Climate Change News March 28, 2011


Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
March 28, 2011

News

Events


EPA Extends Deadline for Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program

On March 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the deadline for carbon-intensive firms to report their 2010 greenhouse gas emissions until September 30, 2011. Carbon-intensive firms, as well those producing carbon-intensive products, are required to report annually on their emissions under the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which was launched in 2009. “This extension will allow EPA to further test the system that facilities will use to submit data and give industry the opportunity to test the tool, provide feedback, and have sufficient time to become familiar with the tool prior to reporting,” the agency stated. The data will be used to help the agency and politicians make informed policy decisions, as well as develop more efficient programs to limit emissions. The agency also extended the deadline for firms to register with the electronic reporting tool to 60 days prior to the reporting deadline, or August 1, 2011.

For additional information see: Business Green, EPA Press Release




Judge Orders California to Re-Evaluate Global Warming Law

A San Francisco County Superior Court judge has ruled that California failed to adequately consider alternatives to its plan to create a cap-and-trade market for carbon emissions as part of its climate change law, known as AB 32. The cap-and-trade program would allow industries the option to purchase pollution allowances rather than reduce their carbon emissions. Goldsmith stated that CARB did not consider other options, such as a carbon tax or direct regulation of greenhouse gases. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed against CARB by a number of small nonprofit environmental groups, who argued that, “as written, the rules could increase pollution in low-income, largely minority communities near power plants and oil refineries if those facilities are allowed to trade pollution credits under a cap-and-trade plan rather than simply facing either a tax on their emissions or some other limit.” Attorneys analyzing the case have stated that AB 32 will be able to proceed on schedule once officials have conducted a new environmental review. However, CARB officials indicated they will seek an appeal on the ruling.

For additional information see: LA Times, San Jose Mercury News, LA Business Journal, Court Order




Vermont Governor Takes Stance Against Emissions

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin announced last week that Vermont will join in filing motions in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. He also stated that Vermont had taken legal action to defend the state’s right to address the harm caused by climate change and air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Vermont, eight other states, and New York City filed two lawsuits in support of the federal government’s decision to approve mandatory greenhouse gas reporting requirements for emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems. “I am committed to aggressively fighting interstate air pollution and climate change. . . Climate impacts in Vermont include the loss of our hardwood trees, including sugar maples, the spread of insect pests impacting our forests, waters and public health and increased soil erosion,” said Shumlin.

For additional information see: Brattleboro Reformer




UK Government Increases Climate Change Levy Discount to Assist Green Businesses

The UK government has proposed to increase the Climate Change Levy (CCL) discount for firms that are exemplifying energy efficiency and carbon emission improvements in an effort to help counteract the financial impact of the Treasury’s planned carbon floor price. Currently, businesses signed up for Climate Change Agreements receive an 80 percent discount on the levy in return for meeting agreed energy efficiency and carbon-saving goals. However, this discount is being reduced to 65 percent starting April, 2011. Chancellor of the Exchequor George Osborne announced that as of April 2013, he will increase the CCL electricity discount for businesses which sign up to CCA back up to 80 percent, and keep it that way until 2023. Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland stated that, “Support for manufacturers through the CCAs will help them manage energy costs, which is particularly important given that the government is pushing ahead with a carbon price floor.”

For additional information see: Business Green




British Ministry of Defence Announces Carbon Offset Partnership

The British Ministry of Defence has announced a new partnership with the conservation charity Woodland Trust to plant trees on land used to train soldiers for operational deployment – an initiative that is hoped to increase the number of companies investing in carbon offsets by bringing costs down. The Woodland Trust will be exempt from land costs under the initiative, allowing the conservation group to offer firms a carbon offset price of only £10 per ton, compared to its usual charge of £25 per ton. In return, the new woodland cover will improve training conditions for soldiers. "Supporting our Armed Forces is the top priority for Defence Estate,” said David Olney, Defense Estates Deputy Chief Executive. "This excellent initiative allows us to improve training facilities, whilst securing significant conservation and environmental benefits at no extra cost to the Ministry of Defence." The first 176,000 trees will be planted on 160 hectares at the Defence Training Estate range at Warcop in Cumbria. Travel company Eurocamp, whose customers can choose to buy carbon offsets for their travel emissions, has already committed to fund five hectares of trees.

For additional information see: Business Green, Ministry of Defence




UK Climate Committee Recommends Against Carbon Offsets

On March 22, the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change stated that the UK should meet its second “carbon budget,” the amount the country needs to lower its greenhouse gas emissions from 2013 to 2017, by taking domestic action rather than buying “offsets.” These offsets are used to cover costs to reduce carbon emissions in other parts of the world, and should not be bought to cover UK emissions in the second budget, stated CCC chairman Lord Adair in a letter to Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. In order to meet 2017 targets, the committee said it will need to install loft insulation in over six million homes, begin working on three nuclear power plants, and put 620,000 new electric cars on the road. Other measures include a significant increase in wind power, as well as two power plants which implement new technology that captures carbon and stores it underground, said to be functional by the end of the five-year period according to the committee. “Reducing our own emissions now is necessary if we are to be on track to the deep domestic cuts required through the 2020s, and to developing new green industries including energy efficiency and renewable energy," said David Kennedy, the committee’s chief executive.

For additional information see: The Independent




Developing Nations Pledge to Help With Climate Change

On March 21, the United Nations (UN) released the list of developing countries who have completed an inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets and submitted their plans to achieve those targets. Following agreements of the previous two international climate summits in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Cancun, Mexico, developed and developing nations agreed to voluntary GHG emissions targets. These inventories and plans are now considered official, and allow countries to be informed of what other countries are doing in the fight against climate change, as a confidence-building mechanism to establish a basis for “mutual accountability.” However, many of the plans released Monday were developed on the condition of financial and trechnical assistance from wealthier developed countries. The nations who participated in the Copenhagen and Cancun summits agreed to establish a “Green Climate Fund” to transfer billions of dollars to poor nations in order to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions. However, further action on the fund has been delayed due to disagreements about who should be on the 40-nation “transition committee.” A complete plan is set to be revealed by the next climate conference beginning in November in Durban, South Africa.

For additional information see: Macon, AFP




Alaska Natives Aid in Climate Change Observations

Under a $250,000 project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, dozens of Alaska natives have been asked to document changes in weather, harvesting, health, as well as food and water safety. Created by the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage, the project will collect data from eight villages in Southeast, Interior and Northwest Alaska. The observers will be asked a number of questions every month for one year. These surveillance systems will be used to detect potential disease outbreaks in Alaska, and will be the first system to link climate change with health. This Spring, the project’s program manager will travel to rural Alaska and recruit up to 12 observers in each village. Their recorded data will then be compared to long-term data, such as weather, as well as data from other Arctic countries.

For additional information see: Alaska Dispatch




Study Shows Science-based Farming Methods Can Conserve Forests and Reduce Emissions

Recent research by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in the Environmental Management Journal stated that the need for farmers to clear forests for agricultural land can be significantly reduced if they implement science-based farming methods that utilize the systematic use of fertilizers. According to researchers, the use of these methods could have conserved 2.1 million hectares of forest in West Africa, as well as 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. “With the reduction of the Guinean forests to 15-20 per cent of its original size and the tripling of populations in these countries, there is absolutely no more room for expansion. Strategies to reduce deforestation and conserve biodiversity must focus on reforming agricultural practices and weaning farmers from traditional to modern science-based methods,” said IITA researcher Jim Gockowski. The research recommended that climate change mitigation programs address low agricultural productivity by investing in intensification of agriculture, which would increase farmer’s incomes and crop production while reducing carbon emissions.

For additional information see: IITA Press Release




Study Contends Carbon Capture and Storage Feasible Under Certain Conditions

In a new study published in the journal Greenhouse Gases: Science & Technology, scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have countered previous claims that carbon dioxide cannot be feasibly stored underground. Researchers stated that these earlier studies only considered closed-system subsurface formations, with limited mechanisms for relieving pressure. Subsurface pressure buildup is one of the main constraints for the amount of carbon dioxide that can be safely stored underground. In their study, lead researcher Dr. Quanlin Zhou and Dr. Jens Birkholzer indicate that underground carbon dioxide storage would occur mainly in partially open or open reservoirs by allowing pressure buildup to be naturally relieved. According to Dr. Zhou, “although large-scale pressure build-up may have a limiting effect on storage capacity, it is not as significant as claimed previously.” The authors concluded that carbon capture and storage can still be considered as a practical means of mitigating carbon dioxide emissions.

For additional information see: Science Daily, LBNL Study, Ehlig-Economides Study




Biologist: “Assisted Colonization” of Species Can Save Them from Climate Change Impacts

In a scientific opinion paper, UK conservation biologist Chris Thomas stated that through a program of “assisted colonization,” many species endangered by climate change can be saved from extinction. Thomas suggested that colonies of species such as the Iberian lynx, the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Pyrenean Desman and the Provence Chalkhill Blue butterfly could potentially be established in Britain. He said the potential benefits of helping save these species from the impacts of climate change should be weighted against the impacts they might have on existing species in the UK. The current guidelines on releases state that a species can only be released in an area in which it used to inhabit. However, a more radical policy would be needed if humanity wanted to minimize extinction, according to Thomas. “We need to develop a long 'shopping list' of potential translocations and, where possible, put in place monitoring of extant populations to help identify when action is needed. The later we leave it, the harder and more expensive translocations will become,” said Thomas.

For additional information see: UPI, University of York, Paper




Warming Could Increase Threat of Disease for Animals, Humans in Arctic

Climate change could increase exposure of animals and humans in the Arctic to pathogens, according to new research conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. Rising temperatures could improve survival rates of organisms that carry disease and thereby decrease survival of the animals they infect, including animals used as subsistence food. “What happens when a caribou has its calf on ground warm enough to have pathogens the calf cannot fight off?” said lead researcher Karsten Hueffer. “The same issue could face bears giving birth in dens.” Warmer temperatures and less ice would also lead to more human activity in the region, meaning increased contact among wildlife, humans, and domesticated animals. This could lead to more rabies cases for humans, particularly from the interaction of wild foxes, domestic dogs, and humans. The researchers plan to work with the North Slope Borough, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a large-scale project on the movement of foxes and rabies this year.

For additional information see: Press Release, Study




Study Finds Reducing Carbon Dioxide Will Prevent Droughts

On March 24, a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters found that lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations could help prevent droughts caused by global warming in the short term. The greenhouse gas CO2 traps heat in the middle of the atmosphere, forming a layer of warm air inhibiting the rising air motions responsible for thunderstorms and precipitation. The study stated that global precipitation would increase if the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere decreased, preventing the droughts that scientists expect to be caused from global warming. The study provided useful information on how CO2 affects climate change, as well as the potential effects of lowering its concentrations in the atmosphere.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study




Climate Change Will Reduce Joshua Tree Habitat

A new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey has found that climate change in the Southwest will likely eliminate Joshua trees from 90 percent of their current habitat within 60 to 90 years. The study included models of future climate, an analysis of the climatic tolerances of the species in its current range, and the fossil record to project the future survival and distribution of Joshua trees. The research team was able to reconstruct how the Joshua tree responded to a similar climate warming 12,000 years ago, and concluded that the trees’ ability to spread into suitable habitats after the sudden climate change was limited by the extinction of large mammals that previously dispersed its seeds over long distances. Today, Joshua tree seeds are spread by small rodents such as squirrels and pack rats, which are not able to travel as far. This limited ability of rodents to disperse seeds, along with many other factors, will likely slow Joshua tree migration to about six feet per year, which is not enough to keep up with the rising temperatures according to researchers.

For additional information see: UPI, USGS




Study: Increasing Temperatures in Canada Following Climate Change Predictions

A new study from Statistics Canada found that the annual average temperature in Canada rose 1.4 degrees Celsius (C) over the past six decades. The study assessed annual and seasonal temperature data over eleven climatic regions in Canada from 1948 to 2009. The northernmost regions experienced the greatest warming, up to 2.2 C, whereas the East Coast Antarctic climate region only experienced increases of about 0.5 C. The greater average warming in Canada is following climate change models which forecast greater temperature increases in the Arctic regions.

For additional information see: Toronto Sun, Study




Ocean Currents Trap Much More Carbon Relative to Organisms

On March 21, research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research found that ocean currents sequestered much more carbon than biological mechanisms than previously thought. According to researchers, oceans absorb approximately 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans into the atmosphere. The ocean traps, or sequesters, the carbon in two ways: one through a biological process whereby carbon is used for the photosynthesis of microscopic phytoplankton, and moves up the food chain, and the other through the physical movement of ocean currents whereby ocean circulation pulls down carbon-saturated surface water toward the bottom of the ocean. Researchers used data from a specific region in the North Atlantic to implement high resolution numerical simulations to quantify how much carbon each process sequesters. They found that currents made up the vast majority of carbon sequestration, compared to the biological process, by a factor of 100 to 1. Authors noted that there are still several areas in need of research on ocean sequestration of carbon, such as the length of time currents keep carbon deep underwater before it returns to the surface, whether the proportionality between the physical and biological processes are similar in other areas of the ocean, and how climate change will affect these mechanisms.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study




Other Headlines




March 28: Energy, IT and Design: How to Make Everyday Life Smarter

The Embassy of Sweden and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invite you to an evening seminar on what role innovative information technology (IT) can play in improving energy efficiency and enhancing people’s lives. Our everyday behavior is shaped and supported by the technology we use. Buildings are responsible for almost half (48 percent) of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually. Seventy six percent of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the building sector. Energy efficiency is by far the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to reduce emissions and energy costs. Sweden has been a pioneer in the area of combining IT and design to develop services for more efficient energy use in homes and commercial buildings, but interest in the area is growing and much is happening, particularly in the United States. The seminar will feature Swedish and American experts who will discuss how to seamlessly integrate beautiful design and cutting edge technological solutions and services in buildings for a better quality of life. To attend, send an email to rsvp-hos [at] foreign.ministry.se.




April 5: China’s Energy and Climate Initiatives: Successes, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policies

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the ChinaFAQs project of the World Resources Institute (WRI) invite you to a briefing on China’s increasing role in advancing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate policies. China is a leader in the deployment of clean energy technologies, and the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. The United States and China cooperate on a number of clean energy initiatives, producing benefits for both countries. However, China has emerged as a major competitor with the United States and other countries in clean energy technology on a global scale. Moreover, some commentators in each country see the other country as a roadblock to an international climate agreement, and China and the United States emit the most greenhouse gases in the world. Speakers will highlight key aspects of China’s approach to clean energy and climate policy, how it fits into the global landscape, and the challenges and opportunities for U.S. efforts to develop clean energy and tackle climate change. This briefing will be held Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 1:00-2:30 p.m., in SVC 203-02, Capitol Visitors Center. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact EESI at climate [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1892, or Luke Schoen at lschoen[at]wri.org (202-729-7657), or visit ChinaFAQs.org.




April 6: Hydropower in America: Energy Generation and Jobs Potential

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on hydropower, a clean, renewable, baseload power source. The U.S. hydropower industry provides approximately seven percent of our electricity and employs 200,000-300,000 people in project development and deployment, manufacturing, operations and maintenance. Hydroelectric pumped storage facilities also provide reliable and cost-effective energy storage, helping stabilize the grid by balancing electricity supply and demand. This briefing will examine the full spectrum of water power technologies – including incremental hydropower, ocean, tidal, in-stream hydrokinetic, and pumped storage – as well as geographic areas for potential growth in hydropower capacity, the job growth and economic benefits of hydropower development, and federal policy options to help the industry grow while protecting important environmental values. This briefing will be held on Wednesday, April 6, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in 2322 Rayburn House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at communications [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1884.




April 7: Electric Transmission 101: How the High-Voltage Grid Works and Who Regulates It

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and WIRES (Working group for Investment in Reliable and Economic electric Systems) invite you to the eighth in a series of briefings about regulatory and policy issues affecting the nation's electric power system. This briefing will provide a refresher on the operational and regulatory basics of high-voltage transmission that will facilitate an understanding of the complex economic and policy challenges facing the grid in the 21st century. By delving into the operation and regulation of the grid and the interstate flows of electricity it supports, the briefing is designed to provide a foundation for discussions about cost responsibility, land use issues, transmission planning, integration of variable renewable energy resources, and other issues that are becoming more important to the future of the power industry. The panel will describe the 21st century grid and how it is managed and regulated from the perspective of federal regulators, transmission providers, state officials, and regional transmission organizations. This briefing will be held on April 7, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. at 2325 Rayburn House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at communications [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1884.



Writers: Deep Ghosh, Laura Parsons, and Matthew Johnson

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