Climate Change News
Brought to you by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Carol Werner, Executive Director
May 16, 2008
ACEEE Finds Major Untapped Energy-Efficiency Potential
On May 15, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a 60-page report, "The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture," finding that "Given the right choices and investments in the many cost-effective but underutilized energy efficiency technologies, the United States can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by an additional 25-30 percent or more over the course of the next 20-25 years." According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ACEEE, McKinsey and other experts, energy efficiency is generally acknowledged to be the lowest-cost and fastest-to-deploy resource to slow the growth of carbon dioxide emissions, with positive economic impacts. ACEEE's report says, "Cost-effective energy efficiency is known as a 'no-regrets' climate policy, because it makes economic sense regardless of its climate mitigation impacts."
Key report findings include:
* Annual investments in energy efficiency technologies currently support 1.6 million U.S. jobs. The $300 billion invested in energy efficiency in 2004 was three times the amount invested in traditional energy infrastructure.
* Investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone – roughly the equivalent of the energy required to operate 40 mid-sized coal-fired plants. (According to EIA, the United States 100.3 quads in 2004.)
* Since 1970, energy efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand for new energy-related services while conventional energy supply has covered only one-fourth of this demand.
* Investments in additional energy efficiency technologies could increase the annual energy efficiency market by nearly $400 billion by 2030, resulting in an annual efficiency market of more than $700 billion – and total additional investments over the period 2008-2030 of nearly $7 trillion.
The report finds that the buildings sector accounted for nearly 60 percent of total energy efficiency investments in 2004. The industrial sector accounted for one quarter and the transportation sector accounted for 11 percent of total efficiency investments. The largest share of related jobs is found in the buildings sector, which generated approximately two-thirds of all efficiency-related jobs (more than one million).
Lloyd Jeff Dumas, Professor of Political Economy, Economics and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Chair, Civil Society Institute Working Group on the Economy and Global Warming, said, "In effect, energy efficiency is buying the time that America needs to develop new clean energy sources that will reduce the greenhouse gases linked to global warming. This study sends a powerful message that members of the public, elected officials, and corporations need to squeeze out even more of the potential of energy efficiency as part of a comprehensive energy strategy that looks to our future, rather than the past."
For more information see:
Sen. McCain Gives Speech on Climate Change
On May 12, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) addressed the threat of climate change and said if elected President, he would pursue mandatory curbs on US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He vowed to take the lead in combating climate change, seek international accords to reduce GHG emissions and offer an incentive system to make businesses in the United States cleaner. His major solution is to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon emissions, and he says expanded nuclear power must be considered to reduce carbon emissions. McCain said, “In a cap-and-trade energy economy, the cost of building new reactors will be less prohibitive. The incentives to invest in a mature, zero-emissions technology will be stronger. New research and innovation will help the industry to overcome the well known drawbacks to nuclear power, such as the transport and storage of waste. And our government can help in these efforts. We can support research to extend the use of existing plants. Above all, we must make certain that every plant in America is safe from the designs of terrorists. And when all of this is assured, it will be time again to expand our use of one of the cleanest, safest, and most reliable sources of energy on earth.”
McCain said his plan would set specific goals on US GHG emissions, including a return to 2005 emission levels by 2012, 1990 levels by 2020, and to a level 60 percent below that by 2050.
He said, “As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. More likely, however, there will be some companies that need extra emissions rights, and they will be able to buy them. The system to meet these targets and timetables will give these companies extra time to adapt—and that is good economic policy.”
For more information see:
DOE Finds Wind Can Provide 20% of US Electricity Needs By 2030
On May 12, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a report, “20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply,” that examines the technical feasibility of harnessing wind power to provide up to 20 percent of the nation's total electricity needs by 2030. The report identifies requirements to achieve this goal including reducing the cost of wind technologies, siting new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability. The report says that achieving a 20 percent wind contribution to US electricity supply would:
* Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25 percent in 2030;
* Reduce natural gas use by 11 percent;
* Reduce water consumption associated with electricity generation by 4 trillion gallons by 2030;
* Increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5 billion by 2030; and
* Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the United States, with more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.
Andy Karsner, DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said “DOE’s wind report is a thorough look at America's wind resource, its industrial capabilities, and future energy prices, and confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America's energy needs, now and in the future.”
For more information see:
Poll: 76% of Ohioans Believe That Climate Change is Occurring
On March 6-9, a telephone survey was conducted in which 600 Ohio voters were asked questions about their feelings on climate change, solutions to confront climate change, and whether or not those solutions would have a positive or negative impact on job growth and quality of life in Ohio. The survey was conducted by Midwest Communications and Media, and commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation. The results of the poll showed:
* 76 percent of respondents believe that climate change is currently occurring;
* 81 percent of respondents believe that investing in renewable, clean energy sources could lead to an increase in new jobs in Ohio;
* 74 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who says that requiring cuts in carbon emissions would create a demand for innovative technologies and create new jobs in Ohio and across the United States; and
* Almost 80 percent believe that climate change is a problem we should take responsibility for and not pass on to our children and grandchildren.
For more information see:
World CO2 Levels at Record High of 387 ppm
Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have reached a record high, now standing at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40 percent since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years. The report, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirms that CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. The report says the annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14 ppm—the fourth year in the past six to experience an annual rise greater than 2 ppm. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5 ppm each year. The scientists say the shift could indicate that the Earth is losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tons of carbon each year. They reported that climate models assume that about half of the future emissions will be re-absorbed by forests and oceans, but new figures confirm that may be too optimistic.
On May 14, a similar study published in Nature by scientists working on the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) reported that concentrations of CO2 and methane are 28 and 124 percent higher, respectively, than any time during the last 800,000 years. The study, which was conducted by studying CO2 and methane trapped in tiny bubbles of air in ice 3,200 meters below the surface of Antarctica, reported a new record low for CO2 at 172 ppm in the atmosphere about 667,000 years ago, about 10 ppm below the previous known low, and giving an ancient natural range of 172 to about 300 ppm. The study reports CO2 levels are now at about 380 ppm.
Martin Parry, co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said “Despite all the talk, the situation is getting worse. Levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise in the atmosphere and the rate of that rise is accelerating. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change and the scale of those impacts will also accelerate, until we decide to do something about it.”
For more information see:
NRDC Analysis: Lieberman-Warner Bill Would Boost Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
On May 14, an analysis was released demonstrating that meeting global warming pollution reduction targets in the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S.2191) will reduce oil imports, increase clean energy production and lead to dramatically more fuel-efficient vehicles. The analysis, conducted by the International Resources Group (IRG) for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), also found that reaching the targets can be achieved without a significant increase in the country’s total energy costs (a 0.45 percent increase).
The model calculates CO2 allowance prices that rise steadily over time from $12 per ton of CO2 in 2020 to $20 per ton in 2030 and almost $50 per ton in 2050. It found that the Lieberman-Warner emission limits could be achieved with reductions to greenhouse gases (GHG) from the following sources:
* Electric demand reduction—19 percent
* Renewable energy—24 percent
* Carbon sequestration—8 percent
* Domestic offset—13 percent
* International credits—18 percent
* Nuclear power—0 percent
According to the analysis, natural gas demand will decrease substantially as renewable electricity generation increases. Renewables will grow to between 50 percent and 60 percent of total electricity supply by 2050. Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate Center, said “This analysis confirms that passing Lieberman-Warner will lead to increased energy efficiency, more electricity from renewables, and reduced oil consumption. . .[It] confirms that we can do this with little cost to our energy system.”
For more information see:
Voluntary Carbon Trade Grows 240% in 2007
The report, “State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2008,” compiled by New Carbon Finance and Ecosystem Marketplace, found the value of trade in the global voluntary carbon market grew by 240 percent in 2007 to $331 million, and identified 65 million tons of emissions reductions taking place in 2007 on a voluntary basis. The previous year’s report found 25 million tons of reductions in 2006.
The study, compiled from 150 suppliers of carbon offsets, as well as registries and brokers, reported that the average price paid to offset one ton of CO2 or equivalent greenhouse gases (GHG) rose 49 percent from 2006 to 2007—from $4.10 per ton to $6.10 per ton. However, the report said prices continued to fluctuate, with trades as low as $1.80 per ton to as high as $300 per ton.
DOI Announces Decision to Protect Polar Bears under Endangered Species Act
On May 14, Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, announced that he is accepting the recommendation of Dale Hall, US Fish and Wildlife Service Director, to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. It says this loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species. Kempthorne said that he did not view the increased protection of the bear afforded by the ESA as a back door to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG) coming from power plants, automobiles and industrial sources—he sought to assure the business community that the bear’s protection would not keep someone from building a coal-burning power plant or drilling for oil in Arctic waters.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife, said, “They're trying to make this a threatened listing in name only with no change in today’s impacts and that's not going to fly.” Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said, “We don't need to sacrifice polar bears and other wildlife just so Big Oil can add to their tens of billions in record profits. America already has the technology and the will to embrace a clean energy economy that will end our dangerous dependence on oil, fight global warming, and leave wild, pristine places like the Arctic intact. The Bush administration’s sham plan also proposes changes that could gut the ESA and prevent it from ever being used to actually protect the polar bear or address global warming.”
For more information see:
Senate Hearing Examines Impacts of Climate Change on US Coastal Regions
On May 13, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing entitled, “Impacts of Climate Change on Energy Infrastructure,” to examine the impacts of climate change on the reliability, security, economics and design of critical energy infrastructure in coastal regions. Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), said, “A significant portion of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards and changes in climate.” Dr. Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist of the Global Change Programs, US Geological Survey, said “The analysis of a ‘middle range’ of potential sea level rise of 0.6 to 1.2 meters (2 to 4 feet) indicates that a vast portion of the Gulf Coast from Houston to Mobile may be inundated over the next 50 to 100 years.” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said Congress should increase attention and funding into protecting infrastructure in the Gulf Coast from predicted rises in sea levels and severe storms intensified by climate change. “We have two choices. We can protect this or move it. I suggest protecting it will be less expensive.”
In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected a 50 centimeter (20 inch) rise in sea level around North America in the next century from climate change alone. In March, the study, “Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure,” by the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) reported on the Gulf Coast saying that the area could expect the sea level to rise 2 to 4 feet over the next 50 to 100 years.It said since much of the land in the Gulf Coast is sinking, this area is facing much higher increases in relative sea level rise (the combination of local land surface movement and change in mean sea level) than most other parts of the US coast.
The CCSP study reported that relative sea level in the Gulf Coast is very likely to increase by at least 0.3 meters (1 ft) across the region and possibly as much as 2 meters (6 to 7 feet) in some parts over the next 50 to 100 years. It said the analysis of even a middle range of potential sea level rise indicates that a vast portion of the Gulf Coast from Houston to Mobile may be inundated in the future.
For more information see:
LBNL Proposes New Supercomputers for Climate Predictions
Although cloud systems have been included in climate models in the past, they lack the details that could improve the accuracy of climate predictions. A cloud system model at the 1-kilometer (km) scale would provide rich details that are not available from existing models. To develop a 1-km cloud model, scientists would need a supercomputer that is 1,000 times more powerful than what is available today. A standard supercomputer that would do this would cost about $1 billion. The system also would require 200 megawatts of electricity to operate, enough energy to power a small city of 100,000 residents. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) researchers say that with innovative technology, such a climate supercomputer would cost $75 million to construct, would consume less than 4 megawatts of power and achieve a peak performance of 200 petaflops (200,000 trillion floating-point operations per second).
In related news, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has taken delivery of a new IBM supercomputer that will advance research into severe weather and the future of Earth's climate. Scientists at NCAR and across the country will use the new system to accelerate research into climate change, including future patterns of precipitation and drought around the world, changes to agriculture and growing seasons, and the complex influence of global warming on hurricanes. The new supercomputer has a peak speed of more than 76 teraflops (76 trillion floating-point operations per second), and relies on a unique, water-based cooling system that is 33 percent more energy-efficient than traditional air-cooled systems.
DOE Awards Grants to New Carbon Capture and Sequestration Projects
The US Department of Energy (DOE) says it has awarded more than $126.6 million for its fifth and sixth large-scale carbon sequestration projects. DOE says the projects, awarded to the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB) and the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP), will demonstrate the ability of geologic formations to safely, permanently and economically store more than 1 million tons of CO2.
In related news, DOE granted $65 million towards a four-year experiment, scheduled to begin in 2011, to pump 1 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) more than a mile beneath a Kern County, California power plant. In the experiment the power plant's exhaust will go directly into a 7,000-foot-deep well. James Boyd, vice chairman of the California Energy Commission, which is leading the experiment, said “This is extremely relevant in the San Joaquin Valley, where air quality is such a big issue. . . It's a ‘double positive’ because it will prevent the release of both greenhouse gas and ozone-making pollution.”
UN Sets Goal of 7 Billion in World Tree Planting Drive
On May 13, the United Nations set a goal to lead an effort of planting 7 billion trees worldwide by the end of 2009 to help protect the environment and slow climate change. The UN Environment Program (UNEP), an organizer of the planting drive, said that safeguarding forests and planting trees are among the most cost-effective ways to slow climate change. The tree planting campaign, inspired by Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, is said to help mitigate the effects of pollution and environmental deterioration. The campaign, launched in 2006, saw two billion trees planted, double the original one billion target. Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, said “The goal of two billion trees has also proven to be an underestimate. The goal of planting seven billion trees, equivalent to just over a tree per person alive on the planet, must therefore also be doable.”
For more information see:
May 20, 2008 Hearing: Energy and Related Economic Effects of Climate Change Legislation
Beginning Tuesday, May 20 at 10:00 am, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing to receive testimony on "Energy and Related Economic Effects of Global Climate Change Legislation." Witnesses include experts from CRS, EPA, EIA, and CBO. The hearing will be held in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. For more information, see:
May 21, 2008 Risk Management, Mitigation, and Renewable Energy Technology
The American Council On Renewable Energy in collaboration with the American Bar Association's (ABA) Renewable Energy Resources Committee will host a teleconference with a panel of experts who will discuss varying perspectives on how the current risk management environment is evaluated by participants in the renewable energy sector. The event takes place on Wednesday, May 21 from 12:00-1:30 pm ET. There is a $25 charge for this event. Click on the following link for more information: http://www.renewableenergyinfo.org
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