Monday, March 20, 2017



I learned recently that Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) released a report on January 13 titled, Climate Action in Delaware: 2016 Progress Report.  The planning work of state agencies led in early 2014 to the publication of the Climate Framework for Delaware, which recommended that the state reduce total GHG emissions by 30% by 2030, relative to emissions in 2008.  It also reported 155 actions that the agencies recommended to achieve this goal.  The introduction says,
Since 2014, state agencies have been working together to put these recommendations into action. This progress report highlights the actions and accomplishments made by Delaware’s state government to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The report also provides an overview of local government actions and sets out a vision for future actions.”
The 2016 Progress Report was divided into five sections:

Climate Change in Delaware
Climate Mitigation: Reducing Greenhouse Gases in Delaware
Climate Adaptation: Improving Delaware’s Resilience
Supporting Local Communities
Moving Forward

On March 2 James Hansen published an 8.1-minute YouTube video titled, Sophie Sez #2: Obama Missed a Golden Opportunity - but We Can Still Win!
Sophie is Hansen’s granddaughter and one of the young people involved in suing the federal government in a lawsuit called Our Children’s Trust for not protecting their future from catastrophic climate change.  In the video she and Hansen explain how President Obama missed the opportunity to get the United States to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 - a feasible but stretch goal already adopted by a number of states, including California and New York.  

NOTE: I’s well worth watching!

John Goodenough, one of the inventors of the lithium-ion batters, teamed up with Maria H. Braga to develop a battery that uses solid glass as an electrolyte, has an energy density three times that of a convention lithium-ion battery, is less prone to overheating and catching on fire, and can be discharged and recharged many times.  The inventors have a patent and are now looking for a manufacturer.

On March 6 Reuters posted an article titled, EU says to beef up climate diplomacy to save Paris agreement.
“EU foreign ministers on Monday said the bloc would strengthen diplomacy to promote the fight against climate change in the face of a possible U.S. exit from the Paris agreement.
U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned on promises to reverse the climate-change initiatives of his predecessor and withdraw from a Paris climate deal backed by 194 countries in late 2015 to curb global warming by cutting greenhouse gases.
European foreign ministers agreed to raise climate risk awareness among partners and aid developing countries in gaining access to sustainable energy.”
“"We are positioning our diplomats in the EU delegations and embassies to do an aggressive outreach so that the Paris Agreement be implemented and saved," an EU official said.”

Also on March 6 Amy Mayer of Iowa Public Radio posted an article titled, Study: Climate Change May Hurt Nation's Agricultural Productivity.  It said, 
The agriculture sector needs to ramp up its response to climate change, especially in the Midwest, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers at the University of Maryland used climate projections and historical trends in agricultural productivity to predict how changes in temperature and rainfall will impact food production.
They found that without changes to farm policy and improvements to agricultural technology, the nation’s productivity in 2050 could look like it did in 1980. That’s because at the present rates of innovation, new technologies won’t be able to keep up with the damage caused by the changes in climate in our major growing regions.”
“The new research identifies the Corn Belt as the region where the changes could have the biggest impact on overall productivity, with California and the Southwest region second in line. The transition area from the Corn Belt into the southern cotton and pasture region is also vulnerable. Losses in U.S. production could impact the global food supply.”

On March 8 the Regional Greenhouse Initiative (RGGI) held its first auction for 2017.  RGGI, which involves electricity generating plants in nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, requires that power plants have have enough emissions allowances - each one for a ton (2000 lbs.) of CO2 - to cover their emissions over a 3-year period.  In this 35th auction, 14.37 million allowances were sold at $3.00 each for a total of $43.1 million, which will be invested in the participating states in energy efficiency, renewable energy, bill assistance to low income families, and GHG reduction programs.  The cumulative proceeds from all CO2 allowance programs exceeds $2.68 billion.  RGGI has provided jobs, improved public health, and reduced the cost of electricity in the participating states.  The RGGI cap for 2017 is 84.3 million tons and is decreasing by 2.5% per year through 2020.

On March 13 Mary Bowerman posted an article in USA Today titled, Mass coral bleaching hits the Great Barrier Reef for the second year in a row.  She wrote,
“An expansive aerial survey found that the Great Barrier Reef has been ravaged by coral bleaching for the second year in a row, marking the first time the reef has not had several years to recover between bleaching events, according to researchers.”
“Warmer oceanic waters spurred by climate change, have led to an increase in coral bleaching around the world, according to the center.
The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the coral's tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. While some of the areas are expected to regain their normal color when temperatures drop, other parts of the reef have already experienced significant mortality of bleached coral.
The back-to-back summers of widespread coral bleaching likely mean that the water temperatures did not become low enough to allow the corral to adequately recovered, Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said in a statement.”

NOTE: While coral reefs cover only a fraction of 1% of the ocean’s surface, they support 25% of the sea creatures, which provide protein for hundreds of millions of people.  Their loss would make it even more difficult to feed the earth’s increasing human population.

On March 20 Baher Kamal posted an article in Inter Press Service News titled, New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable.  He wrote,
New evidence is deepening scientific fears, advanced few years ago, that the Middle East and North Africa risk becoming uninhabitable in a few decades, as accessible fresh water has fallen by two-thirds over the past 40 years.
This sharp water scarcity simply not only affects the already precarious provision of drinking water for most of the region’s 22 countries, home to nearly 400 million inhabitants, but also the availability of water for agriculture and food production for a fast growing population.
The new facts are stark: per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.
Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.
Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, adds the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).”
“This alarming situation has prompted FAO’s director general to call for urgent action. On his recent visit to Cairo, Jose Graziano da Silva said that access to water is a “fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture”, and its looming scarcity in the North Africa and Middle East region is a huge challenge requiring an “urgent and massive response”.
Meantime, the rising sea level in the Nile Delta – which hosts the most fertile lands in Egypt– is exposing the region’s most inhabited country (almost 100 million people) to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinisation.”

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.pdfPopular Energy Star Program Is Reportedly on Trump's EPA Chopping Block
A new White House budget proposal to cut 38 EPA programs includes Energy Star, a voluntary energy efficiency program that has saved money for consumers and businesses. The certification, which applies to appliances, heating and cooling systems, electronics, and buildings, boasts 85 percent brand recognition among consumers, allowing companies to differentiate their products in the market. The program has saved consumers $430 billion since its creation in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush and enjoys widespread support today. The elimination of a program that "is doing so much good across so many fronts," says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, is a "penny-wise and pound-foolish" idea. The program includes 16,000 participants ranging from schools and hospitals to a wide variety of companies and organizations. Callahan explains that she "can't imagine honestly that the manufacturers won't fight very, very hard to keep this program in place."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfProposed Cuts to NOAA's Budget Would Carry Serious Consequences for Multiple Sectors

The Trump administration is proposing a 17 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) budget. Members of the weather and climate communities cautioned that the deep cuts would set back advances made in weather prediction and climate science. NOAA's weather satellite division, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services, would be one of the areas hardest hit by the budget cuts with a reduction of $513 million. NOAA's annual budget currently sits at $5.6 billion, a small percentage of the federal discretionary budget, and costs each American about $3 annually. NOAA's data is essential to a wide range of constituents, from water managers to farmers to local weather forecasters. Dan Sobein, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said, "The weather has such a huge impact on the economy, that the small savings [from the cuts] are a losing proposition for taxpayers. It would leave a huge hole in our ability to warn people and could even cost lives."

For more information see:

EPA to Reconsider Its Vehicle Fuel-Efficiency Standards

The Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to withdraw a previously issued "final determination" on stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks for model years 2022-2025, after receiving pressure from automakers to loosen the standards. Under the Obama administration, automakers were committed to a decade-long development cycle to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids and electric vehicles. The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed to review the stricter standards when they set them five years ago, but the EPA concluded in December 2016 "that no revision was necessary." This process occurred before the Trump administration took office in January 2017. In addition, the administration is also examining whether they will issue an executive order revoking California's ability to create its own vehicle emission targets, an exemption first authorized by Congress in 1970. California is the only state with the ability to set their own stricter vehicle emission standards under the Clean Air Act, but other states can choose to adopt California's regulations.

For more information see:

Trump Administration May End NOAA's Crucial Sea Grant Program

A leaked White House memo shows that the Trump administration could attempt to abolish the National Sea Grant College Program, which supports partnerships between universities and localities to protect their economies and communities. Since its creation in 1966, the program has worked to "foster economic competitiveness" and "provide for the understanding and wise use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources."Derek Brockbank, executive director of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, points out that "sea grants are and would be critical even if there was no climate change" and that they have "only become more critical with climate change." Experts say that cutting this program could impede climate adaptation for coastal communities and harm the economies that depend on these measures. "The Sea Grant program represents a tried-and-true model of cooperation between universities, local governments, state governments, and the federal government," explainedJason Evans, a Stetson University scientist who works with the program. "Its effectiveness is really something to emulate, not eliminate, for the sake of austerity."

For information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfPruitt Brings Along Fellow Climate-Deniers to EPA

Newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is beginning to fill up vacant offices at the agency with those who share his viewpoint towards environmental regulations and climate change. Pruitt has pulled heavily from the staff of fellow climate denier and Oklahoma Republican, Senator James Inhofe. Pruitt's vision appears to be bringing in personnel who are fundamentally in conflict with the career employees who have carried out the EPA's past actions. President Trump is expected to issue an executive order directing Pruitt to start the legal process of undoing the Clean Power Plan, in addition to weakening stricter fleet-wide fuel economy standards installed under the Obama administration. Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said, "If you want to do these executive orders that require a whole rewrite of the rule, you have to get that right, legally. It took years to do those rules. To now ask for those things to be undone with less staff and low morale - how are they going to do it?"

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfTo Achieve Climate Action Goals, California Must Drastically Alter Development Patterns

There are concerns about how California will reach its goal of reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. To achieve these reductions, its citizens will need to make lifestyle adjustments, such as Southern Californians driving 12 percent less than they currently do. Cars and trucks are currently the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. The state will also need to facilitate key actions, including increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road, expanding access to public transportation, convincing individuals to walk and bike more, and investing in renewable energy to supply the grid. However, many fear that the changes are too great for California to pull off in time. In order to achieve greater neighborhood density, state officials will need to change current development patterns-a major challenge that may see resistance from local governments. Ultimately, the state will need to reduce sprawl and invest in new housing units that promote clean transportation options.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfDelaware's Beach Towns Open for Business Year-Round Thanks to a Changing Climate, but at a Cost

More and more, climate change is changing the face of Delaware's beaches and the towns that depend on them. Like its shorelines, Delaware's freezing winter temperatures have steadily receded over the last few decades. The significant shift in climate has allowed many of the 80 percent of local businesses that once closed for the winter to operate year-round, which has helped to create "25 years straight of renaissance" in Rehoboth and other towns. However, the warming temperatures have come at a cost as damaging hurricanes and storms are occurring more frequently. Beach restoration projects necessary to repair beaches eroded after each big storm have cost the state millions of dollars. These projects have become too costly for Delaware to fund on its own, causing state leaders to continually push for more federal funding. The Trump administration has not indicated whether it will grant this funding under a future budget.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfTrump's Budget Outline Slashes Agency Funding for Climate, Energy, and Environment Programs
On March 16, the Trump administration released its so-called "skinny budget," previewing the slew of cuts it will formally propose to Congress in the full-length version. The largest agency-wide cuts were at the EPA (31 percent), the Department of State (29 percent), Agriculture (21 percent), Labor (21 percent), Health and Human Services (18 percent), and Commerce (16 percent). NASA would experience a one-percent cut overall, but would see virtually all of its funding for Earth science research, climate change programs, and education shut down. The only agencies to see an increase in spending were the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. Many individual programs, including Energy Star, the Weatherization Assistance Program, ARPA-E, and the State Energy Program, would be eliminated entirely. When questioned by the press about the numerous climate change cuts in the budget, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney replied, "We're not spending money on [climate] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfSeventeen House Republicans Break Away from Party, Push for Climate Action

On March 15, a group of 17 House Republicans broke from the majority position of their party and introduced a resolution calling for climate change solutions. Spearheaded by Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL), and Rep. Ryan Costello (PA), H. Res. 195 acknowledges humanity's role in causing climate change and calls for a commitment to "mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact." The resolution suggests that the United States should seek economically viable solutions that include both private and public sector solutions. It also states that clean energy investment and innovation are critical to both job creation and addressing climate change. This resolution is similar to one introduced in 2015 by former Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY). While the new resolution has the momentum of the Paris Agreement on its side, it will likely face resistance from the White House. The other signatories include Representatives Amodei (NV), Bacon (NE), Comstock (VA), Faso (NY), Fitzpatrick (PA), Katko (NY), Love (UT), Ros-Lehtinen (FL), LoBiondo (NJ), Mast (FL), Meehan (PA), Reed (NY), Reichert (WA), and Sanford (SC).

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfDefense Secretary Mattis Declares Climate Change a Threat to National Security

In newly-released written testimony taken during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense James Mattis explained that climate change is an imminent and significant threat to national security. He stated that "climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today," and that "it is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning." Mattis's longstanding view is that the military should reduce fossil fuel use and employ more renewable energy due to various strategic and operational factors, including climate change. During other parts of the testimony, Mattis made clear that "increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification" and other climate impacts play a role in U.S. security. "I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness."

For more information see:

Scientists and Organizations Refute Pruitt's Denial of Greenhouse Gas Effects

During a televised interview on March 9, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, "I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." The scientific community has refuted this statement with vigor, with multiple groups responding directly to Pruitt. One group of 30 prominent climate scientists sent him a letter, stating, "Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere." The American Meteorological Society (AMS) also sent Pruitt a letter, stating that they are ready to help him understand climate science data because "mischaracterizing the science is not the best starting point for a constructive dialogue" on climate policy. AMS' letter noted the scientific community's position on climate change is "based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists," adding, "We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion."

For more information see:

Federal Report Provides Strong Evidence for Climate Change, Draws Praise in Independent Review

The Obama administration's final draft submission of the Climate Science Special Report, a national evaluation of the climate published every four years, has received high marks after undergoing an independent review by the National Academes of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The committee declared the draft "impressive" and "timely," while praising its "breadth, accuracy, and rigor." The report is produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and originated in 1990 when the National Climate Assessment process was first mandated by Congress. The latest report asserts that, "Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era. There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate. (Very high confidence)." This is a sharp contrast to the recent statements made by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who claimed that he did not believe carbon dioxide to be a primary driver of climate change.

For more information see:

Republicans Reconsider Natural Gas Rule Amid Public Backlash

Republican members in Congress are facing widespread criticism after the House voted to repeal a rule that mandated natural gas companies capture escaping methane emissions and use it to generate electricity. The rule also required royalty payments from energy sales to local governments. Citizens opposed to repealing the rule were concerned about exposure to the poisonous compounds that leak out alongside the methane at industrial sites. The vote coincides with the release of a new study finding that the methane emissions from natural gas-fired power plants are between two and 120 times higher than the EPA had originally estimated. The public outcry is particularly evident in western states, where more than 80 percent of people support the provision, putting pressure on Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and others to oppose the roll-back. While Gardner stated that he "is continuing to meet with (his) constituents on this topic and will continue to do so until the vote," Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have already committed to voting no.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfAmerican Medical Societies Issue Report Warning of Impact of Climate Change on Public Health

On March 15, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health released a report titled, "Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health." The report presents scientific evidence that climate change is aggravating health issues, such as heart and lung disease, the spread of infectious diseases, and extreme weather-related health problems. "It's not only hurting polar bears, it's hurting us," said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, the director of the new organization and a professor at George Mason University. The Consortium consists of 11 major American medical societies. Climate change has the ability to worsen air quality, by increasing smog through warmer surface temperatures. These warmer temperatures have also lengthened the growing seasons of pollen and ragweed, increasing their levels and aggravating allergies. "I see the effects of climate change on children here already," said Dr. Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at the University Hospitals system in Cleveland. "Here in Ohio we have high rates of pediatric asthma, so the poor air quality days that we see more and more of are a direct risk to children."

For more information see:

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

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