Climate Change News October 25, 2010

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
October 25, 2010


NOAA Publishes Arctic Report Card

On October 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its annual Arctic Report Card confirming that the Arctic remains vulnerable to climate change. The report, based on the findings of 69 international researchers and 176 scientific references, states that Greenland had record high temperatures and glacier area loss in 2010; Arctic sea ice reached the third lowest recorded minimum since 1979 and Arctic snow cover duration was at a record minimum. NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said, “whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world happens first, and to the greatest extent, in the Arctic."

For additional information see: Washington Post, NOAA Arctic Report Card

Judge Orders Obama Administration to Decide if Polar Bears Are Endangered

On October 20, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Obama administration to clarify whether polar bears are endangered under U.S. law. Scientists believe that polar bears may soon become extinct because global warming has caused the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice upon which polar bears depend. Sullivan made the order after a coalition of environmental groups presented a case that the federal government should place polar bears on the endangered species list. The legal status of polar bears remains in question after the Obama administration supported the former President George W. Bush administration’s rule that polar bears are merely threatened. If polar bears are found to be endangered, there may be legal means to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Endangered Species Act.

For additional information see: Washington Post, Kansas City Star

USDA Report: U.S. Forests Offset 11 Percent of CO2 Emissions Annually

On October 15, the USDA Forest Service released a report that says U.S. forests offset roughly 11 percent of industrial carbon emissions annually. According to the report, U.S. forests currently store 41.4 billion metric tons of carbon and an additional 192 million metric tons are absorbed each year. Researchers say that this annual carbon absorption offsets carbon emissions from about 135 million cars. "America's forests play a critical role in combating climate change, collectively capturing and storing significant amounts of carbon that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The report also shows that the amount of carbon stored in forests has increased steadily since 1990 because total forestland area has increased and carbon storage density is growing.

For additional information see: USDA Press Release, USDA Data Results, Reuters, Sustainable Business News

Upton, Pelosi Disagree about House Global Warming Committee

On October 18, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) wrote an op-ed article in the Washington Times claiming that the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming should be dissolved and that Republicans should aggressively challenge several Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules if they regain the House majority in the upcoming election. “To date, this new select committee has needlessly spent nearly $8 million in taxpayer money, and that does not account for the countless dollars spent on so-called ‘fact finding’ missions,” Upton wrote in the op-ed. Upton also criticized several EPA goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions, calling the efforts a “regulatory train wreck” and “job killing” plans. On October 19, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the committee she created in 2007. “The Select Committee held dozens of hearings and briefings to educate members and the public on the efforts of the Congress. In addition, the Committee played an important role in holding BP accountable after the Gulf oil rig explosion and ensuring that the public had access to all pertinent information about the resulting spill and cleanup,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.

For additional information see: The Hill, Ubton Op-ed in Washington Times, The Hill

U.S. and China Sign Bilateral Environmental Agreement

On October 16, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson traveled to China to meet with her Chinese counterpart, Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian, to sign a bilateral environmental agreement which had expired in 2008. Under the agreement, the United States and China will collaborate on the prevention and management of air pollution, water pollution, and hazardous waste. The renewal of the agreement immediately followed the stalled UN climate negotiations in Tianjin, China.

For additional information see: UN Dispatch, AP, Wall Street Journal, EPA Press Release

Pachauri to Remain IPCC Chairman

On October 14, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that Rajendra Pachauri will remain its chairman despite the heavy criticisms made about a few serious errors in the 2007 IPCC report. Mr. Pachauri has been the chairman since 2002 and presided over the erroneous report. Following these allegations, the InterAcademy Council conducted an evaluation of the procedures and processes of the IPCC and concluded that “fundamental reform” was necessary, recommending that the panel’s chairman and top officials should only serve six years. During a news conference, Mr. Pachauri said the IPCC supported his continuing as chairman through the completion of the current climate assessment report in 2014.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal

Survey Shows Britain as Carbon Pricing Leader

On October 19, Vivid Economics released a survey that ranked carbon pricing efforts by major economies to stimulate investment in cleaner energy. According to the survey, Britain had the strongest clean energy incentive by setting an implied carbon price at $29.30 per ton. Higher carbon prices stimulate investment in clean energy technologies by making dirty fuels like coal and oil more expensive and allowing new low carbon energy technologies opportunities to compete in the marketplace. After Britain, China came in second with an implied carbon price of $14.20 per ton, followed by the United States at $5.10, Japan at $3.10, Australia at $1.70 and South Korea at $0.70. In the past few years, Britain has taken measures to create a business-friendly environment for clean energy technologies. "Investment in clean energy in the United Kingdom reached around $11 billion in 2009," Erwin Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute said in a statement.

For additional information see: Reuters

Number of UK Companies Reducing CO2 Emissions Up 50 Percent

On October 20, a study by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) showed that UK companies are setting ambitious carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets. According to an RBS e-mailed statement, 73 percent of UK companies with at least 25 million pounds of revenue are actively reducing CO2 emissions, and the overall number of UK companies implementing CO2 reduction targets is up 50 percent since 2008. The catalyst for this movement has been higher demand for low carbon goods and services, according to the study. “With the global market for low carbon goods and services expected to grow considerably in the next few years, there will be an abundance of commercial opportunities for businesses to exploit,” said Tim Boag, managing director of structured finance at RBS.

For additional information see: Bloomberg

Experts Gather in Toronto to Discuss Climate Mitigation and Adaptation

On October 5, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society released a joint report outlining changes Canada will experience if global temperatures increase 2⁰C. The report found that Canada’s ski industry will suffer, shipping cargo across the Great Lakes could be more expensive because of lower water levels, Arctic sea ice is expected to decrease 50 percent, and the South Saskatchewan River may dry up, among many other changes. A few days after the report’s release, experts gathered in Toronto to discuss how Canadian cities are increasingly vulnerable to many different climate disasters. “Planning policy has to catch up with carbon-change policy,” said Eva Ligeti, executive director of Clean Air Partnership, at the meeting. “We need a coordinated, multi-disciplinary response plan, embedded in planning documents. We need to develop our adaptive capabilities and reduce emissions before we reach the point where we can no longer adapt.”

For additional information see: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun

Bangladesh and India Extremely Vulnerable to Climate Change Impacts

On October 20, British risk advisory firm Maplecroft released a Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which measures the vulnerability of 170 countries to adverse climate impacts over the next 30 years. The index evaluates 42 social, economic and environmental factors to assess national vulnerabilities to climate-related natural disasters, sea level rise and human impacts such as agricultural dependency and resource conflicts. Bangladesh and India ranked the highest within the ‘extreme risk’ category that also included the Philippines, Vietnam and Pakistan. At this moment, developing countries are attracting large foreign investment and climate change impacts are becoming serious concerns for investors. "Understanding climate vulnerability will help companies make their investments more resilient to unexpected change," according to Matthew Bunce, principal analyst at Maplecroft.

For additional information see: Reuters, Maplecroft Index

Gulf Coast to Face $350 Billion in Extreme Weather Damages by 2030

On October 20, Entergy Corporation released a study showing the U.S. Gulf Coast may face economic damages amounting to $350 billion by 2030 because of extreme weather events. The three types of hazards analyzed in the study were wind-related damage, gradual sea level rise, and sudden storm flooding. The report recommends a $50 billion investment for projects such as reinforcing beaches and improving building codes. According to the report, “with climate change, we should expect a Katrina/Rita-type year occurring every lifetime by 2030.” Entergy Chief Executive Officer J. Wayne Leonard said, “with the multiplier effect, the amount of economic loss to the Gulf Coast could rise to $700 billion, the gross domestic product for the entire region for one year.”

For additional information see: Bloomberg, Entergy Study

Western Hemisphere To Experience Extreme Drought

On October 19, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews published a study supported by the National Science Foundation that shows the United States and several other large nations may face increasingly dry conditions in the next 30 years because of warming temperatures. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Aiguo Dai used 22 computer climate models along with an index of drought conditions to provide evidence that the Western Hemisphere, along with regions in Eurasia, Africa and Australia, may experience unprecedented drought by 2100. Specifically, the results indicate that the western two-thirds of the United States will be very susceptible to extreme drought. Conversely, northern regions from Alaska to Scandinavia will experience wetter conditions, according to the study. “We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” Dai said. “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

For additional information see: NCAR News Release, Climate Progress, Reuters, Study Abstract in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews

Climate Change Causes Wind Speed To Decline

On October 17, Nature Geoscience published a study showing that wind speeds just above Earth’s surface are decreasing, with the sharpest decline occurring in Eurasia. Climate change, increased vegetation and urban development are the primary causes of the 5-15 percent slowdown of surface wind, according to the report. Researchers analyzed data, dating back from 1979, from 822 weather stations in Europe, central Asia, eastern Asia and North America. Lead researcher Robert Vautard said he expected to see increased speeds in some regions and decreased speeds in others but was surprised to “see a very clear trend across the whole Northern Hemisphere.” Regions with the strongest winds experienced the sharpest declines.

For additional information see: Nature, Study Abstract in Nature Geoscience

Climate Change to Drastically Alter Alaska’s Ecosystem

On September 10, The Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning published a report on potential climate change impacts on Alaskan ecosystems. According to the report, “approximately 60 percent of Alaska may experience a shift to a new climate-biome during the twenty-first century.” The study concluded the Arctic and Alaska Boreal forest regions will diminish by 69 percent and the Western Tundra region will diminish by 54 percent by 2100. Various species such as Caribou, Alaska marmots, trumpeter swans and reed canary grass will experience drastic habitat changes. Results were obtained by using summer and winter temperature and precipitation data from 2000 to 2009 in a climate envelope model. Researchers then gathered habitat information on the studied species from scientific field surveys. The report was intended to help land managers who are trying to conserve or control wildlife populations gain a better understanding of potential changes in Alaskan ecosystems.

For additional information see: Fairbanks Daily, Study Abstract in SNAP

Other Headlines

Writer: Nicholas Mostovych

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