Climate Change News February 6, 2012

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
February 6, 2012


California Passes Regulation for Cleaner Cars

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously passed a package of vehicle polices to reduce the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by putting more electric and hybrid cars on the road. According to the new rules, one in seven new cars in California will be a zero emissions or plug-in hybrid car by 2025. In addition, emission standards for all new cars sold in California were strengthened, making them the toughest in the nation. By placing 1.4 million alternative fuel cars on the road, CARB board members expect the rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and smog by 75 percent. "These robust, zero-emission vehicle standards will provide the market assurance automakers and the energy industry need to transform the electric vehicle into a mass-market success," said Don Anair, senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Clean Vehicles program. While the new fuel-efficient technologies will increase the cost of the vehicle by almost $2,000, owners are expected to recoup over $6,000 in fuel savings over the lifetime of the car.

For additional information see: Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Union of Concerned Scientists, Mercury News, Sustainable Business

Louisiana to Create New Carbon Storage Industry

Scientists in Louisiana are attempting to mitigate global warming and restore wetlands by creating a new carbon storage industry.  Tierra Resources and Louisiana State University have developed a technique for measuring the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere and stored in soils and plants.  Accurate measurement of stored carbon could improve opportunities for carbon emitting industries to obtain carbon credits which offset pollution.  Some companies have been “banking” credits for the last decade predicting mandatory federal regulation. “Our service territory is in the unique position of being at risk of the effects of climate change, including the loss of parts of our service territory, our customers and our assets,” said Entergy executive Steve Tullos.

For additional information see: The Times-Picayune

Insurance Companies to Release Climate-Change Plans

Insurance companies will be required to disclose their climate change response plans under new requirements in California, New York and Washington State. “We are asking insurers to share their views of the risk of climate change so that we can be sure that the industry and regulators are appropriately prepared,” said Robert H. Easton, a lead insurance regulator in New York. The industry has been attempting to assess climate risks that are not reflected in the historical insurance payouts to help prepare them for climate change impacts. The information is from a voluntary survey created by CERES, a Boston-based nonprofit, that showed in 2011 only 11 in 88 responding companies in 2011 had formal climate change policies.  The survey now will be mandatory for companies writing policies valued at more than $300 million nationwide, covering 90 percent of the entire insurance market.

For additional information see: New York Times, CA Press Release

Study:  Greenhouse Gas Emission Disclosure Increases Stock Value

According to a study at the University of California, Davis, providing information about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increases companies’ stock value. The study, “Going Green:  Market Reaction to CSR Newswire Releases,” assessed 172 corporate stock prices two days before and two days after green practices were released and found an increase of just under a half percent.  Small companies saw a stock price increase of 2.32 percent, while companies not disclosing their practices saw no statistical change in stock value.  "When a company makes a voluntary disclosure of this kind, it signals to the investment community that this is a firm that is environmentally responsible," UC Davis Professor Paul Griffin said. "Investors are saying they would prefer to invest in an environmentally responsible firm."

For additional information see: The Daily Climate, Market Watch

Water Trucked Into Drought-Stricken Texan Community

The record statewide drought in Texas has forced residents in Spicewood to truck water from neighboring aquifers.  Numerous communities across Texas, including Houston, have had to travel further distances to find suitable water for their residents.   Ryan Rowney, manager of water operations for the Lower Colorado River Authority, said, "If we need to haul every day, we will. This will probably go on for several more months.”  Though many areas of Texas have seen some rainfall over the winter months, numerous towns are still not meeting their daily water supply.  Rowney said that Spicewood would need much more than just a few rain showers to replenish their aquifers, "We're talking about rainfall events of 20 inches plus. Huge, huge flood events to bring the lake levels up."

In related news, NASA scientists have said that climate change caused the 2011 heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma, and contributed to the statewide drought.  Using 50 years of temperature data, NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen found that the heatwaves and resulting drought in Texas were "a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming."  A panel of climate scientists from Columbia University expect the drought in Texas will continue and intensify.  Richard Seager, an expert on North American droughts, said that the drought in Texas is part of a “host of problems out there that we’re creating for ourselves.”  Seager said the United States should expect drought in the Southwest to intensify.  He also stressed that by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere, we can actively lower the level of intensity of the drought.

For additional information see: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, Inside Climate News, Study

Boulder City Council Updates Climate Action Plan

A new multi-department committee in Boulder, Colorado, will "begin an evaluation and planning process that will engage the Boulder community around a vision for future (greenhouse gas) emissions reductions."  The city council is debating whether to extend the city’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) tax, set to expire in March 2013.  The CAP tax collects over $1 million per year from city utility bills, and is redistributed towards city programs that focus on mitigating climate change.  Boulder’s Environmental Advisory Board wrote a letter to the city council asking to extend the CAP tax.  Board member Stephen Morgan said, "I think (climate change) is a huge issue that's facing us, not just in Boulder but the whole country," he said. "We can't shy away from big problems because they're big. I think difficult problems have answers, and it's for the best and the brightest to stand up and find out what those answers are."

For additional information see: The Daily Camera

USDA’s New Land Management Planning Rule for the Forest Service Includes Climate Change Considerations

On January 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for a new National Forest System (NFS) Land Management Planning Rule which includes climate change considerations.  The new rule applies to 193 million acres of forest that are in the NFS, and replaces the current plan developed in 1982. The proposed planning rule would incorporate new administrative procedures for land management plans, and identifies eight significant issues including, “ecosystem restoration, watershed protection, diversity of plant and animal communities, climate change, multiple uses, efficiency and effectiveness, transparency and collaboration, and coordination and cooperation beyond National Forest System boundaries.” The plan takes into consideration alternative views of climate change and proposes that the learning and planning cycle should, “Assess conditions and stressors, including climate change, on the NFS unit and in the context of the broader landscape.”

For additional information see: Colusa County Sun Herald, News Release, Study

Forests Capture More Carbon than Previously Thought

A recent map published in Nature Climate Change actively measures the various biomass and carbon storage potential of tropical forests and vegetation in Africa, Asia, and South America. Scientists from Woods Hole Research Centre, Boston University, and the University of Maryland used remote sensing and field data to produce the map.  In addition to cataloging carbon storage of forests, the researchers were able to catalog the various levels of emissions produced during deforestation.  "For the first time we were able to derive accurate estimates of carbon densities using satellite LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) observations in places that have never been measured," said Alessandro Baccini, assistant scientist at Woods Hole.  According to the map, 32 million acres of forests are cut each year, releasing over 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

For additional information see: Forbes, Study, Times of India

100+ Countries Support Creation of World Environment Organization

France’s ecology minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, said more than 100 countries support the proposal to create a World Environment Organization at the Rio +20 Summit. The agency would assist in implementing international environmental standards, including climate change adaptation, international pollution standards, and deforestation. More than 30 European countries and 54 African countries, as well as Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Chile and Uruguay support formation of a World Environment Organization.  The United States has not yet stated its support of the proposal.

For additional information see: AFP

Wales Climate Change Commission Releases First Annual Report

On January 31, the first annual report from the Climate Change Commission for Wales made 30 recommendations, including improving air quality and using low-carbon technology.  Peter Davies, chairman of the Climate Change Commission, said, “the Welsh Government is already demonstrating that it is on the right path towards tackling climate change and annual reduction targets are comparable with the more ambitious reduction plans globally.  However, it is essential that we not only ensure these targets are delivered, but that the ambition levels of these targets are kept under review.”

For additional information see: Wales Online

Study:  Climate Change Causing Death of Alaskan Yellow Cedars

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a study implicating climate change in the death of up to 70 percent of Yellow Cedar trees in Alaska and British Columbia.  According to Paul Hennon of USDA’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, "The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground.  When present, snow protects the fine, shallow roots from extreme soil temperatures. The shallow rooting of yellow-cedar, early spring growth, and its unique vulnerability to freezing injury also contribute to this problem."  

For additional information see: UPI, Science Daily, USDA Press Release

Climate Change Forcing Mozambique Farmers to Adapt

Subsistence farmers in Mozambique are changing their farming practices, or moving, to survive increased flooding and droughts.  Almost 80 percent of Mozambican families are subsistence farmers, and in Caia, a vast floodplain, floods in 2000 killed 700 people, displaced 100,000 and crop destruction cost 1.5 percent of gross domestic product. "In the past, it happened every five years, now we have annual emergencies, which shows that the situation has changed," said Belem Monteiro, Director of the National Institute for Disaster Management.  Aid groups and local governments have partnered to assist families with improved farming techniques, to diversify incomes or to resettle on higher ground. Farmer Rui Alberto Campira received a grant to build a new farm and install an irrigation system that will enable him to farm in the dry season. "It's good. Especially for tomatoes. Tomatoes, onions, cabbage, collard greens. That's what we usually plant here. There we only plant maize. Maize and sweet potatoes," said Campira.

For additional information see: Public Radio International

Russian Industries Plan for Ice-Free Arctic

Russian industries are planning future growth from increased shipping traffic and energy development in the Arctic Ocean.  Warmer temperatures caused arctic ice to cover its second-smallest recorded area in 2011, allowing the Northeast Passage, also known as the Northern Sea Route, to stay open a record 141 days, a month longer than normal.  The region is believed to hold as much as 25 percent of the worlds untapped fossil fuels, and businesses are planning on growing profits by building drilling platforms and support ships as well as through increased port traffic. The shipping route is being touted because it bypasses the Suez Canal. "It's a very promising region and an interesting shipping lane that almost halves the distance between Europe and the Far East," said Fazil Aliyev, a ship owner and captain.

For additional information see: Montreal Gazette

Study:  Model Predicts Changes in Malaria Infections

Climate change will cause changes in both the geographic occurrence of malaria and intensity of transmission over the next 50 years, according to Dr. Andrew Morse from the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of the study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study combined simulations of mosquito bite rates and transmission rates with a climate model to forecast malaria infection across Africa.  Increases in surface temperature and decreased rainfall will reduce malaria infection in many tropical areas, but in the sub-Sahara Sahel region and East Africa, transmission rates will increase.  Malaria is most common in warm, humid environments, and an increase of 2°Celsius may cause epidemics in areas currently free of malaria.

For additional information see: Planet Earth Online

Other Headlines

Writers: Alison Alford and Justin Jones

Please distribute Climate Change News to your colleagues. Permission for reproduction of this newsletter is granted provided that the Environmental and Energy Study Institute is properly acknowledged as the source. Past issues are available at Free email subscriptions are available here. We welcome your suggestions, comments, and questions.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 by a bipartisan Congressional caucus dedicated to finding innovative environmental and energy solutions. EESI works to protect the climate and ensure a healthy, secure, and sustainable future for America through policymaker education, coalition building, and policy development in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, transportation, buildings, and urban planning.

EESI's work, including this free newsletter, is made possible by financial support from people like you. Please help us continue to make it available by making a secure, online donation today by clicking here or mailing a check to Environmental and Energy Study Institute; 1112 16th St NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036. Please contact Susan Williams at (202) 662-1887 or see to find out more. Thank you for your support!