage annually from 2021 to 2030. Greater integration of renewable energy sources and the renovation of buildings to promote energy efficiency are two additional priorities in the proposal. Buildings account for 40 percent of Europe's current energy consumption. The proposal will require approval by individual European Union states and the European Parliament.

For more information see: 

China's Resurgent Coal Industry at Odds with Nation's Climate Narrative 

While China's recent actions in the international climate arena have sparked hope among climate activists, recent trends in the Chinese coal industry are causing concern. Coal generates nearly 75 percent of Chinese electricity, while coal consumption in China causes more emissions than the consumption of oil, coal, and gas combined for the United States. A series of policy initiatives and aggressive investment by China in renewable energy led to a 3 percent reduction in the nation's coal production during 2015, creating optimism in the climate community that China was on the path to de-carbonization. Economic pressures, such as a housing production boom, have created a spike in demand for electricity across multiple sectors, leading to an increase in the production and consumption of coal. China will face significant domestic policy challenges associated with its coal industry as the nation looks to take on a larger leadership role within international climate negotiations and better manage its air pollution issues.

For more information see: 

pastedGraphic_10.pdfBolivian Cities Grappling with Water Shortages Due to Shrinking Glaciers 

As attention turns toward improving the climate resilience of cities, the nation of Bolivia presents a case study in how to manage water resources when faced with uncertainty from climate change. Bolivia's major cities receive a large percentage (20-28 percent) of their water supply from glaciers that are steadily shrinking. The Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) released a report detailing how a two degree Celsius increase in global temperatures would eliminate small glaciers and drastically shrink larger ones by 2050, presenting a major challenge to Bolivia's population. Furthermore, climate impacts, such as drought, will drive even more people to relocate to cities, putting an additional strain on urban water resources. The SEI report recommended utilizing a community stakeholder participation model to develop innovative policy solutions, stating, "Conservation and recycling methods will be needed to build the resilience of Bolivian cities' water systems." The lessons learned from Bolivia could serve as a valuable template for developing solutions elsewhere. 

For more information see: 

Over 2,300 Scientists Submit Letter to Trump and Congress Demanding Integrity of Science Be Preserved 

On November 30, over 2,300 scientists, including representatives from all 50 states and 22 Nobel Prize recipients, submitted an open letter to President-elect Trump and the incoming 115th Congress, advising them to foster a "strong and open culture of science" in crafting policy. According to Andrew Rosenberg, the Director of Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy, the scientific community perceives the Trump administration as inaccessible and prone to the "political manipulation of the science," motivating the group to pen the open letter. Many scientists and researchers are concerned not only about what Trump will do within his term, but the lasting effects of his actions. Climate scientist Ken Caldeira, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science, said, "It takes decades to build up leadership in a scientific area, because you have to train people for many years. It would be very easy in just a couple of years to destroy what has taken many decades to build up." 

For more information see: 

pastedGraphic_11.pdfWarming Ocean Waters are Melting Antarctic Glaciers from the Inside Out 

A new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has confirmed scientists' fears that longstanding glacial formations are weakening from the inside out. In 2015, analysis of a major rift in the Pine Island Glacier had originated 20 miles away from the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where such breakups tend to occur due to weaker ice. These unusual glacial rifts are fueled by the ice's increased exposure to warming ocean waters. The glacial melt leads to a "self-perpetuating cycle" where the melting ice exposes new parts of the glacier to the warmer ocean waters and destabilizes the ice sheet. Research indicates the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is at risk of collapsing within 100 years, which could raise global sea levels by up to 10 feet. Study leader Ian Howat of The Ohio State University, said, "This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes." 

For more information see: 

NOTE: The lack of understanding of ice sheet dynamics and their inadequate inclusion in models of sea level rise means that actual sea level rise during the century is likely to much greater than the 0.5 to 2 m (0.6 to 6.6 ft) in most current estimates.

pastedGraphic_12.pdfStudy: Previously Undercounted Carbon Emissions from Soil Could Contribute to Global Warming 

Nature published a comprehensive study exploring the carbon emission potential of soil. Soil acts as a carbon repository due to the growth and death of plants and roots in the soil over long periods of time. Scientists fear that microorganisms occupying the soil will react to warming temperatures by increasing their rate of respiration, releasing carbon dioxide and methane and creating a climate feedback loop. This feedback loop was often left out of past projections due to uncertainty associated with its impacts. The study estimates that by 2050, global soils have the potential to emit 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide under a "business as usual" scenario. Jonathan Sanderman, a scientist with the Woods Hole Research Center, said, "This is really critical, because if the additional release of carbon is not counterbalanced by new uptake of carbon by plants then it's going to exacerbate climate change." 

For more information see: 

Oklahoma Attorney General and Fossil Fuel Advocate, Scott Pruitt, Nominated for EPA Administrator

On December 8, President-elect Trump selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. Pruitt is one of 27 attorneys general suing the federal government in an effort to block the Clean Power Plan and is part of a separate suit to roll back the Obama administration's regulation of methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector. Pruitt built his political career around advocacy on behalf of the fossil fuel industry and bills himself as a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." In defending his deep ties to the energy industry while attorney general, he has stated that the position empowered him to "[protect] Oklahoma's economy from ... federal overreach by agencies like the EPA." A 2014 investigation by the New York Times found that letters criticizing environmental protection rules were written by energy lobbyists, but signed by Pruitt and delivered as official state correspondence to federal agencies. Pruitt's appointment came on the heels of a November 5 meeting where former Vice President Al Gore met with President-elect Trump to discuss climate change at the invitation of his daughter, Ivanka Trump.

For more information see:

Trump Transition Team Requests List of Agency Employees Involved in Climate Change Actions

According to an internal Department of Energy (DOE) document obtained by the press, the Trump administration's transition team is requesting a list of employees and contractors who were involved in climate-related work during their time at the agency. The information requests were detailed in a transition memo featuring a lengthy questionnaire on DOE programs, actions, and analytical methods. Of note, is the transition team's request for individuals who have participated in international climate talks and "which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan." In addition, the questionnaire requested "a list of department employees or contractors who attended interagency meetings, the dates of the meetings, and emails and other materials associated" with the social cost of carbon, an institutionalized method of calculating the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Department employees have characterized the questionnaire as "intrusive" and unsettling. Officials are concerned the transition team's tactics are part of an effort to intentionally target civil servants who helped carry out the Obama administration's climate change policies. DOE is still considering how it may respond to the questionnaires' targeting of climate activities.

For more information see:

 pastedGraphic_13.pdfAppointment of Former Koch Lobbyist to Lead DOE Transition Hints at Future of Renewable Energy under Trump

The appointment of Thomas Pyle to lead the Department of Energy (DOE) transition team seems to confirm the fears of climate and clean energy advocates. Pyle, the former president of the Institute for Energy Research (IER), is a longtime skeptic of climate science and has pledged to "reset" the Obama administration's energy and environmental policies. IER is funded by the Koch brothers and is one of many conservative think tanks pursuing a coordinated assault on state-level renewable energy initiatives. According to Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics, "IER [funds] research and citable material that fits with the Koch network ideology, and which can be used for its political goals." IER has made an impact on state governments, including a successful campaign to roll back mandatory renewable energy quotas in Ohio in 2014. DOE has been instrumental in funding state efforts to ramp up renewable energy deployment, and a reversal could negatively affect state climate mitigation efforts.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_14.pdfGlobal Coalition of Cities Releases Roadmap for Climate Mitigation

On average, cities across the globe account for approximately 75 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions. A growing concern among these cities is their vulnerability to the effects of climate change, with 90 percent located in coastal areas that may be at risk from sea level rise. The C40, a global coalition of 90 cities representing a quarter of the world's GDP, held its Mayors Summit in Mexico City from November 30 to December 2. A roadmap for mitigating city-wide carbon emissions was announced during the summit, with the greatest cuts to be undertaken by developed cities. The plan stated that immediate mitigation actions must be taken by cities over the next four years to keep global average temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, such action could cost $1 trillion in collective investments from C40 members, with expenses concentrated in Europe and East Asia. C40 membership includes twelve U.S. cities: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

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  United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Discusses Vital Climate Resilience Actions

The United Nations' bi-annual Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference convened this week in Cancun, Mexico to try and devise solutions to an oft overlooked aspect of climate change. Defending biodiversity can translate into healthier forests, which serve as carbon sinks, and the restoration of wetlands, which protect against storm surges. A key policy goal of the conference is ecosystem-based adaptation, which leverages sustainable landscapes as a buffer against climate impacts. Since 1970, fish, reptile, mammal, and bird populations have decreased 58 percent. Marco Lambertini, head of WWF International, painted a stark picture: "Lose biodiversity and the natural world, including the life support systems as we know them, will collapse." (emphasis added) CBD seeks to reverse this trend, but is expected to face significant funding challenges moving forward. CBD is primarily financed through the Global Environment Facility, which in turn receives most of its funds from the United States. Negotiations to replenish the fund begin in 2017, with the United Nations seeking over $8.5 billion through 2023.

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Deep Red States in the Southeast are Among the Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

As President-elect Trump and his advisers continue to signal a jarring shift away from President Obama's climate and environmental policies, many of the deeply Republican regions who carried Trump to the White House are among the "most vulnerable" to the impacts of climate change. According to a 2015 report by the Risky Business Project, southeastern states will experience a significant increase in temperatures over the next several decades. For instance, Mississippi currently averages 13 days of 95-plus degree Fahrenheit heat annually, but is projected to have 85 such days by 2050. Florida is expected to have 5,080 additional heat-related deaths by 2050, 90 percent of which would be among its vulnerable elderly populations. The high temperatures can also burden state energy grids, as air conditioning usage rises, and the agricultural industry. For instance, Tennessee could see a 31 percent decline in soybean yields and a 47 percent decline in corn yields unless adaptation measures are adopted. Sea level rise is projected to submerge $152 billion worth of waterfront properties in Florida by 2050, while low-lying states like Louisiana and South Carolina will face catastrophic losses due to rising waters.

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Google to Transition Operations to 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2017

On December 6, Google announced that all its data centers will be powered entirely by renewable energy within the next year. To put this feat in perspective, the global conglomerate consumed as much energy as the city of San Francisco in 2016. The U.S. information technology sector has become increasingly hungry for electricity, with Google alone consuming roughly 2 percent of all electricity delivered to businesses in the country. Google serves billions of customers through its globally distributed network of 13 data centers. According to Joe Kava, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure, solar and wind prices are more stable than carbon-based fuels, in addition to being cheaper than fossil fuels in some areas, such as Chile. Jonathan Koomey of Stanford University says the sheer scale of one company purchasing so much renewable energy "is a very big deal" and that similar companies "will feel pressure to move" toward investment in renewables.

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Connecticut's Green Bank Serves as a Model for State-Wide Clean Energy Financing

Connecticut's Green Bank was established five years ago as the first ever state-wide financing program for clean energy. The bank leverages the limited amount of public funding available for green projects into private sector investment, eventually eliminating the need for the public funds. Green Bank President Bryan Garcia observes, "The green bank model may be an attractive tool under a Trump presidency. Public-private partnerships like ours spur investment in local clean energy economies that create jobs and ultimately mitigate greenhouse gas emissions." The bank has issued over $1 billion in loans, default security, and other financing and has developed over a dozen clean energy and energy efficiency financial products and marketing campaigns. The bank is credited with the creation of nearly 215 megawatts of clean energy distributed across 20,000 projects and 13,000 jobs. The Green Bank averages $6 in private funds for every $1 in public money invested and features participants from the region's private banking and commercial property sectors.

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 pastedGraphic_15.pdfBusiness Task Force Urges Corporations Not to Ignore Climate Change Risks

The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), commissioned by the world's 20 richest nations, issued their recommendations for private sector disclosure of climate change risks. TCFD advised corporations to voluntarily disclose climate risks resulting from their operations, but are unlikely to be adopted by the oil and gas industry. The group suggests companies undertake "stress tests" to determine how their businesses would hold up under a projected warming scenario of 2 degrees Celsius. According to the recommendations, the inclusion of climate impacts into corporate financial forecasts would make the business sector more resilient. TCFD lead Michael Bloomberg declared, "Climate change is not only an environmental problem, but a business one as well." Executives from JPMorgan Chase, BHP Billiton, Tata Steel, and other multinational banks and companies provided input on the recommendations. The creation of TCFD was preceded by a 2015 warning to oil companies from Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, that ignoring climate change could spark an economic crisis. (emphasis added)

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pastedGraphic_16.pdfNOAA's 2016 Arctic Report Card Provides Bleak Assessment of the Region

On December 13, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2016 Arctic Report Card. The report, co-authored by 50 international scientists, found that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average temperature, resulting in the latest-ever formation of sea ice this past fall and steep declines in the region's sea ice and snow. Between October 2015 and September 2016, Arctic temperatures over land were 2 degrees Celsius higher than the 1981-2010 baseline. The report was released at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, where scientists expressed concern over the Trump administration's stated preference to cut federal earth science programs. The programs are essential to tracking and understanding the rapidly changing Arctic, including NASA's IceBridge program, which provides data on ice thickness. The chair of Arctic 21, Rafe Pomerance, said, "[U.S. government leaders] ought to take what's going on in the Arctic really seriously. This is a crisis. The Arctic is unraveling." (emphasis added)

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

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I hope this is really helpful to us. Thanks for sharing valuable information, Keep sharing.