Wednesday, July 19, 2017



Brian Kahn of Climate Central published an article titled, Carbon Dioxide Set an All-Time Monthly High.  It occurred this May, which is the month when CO2 reaches its highest concentration in the northern hemisphere.  After that, photosynthesis becomes rapid enough that the CO2 concentration in the northern hemisphere decreases.  The annual highest concentration has been increasing for many years because carbon emissions every year have continued to be greater than the rate of carbon uptake by the oceans and plants.  The highest reading this year at the Mauna Loa Observatory was 409.65 ppm (parts per million).  Stopping the annual increase of CO2 concentration will basically require replacing the burning of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources.

On June 20 Katie Fehrenbacher published an article in The Guardian titled, Climate goals: inside California’s effort to overhaul it ambitious emissions plan.
The first three paragraphs say:
California has one of the world’s most sophisticated and ambitious cap-and-trade programs, which are designed to provide financial incentives to big polluters, such as electricity providers and oil refineries, to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
The complex program, which began only in 2013, is a signature component of California’s plan to cut emissions in the midst of a controversial makeover by state policymakers, after they passed a landmark bill last year that created one of the world’s most aggressive climate change goals: to lower carbon emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels by 2030.
Fierce debates over how to achieve the new, ambitious goals began before President Trump’s decision earlier this month to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement. That decision will likely put a greater spotlight on how California – considered a leader in fighting climate change – will redesign its cap-and-trade program, which many say needs better market mechanisms and metrics to measure its successes and failures.”
The article goes on to discuss some of the details of how to go about meeting the aggressive new goal set in last year’s legislation, including how the cap-and-trade system works.  

NOTE: California is unique among the states in that its cap-and-trade system applies to electricity generation, transportation, and several large industries - over 80% of all GHG emissions.  It also includes the Canadian province of Quebec and soon will include Ontario.  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which involves nine Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states also uses a cap and trade system with a decreasing cap, but it covers only electricity generation in the participating states.

On June 20 BBC News published an article titled, Phoenix flights cancelled because it's too hot for planes.  The article said, The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday.
That is higher than the operating temperature of some planes.
American Airlines announced it was cancelling dozens of flights scheduled to take off from Sky Harbor airport during the hottest part of the day.”
The cancelled flights were scheduled to take off between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM local time - the hottest tie of the day.
“At higher temperatures, air has a lower density - it is thinner. That lower air density reduces how much lift is generated on an aircraft's wings - a core principle in aeronautics.
That, in turn, means the aircraft's engines need to generate more thrust to get airborne.
It's a well-known problem - a 2016 report from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) even warned that higher temperatures caused by climate change could "have severe consequences for aircraft take-off performance, where high altitudes or short runways limit the payload or even the fuel-carrying capacity".(emphasis added)

On June 21 an article by Raktrrm Katakey titled, Oil Majors Risk Wasting $2.3 Trillion If Peak Demand Looms, was updated for Bloomberg News.  He wrote,
Oil companies risk wasting $2.3 trillion of investments should demand peak in the next decade as the world works toward its goal of limiting global warming, according to a report from Carbon Tracker.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. is the most exposed oil major with as much as 50 percent of potential spending to 2025 on projects that wouldn’t be needed as the world changes its energy mix to meet climate targets, according to the report published on Wednesday in collaboration with the Principles for Responsible Investment. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA risk wasting as much as 40 percent of expenditure and BP Plc up to 30 percent.”
““There are clear signs that oil demand could peak in the early 2020s -- so companies need to start taking project options that would come on stream then off the table, and be transparent about how they are aligning with a low carbon future,” James Leaton, Carbon Tracker’s research director, said in the report. “Sticking with the growth at all costs scenario just doesn’t add up for shareholder value when the policy and technology momentum is heading in the opposite direction.”
The companies are already facing some pressure from investors. Last month, Exxon shareholders, in a split with the company, urged the explorer to publish a detailed analysis on how carbon curbs could affect the value of its oil fields, refineries and pipelines.”

On June 23 Laura Parker and Craig Welch posted an article in National Geographic titled, Coral Reefs Could Be Gone in 30 Years.  They wrote,
The world’s coral reefs, from the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to the Seychelles off East Africa, are in grave danger of dying out completely by mid-century unless carbon emissions are reduced enough to slow ocean warming, a new UNESCO study says.
And consequences could be severe for millions of people.
The decline of coral reefs has been well documented, reef by reef. But the new study is the first global examination of the vulnerability of the entire planet’s reef systems, and it paints an especially grim picture. Of the 29 World Heritage reef areas, at least 25 of them will experience twice-per-decade severe bleaching events by 2040—a frequency that will “rapidly kill most corals present and prevent successful reproduction necessary for recovery of corals,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization concluded. In some areas, that’s happening already.
“These are spectacular places, many of which I’ve visited. Seeing the damage being wrought has just been heartbreaking,” says Mark Eakin, a reef expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a lead author of the new report. “We’re to the point now where action is essential. It’s urgent.””

On June 24 WhoWhatWhy published an article by Christine Capozziello titled, EPA Drops Scientists, Invites in Corporations.  She wrote,
Since May, Trump-appointed EPA administrator and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt has informed dozens of scientists on the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) that their tenure will not be extended. That would leave over half of the positions on the panel empty and effectively cripple the BOSC, which cancelled five meetings that had been scheduled for summer and fall.
Pruitt hasn’t been shy about his plans to include industry advocates to fill the void. He expressed his intent to increase representation of coal and oil companies on a board designed to regulate those same industries. In an interview in March, Pruitt revealed he does not believe that CO2 emissions are a primary contributor to global warming, leading many to voice concern over whether or not he would be able to perform the duties of his position.”

On June 26 The Real Climate News Network posted a 17-minute video titled, Estimates of Sea Level Rise Have Tripled in the Last Few Years.  In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that said that if emissions keep growing as they have, global sea level could could rise by a meter (nearly 40 inches) by 2100.  It did not take into account the accelerating pace of loss of ice from the big ice sheets on Greenland an Antarctica.  NOAA scientists increased the estimate of maximum sea level rise by 2100 to 2.7 m.  In a talk early this year NASA scientist Eric Rignot said that a temperature increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees C in the next 100 to 200 years could raise sea level by 6-9 m (20-30 ft).  In addition to the video there is a transcript of the conversation.

On June 26 Lizette Alvarez posted an article in the NY Times titled, Mayors, Sidestepping Trump, Vow to Fill Void on Climate Change.  She wrote,
MIAMI BEACH — Meeting in a city confronted daily with the issues of rising seas and climate change, the United States Conference of Mayors approved a resolutions on Monday to urge the federal government to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and to redouble their own efforts to combat climate change and commit to renewable energy.

“If the federal government doesn’t act, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a national policy; the federal government doesn’t occupy the only place on this,” Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans and the new president of the conference, said before the vote on the nonbinding resolutions. “Mayors have to respond to circumstances. We have to keep moving no matter what.””
Rather than bemoan President Trump’s decision this month to pull out of the Paris Agreement, an accord signed by 195 nations to battle rising temperatures, many Republican and Democratic mayors here said the move had re-energized them. A separate effort by Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, and a group whose members call themselves the Climate Mayors also picked up support here; more than 300 mayors have signed a document to abide by the Paris accord and “intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ climate goals.””

On June 28 I received an email from Donald Anderson with a copy  of a letter to him from U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine attached.  Here I quote the first few paragraphs of King’s letter.
Every week, I hear examples of a changed climate in Maine. As the Gulf of Maine warms, fishermen are finding the range of fish and lobster populations to be very different from what they were a generation ago. Populations of iconic animals like puffin, and many species of groundfish, are declining. Every year, foresters and farmers are combating additional non-native species and new diseases in their woodlots and fields. Shellfish harvesters and those involved in aquaculture are watching and wondering what an increasingly acidic ocean will mean for their future livelihoods. Municipalities and utilities are struggling to maintain infrastructure pummeled by increasingly frequent severe storms. In other parts of the country, Americans’ lives and livelihoods are being negatively impacted by droughts, floods, forest fires, and other changed weather patterns. The Arctic’s ice-pack, which I have seen first-hand, is at historic lows.  

I feel strongly that the repercussions of our rapidly changing climate are more than a political or a scientific concern—they are a moral issue. We have an obligation to future generations to be responsible stewards of the land, water, and air we have been given, and to pass it on in as good or better shape than we found it.  

Unfortunately, the Administration’s approach to climate change has been, in my opinion, reckless and short-sighted. Right now, I believe that one of the biggest threats to our collective and individual future wellbeing, and especially that of our children and their children, is our changing climate and I have seen nothing to date to show that the President truly understands this threat.  

Please be assured that I will continue to advocate for policies and programs that address climate change, transition our country away from our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve our stewardship of the environment. Future generations must be able to experience the natural treasures that we currently have the privilege of enjoying. Like other complex challenges we have overcome in our past, no one single step will stop or reverse climate change alone; but, in combination, they represent a comprehensive framework that will help us pass on a stable and hospitable climate to future generations. “ 

On June 28 Climate Central published an article by Bobby Magill titled, States betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon.  The reason for this is that wind and solar power because there are times when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.  Sometimes more electricity is generated from these renewable sources than required, and the extra energy is wasted.  One way around this problem is to build large batteries to store the extra energy for times when the demand is more than the renewable sources can supply.  Now most of the energy is supplied by burning fossil fuels - especially coal and natural gas - which produce carbon dioxide - the major source of global warming, along with other pollutants.  Some of the giant batteries weigh 30 ton, but can produce thousands of kilowatts of electrical power.  He writes,
“The Tesla PowerPack, for example, is composed of 16 pods that together weigh more than 3 tons and are 7 feet tall. The pods are daisy-chained together and provide hundreds of kilowatts of power.
New York officials say batteries are critical to the state’s goal of generating half of its electricity from renewables by 2030. (emphasis added). As more states create energy storage incentives and targets, more power plants using fossil fuels are likely to be eventually replaced or supplemented with batteries, helping to cut the amount of time the power plants are used. 
Jeremy Firestone, director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration at the University of Delaware, said mandates and incentives for energy storage in some of the most populous states will help reduce climate pollution and drive innovation. They will also help to lower energy storage costs as batteries are adopted more widely, just as costs for wind and solar installations have fallen as more have been built, he said.”

On June 30 an article with 12 authors was published in Science titled, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States.  The following is a quotation from the Abstract:
“Estimates of climate change damage are central to the design of climate policies. Here, we develop a flexible architecture for computing damages that integrates climate science, econometric analyses, and process models. We use this approach to construct spatially explicit, probabilistic, and empirically derived estimates of economic damage in the United States from climate change. The combined value of market and nonmarket damage across analyzed sectors—agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of gross domestic product per +1°C on average. Importantly, risk is distributed unequally across locations, generating a large transfer of value northward and westward that increases economic inequality. By the late 21st century, the poorest third of counties are projected to experience damages between 2 and 20% of county income (90% chance) under business-as-usual emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5).”
The combination of several models shows a probability distribution of models with the most likely global average temperature of about 3.5 degrees C (6.1 degrees F) by 2080 to 2099.  The total aggregated U.S. loss is about 1.2% of GDP for each 1 degree C increase in global average temperature.

On July 1 the NY Times posted an article by Coral Davenport titled, Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start.  She wrote,
In the four months since he took office as the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt has moved to undo, delay or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history, according to experts in environmental law.
Mr. Pruitt’s supporters, including President Trump, have hailed his moves as an uprooting of the administrative state and a clearing of onerous regulations that have stymied American business. Environmental advocates have watched in horror as Mr. Pruitt has worked to disable the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water and public health.”
“Since February, Mr. Pruitt has filed a proposal of intent to undo or weaken Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan. In late June, he filed a legal plan to repeal an Obama-era rule curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways. He delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He delayed the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants. And he reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.”
It’s a sad day for America, and for it’s most vulnerable citizens.

On July 5, I learned that the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication issued a report titled, Climate Change in the American Mind. - May 2017, describing results of a recent study of American attitudes on climate change.  Here are some of the Key Findings:

Seven in ten Americans (70%) think global warming is happening, which nearly matches the highest level in our surveys (71%), recorded in 2008. By contrast, only about one in eight Americans (13%) think global warming is not happening. 
Americans are also more certain global warming is happening – 46% are “extremely” or “very” sure it is happening, its highest level since 2008. By contrast, far fewer – 7% – are “extremely” or “very sure” global warming is not happening. 
Over half of Americans (58%) understand that global warming is mostly human caused, the highest level since our surveys began in November 2008. By contrast, three in ten (30%) say it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment – the lowest level recorded since 2008.” 
There are several more findings.  
The LA Times for July 12 published an article by Alexandre Zavis and Sean Greene  titled, An iceberg the size of Delaware just broke off of Antarctica.
They wrote, Sometime in the last few days, a block of ice the size of Delaware broke away from Antarctica and is now floating freely in the Weddell Sea.
The iceberg, which at around 1 trillion tons is one of the largest on record, poses no immediate threat to sea levels. But scientists say the break may have altered the profile of the continent’s western peninsula for decades to come and offers a preview of what global warming might do to marine ice shelves.
Scientists at Project Midas, a research team from Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Britain, first confirmed the break Wednesday using data from NASA satellites.
They said they had been monitoring a rift in an ice shelf called Larsen C for years before it started to grow rapidly in January, increasing in length to about 120 miles and leaving the iceberg hanging by a thread of ice less than 3 miles wide.”

On July 18 Jim Hansen and 14 co-authors published an article in Earth System Dynamics titled, Young People’s Burden; Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions.  ‘Negative CO2 emissions’ means that CO2 is removed faster from the atmosphere faster than it‘sadded. The hot-link takes you to Hansen’s website at Columbia University, which lists four major conclusions, quoted below.  The Abstract to the full paper is available at

1. Global warming in the past 50 years has raised global temperature (Fig. 1) well above the prior range in the Holocene (the current interglacial period, approximately the past 11,700 years) to the level of the Eemian period (130,000 to 115,000 years ago), when sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30 feet) higher than today. 
2. Global warming can be held below 1.5°C (the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement) if rapid reductions of global CO2 emission (at least 3%/year) begin by 2021 and if there is no net growth of other climate forcings (Fig. 2). However, 1.5°C global warming exceeds estimated Eemian temperature and is not an appropriate goal. 
3. The growth rate of greenhouse gas climate forcing has accelerated markedly in the past several years (Fig. 3), a conclusion starkly at odds with the common narrative that the world has recently turned the corner toward a solution of the global warming problem. 
An appropriate goal is to return global temperature to the Holocene range within a century. Such a goal was still achievable in 2013 if rapid emission reductions had begun at that time and if there were a global program for reforestation and improved agricultural and forestry practices. Now climate restoration this century would also require substantial technological extraction of CO2 from the air. If rapid emission reductions do not begin soon, the burden placed on young people to extract CO2 emitted by prior generations may become implausibly difficult and costly.” 
The figures referred to are shown below the Conclusions.  There is also a link to an 11-minute video by Hansen and Stephanie Kiviehan - his oldest granddaughter - which explains the challenge of climate change in easily understandable language.  It’s well worth watching.

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. 

Utility Executives' Request for Carbon Regulations Met with a Shrug by EPA Administrator

On June 19, over 30 energy industry executives met with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss what they would like to see replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Assuming the CPP is repealed, many of the executives still requested EPA issue a new carbon emission regulation in its place, albeit a less stringent version. The industry representatives emphasized the need for long-term regulatory certainty for their companies to plan around, while also signaling state governments that the utility sector was going to continue to move away from new coal plants. The industry's concerns were reportedly met with skepticism from Pruitt. Pruitt is thought to be considering a challenge to EPA's endangerment finding, a policy which informs the legal argument for regulating carbon dioxide. According to an industry executive who attended the meeting, "The only time [Pruitt] really perked up was when he heard the word 'coal.' None of our people are ever going to be building a coal plant again. It's devoid of reality."

For more information see:

State Attorneys General Fight EPA on Delay of Methane Emissions Rule

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently initiated a two-year delay of a regulation that would reduce methane emissions produced by the oil and gas industry. The regulation was finalized in 2016 under the Obama administration. In defending the move, Pruitt argued that businesses did not have the opportunity to review the regulations before they were finalized. Now a coalition of 15 state attorneys general are filing a lawsuit claiming the EPA does not have the power to delay the implementation of a rule while the agency is reviewing it. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who leads the coalition, said she is taking action to "ensure that the EPA does not roll back the progress we've made to protect our planet." Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) are also pushing back against an Interior Department decision to issue a stay on a similar methane rule.

For more information see:

Houston Faces Catastrophic Flooding Due to Climate Change and Overdevelopment

Houston, Texas, already experiences some of the worst impacts of floods and hurricanes in the United States, and scientists are warning that a combination of climate change and irresponsible development will further exacerbate the problem. Researchers have noted significant flaws in the city's flood defenses, including two aging dams facing a high risk of failure and the conversion of the surrounding landscape from grassy plains to impervious surfaces. Texas A&M professor Sam Brody estimates that "each new square meter of pavement in Houston on average adds $4,000 worth of flood damage." One area of particular concern is the Houston Ship Channel, where experts fear a severe flood could result in millions of gallons of crude oil and chemical substances stored there to be released into surrounding neighborhoods. The multitude of threats has led to the formation of local advocacy groups calling for smarter development and better flood management. Dean Bixler, an activist and resident, said, "The truth is that most of the flooding in Houston is manmade."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfBangkok's Impoverished Communities at Risk of Being Swept Away by Floodwaters

Phrom Samrit, a squatter community along a major canal in Bangkok, Thailand, is struggling with worsening floods. The slum's elected leader, Adirak Sangnut, says floods used to begin after three days of rain, but it now takes "just three hours." In 2011, Bangkok was hit by its worst flooding in 50 years, causing over $45 billion in damages and disrupting international supply chains. Climate change and widespread urbanization are expected to increase the capital's vulnerability to flooding, leading the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to plan 28 flood protection projects at a cost of $765 million dollars. The plans include expanding canals and constructing infrastructure to drain and divert water into the Chao Phraya River. The city has also drafted a resilience strategy to combat the issue. Critics suggest the plan would mostly benefit urban areas, as marginalized groups like farmers, fishermen, and rural residents would continue to experience losses. There is a call to make Bangkok a "sponge city," with more pavement and green space specially designed to take on water.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfOil Companies Seek "Conservative Climate Solution" and Protection Against Climate Change Lawsuits

Exxon Mobil and several other large oil corporations have joined Stephen Hawking, Michael Bloomberg, Ratan Tata, and others on the Climate Leadership Council. The council was formed in February 2017 to promote a "conservative climate solution." The council plans to tax $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced, arguing a market-driven approach would be more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than setting regulations. The plan would return money collected to taxpayers as a "climate dividend," and the council predicts the average American family of four would receive $2,000 after one year. The plan would also protect companies from lawsuits for their climate change contributions. Exxon is currently under investigation for misleading the public about the risk of climate change. Some Democratic leaders and environmental organizations support the plan, to which chief executive of the council Ted Halstead said, "It's hard to argue against a carbon tax that Exxon's in favor of."

For more information see:

Corporations Are Now Some of the Largest Consumers of Renewable Energy in the Nation

Driven by tax breaks and technological advances that have led to lower prices, corporations have become some of the largest consumers of renewable energy in the United States. In 2016, nearly 40 percent of wind contracts and 10 percent of large-market solar projects were backed by corporations (with contributions from universities and the military). The boom is largely due to wind and solar-power costs each dropping by over 65 percent since 2010. Corporations have taken advantage of these cheap prices by entering into long-term power purchase agreements where renewable energy producers supply electricity directly to the grid, which means companies do not need to invest in the technologies themselves. These favorable conditions have led to nearly 100 international companies committing to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy since 2014. Many of these corporations were also vocal opponents of President Trump's recent decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

For more information see:

Soaring Temperatures May Affect Future Air Travel Plans

In the future, travelers will likely see increased flight cancellations, costs, and turbulence due to climate change. With temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the southwestern United States recently, American Airlines had to cancel more than 40 flights in and out of Phoenix because the hot air was too thin for smaller planes to create enough lift for take-off. As above-average temperatures become the new normal, more airports may have to cancel or delay flights, or restrict passenger and cargo weight to reduce the amount of lift needed to take off. Stronger winds will also mean increases in turbulence, travel time, and fuel consumption. While airlines have started using more fuel-efficient engines and aerodynamic planes, industry members say more work needs to be done to prepare for the long-term effects of climate change. Industry analyst Robert Mann observed airline companies are in the habit of focusing on "near-term issues," meaning climate change can sometimes be left out of their fleet-wide planning.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfClimate Change Could Threaten 74 Percent of Global Population with Deadly Heat Waves

According to a new study in Nature Climate Change, prolonged exposure to temperatures above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit combined with high humidity can create a deadly heat threshold for humans. Nearly a third of the world's population already experiences these conditions for at least 20 days per year. However, if no action is taken to mitigate climate change, deadly heat waves could threaten 74 percent of the population by 2100. For instance, New York City could experience 50 days per year with life-threatening temperatures if greenhouse gas emission levels are not reduced. Recent heat waves can take a steep toll on vulnerable populations, including the elderly. Europe's 2003 heat wave saw 70,000 people perish, while a 1995 incident in Chicago killed 700. These consequences can be multiplied by an increase in urbanization, which reduces vegetation while introducing more heat-trapping asphalt and building materials. University of Hawaii at Manoa biologist Camilo Mora says, "Our options are now between bad or terrible," but "we cannot afford to give up hope."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfDramatic Increase in Great Plains Wildfires Leads to New Challenges for the Region

Wildfires on the Great Plains have dramatically increased in both scope and frequency over the last 30 years, leading to a strain on firefighting resources and costs. According to a new study, the number of wildfires on the Great Plains grew from 33 in 1985 to 117 in 2014, with the total area affected increasing by 400 percent. Although wildfires used to be common on the Great Plains, modern fire prevention techniques have left people unaccustomed to the recent uptick. Michele Steinberg with the National Fire Protection Association noted that this previously low frequency has lulled many people into a "sense of complacency." This rise is believed to be the result of both climate change and human activity, including population growth in fire-prone areas that increases the risk of accidental ignition. The lead author of the study, Victoria Donovan of the University of Nebraska, called the increase "undocumented and unexpected for this region," leaving Plains agencies struggling to secure the funds and personnel to properly combat the growing threat.

For more information see:

House Armed Services Committee Acknowledges Climate Change as a National Security Threat

On June 28, the House Armed Services Committee took a formal step toward acknowledging climate change as a threat to national security and military readiness. During its review of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill detailing the Department of Defense's annual operating budget, the committee approved an amendment that declares "climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist." The amendment was introduced by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and passed by a voice vote. The amendment would direct each service branch to compile a list of the ten facilities under its command which it deems to be the most vulnerable to climate change impacts over the next 20 years. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was the only committee member to openly oppose the bill, while Republican representatives Rob Bishop (UT) and Jim Bridenstine (OK) suggested the findings of the report could be instructive.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfU.S. Mayors Take Lead on Climate Change, Pursue 100 Percent Renewable Energy

A lack of climate leadership from the Trump administration has led the United States Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,408 American cities, to pledge its support for achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 in member cities. The resolution urges Congress and the Trump administration to support the Paris Agreement, as well as the Clean Power Plan. The resolution also calls for the electrification of the U.S. transportation sector, a federal "risk management program to address future flood risks from sea level rise," and expanded government investment in renewable energy. An assessment by the Sierra Club found that if the conference members' adoption of 100 percent renewable energy were carried out, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 619 million metric tons, equivalent to the emissions from 180 coal plants. The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Steve Benjamin, said, "We are showing the world that cities and mayors can and will lead the transition away from fossil fuels."

For more information see:

Florida's Dying Reefs Could Kill the Local Economy

The world's third-largest barrier reef along the Florida Keys, once a flourishing ecosystem, is now struggling and on the verge of collapse, having lost 90 percent of its living coral due to bleaching from rising temperatures. Three and a half million people visit the Florida Keys every year, providing 54 percent of all employment on the islands. As a result, the region's $2.7 billion coastal economy is highly vulnerable to disruptions from climate change. Extreme weather events that bring warmer waters have been known to trigger coral bleaching. The possible defunding of Environmental Protection Agency programs that protect the reef is a fear of Monroe County's board of commissioners, who stated, "A healthy marine environment is essential and the most important contributor to the economy of the Florida Keys." Scientists are replanting coral, but are unsure if the ecosystem will be able to stand up to climate change over the long-term. Research suggests the Keys could experience annual coral bleaching events by as early as 2020.

For more information see:

Climate Change Threatens Global Food Supply "Chokepoints"

A new report from Chatham House warns that climate change is threatening 14 critical "chokepoints" used for the distribution of global food supplies and that little is being done to address the threat. More than 50 percent of the world's crop exports travel through at least one of these chokepoints, which include the Suez and Panama Canals, Black Sea ports, and U.S. Gulf Coast ports, inland waterways, and railways. According to the report, many of these areas have already experienced major flooding, drought, sand storms, and heavy rains in recent years which can lead to a chain reaction of rising food prices and major conflict, particularly if they coincide with a harvest failure. Areas that are particularly vulnerable include the Middle East and North Africa, which are the sites of numerous chokepoints, as well as any country that is heavily reliant on imports. The report urged increased global cooperation and a diversification of supply routes and infrastructure to limit the risk of major disruptions from these chokepoints.

For more information see:

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Approval Likely, Despite Severe Environmental Impacts

The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to move 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Running from North Carolina to West Virginia, the pipeline will cross 2,900 private properties and parts of the Monogahela and George Washington National Forests. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave developers a favorable draft environmental assessment, despite warnings that the project could "induce sinkhole development, alter spring characteristics, and impact local groundwater flow and quality." Dominion Energy, which owns 48 percent of the project, claims they have plans to mitigate these impacts and argues the pipeline will be necessary to supply domestic natural gas markets. Environmental groups argue Dominion is overestimating demand to justify the project. PJM, a regional grid operator, calculates peak power demand in 2027 will be 3.5 gigawatts lower than Dominion estimates. Advocates are also fearful the pipeline will lead to dozens of miles of mountaintops being cleared. Dominion expects the project will receive approval in the fall of 2017.

For more information see:

Study: Great Barrier Reef Is Worth $42 Billion and "Too Big to Fail"

A recent report from Deloitte valued Australia's Great Barrier Reef at $42.4 billion, which is comparable to the market values of auto companies like BMW and General Motors. The reef also supports 64,000 jobs. In the past year, the reef has endured two massive coral bleaching events. The report states, "The Reef is critical to supporting economic activity and jobs in Australia. The livelihoods and businesses it supports across Australia far exceeds the numbers supported by many industries we would consider too big to fail." Bleaching occurs as a stress response to warm ocean temperatures, and corals can die if exposed to prolonged periods of excessive warmth. Recent bleaching events affected about two-thirds of the 2,300 kilometer (1,429 mile) reef, and corals may take up to 20 years to fully recover. Sean Connolly, program leader of an Australian coral reef center, says, "You're looking at some potentially unfolding human tragedy over the decades if reefs cannot provide the same source of livelihood."

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Study Warns That Global Sea Level Rise Is Accelerating Over Time 

For the third time in the past year, scientists have confirmed that not only are sea levels rising, but they are doing so at an increasingly faster rate. The most recent study attributes the primary cause of this increase to an accelerated melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which are the two largest sources of land-based ice in the world. The study shows that the melting ice from Greenland is now responsible for 25 percent of all sea level rise, a drastic increase from five percent in 1993. While there is still some uncertainty on the precise rate of sea level rise, with studies disagreeing over just how rapidly sea levels are rising, a consensus has emerged that sea levels are increasing and will have a significant impact on coastal regions. Christopher Harig of the University of Arizona said, "[Sea level rise is] no longer a projection, it's now an observation. It's not something that [coastal communities] can continue to put off into the future."

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pastedGraphic_6.pdfEuropean Researchers Fear Loss of U.S. Climate Data Following Proposed Budget Cuts 

European research institutes and universities are recruiting American scientists to take advantage of the Trump administration's lack of support for climate research. Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, said, "We live in a global marketplace and want to recruit the best minds-and many of the very best are in U.S. labs." However, some European researchers are more concerned that the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research offices could have significant impacts, with many in the global scientific community reliant on U.S.-produced scientific data. Forster added, "[Europe needs] their satellite data and access to the U.S.'s many freely available datasets. We need their expertise." Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University said, "There seems to be an interest in the administration of shifting resources out of science and once again to manned [space] exploration," but such research tends to produce "very modest returns" given the high cost.

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

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