Climate Change News March 12, 2012

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
March 12, 2012


Virginia Attorney General Denied Access to Climate Research Documents

Two years ago, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sought to subpoena documents including emails and notes from University of Virginia (U-Va), scientist Michael Mann. The Virginia Supreme Court has issued an opinion stating that Cuccinelli did not have the authority to subpoena records from U-Va. Mann calls the decision “a victory for science,” and said, “I hope that this is the end of this long and unfortunate episode so I, and other scientists, can get back to work.” Previous investigations, including an inquiry by the National Science Foundation, found no evidence of Mann altering or falsifying information.

For additional information see: Washington Post, ABC News

Oil Companies, Green Groups Endorse Canadian Full-Cost Carbon Pricing

Oil companies and environmental groups, including Imperial Oil and Pembina Institute, are asking the Canadian government to use a “market based” approach to set a price on pollution and carbon emissions rather than a complicated system of subsidies and regulations. The current Conservative government has already rejected a carbon tax and is planning sector-by-sector climate regulations beginning with coal power, a move criticized by industry and provinces for being overly bureaucratic and lacking flexibility. Reform party founder and full-cost pricing proponent Preston Manning said, “It's just [a] fairly basic concept that, with any production of energy, you've got to figure out what are the environmental impacts and then the cost of avoiding or mitigating them and then integrating that into the price of the product.”

For additional information see: Globe and Mail

World Bank Loans Mexico $300 Million to Prepare for Climate Change

The World Bank is loaning Mexico $300 million, according to the Mexican Social Development Secretariat, to be used to prepare for “extreme conditions caused by climate change and overcome them,” including protecting food and water supplies against drought. Mexico is focusing on helping the neediest communities by “improving risk management for infrastructure and services while restoring forests, wetlands and other ecosystems that protect the poor from natural disasters and contribute to their well-being,” according to the agency. Gloria Grandoline, World Bank director for Mexico and Colombia, praised Mexico, saying, “The country is taking one more step to heighten its reputation as a global leader in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and is turning that situation into an opportunity for a more sustainable economic and social transformation.”

For additional information see: Latin American Herald Tribune

United Kingdom Advocates Demanding European Union Emissions Cuts

Ed Davey, the United Kingdom’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary is advocating that European Union emissions reduction targets be increased to 25 percent (up from 20 percent) by 2020 at the March Environmental Council meeting in Brussels. “Stepping up our ambition on emissions reduction makes sense for energy policy, it makes sense in terms of green growth and jobs, and now we know it makes sense financially, because it would put us on the most cost-effective pathway to our 2050 target," says Davey. This push is supported by several countries and environmental organizations including Denmark, Germany, France, World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam. Concerned about the effect of emissions targets on its coal-dependent economy, Poland expressed opposition to more stringent requirements.

For additional information see: BusinessGreen

Singapore Is Largest Per Capita Carbon Emitter in Asia-Pacific Region, Says WWF

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) president Yolanda Kakabadse announced that Singapore is the largest per capita carbon emitter in the Asia-Pacific region, emitting 43,454 kilotonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion in 2010. The consumption habits of the city’s population, which also has the highest per capita GDP in the region, and the corporate sector, especially the construction industry, are the largest contributors to the carbon footprint. Kakabadse says, “Singapore . . .  maybe is one of the best examples of what we should not do,” but, Singapore can contribute globally by sharing its energy efficient technology. Singapore’s National Environmental Agency claims that the city-state remains dependent on fossil fuels because its size limits alternative energy resources. The WWF’s full Asia Footprint report will be released in June.

For additional information see: Yahoo News/ AFP

TEPCO to Stop Buying CO2 Credits

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), already under financial strain after the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, says it plans to stop purchasing CO2 emissions credits in the next ten years. As Japan’s largest CO2 emitter, TEPCO has spent about 6.1 billion yen purchasing CO2 credits between 2007 and 2011, accounting for about 40 percent of TEPCO’s annual emissions, but has been unable to meet its CO2 emissions target of 0.304 kilograms per kilowatt hour since 2008. Increased reliance on thermal power plants since the Fukushima disaster is increasing net CO2 emissions, and TEPCO’s move to stop purchasing credits will likely increase Japan’s CO2 emissions. TEPCO has not announced if it has purchased any credits since the power plant disaster, and its plan to stop buying credits is expected to significantly affect Japan’s energy and global warming policy discussions. The company produces 30 percent of Japan’s power.

For additional information see: Daily Yomiuri Online

New Methods Developed for Carbon Accounting

A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory used inventory records for carbon reservoirs including soil, plants and wood to estimate the rate of CO2 sequestration by North America. Study leader Daniel Hayes notes that his team’s inventory approach uses extensive, repeatable measurements, but doesn’t include unknown, unmeasured sources.  Alternative modeling approaches rely on principles of physics, biology and chemistry but can miss specific movements of carbon caused by social or economic factors. According to Hayes, "Ultimately, confidence in our ability to understand and predict the role of the North America carbon cycle in the global climate system will increase as new estimates from these different approaches begin to more closely converge and are combined in more fully integrated monitoring systems."

For additional information see: Science Daily

Cheetahs Struggle to Reproduce in Changing Climate

Warmer temperatures and a changing diet are affecting reproduction of Kenyan cheetahs, according to scientists from the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and Kenya Wildlife Service.  Scientist Risky Agwanda, of the NMK explains, “Climate change has contributed to defects of the cheetah sperm. Many have abnormal coils, low sperm counts, as well as extremely low testosterone levels.”  In addition, populations of Thompson’s gazelles, a favorite prey, are declining because of changing climate conditions, especially drought, cross-breeding and human activities, forcing cheetahs to change their diet. Gazelles have higher protein content than other herbivores such as zebras, which help cheetahs maintain general and reproductive health. Kenya is home to about 1000 cheetahs, down from 5000 in the early 1980’s, says the Kenya Wildlife Service.

For additional information see: The Guardian

Study: Increases in CO2, Ocean Acidification Unprecedented in Geological Record

In a study published in the journal Science, researchers reviewed hundreds of studies of the last 300 million years, and have identified one event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 56 million years ago, when oceans changed nearly as quickly as is being seen today. When oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, the water chemistry changes, leading to acidification and a decrease in carbonate ion concentration, which negatively impacts animals, especially corals, mollusks, and plankton. A sediment core collected near Antarctica indicates a period of 5000 years when atmospheric CO2 concentrations doubled, increasing temperatures by 6°C. Study co-author Ellen Thomas of Yale University, says, “It’s really unusual that you lose more than 5 to 10 percent of species over less than 20,000 years,” as happened during the PETM, when ocean pH fell 0.45 units. Acidification is occurring much faster than during the PETM; there has been a 0.1 unit decrease in ocean pH and a 30 percent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the last 100 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates a further 0.3 unit decrease in pH by 2100.

For additional information see: The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York Times, The Washington Post

Effects of Climate Change Strain Forest Service Budget

Tom Tidwell, US Forest Service Chief, testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 Forest Service Budget. In addition to an increase in extreme weather events including droughts, wildfires and wind storms, “we’re definitely seeing much longer fire seasons in many parts of the country, another 60 or 70 days longer than what we used to experience . . . We’re also seeing much more severe fire behavior than we’ve ever experienced,” said Tidwell.  Climate change is increasing populations of tree-killing beetles that are spreading throughout national forests and contribute to the problem by leaving behind dry, dead trees.  Senator Al Franken (D-MN), emphasized the need to consider climate change science in budgetary decisions, stating, “To me it is so obvious the costs of climate change that we are already paying, and that these are never factored in when we talk about the costs of things like burning more coal or burning dirtier oil.” The 2013 budget request for the Forest Service is $4.86 billion.  

For additional information see: Colorado Independent

Warm Winter Temperatures May Increase Insect Population

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization, most states saw warmer than usual temperatures this January. Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University predicts that warmer winter temperatures will give harmful insects that normally freeze, such as the bean leaf beetle and alfalfa weevil, a head start. “Winter is like a big reset button for the Midwest. It wipes out lots of insects usually,” says Krupke.  In Freetown, Massachusetts, farmer Dawn Allen will start sweeping cranberry bogs for winter moth caterpillars more than a month earlier than usual. Eric Hodgson, an entomologist from Iowa State University, observes that other insects may be harmed by the lack of an insulating cover of snow and later by drought resulting from lack of snow, and that “making predictions about overall insects surviving or not can be tricky.”

For additional information see: Associated Press

International Women’s Day Sheds Light on Women and Climate Change

On March 8, International Women’s Day, many environmental groups focused on how climate change disproportionately affects women worldwide.  Of the annual 150,000 deaths related to climate change-induced weather events, a large majority are women.  In many areas where women provide the majority of food and water for their families, extreme drought and floods force them to walk longer distances to collect food, and the women become susceptible to dangerous conditions, both natural and man-made.   “What we learn from talking about women’s vulnerabilities is that we all have vulnerabilities. No one is immune to climate change,” said National Resources Defense Council scientist Kim Knowlton.

For additional information see: Oregon Public Broadcasting News, World Health Organization, OxFam

Climate Change Threatens Pacific Island Nation Kiribati

On March 7, Kiribati President Anote Tong met with members of Fiji’s government to discuss the purchase of 5,000 acres in Fiji as a relocation plan for Kiribati’s 113,000 natives. "This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one," said President Tong, "our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages."  The inhabitants of Kiribati are concerned about the survival of their cultural history if the majority of the nation moves to Fiji, along with finding gainful employment in Fiji that would support family members remaining on the Kiribati islands.  Many of Kiribati’s atolls are already submerged under the Pacific Ocean, and though the remaining islands are fortified with retaining walls to keep the seawater at bay, the rising sea levels are quickly inundating any remaining dry land.

For additional information see: The Telegraph

Other Headlines

Writers: Alison Alford, Justin Jones and Zuzana Culakova

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