Climate Change News October 10, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
October 10, 2011



EPA Responds to Criticism of Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding

On September 28, the EPA released a response to the Inspector General’s report on the endangerment finding about the health risks of greenhouse gases. The Inspector General recently criticized the EPA for not completing a full peer review of a review of literature concerning the dangers of greenhouse gases. This confusing controversy prompted the EPA to release a statement outlining the careful development of their conclusions and responding to the recommendations of the Inspector General, highlighting the fact that the EPA actually met statutory requirements for rule-making. The EPA’s endangerment finding was based on peer-reviewed studies of previously peer-reviewed scientific literature that have been included in forums such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Research Council (NRC).

For additional information see: Climate Science Watch, EPA

Panel Urges Government to Implement New Climate Change Mitigation Measures

A panel of scientists and former government officials at the Bipartisan Policy Center recently urged the U.S. government to consider directly manipulating the earth’s temperature to mitigate climate change. Proposed techniques included injecting the atmosphere with particles that would mimic the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions, trapping and storing atmospheric carbon underground, and solar radiation management. Solar radiation management, the most controversial of the proposals, involves reflecting solar energy away from the earth’s atmosphere before it can be absorbed. Such techniques are typically referred to as “geoengineering,” but the panel used the term “climate remediation” throughout the report to emphasize the goal of counteracting past greenhouse gas emissions.

For additional information see: New York Times, Report

Officials from Across Americas Discuss Public Health and Climate Change

On September 30, health officials from throughout the Americas met to discuss public health risks and necessary responses related to climate change. The discussion was part of the 50th Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO/WHO experts agreed that the health effects of climate change are numerous, and the impact of global warming will include both direct effects, such as heat stress and injuries from natural disasters, as well as indirect effects, such as the spread of disease to new areas and malnutrition due to crop failure. Officials agreed that rapid and unplanned urban growth, population displacement, and increased drought and flood risks related to climate change pose new public health issues. Proposed solutions to these climate change-induced problems included improving infrastructure necessary to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, promoting national campaigns to raise awareness about climate change, advancing primary health care services, and establishing a new PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center to study the health effects of climate change.

For additional information see: PAHO

China’s Emissions Growing, But Still Predicted to Meet Carbon Goal Relative to GDP Growth

Despite population growth, China is on track to meet a pledge to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions relative to economic growth. In 2010, China pledged to reduce its rate of emissions generated per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. According to a report from Ecofsy, a renewable energy consultant, China is on its way to reaching these goals due to implementation of renewable and non-fossil energy technology included in the 12th five year plan. Faster than expected economic growth, however, has caused estimates of annual emissions in China to increase by about 1 gigaton of CO2 per year.

According to another recent study concerning CO2 emissions in China, rapidly expanding capital investments in China have fueled the expansion of the construction industry in China, resulting in a 70 percent increase of emissions between 1992 and 2007. In addition to the expanding construction industry, one of the key causes for this increase in emissions—totalling about four billion tons in 15 years—is urbanization. China recently overtook the United States in CO2 emissions, as Chinese industry continues to expand and per capita emissions rise due to lifestyle changes. This study was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Bloomberg, Ecofys, Abstract

Expanding Carbon Standards Provide New Business for Environmental Services

As more countries pass regulations on carbon emissions, a large opportunity is opening up for environmental firms to provide services to companies seeking to document and reduce their own carbon footprint. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, recently released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), outlines standards for companies’ Corporate Value Chain and Product Life Cycles. The Protocol is a global methodology for firms to calculate emissions across their entire supply chain and to identify opportunities for improvement and increased efficiency. "The new standards provide companies with a comprehensive view of the emissions produced when making a product and across the value chain. They will help companies make better business decisions and stimulate innovation of products and production methods," said Bjorn Stigson, WBCSD president. According to the Carbon Trust, a UK-based agency which provides emissions certification services, large firms are increasingly choosing suppliers who track their emissions. According to research conducted by the firm, 40 percent of businesses calculate the emissions from their supply chain. Of those who do not, 80 percent have plans to begin calculating supply chain emissions within the next three years.

In related news, two new tools for measuring greenhouse gas emissions were announced October 4. The first, Scope 3, is a method of calculating greenhouse gases that incorporates a company’s entire supply chain, product use, and disposal practices. The second tool is a calculation involving six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, across the entire span of a consumer product’s manufacture, use, and disposal. These methods will be useful in promoting company disclosure of CO2 emissions, providing a meaningful way to compare products and competitors. Drawbacks of the technique include difficulty in recording emissions from suppliers in regions with varying regulations and emissions requirements.These technologies were developed by the Wold Resources Institute, and the World Business Council of Sustainable Development.

For additional information see: Business Green, Greenhouse Gas Protocol, New York Times, New York Times, Green Biz

Climate Change Threatens West African Cocoa Industry

According to a recent report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), climate change poses a great challenge to the lucrative West African cocoa industry. By 2050, a temperature rise of over 2 degrees Celsius will render many of the cocoa-producing areas of Ghana and the Ivory Coast unsuitable for large scale cocoa production. Ghana and the Ivory Coast are responsible for 53 percent of the world’s $9 billion cocoa industry, and an impact due to climate change would affect both the livelihood of local farmers and the global cocoa market. The report also noted that some regions not currently capable of supporting cocoa farming, such as Montagnes in Cote d’Ivoire, may become conducive to cocoa production, while other regions will be incapable of supporting preexisting cocoa farms. The report stressed the importance of adequate preparation for the anticipated agricultural shifts in West Africa, such as implementing drought-tolerant germplasm and irrigation systems, developing cocoa shade management to deal with rising temperatures, and preventing bush fires.

For additional information see: Washington Post, Report

Study Suggests Emissions Due to Household Products Continue to Rise

According to a recent report by the Energy Savings Trust, household electrical appliances are thwarting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom. The total energy consumption from consumer electronic goods rose by more than 600 percent between 1970 and 2009. Currently, 29 percent of all CO2 emissions come from households. The report suggests that, with little evidence that this trend will slow, the United Kingdom’s 2020 target to cut domestic electricity use by 34 percent is unlikely. Though many of the products that require the most energy have become more efficient in the past decade, the demand for new products and home entertainment systems has caused a steady increase in energy consumption. To offset this projection, the report included suggestions such as tighter product standards, broader studies of consumer behavior, taxes on inefficient products, and energy efficiency labelling.

For additional information see: Guardian, Report

Climate Change Challenges Migrating Species

A new study from Brown University predicted that about 50 percent of existing species will be unable to adapt to changing climates. Researchers concluded that species would need to be able not only to disperse quickly and relocate to more favorable climates, but also endure fluctuating climatic conditions. Using mathematical models to project climate change and observed migration patterns, researchers found that migration—the typical method that animals use to cope with climate change—will be difficult for many populations because fluctuating temperatures will halt migration patterns, confining populations to a specific area that is only temporarily inhabitable. According to a sample study of species of amphibians, about half of the species would survive the migration and fluctuating conditions, while half would be either extinct or endangered. The stdy was published in Ecology Letters.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Examiner, Abstract

Scientists Recommend Agricultural Adjustments for Climate Change

A recent series of studies from the Consultative Group on Agriculture Research (CGIAR) Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) focused on adjusting agricultural processes to cope with climate change in Africa. Adaptation strategies included developing and distributing heat-tolerant potato varieties, looking to traditional varieties of crops for alternatives, and researching crop variations and genetic traits available in seed banks. The study also suggested investing in research to identify important genetic traits that impact drought tolerance and pest resistance. Greater awareness and preparation for predicted changes in insect population patterns are also imperative, as crop-threatening insects, such as the tuber moth, are likely to inhabit new regions, according to the studies.

For additional information see: Science Daily

Pacific Ocean Not Responsible for CO2 Rise that Followed Ice Age

A new study negated the long held hypothesis that the Pacific Ocean emits additional carbon dioxide (CO2) responsible for global warming. The peak of the last ice age 18,000 years ago was correlated to a 30 percent rise in atmospheric CO2, and many believe that the source of this CO2 was the ocean. The release of CO2 from the ocean would have required a poorly ventilated deep Pacific Ocean and more atmospheric exchange during the last Glacial Maximum. However, radiocarbon measurements of shells from a core collected from an ocean depth of 2.7 km in the northeast Pacific Ocean suggested that the ventilation ages during the last Glacial Maximum were similar to today, meaning that the Pacific was not an important carbon reserve during the ice age. David Lund, the lead author of the study, said that scientists are “going back to the drawing board” to find out why CO2 levels rose during this period.

For additional information see: Science Daily, National Geographic, Abstract

Study Outlines Important Factors of Carbon Cycling in Soil

A recent study found that the reason some soils release carbon into the atmosphere over time, while other soils remain stable for millennia, is related to environmental and biological factors. Some factors that affect the carbon cycling capacity of soil are the physical isolation of the molecules, soil moisture, and whether or not the particles are protected by mineral or physical structures. The study included information about how to incorporate more accurate systems of carbon release into carbon cycling models, such as using deeper samples of soil rather than humic matter, a component that is frequently considered in models but is actually not present in degrading soil. Existing models of carbon cycling in soil focus on molecular structure, so this discovery will impact models of soil carbon systems as well as global carbon models. The study was published in Nature.

For additional information see: Science Daily, PhysOrg, Abstract

Study Study Says: New Data on Photosynthesis May Impact Climate Change, Policy

A team of U.S., Dutch and Australian scientists have estimated that the global rate of photosynthesis might occur 25 percent faster than previously thought. Photosynthesis—the process by which plants assimilate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere in exchange for emitting oxygen—plays a pivotal role in the carbon cycle, and by extension, in climate change. The task was difficult because measuring the photosynthetic rate of every plant on Earth is virtually impossible. “For a single leaf it's straightforward, you just put it in an instrument chamber and measure the CO2 decreasing in the chamber air," said Dr. Welp, coauthor of the study. “It's difficult to measure the rate of photosynthesis for forests, let alone the entire globe.” The team of researchers analyzed more than 30 years of data from across the globe, including Cape Grim, Mauna Loa, Christmas Island, Samoa, California, Alaska and South Pole. The researchers were able to use isotopes to trace the flow of oxygen atoms in CO2 molecules which allowed them to determine their time in the atmosphere and the speed by which it passed through plants. "These results can be used to validate the biospheric components included in carbon cycle models and, although still tentative, may be useful in predicting future climate change," said Dr. Allison, an atmospheric chemist and coauthor. The study was published on September 28 in Nature.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Study

Other Headlines

October 28-29: 6th Annual North American Passive House Conference

The Passive House Institute U.S. and the Environmental and Energy Studies Institute invite you to The 6th Annual North American Passive House Conference. Ellen Vaughan, policy director of High Performance Green Buildings at EESI, will present at the conference, addressing the crucial role of the government in forwarding the highest green building standard to grow the Passive House sector in the United States. The North American Passive House Conference gathers building experts - from architects to engineers to contractors - to share the latest technology developments and best practices for building sustainable, comfortable and affordable Passive House buildings and retrofits in the US market.
The panel will take place on Saturday, October 29, 2011 from 10:15 am to 12:15, at the Silver Spring Civic Building - One Veterans Place; Silver Spring, MD 20910..
For more information contact EESI at communications [at]
To register for the conference please go to:

Writers: Kate Glass, Joey Gosselar, and Matthew Johnson

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