Climate Change News November 8, 2010

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
November 8, 2010



Obama Shifts Climate Strategy from Cap and Trade to Other Measures

On November 3, at a news conference held at the White House, President Obama acknowledged that the incoming House of Representatives likely would not pass cap and trade legislation, but he indicated that there were other options to address global warming. “I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year, so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after.” The President noted, “cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not and end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.” He defended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2011, saying that “the EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction.” He also highlighted that solving the energy problems would not hurt the economy, but instead create new industries and jobs.

On November 4, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released a statement expressing disapproval of President Obama’s support of the EPA's plan to begin regulating GHG emissions on January 1. In the statement, Murkowski said that EPA regulations will put an unnecessary burden on the U.S. economy and that there are other ways to “responsibly reduce our carbon emissions.” Murkowski has been one of the leading members opposing EPA regulation of GHG emissions.

For additional information see: AP, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Hill

States, Environmental Groups Urge Court to let EPA Regulate Carbon Dioxide

On November 1, 20 states and 13 environmental groups filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit Court supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2011. These states are up against 17 other states that are challenging EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions from power plants and factories that release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. While opposing states have claimed that EPA’s rules will lead to a significant slow-down in construction across the country, the recently filed brief claims that all opposing states except Texas are ready to begin issuing stationary source permits at the beginning of next year. This support came days after the Obama administration also asked a federal court not to stop EPA’s plans from taking effect on January 2, 2011.

For additional information see: New York Times, Brief

Federal Judge Orders Review of Polar Bear Status

On November 4, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a written order to the Interior Department requesting an explanation why polar bears were listed in 2008 as “threatened” instead of “endangered.” Sullivan issued the written order following an October 20 hearing on lawsuits that challenged the “threatened” listing. During the hearing, a coalition of environmental groups presented a case that the federal government should place polar bears on the endangered species list. The legal status of polar bears remains in question after the Obama administration supported the former President George W. Bush administration’s determination that the polar bear population qualified as only threatened. If polar bears are found to be endangered, there may be legal means to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department has until December 23 to respond to the order.

For additional information see: Washington Post, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, New York Times

California Voters Reject Proposition to Repeal Global Warming Law

On November 2, California voters defeated Proposition 23, which would have stopped California’s law to cap greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions until unemployment in the state fell below 5.5 percent for one year. Governor Arnold Schwarzenenegger said, “while we are doing all these things, there is no action in Washington. Isn’t that interesting? The one great thing about California is we never wait for Washington.” The California Global Warming Solutions Act will go into effect in 2012 and require GHG emissions to be cut to 1990 levels by 2020. The law will set up a market to allow for carbon dioxide emission permits trading, and require utilities to acquire almost one-third of their electricity from renewable sources. In related news, California voters supported Proposition 26, which requires a two-thirds super majority vote from the state Legislature for many new fees and taxes. This new requirement may make the implementation of fees for carbon polluters more difficult.

For additional information see: New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg, Assembly Bill 32

California Releases Cap and Trade Plan

On October 28, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released its proposed cap and trade plan. The cap and trade plan will help execute new provisions set by the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which requires the state to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The program will require 360 businesses to acquire allowances for carbon emissions; most allowances will be given away for free when the program begins in 2012. About four percent of the available allowances will be placed in a reserve, and can be released if trading prices on allowances become too high. The remaining allowances will be auctioned off. Additionally, up to eight percent of allowance needs can be bought with offset credits, which include projects such as forestry and manure management. Emissions from combustion fuels will not be capped until 2015, when an additional number of allowances will be released. ARB members will vote to approve the plan during a public hearing on December 16 in Sacramento.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, Reuters, Business Green, ARB Press Release, ARB Program Overview

New Mexico Approves Cap and Trade Plan

On November 2, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board approved a cap and trade program that will restrict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program, which will begin in 2012, requires a two percent reduction in GHG emissions per year until 2020. If entities are unable to cut their emissions by two percent they will be able to purchase emissions credits from other entities, allowing more efficient entities to profit from the sale of credits. The program will allow New Mexico to participate in trading carbon allowances in the Western Climate Initiative, a collaboration of four Canadian provinces and seven U.S. states that seek to cut GHG emissions 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Economic predictions show a modest net benefit to the New Mexico economy. Governor Bill Richardson said that the U.S. government should build on New Mexico’s program to implement a national cap and trade system.

For additional information see: Bloomberg, AP, Press Release

UN Releases Climate Financing Report

On November 5, the UN’s Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing released a report showing how nations can collectively raise $100 billion by 2020, the sum previously agreed upon by wealthy nations through the Copenhagen Accord signed in December 2009. The report states that up to $27 billion can be raised from financial transaction taxes on foreign exchange, $9 billion from shipping, $3 billion from aviation, $8 billion from cutting fossil fuel subsidies, and $38 billion from carbon credit auctions. The report also states that placing a price on carbon dioxide around $25 is a critical component to reaching the $100 billion goal. After outlining possible ways to raise money without taking money from taxpayers, “the next step is for political leaders to lay out a clear road-map for making this funding a reality,” according to Tracy Carty, Oxfam Climate Change Policy advisory.

For additional information see: Oxfam, Business Green

UN Report Warns Climate Change Poses Threat to Human Progress

On November 4, the UN released a report that warned continued failure to tackle climate change risks decades of progress in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. In the annual report, the UN said that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption posed the most substantial challenge to fight poverty. “For human development to become truly sustainable, the close link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions needs to be severed,” the report said. In one estimate, the UN explained that adverse effects of climate change could double the price of wheat. By 2050, the report predicted consumption of cereals would fall by a fifth, leaving 25 million additional children malnourished, principally in Asia. Affluent countries “need to blaze the trail” on making economic growth less dependent on fossil fuels and helping poor nation get on the path toward sustainable development, the report stated.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Agence France Presse, Report

Carbon Dioxide Cuts in European Cars Occurring Faster than Expected

On November 4, the Brussels based environmental group, Transport and Environment, released a study showing that cars sold in the EU in 2009 emitted on average 5.1 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to cars sold in 2008. Toyota led manufacturers with a 10 percent cut in CO2 emissions. Transport and Environment stated that there were two main reasons for the reduction in emissions: technology was responsible for more than half of the cut in emissions, while the economic crisis along with cash incentives in many EU states increased demand for more fuel-efficient cars. An EU policy will fine auto manufacturers who fail to meet an overall 35 percent reduction of emissions by 2015 as compared to 1995 levels.

For additional information see: Press Association, Bloomberg, AP, Study

Chicago Climate Exchange Will End at Close of Year

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a voluntary, but legally binding reduction and trading system for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions among power companies, manufacturers, and others, will dissolve at the end of this year. Participants in CCX included large U.S. companies like Ford, Bank of America, Cargill, IBM, and Intel. The carbon exchange market lasted seven years, but was dependent on the projection that the U.S. government would eventually install a mandatory GHG emissions cap and trade program. The program resulted in massive emission reductions, but commitments expire at the end of this year, and participants are not continuing their efforts due to the lack of mandatory regulations on the horizon. Jeff Sprecher, CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which bought CCX in July, stated that “the bulk of the users have said to us that they really don’t want to continue to trade voluntarily in the absence of any credit for their work by the current administration.”

For additional information see: National Geographic, Reuters

Climate Change Litigation on the Rise

On November 4, DB Climate Change Advisers (DBCCA), a New York based eco-investment advisory group of Deutsche Bank, released a report showing that climate change lawsuits have been rapidly increasing, and will continue to do so in the absence of federal cap and trade legislation. DBCCA states that without federal legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions, lawsuits play an important role in interpreting the law. The report outlines three trending areas of climate change litigation with likely outcomes that investors need to be aware of, including federal rulemaking litigation, state challenges, and public nuisance litigation. Two recent areas that will likely see lawsuits are the California climate change law, Assembly Bill 32 — which is on course to be implemented after voters defeated a ballot measure that would have suspended its regulations — and the New Mexico cap and trade plan that was approved earlier this week.

For additional information see: New York Times, Study

Atmospheric CO2 Triggered a Global Warming Event 40 Million Years Ago

On November 5, a study published in Science shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was the primary driver of a 400,000 year global warming event known as the middle Eocene climatic optimum (MECO), an epoch between 55 million and 34 million years ago. The climate trend across the entire Eocene can be characterized as a period of transition from a warmer climate to a cooler climate. The MECO, however, changed this trend and represents the last major temperature increase before the end of the epoch. Researchers studied sediment taken from deep beneath the ocean floor that spanned the Eocene using paleothermometers to reconstruct changes in sea-surface temperature during the MECO. This study is different because it employed two independent paleothermometers that “can clearly differentiate between temperature changes and other factors.” The authors show that the sea surface warmed by 3-6° Celsius. The MECO is an interesting time span because there were no glaciers during the period, so the researchers could look exclusively at the relationship between CO2 and temperature without having to account for variations due to glacial ice. Co-author Alexander Houben stated that the results will help climatologists gain a better understanding of the climate sensitivity concept — the degree to which global temperature increase is dependent on an accompanying increase in CO2.

For additional information see: Scientific American, Abstract

Atlantic Ocean Current May Have Been Reversed During the Ice Age

On November 4, a study published in Nature shows that the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), a large scale circulation that influences weather and climate patterns by bringing warm surface currents from tropical latitudes to the North Atlantic, was probably reversed in the past. Until now, the past direction of the MOC has been disputed, but the authors of this study used high-resolution data showing the gradient of isotopes to conclude that the direction of the MOC was indeed different than it is today. This research presents the climate modeling community with the opportunity to further study how climate change may affect the oceans.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Global Warming May Bring Predatory Crabs to Antarctica

A report published in the October issue of Polar Biology shows that changing ocean temperatures may alter the bio-geography of lithodids — giant, predatory crabs — in the Southern Ocean, allowing them to enter new habitats in the Antarctic continental shelf. The authors state that even a small increase in water temperature may allow for the lithodid’s larvae to develop within the continental shelf, erasing the thermal geographic barrier that once existed. This may pose a problem because the species in the continental shelf have not evolved to cope with these predators. Co-author Sally Hall stated that, “the sudden appearance of a new predator with few competitors could threaten isolated shelf communities such as those of the Bellingshausen Sea on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.”

For additional information see: USA Today, Abstract

Other Headlines

November 9: Black Carbon and Its Implications for Climate Change and Public Health

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on black carbon, a component of soot, a leading cause of mortality in the developing world, and a contributor to global climate change. The largest sources of black carbon emissions are diesel engines, residential heating and cooking, and open burning of agricultural lands and forests. Black carbon contributes to climate change in two basic ways: by absorbing sunlight in the atmosphere and, subsequently, by falling from the atmosphere onto snow and ice -- causing these normally-reflective surfaces to absorb more heat and melt more quickly. Biomass burned in open fires and crude cooking stoves also leads to extremely high individual exposures to smoke -- of which black carbon is a major component -- and is a serious health threat for women and children in the developing world. This briefing will provide an overview of how black carbon impacts public health and the climate (and how the effects vary regionally) as well as technologies, current initiatives, and policy opportunities to reduce these emissions from cookstoves, the transportation sector, and forestry and agriculture. This briefing will be held Tuesday, November 9, 2010 from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. in room 385 of the Russell Senate Office Building. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at communications [at] or (202) 662-1884.

November 16-18: Webinar Series: Clean Energy and Sustainability as a Local Economic Development Strategy

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA invite you to learn about the role of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability in developing successful local economic development strategies. Practitioners and leading experts will discuss key concepts and practical examples of how energy and sustainability issues factor into fundamental economic development goals to save money for businesses and households, create new markets and business opportunities, and develop a talented workforce, as well as spur job creation and retain dollars in the local economy. Intended for local officials, economic development, energy, and sustainability professionals, and policymakers, this webinar series will examine the opportunities and obstacles facing local communities to achieve long-term prosperity in a changing economy.

Part I: Saving Money, Expanding Markets, and Building a Talented Workforce will be held on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. and can be registered for here. Part II: Leveraging Public Resources and Federal Funding will be held on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. and can be registered for here. For more information, contact us at policy [at] or (202) 662-1883.

December 8-9: ACORE Phase II of Renewable Energy in America National Policy Forum

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), with support from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), invites you to the Renewable Energy in America National Policy Forum. The Phase II National Policy Forum will lay the groundwork for the 2011 U.S. renewable energy market and finance policy agenda. It will explore the key issues on renewable energy supply, national security, economic development and jobs, and environment and climate. It will connect renewable energy with energy efficiency, storage, demand response, and smart grid. If you are a though leader on renewable energy policy, you need to be in this meeting. Join National and Global leaders as we assess the state of renewable energy policy today and the range of policy options available, and help to advise on a best case policy framework for 2011 and beyond. This event will be held December 8 – 9, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. To register, please click here.

Writers: Amber Pembleton, Nicholas Mostovych, and Krista Shaw

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