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Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
February 10, 2014

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USDA Announces Regional Hubs to Help Forestry & Agriculture Adapt to Climate Change

On February 5, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the locations of the seven first ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change. The “climate hubs” are part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), and aim to better assist farmers, ranchers and forest landowners adjust to the localized effects of climate change. The centers will address the complex risks climate change poses to rural economies, such as increased fire, pests, flooding and droughts. They will conduct outreach to interested parties with information from state and federal government agencies and universities, in an attempt to translate science into resource management practices. The hubs will also establish links between stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations, Native Nations, and farm groups. The hubs are to be located in Ames, IA, Durham, NH, Raleigh, NC, Fort Collins CO, El Reno, OK, Corvallis, OR, and Las Cruces, NM.  An additional three “sub-hubs” with a narrower focus on specific issues relative to the regional hubs will be established in California, Michigan and Puerto Rico. Vilsack commented, the hubs are “part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.” The sites were chosen through a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) competition.

For additional information see: The LA Times, CNN, Feedstuffs, USDA Press Release




Senators Ask President Obama to Stop Plans to Limit Power Plant Emissions

On January 31, 22 senators sent a letter to President Obama asking him to stop plans to impose new emission limits on existing power plants, as outlined in his June 2013 Climate Action Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faces a deadline to propose rules for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal power plants in June of this year, following up on proposed rules for GHG emissions from new coal power plants released on January 8, 2014 (see Climate Change News). The senators say these measures will have no effect on global temperatures and instead impose unnecessary costs on consumers. They ask the president to stop the upcoming regulations, saying, “whatever our disagreements might be on how best to approach a changing climate, we think we can all agree that whatever we do should not burden ratepayers and consumers.” The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and signed almost entirely by Republicans, with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

For additional information see: The Hill, Senator Blunt Press Release




Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Appointed as UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change

On January 31, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he was appointing former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. According to Ki-moon, Bloomberg will be involved in “consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders, in order to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his [Ki-moon’s] long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change.” Bloomberg focused on climate change during his 12 years as mayor of New York City, and as president of the board of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international group of mayors dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under his leadership as mayor, greenhouse gas emissions in New York City have dropped 19 percent since 2005, with the eventual goal of reducing emissions 30 percent by 2030. Bloomberg commented, “cities account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of the world’s energy use today, and their total population is projected to double by 2050 . . . cities have shown they have the capacity and the will to meet this challenge.”

For additional information see: Reuters, The Guardian, UN News Centre




Peruvian Minister of Environment Pushes for ‘First Draft’ of 2015 Climate Deal at Lima Meeting

On January 31, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s environment minister, told The Guardian that he hopes the first draft of a global climate agreement will be produced at the United Nations climate change summit set to take place in Lima, Peru at the end of this year. Nearly 200 governments will meet in Peru for the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP-20) to discuss climate policy before the 2015 summit in Paris, France, where a new global climate deal is expected. To create a draft, Pulgar-Vidal believes negotiators will need to make significant progress in agreements on the Green Climate Fund, which provides green financing to the developing world, and “loss and damage,” an emergency fund that provides money for damage incurred from climate change impacts. These issues slowed down last year’s talks in Warsaw, Poland (see Climate Change News). Peru is already feeling the effects of climate change, as it lost 39 percent of its tropical glaciers due to warming in the Andes between 1939 and 2006. Deforestation accounts for more than 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, with illegal logging and gold mining continually threatening Peru’s forests. Pulgar-Vidal plans to leave a legacy at the Lima summit through “green growth with clean technologies and low emissions . . . these options are fundamental for a nation such as ours which wants to continue growing. That’s our climate commitment.”

For additional information see: The Guardian




European Parliament Votes for Stringent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rules

On February 5, the European Parliament voted in favor of binding national targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The proposal is stronger than a January European Commission proposal that had only one binding goal, to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030, as well as other non-binding targets in renewable energy. In comparison, the parliamentary proposal calls for a 40 percent cut in GHG emissions compared with 1990 levels, 30 percent of energy to be sourced renewably, and a 40 percent increase in energy efficiency. The independent European Wind Energy Association estimates that a binding 30 percent reduction scheme would produce 570,000 new jobs and save 500 billion euros in fuel costs. Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change commented, “The right 2030 package will unlock low carbon investment, while keeping consumers’ energy bills down.” While the European Parliament vote has no legal force, it stimulates conversation on the topics of energy and environment prior to the European Union summit in March. No formal legislative proposals are expected until after elections later this year. Jason Anderson, head of Climate and Energy at the World Wildlife Fund commented, “energy efficiency and renewables are integral to achieving a low-carbon future and can't be downgraded to afterthoughts. A comprehensive package of binding targets for 2030 will reduce Europe’s dependence on volatile energy imports, create employment in low-carbon sectors, deliver health benefits for EU citizens and help ensure the avoidance of dangerous climate change.”

For additional information see: The Guardian, Irish Examiner, Reuters




Australia’s Electricity Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Fallen Since Implementing Carbon Tax

On February 5, the Australian Department of the Environment released its National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the September 2013 quarter. The report finds that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector have decreased by 7.6 percent, or 14.8 million tonnes, since Australia passed a carbon tax of $23 per tonne in 2012. This pricing scheme has been credited by the Green and Labor party with making renewable energy more price-competitive in Australia as well as encouraging more energy efficiency, which has lowered the emissions of climate change-contributing GHGs. Overall, emissions fell only 0.3 percent during the same period, primarily because of increased output from sectors not covered or only partially covered by the carbon tax scheme, such as land-clearing, transportation, coal mining and natural gas-fired power plants. Fugitive emissions from coal mining rose 8.3 percent last year, transportation emissions rose 2 percent, agriculture emissions rose 1.8 percent and industrial process emissions rose 0.4 percent, according to the report. Emissions from power generation fell 5.5 percent, or 11.3 million tonnes, from January-September 2013. While Prime Minister Abbott has vowed to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with an alternative scheme, the Green and Labor parties and the Senate majority have so far blocked the move. According to Greens leader Christine Milne, the emissions decreases in the power sector have been counteracted by the Prime Minister’s regulatory support of the coal seam gas industry and coal mines, stating “reducing free permits and ending fossil fuel subsidies to coal and gas would help to drive down emissions but the Abbott government is keen to maintain the culture of entitlement in those industries.”  

For additional information see: The Sydney Morning Herald, Business Spectator, Australia International Business Times, Australian Government Document




Sixty-three Largest World Cities Almost Double Climate Action in Last Two Years

On February 5, at the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the C40 Climate Leadership group released a report saying since 2011 the world’s 63 largest cities have doubled activities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The report shows over 8,000 implemented climate actions, including use of bikeshare programs, LED streetlights, emission reduction, hybrid buses, and others. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, C40 chairman, commented, “mayors have real power to cut emissions and improve climate resilience, and they are taking action.” C40 is a conference of mayors and officials from 66 cities worldwide, collectively representing 600 million people, 5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 21 percent of gross domestic product. C40 is focused on city-led climate actions on climate change and is planning on pushing the United Nations to include an urban component in their sustainable development goals. Speaking at the event, Johannesburg Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau detailed the progress Johannesburg has made in public transportation and renewable energy and said the world is increasingly looking towards cities for global leadership on climate change. The group says that mayors and cities are particularly well suited to drive national policy on climate change. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, commented, “If cities do not grip the issue of climate change, we will fail to address climate change.”

For additional information see: Bloomberg, The Atlantic Cities, Joberg.org, Study




ENE Energy Offers Key Reforms to Reduce Carbon Pollution in Northeast United States

On February 3, Environment Northeast (ENE), released a report titled, “EnergyVision: A Pathway to  Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future,” which outlines a strategy for New England states to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary driver of climate change, by 80 percent. Their recommendations include further integration of electric vehicles, updating regional power grids, increased use of renewable energy and further gains in energy efficiency. According to Daniel Sosland, president and chief executive officer of ENE, the Northeast is already reducing pollution from electricity generation primarily from the downward trend of coal-fired power plant and oil use, but could recognize deeper savings with integrated efficiency measures alone capable of providing New England with $19.5 billion in economic benefits and avoiding an additional 51.3 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sosland added, “the system we envision gives consumers greater control over their energy bills, provides significant economic benefit and achieves deep reductions in carbon emissions.”

For additional information see: Middletown Press, Fierce Energy, PV Magazine, Report




Climate Change Projected To Increase Heat-Related Deaths in United Kingdom by 257 Percent

On February 3, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published a paper on the effects of climate change on human health in the United Kingdom, finding that significantly more people will be at risk of death due to rising temperatures. The study data shows approximately 7,000 people a year will die due to heat in the 2050s, compared to about 2,000 per year today, an increase of 257 percent. However, fewer people are projected to die from cold due to expected milder winters. Rising temperatures will largely affect the health of the elderly and infirm, but researchers warn that people with low incomes could also be adversely affected if they do not have access to air conditioning or rely on walking as their main method of transportation. Researchers compared historic data on death rates and temperature fluctuations and projected temperature change and population growth data from the British Atmospheric Data Centre and Office for National Statistics, respectively. The study also found that regional differences will be exacerbated, with those residing in the South and Midlands feeling the worst effects. According to lead author Dr. Shakoor Hajat of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “as the world warms up it’s likely that populations will adapt to some extent, however because of the increased variability [in the weather] that we’re expecting and the rate of change in the warming, it’s unclear how successful future adaptations will be.”

For additional information see: The Guardian, The Independent, Medical Daily, Study




Sea Level Rise to Cost World Economy Trillions

On February 3, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published findings that if the world does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, storms and flooding damages will reach $100 trillion per year this century. Currently, the world spends $10 to $40 billion per year on storm and flood damage. The study, led by Global Climate Forum (GCF), a Berlin-based think-tank, says both developing and developed countries will be affected, although small island nations and developing countries will especially need international support and helping them now could save money down the road. The report says investing $10 to $70 billion a year worldwide in levees, flood proofing buildings, and coastal community planning to contain damages could drop the cost to $80 billion annually by 2100. Jochen Hinkel of the GCF and lead author of the study commented that greenhouse gas emissions lead to the rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities, saying “if we do not reduce greenhouse gases swiftly and substantially, some regions will have to seriously consider relocating significant numbers of people in the longer run.”

For additional information see: University Herald, Renewable Economy, The Ecologist, Study




Study Finds Glacier Responsible for Sinking the Titanic Now Moving at Record Speed

On February 3, the University of Washington and Germany's space agency published findings in The Cryosphere that Jakobshavn Glacier, the glacier believed to have produced the iceberg responsible for sinking the Titanic, is the fastest moving glacier in Greenland, traveling approximately 10 miles per year, as well as contributing significantly to sea level rise. Ian Joughin, a researcher at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington and lead author, said between 2000 and 2010 Jakobshavn “increased sea level by about 4/100 of an inch (1 mm), [and] with the additional speed, it likely will contribute a bit more than this over the next decade.” Researchers found a huge amount of surface melt caused the glacier to move a record speed of 17 kilometers per year, equivalent to 46 meters per day, in the summer of 2012. Studies of the glacier’s speed were measured via the German Space Agency’s satellite system, and were taken over a period of two years, 2012-2013. Warming regional surface temperatures due to climate change, the retreat of the glacier inland as more icebergs break off its front, and the increased rate of ice-sheet melting during summer in Greenland, are all contributing to Jakobshavn’s record speed.

For additional information see: International Business Times, CSMonitor, Independent.co.uk, Study




Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Not Found to Improve System-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On January 22, Environmental Science & Technology published findings that electric and hybrid cars have little to no effect on system-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The study says if there were to be a sharp increase in the number of electric drive vehicles (EDVs) to 42 percent of all passenger vehicles by the year 2050, global carbon dioxide levels would not be significantly reduced. Senior author Dr. Joseph DeCarolis, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State, said the small impact of low-emission vehicles was due in part to emissions from power plants which supply the electricity for electric vehicles, and the relatively small impact of passenger vehicles, which contribute only 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Goals for GHG emissions reduction were listed as a more effective way to control GHG emissions. Researchers from the North Carolina State University’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering and the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs examined 108 scenarios, controlling for the price of oil and natural gas, vehicle battery cost, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions policies to come to this conclusion. They found that while oil prices and battery cost proved the biggest factors in EDV deployment, "the model results do not demonstrate a clear and consistent trend toward lower system-wide emissions as EDV deployment increases."




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Writers: Jenifer Collins, Emily Jackson, Jessie Stolark and Laura Small


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