Climate Change News September 26, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
September 26, 2011



Poll: More Americans Acknowledge Climate Change

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on September 15 revealed that 83 percent of Americans believe in climate change, compared to 75 percent last year. According to the poll, about 72 percent of Republicans achnowledge global warming and 92 percent of Democrats do. Of the participants who believed in global warming, 71 percent are convinced that it is at least partially caused by humans. About 15 percent of voters see global warming as a primary concern. The poll also indicated that, although more Americans recognize climate change, those who are skeptical are increasingly sure of their convictions. Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University, has suggested that the tendency of Republican presidential candidates to deny or criticize evidence of climate change has prompted people to reflect on their own views about global warming.

For additional information see: Reuters, Scientific American, International Business Times

Virginia Appeals Court Sides with Insurance Company in Climate Change Case

On September 16, the utility AES emerged as the winner of a decision over whether its insurer, Steadfast, was obligated to defend it in a lawsuit over climate change. AES is a defendent in the court case Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil Corp. et. al., in which the village of Kivalina, Alaska, accused AES and others of negligence because they knowingly emitted greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change, and subsequent rising sea levels. While the larger Kivalina case is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, AES sought a decision in Virginia courts on its insurer’s obligation. The decision not to obligate Steadfast hinged on the particular wording of the policy, according to Virginia Supreme Court Justice Bernard Goodwyn. "The relevant policies only require Steadfast to defend AES against claims for damages of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence or accident," he wrote. Climate change did not meet the “accident” or “occurrence” definition in this instance, according to the ruling.

For additional information see: New York Times, Insurance Journal

“24 Hours of Reality” Project Addresses Climate Change Skeptics

“24 Hours of Reality”, a new project led by former vice president Al Gore, illustrated the effects of climate change in 24 locations around the world through live online videos broadcast in 24 different time zones. The website’s counter indicated the program, which was available in 13 different languages, attracted 8.5 million viewers. The purpose of the videos was to raise awareness about the cause and effects of climate change, directly addressing climate change skeptics and deniers. The videos included an investigation into how climate change skeptics are funded and 200 new slides that outline the connection between climate change and increasingly intense natural disasters.

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

Number of People Displaced by Climate Change Reaches 30 Million

Over 30 million people were displaced last year by environmental and weather disasters in Asia, according to a recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. This number is expected to rise as disasters intensify due to impacts caused by climate change such as rising sea levels, floods, droughts, and food shortages. Problems associated with the influx of migration are estimated to cost around $60 billion. Areas that face the greatest challenges are low-lying regions such as the Maldives, where populations of entire islands have already been forced to move. The report states that rather than creating a new category of migrant people, climate change will likely influence existing migration factors and patterns, such as reinforcing the strong urbanization trend in the region. The ADB is currently working on a report that will outline potential policies that governments could consider to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Report

Future of the Kyoto Protocol Remains Uncertain

A new international agreement resulting in the renewal of the Kyoto Protocol seems unlikely, as the United States continues to refuse to take part in discussions, and Norway and Australia call for a delay in a new treaty. Todd Stern, the most prominent U.S. negotiator in international climate change talks, stated that most industrialized nations such as Russia, Japan, and Canada, oppose a second commitment period, and the United States will continue to refuse to participate in a new international treaty unless emerging economies will be obligated to reduce emissions. The Kyoto Protocol is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, leaving no binding international agreement in its place, and no legal foundation for carbon trading schemes in its place. Developing countries have expressed discontent at the likely abandonment of the Protocol, which they believe to be the foundation of future negotiations on climate change.

For additional information see: Business Green, The Guardian

Leaked World Bank Report Calls for Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies to Fulfill Climate Finance Pledges

Wealthy countries should eliminate $50 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies, a leaked World Bank report said. The report, which was intended to be presented to the G20 finance ministers in November, also said that countries should spend their pledged climate change funds on financing carbon markets. It is unlikely that the funds which rich countries have pledged—$30 billion for 2010-2012 and $100 billion per year by 2020—will actually be provided. Removing fossil fuel subsidies could be a starting point though, according to the study.
The report further supports a carbon tax on the aviation and maritime industries. "A globally implemented carbon charge of $25/ton CO2 on fuel used could raise around $13 billion from international aviation and around $26 billion from international maritime transport in 2020, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions from each industry by around 5 to 10 percent.” Developing countries have become increasingly frustrated by rich nations failing to fulfill their climate finance pledges. "Rich nations cannot try and pass the buck to private companies who will be more interested in delivering high returns than meeting the needs of some of the world's poorest people,” said Murray Worthy, a policy officer with the World Development Movement.

For additional information see: Guardian, World Bank Draft Report (Via Guardian)

Market Participants Praise Proposal by Australia and Norway for 2015 Climate Deadline

Australia and Norway have submitted a proposal to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat to finalize a new international climate framework by 2015, acknowledging that it likely will not happen in Durban this year. The proposal creates a timetable which begins with the negotiations in Durban and finishes with a legally-binding framework in 2015. Participants have praised the proposal as realistic. “There are a number of parties that would like to have a legally-binding agreement right away,” Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said. “But it’s good to have a vision on the table.” Russel Mills, global director of energy and climate change for Dow Chemical in Switzerland, and Martijn Wilder, a Sydney-based partner with law firm Baker & McKenzie, have noted that countries such as Australia, China and Korea should have their own emissions trading schemes in place by 2015, which will make international talks easier. “At the end of the day, it’s very important to have a timetable, but you have to have the political will to meet it,” Mr. Wilder said.

For additional information see: Environmental Finance, The Proposal

Carbon Disclosure Project Praises Entergy for Placement on Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index

For the seventh time in eight years, Entergy Corporation has been named to the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI). Compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the CDLI is comprised of 55 companies from the S&P 500 who have been lauded for their disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions, commitments to emissions reductions, and their understanding of the role they play in climate change issues. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) maintains a database of over 3,000 organizations’ voluntarily disclosed greenhouse gas emissions and water-use information. According to Entergy, “It's as simple as, despite the best intentions, what's not measured doesn't get done. The Carbon Disclosure Project serves a great need to raise our awareness of how much can be, and needs to be, done."According to Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, "Companies that make the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index have demonstrated good internal data management practices for understanding greenhouse gas emissions. They have shown a strong awareness of the business issues related to climate change, including climate-related risks and opportunities. Those organizations that give clear consideration to measuring and reporting on climate change issues will be best placed to capitalize on the opportunities from managing them." Entergy, an integrated electric power company servicing Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, was also named to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index earlier this month.

For additional information see: Sacramento Bee

Climate Change Alters Availability of Fish in Britain

According to a new study, global warming is changing fish populations in British waters. Cold water fish such as cod and haddock, that are common in British cuisine are growing scarcer as sea temperatures rise. Fish that tend to breed in warmer temperatures, such as hake, dab, and red mullet, are thriving. Analysis of 28 years of data that tracked 50 common species of fish revealed that 30 different species are affected by climate change. If this trend continues, the UK could see a greater diversity of options in fish, as warm water species tend to be more resilient to overfishing because they reproduce and grow faster than cold water species. However, the study also mentioned that the impact of ocean acidification is still unknown, and might negatively impact the availability of fish. The research was funded by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Research Council, and was published in Current Biology.

For additional information see: BBC, Guardian, Science Daily, Study

Deep Ocean Layers Can Absorb Heat

A recent study revealed that ocean layers deeper than 1,000 feet can absorb heat for up to a decade. This discovery provided insight into why global temperature does not rise consistently. The study was prompted by the realization that even though carbon emissions have climbed steadily in the past decade, the highest global temperatures on record in 1998 were not exceeded until 2010. By using a software tool known as Community Climate System Model to illustrate complex relationships between the atmosphere, land, oceans, and ice, scientists were able to create five simulations of global temperatures. The simulations projected that there would be periods of relatively stable temperatures that could last about a decade, during which heat energy is buried in deep oceanic layers.The study was published in Nature Climate Change.

For additional information see: Science Daily, International Business Times, Abstract

New Model for Allocating Funds Could Mitigate Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity

Scientists have developed a new model for the allocation of conservation funding that could help save more species from climate change. The model uses both ecological and economic information to guide conservation investment, and can be applied to the conservation of a wide range of environments. The goal of the project was to address the loss of biodiversity due to climate change by making sure that the costs of conservation efforts are explicit, and money is not wasted on politicized decisions. The model considers many threats to biodiversity that are caused by climate change, such as wild fires and invasive species, to efficiently manage funds. The model was published in Nature Climate Change.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

New Technologies Could Reduce Cost of Climate Protection

New research suggests that funding for new technology is one of the most cost effective ways to address climate change. Funding for new energy technologies with a high potential for cost reduction is more financially beneficial than investing in more familiar technologies. The research was conducted at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research using a computer simulation that processed data from the past 100 years. The analysis shows that companies are uncertain about long term profits from new technologies, and consumers have little incentive to pay more for electricity that was produced with new technology, so inferior and ultimately more expensive technology tends to dominate the market. Funding targeted at new technologie, such as solar energy, offshore wind power, and biomass energy, over a 30 year period, have a more positive cost-benefit ratio, compared to financial support for well-established technologies such as nuclear energy and hydroelectric power. The study was published in the journal Resource and Energy Economics.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Guardian, Study

New Satellite Could Improve Climate Models

A new paper, published in The Philospohical Transactions of the Royal Society, finds that more reliable and precise climate models can be formed using Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial and Helio Studies (TRUTHS). Currently, the most reliable models depend on many complicated measurements, analysis, and projections. The data required to maintain these models must be taken from space, often over a long period of time. The costs and variability in such data collection methods result in varying climate models. The TRUTHS project would involve a single satellite capable of highly accurate measurements of incoming solar radiation that could track albedo, cloud cover, and solar radiation levels. TRUTHS would be the first satellite with the ability to accurately record and report data about climate while orbiting, and would be capable of measurements ten times more accurate than current satellites. So far, both the European Space Agency and NASA have expressed interest in the project.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

NOAA Analyzes Emissions from Surface Oil Burning After BP Oil Spill

A study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) revealed that over one million pounds of black carbon (soot) was released into the atmosphere when the surface oil slicks from the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill were burned. Over nine weeks, the burned oil emitted more black carbon into the atmosphere than the combined emissions of all ships normally traveling through the region during that time. Black carbon is harmful because it not only warms the atmosphere—it is the most light absorbing airborne particle—but also degrades air quality and is harmful to human health. Black carbon has also been associated with accelerated melting of Arctic ice. "Scientists have wanted to know more about how much black carbon pollution comes from controlled burning and the physical and chemical properties of that pollution. Now we know a lot more," said the study’s lead author Anne Perring. The researchers found that the soot emitted was larger than normal ship emissions, which usually indicates that it will remain in the atmosphere for less time. However, it also reached higher altitudes which could affect where it eventually settles.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Study: “Negative Emissions” Necessary if CO2 Emissions Continue Beyond 2020

Cutting carbon emissions may no longer be sufficient to stay within the 2 degree temperature limit on global warming, a series of studies have predicted in the November issue of the journal Climate Change. According to one study, the atmosphere may be saturated with enough carbon to reach the 2 degree increase within 20 years, after which carbon must be removed to compensate for increased emissions. Such an approach, known as “negative emissions”, is getting more attention as emissions continue to grow and global temperatures rise. The atmosphere has already warmed by .8 degrees since before industrial times.
"If we want to stay below 2 degrees Celsius and possibly achieve 1.5 in the 22nd century then we're not going to get around these negative emissions," said Malte Meinshausen, lead author of one study. According to Meinshausen’s study, in order to achieve this, we must halt increases in carbon emissions within 5 years, and 3.5 billion tons have to be removed from the atmosphere annually by 2070. If emissions continue to rise after 2020, excess carbon must be removed from the atmosphere at a rate of 18 billion tons annually for about 100 years.

For additional information see: Reuters

Other Headlines

September 23 - October 2: Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon is on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. through October 2, 2011. The award-winning program challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today. For more information, visit

Writers: Kate Glass, Joey Gosselar, and Matthew Johnson

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