Climate Change News June 6, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
June 6, 2011



IEA: CO2 Emissions Reached All Time High in 2010

On May 30, the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached their highest level ever in 2010, with the growth driven mainly by booming coal-reliant emerging economies. The agency also stated that 80 percent of the projected carbon emissions in 2020 will be “locked in” since they will be produced by power plants that are already running, or under construction. "This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 [degrees Celsius] (3.6 [degrees Fahrenheit])," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol. According to scientists, if global temperatures rise over two degrees Celsius, the risk of severe climate change impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, greatly increase. The UN climate talks, which will resume in Bonn on June 6, will focus on how to achieve the two degree Celsius target.

In related news, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated that, "Two degrees is not enough- we should be thinking of 1.5 [degrees Celsius]. If we are not headed to 1.5 we are in big, big trouble." She said that the record emissions reported by IEA strengthens the need for urgent action on greenhouse gases.

For additional information see: AFP, Reuters, Guardian

New Jersey Governor Pulls State from Regional Cap-and-Trade System

New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie announced last week that the state would leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) emissions cap-and-trade scheme. According to Christie, RGGI was "nothing more than a tax on electricity, a tax on our residents and on businesses with no discernible effect on our environment.” The move was another major blow to the U.S. carbon market, coming just days after a California court ordered the state to suspend work to introduce its own cap-and-trade scheme. Republican governors in New Mexico and Arizona have also left the planned Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade scheme, which is due to launch next year. However, analysts have concluded that New Jersey’s decision would have a minimal impact on carbon prices in the RGGI scheme. “We expect the cap will be adjusted proportionately to New Jersey's emissions, so that the overall supply-and-demand balance will not be affected," said Emilie Mazzacurati, head of Point Carbon Research North America.

For additional information see: NY Times, Business Green

Germany’s Nuclear Phase-Out Could Add 40 Million Tons of CO2 Emissions Annually

According to analysts, Germany’s plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022 will result in 40 million tons of added carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually as the country turns to fossil fuels to produce more electricity. "Longer term, [Germany] will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn,” said Amrita Sen, Barclays Capital analyst. Analysts from the Deutsche Bank estimated an extra 370 million tons of CO2 emissions through 2020, whereas Societe Generale estimated an extra 406 million tons. The added emissions would increase demands for carbon permits under the European Union's trading scheme, potentially raising carbon prices and pollution costs for EU industry.

For additional information see: Reuters

Canada Excludes Oilsands Emission Data from UN Report

The Canadian federal government has admitted that it deliberately left out data indicating a 20 percent increase in pollution from Canada's oilsands industry in 2009 from a recent 567-page report on climate change that it was required to submit to the United Nations. The report stated that Canada experienced a six percent overall drop in emissions from 2008 to 2009, but does not include emissions from oilsands production, which is now greater than the carbon emissions of all the cars driven in Canada. According to Environment Canada, oilsands production was responsible for about 6.5 percent of Canada’s annual emissions in 2009, up from five percent in 2008. A department spokesman stated that “some” of the information regarding the oilsands emissions was available in the report, meeting Canada's reporting requirements under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

For additional information see: Vancouver Sun, UPI

Experts Discuss Ways to Help Threatened Island Nations Keep Sovereignty

Rising sea levels have put a number of small-island nations in the Indian and Pacific oceans at risk. At a three-day discussion at Columbia University last week, a collection of international lawyers and politicians began to find ways to use existing rules to allow many of these nations to continue as legal entities entitled to ocean fishing and mineral exploration rights, even if their entire populations were forced to relocate elsewhere. "It's important to maintain a government that can defend its interests in the international arena," said international law expert Jenny Grote Stoutenburg. Experts discussed the creation of new laws to address the fate of these island-nations, ways to clearly define their coastline as it currently exists, and how to deal with the relocation of the nations’ population if they are forced to relocate.

For additional information see: NY Times

World Bank to Provide Financial Assistance to Cities for Climate Change Projects

On June 1, the World Bank signed an agreement with mayors from 40 of the world’s biggest cities (C40) to work on technical and financial assistance for projects to minimize the effects of climate change. The deal, announced at the C40 large cities climate meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is intended to increase financing for projects used to mitigate climate change. It also will help investors who were previously hesitant to provide financing for assessing city action plans by providing a standard approach. “What is holding back the sustainable clean technology revolution for a lot of mayors and businesses and households in a lot of countries is the lack of green financing,” said Sam Adams, the mayor of Portland, Oregon. “The partnership with the World Bank begins to address that.” The C40 commissioned two studies that will measure the greenhouse gas emissions from the 58 cities that are part of the organization, as well as provide options that are being used to reduce those emissions. The meeting also gave mayors a chance to discuss the solutions they have been working on to reduce pollution, improve transportation, and increase energy efficiency.

For additional information see: NY Times, Bloomberg

Global Carbon Market Shrank in 2010

According to a report issued by the World Bank, the global carbon market shrank in 2010 for the first time in five years. The report stated that the value of the market for greenhouse gas permits and credits for cutting pollution fell from $143.7 billion in 2009 to $141.9 billion. Fading prospects for the introduction of emissions-trading programs in countries, including the United States, contributed to the fall, spurring a lack of confidence from investors. “If we take the wrong turn we risk losing billions of lower-cost private investment and new-technology solutions in developing countries. This report sends a message of the need to ensure a stronger, more robust carbon market with clear signals,” said Andrew Steer, World Bank special envoy for climate change.

For additional information see: Bloomberg

Report Warns Food Prices Will Double without Global Action

A report published by Oxfam concluded that if global action is not taken to address issues such as climate change, failing biofuel policies, and stalling growth in agricultural yields, food prices will more than double over the next 20 years. The report suggested the price of key crops, like corn, would rise from 120 to 180 percent, with almost half the price increase attributed to climate change. Oxfam called for British Prime Minister David Cameron, among other G20 leaders, to implement measures that will stabilize food prices. These measures include increasing food reserves, removing agricultural subsidies, and decreasing support for biofuels that displace agricultural land that could be used for food production. The report also called on international governments to ensure that the Green Climate Fund, designed to help developing countries adapt to climate change, is put in place by this year’s climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

For additional information see: Business Green, BBC, Report

Climate Change Caused Vikings to Leave Greenland

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that beginning in the early 1400s, rapid changes in climate drove early Viking colonizers from Greenland as temperatures plummeted several degrees in just decades. Researchers collected core samples from two lakes near the Norse “Western Settlement” to reconstruct 5600 years of climate history where the Vikings lived. “We can say there is a definite cooling trend in the region right before the Norse disappear," said William D'Andrea, lead author of the study. According to researchers, a number of factors caused by the change in climate, including shorter crop-growing seasons, less available food for livestock, and more sea ice that may have blocked trade, may have contributed to the Vikings abandoning Greenland.

For additional information see: Reuters, Study

Climate Change To Increase Ozone-Related Illnesses

On June 2, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report, “Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution”, stating that climate change could increase illnesses and affect health costs because of the increase of ground-level ozone. "Even a small increase in ozone due to a warmer climate would have a significant impact on public health," said report co-author Liz Perera. "It would mean more asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, emergency room trips and premature deaths." The report found that 10 states with the largest numbers of urban residents, children, and senior citizens along with high levels of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound emissions would be severely affected by ground-level ozone. These states include California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. If fossil fuel emissions continue to increase at today’s current rate, by 2020 the higher ozone levels could create 2.8 million additional serious respiratory illnesses.

For additional information see: USA Today, Union of Concerned Scientists Report

Increasing Ocean Acidification Detrimental to Clown Fish

A study published in Biology Letters found that increasing ocean acidification due to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could hinder the ability of baby clown fish to detect and avoid larger predators. Recent studies have shown increasing acidification to compromise the fish’s sense of smell, but a new study shows that the fish’s hearing is also affected. "We kept some of the baby clownfish in today's conditions, bubbling in air, and then had three other treatments where we added extra [carbon dioxide] based on the predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 2050 and 2100," said Dr. Steve Simpson, lead author of the study. After 17-20 days, researchers exposed the juveniles to sounds of predator-rich coral reefs, comprised of sounds from crustaceans and fish. According to the study, the fish reared in today’s conditions swam away from the noises, whereas the fish reared in the predicted 2050 and 2100 conditions did not respond.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Sydney Morning Herald, Study

Study Finds Biochar May be Safe For Soil Organisms

A study in Soil Biology and Biochemistry found that adding biochar to soil to combat climate change may cause less harm to earthworms than initial studies suggested. Biochar is a form of charcoal that can be used to capture carbon and store it in soil for hundreds of years, mitigating climate change. Researchers found that earthworms avoided soils enriched with dry biochar, and that when they were exposed to the substance, their weights decreased as a result of insufficient moisture. The study concluded that wetting the biochar either before or immediately after applying it to soil mitigated the harmful effects on the earthworms, as well as the earthworms’ avoidance of soil containing biochar.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

New NASA Map Shows Most Precise Tropical Forest Carbon Storage Ever

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, NASA used a variety of satellite data to create the most accurate map ever produced depicting the amount and location of carbon stored in Earth's tropical forests. The map, which used both ground- and space-based data, shows how much carbon is stored in the tropical forests of more than 75 countries, the majority located in Latin America. Scientists used ground-based methods to measure the size of the trees, which provided good estimates of the amount of carbon they contained. Then, using space-based methods, they obtained the height of treetops for more than three million measurements covering three continents. By combining the data, they calculated the amount of above-ground biomass and thus the amount of carbon it contained. The measurements will be used by countries planning to participate in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program, which offers incentives for countries to preserve their forests in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and invest in low-carbon development.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study, NASA

Climate Change Will Reduce Access to the Arctic’s Interior Resources

A study published in Nature Climate Change found that although climate change will likely open up coastal areas in the Arctic to development, many regions of the northern interior will close to forestry and mining by mid-century as ice and frozen soil supporting temporary winter roads melt. The ice roads, which are constructed of compacted snow and ice on top of frozen ground, rivers, lakes and swampy areas, only cost two to four percent of what a permanent land road would cost. The timber and metal mining industries would be the most affected due to the high costs of building new permanent roads leading to those resources. As the ice roads melt, indigenous populations could also become more isolated and face increased prices as some goods could only be delivered by airplane.

For additional information see: Reuters, Study

Rising Sea Levels Will Affect More Than Just Coastal Populations

In a report to be published in the upcoming issue of Population and Environment, researchers examine the impacts of rising oceans as one element of how a changing climate will affect humans. Researchers used existing climate projections and maps to predict which areas will be at risk from rising seal levels and storm surges, and then applied these predictions to projections of future populations. The study focused on four main areas, including the tip of the Florida peninsula, coastal South Carolina, the northern New Jersey coastline, and the greater Sacramento region of northern California. According to researchers, more than 19 million people will be affected by rising sea levels in the four study areas by 2030. The study was designed towards helping local authorities identify how to best deal with environmental impacts. "As we anticipate future events, future natural disasters, we've learned how dramatic it can be -- and there are things that can be done in advance to mitigate the extent of damage in a location," said Katherine Curtis, lead author of the study.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Study Finds El Niño Southern Oscillation to be Unaffected by Climate Change

A study published in Paleoceanography found that climate change should not affect the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the future. The Pacific alternates between two states, El Niño and La Niña, every two to seven years. The switch, or ENSO, affects weather worldwide, with each state bringing floods and droughts to various areas around the globe. In the past, climatologists have predicted that ENSO may shut down due to climate change, causing the Pacific to stay in an El Niño state. This would inhibit the periodic upwelling of cold water associated with La Niña, leaving a layer of warm water covering most of the ocean, releasing its heat into an already warming atmosphere. There is some evidence supporting ENSO being affected by climate change in geological studies, where scientists found that the average state of the Pacific was directed toward an El Niño condition in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.5 to three million years ago, when Earth's climate was three degrees Celsius warmer than today. However, a recent study by Oxford University found that ENSO kept working during the Pliocene. Researchers examined 700 to 800 fossils from the Pliocene and concluded that they had experienced a wider range of temperatures than the changing seasons alone could have caused, leading them to believe they were caused by ENSO.

For additional information see: New Scientist, Study

Other Headlines

June 9: Managing Nutrients to Protect Water Quality: Innovative Approaches

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and Water Environment Federation (WEF) invite you to a briefing on innovative, market-based approaches to controlling nutrient pollution in the nation's waters from agriculture. Fertilizer and manure applications can release excessive amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus into local watersheds. These can degrade water quality, potentially causing human illness and harming aquatic ecosystems. This briefing will focus on innovative agricultural solutions to these issues, including trading programs such as those used for the Long Island Sound and Ohio River Basin, “safe harbor agreements”, and current on-the-ground nutrient management programs. The briefing is free, open to the public, and no RSVPs are required. The briefing will be held on June 9, 9:30-11:00am in SVC 203/202 Capitol Visitor Center. For more information, contact us at communications [at] or (202) 662-1884.

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: Deep Ghosh and Matthew Johnson

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!