Monday, September 25, 2017



The Guardian on July 10 published and article by Tess Riley titled, Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says.  She wrote, 
Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.
The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.”
“The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.
ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.”

On Aug. 4 The Guardian published an article by Nicola Davis titled, Extreme weather deaths in Europe ‘could increase 50-fold by next century’.  She wrote, Deaths from weather disasters could increase 50-fold in Europe by the start of the next century if no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect citizens, researchers have warned.
A new study estimates a toll of 152,000 deaths a year between 2071 and 2100 as a direct result of hazards relating to extreme weather, with those living in southern Europe likely to be the hardest hit.”
Actions to protect citizens included adaptation as well as mitigation (reducing GHG emissions).  It turns that high temperatures and humidity are expected to be the cause of 99% of the increase in deaths.

NOTE: The record European heatwave in August 2003 was responsible for at least 35,000 deaths - mostly in France.

On Aug. 4 an article was published in Scientific American by Nina Heikkinen titled, Obama Emissions Rules Could Yield $300 Billion Annually by 2030.  She reported,
The benefits of Obama-era rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions would greatly exceed the costs in the coming years, according to a new analysis.
Regulations designed to control emissions from power plants, oil production and motor vehicles could together lead to close to $300 billion in net benefits per year by 2030, according to the report by Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
The paper comes as President Trump has sought to roll back any regulations his team says could hinder domestic energy development and is part of a broader shift in focus away from action on climate change throughout the administration.
While the Trump administration has taken other actions to depart from the Obama administration’s climate change priorities—like pulling out of the Paris Agreement—the analysis cites the elimination of these rules as having the greatest impact on the nation’s ability to address climate change.”
“The $370 billion in gross benefits includes the positive impacts of reducing 980 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, along with the health benefits of also reducing other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides.
These benefits would be four times greater than the projected $84 billion in total costs of implementing major regulations crafted under the Obama administration, said researchers in a paper published on the center’s website yesterday.”

On Aug. 9 the Environmental and Energy Study Institute  (EESI) released a report written by Andrew Wollenberg and titled, Fact Sheet: Plug-In Electric Vehicles (2017).  It covers all-electric (or battery-electric) vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which are powered by a combination of battery-electricity and liquid fuels that can be used when the battery is depleted.  In order to compare the efficiency of these cars with regular gasoline powered cars the EPA has developed what they all the miles per gallon equivlent (MPGe).  It equates 33.7 kWh of electrical energy with the energy produced by one gallon of gasoline.  Wollenberg wrote,
It is important to note that while plug-in vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions, generating the electricity plug-in vehicles use may produce pollution, depending on the energy source used. Nevertheless, even though about two-thirds of U.S. electricity is generated by carbon-emitting natural gas and coal, the electricity required to power BEVs produces less than half the carbon dioxide of a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. And, BEVs do not emit the harmful particles released by gasoline-powered engines, which means battery electric vehicles have the potential to save billions of dollars in health and climate costs. Indeed, a study performed by the American Lung Association of California found that gasoline vehicles are responsible for $37 billion in health and climate costs each year.“
He also gives the Make/Model, Type, Price, Electric Range (miles) and MPGe (city/highway) for seven BEVs and PHEVs currently marketed in the U.S.  It turns out that at the current price of about $2.32 per gallon of gasoline, it casts about half as much to power a car with electricity as it does with gas.
The Fact Sheet can be downloaded and printed as a PDF file.

NOTE: This article is a must-read for anyone interested in electric vehicles.

On Aug.10 the NY Times published an article by John Scwartz titled, Students, Cities and States Take the Climate Fight to CourtHe wrote,
Can the courts fix climate change?
Several groups and individuals around the United States have gone to court to try to do what the Trump administration has so far declined to do: confront the causes and effects of global warming.
In California, two counties and a city recently sued 37 fossil fuel companies, seeking funds to cover the costs of dealing with a warming world. In Oregon, a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of young people is moving toward a February trial date, though the so-called children’s suit could be tossed out before that. And more than a dozen state attorneys general have sued to block Trump administration moves to roll back environmental regulations.
Efforts in the United States are part of a wave of litigation around the world, including a 2015 decision in which a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to toughen its climate policies; that case is under appeal. A 2017 report from the United Nations Environment Program found nearly 900 climate litigation suits in more than 20 countries. In Switzerland, a group of nearly 800 older women known as Senior Women for Climate Protection have sued their government over climate change. In New Zealand, a court recently heard a climate case brought by a law student, Sarah Lorraine Thomson; a decision is pending.
But in the United States, lawsuits to get American courts to take on the climate fight have until now gone nowhere. In 2011, the Supreme Court threw out a case filed by eight states and New York City against electric power producers. A lawsuit brought by inhabitants of Kivalina, Alaska, against fossil fuel companies over the diminished buffer of sea ice that had protected the town was dismissed by a federal judge in 2009. A federal appeals court and the Supreme Court declined to reinstate the case.  
The new California cases resemble the state tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, which argued that the industry knew and concealed the dangers of smoking, leaving the states with enormous health care bills. In the new suits, Marin and San Mateo Counties and the City of Imperial Beach are accusing the oil companies of knowing that their industry would cause catastrophic climate change and covering up the evidence.

NOTE: Thank God for the courts!

On Aug. 10 the World Resources Institute posted an article by Johannes Friedrich, Mengpin Ge and Alexander Tankou titled, 6 Charts to Understand U.S. State Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  They wrote,
As major global greenhouse gas emitters, U.S. states have the economic heft and legislative authority to move the United States toward much lower emissions and cleaner energy. While many have done so in the last decade, some remain stuck in the high-emitting past. 
The following six charts show how emissions from U.S. states compare, how they are changing and what could come next. These are based on the latest greenhouse gas emissions data. World Resources Institute compiled for all 50 states (through 2014, the latest year for which in-state emissions data is available).”
They show that 10 states are responsible for nearly 50% of U.S. GHG emissions, with TX and CA at the top because of their large populations and economies.  Over the 10-year period of 2015 to 2014, the last year for which compete data are available, total U.S. emissions decreased by only 6%.  Thirty five states and Washington DC reduced their emissions, with Vermont, Maine and Alaska having the greatest reductions, while 15 states, including North Dakota, Montana and Iowa in the lead. Fugitive emissions are a growing problem in Texas and North Dakota, especially from methane leakage associated with natural gas production.
The authors ended with the following:
“With the U.S. representing a significant share of global emissions, it’s a good sign to see many poised to step up their efforts on action to address global warming in the absence of federal leadership. As we have looked to how states got to where they are, there’s a new direction being carved out through the We Are Still In coalition and America’s Pledge on climate change to determine where they are going.  To reign in emissions across all sectors and prevent the worst impacts of climate change, states must accelerate a shift towards clean power and greater efficiency.  There is ample proof that this is not only possible but can also be an economic opportunity.

NOTE: The article also has a link to emissions from many countries around the world. 

On Aug. 12 Peter Sinclair published an article in Climate Denial Crock of the Week titled, Something’s Burning: Greenland Fire Update.  Recently back from a trip to Greenland, Sinclair reports that thousands of acres of permafrost moss, lichens and grass are burning on Greenland.  Fire warms the permafrost below it, releasing methane, a flammable gas, and producing soot that darkens the surface of the ice sheet, causing it to absorb more solar radiation and melt faster.  This provides another example of positive feedback, where the more the ice melts, the faster it melts.

NOTE: The Greenland ice sheet holds enough ice that when it all melts, enough water will be produced to raise global average sea level by 7 m or about 23 feet.  NASA measurements of the ice loss by satellites show that is has been accelerating.

On Aug 15 an article in Grist by Eric Holthaus titled, Meet July, the hottest month yet.  NASA recently reported that last July had the highest global average temperature ever recorded.  He wrote, Using measurements collected from about 6,300 land- and ocean-based weather stations around the world, NASA scientists calculated that the planet’s average temperature during July was about 2.25 degrees C (4.05 degrees F) warmer than the long-term annual average.”
“Such a warm month during the peak of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer created a cascade of extreme weather conditions. In western Canada, the worst forest fires in nearly 60 years have already torched upwards of a million acres, more than four times what normally burns in an entire wildfire season. In California, Death Valley recorded the hottest month ever measured anywhere on Earth, with an average temperature of 107.24 degrees F. Several days topped 120 degrees.”

NOTE: Do you think that the destructiveness of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma might be related to the unusually high temperatures?

On Aug. 18 The Economic Times published an article by Vishwa Mohan titled, Climate change costs India $10 billion every year: Government. The author wrote,
“Extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century. 
In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry said productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather.” 

NOTE: A loss of 40% of India’s major crops could be a catastrophe - especially if its population continues to grow.  The population is expected to increase until India’s becomes the largest in the world.

On Sept. 3 the Popular Resistance Newsletter published a powerful article by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers titled Climate Breakdown.  They wrote:
Climate breakdown, as George Monbiot calls it, is happening before our eyes at the same time the science on climate change grows stronger and has wider acceptance. Hurricane Harvey, which struck at the center of the petroleum industry – the heart of climate denialism – provided a glimpse of the new normal of climate crisis-induced events. In Asia, this week the climate message was even stronger where at least 1,200 people died and 41 million were impacted. By 2050, one billion people could be displaced by climate crises.
Climate disasters demonstrate the immense failure of government at all levels. The world has known about the likely disastrous impacts of climate change for decades. Next year will be the thirtieth anniversary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which  operates under the auspices of the United Nations and was founded in 1988. The IPCC published the first of five reports in 1990. Thousands of scientists and other experts write and review the reports and 120 countries participate in the process. The most common surprises in successive reports are more rapid temperature increases and greater impacts than scientists had predicted.
The science on climate change has become extremely strong as the final draft of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report showed. The document was leaked last month because scientists feared the Trump administration would amend, suppress or destroy it. The report describes overwhelming evidence of man-made climate change impacting us right now and the urgent need to get to zero net carbon emissions.”

NOTE: The article is both powerful and extremely well written.  I recommend that you read the whole thing.

On Sept. 20 Time updated an article by Justin Worland titled, Republican Senator Endorses ‘Price on Carbon’ to Fight Climate Change.  Worland wrote:
Sen. Lindsey Graham endorsed a "price on carbon" to fight climate change, breaking with much of the Republican Establishment.
Speaking at a climate change conference held by former Secretary of State John Kerry at Yale University, the South Carolina Republican called for a "price on carbon," saying he would take the idea to the White House for consideration.

"I'm a Republican. I believe that the greenhouse effect is real, that CO2 emissions generated by man is creating our greenhouse gas effect that traps heat, and the planet is warming," said Graham. "A price on carbon—that's the way to go in my view."
Graham said he is working Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, on legislation. Despite the statement, any significant global warming legislation would meet near-certain failure in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Still, the announcement makes Graham part of an increasingly vocal contingent of Republicans on Capitol Hill bucking their party along with 28 Republican members of a bipartisan climate change caucus (though the group has not endorsed a carbon tax or anything close to it).
Another group of prominent Republican elder statesmen, including former secretaries of State James Baker and George P. Shultz and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, offered a proposal earlier this year for a carbon tax and dividend that would pay returns to taxpayers.”

NOTE: This growing Republican support for dealing with rather than denying climate change by is an important development.  Climate change is a critical issue demanding a response that members of both parties might work together on.

 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.pdfScientists Fear Trump Administration May Suppress Findings of Prominent Climate Change Report

A draft section of the National Climate Assessment concludes that "many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change." The congressionally-mandated quadrennial report is the product of numerous federal agencies and cites evidence from thousands of past studies indicating the causes and impacts of climate change. These findings are in direct conflict with the Trump administration's public views on climate science, resulting in a heightened level of scrutiny towards how the White House decides to handle the report. Scientists have expressed concerns that the administration may alter or suppress the report. The draft has already received approval from the National Academy of Sciences, but will also require sign-off from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA. The report is regarded as one of the most comprehensive and rigorous summaries of climate science available. The draft version includes findings attributing some extreme weather to climate change, as well as an overview of how climate change has affected the entire United States.

For more information see:

Trump Administration Restates Desire to Exit Paris Agreement; Will Continue to Attend Climate Talks

On August 4, the Trump administration delivered a letter to the United Nations declaring the government's intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. However, the document is merely a political statement and does not carry any legal authority. According to the terms of the Paris Agreement, the United States will not be able to officially begin the withdrawal process until November 4, 2019. A statement issued by the U.S. State Department said, "[The President] ... is open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the U.S. can identify terms that are more favorable to the United States." It remains unclear what new terms the Trump administration may be seeking, as each country is free to adjust their individual emission reduction goals under the accord. The statement also advocates for providing developing nations with increased access to fossil fuel technologies. Despite its aim to exit the agreement, the United States will continue to send a delegation to future climate negotiations, including the next Conference of Parties in Bonn, Germany.

For more information see:

Climate Science Terms Are Quietly Being Phased Out of USDA's Research

A series of emails obtained by The Guardian revealed climate change terms are being censored out of work performed by U.S. Department of Agriculture staff. In a message from a top department official, the terms "climate change," "climate change adaptation," "reduce greenhouse gases," and "sequester carbon" were to be replaced by alternative language, such as "weather extremes," "resilience to weather," "increase nutrient use efficiency," and "build soil organic matter." The February 2017 email from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health at USDA, said the agency will change how it talks about climate change. Emails from other senior agency staff suggested the Trump administration would not be prioritizing climate change and that staff should be "[made] aware of this shift in perspective." Messaging indicated some staff were confused as to what scientific terms would be acceptable in publications, while others expressed a desire to keep the existing language to maintain the "scientific integrity of the work." The administration's nominee to be USDA's chief scientist, Sam Clovis, has no scientific background (emphasis added) and has previously declared climate research to be "junk science."

For more information see:

Louisiana Still Trying to Recover from One of the Worst Storms in State History

Louisiana residents are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the worst rainstorm in the state's history, which led to 13 deaths and damaged nearly 100,000 homes. Flooding from the August 2016 storm resulted in $10.3 billion in damages, with $110 million in agricultural losses, making it one of the worst floods in the country's history. However, the storm did not garner a lot of media coverage and Congress authorized aid totaling just 13 cents for every dollar of damage, whereas Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina were granted 65-70 cents on the dollar. Jeffrey Schlegelmilch of Columbia University cautioned Congress is "getting a little frustrated with [funding] these emergency supplementals" that have provided relief from recent disasters, noting "they've gotten more difficult to pass." Scientific analysis concluded that climate change made the occurrence of Louisiana's extreme rainfall event twice as likely compared to a century ago. Study author and climatologist Robert Gillies said, "We found that the background climate - the circulation pattern - had changed in such a way that it has increased the odds for such weather."

For more information see:

Climate Change Is Causing Peru's Highland Glaciers to Disappear

Peru is grappling with the steady loss and degradation of its mountain glaciers, which supply water for drinking, agriculture, and hydroelectricity for millions of people. The country is home to 70 percent of the world's tropical glaciers, but has seen those glaciers lose 90 percent of their mass. A lack of glacial runoff will force government officials to reevaluate the irrigation and electricity infrastructure that relies upon those water sources. According to Nelson Santillán at Peru's national water authority, "For countries like Peru that are trying to climb out of poverty, there are major social, cultural, and economic obstacles to adaptation. Identifying risks is one thing, but doing something about them is another." Flooding from swollen glacial lakes is another danger. If the dam defending the city of Huaraz's 200,000 residents failed, it would result in $2.5 billion in damage and thousands of deaths. However, government action is paralyzed by a history of corruption and a lack of buy-in from local communities for proposed solutions.

For more information see:

Climate Change and Unpredictable Weather Threaten Madagascar's Subsistence Farmers

Disruptions to the weather cycles in Madagascar are putting entire communities of subsistence farmers at risk. Rice is a staple food for the island nation, but erratic precipitation and severe storms have threatened the crop's production. According to long-time farmers, a major cyclone used to occur about every five years, but now five such storms may hit in a given year. The island's 1,000-mile-long east coast leaves it particularly vulnerable to cyclones. Droughts, abnormal cold, and other factors have harmed the growth of crops. A 2014 study verified the anecdotal evidence, finding that Madagascar's weather has indeed become more extreme over the past 20 years. Researcher Celia Harvey of Conservation International said, "We found that farmers are experiencing very variable rainfall and very variable crop production. Anything that affects their rice production ultimately very quickly undermines their livelihood." Many farmers are poor and financially anchored to their land, making it virtually impossible for them to move if the environment drastically changes.

For more information see:

Study: Greenhouse Gas Regulations Could Produce $300 Billion in Annual Benefits by 2030

According to a new report from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, regulations issued under the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could yield $300 billion in net benefits per year by 2030. Whether these benefits will be fully realized is in question, as the Trump administration has been actively working to roll back many of these rules. The study's author, Jessica Wentz, said her team wanted to examine the impact of the rules as a "complete package" and assess the narrative presented by those opposed to the regulations that "these rules impose undue costs on industry and society as a whole." The study compared cost-benefit analyses conducted by federal agencies, as well as independent research done outside the government. The $370 billion in benefits included the impact of reducing carbon dioxide levels and the health benefits of cutting other pollutants, but did not factor in jobs created. Meanwhile, the total cost of implementing the rules was projected to be $84 billion.

For more information see:

Scientists Continue to Study the Potential Risks and Rewards of Solar Geoengineering

Interest in solar geoengineering is beginning to rise as researchers work to better understand its potential benefits and drawbacks. The method is designed to reduce the amount of heat that is able to enter the Earth's atmosphere by reflecting sunlight back into space. This can be achieved through a variety of ways, including cloud brightening, deploying reflective gas at high altitudes, and encouraging cloud formation high in the atmosphere. The organized study of the moral, political, and technological merits of solar geoengineering arose over the past decade. Scientists have also begun to examine potential risks, such as impacts on the water cycle and ecosystems. Researchers are careful to point out that geoengineering is intended as a stopgap for climate mitigation. Prof. Alan Robock of Rutgers University said, "The Paris Agreement was a good start, but those pledges aren't enough. So what we're looking at is: If global warming is so dangerous, could we shave off a little warming while we continue to mitigate greenhouse gases?"

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_1.pdfTrump's Executive Order Will Leave Federally-Funded Projects More Vulnerable to Flood Risks

On August 15, President Trump signed an executive order to roll back the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which was created through an earlier executive order by President Obama. The 2015 standard required projects built with federal aid to account for the risks posed by sea level rise. Several building trade groups, including the National Association of Home Builders, lobbied for the repeal of the flood planning guidelines, arguing that they would increase construction costs and raise rents. However, a significant coalition of city planners and engineers supported the existing policy. Jessica Grannis of the Georgetown Climate Center said, "What [Trump's] order will do is ensure that we will waste more taxpayer money because federal agencies will no longer have to consider long-term flood risks to federally-funded infrastructure projects." Trump's order would also purportedly streamline the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects, but watchdogs fear it could potentially lead to a stifling of public comment opportunities central to federal environmental reviews.

For more information see:

NOTE: This item was published by EESI on Aug. 21 - before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma - the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history.  Prophetic words.

pastedGraphic_2.pdfInterior Department's Climate Advisory Committee Put on Hiatus

Signs indicate the Interior Department's Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science has been quietly shelved. The committee was created in 2013 to advise the Secretary of the Interior on climate change. It featured 25 members from scientific, policy, and economic disciplines. The committee's charter was allowed to lapse in June 2017, while a meeting scheduled for April was cancelled. An Interior spokesperson said the committee is not currently active, as its future is being reviewed. Members were told the department would like to see "[a redeveloped] charter with slightly different tasks and a reduced membership that brings more professional societies onto the committee." Given the minimal cost of convening the committee, former members suspect the reorganization is tied to the Trump administration's view of climate science. Prior recommendations from the committee covered ways to improve communication on climate change across Interior's agencies and how to assist tribes in developing adaptation strategies.

For more information see:

California May Invest Hundreds of Millions in Climate Research Programs

A coalition of researchers is crafting a proposal to establish a California Climate Science and Solutions Institute, which would focus on basic- and applied-research projects for dealing with climate change. The initiative would invest hundreds of millions of dollars per year and could potentially draw funds from the state's cap-and-trade program. While the governor's office has expressed support, any proposal would have to pass the state legislature. Daniel Kammen of UC-Berkley said, "The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice." Thus far, the idea has gained the backing of all 10 University of California campuses, as well as Stanford and the California Institute of Technology. Researchers from any institution would be eligible for grants, with a priority given to projects that "engage communities, businesses, and policymakers." The coalition hopes to submit a plan to the state legislature before the end of 2017, with the institute up and running by September 2018.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfDrought in Sri Lanka Drives Displacement of Young People from Rural Communities

Sri Lanka's agricultural industry is struggling to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather patterns. A 10-month-long drought has impacted 19 of the island nation's 25 districts. A report by the World Food Program and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared the drought the region's worst in 40 years, warning Sri Lanka "is highly susceptible to climate change, and therefore the frequency of the weather hazards will likely increase as the Earth warms." Sri Lanka's production is expected to be 35 percent less in 2017 than its five-year average. More than a quarter of the country's workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for eight percent of its GDP. The hardships have led to a migration of young people from rural villages to urban areas in search of a steadier source of income. Sisira Kumara, a government administrator for the village of Adigama, said, "If they get the lowest paying job overseas, or in a garment factory, they will not return. There is no income here. All the crops have failed in the last four seasons."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_4.pdfBangladesh's Cities Grapple with a Steady Influx of Displaced Peoples

Environmental and economic changes in Bangladesh are pushing large swaths of the population to migrate. Coastal flooding in Bangladesh destroys property, leaves farmland too salty to grow crops, and contaminates ground water. Tropical cyclones are expected to become more frequent and severe due to climate change, elevating the risk of storm surges. Over the past 20 years, rural residents have been moving to cities, with the city of Dhaka alone seeing its population double to 19 million. City planners have not been able to keep up with the region's growth spurt, leading to crowded slums and flooding due to new construction interfering with natural drainage systems. An additional 20 million Bangladeshis are believed to have crossed illegally into neighboring India, resulting in the construction of a guarded fence along the border. Efforts to address South Asia's migrations are in the early stages. One challenge is that climate migrants are difficult to differentiate from economic migrants, since both essentially move in search of work.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfInnovative Public-Private Collaboration Helps Norway Reduce Food Waste

At the urging of the Norwegian government, supermarket chain Lentusgruppen developed a new business model to help combat food waste. The company's offshoot, Best Før, opened up shop in Oslo in October of 2016 and specializes in selling goods that have been overproduced or have exceeded their listed "best before date" but are still perfectly safe to consume. The products are sold at a steep discount due to their age. Operations manager Naeeh Ahmed explained, "Most supermarkets won't buy products that are within 10 days or so of their expiry date - it often has to be wasted." Collaboration between Norway's government and the food industry has led to other innovative programs that ensure such food reaches consumers. Norway began pursuing these efforts in 2010 upon realizing its food waste translated to 978,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually (equivalent to about one-quarter of its vehicle emissions). As of 2015, food waste had been reduced by 12 percent per person, still short of the country's goal of 25 percent per person.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfTampa Bay Remains Highly Vulnerable to Future Hurricanes

Hurricane Irma spared Tampa, FL from serious flooding, but the next major storm may not. The Tampa Bay region was developed right up to the shoreline, leading to construction on top of natural islands and coastal marshes. The World Bank named Tampa seventh in a ranking of cities around the world most vulnerable to storm damage. The property information firm CoreLogic estimated that 455,000 Tampa Bay homes are threatened by storm surges, representing about $80 billion in financial risk. These estimates place Tampa among Miami and New York as the most vulnerable metropolitan areas in the United States. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn admitted the city is unlikely to "go another 90 years without a direct hit [from a storm.]" Buckhorn explained, "We're a low-lying area, a city on the water with 100-year-old infrastructure and 2017 growth patterns. We live in Florida where people want to live on the water. None of that I can change. I'm trying to be an advocate for investment in infrastructure."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfHurricane Irma Overflows Sewer Systems in Florida

As of September 12, nine million gallons of wastewater had been released into Florida waters as a result of Hurricane Irma. One Miami-area facility spilled six million gallons of sewage into Biscayne Bay, while a Middleburg site released 250,000 gallons of untreated liquid due to flooding. EPA has sent specialists to Florida to assist wastewater facilities impacted by flooding or power loss. Wastewater plants are commonly located near a body of water, where treated water is eventually released before it gets withdrawn as drinking water downstream. Industry analysts observe that South Florida's decades-old sewer systems are ill-equipped to handle the region's booming population, on top of severe weather events. EPA estimated that $271 billion would be needed to maintain and improve the country's wastewater pipes and associated infrastructure. Nathan Gardner-Andrews of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies said, "If these outlier events are now going to become the norm, then we really need to be looking significantly at how do we make these utilities more resilient."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfProposed NASA Cuts Could Mean a Loss of Vital Earth Observation Data

The White House and members of Congress are targeting multiple NASA satellite programs for budget cuts, endangering an unbroken record of crucial earth observation data. The House's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 contains a $217 million cut to NASA's Earth-sciences budget, while the White House has proposed defunding four climate-related missions within the division. If federal funding for these programs dries up and their work is halted, it will create a "data gap," making it extremely difficult for climate researchers to develop scientific conclusions about environmental trends. One program under fire is Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiments (GRACE), which consists of a pair of synchronized satellites that "produce an unprecedentedly accurate reading of Earth's gravity field." GRACE has been instrumental in analyzing global aquifers, changes in ice sheets, and many other climate change trends. Recently, GRACE has gauged soil moisture, flood patterns, and power failures in Texas following Hurricane Harvey, which was beneficial to relief efforts and future planning. However, the satellites are in need of replacement after operating years beyond their planned lifespan. Scientists hope to launch follow-on satellites before the current set fails, but budget cuts could slow progress.

For more information see:

China Announces Plans to Sideline Fossil Fuel-Powered Vehicles in the Future

China, the world's largest auto market, has announced plans to ban the sale and production of cars fueled by gasoline and diesel. The government is currently researching a timeline for the ban and policies to support it. It is likely that the government will offer significant production subsidies to facilitate this transition. China's shift away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles follows similar bans by Britain, France, India, and Norway. The Chinese government's latest proposal would require that electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles make up at least 12 percent of domestic automakers' sales by 2020. The proposed ban coincides with automakers' existing plans to develop more electric vehicles for the Chinese market, but adds pressure to the industry to adapt. Although China bought 40 percent of the world's electric vehicles in 2016, these sales made up just one percent of the country's total auto sales. If implemented, the ban in China will have a significant impact on global emissions, given that China is the world's second-largest consumer of oil.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_9.pdfClimate Change Connected to a Decline in Crop Nutrition

An emerging field of scientific study is the intersection of climate change and nutrition. Agricultural research has shown a decline in the nutritional content of crops over the past 50-70 years. Crop selection practices are partly responsible for this trend, but a growing body of evidence supports the idea that climate change is another important factor. Since the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million to over 400. Scientists believe that more carbon dioxide accelerates photosynthesis, which produces more glucose at the expense of other nutrients in plants. Mathematical biologist, Irakli Loladze, said, "We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history - [an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply." In experiments, plants exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide contained lower concentrations of protein and essential micronutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc and potassium.

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pastedGraphic_10.pdfReef Damage Exposes Florida to More Forceful Storm Surges

Scientists believe the deterioration of Florida's barrier reef intensified the storm surges from Hurricane Irma. Reefs mitigate the impact of storm surges by breaking waves before they reach shore. Studies suggest that reefs may reduce the energy of waves by up to 97 percent and the height of waves by up to 70 percent. Warming water and a series of bleaching events have weakened Florida's 360 mile-long reef to the extent that, living coral covers less than 10 percent of the tract today. Living coral is much more resilient to incoming waves than dead coral, allowing it to act as a more effective breakwater. However, rising sea levels can make it increasingly difficult for reefs to break up the taller waves. Lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy, Michael Beck, explained, "I think it's incredibly important to recognize that these coral reefs are our first line of defense, and when we degrade them, we put ourselves at much greater risk."

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pastedGraphic_11.pdfFlorida Continues to Build, Despite Greater Awareness of Environmental Risks

Florida's most appealing real estate locations are also among the most vulnerable to hurricanes and rising sea levels, but this is unlikely to deter future development. Florida has a history of building over sensitive coastal ecosystems such as marshes and mangroves. Half of the Everglades was lost in an effort initiated by the Army Corps of Engineers almost 100 years ago to reshape the natural water system. Now, Florida is the third-most populous state and the risks of maintaining the status quo keep adding up. New houses built right next to the water are dangerously exposed to storm surges and evacuation plans are increasingly challenging. Florida continues to prioritize real estate interests and oppose taxes that could help fund resilience measures, with Governor Rick Scott eliminating a state agency and a key law designed to manage rampant development. Regarding the political gridlock, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, "If you keep refusing to acknowledge that climate change is real, if you keep promising an infrastructure bill that never appears, you're not much help to us."

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Native American Tribes Take a Stand against Climate Change 

While Native American populations possess a small carbon footprint relative to the rest of the United States, they are among the communities that would likely be most affected by climate change. Two days after President Trump announced that the United States would move to withdraw from the Paris Accord, several tribes, including the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Standing Rock Sioux, issued a joint statement of support for upholding the treaty. A 2008 United Nations (UN) declaration opened the door for indigenous populations to participate in UN affairs, but both UN and US law would have to be changed to allow American tribes to sign on to Paris. Nevertheless, several tribes have developed international partnerships, as well as domestic actions to protect salmon, monitor ocean acidification levels, and observe algae blooms. The Trump administration has proposed cutting the federal Tribal Climate Resilience Program by $9.9 million, which would diminish the ability of tribal governments to pursue new climate change projects on their own.

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pastedGraphic_12.pdfGov. Jerry Brown's Climate Coalition Continues to Add Members Heading into COP23

On September 17, California Gov. Jerry Brown's Under2 Coalition welcomed 10 new members, including Mozambique and the Marshall islands. The coalition pledges to greatly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by the middle of the century and has been signed or endorsed by 187 national, state, and local governments. Signatories must submit a plan for reducing their CO2 emissions to 80-90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, or they must reduce their annual emissions to two tonnes per capita. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a signatory of the coalition, explained, "The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement puts us, as a nation, out of step with where the rest of the world is headed. That doesn't mean that the cities can't pick up the slack." In aggregate, the governments that have joined the coalition to date represent 1.2 billion people, or 16 percent of the world's population. In addition, the group accounts for a GDP of $28.8 trillion, representing 39 percent of the global economy.

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pastedGraphic_13.pdfU.S. Companies Display a Disconnect between Their Public Stance on Climate and the Groups They Fund

A recent report from the Center for Public Integrity contrasts the public support for climate action by 27 businesses with their financial donations to a group that has fought the Paris Agreement. The companies who defended Paris, including Walmart, Facebook, Coca-Cola, Google, and Microsoft, were also found to have donated to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), an active opponent of the accord. In the past three and a half years, these companies have donated more than $3 million to RAGA, which has consistently spoken out against initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and filed lawsuits to halt the implementation of federal policies like the Clean Power Plan. Companies defended their need to "engage with elected officials on both sides of the aisle to influence policy," but collectively, 23 of the 27 companies examined gave $1.4 million less to the Democratic counterpart of RAGA. Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center for Justice said these types of monetary decisions by corporations "does lead one to wonder how strong their commitment to fight global warming actually is."

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pastedGraphic_14.pdfCompanies Band Together to Boost Demand for Electric Vehicles

The EV100 coalition contains ten companies who plan to increase the use of electric vehicles in their company's transportation fleet. More than half of all cars on the road today belong to private companies. Meanwhile, gas and diesel-powered transportation contributes nearly a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Seven of the ten companies have fully committed to transitioning their fleets to hydrogen-powered or plug-in electric cars. Other companies have pledged to build charging stations for electric vehicles or research ways to alter employee and consumer transit practices. Overall, the group hopes to expand its membership to 100 companies. Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research expects the electrification trend to gain momentum, stating, "By 2020 I would expect that most fleets that can will probably commit to it." Supporters of fleet electrification are pinning their emission reduction predictions on the continued integration of renewable energy into the electric grid, thus leading to more vehicles powered by low-carbon electricity in the future.

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Future Heat Waves Are a Source of Global Concern

Though international efforts to curb the use of fossil fuels have increased, scientists say the world is on a path to warming at least 3-4 degrees Celsius by 2100. There is concern about how the world will respond to a global temperature spike and the effects it may have on public health. For instance, Russia lost tens of thousands of people to a heat wave in 2010, and 35,000 Europeans died in the heatwave of 2003. Heat is considered a "silent killer," since few of the deaths it leads to are directly attributed to the heat waves themselves. The populations most vulnerable to extreme heat include the elderly, young, poor, and those with existing health conditions. Some governments have begun to prepare for this new threat with mitigative solutions, including white roofs, planting more trees, and sending water to needy areas. Gulrez Shah Azhar of the RAND Corporation observed, "The cost of setting up a heat preparedness plan is orders of magnitude cheaper than the cost of lives."

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

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