Climate Change News May 3, 2010

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
May 3, 2010



Climate Bill's Future in Senate Uncertain Following Graham’s Withdrawal of Support

On April 29, Senate Democratic leaders indicated that they plan to address both climate change and immigration this year, leaving the future of a “tripartisan” draft climate bill in question. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) had planned to unveil their comprehensive climate legislation on April 26, but were forced to postpone the bill’s release following the temporary withdrawal of support from Graham.  Graham cited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to move immigration legislation ahead of climate change as his reason for leaving the climate negotiations.  He told The Washington Post that he would not even vote for his own climate bill so long as immigration is on the table.  "When I told everyone I would do climate, in fact, I was assured we also wouldn't be doing immigration," Graham said. 

During a press conference to unveil an outline for immigration legislation, Reid noted, "There's probably nobody in the House or the Senate who believes more in doing something about our environment, which is under attack. We need to do comprehensive energy legislation as soon as we can. I don't know how my friend Lindsey Graham can say this kills energy. It's up to him."  In addition, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) urged other Republicans to "step up if they believe in this cause, to help us bring it across the finish line."

For additional information see: New York Times, Mother Jones, Politico, Bloomberg

EPA Issues Report on U.S. Climate Change Indicators

On April 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new report, "Climate Change Indicators in the United States," which looks at 24 key indicators that show how climate change impacts the health and environment of American citizens. Heat waves, storms, sea levels, glaciers, and wildlife migrations are just a few of the environmental indicators that show measurable signs of climate change. In total, the report found that there was scientific evidence that climate change was making 22 of the 24 indicators worse. “These indicators show us that climate change is a very real problem with impacts that are already being seen,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions Americans are taking today to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help us solve this global challenge.”

For additional information see: EPA Press Release, Reuters, USA Today

Senate Climate Bill to Undergo EPA and EIA Analysis

On April 27, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) sent their draft climate legislation to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an economic study to be completed prior to the bill reaching the full Senate floor before this summer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised to have the EPA study "well in hand for the debate" on the bill. EPA's work typically takes about six weeks to complete, which means Reid cannot expect to start a floor debate until at least early June. For now, the Senate measure is on hold due to Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) withdrawal of support. In related news, the climate bill was also submitted to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for analysis on April 28, again as part of preparations for a floor debate later this spring or summer.

For additional information see: New York Times, Reuters, New York Times

175 Companies Urge Senate to Move Forward with Climate Legislation

On April 28, 175 U.S. companies sent a letter to Senate leadership, urging them to continue working to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year.  The letter was brought together by the We Can Lead coalition, a project of the Clean Economy Network (CEN) and Ceres. The businesses come from some of the nation's largest electric power, manufacturing, and clean tech companies, including Nike, Exelon, PG&E and eBay.  "Today, the United States is falling behind in the global race to lead the next global industrial revolution. U.S. businesses need strong policies and clear market signals to deploy capital, harness innovative technologies, and compete in the global marketplace," the letter stated. "Every day the Senate fails to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation is a day our economy falls another step behind and delays our ability to create millions of new American jobs.  America's energy future is not a partisan issue.  Now is the time to bring the parties together and finish what we started."

For additional information see: We Can Lead Letter

33 Retired Military Leaders Call for Climate Legislation

On April 28, 33 retired military leaders issued a statement, calling on “Congress and the administration to enact strong, comprehensive climate and energy legislation to reduce carbon pollution and lead the world in clean energy technology.” The statement goes on to note that the “Pentagon and security leaders of both parties consider climate disruption to be a ‘threat multiplier’ – it exacerbates existing problems by decreasing stability, increasing conflict, and incubating the socioeconomic conditions that foster terrorist recruitment.” The statement, released in conjunction by The Truman National Security Project and Operation Free (OPFREE), is another attempt by the military community to inform the public about the national security issues connected to climate change. OPFREE says America’s dependence on oil puts money into the hands of dangerous enemies. In January, the United States imported 506,000 barrels of oil each day from Iraq, 911,000 from Venezuela and 463,000 from Russia, according to the Energy Information Administration. “At the same time, the climate change caused by carbon pollution is destabilizing nations like Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria and Afghanistan — creating safe havens for terrorists,” Operation Free campaign manager Jonathan Murray said.

For additional information see: Truman Project Press Release, Lake City News & Post

North American Countries Propose Action on Potent GHGs Under Ozone Treaty 

On April 30, the United States, Canada, and Mexico submitted a proposal to strengthen climate protection under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, as did the Federated States of Micronesia. The proposals target the production and use of hydrofluourocarbons (HFCs), a group of greenhouse gases with high global warming potential that are being used as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances being phased out under the Protocol. If accepted by the other Montreal Protocol Parties, the proposal would deliver climate mitigation equivalent to preventing over 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Last year, the HFC phase-down was considered premature by some Parties, who wanted to first agree on the funding for the accelerated HCFC phase-out agreed to in 2007.  Earlier this month, the funding issue was resolved at a meeting of the Montreal Protocol’s funding mechanism, the Multilateral Fund. This year there is also more information available about a growing choice of alternatives for at least half of HFC use. “This could be the single biggest climate play this year,” noted Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Passing it up would be planetary negligence. The United States has taken the first big step in the right direction, but success will require follow-through, including Presidential leadership in the run-up to the annual meeting in November.”

For additional information see: U.S. State Department Press Release, Environment Canada Press Release

Australia Suspends Emissions Trading Proposal

On April 27, Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that his Labor government had put its carbon emissions trading plan on hold. The proposed emissions trading system had aimed to reduce Australia’s emissions by five percent of 2000 levels by 2020. The plan was twice rejected by a block of Conservative and Green Party lawmakers in the Senate last year and faced almost certain defeat were it to go before Parliament again this year. “It is very plain that the correct course of action is to extend the implementation date,” Rudd said in a statement. “That will provide the Australian government at the time with a better position to assess the level of global action on climate change.” Rudd was elected in 2007 on a promise of reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and polls have repeatedly shown strong support for government action on climate change. Nevertheless, the emissions trading proposal has drawn criticism from economists, business groups, scientists and opposition politicians of every stripe.

For additional information see: New York Times, BBC, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg

BASIC Countries: Climate Change Treaty in 2010

On April 25, environment ministers representing the BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - announced that a legally binding global agreement to limit climate change is needed by 2011, noting that the world could not wait indefinitely for the United States to finalize its legislation on the issue. "A step-change is required in negotiations, and incremental progress on its own will not raise the level of ambition to the extent needed to avoid dangerous climate change and impacts on poor countries and communities," the ministers indicated in a joint statement following their weekend meeting in South Africa. Building on their meeting held in New Delhi in January 2010, BASIC ministers elaborated areas in which progress could be made in the run-up to Cancun, including the early flow of fast-start finance of the $10 billion in 2010 pledged by developed countries. The next BASIC ministerial meeting will be in Brazil in July, followed by one in China in October.

For additional information see: AP, IPS News, The Hindu

Ministers Meet Over Weekend to Move Climate Talks Ahead

Starting on May 2, Germany and Mexico will co-host a three-day meeting in Bonn with representatives from 45 countries with the hope of rebuilding trust and clearing the air from Copenhagen. "The most important thing is to get the process moving again," said German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen. "We want to pave the way to a good result in Cancun," Roettgen added, "nobody wants another big disappointment." The first day of talks are set to address the future of the UN process and all major elements of the envisioned climate treaty — such as cutting heat trapping gases, financing measures to soften the effects of climate change and to get poorer countries on track for low-carbon development, and measures to halt deforestation. On the second day, participants are poised to talk about projects requiring multi-national cooperation to reduce emissions or fight the effects of global warming such as droughts or floods. Representatives from the United States will be attending.

For additional information see: AP, AFP

Melting Sea Ice Major Cause of Warming in Arctic

On April 28, a study published in the journal Nature found that melting sea ice has dramatically accelerated warming in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen faster in recent decades than the global average. The study also suggested that current forecasts underestimate the degree to which the polar region could heat up in the future. "It was previously thought that loss of sea ice could cause further warming. Now we have confirmation this is already happening," said James Screen, a researcher at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study. From 1989 to 2008, global temperatures climbed on average 0.8°F, whereas the Arctic has warmed by 3.4°F - the most rapid increase of any place on the planet. The findings show that the main driver of so-called "polar amplification" - warming in excess of the global average - is shrinking ice cover, and not increased cloudiness or changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation.

For additional information see: AFP, Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, Science Daily

UN Advisory Group: $35-40 Billion Annually to Expand Energy Access, Lower Emissions

On April 28, the UN Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) said at least $35 to $40 billion of annual investments will be required to link all people in the world with modern forms of energy by 2030. The proposal specified that $15 billion should be in the form of annual grants to expand electricity access to the poor. Moreover, the world needs not only to achieve universal access to energy by 2030, but to do so while increasing efficiency by 40 percent overall, or 2.5 percent per year. AGECC was less clear, however, about where new funding could come from. AGECC suggested tapping into the so-called "fast start funding," the $30 billion pool promised by developed nations over the next two years as part of the Copenhagen Accord. The $6 billion committed by the multilateral development banks for climate investment funds could also be steered toward expanding energy access. Kandeh Yumkella, chairman of AGECC, insisted that his group's recommendations, while daunting, are not unprecedented. "We call for smart private-public partnerships to do this, to spread electrification and to give access to various communities and to the energy-poor," said Yumkella.

For additional information see: New York Times, UN Press Release, Xinhua

Study: Carbon Emissions from Soil Microbes Decline with Warming

On April 27, scientists said that the physiology of microbes living underground could determine the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from soil during global warming. Researchers at the University of California-Irvine, Colorado State University and Yale University said they have found that as global temperatures increase, microbes in soil will become less efficient in converting carbon CO2, eventually resulting in less CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere. "Microbes aren't the destructive agents of global warming that scientists had previously believed," said UC-Irvine Assistant Professor Steven Allison, the study's lead author. The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

For additional information see: UC Irvine Press Release, UPI

Other Headlines

May 4: High Speed Rail -- Benefits, Costs, and Challenges

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) invite you to a briefing that will examine the economic, transportation, energy, and environmental issues associated with investments to increase the speed of U.S. passenger rail service. This briefing will explore the potential benefits and costs of high speed rail investments, key challenges that need to be addressed, and how different states are developing higher speed rail service. The briefing will take place Tuesday, May 4, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. in 2253 Rayburn House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at policy [at] or (202) 662-1883.

May 27: 13th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum

Please join the Sustainable Energy Coalition -- in cooperation with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses -— for the 13th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum on Thursday, May 27, from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in Cannon Caucus Room. 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. An 11:00 a.m. news conference will feature Members of the U.S. Congress while panels of speakers (in 335 Cannon House Office Building) will discuss the role sustainable energy technologies can play in meeting America’s energy needs from 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. The EXPO is free, open to the public, and no RSVPs are required. For more information, please contact Ken Bossong at the Sustainable Energy Coalition by phone at 301-270-6477 ext. 11 or email at

Writers: Jesse McCormick and Amy Sauer

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