Wednesday, February 22, 2017



The Intercept for Jan. 26, 2017 posted an article by Sharon Lerner titled, Government Scientists at U.S. Climate Conference Terrified to Speak with the Press.  She wrote, While Donald Trump was reviving both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, muzzling federal employees, freezing EPA contracts, and first telling the EPA to remove mentions of climate change from its website — and then reversing course — many of the scientists who work on climate change in federal agencies were meeting just a few miles from the White House to present and discuss their work.
The mood was understandably gloomy at the National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. No one knows what’s going to happen,” one EPA staffer who works on climate issues told me on Tuesday, as she ate her lunch. She had spent much of her time in recent weeks trying to preserve and document the methane-related projects she’s been working on for years. But the prevailing sense was that, Trump’s claims about being an environmentalist notwithstanding, the president is moving forward with his plan to eviscerate environmental protections, particularly those related to climate change, and the EPA itself.”
““It’s strange,” the woman said. “People keep walking up to me and giving me hugs.” Like several others I spoke to for this story, she declined to tell me her name out of fear that she might suffer retaliation, including being fired. She was not being paranoid. Already, agency higher ups had warned the EPA staff against talking to the press, or even updating blogs or issuing news releases. “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press,” said one EPA missive that was shared broadly and ended up in the press. And while the staffer was at the meeting, the EPA’s new brass issued another memo to staff requiring all regional offices to submit a list of external meetings and presentations, noting which might be controversial and why.
The directives have left scientists fearing reprisal for merely mentioning the global crisis that has been at the center of their professional lives for years.”
“The Senate held its first hearing on climate change more than 30 years ago, and in the intervening years, as understanding of our warming planet has grown, the government has not only collected precise measurements of vanishing arctic ice, rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures, river flooding, drought, and heavy rain, it has used that data to understand the short- and long-term consequences of the phenomenon.
As a report I picked up at one of the tables, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States,” makes clear, these many objective phenomena have health consequences “now and in the future.” Among those listed were heat-related illness and death, drowning and injuries from flooding, lung and respiratory diseases due to worsening air quality, intestinal illnesses and blood stream infections from water-related infections, water-borne infections, and Lyme disease.”

Climate Home on Jan. 31 posted an article by Ed King titled, Fiji says 2017 climate summit to focus on vulnerable nations. Fiji will be hosting the 2017 COP23 international conference in Bonn, where talks to set rules for the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement will take place.  Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister said, “Our Presidency will keep the interests of all nations – including those that are low-lying and vulnerable – at the forefront of our negotiations.”
“We are also focused on turning the words and commitments of the Paris Agreement into measurable actions on the part of all nations, and are calling for transparent systems of accountability and practical outcomes to ensure the agreement is a success.”
King wrote, “Intense speculation surrounds continued US participation in the Paris climate deal, which president Donald Trump threatened to “cancel” during his campaign.”
“Last November Bainimarama issued a personal invitation to Trump to visit Fiji and see for himself the impacts of rising sea levels and extreme weather linked to climate change.
“I again appeal to the president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, to show leadership on this issue by abandoning his current position that man-made climate change is a hoax,” said Bainimarama.
“I say to the American people: you came to save us then and it is time for you to help save us now,” he said, referring to Washington’s support for Fiji during the second world war.”

On Feb. 1 Reuters posted an article by Alissa de Carbonnel titled, Faced with U.S. retreat on climate change, EU looks to China.  She wrote, 
Faced with a U.S. retreat from international efforts to tackle climate change, European Union officials are looking to China, fearing a leadership vacuum will embolden those within the bloc seeking to slow the fight against global warming.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to act on campaign pledges to pull out of the 2015 Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, his swift action in other areas has sparked sharp words from usually measured EU bureaucrats.
When Trump's former environment adviser, until the president's inauguration this month, took to a stage in Brussels on Wednesday and called climate experts "urban imperialists", a rebuke from Britain's former energy minister drew applause from the crowd packed with EU officials.”
“The EU's top climate diplomat Miguel Arias Canete will travel to Beijing at the end of March, EU sources said. Offering EU expertise on its plans to build a "cap-and-trade" system is one area officials see for expanded cooperation.
Enticed by huge investments in solar and wind power in economies such as China and India, Germany, Britain and France are seeking closer ties to gain a share of the business.” (emphasis added)
"We need to embrace the fact that China has invested very heavily in clean energy," Gregory Barker, climate change minister to former British Prime Minister David Cameron, told Reuters on the sidelines the environment conference in Brussels organized by conservative politicians.
"If America won't lead then it's clear that China will."”

On Feb. 13  Bloomberg posted an article by Joe Ryan titled, Governors Urge Trump to Support Wind and Solar Power.  Ryan wrote,
The Governor’s Wind & Solar Energy Coalition is seeking increased federal funding to modernize local power grids and boost clean energy research, according to a letter submitted to the White House Monday. The group is also calling for legislation to promote offshore wind farms and efforts to streamline the permitting process for wind and solar projects.
The message is the latest indication that Trump’s criticism of renewable energy puts him at odds with much of corporate America and members of his own party. Since he was elected, Republican governors in Illinois and Michigan signed legislation backing wind and solar. Last month, more than 600 U.S. companies issued a statement urging Trump not to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, saying it will generate trillions of dollars in investments.
“The nation’s wind and solar energy resources are transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the passage of the Homestead Act over 150 years ago,” Kansas Republican Sam Brownback and Rhode Island Democrat Gina Raimondo wrote in the letter, on behalf of eight Republican governors and 12 Democrat state leaders.
Trump’s America First energy plan posted on the White House website calls for increasing coal, oil and natural gas production -- making no mention of renewables. He has derided wind and solar power as uneconomical. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Despite the president’s lack of enthusiasm for clean power, the industry is a boon in many rural regions that formed that backbone of his electoral support. Rural property owners earn more than $245 million a year from leasing land to wind farm developers, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s fourth-quarter report. Solar companies employed more than 200,000 people last year, and most new installations were in rural regions, according to the letter.”

On Feb. 18 the Boston Globe published an article by David Abel titled, As seas rise, city mulls a massive sea barrier across Boston Harbor.  He wrote,
As rising sea levels pose a growing threat to Boston’s future, city officials are exploring the feasibility of building a vast sea barrier from Hull to Deer Island, forming a protective arc around Boston Harbor.
The idea, raised in a recent city report on the local risks of climate change, sounds like a pipe dream, a project that could rival the Big Dig in complexity and cost. It’s just one of several options, but the sea wall proposal is now under serious study by a team of some of the region’s top scientists and engineers, who recently received a major grant to pursue their research.
With forecasts indicating that Boston could experience routine flooding in the coming decades, threatening some 90,000 residents and $80 billion worth of real estate, city officials say it would be foolish not to consider aggressive action, no matter how daunting.”
“A massive barrier that would extend across the 4 miles between Hull and Deer Island, and rise at least 20 feet above harbor waters at low tide, would rank among the largest of its kind, but wouldn’t be unprecedented. Similar barriers already exist, or are being built, off the coasts of New Orleans; Venice; and Rotterdam. (emphasis added)
Like those barriers, Boston’s sea wall wouldn’t be a dam. It would have openings large enough for ships to pass through, but with gates that would close before significant storms.”
“The report recommends that the city brace for sea levels to be at least 1½ feet higher by 2050 than they were in 2000, and 3 feet higher by 2070.
But a climate report released in January by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that East Coast cities are likely to experience even higher seas than had been predicted. Without drastic reductions in greenhouse gases, the seas could rise as much as 8.2 feet by 2100, up from its previous estimate of 6.6 feet, researchers found.”

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.pdfWhite House Limits Agency Communications and Threatens Autonomy of Federal Scientific Data

On January 25, the Trump administration's EPA transition communications director, Doug Ericksen, said all new and existing content on the agency's website was currently under review, with a "temporary hold" placed on the publication of new scientific data. When asked whether scientific data collected by EPA scientists, such as routine air and water pollution monitoring, would be vetted in this fashion, Ericksen replied, "Everything is subject to review." Ericksen later clarified that he was not implying political appointees would be reviewing data, saying, "Any changes will be science-based." EPA's scientific integrity guidance states scientific studies should be publicly communicated and "uncompromised by political or other interference." George Gray, an assistant EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, said studies were typically reviewed at the branch or laboratory level, rarely appearing before political appointees. Meanwhile, the administration ordered EPA employees to get transition team approval to hold previously planned public webinars and speaking engagements. Employees at the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Health and Human Services have also had restrictions placed on the release of publications, the use of official social media accounts, and external correspondence. Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute's Global Climate Program, said, "It's certainly the case that every administration tries to control information, but I think that what we're seeing here is much more sweeping than has ever been done before."

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Commerce Nominee Wilbur Ross Pledges to Protect NOAA Research

Secretary of Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross has gone on record that he will not stand in the way of the scientific research conducted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA falls under the Department of Commerce, giving Ross authority over the agency's climate and earth sciences work. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced he had received a written commitment from Ross, confirming that the nominee "intends to leave science to the scientists and to support their ability to disseminate peer reviewed data to the public." Nelson added that the letter provides assurances the Department of Commerce "will continue to research, monitor, and report climate information to the public." However, Ross would not directly address the causes of climate change, a common refrain from Trump administration nominees. Instead, Ross said, "We [should] put aside for now the question of what is causing these changes, and agree to focus on addressing the impacts of those changes."

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pastedGraphic_1.pdfLawsuit and Legislative Hurdles Pose Future Pitfalls for California's Cap and Trade System

A four-year-old lawsuit brought by the California Chamber of Commerce and private businesses threatens to undermine California's cap and trade system. The lawsuit asserts the cap and trade program is an unconstitutional tax placed on businesses, since the program was not granted the bi-cameral, two-thirds legislative majority required to implement a tax in California. Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, said, "The stakes [of the case] are huge" and that cap and trade is "one of the largest programs impacting the California economy." Even if the state government wins the case in the Appellate Court of Sacramento, its opponents may still appeal to the California Supreme Court. An additional concern is whether the program may expire after reaching its originally legislated emission reduction goals for 2020. Gov. Jerry Brown has requested the legislature pass a new bill extending the cap and trade program with a two-thirds vote, but negotiations on a successor bill are expected to be complicated.

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pastedGraphic_2.pdfClimate Resilience Transcends Politics in Coastal Louisiana

The state of Louisiana is moving forward with a "Coastal Master Plan" to bolster its coastline against climate change impacts, but it may require federal funding to fully implement its vision. The five-year, $50 billion plan developed by the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) outlines strategic investments in ridges, barrier islands, and marshes, while recommending actions for protecting homes and infrastructure. Louisiana's 7,700 miles of shoreline are degrading at the fastest rate in the country, forcing policymakers to prioritize which communities to devote resources to. Bren Haase, chief of planning at CPRA, said the plan is intended as "a framework to make those tough decisions" and could serve as a model for other Gulf states. Louisiana will partly fund the plan with settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill, with another portion drawn from state oil and gas revenue and grants. State officials are looking to Congress to provide the rest. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) has been trying to persuade his colleagues to invest in resilience: "Many members of Congress believe we can't afford to come in and make these investments in adaptation in these coastal areas. I would argue that we can't afford not to."

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pastedGraphic_3.pdfTrump Administration Aims to Reduce Environmental Regulations for Auto Industry

On January 24, President Trump met with automobile industry leaders and declared environmental regulations are "out of control." Trump went on to say his administration will cut taxes for corporations, make the United States more "hospitable" for businesses, and both simplify and shorten the environmental permitting process for the industry. However, the push to slash regulations for the auto industry could have deep policy impacts for the state of California. During his confirmation hearing, EPA Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt would only commit to a "review" of California's current waiver to have stricter vehicular air pollution standards, leaving the waiver's future uncertain. Thirteen additional states have followed California's lead and adopted the stricter pollution standards. Michael Wara, a professor at Stanford Law School, predicted early legal disputes with the Trump White House will focus on automobile regulations. Wara added the administration's pursuit of such a case in California could "test Scott Pruitt's and the administration's commitment to conservative values," given Pruitt's own defense of self-government by the states.

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pastedGraphic_4.pdfStudy: Most Businesses Not Doing Enough to Reduce Emissions in Their Supply Chains

A study published by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found that not enough businesses are working with their suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations. Many companies set their own climate mitigation goals, but omit emissions generated from the products and components they buy from other entities. "The supply chain is a new frontier in environmental responsibility - an area rich with opportunity that remains mostly unexplored," stated Dexter Galvin, head of the supply chain program at CDP. Galvin added, "The vast majority of emissions of the average company are in the supply chain." While 29 companies, including General Motors, Bank of America, and Sony, were lauded for their mitigation actions, CDP found only 22 percent of the 4,300 companies surveyed were engaged in reducing emissions within their supply chain. Patricia Espionage, head of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, described the private sector's current mitigation efforts as "not enough," given the rapid pace of global warming.

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Buildings in New York City Are Investing in Resilient Design to Dampen the Effects of Climate Change

In New York City, JDS Development Group is hoping to create buildings that are better able to bounce back from the effects of catastrophic floods and storms anticipated due to climate change. The American Copper Buildings are being built to allow "tenants to live in their apartments for at least a week," no matter the height of the floods or the length of a power outage. "Rising sea levels and a changing climate present a challenge for our country's largest city, and also an opportunity to create a more resilient, sustainable and equitable New York City," stated Daniel Zarrilli, the chief resilience officer of New York City and director of climate policy. The lesson of Hurricane Sandy taught the city that those living in high-rise apartments were not immune to the effects of powerful storms, and may have to face multi-day power outages. As a result, JDS installed emergency generating units into their new buildings above ground level. These new generators possess enough capacity to power the refrigerator in every apartment for as long as necessary and one outlet for mobile phone charging in case of emergencies.

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pastedGraphic_5.pdfNew NOAA Report Finds Sea Levels Could Rise Over Eight Feet by 2100

A new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reveals that many areas of the United States could experience sea level rise at a rate much higher than the global average. The report details regional impacts more extensively than previous studies, which focused on global estimates. Using six climate change scenarios of varying severity, the report predicts global mean sea levels could reach a range of 8.2 feet to 1 foot by 2100. However, even the "best-case" scenario of a 1 foot increase in sea level could lead to a "25-fold increase in the frequency of damaging floods" for coastal cities. In examining 90 American cities, the authors found that an "intermediate" sea level rise scenario would result in increased flooding for most locales by the year 2030, while the "low" scenario would bring these consequences by 2080. William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer, said the scenarios were meant to "[give] communities a better sense of what the future might hold with continued sea-level rise so they can plan accordingly and have better insights and make smart decisions."

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Trump's Travel Ban Targeting Muslim-Majority Nations Stuns Climate Scientists

The scientific community has been deeply shaken by President Trump's executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Research institutions, including those specializing in the study of global climate change, depend upon access to the international scientific community to hire staff, conduct on-site research, and collaborate on studies. Many individual scientists and universities, as well as professional organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, have issued strongly worded statements against the ban. The Washington Post reported that nearly one-fifth of scientists in America are immigrants. The introduction of the ban has made many feel unwelcomed, and as a result, some scientists are choosing to take jobs in Europe or Canada rather than the United States. Soumya Raychaudhuri, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School, expressed concern about the ban: "Immigration into the United States is tremendously important to science. There are other countries competing for this talent pool, and walking away from that jeopardizes our standing."

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pastedGraphic_6.pdfNational Laboratory Scientists Fear Deep Budget Cuts Could Irreparably Harm Their Work

Scientists at the U.S. National Laboratories have expressed concern over the future of their research under the new administration, citing communications restrictions and proposed budget cuts. Hansi Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Energy (DOE), says that many are worried climate change research may be the most at risk, since "this administration has not given us any indication that they take it seriously as an issue." Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), who is a physicist and former DOE researcher, said that while political pressure will be a challenge for scientists under the Trump administration, the agency's budget may prove to be the biggest hurdle. Foster cautioned, "Building up a scientific effort in an area takes years or decades, and it can be destroyed in a single budget cycle." Although staff morale has sunk due to the looming budget threat, the nominee for DOE secretary, Rick Perry, vowed to "protect the men and women of the scientific community from anyone that would attack them, no matter what their reason may be," during his congressional hearing.

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Month-Long Barrage of Damaging Storms in California Reaffirms Need to Prepare for Climate Impacts

A slew of severe storms hit California over the past month, an event expected to strike with greater frequency due to climate change. For government officials and scientists, these damaging natural disasters have reaffirmed the need to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure across the state. California, a U.S. leader in climate mitigation and resilience, faces the significant challenge of planning and funding programs to prepare major highways, airports, and communities for these increased climate threats. "People always tell us we're ahead of the curve," said Larry Goldzband, head of a regional San Francisco Bay commission actively working on regional adaptation efforts. "I always think, 'Man, if we are ahead of the curve, I feel sorry for the rest of the country.'" According to Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California-Davis, reports that the faster than expected rate of climate change is already outpacing adaptation efforts. "This is the new normal," Shilling said. "And all of our infrastructure is not accommodating the new normal."

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pastedGraphic_7.pdfTrump's EPA Transition Head Says U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement Likely

Myron Ebell, who led President Trump's EPA transition process, said that he expects Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. While speaking at a climate skeptic conference in London, Ebell asserted that President Trump believes climate change is "not a crisis and does not require drastic and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions." This statement comes after Trump had slightly moderated his public position on climate science, as he said he now believes there is "some connectivity" between human activity and a changing climate. Despite this statement, many of Trump's cabinet choices are climate skeptics. However, newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has acknowledged that "it's important that the U.S. maintains its seat at the table about how to address the threat of climate change, which does require a global response." When asked about Tillerson's statement, Ebell responded, "If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the president, who's going to win that debate? The president was elected and Rex Tillerson wasn't."

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pastedGraphic_8.pdfGina McCarthy, Former EPA Head, Worries about Agency's Direction under Trump

Formerly the EPA administrator under President Obama, Gina McCarthy is becoming increasingly concerned over the direction of the agency she once ran. Among her top concerns are statements coming from President Trump's EPA transition team that the agency's staff may be cut by two-thirds, as well as having political appointees potentially influence research findings. McCarthy stated, "If the science changes because of politics, that's not science." Regarding the Trump administration's approach to climate change, McCarthy said, "Climate science is more robust than the science that said cigarettes cause lung cancer. You'd laugh at me if I said cigarettes didn't cause lung cancer. It's incredibly dangerous that they don't believe it." Even if the federal government steps back in its approach to address climate change, McCarthy is optimistic that the individual states will lead the way and "continue to cut emissions and set an example for others."

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pastedGraphic_9.pdfWarming Waters Off Alaska Bring Changes to the Local Ecology

Signs of warming water temperatures are already becoming apparent off the coast of Alaska. New research released during the Alaska Marine Science Symposium found that higher water temperatures have negatively affected the eggs and larvae of the Arctic Cod, which are specially adapted to cold-water environments. The research also found that lower-fat fish, such as the Pacific cod and walleye pollock, have been moving into the warming waters and further displacing the Arctic Cod. Arctic Cod is crucial to the local ecosystem, as it is a high-fat fish eaten by seabirds, marine mammals, and people, and is a seen as a keystone species for the Arctic's food web. "It's looking bad for birds, and it's looking really bad for the fisheries as well," stated local biologist Martin Renner. Other creatures such as high-fat euphausiids and copepods, tiny organisms in the base of the food web, are much less abundant in the warming waters, driving the migration of predator species.

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pastedGraphic_10.pdfVeteran Republican Officials Seek to Make Climate Change a Bipartisan Issue with Carbon Fee and Dividend

A coalition of veteran Republican officials have formed a new Climate Leadership Council (CLC) and proposed implementing a carbon fee and dividend system in an attempt to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The tax would begin at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced and would be collected where the fossil fuel enters the economy, like mines, wells or ports. At the end of each year, consumers would receive a dividend of the total money raised: around $2,000 for an average family of four. The idea of a carbon tax has been widely supported by economists, Democrats, and major oil companies alike. However, views differ about what to do with money raised by the carbon tax, with many Democrats and environmental activists suggesting that the money should go towards further environmental cleanup, while conservatives prefer the idea of the proposed dividend. Additionally, CLC's proposal would roll back the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, leaving Republicans and Democrats divided on this component. The proposal is the first major show of support for climate change action by the Republican establishment.

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NOTE: This move by Republican leaders to support a fee and dividend system for reducing carbon emissions could be a historical event leading to a bipartisan effort to mitigate climate change.  Such a national effort, with an annually increasing fee,  has been advocated by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby for years.  Since the U.S. has the largest economy in the world, it’s active participation in reducing GHG emissions may be essential to global efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change - whatever Trump may say about the Paris Climate Agreement.

pastedGraphic_11.pdfFlorida Gag Order on Climate Communication Hampers Local Planning Efforts

Florida's gag order on using the terms "global warming," "climate change," or "sea level rise" has affected efforts to plan for worsening flooding and extreme weather. The gag order on climate communication was implemented by Governor Rick Scott in 2014. Scott, who questioned the scientific consensus on climate change, did not ban studies on climate impacts entirely, but set priorities causing the government to "[disengage] from active statewide policy making and planning on sea level rise." Leonard Berry, a climate scientist at Florida Atlantic University, cautioned that without coordinated leadership at the state level, it will be difficult to protect Florida's coastline. Florida's issues represent a microcosm of what could occur at the federal level, if the Trump administration takes steps to curtail discussions on climate change. Furthermore, state and local government officials, scientists, and non-governmental organizations all rely on federal resources to deal with coastal climate impacts, making such capabilities vulnerable to federal budget cuts.

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NOTE: Governor Stott’s banning of the use of offensive terms like "global warming," "climate change," or "sea level rise" by state planners is about as smart as banning of the use of terms like “rape,” “child abuse,” or “murder” by state law enforcement officers.  How stupid can you get?

China Pursuing an Elevated Leadership Role on Climate Change to Foster International Relations

A series of recent actions by Chinese government officials suggest the nation is working to position itself as a global leader on climate change. Xie Zhenhua, the special envoy to the UN Climate Change Conference, has stated, "China is capable of taking a leadership role in combating global climate change." After the election of Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping called on the United States to preserve the "hard won" Paris Climate Agreement. Experts assert that China's climate stance is partly driven by a desire to improve foreign relations. "Due to its nature, addressing climate-change issues inherently entails cooperation among nations. Climate change concerns create a room for dialogues," said Margareth Sembiring, senior analyst with the Centre for Non-traditional Security Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. China has created a multi-billion dollar fund to help developing countries finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects. However, China continues to maintain a stake in the coal industry, having funded several coal projects in Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

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pastedGraphic_12.pdfRenewable Energy Made Up Nearly 90 Percent of New Installed Capacity for European Union in 2016

The vast majority of all new electricity generating capacity added to the European Union (EU) in 2016 consisted of renewable energy sources. The EU installed 24.5 gigawatts (GW) last year, with 86 percent coming from wind, solar, biomass, or hydro power. Wind farms accounted for more than half of the EU's installed capacity for the first time, surpassing coal as the EU's second largest source of electricity generation behind natural gas. Germany led wind installations in 2016, with France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and Lithuania all setting individual wind installation records. Despite support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are concerns that political support for renewables may waiver after the EU's renewable energy targets expire in 2020. Europe's current installed wind capacity is 153.7 GW, but makes up less than 17 percent of the overall electric generating capacity of 918.8 GW. Industry watchers hope more government-forced coal plant closures, such as the United Kingdom's 2025 commitment, provide an opportunity for future renewable energy development.

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Scientists Fear Science Will Take a Back Seat in the New EPA

During a February 7 hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the focus was on examining the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision-making activities." Committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said, "Over the last eight years the EPA has pursued a political agenda, not a scientific one." Such statements have some Democrats and scientists concerned about what is to come for the EPA under the new administration. "I'm disappointed but not really surprised our very first hearing in this congress will be focused on attacking the EPA," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the committee's ranking member. During the hearing, hints emerged that the Republican's probe may go beyond EPA, with Rep. Smith accusing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of playing "fast and loose with data" and "falsifying the data to exaggerate global warming."

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pastedGraphic_13.pdfAntarctic Ice Shelf Is Ready to Break Apart, Setting in Motion a Severe Rise in Sea Levels

Scientists monitoring the fourth-largest Antarctic ice shelf, Larsen C, predict that a major crack will soon span the entire length of the shelf. When that happens, the massive ice sheet will fully break off, producing one of the biggest icebergs ever to be recorded. The crack formed in an area particularly prone to warming and has grown at an increasingly fast pace in recent months. Since the end of 2016, it has expanded by the length of around five football fields every day. The researchers are even more worried, however, about the impact Larsen C's degradation will have on the larger ice shelves behind it. "If the ice shelf breaks apart, it will remove a buttressing force on the glaciers that flow into it. The glaciers will feel less resistance to flow, effectively removing a cork in front of them." The melting of these larger ice shelves will result in substantially higher sea level rise.

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pastedGraphic_14.pdf"Extreme" Changes Continue to Reshape the Arctic Environment

Scientists have said during this past year the Arctic is "beyond even the extreme" as global climate change has altered the region. Arctic sea ice is sitting at a record low for this time of year and a new North Atlantic storm is about to bring more warm air in from the lower latitudes, bringing the Arctic temperatures near the freezing point. This shift in temperatures could magnify warming trends and begin to scramble weather patterns around the globe. The Arctic's four million residents will be directly impacted by these growing trends, with mid-latitude populations expected to experience more extreme weather events in the future. Models have consistently underestimated the level of ice loss in the past, leaving scientists concerned that the ice declines will beat current projections. Even the best-case scenario has the Arctic warming 4-5 degrees Celsius, with NOAA oceanographer James Overland, stating, "We really don't have any clue about how disruptive that's going to be."

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pastedGraphic_15.pdfOroville Dam Crisis Forewarns Dangers of Country's Aging Water Infrastructure

On February 12, California state officials declared part of the Oroville Dam unstable and at risk of catastrophic flooding, ordering the evacuation of over 180,000 residents who may be caught in the water's path. The dam's emergency spillways, chutes that allow the dam to handle particularly heavy volumes of water, were found to be faulty and at risk of imminent collapse. Engineers assert that California has failed to adequately maintain its water infrastructure and that the state's 1,500 other dams may pose similar threats. In addition, the aging dams may not be capable of handling the extreme weather events that have already begun to occur more often due to climate change. "Most dams are almost 50 years old," said Lori Spragens, Executive Director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. "Many of them are very behind in their rehabilitation and they need to be upgraded to current standards. It's the lack of money. The whole concern with infrastructure is just not there."

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pastedGraphic_16.pdfG-20 Nations Brace for a Difference of Opinion with Secretary of State Tillerson on Climate Change

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson headed to Bonn, Germany to join a February 16 gathering of the Group of 20 (G-20) to discuss climate change with other foreign ministers. Host-nation Germany ensured climate change would be on the agenda and indicated it was prepared to challenge the Trump administration on the issue. "You can't fight climate change by putting up barbed wire," said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. The G-20 meeting took up climate talks begun at last year's meetings in China and also discussed Agenda 2030, a set of United Nations goals for global sustainability. Germany's tone marks a strategic shift as it inherits the group's rotating presidency. Exxon Mobil, of which Secretary Tillerson was CEO, declared the Paris Agreement a "monumental" achievement, contrary to some signals coming from President Trump. A German official indicated uncertainty as to how much influence Tillerson would have over the decidedly pro-climate assemblage. The February meeting precedes another G-20 summit in June, which heads of state typically attend.

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pastedGraphic_17.pdf"Climate-Smart" Agriculture Helps Moroccan Farmers Adapt to Rising Temperatures

Climate change has begun to interfere with the livelihoods of small-scale farmers across Morocco, due to its impact on commercially valuable Argan trees. The products from Argan trees make up the primary source of income for many villagers, but decreased precipitation and increasingly arid land has made growing these trees difficult. Farmers have begun to adopt "climate-smart agriculture" methods to combat these hardships. The new approach involves reducing water consumption, planting resilient crops, diversifying yields, improving soil management practices, and promoting "green" infrastructure to store carbon and manage flooding. To start, the Moroccan government will plant drought-tolerant Argan trees across 95,000 acres of the country, which will pull over half a megaton of carbon dioxide from the air over a decade (equivalent to taking 130,000 cars off the road). Locals have also considered collecting small "green" donations from tourists to offset the carbon emissions from traveling to that area and to help finance local sustainable agriculture efforts.

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GOP Moderates and Corporations Encourage Trump to Support the Paris Climate Agreement

The goals of the Paris Agreement have proven to be widely accepted and recognized as necessary by corporations and moderate Republicans alike, and many do not want to see the United States relinquish its current leadership role in mitigating the causes of climate change. Many believe that regardless of President Trump's actions, the United States as a whole will continue to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy. Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, said, "The reason the Paris accord got signed is because so many companies wanted this." By reneging on the country's earlier commitment, Trump risks strong opposition from the more than 745 companies and investors who signed a letter of support for the Paris Agreement, as well as a confrontation with members of his own party. The agreement's goals are not viewed as particularly burdensome for the United States, which is currently on track to meet them due to more energy efficient technologies and a surge in electricity generation from wind, solar, and natural gas.

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pastedGraphic_18.pdfFaith Groups and Environmental Organizations Are Coming Together to Cool Down Louisville

With Louisville, Kentucky becoming the fastest warming "urban heat island," environmental and faith-based organizations are coming together to combat the issue. A growing number of faith-based groups, including Evangelical Protestants in the Louisville area, are "squaring their faith with science's climate warnings." A large body of research has shown that keeping urban tree canopies healthy is one of the best ways to curb the urban heat island effect. A partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the Center for Interfaith Relations, with the help of participants from other local religious institutions, located hot spots around Louisville and launched a four-part landscape audit to understand how people can overhaul their landscaping practices to help reduce the urban heat island effect. "Faith-based organizations are the places people look for direction," said Sikander Chowhan, chief strategic officer at Muslim Americans for Compassion, "So hopefully we'll get folks seeing what we're doing to make things more beneficial, and becoming more aware of their own properties." (emphasis added)

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pastedGraphic_19.pdfNew NASA Reports Provide Closer Look at Greenland's Endangered Ice Sheets
A NASA mission titled "Oceans are Melting Greenland," or OMG for short, has produced two new reports on how glaciers interact with oceanic currents. OMG is an ongoing study of the effect on glaciers and sea level rise as warming waters enter the fjords that connect to Greenland's ice sheets. Currently, Greenland's ice sheets are the largest global contributor to rising sea levels, adding around 1mm per year. However, the vast ice sheets hold the potential to cause over 7.36 meters (24 feet) of sea level rise if all the ice is lost. Researchers have found that the deeper waters tend to be warmer, meaning the largest and thickest glaciers that extend to those depths are experiencing the most severe effects. While the mission does not yet have enough data for modeling predictions, Josh Willis, the principal investigator for this mission, said, "I think these papers suggest that the glaciers as a whole are more vulnerable than we thought they were. These kinds of results suggest that we could be in for more sea level rise than we thought."

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pastedGraphic_20.pdfRising Seas and Coastal Pollution Push Everglades to a Tipping Point
Florida's coastal Everglades are a crucial wildlife habitat and a significant carbon sink, but new research shows the system is nearing a "tipping point" that could mark its decline. Rising sea levels are increasing the salinity of the water and altering its flow, causing mangroves along the coast to move inland and disrupt freshwater marshes. Periphyton algae is also disappearing, leaving a significant gap in the Everglades' food chain. The combination of organic pollution from fertilizers and rising sea levels has led to altered growth patterns, threatening to upend the way a healthy ecosystem would normally function. The sudden appearance of large, open-water lakes has alarmed scientists. Lead investigator Evelyn Gaiser of Florida International University said, "Once you lose that soil, it's gone. You create a place where nothing can effectively grow." According to Gaiser, this can present a major climate impact: "We're changing the system from one that is very good at sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to one that's very rapidly losing it."

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


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