Monday, February 26, 2018



On Feb. 14, 2017 Inside Climate News published a paper by Nichlas Kusnetz titled, The impacts of global warming already affecting species have been widely underestimated, new research shows.  He wrote,
“Climate change may be harming far more of the world's threatened species than previously thought. A new study suggests that nearly half of the mammals and a quarter of the birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's "red list" have already become victims of a shifting climate.
The research, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, concludes that scientists and wildlife conservationists have failed to account for the damage inflicted by global warming.
"Our results clearly show that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds to date is currently greatly under-estimated and reported upon," co-author James Watson, of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a statement. "We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now, we need to communicate this to the wider public and we need to ensure key decision-makers know that something significant needs to happen now to stop species going extinct.”
"Climate change is not a future threat anymore."”

On Feb. 19 the Washington Post published an article by Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney titled, Countries made only modest climate-change promises in Paris. They’re falling short anyway.  The article pointed out that though the mood in Paris two years ago was euphoric, because 195 nations had pledged to reduce carbon emissions enough to keep the global average temperature increase to 2 or less, the increase will go beyond 2 even if all of the countries meet their pledges.  With the U.S.  - the world’s largest economy - droping out of the accord,, continued deforestation in Brazil, and rapid growing emissions from countries like Turkey, the prospects look rather dim.  The bright spots are the rapidly growing renewable energy industries in China and India, the possibility that many countries will decrease their emission pledges, and the fact that many cities and businesses are getting on board.  The authors write,The problem, experts say, is that if the world’s emissions don’t start declining decisively by then (2020, added)— and declining fast — it may be too late to stave off devastating sea level rise, crippling droughts and storms, and other catastrophic effects of climate change.”

On Feb 21 Reuters published an article by Sebastien Mali titled, U.S., Canadian provinces launch first cap-and-trade auction to battle climate change
The article announces that Ontario has now joined California and Quebec in putting a price on carbon emission through a cap-and-trade system.  The merger has created the second largest emissions trading market in the world.  The author wrote, For now, the European Union is considered the world’s largest carbon emission market, but China’s market is rapidly growing, experts say.”

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted with the title, on its website under "publications"
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 

Trump Administration Proposes Deep Cuts to EPA's Budget Once Again

On February 12, the Trump administration released its annual budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019. The proposal would reduce EPA's budget by 23 percent, a cut of more than $2.5 billion. It also proposes to eliminate several dozen programs, including partnerships to clean up the Gulf of Mexico and other large water bodies. Nearly all of the agency's climate change programs would be eliminated, including slashing a third of the funding for EPA's Office of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, the administration's priorities of Superfund cleanups and storm and waste water infrastructure would see an increase in support. EPA's popular Energy Star program is no longer on the administration's chopping block, but it would be funded entirely through fees, under the proposal. Overall, the Trump administration has sought to reduce EPA's workforce by more than 20 percent, dating back to its Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Environmental groups have been highly critical of the proposals, stating the agency cuts are a vehicle for culling federal environmental safeguards across the board.

For more information see:

Intelligence Chief Warns Congress of "Abrupt" Climate Change Consequences

On February 12, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned members of Congress about the devastating impacts of a warming climate and how they are likely to cause economic and social turmoil. Coats said, "Research has not identified indicators of tipping points in climate-linked earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change." Coats' words mark the first time a Trump administration intelligence official has assigned such a high degree of urgency and risk to climate change. Recently, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the military is preparing for climate change, although the Pentagon did not address climate action in its latest National Defense Strategy. The Trump administration did include a $720 million request for a new heavy icebreaker in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget request, a vessel the Coast Guard called essential as warming temperatures open up new territory in the Arctic region. There is no official requirement for the White House to act on the intelligence community's warnings.

For more information see:

NOTE: In 2009 I wrote a paper for the LWV Toolkit for Climate Action titled, Positive Feedback and Climate Runaway - the Need to Act Without Delay.  It describes a tipping point based on human-caused decomposition of methane hydrates -  causing an accelerating increase in carbon emissions

pastedGraphic.pdfInterior Department to Loosen Rule for Capturing Methane Emissions on Federal Land

The Department of Interior (DOI) intends to replace a 2006 regulation for methane emissions produced by oil and gas extraction on federal lands. DOI is expected to revert back to regulations that were in place prior to the Obama administration. The announcement marks the fourth time the Trump administration has delayed, set aside, or replaced this rule, which was finalized in late 2016. The rule requires energy companies to capture methane released at drilling sites, often through burning it off or flaring. Methane is a primary component of natural gas, with an estimated $330 million worth of methane from operations on federal lands wasted each year. However, many energy companies regard regulations to control the waste emissions as "unnecessary and overly intrusive." A federal judge rejected the administration's attempt to wholly repeal the rule in 2017, citing a lack of a "reasoned explanation" for doing so. The current effort would replace, rather than eliminate the existing methane rule.

For more information see:

White House Continues to Neglect Key Science and Technology Appointments

The Trump administration has yet to nominate an individual to serve as the president's chief science advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Instead, the role is currently occupied by OSTP's deputy assistant, Michael Krastios, who has no professional scientific background. One of the rumored nominees to take over the job is William Happer, an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University, who espouses "there is no problem from CO2." (emphasis added). Prior advisors caution that leaving the position vacant makes the country more vulnerable to crises that require a scientific leader to manage a rapid and informed response. In a letter, a group of Democratic senators urged the President to appoint a science advisor, writing, "Scientific and technical input would have contributed to decisions around climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea's nuclear program - areas where key decisions have been made over the past nine months in absence of a science adviser."

For more information see:

NOTE:  How can a physics professor at Princeton be so ignorant of basic climate science that he says, "there is no problem from CO2"? 

I recommend a booklet on the basic science of climate change for decision makers and educators, released jointly by. the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K.’s Royal Society in 2014, titled, Climate Change : Evidence and Causes.

pastedGraphic_1.pdfAlaskan Fishing Communities Explore Adding Climate Risk to Accounting Metrics

Climate change is becoming a real threat to the economy in Alaska's coastal fishing communities, as the state is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country. Dramatic changes in the marine ecosystem are affecting communities that rely almost entirely on their fishing industries, like the small town of Unalaska on the Bering Sea, which, along with other towns, is considering the addition of climate risks to their balance sheets. Even though the state's treasurer, Deven Mitchell, said that climate change is not a risk to the state's credit, some hold that having a credit rating for individual cities can help communities better understand their particular financial situation, especially when it comes to funding large infrastructure needs. Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty noted that fishing is the region's only major industry, adding, "The trickle-down effect you get for jobs throughout the community is all driven by the health and well-being of the seafood industry."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_2.pdfSatellite Data Shows Sea Levels Rising at Accelerated Rate

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the annual rate of global sea level rise is accelerating. The researchers used 25 years of satellite data to measure fluctuations in the oceans over time. They observed a total global sea level increase of 7 centimeters, which lined up with the generally accepted current rate of 3 millimeters per year. Lead author Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado-Boulder explained, "This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate, to more than 60 centimeters." The study's findings also concur with the most recent climate models published by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which projects sea level rise of 52-98 centimeters under a "business as usual" scenario. More than half of the current sea level rise was found to be the result of thermal expansion, with the rest resulting from melting glacial melting.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_3.pdfBat Populations Are Migrating Earlier and Staying Longer As Climate Warms

Each spring, millions of bats fly towards their breeding cave near San Antonio, Texas, with scientists tracking their movement by radar. Scientists recently reviewed this data and found that the bats are migrating two weeks earlier than they did just 20 years ago, with 3.5 percent of the population spending the winter in Texas as well. Researchers suspect this change in migration is due to altered food chains and weather patterns caused by climate change. Spring is seeing the highest temperature increases of all the seasons, which could disrupt the seasonal pest control cycle that the bats provide, causing crop damage and a heightened need for pesticides. In addition, increased temperatures mean bats may run out of a primary food source, the corn-earworm moth, potentially affecting their ability to reproduce. Overall, there is already not much for the bats to eat in the hot and dry climate of Texas, and global warming is intensifying that plight.

For more information see:

Study: As Oceans Acidify, Cold-Water Coral Reefs May Face Severe Decline

Hard corals prefer specific seawater saturation levels of a calcium carbonate called aragonite. According to a new study in Nature, ocean acidification can alter these saturation levels, creating corrosive conditions that can dissolve coral skeletons over time and leave fewer habitable regions for them. The study found that up to 70 percent of the cold-water coral living below depths of 1,500 meters in the North Atlantic Ocean may be threatened by the impacts of ocean acidification by midcentury. The researchers investigated changes to a "global conveyor belt" known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is now transporting acidified seawater to the deep ocean. As a result, transport of aragonite to the deep oceans has dropped by 44 percent since the Industrial Revolution and may continue to drop until the flow is only a fraction of pre-industrial levels. Without cold-water reefs, some marine ecosystems may lack a place for fish to gather and breed in an otherwise barren landscape.

For more information see:

Study: Decline in Krill Poses Threat to Antarctic Wildlife 
According to a new study in the journal Plos One, a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing is harming the krill population in the Antarctic, threatening the regional ecosystem. The tiny animals are at the base of the Antarctic food chain and serve as a key source of nutrition for whales, seals, and penguins. The krill themselves feed on marine algae and carbon-rich food, excreting this waste when they move to deeper, colder waters. Since the 1970s, krill populations have declined by 80 percent. The study also estimated that krill size could shrink by up to 40 percent in parts of the Scotia Sea, leading to a drop in predator populations. This drastic reduction has been partly attributed to global warming reducing the ice surfaces where the krill's food sources, algae and plankton, reside. Krill populations are facing additional pressures from a growing global demand for krill-based products and advances in fishing technologies that enable larger catches.

For more information see: 

pastedGraphic_4.pdfTrump Budget Tries to Eliminate Energy Star Funding for Second Consecutive Year

The Trump administration is facing stiff resistance to its plan to halt federal funding for the EPA's Energy Star program. The President's budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 called for the elimination of the program's entire $42 million budget. Under the proposal, companies seeking an Energy Star certification for their products would be required to pay a fee to EPA. Implementing the proposal would require congressional action, followed by the EPA setting up the fee structure. The Energy Star program provides energy efficiency benchmarks for appliances, electronics, building materials, lighting, and other products and allows companies to label their products with the program's insignia if they meet certain performance criteria. The program maintains broad support with industry, consumers, and environmentalists. Advocates note that the program generates an estimated $30 billion in energy savings annually. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MI), ranking member on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees EPA, said, "I've heard from builders, realtors, manufacturers, and retailers and they all support [Energy Star]."

For more information see:

EPA Administrator's Effort to Hold "Debate" on Climate Science Hits Snag

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been publicly sharing his plans to convene a "red team-blue team" event to push back against established climate science since at least July 2017. However, the effort appears to have stalled for the time being. Advocates for conducting the exercise have questioned Pruitt's ability to lead the effort, while others have expressed concern about the potential political fallout for the administration if it fails to produce a desirable outcome for President Trump's anti-climate agenda. Most recently, the so-called "red team" was being pitched as an internal review of policy, but Pruitt has informed Congress that the original exercise is still expected to happen. Michael Mann, a Penn State University climatologist, said, "The impacts of climate change are now obvious to anyone with an even half-open mind, and I suspect that [the administration's] own polling tell them that their anti-science tropes no longer are playing well with the public."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_5.pdfWestern Coal States Take Issue with Washington's Carbon Tax Proposal

The attorneys general of Montana and Wyoming have suggested that Washington State's carbon tax proposal amounts to an unlawful regulation of environmental issues across state lines. The states have cited the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and EPA's federal authority under the Clean Air Act as grounds for their complaint. Montana and Wyoming both house coal-fired power plants that sell electricity in Washington, which is currently considering a $10 per ton carbon tax. For instance, the Colstrip Power Plant is located in Montana, but its largest stakeholder is Puget Sound Energy, which serves 1.5 million customers in Washington. Any pollution generated by the plant in connection with those customers would be subject to the tax. One point of contention is a tax exemption granted to a coal-fired plant in Centralia, Washington that happens to exclusively source its coal from Wyoming and Montana. The plant's owners had agreed to switch to natural gas by 2021.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_6.pdfPetroleum Industry Takes Notice as Electric Vehicle Adoption Accelerates

A rapid shift toward electric vehicles by the global auto industry has forced the oil industry to adapt as well. General Motors has stated it will bring at least 20 electric vehicle models to market by 2025, while Daimler and BMW predict up to 25 percent of their sales will consist of electric models by then. National governments are also advancing the transition. China has expressed a desire to have one in five vehicles sold there to be electric within a decade, while India is aiming to sell only electric vehicles in the country after 2030. France and the United Kingdom have pledged to ban petroleum-fueled cars altogether by 2040. As a result, Dutch Shell and BP are predicting global oil demand will peak by 2040, if not earlier. Petroleum companies are beginning to move away from petroleum assets and are emphasizing alternative energy and natural gas. In the United States, gasoline and diesel sales currently account for 70 percent of American crude oil demand.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_7.pdfReport: Warmer Temperatures Could Cost U.S. Winter Sports Industry $1 Billion per Season

According to a new report from the advocacy group Protect Our Winters, the low and variable snowfall that is expected to become more common due to climate change can make a significant dent in the American recreation industry. An analysis of reduced snowfall years led to a loss of $1 billion to the economy and 17,400 jobs compared to an average season. While some ski resorts do have equipment to generate their own snow, less business can lead to layoffs. Resorts across the western United States have been experiencing warmer temperatures and reduced snowfall, affecting the quality and availability of activities including skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Rebecca Hill, a natural resources economist and report contributor, said, "When somebody goes and skis, they don't just spend money on that lift ticket. They also spend money at restaurants in the area. They buy gas in the area. So it's those other support industries that are also going to be harmed."

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_8.pdfPrivate Sector Developing Services for Hyperlocal Climate Risk Assessments

A growing demand for knowledge on how climate change may disrupt private sector operations has led to the growth of companies working to fill in the gaps left by the slow pace of government entities. However, these new companies will have to contend with the uncertainty that follows location-specific, short-term climate forecasting. Some insurance companies already study climate risks and use those outlooks to advise clients on how to avoid those risks. One tech sector start-up, Jupiter, has received $10 million in venture capital and has been recruiting scientists, weather modelers, and data analysts to develop a range of predictive tools that can provide granular risk management details for clients. Company founder Rick Sorkin said, "We know the planet's getting warmer and sea levels are rising, but on a hyperlocal basis, the quality of those predictions can be much better than it is." Although the U.S. government could assemble this information as well, federal agencies tend to devote their resources toward short-term weather predictions, while long-term needs like updated flood plain maps remain underfunded by Congress.

For more information see:

 pastedGraphic_9.pdfStudy: Ocean Acidification May Dissolve Coral Reefs before 2100

According to a new study appearing in the journal Science, ocean acidification could begin to dissolve coral reefs before 2100. The acidic waters could lead to "net dissolving," meaning the reefs would be losing more material than they can gain for coral growth. The sediments that reefs rely upon for construction are made up of small pieces of coral and other carbonate organisms that have accumulated over millennia. These sediments are 10 times more vulnerable to acidification than the coral animals themselves, which may be able to adapt somewhat. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide reacts with sea water to form a weak acid. The researchers said it was unclear whether the sediment dissolution could eventually threaten the integrity of entire islands. Coral are already threatened by rising ocean temperatures, pollution, and overfishing. Particularly vulnerable habitats, including Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, are already starting to dissolve due to a mix of factors.

For more information see:

pastedGraphic_10.pdfStudy Adds to Evidence of Connection between Today's Emissions and Future Sea Levels

New research indicates inaction on addressing greenhouse gas emissions could have serious consequences for global sea level increases. A study published in Nature Communications found that every five year period where significant climate action is delayed, sea levels could increase by an additional eight inches per year by 2300. The projection is based on the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, which necessitates an end to new greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The longer countries wait to begin drawing down emissions, the less likely this goal will be achieved, thus leading to more severe sea level rise in the future. Additional factors, such as the destabilization of the Antarctic ice sheet, could produce even greater sea level spikes. Lead author Matthias Mengel of the Potsdam Institute said, "One important point was to reveal that sea level [rise] is not in the far future, it's now, and because the system is so slow, we just can't see it at the moment. But we cause it now."

For more information see:

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

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