Climate Change News

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Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
March 10, 2014


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President Obama Releases FY2015 Budget Proposal, Includes Strong Support for Climate Initiatives

On March 4, President Obama's budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2015 was released, which includes a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund and support for the Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013. The Climate Resilience Fund, previously announced in February, will help the country prepare for extreme weather events, which may become more common and intense due to climate change. Its $1 billion budget will be shared across multiple departments and agencies. The climate fund is part of a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, a new proposal which funds research in an even split between defense and nondefense programs. The budget also includes $199.5 million to address climate change through efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with an additional $10 million above base resources to fulfill the Climate Action Plan. The EPA is set to take on climate change by setting carbon emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, addressing short-lived climate pollutants such as hydrofluorocarbons and methane, and conducting climate change adaptation planning and resilience efforts.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, Business Week, Environment News Service

Senate Climate Action Task Force to Hold Climate All-Nighter

On March 10, the Senate Climate Action Task Force will hold the Senate floor all night to urge action on climate change. At least 20 senators will participate, including Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Franken (D-MN), Sen. Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. King (I-ME), Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Markey (D-MA), Sen. Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Udall (D-NM), Sen. Warren (D-MA), Sen. Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Schatz (D-HI), who organized the event. Sen. Whitehouse said the intent is "to break the pattern of the Senate," and showcase the Senators' concern about in climate change. The event will begin immediately after votes for the day finish. Senate galleries will be open to the public throughout.

For additional information see: EESI, Huffington Post

House Votes to Roll Back EPA Carbon Emission Regulations

On March 6, the House of Representatives voted 229 to 183 to pass H.R. 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, a bill which would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from limiting carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The bill also directs EPA to set an effective date for upcoming regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), commented, "EPA . . . will make it impossible to build a new coal-powered plant in America. That is hard to believe . . . particularly since 40 percent of our electricity comes from coal." Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said the bill blocks action on climate change, adding, "If we pass this terrible bill, we will vote to let China leap ahead of us in the race to build the clean energy economy for the future." The bill passed mostly along party lines, with 10 Democrats joining Republicans in support. On March 5 the White House issued a veto threat against the bill, and it is likely the Senate will not consider it.

For additional information see: The Hill, Huffington Post, Huffington Post Whitfield & Manchin Op-Ed

Pentagon Calls Climate Change a “Threat Multiplier”

On March 4, the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review 2014 (2014 QDR), which said climate change is a “threat multiplier” and a critical component of future defense strategy. The 2014 QDR states, “Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating . . . These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” The Pentagon is developing strategies to address climate threats through operational provisions, including expanded investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency to improve climate resilience. The report notes that climate change may undermine the ability of the military's domestic installations to support training activities, as well as increase the frequency and difficulty of future missions.

For additional information see: IGSD Press Release, Center for Climate and Security Press Release, Responding to Climate Change, Centre for Research on Globalization, Quadrennial Defense Review 2014

EPA Gives Out Corporate Climate Leadership Awards

On February 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented 15 awards to a variety of climate leaders at its third annual Climate Leadership Conference, which celebrates organizations committed to reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. This year, the EPA gave out 19 awards to 15 organizations and two individuals representing both the public and private sectors. Award winners include the City of Chula Vista, Sprint, the University of California—Irvine, Cisco, IBM, Kohl’s Department Stores, Fruit of the Loom, and Hasbro, Inc. The two individual award winners were Sam Brooks, Associate Director of the D.C. Department of General Services, and Robert Taylor, Energy Manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The awards included: Organization Leadership, Individual Leadership, Supply Chain Leadership, Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award), and Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate). Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, commended the awardees, “Our Climate Leadership Award winners have made great strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and are providing leadership nationwide in many sectors of our economy . . . their efforts to address climate change are repaid by saving money and energy, while supporting more livable and resilient communities.” The conference was held in San Diego, CA in conjunction with the 2014 Climate Leadership Conference hosted by the EPA, the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and The Climate Registry (TCR).

For additional information see: Environmental Leader, EPA Press Release

Climate Change is Key Driver for U.S. Energy Innovation

On February 26, at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Summit, leaders from Congress and the Department of Energy (DOE) framed energy innovation as a necessary response to the challenges of climate change. At the event, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz commented, “I’ve certainly not shied away from emphasizing the role of climate,” in pushing forward energy policy. ARPA-E, a research arm of DOE, funds the development and deployment of innovative energy projects. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) said that reframing climate change and energy security is necessary in order to move policy forward. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said he thought energy efficiency and research stood the best chance for getting work on climate past Congress, adding “[energy efficiency is] one of the easiest issues . . . which doesn’t implicate some of the broader challenges around climate change, around financing, but is an important small step."

For additional information see: Governors Wind Energy Coalition

New Refrigeration Standards Lower Climate Pollution and Energy Bills

On February 27th, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced new energy efficiency standards for commercial refrigeration units. These new standards are expected to increase equipment efficiency by 30 percent, save businesses $11.7 billion in energy bills, and reduce carbon pollution by 142 million metric tons. “By improving the energy efficiency of commercial refrigeration equipment – like restaurant-size fridges or the deli case at your local grocery store – we can make our businesses more competitive, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. This is part of an ongoing effort under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut domestic energy use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Industry and businesses will have three years to implement these standards.

For additional information see: Department of Energy Press Release, Triple Pundit, E&E Publishing

David Cameron Says Climate Change One of World’s Most Serious Threats

On February 26, while addressing the House of Commons, Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron stated that climate change is one of the “most serious threats” the world faces. Cameron issued the statement after Labour leader Ed Miliband said Cameron was unwilling to take strong action against climate change. Cameron stated in his remarks, “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces. That is why we have the world’s first green investment bank here in Britain. That is why, unlike 13 wasted years of Labour, we are building the first nuclear power station for 30 years in our country. That is why we have cut carbon emissions emitted by the government by 14% since we came to office. That is why we have set out, year after year, carbon budgets in this country. They talk a good game about it but it actually takes people to come in, govern effectively and deal with it.”

For additional information see: The Guardian

Climate Change-Induced Acidity in Ocean Kills 10 Million Scallops

On February 26, Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders announced to news outlets that the company has lost most of the 2014 scallop harvest, 10 million scallops worth $10 million, due to ocean acidification caused by climate change. Island Scallops is not alone – the shellfish industry worldwide is threatened by ocean acidification, with mollusk populations significantly shrinking in the past decade. Oceans absorb 25 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted each year. Seawater reacts with CO2 to form carbonic acid, which eats away at the calcium carbonate in shellfish shells. The past several years have seen the pH in the Georgia Straight in British Columbia, where Island Scallops raises its animals, drop from 8.2 to 7.3, primarily from increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). Saunders commented that the acidity level of the water was something he had not seen in his 35-years of shellfish farming, noting that the high acidity levels mean that scallops “can’t make their shells and they are less robust and [therefore] susceptible to infection." He added, "I'm not sure we are going to stay alive and I'm not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive."

For additional information see: PBQ News, UPI

New Report on Climate Change Breaks Science Down For The Public

On March 26, the National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society released a report entitled “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes,” which uses clear language to make the science behind anthropogenic climate change more accessible. The report aims to inform citizens and governments on the certainties and uncertainties of climate change, in order to enable them to make educated decisions on how to respond. The document notes that the evidence is clear climate change is happening, although “not every single detail is ever totally settled or completely certain.” The report explains the changes scientists are certain about, such as the significant increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1880, Arctic sea ice shrinking, rises in sea level and ocean acidity, and the shifting of geographic range of plants and animals. It also discusses issues scientists have less certainty about, such as the cause of the recent slow down in warming, estimates of future warming, and the correlation between climate change and extreme weather events. Inez Fung, an atmospheric scientific and co-lead author of the study, summed up the report, “Climate change is happening. We see it in temperature, we see it in melting ice, and we see it in sea level rise.”

For additional information see: NBC News, Report

Study Reveals Global Warming Is Keeping Deep Sea Heat from Escaping

On March 2, scientists at McGill University published a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, which found that climate change impacts have been preventing the release of deep-ocean heat in Antarctica. The study shows that deep-sea warmer water has been trapped under the Antarctic ice for the last 40 years, primarily due to increased precipitation and the melting of glaciers in the Antarctic region caused by rising global temperatures. The glacier melt and rain have formed a growing cool layer of freshwater on top of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, which stops the more dense warm salt water from rising to the surface and releasing its heat. If this heat were to rise from its deep ocean bubble, 40 years worth of heat and carbon dioxide will be released, further accelerating the impacts of climate change. According to study co-author Eric Galbraith, “the fact that we can still have a surprise like this after studying the climate system for decades shows just how complex and dangerous (climate change) is.”

For additional information see: Science Daily, Smithsonian Magazine, Utah Peoples Post

Housing, Energy Facilities Increasingly Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise, Storms

On February 28, a study published in the journal Climate Risk Management revealed that many more energy facilities and housing units will be exposed to hurricane storm surges by 2100, due to climate change-induced sea level rise. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimate by 2100 that the number of energy facilities exposed to hurricane storm surges in the Southeast is expected to rise six to 69 percent, putting a range of 69 to 291 additional energy facilities at-risk, depending on the sea level rise scenario. The number of housing units exposed to hurricane storm surges in the same region is expected to rise by 83 to 230 percent. The authors used geospatial datasets to highlight the benefit of assessing coastal vulnerability to sea level rise and storm surges for future coastal development planning. Much of the increase in housing exposure by 2100 is due to current plans to develop in areas vulnerable to future storm surge inundation. The researchers recommend planners consider these future dynamics in their risk assessments. “The Gulf Coast is ground zero for sea level rise and many other damaging climate impacts, including hurricanes and devastating storm surges,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

For additional information see: Science Direct

Methane Emissions from Fracking Could Be Reduced 40 Percent

On March 3, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ICF International released a report saying the oil and gas industry could cut methane emissions by 40 percent below 2018 projections. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), and emissions are expected to increase 4.5 percent between 2011 and 2018, primarily due to the venting of co-produced gas in favor of collecting the more valuable oil. The report was released shortly after a study demonstrated methane emissions from oil and gas drilling are up to 50 percent higher than EPA estimates (See February 24 Climate Change News). A dozen emission reduction strategies are listed in the report, including using lower-emitting valves and improved leak detection repairs. The cheapest methods, according to the report, could save the industry over $164 million a year, and overall, would cost $0.66 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas produced. According to EDF President Fred Krupp, the analysis “points out the vast potential this nation has to address one of the key environmental issues confronting U.S. oil and gas development.”

For additional information see: EcoWatch, Study

Other Headlines

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

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