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Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
April 14, 2014

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Department of Interior Announces National Strategy to Manage Fires

On April 9, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots released the National Cohesive Fire Management Strategy, a document detailing approaches to address wildfire threats, restore and maintain healthy landscapes, and prepare communities for wildfire season. The report gives both national and regional suggestions for action, including: using preventative measures, such as controlled burns; encouraging effective state, county and municipal building and zoning codes; and ensuring that future management plans include watersheds, transportation and utility corridors. The strategy also uses risk analysis to address how factors such as climate change, pests, disease, and urban sprawl will affect forest health. “As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire,” commented Boots. Chris Maisch, president of the National Association of State Foresters and an Alaska State Forester, added, “As we move into implementation, it is important to note that this collaborative effort is broader and more inclusive than previous efforts.” The report is the result of collaborative work by federal, state, tribal and local partners, as well as public stakeholders. The new strategic plan for wildfires supports the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, announced in June of last year.

For additional information see: Press Release, Report




Senate Considering the Nomination of Janet McCabe for Top Position at the EPA

On April 8, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a confirmation hearing for Janet McCabe, who has been the acting Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air and Radiation Office since last summer. The hearing focused on the role of the EPA in regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, as McCabe will play a large role in finalizing controversial GHG emissions regulations. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) asked McCabe if the EPA has done enough to measure the economic impact of the regulations, and stated that the regulations themselves may worsen public health issues, saying people who may lose their jobs at plants will risk health issues from long periods of unemployment. McCabe said her time at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management gave her experience working with industry and business alongside environmental and public health groups, adding, “Government works best when all perspectives are at the table.” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) stated his support for the EPA’s work to curb GHG emissions, saying, “. . . We have to engage in the kind of smart, forward-looking activities that help us to avoid the worst, most catastrophic consequences of global warming. And you’re at the front lines of doing this.” The Environment and Public Works Committee has not yet announced when it will conduct a vote on McCabe’s nomination, which will face a full Senate vote if it passes the Committee.

For additional information see: Indiana Courier-Journal, National Journal




IPCC Working Group III Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

On April 7, Members of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change Working Group III (IPCC WG III) began a meeting in Berlin, Germany, to approve the Summary for Policymakers of WG III, which focuses on climate mitigation. According to the site, the IPCC WG III “[assessed] all relevant options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere.”  The meeting concluded on April 12, with a finalized assessment report released on Sunday, April 13, at http://mitigation2014.org/.

For additional information see: IPCC




Chile Releases Plan for Carbon Tax

On April 7, Chilean President Michele Bachelet presented a proposal for an environmental tax on thermal power plants with over 50 megawatts of capacity, which would place a $5 tax on each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. The proposed tax would also target other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Chile, the world’s top producer of copper, has encountered censure from environmental groups for using coal-fired power plants to power its copper mines. The new policy will encourage these power plants to reduce harmful emissions. The environmental tax is also part of a larger strategy of fiscal reform meant to increase revenue and support social policies. The government in Chile commented, “This measure has the objective to encourage the shift to clean technologies.” Mexico imposed a carbon tax on January 1, 2014, which taxes carbon at the average rate of $3 a tonne. Chile’s Congress must approve the tax before it can go forward.

For additional information see: Reuters, Environmental-Expert




Shell and Unilever Join 68 Businesses in Advocating for a 1-Trillion Ton Limit on Carbon Emissions

On April 8, Unilever, Shell, BT and EDF Energy were among 70 large companies which released a communiqué demanding that governments institute policies to put in place a cap of one trillion tonnes of carbon on emissions from the Industrial Revolution on. The letter, organized by The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, also asked governments to set a timeline to achieve zero net emissions before the end of this century, create a strategy to transform the energy system, and reform the global economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal. “We need to get beyond the concept that progressive climate change policy is bad for business: it can be a huge driver of innovation and create opportunities for growth and prosperity,” said Niall Dunne, chief sustainability officer at BT. “Conversely, there isn’t an organization I know of which isn’t already being impacted by climate change at some level.” This is the seventh letter the Corporate Leaders Group has released on climate change; in November 2012, they called for a global price on carbon.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Bloomberg, Trillion Ton Communique




Over 100 Economists and Scientists Write to Protest Keystone Pipeline for Negative Climate Impacts

On April 7, over 100 scientists and economists sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry concerning the need to block the Keystone XL pipeline because it would worsen climate change. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released the letter from the scientists and economists, which includes various award winners, including the winners of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics and 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics. According to the authors, “Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction . . . the potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO2e is more than the emissions that seven coal-fired power plants emit in one year. And over the 50-year expected lifespan of the pipeline, the total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e.” President Obama is expected to make a decision concerning Keystone XL in the coming months.

For additional information see: The Hill, NRDC Blog, Letter




CCAC Announces $10 Million Investment to Clean Up Climate Pollutants and Improve Public Health

On April 3, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) announced plans to invest $10 million to cut short-lived climate pollutant emissions in the transportation, agriculture, municipal waste, and fossil fuel sectors. The Coalition is also launching a campaign to improve air quality, citing concerns over the 7 million annual premature deaths from air pollutants reported by the World Health Organization last month. “We are especially excited about expanding our work at the city level, where air quality is of the essence. The new work will provide knowledge and evidence to make critical advances toward reduction of short-lived climate pollutants,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the Coalition secretariat at the United Nations Environment Programme. The upcoming projects range from creating global strategies to cut particulate pollution from maritime vessels and ports, to regulating vehicle standards in emerging markets in Africa. The CCAC will be tackling methane emissions from flaring and venting from oil and gas, and from rice paddy production in Asia and South America, where improvements are also expected to benefit crop yields and water resources.


The Coalition has already launched projects to demonstrate the commercial viability of low global warming potential alternatives to the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) currently used for refrigeration and cooling, which are on track to account for 19 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent emissions by 2050. “The Coalition has been brilliant in developing a spirit of urgent optimism, a spirit that is critical for solving the daunting problem of climate change,” stated Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, one of the CCAC’s NGO members. “And it’s starting to bring its strategies to the scale it needs to meet the bold challenge of cutting the rate of warming in half for the next 40 years.” 

For additional information see: CCAC, Energy Live News, WHO




NBC Plays One-Hour Documentary on Climate Change

On April 6, NBC aired a one-hour documentary, “Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home?” In the documentary, NBC reporter Ann Curry travels from the Arctic to drought-stricken regions in the American West, explores rising sea levels in Florida, and looks at the storm-devastated coast of Long Island. Curry also more broadly covers extreme weather events all over the world. In Alaska, many Inuit families are leaving their homes because they are no longer able to live from the land. Curry met with Aqqaluk Lynge, a leader of the Inuit, who had a message for the world: “Protect it, take good care of it.” In Miami Beach, $400 million is being spent to build pumps to keep water off the peninsula. Keren Bolter, a research scientist at Florida Atlantic University's Center for Environmental Studies, said, “We don't have time to argue. It's here. It's happening and we need to do something, and there's an urgency about it.”

For additional information see: NBC, NBC




Climate Change Is Focus of New Showtime Series, Years of Living Dangerously

On April 16, a new nine-part series on climate change premiered on the premium channel Showtime, starring famous correspondents including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Mark Bittman, Harrison Ford, Thomas Friedman, Ian Somerhalder, and more. The show, produced by James Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Jerry Weintraub, Daniel Abbasi, Maria Wilhelm, and former 60-Minutes producers who have won 12 Emmys between them (Joel Bach and David Gelber), offers a human face to climate change. In addition to the television series, Years of Living Dangerously has teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation to create appropriate curriculum and online experiences to allow middle and high school teachers, college faculty, and parents to incorporate the curriculum into their work. “The goal of Years of Living Dangerously is to galvanize a national conversation on the realities of climate change and inspire people to share their own stories and empower them to get involved in solutions,” commented David Gelber. The first episode is available for free on YouTube.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Years of Living Dangerously




Majority of World Bank Projects Ignore Climate Risks, WRI Reports

On April 2, the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report entitled, Designed for the Future? Assessing Principles of Sustainable Development and Governance in the World Bank’s Project Plans, discussing how the World Bank is failing to take climate change into account for a majority of its funding decisions. This report found that the World Bank considered climate change for only a quarter of all its approved projects between January 2012 and June 2013. This is surprising considering the World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, recognizes the challenges of climate change, and released a report in 2013 which argued that climate change “could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions.” According to Clifford Polycarp of WRI, “the reality is, climate considerations are still something that has yet to make its way into the operational considerations they [the World Bank] make.” The World Bank responded with thanks towards WRI for releasing this report and stated that it plans to increase climate risks screening and introduce a greenhouse gas accounting program. WRI president and CEO, Andrew Steer, who served as the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change from 2010 to 2012, believes that, “the World Bank’s willingness to adapt and experiment has been its historical strength . . . we are confident it will address the climate challenge with the same innovative spirit.”

For additional information see: Huffington Post, Report




Gallup Poll Shows a Third of Americans Concerned With Climate Change

On April 4, Gallup released polling results showing that Americans show low levels of concern on global warming. When asked about how much Americans worry about climate change, 35 percent said they worried a “great deal” about climate change, which is up two percentage points from March 2013. According to the Gallup article, “Americans’ generally low level of concern about global warming compared with other environmental issues is not new; warming has generally ranked last among Americans’ environmental worries each time Gallup has measured them with this question over the years.” The highest level of concern about global warming occurred in 2007, with 41 percent of Americans saying they worry about it a “great deal.” Gallup has found that political party affiliation is a powerful indicator of worry over global warming, with 56 percent of Democrats worrying a “great deal,” with only 29 percent of Independents and 16 percent of Republicans feeling that they worry about global warming a “great deal.” These results are part of a series analyzing climate change public opinion and how these views have changed over time; Gallup has been measuring climate change opinion since 1989. Gallup identifies the role of politics and the fact that many Americans do not feel that they have been personally affected by climate change as key reasons why the majority of Americans do worry more about this important issue.

For additional information see: Gallup Poll




New Report Judges How Accurately Cable News Channels Represent Climate Change

On April 7, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report on how accurately several major news networks—CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – covered climate change, if they covered it at all. The report found that in all examined coverage within the last year, MSNBC was in the lead with 92 percent accuracy, CNN in second place with 70 percent accuracy of climate science coverage, and Fox News brought up the rear with 28 percent accuracy. Aaron Huertas, a science communications officer at UCS and leader of the study, said that it seemed like the major news networks were “covering different planets.” UCS studied a total of 569 clips of cable news coverage from these networks over the course of 2013 for the key words “climate change” and “global warming,” and compared them against “actual published, peer-reviewed climate science.” Each network's segments were then classified as misleading or accurate based on this comparison, a single inaccuracy marking the entire segment misleading. Huertas explained it was crucial that the major news networks took care about how they covered climate science for the public eye, especially when choosing speakers for the topic, as “[the] audiences will then share and spread this information based on their beliefs and principles.”

For additional information see: Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Study, Report




Other Headlines



Writers: Ivana Andrade, Jenifer Collins, Emily Jackson, Claire Phillips and Laura Small


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