Climate Change News June 13, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
June 13, 2011


Federal Legislative Action


EPA to Delay Power Plant Rules, Sources Say

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly is delaying proposing new rules to reduce greenhouse gases from major utilities. The rules would establish performance standards that could affect proposed and existing power plants but may provide utilities flexibility by participating in regional cap and trade markets or switching from coal to natural gas. In December, the EPA said the standards would be finalized by May 2012. Although the EPA has not confirmed the delay, the agency is coming under fire from Republicans and industry while coping with a heavy workload of rule-making procedures that include ozone and vehicle efficiency. Published reports say the delay could last one to two months.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, Reuters

California Planning for Rising Sea Levels

California would require certain public entities to draw up action plans to prevent or mitigate damage from rising sea levels under a bill approved by the state assembly on June 1. The legislation applies to about 75 coastal cities, counties, and harbor and sanitary districts that manage state-granted public lands that generate more than $250,000 in annual revenues, a category that includes facilities such as large public airports and ports. The bill states that rising sea levels from climate change will significantly affect the state’s economic and social future. Coastal activities contribute more than $50 billion to the state’s economy. The bill does not include any provisions requiring public entities to implement their action plans.

For additional information see: San Jose Mercury News, Text of Bill AB 752

Montana Attorney General Asks Judges to Reject Climate Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed last month by environmental groups in Montana to force that state to regulate greenhouse gases is being challenged by the state attorney general’s office. On June 6, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat, requested that the Montana Supreme Court reject the lawsuit. A group of Republican lawmakers also wants to intervene to oppose the lawsuit. The plaintiffs want the atmosphere declared a “public trust” deserving special protection. It is one of a series of lawsuits filed in several states.

For additional information see: Associated Press

New Hampshire May Withdraw from Regional Carbon-Trading Market

On June 8, New Hampshire lawmakers approved a proposal that would withdraw the state from a regional carbon-trading market. Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, opposes pulling the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and may veto the proposal, which was passed by the Republican-led legislature as an amendment to a shoreland protection bill. The 10-state regional cap and trade initiative requires that power plants buy allowances for carbon dioxide emissions. The states have raised more than $860 million by auctioning the allowances. Most of the money is set aside for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, though several states, including New Hampshire, used some of the cash to fill budget holes. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, announced in May that his state will leave the program later this year.

For additional information see: Bloomberg

Australian Climate Scientists Receive Death Threats

A number of Australian climate scientists have gone into hiding after receiving death threats in the midst of a debate regarding an increased carbon tax to go into effect July 1, 2012. Following a television ad promoting the tax and featuring actress Cate Blanchett, threats to climate scientists increased and numerous scientists began to take security precautions. According to Professor David Koroly, of the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, "It is clear that there is a campaign in terms of either organized or disorganized threats to discourage scientists from presenting the best available climate science on television or radio." The debate gained public attention two weeks ago when the government’s Climate Commission released a report calling for immediate action to prevent sea level increases of over a meter. About 10,000 people took to parks across Australia on June 5 to rally in favor of the carbon tax.

For additional information see: The Atlantic Wire, Guardian News, Sydney Morning Herald

Canada Joins Foes of Kyoto Extension

Opponents of an extended Kyoto Protocol gained a new ally when Canada said it will not agree to another round of the treaty. Canada’s announcement on June 8 came during the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, where developing countries are pressing for an extension of the treaty, which only requires limits on the greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized nations, but will expire at the end of 2012. Japan and Russia also have said they will not agree to an extension of the treaty. The United States was not part of the treaty.

For additional information see: Reuters

UN Climate Head Says Kyoto Will Expire Before New Pact in Place

The United Nations’ top climate official now acknowledges the Kyoto Protocol will expire before a new treaty is in place, resulting in a “regulatory gap.” Speaking June 6 at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Christiana Figueres said any replacement to Kyoto that is negotiated in Bonn or at the autumn talks in Durban, South Africa would have to be ratified by national parliaments to take effect. That would be impossible to complete before Kyoto expires at the end of 2012. The UN’s climate change secretariat for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had insisted for years that a new treaty could be adopted before Kyoto expires. Still, Figueres maintained that a new treaty will be negotiated, although industrialized and developing nations remain at odds.

For additional information see: Business Green, Reuters

Natural Gas Is Not the Solution to Climate and Energy Problems, IEA Warns

At a June 6 press conference, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that natural gas is not an energy panacea. “While natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, it is still a fossil fuel,” said Nobuo Tanaka, IEA’s executive director in discussing new research by the agency. “Its increased use could muscle out low-carbon fuels such as renewables and nuclear, particularly in the wake of Fukushima. An expansion of gas use alone is no panacea for climate change." Gas companies are urging governments to support an expansion of natural gas, including the tapping of previously inaccessible shale gas through “fracking,” a process which is blamed for the contamination of water supplies. The IEA worries that low-cost natural gas would incentivize the building of gas-fired power plants while shelving plans for renewable projects.

For additional information see: The Guardian, IEA, World Energy Outlook

BP: Growth Rate of Global CO2 Emissions in 2010 Greatest in Four Decades

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use last year grew at the fastest rate since 1969, with China leading the way, according to an annual BP report released June 8. Global emissions of CO2 grew by 5.8 percent during 2010 while China’s CO2 emissions led the pack with a growth rate of 10.4 percent during that period, BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy shows. China also was the single largest source of CO2 emissions, representing one quarter of global emissions. The United States was the second largest source of CO2 emissions. The rapid growth of CO2 emissions stems from the fossil fuel-hungry economies of developing countries, but the U.S. and European Union also burned more coal.

For additional information see: Reuters, Bloomberg, BP Report, BP News Release Shareholders Reject Climate Disclosure Report

A bid by a major stockholder to prod the online retailer Amazon for greater disclosure about how the company is tackling climate change was defeated by shareholders at the annual meeting in Seattle on June 7. Calvert Asset Management of Bethesda, MD, which owns $62 million in stock, had argued that climate change could affect the online retailer’s business, from the availability of raw materials to the types of products sold. Calvert wanted Amazon to report within six months on how climate change may impact its business, and how its business may impact climate change. Amazon’s board had urged shareholders to reject the measure, saying compiling the report would not be an efficient use of time or resources. The board also pointed to steps taken to reduce the company’s environmental impact, such as changes to packaging and the use of print-on-demand technology.

For additional information see: Seattle Times story 1, Seattle Times story 2

Report Warns Climate Change Threatens Food Security in the Tropics

Millions of people in the tropics may face food shortages in the next 40 years as climate change places greater stress on already vulnerable agricultural systems, according to a new report. The report by a group of international agricultural centers found areas that already experience food shortages could experience acute food security issues from shorter, hotter or drier growing seasons. Those so-called hotspots of future food insecurity are largely in parts of Asia, Africa, China and South America. “The sensitivity of food symptoms may be high and the coping capacity of those people may be low,” said Philip Thornton, co-author of the study entitled, “Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics.” Thornton is a researcher with the program on climate change, agriculture and food security at Northwestern University.

For additional information see: VOA, Northwestern University, Report

Climate Change Will Reduce Water for Farming, UN Agency Says

Climate change will siphon away the amount of water available to the world’s farmers, the United Nation’s food agency warned in a new report that calls for action to lessen the danger to both rural and heavily populated areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued its “Climate Change, Water and Food Security Report” on June 9. The report calls on countries to improve their management of water resources and urge farmers to adopt new crops and practices before more serious effects of climate change are felt. Regions already prone to water scarcity are at the greatest risk, but the FAO said the loss of glaciers from climate change “will eventually impact the amount of surface water available.”

For additional information see: Reuters, AFP, FAO Report

Today’s Heat Waves to Become Commonplace in 20 to 60 Years, Study Finds

Unprecedented summer heat will be here to stay within the next 20 to 60 years if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, a new study found. Stanford University researchers concluded that tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America could see the “permanent emergence of unprecedented summer” heat in the next two decades. In the middle latitudes of Europe, China and North America, today’s heat waves will become the new normal within 60 years. “According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said lead author Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science. The study will appear later this month in Climate Change Letters.

For additional information see: MSNBC, Stanford University

Animals and Plants May Not Evolve Fast Enough to Adapt to Climate Change, Study Says

Animals and plants may not be able to evolve fast enough to avoid the perils of a warming world, according to the results of an experiment with a tiny seashore creature. University of California-Davis scientists asked whether organisms have the ability to adapt to climate change on a timescale measured in decades. They conducted a laboratory experiment on the short-lived tide pool crustacean called Tigriopus californicus. The crustacean is found at many latitudes along the West Coast, though each population is highly distinct. Scientists collected the crustacean from different locations and grew 10 generations in a laboratory, exposing each to increased heat stress. The animal showed little ability to evolve heat tolerance. “The critical point is that many organisms are already at their environmental limits, and natural selection won't necessarily rescue them,” said Rick Grosberg, professor of evolution and ecology at UC-Davis and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

For additional information see: Science Daily, UPI, Study

Other Headlines

Federal Legislative Action

H.AMDT. 378 to H.R. 2017: Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2012
Intent: On June 2, the House voted 242-180 in favor of an amendment (H.AMDT.378) to prohibit the use of funds made available by the DHS Appropriations Act to be used for the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
Previous Action: Introduced to the House on June 1, 2011.
Sponsor: Rep Carter, John R. (TX-31)
For more information: H.AMDT. 378

June 16: 14th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Policy Forum

On June 16, the Sustainable Energy Coalition—in cooperation with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus—will host the 14th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum. This year’s EXPO will bring together over 50 businesses, sustainable energy industry trade associations, government agencies, and energy policy research organizations to showcase the status and near-term potential of the cross-section of renewable energy (biofuels/biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) and energy efficiency technologies. Members of Congress and the Administration will speak from 11:30 – 2:00pm. Afternoon speakers will discuss the role sustainable energy technologies can play in meeting America’s energy needs. The EXPO is free, open to the public, and no RSVPs are required. The events will be held on June 16, 9:30am-4:30pm in 345 Cannon House Office Building (Cannon Caucus Room). For more information contact Ken Bossong at kbossong614 [at]

Writers: Dave Gershman, Justin Jones and Matthew Johnson

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