Climate Change News October 3, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
October 31, 2011


Federal Legislative Action


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California Adopts Cap and Trade System

On October 20, the California Air Resources Board unanimously decided to adopt a state-administered cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This succes marks the end of a court battle that delayed its development. The law, AB32, was originally signed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, requiring California to reduce CO2 pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. By 2013, California’s largest carbon emitters will have to either adhere to carbon limits or buy carbon credits. A second compliance phase that will likely include around 85 percent of California’s carbon emissions sources will begin in 2015. About $10 billion in carbon allowances are expected to be traded by 2016, making California the second largest carbon market in the world following the European Union.

For additional information see: LA Times, NY Times

House Votes to Exclude Airlines from European Cap and Trade System

On October 24, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to exclude airlines from the United States from the European Union (EU) emissions cap and trade program, which will soon incorporate the airline industry. The inclusion of the airline industry, which start in 2012, would charge foreign airlines for greenhouse gas emissions when they take off and land in nations of the EU. In enacted into law, the House bill will prevent U.S. carriers from participating in the EU emissions cap and trade program, and ensure that U.S. airlines are not damaged by the new emissions limits. Airlines would not be charged for 85 percent of the costs of permits needed for their emissions for the next ten years, but the program would still cost the industry about $3 billion each year.

For additional information see: Washington Post, New York Times

China Won’t Let Per Capita CO2 Emissions Reach U.S. Levels

China will not allow per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions levels to reach United States levels, according to a recent statement by vice chair of the National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua. Though Chinese per capita CO2 emissions have been projected to reach U.S. levels by 2017, Xie stated that China would not “follow the path of the U.S.” China’s most recent five year plan includes a 17 percent decrease in CO2 per unit of economic growth. By 2020, China aims to increase energy efficiency to 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels. In response to the idea of cutting emissions rather than restraining their development, Xie said that it could be possible to cut emissions after 2020, depending on the level of economic growth that has been achieved.

For additional information see: BBC

Researchers Rework Climate Change Projections for Great Lakes

According to recent research, climate change is not likely to reduce water levels in the Great Lakes as much as originally predicted. Previous projections suggested that increased evaporation and reduced rainfall would diminish the lakes. According to older models, the water levels of Lakes Huron and Michigan could fall six feet in the next 100 years. However, a new model, that reflects how solar energy and greenhouse gases affect evaporation, suggested that the change in water level will likely fall between a three feet decrease or a 20 inch increase.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal

Scientists: Two Degree Increase Limit Unlikely Without Serious Emissions Reductions

A team of scientists recently concluded that, unless rapid changes are made in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions levels, temperatures will rise more than two degrees Celsius above industrial levels. Scientists revised computer models to fit current data, and found that to avoid the two degree Celsius limit, annual CO2 emissions would need to fall to 44 gigatons per year by 2020, an 8.5 percent reduction. By 2050, a median of 20 gigatons annual emissions must be maintained in order to achieve climatic stability. This two degree target, deemed necessary by climate scientists to avoid the most detrimental effects of climate change, was set in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. However, with current annual CO2 emissions at a median of at about 48 gigatons, reaching this goal is increasingly unlikely, according to reports by the United Nations.

For additional information see: Wired, Abstract

Scientists Confirm Current Climate Out of the Ordinary

Recent research suggests that temperatures of the northern and southern hemispheres have not risen simultaneously in the past 20,000 years. The paper provides a climate reconstruction that extends 14,000 years further back in time than other similar studies, reconfirming existing research suggesting that contemporary changes in climate are anomalous to previous climatic fluctuations. The study consisted of an analysis of research and climate data that investigated whether past climate events produced correlations between the northern and southern hemispheres that are similar to current global changes. The data for climate reconstructions were based on marine and lake sediment and ice cores and samples. The study was published in the journal Climate Research.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Discovery, Study

Scientists Study Self-Contained Melting on Greenland Ice Sheet

A new study suggests that the Greenland ice sheet undergoes intense melting even when temperatures do not reach extreme highs, because of positive feedbacks that cause more melting and are difficult to control. Data gathered from a microwave feedback satellites and output from an ice sheet model imply that there is a positive feedback system involving albedo that causes continued melt, independent of rising temperatures. Dark patches of ice warm and melt rapidly. A year following a particularly warm season can reveal more subsurface dark ice that will melt as soon as the temperatures begin to rise. North Atlantic Oscillation indexes, runoff and bare ice impact the melting system further, according to the authors of the study. The research was produced by the City College of New York.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Study

New Climate Modelling Tool Incorporates Clouds

A new climate modelling technique called the Cloud-Feedback-Model Intercomparison Project Observation Simulator Package (COSP) accurately represents clouds in climate models, according to as team of scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Previously, models were not able to account precisely for cloud coverage, because they lack the spatial resolution necessary to form a simulation. Climate models usually have a 100-kilometer resolution, and meteorological models have a 20-kilometer resolution. The new model applies existing satellite data about clouds to simulate future scenarios. Using COSP, the atmospheric levels of clouds, reflectivity, and satellite radiation data can now be factored in to global climate models. According to recent projections using COSP, climate change is likely to cause clouds to increase in optical thickness and altitude. This project was published in the Bulletin on the American Meteorological Society.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Article

Yukon River Mercury Contamination Linked to Climate Change

According to a the most recent data, the Yukon River releases three to 32 times more mercury into the environment than comparable river systems. A five-year study from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) calculated that the river discharges almost five tons of mercury into the environment every year. The reasons for the mercury influx are unknown, but scientists suspect that both melting permafrost and pollution are responsible. Scientists speculated that as permafrost melts, previously trapped mercury is released into the environments. The Yukon River mercury measurements correlated strongly with organic matter from surrounding boreal forests. Other potential causes include the burning of fossil fuels and industrial pollution.

For additional information see: Scientific American, USGS

Mapping Study Analyzes Climate Change Threats

A recent survey ranked almost 200 nations for vulnerability to climate change in relation to population growth. The study included a map of the world that illustrates regional assessments of population and projected climate impacts. Cities with rapid population growth in Africa and Asia—such as Dhaka, Manila, Kinshasa, Kolkata, Jakarta, Delhi, and Guangzhou—tend to top the list. Socioeconomic factors and problems, such as corruption and poverty, worsen the issues posed by rapidly rising population and climate change. The objective of the project was to define potential risks for cities, economic zones, and investors. The study was part of the fourth Climate Change and Environmental Risk Analysis by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft.

For additional information see: Reuters, Study

Study: Urban Heat Island Effect Impact on Global Warming Smaller Than Previously Thought

A recent study that measured the contribution of the urban heat island effect to global warming found that it has only accounted for about 2 to 4 percent of total global warming since the industrial revolution. The study explained that the contribution of heat islands to global warming is relatively small compared to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, painting roofs white does not adequately address the issue. In fact, a worldwide conversion to white roofs would actually heat the earth by about 0.07 degrees Celsius, according to the study. The researchers suggested that solar photovoltaic panels would be an ideal substitute for white painted roofs, because they reduce fossil fuel emissions and keep houses cool by absorbing sunlight, rather than the building. The study was published in the Journal of Climate.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Other Headlines

Federal Legislative Action

Name of Legislation:H.R. 2594: European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011
Intent:To prohibit operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, and for other purposes.
Previous Action:10/24/2011 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote.
Sponsor:John Mica (R-FL)
For more information: Library of Congress

Name of Legislation:H.R. 3242: Save Our Climate Act of 2011
Intent:To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reduce emissions of carbon
dioxide by imposing a tax on primary fossil fuels based on their carbon
Previous Action:10/24/2011 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Sponsor:Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA)
For more information: Library of Congress

Monday, October 31: National Science Foundation Charitable Giving Event

EESI will have a table at the National Science Foundation Charitable Giving Event on Monday, October 31. If you work at NSF, please stop by our table from 11:00 AM to to 1:00 PM to find out more about EESI's work to curb climate change! EESI is a member of EarthShare, a workplace giving federation of environmental and conservation charities. You may be able designate EESI for easy payroll-based contributions--ask if your employer participates in EarthShare!

Wednesday, November 2: Federal Drug Administration's "America Recycles" Day

EESI will visit the FDA on Wednesday, November 2 to talk to employees about reducing, reusing, rebuying,and recycling! If you work at FDA, please stop by our table from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM to find out more about the 4R's: Reduce, Reuse, Rebuy, and Recycle! And please support this work by designating CFC #10627.

Thursday, November 3: Naval Sea Systems Command CFC Charity Fair (EESI's CFC# is 10627)

EESI, an approved member of the Combined Federal Campaign workplace giving program, will have a table at the Naval Sea Systems Command CFC Charity Fair on Thursday, November 3. If you work at Naval Sea Systems Command, please stop by our table from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM to find out more about EESI! And remember, all federal employees and members of the military can designate EESI in the Combined Federal Campaign with CFC #10627

Writers: Kate Glass, Joey Gosselar, and Matthew Johnson

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