Climate Change News July 11, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
July 11, 2011

News

Federal Legislative Action

Events

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Survey Shows Who Americans Trust About Climate Change

A new survey suggests the urgency of climate change can be communicated if the right people engage local constituencies and explain how human activities are impacting local communities. "You can't talk about preparing for climate change in Seattle the same way you would in Phoenix,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, which released the survey results on June 27. The survey suggests many people remain uninformed about climate change but there is an opportunity to close the information gap. The survey found 39 percent of people were alarmed or concerned by climate change. On the other hand, 10 percent were dismissive, and may be unreachable because they distrust any source of data. A large sector of the public is in the middle, looking for information from trusted people who can explain why they are certain that humans are responsible for climate change. If more doctors, military officers, businesspeople or labor leaders speak out, the information gap may close. “We take our cues from key trusted individuals and organizations,” said Leiserowitz. “And different groups tend to trust different messengers.”

For additional information see: Reuters, Study



N.H. Governor Vetoes Plan to Leave Carbon Market

New Hampshire will stay in a regional carbon market after its governor vetoed a bill that would have led to its withdrawal. Gov. John Lynch said leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would cost the state $16 million that the program raises through its carbon auctions. "I am vetoing this legislation because it will cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery, and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness," said Lynch. The 10-state program requires reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and established the trading market. Power plants can buy allowances to cover their emissions and sell unneeded allowances on the market if they further reduce their emissions. Republican legislators in New Hampshire said leaving the program would lower costs for utilities and reduce electricity rates. RGGI has faced challenges in several states. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced in May that his state will leave the program later this year.

For additional information see: Reuters



House Takes Aim at EPA and Greenhouse Gas Regulations

House Republicans are trying another tactic to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases from power plants and oil refineries. Budget writers included a policy rider to the fiscal 2012 spending bill unveiled July 6 that would impose a one-year delay on the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, and sharply reduce funding for the agency. “The EPA’s unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases, and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, are signs of an agency that has lost its bearings,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican and chairman of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. House Republicans may have enough votes to pass the bill, but it is expected to be blocked in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority. EPA rules that took effect in January regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and modified large industrial facilities.

For additional information see: The Hill Story 1, The Hill Story 2, Platts



British Columbia Carbon Tax Seen as Good for Environment

Nearly three-quarters of the residents of British Columbia believe their province’s carbon tax has been good for the environment, or feel neutral about it, according to survey results released June 30. Strategic Communications, Inc. conducted the poll of 830 people. It found 69 percent of residents are worried about climate change. This year, the carbon tax, introduced in 2008, costs $25 per ton for carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of oil, natural gas and coal. Next year, it rises to $30 per ton. Future rate hikes have not been determined; 51 percent of those polled do not support an increase in the carbon tax. Similar taxes apply to jet fuel, diesel, propane and other fuels. Both businesses and consumers pay the tax. The tax adds about $142 a year to the home heating bills of the average homeowner. The province claims the tax is revenue neutral because personal, corporate and small business income taxes were lowered.

For additional information see: Vancouver Sun, British Columbia Carbon Tax Website



African Leaders Eye Climate Funds for Adaptation Projects

African leaders are creating a monetary infrastructure and developing a united front to press the international community to fully fund Africa’s share of the proposed Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund was announced at the United Nations (U.N.) climate talks in Cancun in 2010 and is still being developed. Earlier this year, the U.N. announced the selection of a 40-person committee to design the fund, which would raise money from public and private sources to finance mitigation, adaptation, capacity building and other climate projects in developing countries. When the next round of climate change talks begin in November in South Africa, African leaders will advocate for the bulk of their continent’s funds to be allocated to climate adaptation projects. African nations will be some of the most affected by climate change on the globe because of their susceptibility to drought. African leaders have agreed that the African Development Bank would manage their share of the fund; many African nations lack the knowledge and technology to secure their share of international funding. "We want to use the knowledge and expertise of the African Development Bank in managing ad hoc mechanisms to set up that African Green Fund," said Ibrahima Dia, a senior U.N. and African Union official.

For additional information see: Reuters



Coal Pollution Helped Ease Rate of Global Warming, Study Says

The decade of the 2000s was the hottest on record, but average global temperatures could have been hotter, a new study suggests. Pollution from China’s growing appetite for coal actually helped ease the rate at which global temperatures were rising, but that dampening effect won’t last. Burning coal emits large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that causes climate change. But it also emits sulphate aerosol, a cause of acid rain. Researchers say sulphate aerosol helped constrain the increase in temperatures by reflecting solar energy back into space. Chinese coal consumption doubled between 2003 and 2007. China is taking steps to clean up its coal-fired power plants, installing scrubbers to remove particulates from emissions that harm human health. Sulphate aerosol is a relatively short-lived pollutant; it falls out of the atmosphere within a few weeks. CO2, on the other hand, remains in the atmosphere for decades. "What's going on is, human activities do two things: They cool the planet and they warm the planet. People normally just focus on the warming effect of CO2 (carbon dioxide), but during the Chinese economic expansion there was a huge increase in sulfur emissions," said Robert Kaufmann of Boston University, the lead author of the study, which was published in the July 4 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For additional information see: BBC, Associated Press



U.S. Air Carriers Oppose Europe’s Carbon Rule

U.S. airlines are fighting a European Union (EU) law that would require them to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions when taking off or landing in Europe, beginning in 2012. An industry group and major airlines that include United and Continental made their case before the European Court of Justice on July 5. The 27-member EU voted to extend its emissions trading system to include aviation emissions. The airlines oppose the cost, given the routes are mostly outside EU airspace, and say there’s no firm guarantee the money will be spent on climate projects, as intended. The EU has offered to waive the costs for flights from countries that it judges to have taken “equivalent” steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We are not thinking at all about the possibility of changing our legislation,” said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. “All the world should unite in some kind of directive like this one.”

For additional information see: The New York Times, The Economist



Proposal Would Set 56 MPG Standard for Cars by 2025

Federal regulators are considering an increase to fuel efficiency standards that would require cars and light trucks to average 56 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025, the second round of rules aimed at curbing vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s cars must average 30 mpg and light trucks 24 mpg. The proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would apply to model years 2017 through 2025. Federal officials are emphasizing that the proposal would reduce oil use, consumers’ fuel costs, and emissions of other pollutants. Automakers and their allies say jobs are at risk if new cars become more expensive and consumers defer their vehicle purchases. They also say higher fuel efficiency standards may force automakers to produce vehicles that do not suit Americans’ lifestyles.

For additional information see: The Washington Post, The Detroit News


Climate Change Threatens Endangered Turtle, Study Finds

Researchers say the population of an endangered Australian turtle may suffer further declines as the average global temperature increases in the coming decades, another example of climate change’s detrimental impact on biodiversity. University of Queensland scientists who incubated eggs of the Mary River turtle at different temperatures found physiological and behavioral differences among offspring. Offspring incubated at higher temperatures swam poorly and preferred shallow water, two characteristics that increase the likelihood of being eaten by predators. “Whether climate change has already contributed to the decline (of the turtle) is not clear,” said Mariana Micheli-Campbell, one of the researchers. “But these results show it may be a danger to this species in the future.” The Mary River turtle already is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a category used to highlight species that face an elevated risk of extinction. The findings were presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual conference in Glasgow on July 3.

For additional information see: Science Daily



Climate Models Show Glaciers Melting Faster Than Projected

The great ice sheets of Greenland and the Antarctic will melt faster than previously believed, leading to a one-meter rise in sea level by the end of the century, a new study found. The study by University of Arizona researchers used 19 climate models to propose a new way that global warming will melt ice sheets near the poles. It looked at what will happen to tidewater glaciers as air and water temperatures warm. Tidewater glaciers flow from the land to the sea, with much of their leading edges submerged deep below the surface of the sea. "Ocean warming is very important compared to atmospheric warming because water has a much larger heat capacity than air," said lead author Jianjun Yin. "If you put an ice cube in a warm room, it will melt in several hours. But if you put an ice cube in a cup of warm water, it will disappear in just minutes." Greenland’s glaciers, in particular, are being exposed to increasingly warm subsurface water, partly due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. As the seawater warms, it melts the glacier from below, causing the upper portion to crumble into the ocean, and accelerating the rate at which the rest of the glacier flows from the land to the sea. The study was published online in Nature Geoscience.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study



Study: Less Snowfall in the Arctic Enhances Melting of Ice

With less snow falling in the Arctic during the summer, sea ice is being deprived of protection from bright sunlight, causing it to melt more rapidly, a new study found. The study examined the cascading effects of rising temperatures in the Arctic, which is warming more rapidly than other parts of the globe. Of course, rising temperatures can directly affect sea ice, but they also have follow-on effects. Summer is typically still a time of significant snowfall in the Arctic. But rising temperatures have led to more of the precipitation falling as rain. Snowfall, in fact, is down 40 percent over the last 20 years. Reductions in snowfall affect sea ice, removing its protective covering and exposing it to sunlight. “Snow is highly reflective and bounces 85 percent of the incoming sunlight back into space,” said James Screen of the University of Melbourne. “Snow on top of ice effectively acts as a sunscreen protecting the ice from the power of the sun rays.” Measurements show the sea ice becoming thinner, and less extensive. The study was published in Climate Dynamics.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study



Climate Change Forces Early Spring in Alberta, Canada

According to a University of Alberta study, climate change over the past 70 years has pushed the province's native wildflowers and trees into earlier blooming times, making them more vulnerable to damaging frosts and decreased reproduction. Researchers used phenology, the study of the timing of life cycle events, to determine the historic bloom dates for plant species. The bloom dates for early spring species such as prairie crocuses and aspen trees had advanced by two weeks over the stretch of seven decades, while later-blooming species such as saskatoon and chokecherry bushes pushed ahead by up to six days. The average winter monthly temperature increased considerably over 70 years, with the greatest change noted in February, which warmed by 5.3 degrees Celsius. The study was published in the July issue of the journal Bioscience.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study



Other Headlines



Federal Legislative Action

H.AMDT.560 to H.R.2219: An amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2012. On July 7, the House amendment was agreed to by a voice vote. Intent:To prohibit the use of funds be used to enforce section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Section 526 prohibits all federal agencies from using non-petroleum alternative fuels, except for research or testing, unless the contract specifies that the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel is equal to or less than the conventional fuel and conventional production. Latest Major Action: On July 7, the House amendment was agreed to. Sponsor: Rep Bill Flores (R-TX). For more information: H.AMDT.560



Fiscal Year 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill: A bill to fund the Department of the Interior, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies. Intent: To provide $27.5 billion in spending, a reduction of $2.1 billion below last year’s level and $3.8 billion below the administration’s budget request. The bill also includes a total cut to climate change programs of $83 million, or 22 percent, from last year, and imposes a one-year prohibition on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases from large stationary sources such as power plants and oil refineries. Latest Major Action: On July 7, the subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies reported the bill to the full appropriations committee. For more information: Fiscal Year 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill



Events

July 12: State and Federal Policy for Biogas

The American Biogas Council will host a webinar to explore federal and state-level policies that affect the development of biogas-producing anaerobic digestion facilities. You will learn from industry legislative experts from: ML Strategies, government relations and consulting experts, Stoel Rives, a leader in energy and renewable litigation, and project developer AgPower Group, a company with hands-on experience dealing with state and federal policy issues. This is your chance to learn from and interact with leading experts. The webinar will take place on Tuesday, July 12, at 12:00 EST. The webinar is free to American Biogas Council members and $100 for non-members. To register for this event, visit American Biogas Council. For more information, contact Josh Lieberman at jlieberman [at] ttcorp.com.



July 13: Scaling Up Residential Biomass Heating: A Stakeholder Symposium

The Alliance for Green Heat invites you to “Scaling Up Residential Biomass Heating: A Stakeholder Symposium" at the U.S. Forest Service. While residential wood heat is the dominant player in residential renewable energy, most wood heat appliances in America are outdated and emit too many particulates. Robust deployment of modern, high efficiency appliances in Europe has succeeded in helping make substantial strides towards its energy independence. This stakeholder symposium will bring together non-profits, industry, government and forestry and air quality experts to explore how America can maximize the renewable energy potential of wood and pellet heat, and minimize associated drawbacks. The symposium will be held July 13, from 2:00-4:00 PM in the Yates Training Room at the USDA Forest Service Building, 201 14th Street SW. It is free but space is limited and advance registration is required. Please register at The Alliance for Green Heat.



July 15: Electric Transmission 205: Economic Stimulus and Jobs Benefits

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 how the manufacture and construction of electric transmission infrastructure can make a major contribution to reversing the nation’s stagnation in employment and economic activity. The electric transmission system is a critical and strategic asset for our nation. As policymakers focus on infrastructure development as an engine of new jobs and economic activity, this panel is a reminder that electric transmission – developed at the levels that experts project the country will need over the next two decades – can be a center of economic revitalization as more renewable resources are brought online. The briefing will be held on July 15, 10:00-11:30 AM, in Congressional Meeting Room North in the Capitol Visitor Center. This event is free and open to the public. For more information contact us at communications [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1884.



July 19: Farm Bill Energy Title: Rural Energy for America Program

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invite you to a briefing on the energy title of the Farm Bill, with a special focus on the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Big decisions loom in the next Farm Bill, including for key farm energy programs. REAP incentivizes a broad range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for all agricultural sectors across the country. As a result, thousands of rural producers and businesses are slashing energy costs with energy efficiency and renewable energy. They also are earning new income from renewable energy and creating new jobs, income, and wealth across rural America. This briefing will provide an overview of the Farm Bill Energy Title, as well as specific examples of dairy and poultry producers, rural electric cooperatives, and other rural producers and small businesses from across the country that have benefitted from the REAP program. The briefing will be held twice on the same day, July 19. The first briefing will be 10:00-11:30 AM in 1300 Longworth House Office Building. The second briefing will be 2:00-3:30 PM, in 188 Russell Senate Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Ned Stowe at bioenergy [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1885.



July 21: Cool Roofs for Cooler Summers

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on the huge potential for solar-reflective roofs and other “cool-roofing” techniques to lower the surface temperature of buildings and entire cities. Cool roofs improve comfort on hot summer days and reduce the amount of energy used for air-conditioning – thereby reducing energy costs and improving air quality. Whitening flat roofs is a low-cost solution which, if implemented in certain cities across the globe, has been estimated to have the potential to offset the carbon emissions of 300 million automobiles. At this briefing, renowned physicist and energy efficiency expert Arthur Rosenfeld will discuss research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that for the first time quantifies the reflective power (albedo) of urban surfaces that would be necessary to mitigate the urban heat-island effect and offset carbon dioxide emissions. Panelists also will discuss insulated and vegetated (“green”) roofs and how different types of cool roofs may be combined or integrated with solar-roofing systems, photovoltaics (PV) and/or solar thermal technology. The briefing will be held on July 21, 2:00-3:30 PM, in the Capital Visitors Center room SVC 212/210. This event is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information contact Ellen Vaughan at evaughan [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1893.



Writers: Dave Gershman, Justin Jones and Matthew Johnson

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