Climate Change News

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Climate Change News
Brought to you by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Carol Werner, Executive Director
March 13, 2009


International Climate Change Conference Updates Science and Elevates Urgency

From March 10-12, over 2000 researchers from 80 countries gathered in Copenhagen to discuss the latest findings in regard to climate change.  The conclusions of the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change are intended to aid politicians during discussions at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen this December, where a new global agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to succeed the Kyoto Protocol will be discussed.  Scientists at the conference concluded, “The worst-case Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized. . . . There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.”   

Scientific findings supporting this statement included a consensus that sea levels will rise one meter by 2100 due to accelerated melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, as well as a projection that a 2ºC rise above pre-industrial levels will result in a 20-40 percent die-off of the Amazon rainforest within 100 years due to drought.  The Amazon die-off is considered an example of a “positive feedback effect,” whereby increased warming produces increased CO2 concentrations.  Other examples of this type of effect potentially include ocean acidification and increased melting of the Arctic tundra.  Findings from the event included a prediction that the average cost of living will likely increase due to such things as higher taxes, higher insurance premiums and even the cost of keeping up a garden.  Speaking at the conference, British economist Nicholas Stern warned, “Climate change is not like a World Trade Organization negotiation where, if it falls apart, you can pick it up five years later and be more or less in the same position. If you wait, you will be in a significantly worse position.”

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National Research Council: America Unprepared for Climate Change

On March 12, the National Research Council released a report stating that government agencies and policymakers are not getting the information they need in order to properly prepare for the impacts of climate change.  “Many decision makers are experiencing or anticipating a new climate regime and are asking questions about climate change and potential responses to it that federal agencies are unprepared to answer,” said the report, titled Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change. “Robust and effective responses to climate change demand a vastly improved body of scientific knowledge.” Current building, land use and planning practices assume a constant climate, which the report says is no longer a valid assumption. The report listed the city of New York as an example, which is working towards a goal of 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “Accomplishing the goal will take literally thousands of individual decisions in order to upgrade existing municipal buildings, including firehouses, police precincts, sanitation garages, offices and courthouses,” the report concluded. Some of the recommendations made by the National Research Council, which is the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, include the formation of a national climate service and for further research to determine which parts of the country would be most vulnerable to global warming.

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EPA Proposes Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting

On March 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from approximately 13,000 facilities in the United States, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of the nation’s total emissions. An EPA press release stated that the proposed registry, which currently only requires electric power plants to submit GHG emission levels, would now apply to “suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, as well as large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or greater than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year.”  This threshold is roughly equivalent to the emissions produced by 4,500 passenger cars each year.  The announcement came amidst a parallel investigation by the EPA on whether greenhouse pollution is considered an endangerment to human health.  The registry is likely to complement future legislation that will regulate GHG emissions.  “Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, the EPA would require the first annual report to be submitted in 2011 for calendar year 2010, while vehicle and engine manufacturers would need to submit data for model year 2011.  The EPA estimates the reporting compliance will cost the private sector $160 million in the first year, and $127 million annually for subsequent years.  The EPA noted that the proposal took into account the emissions auditing developments that have already been made by states, regions and voluntary programs.   The EPA also stated that most small businesses would fall below the threshold and would not be required to report emissions.  “This is a critical step toward helping us better protect our health and environment – all without placing an onerous burden on our nation’s small businesses,” Jackson added.

For additional information see:!OpenDocument


Bush Overestimated Cost of FutureGen, May Have Set Back “Clean Coal” Efforts Ten Years

On March 11, the House Committee on Science and Technology released a report stating, “In an effort to kill the FutureGen project, top officials at the Department of Energy (DOE) knowingly used inaccurate project cost figures and promoted an alternative plan that career staff repeatedly warned them would not work.” The FutureGen project was announced by President Bush in 2003 as part of his administration’s efforts to address climate change, with DOE and its industrial partners planning to build a 275-megawatt, integrated gasification combined cycle coal (IGCC) power plant that would incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In January 2008, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced that DOE was abandoning the project, citing rising costs for completing the project.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also released on March 11 said that cost estimates used as justification for killing the commercial-scale project known as FutureGen were grossly exaggerated because DOE officials did not account for inflation. At the time, the DOE predicted the project’s cost to be $1.8 billion, or $500 million more than the price it should have used, according to the GAO report. “It was not cost,” Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) said. “I believed at the time that it was based on politics, and my goal is to get the project back on track.” Illinois lawmakers and project organizers are now working to revive the plant, saying it would create as many as 700 construction and 100 permanent jobs while meeting emission reduction goals. The stimulus package signed by President Obama on February 17 provides $3.4 billion for carbon capture projects such as FutureGen.

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Leaked EPA Draft Highlights New Research on Climate Risks  

On March 9, the Environmental Policy Agency (EPA) leaked an updated draft of the Technical Support Document: Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act.  The two-year old document began under the Bush Administration, but is now being pushed for completion by the current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson.  Twenty-eight EPA scientists, engineers, and other employees have contributed dozens of scientific accounts on the national threats posed by global warming, from increased hurricane and heat wave intensity to indirect consequences such as impacts in regions across the globe that could exacerbate problems in “humanitarian, trade and national security issues for the United States.”  The draft is based on research from already published documents, including studies from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP).  The report is expected to be used by Jackson in April as evidence that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do endanger public health or welfare and are therefore eligible for EPA or legislative regulatory action.  Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor and lead co-author of the 2007 IPCC report, said “It's the kind of document you produce if you were trying to establish a national policy.”

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Climate Change Creates Dire Scenarios for California

On March 11, California’s interagency Climate Action Team released its first of 40 reports on climate impacts the state could suffer and adaptation measures needed to address such effects.  The study was conducted by the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group in Oakland, and was paid for by the California Energy Commission, Caltrans and the state Ocean Protection Council.  Sea levels along California have risen an average of about 8 inches in the past century, and if ocean levels rose an additional 55 inches by the end of the century, as computer models suggest, the report found that hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of California infrastructure and property would be at risk.  “There is $100 billion in infrastructure at risk and 500,000 people who currently live in areas that are at risk,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and co- author of the report.  Currently, 1,900 miles of roads and highways are at risk of flooding, which would grow to 3,500 miles under the sea level rise projections.

One adaptation strategy given in the report includes armoring the coast with 1,100 miles of new or modified sea walls and levees, which would cost at least $14 billion to construct and another $1.4 billion a year to maintain.  “These reports confirm that the consequences of climate change will be in the billions of dollars, and it will cost significantly less to combat climate change than it does to maintain a business-as-usual approach,” said Linda Adams, the Secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

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NY Governor Considers New Rules for RGGI Permits

On March 6, the New York State’s governor’s office confirmed that Gov. David Paterson was considering increasing the number of free allowances given to power plants for CO2 emissions.  New York is a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state cap-and-trade program that went into effect in September 2008.  At this time, the program has sold the majority of tradable permits through quarterly auctions, while the rest have been given to emitters for free.  The auctions produce a revenue stream that is used for clean energy and energy efficiency state programs.  The suggested action by Paterson has raised concern over the credibility of the trading scheme.  Alex Rau, of the carbon-trading firm Climate Wedge, said, “[B]ehavior from the regulators like this will only undermine what little confidence there has been in the market.”  Some states within RGGI, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, did not view New York’s potential action as having a significant impact in their regions or on the overall auction prices.  Donald McCloskey, the director of environmental strategy and policy at PSEG, a New Jersey-based energy company, viewed it as a strong argument for a national carbon-trading program, where “these interstate differences would be removed and largely reduced by having one carbon market, one set of rules that the whole nation operates under.”

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Meeting of Climate Change Skeptics Held in New York

From March 8-10, the Heartland Institute hosted a conference in New York City which brought together over 600 skeptics of various aspects of anthropogenic climate change.  The intention of the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was to “start the process of providing these brave scholars with a competing platform” against the climate change consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters.  The event, themed “Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?” featured prominent climate change critics, including a keynote speech by Czech President Václav Klaus, who stated that European governments were “alarmists” on the subject of climate change.  “They probably do not want to reveal their true plans and ambitions to stop economic development and return mankind several centuries back,” he said.

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Gallup Poll Finds Increased Number of People Think Global Warming is “Exaggerated”

From March 5-8, Gallup conducted a survey with 1,012 national adults which found that 41 percent of those interviewed believed the media “generally exaggerated” the seriousness of global warming.  This increase from 35 percent in 2008 was most notable for Independents and Republicans, though a slight increase occurred for Democrats as well.  Sixty percent, a number down from 66 percent in 2008, stated that they viewed global warming as a problem they personally worried about either a “great deal” or “fair amount.”  This was the lowest percentage compared to seven other environmental concerns, such as pollution of drinking water and loss of rainforest.  Gallup concluded, “It is not clear whether the troubled economy has drawn attention away from the global warming message or whether other factors are at work.”

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Panel Releases Report Assessing Options for a National Climate Service  

On March 10, a science advisory board for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report which assessed the most viable options in developing a national National Climate Service (NCS).  The report follows the Climate Services External Review Report, released in July 2008, which had narrowed down the options to four basic sketches to: 1) a national climate service federation that would determine how to deliver climate services to the nation; 2) a non-profit corporation with federal sponsorship; 3) a national climate service with NOAA as the lead agency with specifically defined partners; and, 4) a weather and climate services within NOAA developed from expanded and improved weather services.

On suggestion from the 2008 report, NOAA established four teams and one Coordinating Committee, consisting of both NOAA and independent members, to review the strengths and weaknesses of each NCS option.  The resulting report, Options for Developing a National Climate Service, was released this week and did not officially favor one approach, but did suggest the fourth option was not currently viable “The current NOAA organization is not well-suited to the development of a unified climate services function. Greater connectivity between weather and climate functions, and between research, operations and users is required,” the report concluded.  NOAA did recommend there be a lead federal entity and that “an NCS requires an interface best described by a federated structure (i.e., non-profit or federation) because it has a stronger connection to users and the research community.”  

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China's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set for Major Increases

On February 27, a study published by Geophysical Research Letters outlined current drivers for China's recent increase in CO2 emissions, as well as potential scenarios and expectations moving forward.  The report found that at least one-half of the emissions increase can be attributed to export production, while capital formation contributes one-third.  Consumption of services by urban households and governmental institutions, a fast growing component, is responsible for most of the remaining emissions.  Based on CO2 emissions, the goods China exports are four times more harmful to the climate than those it imports, due to “dirty” industrial production and power generation.  The scientists, who primarily drew their conclusions based on the data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), found that even under the most “utopian” scenario. where China would equip each new coal plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, emissions would increase 80 percent by 2030.  “This shows how big the challenge of emissions reduction really is,” said Glen Peters, one of the report’s authors from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.  The authors noted that while industrialized nations share the Chinese burden, as about two-thirds of Chinese exports go to the United States, Japan, Europe and Australia, they also say that China needs to use energy less wastefully, and that it would be a “dangerous path” to imitate the West’s energy-intensive lifestyles.

For additional information see:,1518,611818,00.html


Sweden Unveils “Ambitious” Clean Energy Strategy

On March 11, the Swedish government announced a new national clean energy strategy that includes its goal to have 50 percent of its energy needs met with renewable energy by 2020, the Swedish car fleet to be independent of fossil fuels by 2030, and for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050.  In a statement, the government said, “The proposal we are presenting is as a whole the most ambitious climate and energy policy presented by any European country.”  The goal included a target of reaching a 40 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, exceeding the 17 percent reduction allocated to it by the European Commission in the European Union’s overall goal to reduce emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.  The government will double its annual contribution to energy efficiency measures between 2010 and 2014 and place a tax on fuels.  Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish Minister for Environment, said the higher fuel tax would be compensated by “tax cuts for companies through lower social and payroll taxes,” and that the aggressive climate policy would make Swedish businesses “world leaders in the transformation of transportation and housing.”  Sweden will be taking the EU presidency in July.

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Rising Ocean Acidity Cutting Shell Weights

On March 8, the journal Nature Geoscience published a study which found that the shells of tiny ocean organisms called foraminifera have shrunk in weight by 30 to 35 percent since the Industrial Revolution, as a result of increased acidification.  William Howard, a project leader from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center in Tasmania, said, “It is the invasion of anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 that is causing this particular source of acidification.”  The study was conducted in the Southern Ocean between Australia and Antarctica, an area considered to be one of the largest ocean carbon sinks.  Foraminifera lives on the ocean's surface, and plays a significant role in trapping CO2 in the form of carbonate within their shells and later transporting it to the ocean depths when the organism dies.  Howard noted, “It changes the efficiency of the biological pump, and would tend to lessen the degree to which the ocean takes up carbon. That's a feedback that we have to be concerned about.”  

A separate report was published March 13 by Geophysical Research Letters on the impact of acidification on coral reefs.  The researchers found that the lowered rates of calcification due to increased acidification, could stop the growth of coral reefs and potentially even cause them to dissolve.  An author of the report, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, said, “Our fossil-fueled lifestyle is killing off coral reefs. . . . If we don't change our ways soon, in the next few decades we will destroy what took millions of years to create.”

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Drought Caused Amazon Rainforest to Become Carbon Emitter Rather Than Sink

On March 5, the journal Science published a study which found an unusual drought in 2005 caused the Amazon rainforest to become a net emitter of CO2 emissions rather than a carbon “sink.”  The 30-year study, which involved 68 scientists from 13 countries, showed that a doubling in the die-off rate of trees produced 3 billion tons in net CO2 emissions by the rainforest which typically absorbs a net 2 billion tons annually.  Oliver Phillips, University of Leeds professor and the lead author of the study, said, “The emission of five billion tons of carbon dioxide was huge. It meant that a major part of the biosphere had switched from one function to another, from a carbon sink to a carbon source.”  The drought was caused by higher-than-average temperatures at the sea surface of the tropical North Atlantic, giving rise to concerns over the consequences of continued rises in temperatures as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  “If the Earth's carbon sinks slow or go into reverse, as our results show is possible, carbon dioxide levels will rise even faster. Deeper cuts in emissions will be required to stabilize our climate,” Phillips said.

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UN Report Finds Climate Change Adding to Global Water Crisis

On March 12, the United Nations (UN) released its third World Water Development Report, which assesses the state of the world’s freshwater supplies.  The report was compiled by 24 UN agencies and highlighted the effect climate change will have on water supplies as temperatures rise. Fifteen percent of the world's population depends on snow and ice melt for its main water supply, which will decline as glaciers and snowpack continue to melt in rising temperatures. Climate change also has the potential to change patterns of drought and flooding. “In many places, climate-related water events have become more frequent and extreme,” the report noted, putting increased stress on water supplies.  This will pose a mounting security challenge, the report said, as the struggle for water could threaten fragile states and drive regional rivalry. “Conflicts about water can occur at all scales,” the report warned. “Hydrologic shocks that may occur through climate change increase the risk of major national and international security threats, especially in unstable areas.” The report recommended using more water conservation practices, such as recycling sewage and the reuse of water.

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WHO: Changing Climate Boosts Dengue Fever Cases

On March 12, World Health Organization (WHO) dengue coordinator Chusak Prasittisuk told Reuters in an interview that outbreaks of dengue fever in Asian countries such as Indonesia are increasing because of climate change. Changes in rainfall and rapid urbanization have brought the disease to areas of the Asia-Pacific region that have never dealt with dengue before, he said.  “In Indonesia, in the old days, you used to have a season of rain, but in the past few years it has rained more almost around the year,” Chusak said. “The more rain we have, the more dengue cases we have seen.” Dengue is the most widespread tropical disease after malaria and is transmitted by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which will lay eggs in sites such as water storage tanks and hatch larvae when it rains. The disease causes fever, headaches and muscle and joint pains, and can eventually lead to uncontrolled bleeding and death. The number of deaths in the Asia-Pacific region reached 3,200 last year, though Chusak said the situation could actually be much worse because of inaccurate reporting by state health bodies.

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Other Headlines

Senate Committee Approves Stalled NOAA, Science Nominees

IPCC Chair Named Head of New Yale Climate Institute

Rapid Action Needed to Save Polar Bears from Climate Change

Prince Charles Launches Climate Change Appeal in Chile

Coca-Cola First Major Brand to Publish Carbon Footprint

Disney Aims for Zero Emissions



March 18, 2009      Alternative Transportation Fuels Part 1: Liquid Coal

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing to examine the energy, environmental, economic, and national security issues associated with liquid transportation fuels derived from coal. Desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil has driven interest in developing alternative transportation fuels including liquid coal in the United States, which has the largest known recoverable coal reserves of any country in the world. Liquid coal, however, raises significant questions about costs, benefits, and impacts in terms of energy security, climate change, land and water resources, and public health. This briefing will take place on Wednesday, March 18, from 3:00 – 4: 30 p.m. in 1310 Longworth House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at (202) 662-1883 or policy [at]

March 18, 2009     Zero Emissions Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – Key Investments  

The National Hydrogen Association invites you to a briefing that will explore a hydrogen economy’s quality carbon and emissions benefits, early market commercialization, the broad efforts of several companies and research institutions partnering with federal and state governments in RD&D efforts, and the opportunities for the 111th Congress.  There will be preliminary remarks from Senator Byron Dorgan and other Members of Congress. Speakers for the event include:

•    Dr. C.E. Thomas, H2Gen Innovations and the National Hydrogen Association
•    Russ Keller, South Carolina Research Authority
•    Jerome Hinkle, National Hydrogen Association
•    Michael Holmes, Energy and Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota
•    Dr. Dan Arvizu, Director, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The briefing will take place Wednesday, March 18, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center, Room SVC 203. As the Capitol Visitor Center requires an advanced list of attendees for security purposes, please RSVP to .  Also, please allow a few minutes to clear VC security.  SVC 203 is on the North (Senate, Constitution Ave.) side of the Visitors Center.  More detailed directions are available on the NHA’s website at:


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