Climate Change News May 31, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
May 31, 2011


Federal Legislative Action


Superior Court Judge Puts California’s Cap-and-Trade Program on Hold

On May 20, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must put an immediate halt to work on its cap-and-trade program, part of the landmark climate bill A.B.32 which was written into law in 2006, until it completes a review of alternative approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Goldsmith’s opinion said the board violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it began to make rules “without first responding to comments, completing the environmental review process, and approving” the program. The agency filed a notice of appeal on May 23, according to a CARB spokesman. The ruling will not interfere with other aspects of A.B. 32 implementation involving clean cars, renewables and energy efficiency, which can proceed as planned.

For additional information see: NY Times, Reuters, Sacramento Bee, Bloomberg

Texas Seeks to Overturn EPA’s Endangerment Finding

On May 23, the state of Texas, on behalf of 14 other states, filed an opening brief in a case seeking to overturn the “endangerment finding” announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009. The finding stated that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare, which gave the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling EPA v. Massachusetts. Texas is challenging the finding on the grounds that it is "arbitrary and capricious,” words in the U.S. Code that are grounds for a reversal of the decision. The brief stated that the EPA "never provides criteria for determining when [greenhouse gas] emissions or climate change endanger public health or welfare,” as well as the possibility that people might adapt to or even combat the effects of climate change over the extended time period in which it occurs, reducing its effects on health and welfare. The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

For additional information see: Texas Tribune, Brief

Report: California Needs to Take Aggressive Measures to Meet Emissions Goal

In a report titled "California's Energy Future¬¬: The View to 2050," scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that California can meet its goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The report stated that the first 60 percent of emissions reductions could be met by aggressively implementing current technologies, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro and offshore marine energy. The remaining 20 percent would be attained through technological advancements in artificial photosynthesis, fusion energy, more efficient and sustainable biofuels, hydrogen fuel, more effective carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and advanced batteries for both vehicles and grid storage. The report also called for improvements to the electrical grid, to allow it to integrate more intermittent renewable sources and store more energy. In addition to faster development of renewable energy sources, scientists also stated that significant efficiency measures must be taken, retrofitting 1.8 percent of all buildings annually.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Report

Chicago Prepares for Warmer Climate

Warnings from climate scientists have caused Chicago to begin to prepare for a warming climate. By 2070, the city could expect to receive 35 percent more rain in the winter and spring, but 20 percent less in the summer, according to scientists.The city plans to repave public alleyways with materials that are permeable to water, to reduce runoff when it rains. Sidewalks will be widened to include planted areas with drought-resistant plants, to soak up the excess water and help filter pollutants like de-icing salts. In some areas, the runoff will flow into underground storage tanks to be used later for watering plants or in new decorative fountains. Thermal radar is being used to locate the city’s hottest areas, which will be targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetated rooftops. The city also plans to remove six of the most common tree species. The warming climate will make them more susceptible to diseases such as emerald ash disease, and many species are expected to become extinct within decades. Hardier trees, such as swamp white oaks and bald cypress, will be used to replace them.

For additional information see: NY Times

Micronesia Challenges Czech Coal Plant Over Sea-Level Rise

Micronesia has mounted an unprecedented legal challenge against the Czech Republic's plans to expand a coal-fired power station more than 7,000 miles away. They claim the increased greenhouse gas emissions from the plant will contribute to global warming, potentially threatening the country, with many parts that lie just over three feet above sea level. If expanded, the power plant will emit over 40 times as much carbon emissions annually as Micronesia as a whole. Micronesia, along with Greenpeace, want the Czech government to carry out a study, called a Trans-Boundary Environmental Impact Assessment, to assess how pollution from the coal plant will affect the Micronesian archipelago. This type of study usually occurs between countries that share a border, but has never been done between countries from different regions before. The Czech environment ministry is expected to come to a decision regarding Micronesia’s case within two weeks.

For additional information see: Telegraph

U.K. Cancels CO2 Offset Accreditation Program

On May 20, the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) cancelled its Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) for carbon dioxide offsets, according to Carbon Retirement, a carbon offset provider. The program made sure that the carbon offsets that companies provided were accurately calculated, and were cancelled or retired after being purchased to make sure they were not sold again. According to Jane Burston, founder of Carbon Retirement, the decision would damage consumer confidence because businesses looking to offset their emissions will no longer have the same level of security around the carbon market's principle uncertainties.

For additional information see: Business Green, Bloomberg

Australian Climate Commission Suggests Immediate Action, End Logging in Old Growth Forests

A report issued by Australia’s Climate Commission stated that the evidence for global warming is now ''exceptionally strong and beyond doubt,'' and actions this decade will determine the impact of climate change for the rest of the century. The report concluded that the impacts of climate change are already being seen, despite the earth warming less than one degree Celsius so far. The commission addressed the issues of sea level rise and risks to the Great Barrier Reef, and suggested that carbon emissions must peak within the next few years, and then rapidly decline. The report also concluded that the country must end logging in old-growth forests with high carbon storage capacities, stating that it is one of the best ways of making timely cuts to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions while the slower energy transforming and transport systems unfold. "We need to use whatever means we can to sequester carbon but also start reducing emissions from industry. We need some sort of price on carbon. A price is unavoidable,” said Climate Commission chief, Tim Flannery.

For additional information see: Sydney Morning Herald 1, Sydney Morning Herald 2, Business Green, Report

Indonesian Activists Concerned Over Two-Year Moratorium on Forest Clearing

More than one-third of Indonesia’s forest area will not be covered under the recently signed two-year moratorium on forest clearance permits. The moratorium covered only primary forests and peatland, areas that were already protected under Indonesian law, while 36.6 million hectares of secondary forests, areas that have been partially cleared for agricultural or industrial use, were not covered. According to Giorgio Budi Indrarto, program manager for forest and climate at the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, the 1999 Forestry Law did not contain any reference to “primary forest” and instead used the terms protected forest, conservation forest and production forest to describe areas where varying degrees of human activity were allowed. “It is only a technical definition which is only used to define the levels of forest degradation and should not be put into context of policy or issuing permits,” said Teguh Surya, head of climate justice at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

For additional information see: The Jakarta Globe, AFP

Ocean Acidity Could Doom Already Endangered Gourmet Abalone

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology concluded that increasing ocean acidity, caused by higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), negatively affects the already endangered northern abalone off the coast of British Columbia. Researchers found that increases of CO2 in sea water, from 400 to 1,800 parts per million, killed 40 percent of abalone larvae, decreased the size of larvae that did survive, and increased the rate of shell abnormalities. The current CO2 concentrations in the ocean are around 380 parts per million, but are expected to slowly increase over the next century. According to the study, this information could have implications for abalone species worldwide.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Carbon Storage Capacity of Trees May Increase with Climate Change

A report published in the Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences concluded that global warming may affect the capacity of trees to store carbon by altering forest nitrogen cycles. The report used data from a seven year study in central Massachusetts, where a section of the forest was artificially heated nine degrees Fahrenheit above ambient conditions, to simulate the potential warming from climate change by the end of the century. The warmer temperatures caused more rapid decomposition of the organic matter in soil, leading to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released. However, the study showed that the warmer temperatures stimulated an increase in the amount of carbon stored in trees as woody tissue, which partially offset the soil carbon loss to the atmosphere. Scientists found that in the seventh year of the study, “warming induced soil carbon losses were almost totally compensated for by plant carbon gains in response to warming.” According to scientists, the increase in carbon storage in the trees is due to more nitrogen being made available to the trees with warmer soil. In addition to CO2, warmer temperatures also cause inorganic forms of nitrogen to be released from the soil. “When trees take up this inorganic nitrogen, they grow faster and store more carbon,” said lead author of the study Jerry Melillo, of the Marine Biological Laboratory.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Two of Greenland’s Biggest Glaciers Lost Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie

A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has found that two of the largest three glaciers in Greenland have lost enough ice if melted to fill Lake Erie. The three glaciers, Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq, and Jakobshavn Isbrae, contribute as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean. The study focused on the rate of new ice being formed on the glaciers compared to the amount of ice lost. Apart from Helheim, which gained a small amount of mass, the other two glaciers have lost a significant amount of ice in the last decade. "Kangerdlugssuaq would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost," said Ian Howat, lead author of the study. According to Howat, past estimates of ice loss in Greenland only accounted for short-term changes. "We really need to sample them very frequently or else we won't really know how much change has occurred,” he stated.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

Researchers Find Gardens Can Help Mitigate Climate Change

A scientific review conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society has found that gardens can help mitigate the effects of climate change. According to scientists, gardens mitigate the effects of extreme heat and cold by stabilizing urban temperatures, prevent flooding by soaking up excess rainwater, support human health by easing stress and providing physical exercise, and support a number of declining species of birds, mammals and invertebrates. According to Dr. Tijana Blanusa, lead author of the review, people can maximize the positive impact of horticulture by planting vegetation that have many uses, such as trees, which “take up water, capture pollution, offer shade and a habitat for wildlife, and add aesthetic value to the garden.”

For additional information see: Independent, Press Release

Climate Change to Significantly Reduce Tea Production in Kenya by 2050

A study published by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture found that climate change will reduce Kenya’s tea production 40 percent by 2050, as suitable farm lands are moved to higher altitude. Scientists presented their findings at the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya in Kericho, organized by the Ethical Tea Partnership and the German International Cooperation. According to the report, the two organizations will aim to increase Kenyan tea producers’ resilience to climate change, secure their livelihoods and make them more environmentally and economically sustainable. Over the next three years, the organizations will train 10,000 Kenyan tea farmers on the most appropriate adaptation techniques. The study recommended crop diversification, and provided several alternatives to tea that would thrive in the region, such as maize, cabbage, peas, passion fruit, and bananas.

For additional information see: Business Daily Africa, Study,

Other Headlines

Federal Legislative Action

H.R. 1705: Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011
The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power scheduled a markup of H.R. 1705 on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
Intent: To require analyses of the cumulative and incremental impacts of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency, including rules or guidelines related to climate change under the Clean Air Act.
Previous Action: Referred to House Transportation and Infrastructure on May 4, 2011.
Sponsor: Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK)
For more information:

S. 699: Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program Amendments Act of 2011
May 26, 2011 was the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources date of scheduled consideration.
Intent: To authorize the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program to demonstrate the commercial application of integrated systems for long-term geological storage of carbon dioxide, and for other purposes.
Previous Action: Introduced to the Senate on March 31, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Sponsor: Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
For more information:

S. 757
May 26, 2011 was the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources date of scheduled consideration.
Intent: To provide incentives to encourage the development and implementation of technology to capture carbon dioxide from dilute sources on a significant scale using direct air capture technologies.
Previous Action: Introduced to the Senate on April 7, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Sponsor: Sen. John Barrasso (D-WY)
For more information:

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. 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

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