Wednesday, May 24, 2017



On Sept. 23, 2014 a 3.8-minute video was published that was shown at the U.N. Climate Summit that year.  It was narrated by Morgan Freeman and titled, What’s Possible: Take Part.  It’s short but inspiring - well worth watching.

Robinson Meyer on April 13, 2017 posted an article in The Atlantic titled, Carbon Emissions Fell in Obama’s Last Year in Office.  The key point is that while carbon emissions have been falling in the electricity generation sector - largely because of a switch from coal to cheaper natural gas - emissions in the transportation sector have been steadily increasing because of growing consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel.  The drop in liquid fuel prices made possible by fracking has encouraged people to buy larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles.  2016 was the first year when U.S. carbon emissions were greater from transportation than from electricity generation.  According to the author, “… federal fuel-efficiency rules must either get more stringent or there must be a mass consumer move to electric vehicles.”

NOTE: My bet is that the future of transportation will involve both a mass move to electric vehicles and a transition to electricity for their batteries from solar and wind power.  The only question is whether we can complete this transition in time to avoid serious damage to the climate system.

Matt Tinder and John Schneidawind issued a press release on April 17 from the American Institute of Architects titled, Where we stand: Architects respond to climate challenges.  They said, “As the nation prepares to celebrate Earth Day, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) today issued eight principles governing how architects can mitigate climate change and urged the government to protect policies designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon in the built environment.
"Architecture and design can mitigate climate impact while simultaneously reducing operating costs for building owners," said AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA. "We need the federal government to keep and even expand incentives that are already producing major advances in energy efficient design and cutting the carbon footprint of buildings."
"These principles reinforce our strong national position on how energy-conscious urban planning and appropriate building design can help meet global climate challenges," Vonier noted. "In fact, the business case for meeting these challenges has never been greater."
Vonier said that the design and construction of sustainable and resilient buildings is already creating jobs and growing the American economy:”
It went on to say, “AIA's Energy Leadership Group recently issued a commentary that calls on the profession to mobilize against climate change and on the United States to honor its commitment to the Paris climate accord. That treaty, ratified in 2016, calls for substantive national and international climate change mitigation actions, most of them implicating the building sector.
"Today, more than half of the world population lives in urban areas, with cities generating more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from buildings," the commentary states. "By 2030, world population is expected to increase by 1.1 billion people, with all of that occurring in urban areas."”  

On April 25 Hiroko Tabuchi posted an article in the NY Times titled, With Government in Retreat, Companies Step Up on Emissions.  He wrote:
The Trump administration may be pondering a retreat from the United States’ climate commitments, but corporate America is moving ahead with its own emissions goals.
Nearly half of the Fortune 500 biggest companies in the United States have now set targets to shrink their carbon footprints, according to a report published Tuesday by environmental organizations that monitor corporate emissions pledges. Twenty-five more companies adopted climate targets over the last two years, the groups said.
Almost two dozen companies, including Google, Walmart and Bank of America, have pledged to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy, with varying deadlines, compared with just a handful in 2015. Google’s data centers worldwide will run entirely on renewable energy by the end of this year, the technology giant announced in December.
“We believe that climate change is real, and it’s a severe crisis,” said Gary Demasi, who directs Google’s energy strategy. “We’re not deviating from our goals.””
The real laggards in announcing any plans, as you might expect, are the largest emitters - the big energy companies Exxon-Mobil, Phillips 66 and Chevron.

The Omaha World-Herold ran an article May 1 titled, Iowa’s biggest utility aims to produce all its energy from renewable sources.  MidAmerican Energy plans to add about 1000 wind turbines to the 2000 it already has, increasing the 55% of the electricity it now generates from wind power to nearly 90%.  On top of that, the company has agreed not to raise the price of its electricity till at least 2029!

NOTE: Hoping that companies that have made fortunes from producing and selling fossil fuels might actually plan to reduce their emissions is like expecting tobacco companies to admit that nicotine is addictive, or that smoking causes lung cancer.  The words that come to mind to describe their actions are understandable, but despicable.

On May 3 The Boston Globe ran an article by Naomi Oreskes and Jeremy Jones titled, Want to protect the climate? Time for carbon pricing.  Oreskes is a Harvard professor of the history of science, and Jones is the founder of Jones Snowboards and Protect Our Winters.  They wrote, “OUR COUNTRY IS feeling the effects of a changing climate. The West is witnessing dramatic changes to winter, including decreased snowpack — which means less water availability the rest of the year — and tremendous destruction of Western forests by bark beetles that used to die off in winter, but now don’t. Here in Massachusetts, people might think that shorter, milder winters are a good thing. But they are not. If we don’t deal with climate change now, the snowpack will be confined to only the highest of elevations.
Of course, renewable energy is helping to stop further climate change. But solar and wind have trouble competing with fossil fuels, because it’s just not a fair market. Fossil fuels — whose greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change — are more widely available than clean energy, and they are usually cheaper, due to ongoing subsidies. A carbon pricing system would level the playing field.
Putting a price on carbon is a proven market mechanism that has widespread, bipartisan support, and is increasingly being adopted around the globe. It will account for the true cost of burning fossil fuels, creating a more competitive market for clean energy sources. And, it can be implemented quickly to begin reducing carbon pollution.
In Massachusetts, there are two carbon pricing bills pending in the Legislature, with co-sponsorship of more than one-third of our lawmakers. These proposals focus on putting a price on fossil fuels once they enter the state and distributing revenue collected back to businesses and households in the form of rebates. One proposal returns 100 percent of the revenue collected; the other returns 80 percent of revenue while reinvesting the remaining 20 percent into a Green Infrastructure Fund, funding energy efficiency, climate resilience and adaptation measures, and public transportation. Either one would be a great step in the right direction.”

NOTE: So if fossil fuels are wrecking snowboarding in Massachusetts and the world’s climate in general, why do we keep subsidizing them?  Go figure.

On May 3 Phil McKenna of InsideClimate News posted an article titled, 
"We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined," said Tom Kiernan, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.
“Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.”

On May 7 James Ayre posted an article in CleanTechnica titled, World’s Oceans Experiencing Significant Decline In Dissolved Oxygen.  The article says,The amount of dissolved oxygen in the water of the world’s oceans — an important marker of overall oceanic biological health/livability — has been declining at a notable rate for more than 2 decades now, according to a new analysis from the Georgia Institute of Technology.”
“The oxygen in oceans has dynamic properties, and its concentration can change with natural climate variability,” commented Taka Ito, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who led the research. “The important aspect of our result is that the rate of global oxygen loss appears to be exceeding the level of nature’s random variability.”
With falling oxygen levels in ocean water, habitability for larger forms of marine life becomes harder and large-scale hypoxic events (dead zones) became more likely.
While it’s long been known that rising ocean temperatures would result in less oxygen being present in the waters, oxygen levels have been falling much more rapidly than was expected”
“The trend of oxygen falling is about 2 to 3 times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming,” Ito commented. “This is most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and melting of polar ice.””
With falling oxygen levels in ocean water, habitability for larger forms of marine life becomes harder and large-scale hypoxic events (dead zones) became more likely.”

NOTE: I was not aware of this depletion of oxygen in ocean water, which is considerably greater than would be expected based on the known decrease in solubility of oxygen as water warms.  It doesn’t sound good.

On May 9 Reader Supported News posted an article titled, CO2 Emissions Soar as Alaska Heats Up.  It said, “The Alaskan tundra is releasing an increasingly large amount of CO2 due to a warmer climate, new research shows.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that CO2 emitted from the tundra between October and December of each year increased more than 70 percent from 1975 to 2015, likely influenced by season creep and increasingly warmer winters.
"There is a lot of potential CO2 from these soils, which worries people," lead author Roisin Commane told the Guardian. "We'd prefer the carbon stays there."
The study suggested that the tundra's emissions of CO2 have become greater than its uptake during the spring and summer growing season.
"Tundra soils appear to be acting as an amplifier of climate change," co-author Steve Wofsy, a Harvard atmospheric scientist, said in a statement issued by NASA. "We need to carefully monitor what it's doing up there, even late in the year when everything looks frozen and dormant."

NOTE: This increasing rate of emissions as the climate warms is another example of positive feedback in earth’s climate system: The more the climate changes, the faster it goes.  In this case organic material in the ‘permafrost’ can be oxidized by microorganisms using atmospheric oxygen.  If the warming takes place without much oxygen present, methanogenic bacteria can produce methane - a much more powerful greenhouse gas.

On May 11 Jason Pontin, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the MIT Technology Review, delivered a striking 15-minute video presentation  at the Statoil Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas titled, How Will We Solve Big Energy Challenges?.  Statoil is a large Norwegian oil and gas company.  He compared the necessary mobilization of clean energy systems that do not emit greenhouse gases to the American effort to put two men on the moon - but on a far larger global scale - saying that it can be done if we work together and put a significant and increasing price on carbon emissions.

On May 12 The Real News Network posted a short (2.3 min) video interview of Bill McKibben (the founder of on what we need to do now that Trump is President.  One thing he emphasizes is the need to set a goal of 100% renewable energy - no more partial measures to address global climate change.  The title is Inevitable Renewable Energy Will Win.

On May 18 the Union of Concerned Scientists posted an article titled, Largest Producers of Industrial Carbon Emissions.  It points out that nearly 2/3 of all CO2 an methane emissions since 1854 can be attributed to just 90 companies - 83 producers of coal, oil and natural gas and 7 cement makers.  “The top five investor-owned companies on the list — Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Shell, and ConocoPhillips — are responsible for one-eighth (12.5%) of all industrial carbon emissions from 1854 to 2010.”  The article points out that two of the companies - Chevron and ExxonMobil - have not only contributed disproportionately to carbon emissions and climate change, but have spent millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns to convince the public that climate change isn’t really happening, or it has nothing to do with human activities, or, even if it does, addressing it would cost far too much.
The article is linked to a list of Frequently Asked Questions and answers:

How do we know that humans are the major cause of global warming?
Why does CO2 get most of the attention when there are so many other heat-trapping gases (greenhouse gases)?
What is the latest climate science?
Does air pollution—specifically particulate matter (aerosols)—affect global warming?
How does the sun affect our climate?
Is there a connection between the hole in the ozone layer and global warming?
What is the best source of scientific information on global warming?
Will responding to global warming be harmful to our economy?
What are the options for the vast stores of coal around the world?
Is global warming already happening?

The article also takes the reader to what it calls an Infographic titled, Climate Science vs. Fossil Fuel Fiction.  The lead sentence is, Fossil fuel companies and their lobbying groups have been deceiving the public for nearly 30 years about the facts of global warming. They continue to do so today.”

On May 18 Justin Gillis and Johathan of the NY Times emailed me a 3-part series of photos, videos, graphics and four virtual reality films put together by four reporters from the Times reporting on two weeks they spent in Antarctica.  The series was called, Antarctic Dispatches: Miles of Ice Collapsing into the Sea.  In Part 1 the authors wrote, Glaciers in certain areas have been undercut by warmer ocean waters, and the flow of ice is getting faster and faster.  
The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration.  Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities - Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more - is tied to Antarctica’s fate.”
A rapid disintegration of Antarctica might, in the worst case, cause the sea to rise so fast that tens of millions of coastal refugees would have to flee inland, potentially straining societies to the breaking point. Climate scientists used to regard that scenario as fit only for Hollywood disaster scripts. But these days, they cannot rule it out with any great confidence.”
“Recent computer forecasts suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high level, parts of Antarctica could break up rapidly, causing the ocean to rise six feet or more by the end of this century. That is double the maximum increase that an international climate panel projected only four years ago.”
The authors wrote this in Part 2: “Extensive satellite monitoring began in the 1990s and, within a decade, evidence emerged that the ice sheet was already starting to speed up, retreat and destabilize. Since then, the rate at which some of the glaciers are dumping ice into the ocean has tripled. More than 100 billion tons are lost every year.
In 2016, Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University published a study, based on a computer analysis of Antarctica, that raised alarms worldwide.
Incorporating recent advances in the understanding of how ice sheets might break apart, they found that both West Antarctica and some vulnerable parts of East Antarctica would go into an unstoppable collapse if the Earth continued to warm at a rapid pace.
In their worst-case scenario, the sea level could rise by six feet by the end of this century, and the pace could pick up drastically in the 22nd century.”
“If the rise turns out to be as rapid as the worst-case projections, it could lead to a catastrophe without parallel in the history of civilization.”  (emphasis added)

NOTE:  Going through the dispatches you are asked if you would like to provide your email to receive more information on climate change around the world.  I signed up.

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.pdfSeventeen Republican House Members Sign Resolution Vowing to Act on Climate Change

Seventeen Republican House members have signed a resolution entitled "Expressing the Commitment of the House of Representatives to Conservative Environmental Stewardship," which recognizes that humans have contributed to climate change and calls for "economically viable ... and broadly supported private and public solutions." While the Republican base may disagree with increased government regulation on environmental issues, the members of Congress who signed the resolution recognize the need for action on this critical issue. First-term Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) stated, "[Climate change] is such a big issue that it should not be taken lightly on any side of the aisle." Conservative support for climate action is increasing and the congressional backing of the "eco-Right," an array of new policy groups including RepublicEn, R Street, and the Niskanen Center, suggests a promising future for bipartisan climate action. Other Republicans have taken action as well, such as through the establishment of a Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group that seeks to determine economically and socially viable solutions to climate change.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfEPA Staff Concerns about HONEST Act Silenced by EPA Leadership

On March 29th, the House passed the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1430). The bill would require any data used by EPA to be "publicly available online and reproducible," in effect, vastly limiting the quantity and types of studies that could be done by the agency. Meeting the proposed data standards would impose an additional operating cost of up to $250 million on EPA. Though many agency staff members spoke out against the bill, their concerns did not reach the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Reportedly, EPA's Office of the Administrator instead chose to send a response to CBO saying "no cost, no comment." EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has previously vowed to change the culture of the agency and "base actions on sound science, rather than ideological convictions." According to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, "Any efforts to suddenly limit the data the EPA uses to keep Americans safe is nonsensical and, frankly, irresponsible."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfEuropean Utilities to Place Moratorium on New Coal-Fired Power Plant Construction Post-2020

On April 5, a trade association representing 3,500 electric utility industry companies across Europe declared they will no longer build new coal-fired power plants after 2020. The national energy companies for 26 European Union countries have also signed on, with the exception of Greece and Poland. The board of directors for the group, Eurelectric, announced in a press release, "This commitment to decarbonize electricity generation, together with the electrification of key sectors, such as heating, cooling and transport, will make a major contribution to help Europe meet its climate change targets [under the Paris Agreement]." Eurelectric's secretary general, Kristian Ruby, added, "Europe's energy companies are putting their money where their mouths are." Coal industry representatives expressed skepticism toward the news, stating further advances in energy storage and affordability are needed before a shift away from "conventional sources" can take place. New coal plant construction fell by nearly two-thirds worldwide in 2016.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfAsia Pacific Braces for Crises on Multiple Fronts as Future Climate Impacts Loom

International security experts warn that climate change is a "threat multiplier" for global security. The increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather has already begun to exacerbate refugee crises emanating from unstable, water-scarce regions. According to Sherri Goodman, a former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense, the Asia Pacific region is at especially high risk because countries will experience the direct climate impacts of extreme weather and the indirect impacts in the form of climate refugees. Australia is expected to experience worsening drought conditions while potentially taking in thousands of displaced people from low-lying Pacific countries. Goodman explains that "another extreme weather event, combined with sea-level rise and storm surge, could send upwards of 10 million people or more along that low-lying coastline in Bangladesh fleeing ... towards India, which is building a massive wall to keep Bangladeshis out." In Africa and the Middle East, drought is aggravating "tensions and conflicts that already exist," as terrorist groups take "advantage of desperate people in desperate circumstances."

For more information see:

Cities That Sacrificed Natural Buffers for Rapid Growth Now Face Stark Climate Impacts

The environmental consequences of Guangzhou, China's torrid rate of development over the last two decades has come into focus as climate change introduces severe disruptions to the region. Southern China's Pearl River Delta is home to a large industrial base, numerous cities, and a population of 42 million. However, the previously agriculture-rich region is highly vulnerable to flooding due to the presence of three rivers, their tributaries, and the South China Sea. According to a World Bank report, the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen face the greatest economic risk from climate change, as a measure of gross domestic product. The impacts threaten not only the region's residents and industries, but also the stakeholders who rely upon the products manufactured and exported from there. In Shenzhen, over 70 percent of the mangrove forests, which serve as natural defenses against water threats, were removed for development. Liang Bo, with the Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands and Conservation Foundation, observed, "Most of the people who live here now weren't around when the mangroves were still here. They see this park, which makes us more vulnerable to rising seas and typhoons, as they do all the tall buildings and highways. They equate it with progress."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfDespite Trump's Statements, Utility Companies Are Still Looking Beyond Coal

Even though President Trump signed an executive order to roll back the Obama Administration's climate change directives, electric utility companies remain unconvinced that the new administration's efforts will yield a resurgence for coal. In a survey conducted by Reuters of 32 utilities operating in the 26 states that sued to halt the Clean Power Plan, the majority indicated they have no plans to adjust their multi-billion dollar shift away from coal. The utilities believe that no matter what the president does, the demand for coal will continue to fall. "I'm not going to build new coal plants in today's environment," said Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy. The trend is largely driven by economics, as relatively inexpensive natural gas is plentiful and renewable energy costs continue to drop. The survey also found that utility executives still plan on retiring coal power plants, possibly at a slower pace, but do not plan on building new ones. According to Jairo Chung, an associate vice president at Moody's Investors Service, "This is not an environmentally driven trend. What we are seeing now is in the interior of the U.S., where wind is very rich, states and utilities are pushing ahead in investing in it."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfClimate Change Is Threatening Species on a Scale Not Foreseen by Scientists

Recent studies reveal that climate change is harming ecosystems in more widespread and fundamental ways than scientists previously understood. Changes in seasonal patterns and other natural cycles has impacted 74 different ecological processes of species including genetics, migration behavior, population distribution, and physical traits. Woodland salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains are become smaller and the offspring of Arctic red knots are being born with diminished bills, causing a significant disadvantage for survival. Even when a particular species survives a transition, these changes can have devastating effects on the ecosystem. "In many instances genetic diversity is being lost due to climate change," explains Bret Scheffers of the University of Florida. "It is important to not confuse species responses and adaptation as an indicator that everything will be okay." Scientists warn that these disruptions to the ecological balance ultimately harms humans because we rely on healthy ecosystems to maintain our personal and economic welfare.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfTrump's Plan to Cut Energy Star Program Provokes Bipartisan Outrage and Ridicule. 

EPA's popular Energy Star initiative is among the many environment and energy programs proposed for elimination within the Trump administration's budget outline. The voluntary program has had strong bipartisan support over the last 25 years. The program costs about $60 million a year, but is credited with saving consumers and businesses over $30 billion in energy costs annually. Dave Pogue of the Fortune 500 Company CBRE said he never imagined the program that helped his firm lower energy use by 16 percent would come under fire. Christie Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush's EPA administrator, confirmed that "not in a million years" would she have eliminated Energy Star, explaining, "There was no reason to. It worked, and it hardly cost any money." Energy Star is widely seen as a win-win for consumers and companies. Under the program, companies voluntarily compete to earn an EPA certification that can differentiate their products as energy efficient, with consumers benefitting from reduced electricity bills.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Calls for U.S. Exit from Paris Treaty

During an April 13 interview on Fox News, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the United States should drop out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Pruitt said, "Paris is something we need to look at closely. It's something we need to exit in my opinion. It's a bad deal for America." Pruitt also said that "China or India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030." However, in an April 3 interview, Pruitt appeared to endorse continued climate negotiations with those very countries, saying, "Engagement internationally is very important." Under Paris, China has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions 60-65 percent per unit of GDP by 2030 versus 2005 levels, while India is targeting a 33-35 percent reduction under the same metric. The White House has suggested it will outline the administration's position on the agreement in about a month. High-level officials within the administration reportedly remain divided on the issue, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserting during his congressional confirmation hearing that the United States should remain party to the treaty to "maintain its seat at the table."

For more information see:

As Trump Administration Drags Its Feet on Paris Agreement, G7 Vows to Move Ahead With or Without the United States

This year's meeting of the G7 energy secretaries failed to reach the consensus necessary to release a statement on international climate goals. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry informed the conference that the United States is still reviewing its positions on climate and energy issues and the Trump administration would communicate its official policy stances at a later date. The G7 conference was anticipated as a potential sign of the Trump administration's decision on the Paris Agreement. Carlo Calenda, the economic progress minister of host-nation Italy, said that despite the U.S. position, he was "particularly pleased to see that all others joined the E.U. in reaffirming our solid commitment and determination to implement the Paris Agreement and continue the clean energy transition." Meanwhile, the United Kingdom's Climate and Industry Minister Nick Hurd proclaimed that he found "lots of common ground on energy security and innovation" with Secretary Perry. The group of ministers, including Perry, reaffirmed their commitment to a 2016 declaration to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

For more information see:

Growing Evidence for Harmful Health Impacts of Diesel Vehicles Leads to Global About-Face

Governments around the world are trying to break away from diesel vehicles after years of promoting the technology as beneficial due to its higher fuel efficiency. The market for diesel passenger vehicles boomed in Europe during the 1990s and still accounts for 50 percent of new cars sales there. The tide began to turn in 2012, as numerous studies were released showing the harmful health impacts of diesel emissions. The World Health Organisation ultimately named diesel exhaust a carcinogen. A recent study from the International Council for Clean Transportation found real-world nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars are 10 times higher than those for heavy trucks or buses, which face stricter regulations. In the wake of such findings, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City have declared that diesel vehicles will be banned from those city centers by 2025. Meanwhile, the C40 group of global city leaders are discussing steps to crack down on diesel vehicles. A history of governmental support for diesel leaves some politicians concerned about confusion and backlash from the public over the shift in attitudes, but cities like London are now pushing financial incentives to unravel these trends in an attempt to compensate consumers.

For more information see:

Conservative Group Takes Anti-Science Campaign Directly to Teachers

The Heartland Institute has distributed a book disputing established climate science to 25,000 science teachers, causing concern among educators, advocacy groups, and politicians about the harmful effects of this misinformation. The book, entitled "Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming," falsely claims that the science of climate change is "not settled" and argues that "students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists on how big the human impact on climate is, and whether or not we should be worried about it." The National Science Teachers Association asked its 55,000 members to stand firm against the "unprecedented attack" on climate science, teachers, and students. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) decried the materials as anti-science propaganda that does not belong in classrooms. The National Center for Science Education also organized a fundraiser to "help teachers present climate change accurately, honestly, and completely." The Heartland Institute reportedly plans to mail their publication to an additional 200,000 teachers across the country.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfSurvey Reveals Generational Gap among Republicans on Climate Change

College students across the country who self-identify as Republicans are increasingly at odds with their adopted political party over climate change. According to a review of 21 college Republican organizations by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, students increasingly agree that "climate change is a human-caused problem, and that Americans have a responsibility to act on it and protect the environment." According to a 2016 survey by Pew, 52 percent of people aged 18 to 29 viewed climate change as a "very serious problem," while only 38 percent of respondents over age 50 agreed. Kent Haeffner, president of the Harvard University Republican Club, said, "Demographically, the 'Trump coalition' will not last. I think that the folks that are our age are going to have to reshape the party and take it in a different direction." Michele Combs, chair of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform, noted, "The younger generation and the younger conservatives do understand and appreciate and believe in [climate change], more than the older Republicans."

For more information see:

Unprecedented Coral Bleaching Events Have Brought the Great Barrier Reef to Its Breaking Point

Two straight years of mass coral bleaching has damaged the Great Barrier Reef to an extent from which it is unlikely to recover. Scientists say that although the reef system has recovered from previous bleaching, the magnitude and close timing of the two events has compromised the reef's ability to self-repair. Prior to 2016, there had been only two bleaching events along the reef over the past two decades in 1998 and 2002. While warming waters connected to climate change is the primary driver of bleaching, poor water quality exacerbates the damage to the vulnerable ecosystem. Experts say the Australian government is "spending insufficient amounts" on programs to control fishing, waste runoff, and direct pollution, yielding disjointed and ineffective policies. As a result, Australia is expected to fall short of its 2018 ocean water quality goals. Water quality expert Jon Brodie believes the reef is now at a "terminal stage," asserting that the unprecedented coalescence of factors gives the reef "zero time for recovery."

For more information see:

EPA to Pause and "Reconsider" Methane Regulation for New Oil and Gas Wells

In an April 19 letter, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informed oil and gas industry representatives that the agency will formally reconsider a regulation meant to reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas wells. A 90-day stay will be placed on the rule, freeing industry from compliance during that period. The Obama administration regulation was finalized in May 2016 and would have reduced methane emissions at the affected facilities by a CO2-equivalent of 11 million metric tons if fully implemented. As attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt sued the EPA over the methane standard. The oil and gas industry also argued against the regulation, claiming it would be redundant, citing a financial incentive to capture and sell the rogue methane emissions. Michelle Robinson with the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, and the scale of methane emissions from oil and gas production is enormous. There are proven, low-cost ways to capture methane ... and the last administration put in place standards to make sure we do just that. It makes no sense for Administrator Pruitt to put those rules at risk."

For more information see:

Persistent Flooding Haunts Coastal Residents, while Flood Insurance Premiums Skyrocket

The residents of Norfolk, Virginia are wrestling with how to protect their homes, businesses, and infrastructure from rapidly encroaching seas. The region is experiencing the fastest rate of relative sea level rise on the Atlantic coast, making it much more common for storms and tides to flood neighborhoods that would have previously gone undamaged. As major flooding becomes more frequent, the cost of covering a home under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has drastically increased. Private companies have historically stayed out of the flood insurance business, leaving the task to an overwhelmed federal government. City officials have pursued forward-looking policies, such as requiring new construction to be elevated. However, Norfolk's aged and established infrastructure makes adaptation difficult. A Dutch engineering firm estimated $1 billion in upgrades would be necessary to implement a full-scale adaptation plan, with half of that going toward existing infrastructure. City planning director George Homewood said, "We absolutely cannot protect 200 miles of coastline. We have to pick those areas we should armor, and the places where we're going to let the water be."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfWarmer Weather Is Allowing Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes to Expand Their Range Across the United States

Global warming is expected to bring an increase in mosquito-borne diseases to the United States, with the initial impact already reflected in the recent Zika virus scare. At least one resident in every state (except Alaska) has contracted Zika, a total of 5,200 cases. While most of the infected individuals were exposed to the disease while traveling outside the country, over 220 people caught the virus from mosquitoes in the United States. The Aedes aegypti species of mosquito that carries Zika is present in over 25 states, and scientists worry that the warming weather and a lack of preparedness in cities may lay the groundwork for a future epidemic. In 10 American cities, the mosquito season has already been extended by more than a month due to warmer temperatures. According to Nikos Vasilakis, a Zika researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch, "Climate change is certainly expanding the geographic range of mosquito species, and inevitably the diseases follow them."

For more information see:

For Canadian Towns, Climate Change Is Especially Personal as the Ground Melts Beneath Their Feet

Communities across Canada are seeing up close the severe effects of climate change, as the permafrost that blankets much of the country is thawing at unprecedented rates. As the climate warms, the frozen packs of water, soil, and organic materials that many towns are built on are giving way to craters and sinkholes. Communities are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of change. As the ground implodes, large stores of the greenhouse gas methane, 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, leak into the atmosphere. This process has set in motion a feedback cycle that causes more permafrost to melt as the climate warms. Scientists say that this cycle exacerbates climate change and makes it more difficult to predict. Other problems have been unleashed by the thawing permafrost as well. Last year in Siberia, the unusually high summer temperatures exposed a previously frozen reindeer carcass containing anthrax, which went on to infect nine people. Scientists are calling for more research to understand and prepare for these emerging threats.

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Climate Change Reroutes a Major River in a Geological Instant

For the first time in recorded history, human-caused climate change has rerouted an entire river. The Slims River, which ran through Canada's Yukon territory and spanned almost half a mile at its widest points, relied on the Kaskawulsh glacier to replenish its water supply. Scientists found that by 2016 the massive glacier had retreated to such an extent that its meltwater had begun to stream into a different river. This abrupt change triggered a chain reaction through the region's water bodies that ultimately channeled its vast flow of freshwater into the Pacific Ocean instead of the Bering Sea. On a geological time scale, these events happened instantaneously, demonstrating the degree to which anthropogenic climate change can accelerate natural processes. While most glacial retreats do not typically yield such seismic shifts in such a compressed time period, the Kaskawulsh event will have a significant impact on the local ecosystems going forward.

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As Climate Change Exacerbates Wildfires, Governments Must Change the Way They Fight Them

A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences builds on research that shows climate change is making wildfires more common, more severe, and harder to fight. The report recommends that, given the rising costs and decreasing effectiveness of fighting fires using current methods, authorities must adopt new strategies. A central theme of this approach is the willingness to recognize which landscapes and ecosystems are beyond repair and to redirect those resources to areas that are able to be saved. Climate models project that "many ecosystems and species are not going to persist where they are right now," explains the study's co-author Max Moritz. He added, "We need the foresight to help guide these ecosystems in a healthy direction now so they can adjust in pace with our changing climate. That means embracing some changes while we have a window to do so." The researchers also offer solutions to discourage development in fire-prone areas, including shifting some of the financial burden of fire damage from federal to local governments.

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pastedGraphic_10.pdfHarvard Team to Conduct Small-Scale Solar Radiation Management Experiments

A team of scientists at Harvard University are moving forward with a small-scale geoengineering experiment to better understand the benefits and risks of such measures. For the experiment, a high-altitude balloon equipped with sensors and a payload of highly reflective particulate matter will be released in the Arizona desert. Once the balloon ascends to seven miles above the earth's surface, it will release the particulates, allowing the sensors to detect how they behave in the stratosphere. The hope is that the particulates will reflect incoming sunlight back into space, causing less energy to become trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reducing potential global warming. The experiment is the first of its kind to provide "real world data" and will be the first in a series of tests to determine the possible impacts if the use of this technology were to be scaled up. While the team "stressed that the project is not endorsing doing large-scale solar radiation management," the hope is that it will prompt new discussions on where geoengineering may fit in to the broader challenge of addressing climate change.

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pastedGraphic_11.pdfTrump Administration Continues to Consider Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

The consensus within the Trump administration is reportedly leaning towards backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which involves 195 nations. Top White House aides remain divided on the issue, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for an exit, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advocates for continued participation. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed staying in, but suggested a "renegotiation" of U.S. obligations, though there is debate as to whether a reduction in emission goals may occur without violating the agreement. At the same time, the goals are national and non-binding. Even if the administration chooses to opt-out of the Paris Agreement, the process of formally withdrawing may take an additional three years. According to Paul Bledsoe at American University's Center for Environmental Policy, "The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing." On May 3, General Denis Mercier, NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation, told reporters, "If one nation, especially the biggest nation [does] not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing with the causes [of climate change]," referring to the administration's pending decision on Paris.
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pastedGraphic_12.pdfWorld's Most Climate-Vulnerable Nations Urge G20 to Phase-Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies

On April 23, at the Climate Vulnerable Forum in Washington, DC, 49 of the countries most endangered by climate change called upon G20 members to set a target date for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Advocates are urging the larger group of 20 to follow the lead of the G7 nations, which have already set their own deadline for a phase-out. The coalition of vulnerable countries issued a letter outlining their position and calling for the elimination of the subsidies by 2020. Advocates said that fossil fuel subsidies could only truly be justified if they provided "real benefits to the poor." The G20 states will hold their next meeting in Hamburg, Germany in July 2017. The group represents the world's 20 largest economies and reportedly spends $160-200 billion annually in support of the fossil fuel industry, though this is considered a "conservative" estimate. The German presidency is expected to make climate change a priority for the session.

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Report: Majority of Top Global Investors Account for Financial Risk of Climate Change

On April 26, the Asset Owner Disclosure Project (AODP) released its fifth global index ranking 500 of the world's top asset owners. The latest edition is notable for its assessment of the 50 largest asset managers according to their consideration of financial risks stemming from climate change. The managers were evaluated on "governance and strategy, portfolio carbon risk management, and metrics and targets." Overall, the report found that 60 percent of asset owners were taking some form of climate action, with the top performers all located in Europe and Oceania. Nearly one in five firms have staff that handle the integration of climate risk into investments, two in five include climate in their policy frameworks, while around 13 percent account for their portfolio's carbon emissions. AODP chairman John Hewson said "enormous resistance" still existed among Australia's asset managers in particular, adding that these firms "rely on short-term remuneration, so they won't take a medium to long-term challenge on easily."

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pastedGraphic_13.pdfPrivate Sector Leaders Pledge Emission Reductions, but Verification Remains Elusive

A new report reveals nearly half of all American Fortune 500 companies have adopted targets to reduce their carbon footprints. Nearly two dozen companies have committed to operating on 100 percent renewable energy, including Google, Walmart, and Bank of America. However, energy companies, including Exxon, Chevron, and Phillips 66, are both the largest emitters in the group and have also done the least to reduce emissions or improve their energy efficiency. Berkshire Hathaway, Costco, Comcast, and Tyson Foods are other notable companies without public climate targets. The voluntary nature of the emission targets and a lack of independent verification present a challenge to gauging actual progress. According to finance expert Andreas Hoepner at the University of Reading, "What most companies are disclosing is nowhere near their real emissions. Setting targets is a step forward. I'd rather know something than nothing at all. But for some companies, reporting could be just a form of marketing."

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Revised Sea Level Rise Estimate is Nearly Twice as High as Prior Figures

According to a new report from the Arctic Council's Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program, the melting of the Arctic's glaciers will contribute at least 19-25 centimeters (up to nearly a foot) of sea level rise by 2100. Projections integrating the Arctic's impact into the broader scope of global sea level rise show an increase of 52-74 centimeters (up to nearly 2.5 feet) by the end of the century. The report's authors observe that, "These estimates are almost double the minimum estimates made by the IPCC in 2013." The report also projects the Arctic Ocean could experience ice-free summers by as soon as 2030. However, the authors state that there is still a window to prevent the worst case scenario where the Arctic's temperatures increase to 6 degrees Celsius above average. The report distilled the best-available peer-reviewed science for use as a policy development tool. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental body consisting of eight member countries that possesses the ability to commission work to inform Arctic policies.

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pastedGraphic_14.pdfTrump Administration Continues to Consider Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement

The consensus within the Trump administration is reportedly leaning towards backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which involves 195 nations. Top White House aides remain divided on the issue, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for an exit, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advocates for continued participation. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed staying in, but suggested a "renegotiation" of U.S. obligations, though there is debate as to whether a reduction in emission goals may occur without violating the agreement. At the same time, the goals are national and non-binding. Even if the administration chooses to opt-out of the Paris Agreement, the process of formally withdrawing may take an additional three years. According to Paul Bledsoe at American University's Center for Environmental Policy, "The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing." On May 3, General Denis Mercier, NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation, told reporters, "If one nation, especially the biggest nation [does] not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing with the causes [of climate change]," referring to the administration's pending decision on Paris.
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pastedGraphic_15.pdfTrump Expresses Openness to Raising Fuel Tax to Fund Infrastructure Projects, but Congress Stands in Way

On May 1, President Trump expressed an openness to the idea of raising the national gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to pay for investments in highways and infrastructure. "It's something that I would certainly consider," said the President during an interview. The fuel tax has not been increased or adjusted for inflation since 1993 and currently sits at 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and diesel, respectively. The tax is a key funding source for the Highway Trust Fund. The shortfall has led to deferred maintenance on the nation's freeways, roads, and bridges, which can increase travel times, worsen safety, and amplify wear and tear on vehicles. The trucking industry, which bears roughly half the cost of the fuel tax today, would support a fuel tax hike if revenue went towards fixing roadways. Chris Spears, president of the American Trucking Association, said, "The cost of doing nothing is more expensive than a higher fuel tax." However, Republican leaders in Congress, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA) all remain opposed to a tax increase.
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California's State Senate Leader Unveils Pair of Ambitious Climate Change Bills

On May 2, California's Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn proposed legislation that would entirely phase out the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation in the state. The bill would also boost the state's current plan to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 by an additional 10 percent. In 2015, around 20 percent of the state's electricity came from renewable sources, while 44 percent was generated from natural gas. Natural gas industry representatives and environmental advocates each expressed concern with different aspects of the bill, but both raised queries about the degree to which consumers would have to pay for certain pieces of the infrastructure transition. A separate bill from Sen. de Leόn and Sen. Bob Wieckowski would swap out California's current cap-and-trade program with an updated version. The replacement cap-and-trade program would run through the year 2030, or once the state reaches its 40 percent emissions reduction target, depending on which milestone occurs first. The updated program would also direct a portion of the revenue raised to the public through rebates, with the intention of benefitting low-income communities.
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pastedGraphic_16.pdfAs Senate Considers Loosening Methane Capture Rules for Oil and Gas Wells, Residents on the Ground Urge Restraint

Senate Republicans are facing a fast-approaching deadline to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal a rule directing the Bureau of Land Management to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production facilities on public lands. Away from Washington, individuals who have to deal directly with these rogue emissions are hoping the effort fails. Dan Schreiber's ranch in New Mexico is surrounded by 122 active wells and describes the persistent smell of methane emissions as the scent of "wasted money." In Colorado, former oil and gas industry worker Wayne Warmack points to cross-border methane emissions from New Mexico as motivation for a nation-wide regulation, noting even if one state has a strong regulation, the surrounding states may "not make for good neighbors." According to the Department of the Interior, enough natural gas to power 6.2 million homes was allowed to escape from facilities on public lands between 2009 and 2015. The Government Accountability Office calculated up to $23 million in potential natural gas royalty revenues are lost each year due to these leaks.
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NOTE: Not only is leaking natural gas a waste of a valuable natural resource, but methane (the main component of natural gas) is a powerful greenhouse gas with much more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

First Offshore Wind Farm in United States Yields Early Returns for Block Island Residents

The first U.S. offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island stands to displace the use of diesel fuel to generate electricity in the community of Block Island, while reducing overall energy costs for residents. Millions of gallons of diesel fuel was shipped to Block Island annually to power four aging generators. The 1,000 residents of the tourism-oriented community currently pay the highest electricity rates in the country, at five times the national average (50 cents per kWh during the summer peak). Despite the high cost of offshore wind energy relative to mainland electricity rates, the initial cost of 24 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from the new wind farm will save Block Island residents $25-30 a month. Offshore wind may be novel in America, but Europe's large-scale industry has seen prices drop 46 percent over the last five years to an average of 13 cents/kWh (Europe's coal-fired electricity costs 9 cents/kWh). To cut costs, experts say the United States needs to develop its own offshore industry infrastructure and workforce.
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pastedGraphic_17.pdfGlobal Warming Is Melting Glacier National Park's Namesake Attraction

According to newly released data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana's famous glaciers have shrunk drastically over the last few decades. The 37 named glaciers in Glacier National Park, and two more on U.S. Forest Service land, have been reduced in size by an average of 39 percent since 1966, with some receding as much as 85 percent. Only 26 glaciers larger than 25 acres remain - the minimum size for a body of ice to be deemed a true glacier. In 1910, the region boasted 150 glaciers. Portland State geologist Andrew Fountain observed, "While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale." Fountain added, "This is emblematic of what's happening all over the West." The melting glaciers are expected to have an ecological impact on local aquatic species due to changes in stream water volume, water temperature, and the timing of the run-off. The loss of regional tourism revenue is also a concern, as 2.9 million people visited the park during the summer of 2016, with the glaciers as a major attraction.

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pastedGraphic_18.pdfTundra May Be Shifting Alaska to Put Out More Carbon Than It Stores, Study Says

According to a new study sponsored by NASA and NOAA, climate change may be transforming tundra in Alaska and other Arctic regions from a carbon sink into a carbon source. Due to later winters, warmer summers, and other climate impacts, the tundra in Alaska's North Slope has been emitting 73 percent more carbon dioxide than average for October to December during the 2012-2014 study period. Scientists compared today's unseasonably warm temperatures to records from 1973. Higher soil temperatures have also allowed carbon-emitting microbes to remain active for longer stretches during the year. This has created an imbalance between carbon dioxide absorbing plants that photosynthesize during the day and the sub-surface microbes, which can carry on their activities without the sun. Harvard atmospheric scientist and study co-author, Steve Wofsy, said, "Tundra soils appear to be acting as an amplifier of climate change. We need to carefully monitor what it's doing up there, even late in the year when everything looks frozen and dormant."

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pastedGraphic_19.pdfGovernor Announces Virginia Is Pursuing a Multi-State Carbon Trading System 

As the Trump administration seeks to undo the Clean Power Plan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared, "Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon and lean in on the clean-energy future." A working group established by McAuliffe recently reported that climate change poses a significant risk to Virginia, with the state already seeing a 33 percent increase in severe storm events over the past 60 years and up to five feet of sea level rise possible by 2100. Following recommendations from a working group convened last year, McAuliffe instructed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to design a regulation that would "allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state trading program." Virginia's power plants currently account for 30 percent of the state's total carbon emissions, though emissions have declined by 21 percent since 2005. Virginia's largest utility, Dominion Energy, considers carbon regulation "settled public policy" and has already taken steps to reduce its emissions. The DEQ has until December 31 to present their proposed regulation to the State Air Pollution Control Board, just prior to McAuliffe's departure from office.

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pastedGraphic_20.pdfU.S. Delegation Watered Down the Climate Language in the Arctic Council's Final Declaration

During its biannual ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in early May 2017, the U.S. delegation requested several changes be made to the intergovernmental declaration that the group issued at the end of the session. These changes weakened the Fairbanks Declaration's language on climate change and the Paris Agreement. When representatives from the eight member nations and six indigenous groups met to negotiate the language, they were greeted by an alternative version from the United States that diminished the risk of climate change and the need for meeting emissions and renewable energy goals. The U.S. delegation asked for the removal of text "encouraging" the implementation of the Paris Agreement, but the other nations pushed back. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals would also have been scrubbed by the Americans, but remained in after further protest. The U.S. delegation did succeed in removing an entire paragraph on the impact of an ice-free Arctic and the ice melt's impact on sea level rise.

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China and India Projected to Surpass Emission Reduction Goals, as United States Lags Behind 

A new report from Climate Action Tracker projects China and India will meet their emission reduction goals under the Paris Agreement years ahead of schedule, while the United States is expected to fall well short of its own targets. A decline in coal use, the cancellation of new coal-fired power plant construction, and a surge in renewable energy development in China and India has led to a greatly improved outlook. According to the report, China will meet or surpass its goal to reduce its emissions intensity by 64-70 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Meanwhile, India is expected to cut its emissions intensity by 42-45 percent by 2030, exceeding its Paris pledge of a 33-35 percent reduction from 2005 levels. Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, said, "Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping-or even slowing-coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle. Recent observations show they are now on the way toward overcoming this challenge." China and India are the world's first and third largest producers of carbon emissions, respectively.

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pastedGraphic_21.pdfScientists Seek Answers as West Antarctica's Ice Sheet Threatens to Bring Massive Rise in Sea Levels

Scientists are alarmed that an accelerated shift in West Antarctica's ice sheet may be signaling the "early stages of an unstoppable disintegration." The destruction of such a large portion of the ice sheet could significantly raise global sea levels, endangering coastal cities and displacing tens of millions of people. A lack of information has stymied climate researchers trying to develop a clearer forecast for sea level rise, leading the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council to join forces. However, the $25 million endeavor may not produce the necessary answers until 2020. In order to address the urgent data gap, scientists have been surveying the Ross Ice Shelf in West Antarctica to assess vulnerabilities that may portend the structure's collapse. The Ross shelf is crucial in that it helps to slow the flow of land ice from Antarctica toward the ocean. West Antarctica's ice is especially at risk of melting due to its exposure to the warming ocean. Ted Scambos, a scientist with the University of Colorado said, "What we need to know is really the details of what is occurring where the ice, ocean and land all come together."

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

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