Climate Change News April 19, 2010

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
April 19, 2010



Trio of Senators to Release Climate Bill April 26

On April 15, sources close to the three senators working on a comprehensive climate bill announced that it is targeted to be released on April 26. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been working for months to draft legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While the bill will be far different from the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) and a bill that passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in fall 2009, sources working on it say the draft legislation will take many elements from them.

"The administration is working with Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham to move forward bipartisan, comprehensive energy and climate legislation that creates clean energy jobs and reduces our dependence on foreign oil,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a prepared statement. "The Senators are considering a variety of mechanisms that would foster a transition to a clean energy economy, and we will continue to work with them to identify a means to create a major growth driver for our economy and reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change."

For additional information see: Reuters, AP, Washington Post

Ten Senate Democrats Offer Conditions for Climate Law

On April 15, 10 Democratic Senators, led by Sherrod Brown (D-OH), issued a letter to the multi-partisan trio of senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Kerry (D-MA), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) who are drafting legislation to address climate change. The letter enumerated specific legislative components they would require in order to support comprehensive climate legislation. The senators represent states heavy in manufacturing, and thus their requirements focus around preventing American industry from moving to unregulated countries, competing state and federal climate initiatives, and transition costs associated with meeting new requirements to emit fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs). The senators called for border equalizing tariffs to be enacted on goods originating from countries that do not require comparable pricing on GHGs and similarly appropriate rebates to exporters who sell to such countries. The letter also called for any regional climate initiatives to be superseded by the federal program when they are in conflict so that business could anticipate uniformity in regulation across the country. Last, the letter calls for tax rebates and similar financial support to industry in the first years of climate legislation to ease any transition costs.

Other signatories to the letter were Carl Levin (D-MI), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Kay Hagan (D-NC). Similar concerns over the effects of climate legislation American industry have been previously expressed by some of these senators and others in letters issued in April 2009.

For additional information see: Washington Post, Bloomberg, April 2010 Letter, April 2009 Letter

Coal Companies Testify Before Congress on Climate Legislation

On April 14, executives from the largest U.S. coal producers, Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc., and Rio Tinto PLC, as well as the Ohio Coal Association, testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming regarding their views on coal and its place in the future of American energy. The three executives all said that coal would be irreplaceable in the United States and abroad, standing firm on the need for government support in developing and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) if carbon reductions were to be met. They differed on their support for climate policy, with some questioning the science behind the argument for human-caused climate change.

Spokesperson Michael Carey for the Ohio Coal Association noted his opposition to the climate legislation in development as well as the basis for climate change caused by humans. He insisted, “[t]he coal industry will continue to oppose misguided climate change legislation and costly regulations that hurt not just our own nation, but the rest of the world as well," Carey said. "We stand by our principles . . . as we always have and as we always will."

For additional information see: Mother Jones, Columbus Dispatch, New York Times

EPA: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 2.9 Percent in 2008

On April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 15th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory report, which found that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) fell 2.9 percent in 2008 from the previous year, to just below 7 billion metric tons. The drop in emissions was driven by lower consumption of fuel and electricity, the agency said. In addition to CO2, heat-trapping gases include methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. Though overall emissions dropped in 2008, they were still 13.5 percent higher than 1990 levels.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, EPA

NOAA: Global Temperatures Hit 'Hottest March on Record'

On April 15, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that last month was the warmest March on record worldwide, based on records going back to 1880. The average temperature for the month was 56.3°F, scientists said, 1.39°F above the average for the month over the 20th century. Contributing to the record month was El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that, combined with changes in winds and air pressure, can affect weather worldwide. NOAA researchers said the warmer than normal conditions were especially notable in northern Africa, South Asia, Tibet, Delhi, India and Canada. Cooler than normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States.

For additional information see: AFP, AP, NOAA

UK Panel Clears East Anglia Climate Scientists of Malpractice

On April 14, an independent UK panel charged with reviewing the integrity of 11 major papers published by the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) concluded that members of the unit had in no way acted dishonestly or with intent to deceive in its published works. The panel was tasked with strictly assessing the integrity of CRU’s scientific process as opposed to the veracity of the climate science produced by the unit. The panel did suggest that the CRU work more closely with statistical experts, possibly hiring one in house, due to the highly statistical nature of vast and often complex climate data. The independent panel commented that the statistical methods employed by the CRU in its papers were not the best and most robust, but nevertheless would not have changed any results significantly. It also noted that the CRU was consistently very open about uncertainties within papers it produced, with these caveats often being lost when its data was republished elsewhere.

The panel’s report concluded it saw "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganized researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention."

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, BBC, AFP, AP

Report: Scientists Cannot Measure Half of Heat Absorbed by Greenhouse Gases

In the April 16 issue of the journal Science, Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), report that scientists cannot account for about half of the heat captured by greenhouse gases. The problem, according to Trenberth and Fasullo, is that researchers have trouble pinpointing which parts of the Earth are storing heat. The planet's oceans absorb about 90 percent of incoming energy in the form of heat, but measurements collected between 2004 and 2008 show that the rate at which oceans are absorbing heat is slowing, even as emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) have risen and more heat is trapped. In their essay, the pair concluded that an inability to balance the Earth's "energy budget" will make it harder to weigh the merits of policies to fight climate change and determine which natural events are driven by warming. "The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later," Trenberth said. "The reprieve we've had from warming temperatures in the last few years will not continue. It is critical to track the buildup of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our climate future."

For additional information see: New York Times, Guardian, Daily Camera,

New Jersey Governor Cutting $65 Million for Global Warming Prevention

On April 12, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin said that Governor Chris Christie will be taking $65 million from the state’s global warming fund to help close the $10 billion budget deficit faced by New Jersey. In addition to the $65 million which makes up the state’s entire allocation of the global warming fund, Governor Christie is also taking $5.9 million from the toxic waste site cleanup program. Commissioner Martin, in discussing the DEP’s proposed $380.6 million budget before the Assembly Budget Committee in Trenton, said he hopes the loss of the $65 million will be only for one year. He also told the committee that DEP staff will continue to attempt to work against global warming despite the lack of money. "Let me state unequivocally that the governor and my commitment to protecting the environment and the health and safety of the people of New Jersey will not waver as we proceed with our efforts to streamline and enhance our operations,” Martin said.

For additional information see: Press Release

UN Climate Conference in Bonn Concludes; More 2010 Meetings Scheduled

On April 12, participants at the latest round of UN climate change talks in Bonn, Germany agreed to intensify their negotiating schedule in hopes of reaching a strong outcome in Cancun, Mexico, this December. In addition to the negotiating sessions already scheduled for 2010, governments of the 175 countries that participated decided to hold two additional sessions of at least one week each to intensify the search for ways to limit carbon emissions and provide assistance for developing countries. Dates have not yet been set, but the additional meetings will take place between June 11 and November 29.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, AP, Reuters, UN Press Release

Developing Nations Refusing to Back Copenhagen Accord Denied Climate Aid

On April 11, reports emerged that developed countries have threatened to cut vital climate aid to developing nations if they do not back the deal agreed to at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. The pressure to support the Copenhagen Accord came as 190 countries resumed UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. "The pressure to back the west has been intense," said a senior African diplomat. "It was done at a very high level and nothing was written down. It was made very clear by the EU, UK, France and the U.S. that if they did not back them then they would suffer." According to other African climate diplomats, threats to cut aid were accompanied by promises of financial support for countries that complied. Although the Copenhagen Accord is not legally binding and was not adopted by the UN, more than 112 countries have so far "associated" themselves with it; they include 14 African countries that depend on aid from the EU, UK and France.

It has also recently emerged that the United States is set to cut climate aid to Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries who have refused to associate with the accord. "There's funding that was agreed to as part of the Copenhagen Accord, and as a general matter, the U.S. is going to use its funds to go to countries that have indicated an interest to be part of the Accord," said U.S. Special Climate Envoy Todd Stern. Stern added this policy test was "not categorical," so some nations that declined to sign on could still obtain funds depending upon the circumstances.

For additional information see: Guardian, Washington Post, Reuters

Glacier Breaks Off in Peru, Causes Tsunami in Lake

On April 12, a large piece of the Hualcan glacier broke off and fell into a lake, creating waves 23 meters high that breached levees near the town of Carhuaz, about 200 miles north of the capital, Lima, Peru. The waves were a result of the glacier dropping from its mountain precipice and violently entering the lake below. Peruvian authorities claimed the event damaged a water treatment facility that serves 60,000 residents and wiped out 50 homes. Cesar Alvarez, governor of the Ancash region where the tsunami occurred, blamed the event on climate change. According to a World Bank report, Peru's glaciers have retreated by 22 percent since 1975, with warmer temperatures expected to erase them within 20 years. The report also describes how such a circumstance would threaten the region’s use of hydroelectricity. Mountain valley settlements near similar risk zones for rapid deglaciation have been evacuated. Three fisherman were confirmed dead, swept away in the deluge.

For additional information see: UPI, Reuters, Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald

Seasonal Allergies Getting Worse from Climate Change

On April, the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation released a joint report which concluded that global warming and climate change will make for much longer growing seasons and more allergy-causing pollen in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. Dealing with allergies and allergy-related asthma currently costs the United States $32 billion from direct spending on medicine and treatment, lost days at work and lower productivity. The report indicated that climate change will favor species such as oaks and hickories over spruces, firs and pines, with the newcomers being far more allergenic. Ragweed is projected to grow larger and produce more pollen from a longer growing season as well. Ragweed, the biggest U.S. allergy trigger, also grows better in the presence of higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. The study noted that springtime conditions in the eastern portion of the country are arriving on average 14 days earlier than normal.

For additional information see: Reuters, Time, NWF Press Release

Conference Declaration Urges Muslims to Tackle Climate Change

On April 10, the Conference on Muslim Action on Climate Change concluded with the Bogor Declaration, which stressed the need to prevent climate change through education. Approximately 150 people, including environmental experts, scientists and religious clerics from 14 countries participated in the two-day conference in Bogor, Indonesia. Participants suggested that sustainability messages could be delivered to followers through the mosques and called for the establishment of eco-friendly Islamic boarding schools. "It essentially must start with education . . . we need experts and scientists who can create a way to prevent the environmental impact," said conference Chairman Ismid Hadad.

For additional information see: UPI, Jakarta Post

'Green' Cement Made from Rice May Help Tackle Global Warming

On April 13, scientists detailed their research to create concrete from rice husk and coal ash waste in a scheme to tackle climate change. British and Indian researchers have been working as part of a UK-India Education & Research Initiative (UKIERI) project, led by the University of Dundee. A major component of traditional concrete is Portland cement, but for every ton of cement produced about one ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. As a result, concrete production amounts to approximately 5 percent of global CO2 emissions. The researchers are hoping to use waste materials, which have already been burnt, to mix with the concrete and so reduce burning time. The research was led by Dr. Moray Newlands and Professor Ravindra Dhir from the Concrete Technology Unit at Dundee and Dr. Paine from the University of Bath. Newlands said the only way to make a meaningful impact was to work together. "The scale of the problem facing infrastructure development in India and the UK means that collaboration between a number of institutions is the only way to reach our goals," he said.

For additional information see: BBC, One India

Other Headlines

NOTE ROOM/TIME CHANGE -- April 21: EDTA - Electric Drive Turning Points: Changing a Century of Transportation in 10 Years

Electric drive transportation is increasingly recognized as a solution to the energy, environmental and national security challenges we face. The Electric Drive Transportation Association's (EDTA) annual Hill briefing will educate Hill staff and industry stakeholders about electric drive vehicles and infrastructure in, and coming to, the market. Speakers will also discuss what can be achieved with electric drive in the next decade and the technology and policy advances that will build a diverse, national electric drive fleet.

The briefing features two panels. The first panel features EDTA members detailing their current electric drive manufacturing investments, vehicle deployments, and the grid preparedness efforts. A moderated roundtable discussion follows, with EDTA members focusing on what can be achieved in the next decade with advanced technologies and policies. The briefing will take place on Wednesday, April 21, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. in 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building. The full briefing agenda is available at EDTA's Hill Briefing is free and open to all, including media. Questions? Call 202-408-0774 x 306 or email

April 23: Stakeholder Based Climate and Energy Actions: Economic Impacts of National Policies and Measures

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) invite you to a briefing on The Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Policy Options on the U.S. Economy, a new study by CCS that examines the nationwide impacts of 23 major strategies formulated by over 1,500 stake-holders in more than 20 states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve energy and environ-mental co-benefits. This briefing will take place on Friday, April 23, from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. in 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at (202) 662-1884 or communications [at]

April 26: Electric Transmission 202 -- Integrating Variable Renewable Resources

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and WIRES (Working group for Investment in Reliable and Economic electric Systems) invite you to a briefing on the integration of renewable resources into the electric grid. This briefing will address various factors that can help bring location-constrained renewable electricity, including power from resources often characterized by variable outputs, to distant markets. The briefing will take place on Monday, April 26, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at (202) 662-1884 or communications [at]

Writers: Daniel Schneider, Jesse McCormick and Amy Sauer

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