Wednesday, June 21, 2017



On May 22 Chris Mooney posted an article in the Washington Post titled, Scientists say the pace of sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990.  He reported and new study that showed that prior to 1990 the global average rate was about 1.1 millimeters per year, or 0.43 inches per decade.  From 1993 through 2012, though, it found that it rose at 3.1 millimeters per year, or 1.22 inches per decade - about three times as fast.  Thus sea level is not only rising; it is accelerating.
““We have a much stronger acceleration in sea level rise than formerly thought,” said Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany who led the study along with scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands.”
“The cause, said Dangendorf, is that sea level rise throughout much of the 20th century was driven by the melting of land-based glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms, but sea level rise in the 21st century has now, on top of that, added in major contributions from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.”

On May 23  Marine Strauss and Brian Perkin posted an article in Bloomberg titled,  China, EU and Canada Form Climate Pact as Trump Stands Alone.  The three are joining forces to advance the Paris Climate Agreement. They wrote, Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna, EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete and China’s special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua are meeting Tuesday in Berlin to discuss climate leadership and how to maintain momentum if the U.S. pulls out of the Paris Agreement. In September, the three will convene a ministerial-level meeting in support of the Paris accord, Canete said …”
“It’s very important that we continue the shared programs on climate change," McKenna said in an interview at the Petersberg Climate Dialog hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel. “There is a need to bring together key players. We think that China, Canada and the EU are in a good position to bring together other countries at the ministerial level to have high-level discussions about how we’re going to move forward on the Paris Agreement."

On May 24 the NY Times published an article by Nadja Popovich titled, Mapping 50 Years of Melting Ice in Glacier National Park.
She wrote that in 1910, when Glacier Nation Park was founded, the park and surrounding national forest had over 150 glaciers,  Now most of them are gone.  She reported that aerial and satellite images showed that of the 39 remaining named glaciers, 10 had lost more than 50% of their area in the past 50 years.  Grinnel, the most visited glacier in the park, has lost 45% of its area.  Scientists attribute most of the loss to human-caused global warming.

On June 2 Maggie Fo posted an article in NBC News titled, Trump Climate Decision Endangers Human Health, Doctors Say.
It said,President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement will endanger human health and make it hard to prevent even more damage from global warning, medical groups said Thursday.
Many studies clearly lay out the risks from climate change — including respiratory and heat-related illnesses, insect-borne infections, water-borne diseases, and threats to safe food and water.
““The elderly, the sick, and the poor are especially vulnerable,” the American College of Physicians said.”

On June 5 The Guardian published an article by Naomi Oreskes titled, The Republican Party - not Trump - is the biggest obstacle to climate action.  She wrote, “As America and the world attempt to fathom the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, most of us are blaming Donald Trump. On one level this is obviously correct. During the presidential election campaign, Trump pledged, if elected, to pull the US out of the accord; he has now made good on that pledge. Withdrawal from the Paris agreement is also consistent with his belligerent personality and isolationist approach to foreign policy. Yet there is a larger context that needs to be understood if we are to find a way forward.
The fact is, Republicans have been resisting action on climate change for just about as long as scientists have been asking the world to do something about it. In 1992, George HW Bush signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pledging to translate the written document into “concrete action to protect the planet”.
“He did this – along with other world leaders – because the scientific community had already made clear that anthropogenic interference in the climate system represented a serious threat to our future health, wellbeing and prosperity.
But even before Bush went to Rio, members of his own administration were objecting. The White House chief of staff, John Sununu, circulated a contrarian report that insisted – contrary to the emerging scientific consensus – that any observed warming was entirely natural, caused by the sun.
“Shortly thereafter, Bush lost his bid for re-election, and Democrat Bill Clinton took office. Clinton did not particularly care about climate change, but his smart and articulate vice-president, Al Gore, did. As Gore made climate change an issue, and proposed the adoption of a carbon pricing system (a “BTU tax”), Republican opposition began to harden. Even while acknowledging that economists considered an energy tax to be most economically efficient means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they insisted (without evidence) that it would hamstring the economy and destroy jobs.
In fairness, Democrats did not rally around the carbon tax, but neither did they reject the scientific evidence that climate change was a real problem. Conservative and libertarian thinktanks with close links to the Republican party, however, did. They promoted the rejection of climate science, insisting (again without evidence) that the science was unsettled and that if climate change turned out to be a real issue, we could simply adapt. They also launched highly personal attacks on climate scientists.”
“American business and religious leaders, distinguished senior Republicans who served in the Nixon and first Bush administrations, and even the Pentagon have called for action on climate change. But it has had no impact on Republican policies.”
“But as scientists have called upon us to accept the reality of climate change, we must accept the reality that American climate change denial is not bipartisan. It is Republican. And the only way to fix it is to change the Republican party, or to vote Republicans out of office.”

NOTE: Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University and the co-author, with Erik M Conway, of Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury, 2010).  While I have quoted some of the more telling parts of her article, the whole thing is very well written and well worth reading.

On June 9 David Shepardson posted an article in Reuters titled, Coalition of 13 states to challenge Trump on vehicle emission standards.
He wrote, “New York State's attorney general and 12 other top state law enforcement officials said on Friday they would mount a vigorous court challenge to any effort to roll back vehicle emission rules by the Trump administration.”
The push to weaken the rules by the Trump administration comes as automakers are worried that consumers shift to larger vehicles and low gas prices will make it expensive or impossible to meet the regulations. They also fear a prolonged fight with states over the rules could make revising their product plans difficult.”
“"In light of the critical public health and environmental benefits the standards will deliver, if EPA acts to weaken or delay the current standards for model years 2022-25, like California, we intend to vigorously pursue appropriate legal remedies to block such action," the state attorneys wrote in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Washington State, Oregon and Rhode Island.”
“California has opposed weakening the rules, threatened to pursue tougher standards unilaterally and could mount a legal challenge.”
“Without a deal, automakers could be forced to meet one set of standards in California and a dozen states that have adopted its rules and other rules in the rest of the country.
In 2011, Obama said the rules would save motorists $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles, but cost the auto industry about $200 billion over 13 years.”

On June 13 ABC News published an article by Kathleen Ronayne titled, California governor named adviser for UN climate conference.  She wrote, 
California Gov. Jerry Brown was named Tuesday as a special envoy to states at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, further elevating his international profile as a leader on the issue as President Donald Trump backs away from a key international agreement.
The announcement of Brown's role at the November conference in Bonn, Germany, by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama comes on the heels of the governor's meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks to discuss climate change.”
“The four-term governor has made reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting green technology a key tenet of his administration. He's launched non-binding climate change pacts, including the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance of states committed to upholding the carbon reductions goals in the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump plans to withdraw.”
“Brown won't be the only governor potentially playing an outsize role at the conference. Fellow West Coast Govs. Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, who also traveled to Sacramento on Tuesday, both plan to attend with other governors in the state's Climate Alliance.”
“The state agreement is a non-binding commitment to uphold the Paris goals, which include reducing the country's emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels. Many of the 13 states involved already have their own targets in place, and the goal of the coalition is to collaborate and share ideas on using green technology and other means to meet the goal.”
"When the president decided to run up the white flag of surrender to the challenge of climate change, we jumped right into the barricades," Inslee said.

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.pdfTrump Administration's Budget Would Eliminate Climate Programs and Clean Energy Research

On May 23, the Trump administration released a full budget proposal that bears a close resemblance to the outline published in March 2017. Overall, the President's budget would eliminate 66 federal programs spread across numerous agencies. Environment, energy, and climate programs would see steep cuts, with EPA's popular Energy Star Program, several NASA earth science missions, the Green Climate Fund and Global Climate Change Initiative, and the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency all zeroed out. During a press conference, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney characterized past spending on climate science as "crazy." Energy research programs at DOE saw an 18 percent ($3.1 billion) reduction from last year. Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said, "It is incredibly shortsighted to slash funding for energy R&D and let other countries take the lead in developing new technologies and markets that are going to grow quickly in the years to come." Many aspects of the budget have already drawn rebukes from Congress. In response to the proposed divestment of government-owned transmission lines connecting 20 Western states, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) stated, "Selling government-owned transmission lines to the highest bidder will just have the effect of jacking up power rates, and no one in that region is going to be in favor of this."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfPresident Trump Urged by European Leaders to Keep the United States in the Paris Agreement

Throughout his recent European trip, President Trump received encouragement from world leaders to maintain the United States' participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed representatives from 30 countries on the importance of international cooperation on climate, stating, "I am trying to convince doubters. There is still work to do." Merkel was scheduled to meet with Trump during the G7 summit held May 26-27. At the Vatican on May 24, Pope Francis gifted Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for immediate and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. During a trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron had a "very frank" discussion on climate change with Trump, urging the U.S. president to avoid making a "hasty decision" on withdrawing from the agreement. Speaking with reporters earlier that day, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump was "still thinking about [the Paris Agreement]," but would not consider the issue again until his return to Washington over the weekend.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfCalifornia Engages World, and Stands Up to Trump, on Climate Change

California is emerging as a national and global leader in efforts to curb climate change. According to Mario Molina, a Nobel-winning scientist from Mexico, "California demonstrates to the world that you can have a strong climate policy without hurting your economy." California has an annual economic output of $2.4 trillion, the sixth largest economy in the world, while its policies served as a model for national environmental regulations like the Clean Power Plan. The Chinese government has recently worked with experts from the state to develop a cap and trade program, and California is working with Canada and Mexico to create a regional cap and trade market. California is also preparing to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency if they revoke a waiver allowing the state to set fuel economy standards higher than the federal level. As the Trump administration weighs pulling out of the Paris Agreement, Gov. Jerry Brown plans on representing California at the next United Nations climate meeting, stating, "We may not represent Washington, but we will represent the wide swath of American people who will keep the faith on this."

For more information see:

State Laws Limiting Food Waste Deliveries to Landfills Can Reduce Methane Emissions and Create Jobs

In 2014, the United States produced 38 million tons of food waste. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food makes up 21.6 percent of the waste sent to landfills and incinerators, where it produces methane gas, a significant contributor to climate change. Reducing food waste can limit these environmental impacts, support the economy, and alleviate hunger-a "win-win-win" according to Meghan Stasz of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. New York recently passed legislation providing tax credits to farmers who donate what is left unharvested in their fields to food banks. Many farmers do not harvest entire fields because of high labor costs and consumer demand for perfect produce. In 2014, Massachusetts banned businesses from sending organic waste to landfills if they produce over one ton of organic waste each week. This waste is instead converted into electricity, livestock feed, or compost. A follow-up study of the law found that in two years this initiative generated over 900 jobs and $175 million in economic activity. Currently only four other states limit the amount of food waste that can be sent to landfills.

For more information see:

India Continues to Invest Aggressively in Renewables, Efficiency, and Electricity Infrastructure

On May 11 at the Vienna Energy Forum, India's Energy Minister Piyush Goyal stated, "We must decouple economic growth from environmental impacts and leave a better world. Every moment counts." Although India is currently powered primarily by coal, the country is adopting a number of clean energy initiatives with surprising speed and plans to extend electricity access to thousands of rural villages. India is in the process of replacing 770 million household and street lights with more efficient LED bulbs, reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 80 million tonnes annually. India is also increasing its use of solar and wind power, with plans to have a total of 186 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. The United States currently has around 100 GW of wind and solar installed. Solar is now cheaper than coal in India, potentially eliminating the need to import coal for energy. Goyal also believes no subsidies would be required to have all of India's vehicles run completely on electricity by 2030. The country currently taxes gasoline at the world average, which is 50 percent higher than the rate in the United States.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfScientists Advise Australian Government to Include Mitigation in Climate Plan for Great Barrier Reef

Australia's Reef 2050 Plan, which seeks to increase the Great Barrier Reef's resilience to climate change, does not include plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For two straight years, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced mass coral bleaching due to warming oceans. Scientists estimate that nearly half of the reef's corals have died in the past year. A panel of expert scientists have advised Australia's federal government to revise the plan and include steps on reducing emissions, arguing, "We can't be passive bystanders in this. We're the custodians of the reef and its ecosystem for the world." While the Australian government has acknowledged the role of climate change in reducing reef health, the government stated that the 2050 plan focuses on local pressures and Australia is instead addressing climate change through the Paris agreement. Australia has agreed to cut their emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. However, the government recently supported a proposal to allow coal mining in the Galilee Basin, which could produce 25 million tonnes of coal each year.

For more information see:

Senegal Struggles to Adapt to Coastal Flooding and Erosion

Senegal's coastline is receding at an average rate of 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) per year, driven by sea level rise, urbanization, and illegal sand extraction for construction. Near Saint-Louis in Senegal, two villages have already succumbed to the water. When floodwaters threatened the city in 2003, the government tried to dig channels to redirect the waters, inadvertently exposing new parts of the mainland to flooding. As the region's sand dunes erode and the ocean creeps inland, farmland is gradually becoming contaminated by saltwater. Experts suggest the erosion trends are "irreversible," with other regions in coastal West Africa facing similar problems. Efforts to relocate families away from flood zones have had mixed success, as many have strong ties to the land and are reluctant to leave. Mangrove restoration in Senegal's river delta region has helped, but a lack of funds has stymied progress. Abdou Sane, a former legislator leading efforts to address the flood risk, said, "The people are trying to fight, but in reality the phenomenon has become very serious. It exceeds the means of the government, the means of communities."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfCoastal Restoration Is Fueling an Employment Boom in Louisiana

Sea level rise associated with climate change is a serious threat to coastal areas around the world. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that Louisiana loses a section of coastline equal in size to a football field every hour. As oil prices decline, Louisiana has started investing in greener industries. With over 30,000 jobs, water management is now Louisiana's fastest growing industry, in many cases employing workers who were previously in the oil sector. Coastal restoration efforts are attracting projects involving hydrologic modeling and the construction of artificial reefs, which can help the state defend itself against future hurricanes. Louisiana's 50-year plan for coastal restoration has also been translated into several languages for other countries facing similar concerns to use as a reference. Although Louisiana remains a largely conservative state, Deb Abibou with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana said, "Down here, 'climate change' is a bad word, but the reality of sea level rise is something that no one can deny."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfReport: Litigation in Pursuit of Climate Action Is on the Rise World-Wide 

According to a new study, governments are facing an increasing number of court challenges as citizens seek to advance action on climate change. While the bulk of the litigation is occurring in the United States, the number of countries hosting these types of cases has tripled since 2014 and now stands at 25. The United Nations Environment Programme and Columbia Law School partnered on the report, which discovered a "proliferation" of climate cases brought by citizens and environmental organizations to tackle issues such as sea level rise, greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuel extraction. The issue of climate refugees is also beginning to feature prominently within these types of cases. The United States led with 654 climate-related cases, followed by 80 in Australia, 49 in the United Kingdom, and 40 in the European Union's Court of Justice. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said, "It's patently clear we need more concrete action on climate change. The science can stand up in a court of law, and governments need to make sure their responses to the problem do too."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfClimate Change Suspected as a Contributing Factor in Yellow Fever Outbreak in Brazil

Brazil is experiencing one of its worst yellow fever outbreaks on record, with more deaths in 2017 than from 1989 through 2008 combined. The hardest hit regions were largely rural and had been coming out of their worst drought in 80 years. However, when the rain finally returned, it hatched several years' worth of mosquito eggs, which can survive the dry conditions. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that a firm connection between climate change and Brazil's yellow fever trend remains "unclear." Yet, with the virus spreading much farther than in previous outbreaks, he added, "If this thing takes off in the urban areas of Brazil, we're in big trouble." Doctors in Brazil cite an ill-informed public and poverty as complicating factors in trying to stem Yellow Fever's spread. Warmer temperatures allow disease-carrying mosquito species to flourish, while international trade has provided a means for different species to spread around the world.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfTrump Calls for U.S. Exit from Paris Agreement; Alliance of Cities, States, and Industries Oppose Move

On June 1, President Trump announced that his administration will move to fully withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The decision set off a torrent of opposition, including the formation of a growing coalition consisting of three governors, 30 mayors, over 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses. The still-nameless group will negotiate directly with the United Nations (UN) and hopes to submit its own climate action plan. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is coordinating the effort, stated, "We're going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed." Bloomberg added that the group could even surpass the original U.S. pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The U.S. is roughly halfway to meeting this goal, but the federal government was expected to play a prominent role in future reductions. There is currently no formal method for a non-country entity to sign on to the agreement, but the coalition's efforts could be integrated into future UN progress reports. The governors of California, New York, and Washington (which make up a fifth of the U.S. economy) also announced they will be forming a coalition of states in support of the Paris Agreement's goals. CEOs Elon Musk of Tesla and Robert Iger of Disney resigned from President Trump's economic advisory council upon learning of his decision on Paris, underscoring the increasingly strained relationship between the White House and business leaders. American companies will still have to meet the stricter emission laws enforced in other countries if they hope to operate abroad and sell their products in international markets.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfEuropean Union and China Vow Close Cooperation to Fully Implement Paris Agreement; International Community Expresses Disappointment with United States

As President Trump announced the United States would initiate steps to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the European Union (EU) and China issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to the treaty. EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said, "The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy." The statement declares climate change is a "national security issue" and a "multiplying factor of social and political fragility" in the world. The statement also reiterated the duo's dedication to funding climate initiatives and for pursuing mid-century emission reduction targets. The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy issued a joint statement of their own, expressing their "strongest commitment" to upholding the agreement and urging "all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change." Representatives of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand all expressed regret over the U.S. decision.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfU.S. Exit from Paris Agreement Will Harm Chances of Holding Global Temperature Rise to 2 C

The potential policy impacts of the U.S. exit from the Paris Agreement would severely hinder any chance of keeping global warming below the two degrees Celsius target considered to be the climate "danger zone." According to Climate Interactive, removing U.S. emission reductions from climate models would increase projected global temperatures up to 3.6 degrees Celsius by 2100, rather than the anticipated 3.3 C baseline. John Holdren, professor of environmental science and policy at Harvard University, said, "U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord would not only be a setback for the prospects of halting global climate change short of the catastrophic level, but it would also reduce U.S. influence in the world on every other issue that Americans should care about." The U.S. withdrawal also raises concerns about climate-related funding and the potential for other countries to follow suit. Michael Grubb, an advisor to the European Union on climate change, remarked, "The loss of U.S. finance would be the biggest headache, and of course the symbolism is not good."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfCountries Conspire to Undermine European Union Climate Laws

Under the Paris Agreement, the European Union (EU) agreed to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. However, some East European member states, particularly Poland and the Czech Republic, have been attempting to subvert these requirements by opening up loopholes and prolonging the use of coal-fired electricity. A proposal from the Czech Republic would reduce its energy efficiency obligations from 1.5 percent to just 0.35 percent. In Poland, where the ruling party views coal as "the foundation" of the country's economic development, a procedure was implemented that, if ratified by a third of EU governments, could block the emission reduction limits proposed in the EU's winter legislative package. According to documents leaked to the press, the United Kingdom has also attempted to weaken the EU efficiency targets, despite their pending departure from the body. Claude Turmes, the European parliament's lead negotiator on climate governance, stated, "We cannot allow backward-looking east EU states to destroy the EU's credibility on the Paris Agreement."

For more information see:

NOTE: Delaware has proposed Reducing all of its GHG emissions 30% by 2030, relative to emissions in 2006.  Delaware is not a leader a]when it comes to climate change mitigation - in spite of its great vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal storms.

pastedGraphic_11.pdfBack-Bay Flooding Presents an Overlooked Hazard for America's Coastal Communities

Millions of people around the world are increasingly experiencing back-bay flooding, which occurs as water moves behind barrier islands and can't drain back out to sea. Although back-bay flooding occurs as often as oceanfront flooding, it receives just a fraction of the government funding. This is because back-bay flooding is much more complicated to resolve than flooding along the coastline, where there is enough space to more easily install sea walls and bulkheads. President Trump's proposed budget would cut a total of $452 million from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Homeland Security, which could mean fewer funds to study back-bay flooding. Over the next five years, Ocean City, New Jersey will spend $40.3 million to elevate roadways and improve drainage infrastructure, which have effectively reduced flooding in the past. Referring to an earlier back-bay dredging project, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian said, "When you talk about $20 million in one seaside resort for just one thing, that speaks volumes about how much these coastal places need."

For more information see:

New England Region's Coal Consumption Is Drawing to a Close

With the closure of Brayton Point Power Station this week, the New England states will become almost entirely free of coal as a power source, bringing the region closer to its goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Sharing a common electricity market, New England states have been at the forefront of investing in renewable forms of energy, such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric. However, concerns remain over a continued reliance on natural gas, the hesitancy of Maine and New Hampshire to commit to the carbon emissions goal, and how best to integrate renewable resources into the energy market. Many states view procurement as a cost-effective option, which involves competitive bidding for long-term contracts to develop renewable energy projects. Former Massachusetts state senator Benjamin Downing described procurement as "the best politically viable path forward." Critics of procurement worry that guaranteed state contracts may displace private investment in energy facilities.

For more information see:

Rising Sea Levels Will Make Gulf Coast Storm Surges and Hurricanes Worse

Rising sea levels caused by climate change are causing larger and more frequent storm surges, according to a new study by Climate Central. Ben Strauss, the study's co-author, explained, "Every storm surge today reaches higher because it starts from a higher level, because the sea level is higher." Strauss warned that even a small rise in sea-level can cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. Texas' Gulf Coast region, which is experiencing sea level rise at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, could experience additional storm surges of seven inches in the future. A combination of larger storm surges and stronger hurricanes will, according to a January study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), force the evacuation and resettlement of hundreds of thousands from the Texas Gulf Coast by 2100. Although Texas officials have requested $15 billion to build a storm-surge barrier, the Trump administration's proposed budget significantly cuts funding for projects related to combatting sea level rise.

For more information see:

Urban Heat Island Effect Could Make Cities Significantly Warmer by 2100

Scientists predict some cities may experience a warming of 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit (8 C) by 2100 due to a combination of global warming and the urban heat island effect. Concrete and dark asphalt trap heat in cities, causing them to have higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas. Professor Richard Tol of the University of Sussex states that ignoring this effect "leads to a fairly drastic underestimate of the total impact of climate change." While cities cover just one percent of the earth's surface, they contribute over 60 percent of global carbon emissions and are home to 54 percent of the world's population. This rise in temperature could have significant consequences for public health, reduce worker productivity, and put a strain on water supplies. A study considering the economic costs of warming reported that cities could lose up to 10.9 percent of GDP by 2100. To minimize the impacts of the urban heat island effect, cities can plant more trees, use lighter-colored pavement, and paint rooftops white to reflect sunlight.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_12.pdfCoral Reefs in U.S. Waters May Disappear within Decades due to Warming Oceans

g Despite strong conservation efforts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts extensive coral bleaching in Hawaii and Florida this year. According to Kim Cobb, an oceanographer at Georgia Tech, "The idea we will sustain reefs in the United States 100 years from now is pure imagination. At the current rate it will be just 20 or 30 years." The world's reefs are viewed as essential marine ecosystems, as they provide food and shelter to many species. Between 2014 and 2015, Hawaii's corals suffered from up to 90 percent bleaching, and 10 percent of corals within the protected Hanauma Bay nature preserve have died. Corals are home to tiny algae that provide corals with food and their vibrant color. High ocean temperatures put stress on corals, causing them to expel the algae and turn white. If exposed to prolonged periods of high temperatures, corals will likely die or be severely weakened. This is cause for concern as each year continues to bring above-average temperatures. As the world's oceans have absorbed over 90 percent of the heat produced from Greenhouse gas emissions, scientists are urging climate action to protect coral reefs.

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Oil and Gas Industry Receives a Pass from EPA on Methane Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a two-year suspension to a rule that would limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling sites on private land. The rule, which was finalized in 2016 under the Obama administration, would also set equipment and employee certification standards for the industry. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In 2015, the San Juan Basin in New Mexico was responsible for 10 percent of all methane emissions related to oil and gas operations. Documents show EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has a close relationship with Devon Energy, a large oil and gas producer that operates in the Basin. Pruitt also sued against the rule while he was still Oklahoma's attorney general. Drillers argue the rule is "excessive, uneconomic and threatening to the long-term production of oil and natural gas." However, the upper Green River Basin in Wyoming, a state with methane rules enacted versus none in New Mexico, produces twice as much natural gas as the San Juan Basin with only half the methane emissions.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_13.pdfUnited States Refused to Sign G7 Pledge Calling Paris Agreement "Irreversible"

After distancing the United States from the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration has now refused to sign a G7 pledge calling the agreement "irreversible" and crucial to the "security and prosperity of our planet." The G7 pledge also expresses support for multilateral development banks, which provide funds to poorer nations to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. A footnote to the meeting's report affirms President Trump's position that the Paris agreement undermines the U.S. economy and states the United States will take action on its own to reduce emissions. In a statement defending the country's position, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote, "We are resetting the dialogue to say Paris is not the only way forward to making progress." The other G7 countries are open to maintaining conversations with the United States on climate, though Italian Environment Minister Gian Luca Galleti said the accord is "irreversible, non-negotiable, and the only instrument possible to combat climate change."

For more information see:

Mayors Pledge to Move Port of Los Angeles Toward Zero Emissions

On June 12, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia signed an agreement to move the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's largest port complex, toward zero emissions. The pact, which seeks to build off of the 2006 Clean Air Action Plan and follow new regulations from the California Air Resources Board, pledges the port's cargo-handling equipment will reach zero emissions by 2030 and trucks by 2035. This represents the "first attempt at having enforceable and quantifiable milestones" for reducing emissions, according to Nidia Erceg with the Coalition for Clean Air. According to Mayor Garcetti, the agreement is meant to demonstrate a commitment to improving air quality, after recent revelations that the Port had not followed earlier clean air procedures. The port, which primarily runs on diesel, is the largest smog producer in Southern California and has been a target of environmental groups who have been concerned about the health risks it posed. The mayors also acknowledged that despite recent efforts by the Trump Administration to weaken clean air measures, they remained committed to pursuing "environmental justice" for local citizens.

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India's Prime Minister Calls Renewable Energy the "Foundation of the New Economy"

The world's third-largest carbon emitter, India, is projected to see its greenhouse gas emissions start to level off in the near future. India is quickly becoming a global leader in renewable energy, with its renewable generating capacity doubling to 50 gigawatts in the past five years. India plans to generate over 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2027. India's government provides several renewable energy incentives, and building wind or solar projects is now cheaper than building a fossil fuel plant. In the state of Tamil Nadu, the Adani Group has installed a 648 megawatt solar plant, one of the largest in the world. The company previously attracted opposition from environmental groups for its involvement with coal mines and coal-fired power plants. Clean energy projects also help conserve water, reduce pollution, and are not built in highly populated areas, making them much more attractive to the public. As renewable energy technologies continue to advance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy."

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pastedGraphic_14.pdfManagement Challenges and a Loss of U.S. Support Are Holding Back the Green Climate Fund

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created in 2010 by the United Nations to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. Over 40 countries promised $10.3 billion to the GCF in 2013, but so far the fund's administrators approved only $1.3 billion in 2016, falling short of its $2.5 billion target. GCF board members say funding disbursement has been slow because of legal complexities and developed countries that attach numerous stipulations to loans. Under the Obama administration, the $1 billion of the U.S. pledge of $3 billion has been paid. The United States actually trails other countries' donations, in terms of per capita dollars, by a significant amount. However, President Trump characterized the GCF as inefficient and has moved to end U.S. contributions. A GCF board member said of Trump's actions, "The fund is like a plane that's taken off but we're still building it in mid-air. That's a risky situation." Payments are voluntary and the GCF has no legal power to collect funds, meaning the United States will simply be listed as in arrears.

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pastedGraphic_15.pdfThe Netherlands Finds Economic Opportunity in Adapting to Sea Level Rise and Flooding

The Netherlands is one of the Europe's most vulnerable countries in terms of sea level rise, but the Dutch have successfully crafted a sophisticated civil engineering approach to tackle climate adaptation across the country. Many common urban features across The Netherlands, such as parks, plazas, and garages, have been designed to double as spare reservoirs during major flooding events. A national program called Room for the River encompasses dozens of projects and years of work to better prepare communities for the impacts of climate change. The program represents a policy shift by the Dutch away from building dams and dikes. Instead, the low-lying nation realized, "We can't just keep building higher levees. We need to give the rivers more places to flow," according to senior government advisor Harold van Waveren. He added, "Protection against climate change is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and the chain in our case includes not just the big gates and dams at the sea but a whole philosophy of spatial planning, crisis management, children's education, online apps and public spaces."

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Miami Neighborhoods Consider Resilient Redesign to Address Rising Sea Levels

Sea level in Miami, Florida is expected to rise up to five feet by the end of the century, a serious concern for neighborhoods that are currently only three feet above sea level. To accommodate these rising seas, municipalities are considering converting developed areas back into natural spaces - a "resilient redesign" approach popular in Europe. This will require residents to voluntarily sell their homes, and the government will need to find the funds to buy them. The Arch Creek community recently proposed purchasing and tearing down properties in flood-prone areas to return them to marsh. The Shorecrest neighborhood similarly plans to replace vulnerable areas with parks to retain flood waters. Shorecrest also intends to amend zoning laws to discourage development in low-lying areas. Some residents call the plan "delusional," but Miami's chief resilience officer Jane Gilbert argues, "Raising roads? That will be part of the solution. It will have to be. But we're going to look for more holistic solutions."

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Dusty Air Chokes Residents Near California's Salton Sea, as State Officials Search for Solutions

The shorelines of California's Salton Sea will recede to dangerously low levels by the end of 2017, allowing dust to blow off the exposed lakebed and worsening air quality in the Imperial Valley region. Imperial County near the Sea has 180,000 residents and the highest rate of asthma-related emergency room visits for children in California. Nearby Coachella Valley's $5 billion tourism industry is also at risk from the dust pollution. High cost estimates have been a barrier to previous proposals to address the environmental degradation around the Sea. Frustrated resident Ruben Dominguez said, "People in Sacramento, they have no idea what we go through over here. They're not breathing in this air." The growing demand for water in Southern California led the county to sell off part of its water share in the Colorado River, leading to less runoff for the Sea. A 17-year drought made competition between western states for the Colorado River's water even more acute. The Imperial Valley's management officials hope to tie the Salton Sea's declining health to broader water negotiations for the west.

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NOTE: Who would have thought that a lack of water coming into the Salton Sea would be responsible for asthma in children living in the area and breathing dust from the drying sea bed?  What other unanticipated consequence will climate change have?

Current Carbon Prices Not Enough to Avoid Catastrophic Temperature Increase

A new report by the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition warns that existing carbon prices designed to lower emissions are not high enough to avoid a global temperature rise above two degrees Celsius, in accordance with the Paris Agreement's mission. Although over 40 countries, as well as 25 cities, states, and provinces currently use some form of carbon pricing, most operate below $10 USD per ton. The report argues that carbon prices actually need to be between $40-$80 per ton by 2020, and $50-$100 per ton by 2030. Carbon pricing methods vary, with two of the most common forms being carbon taxes on fossil fuels and cap-and-trade systems that allow companies to buy and sell credits to stay under an overall cap on emissions. Although the report shows that significant improvement is needed for the approach to setting carbon prices, Stephanie Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank, said, "There is also a trend with the fraction of emissions covered increasing rapidly in the last few years."

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NOTE: At its 2014 Convention, the League of Women Voters of the United States passed the following resolution: “The LWVUS should support a price on carbon emissions that will increase in stages, as part of an overall program to improve energy efficiency and to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, fast enough to avoid serious damage to the climate system.”  One of our members, Linda Swift of Berkeley, California, has built a Price on Carbon website detailing the current pricing of carbon emissions around the world. The Citizen’s Climate Lobby proposes a fee and dividend system, where the money raised by putting a price on carbon emissions would be refunded to all households.  A price of $50 a ton of CO2 would raise the price of gasoline by 40 cents per gallon.

pastedGraphic_16.pdfRenewable Electricity Generation Reaches New Heights, as U.S. GDP Decouples from Emission Reductions

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the total monthly electricity generation from wind and solar sources for the United States has exceeded 10 percent for the first time. The milestone occurred in March 2017, with wind constituting eight percent and solar two percent of electricity generation. In addition, a new report from consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates highlighted the continued decoupling of America's greenhouse gas emissions and its overall economic growth. The report found that by 2016, carbon emissions for U.S. power generators had declined to levels last recorded in 1990, yet the country's gross domestic product (GDP) continued to grow during that period. The power sector's emissions peaked in 2007, with the decline in emissions driven by the industry's shift to renewable energy sources. In 2015, coal produced only 34 percent of the country's electricity, versus 52 percent in 2006. Dan Bakal of Ceres noted, "You can achieve these [emission] reductions while growing the economy, and trying to reverse these trends would be an uphill battle."

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

1 comment:

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