Table Of Contents

    As climate change causes water levels to rise, park managers are working to implement adaptation measures to protect the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Image courtesy of U.S. FWS via flickr.com.

     

    China to Invest $361 Billion in Clean Energy by 2020

    On January 5, China’s National Energy Administration unveiled a plan to overhaul its electricity generation sector by investing $361 billion into clean energy development between 2016 and 2020. The investment would focus on developing wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power, resulting in about a $72 billion annual effort. The projects would make up roughly half of China’s new electricity generation during that span, as the world’s largest economy moves to meet its goals under the Paris Climate agreement. The agency in charge of China’s economic planning, the National Development and Reform Commission, projected in its own five year plan that 1,000 yuan would go towards ramping up solar generation capacity, with 700 billion yuan going to wind, 500 to hydroelectric, and additional funds to tidal and geothermal projects. However, China’s substantial demand for energy means the boost in clean energy sources will still account for just 15 percent of its overall energy consumption, with coal fueling more than half of the country’s installed generating capacity in 2020.

    For more information see:

    Reuters

     

    Agriculture's Role in Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Planning Continues to Grow

    Agricultural practices are being targeted by numerous countries as a way of meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. Over 90 percent of the agreement's participating countries have said they would use changes to farming, and forestry and land use connected to farming, as a means of reducing emissions. "Agriculture has really lagged" until recently, said Craig Hanson of the World Resources Institute. Hanson added, "Considering [agriculture] contributes 13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 24 percent of net emissions with land-use change, it's surprising it's taken so long." About a decade ago, research began to define the impact of agriculture in global emissions and now features prominently in national mitigation and adaptation plans, particularly for developing countries. Agriculture is responsible for 35 percent of emissions in developing countries compared to only 12 percent in developed countries. However, many farmers face financial limitations in implementing such measures and will look to their governments to provide assistance.

    For more information see:

    Inside Climate News

     

    "Eco-Right" Movement Touts Free Market Solutions to Combat Climate Change

    A band of Republicans calling themselves the "eco-right" hope to convince President-elect Trump to steer the United States toward a low-carbon future. The movement consists of think tanks, activists, and political operatives advocating for a "free market approach to environmentalism," based around conservative ideals. Former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis has been a vocal member of the movement. Inglis said, “I think the path [to dealing with climate] is mostly through the business community, where unlikely partners could really step forward and say, ‘There’s a free enterprise solution to this. Don’t give us regulations. Don’t try to tell us how to run our business. Just internalize the negative externality and we will deal with it.’” The eco-right supports replacing existing taxes with a "revenue-neutral, border-adjustable" carbon tax as a centerpiece for cutting emissions, rather than regulations like the Clean Power Plan. Eli Lehrer, leader of the think tank R Street, described a carbon tax as "good tax policy," predicting state-level efforts to adopt such a tax as "very likely in the next four to eight years."

    For more information see:

    Atlantic

     

    Lawsuit Accuses Exxon of Endangering Public Health by Failing to Prepare its Facilities for Climate Impacts

    A first-of-its-kind lawsuit is being filed in Boston's U.S. District Court by the Conservation Law Foundation against Exxon Mobil for the company's purported negligence in safeguarding communities against the effects of climate change. The suit states that rising sea levels will make it more likely that carcinogenic materials will leak from Exxon's oil terminal on the Island End River and into the basements and streets of nearby towns like Everett and Chelsea. The suit states, "Exxon Mobil’s failure to adapt the Everett Terminal to increased precipitation, rising sea levels, and storm surges of increasing frequency and magnitude puts the facility, the public health, and the environment at great risk." Exxon has called for the suit's dismissal, claiming the Foundation lacks standing to sue. However, the Foundation claims Exxon is currently in violation of existing environmental laws and the consequences of such violations will be made worse by projected climate impacts.

    For more information see:

    Boston Globe

     

    Labor Advocates Call for a "Just Transition" for Workers Formerly Employed by Fossil Fuel Industries

    As the global economy moves toward renewable energy and other sustainable industries, the portion of the workforce reliant upon industries driven by fossil fuels are trying to keep up with the transition. Other groups, like Arizona's Navajo tribe, suffered from the negative impacts of fossil fuel-based electricity generation, but are now seeing the few economic benefits once afforded to them depart for cleaner energy technologies. In order to better cope with the "human impact" of the fossil fuel sector's decline, advocates are calling for the adoption of "just transitions" to reduce hardships for these workers, allow them to adapt their skills to new industries, and preserve public health and the environment in impacted communities. Sam Smith of the International Trade Union Confederation said, "It doesn’t really help us to solve climate change in a way that creates massive economic and social disruption … we want to come out not only with a world where emissions are down, but actually people have decent and better lives."

    For more information see:

    Carbon Brief

     

    Latest Science Further Refutes the Occurrence of a “Pause” in Global Warming from 1998-2014

    Climate scientists have further refuted the previous consensus that there was a “pause” in global temperature increases between 1998 and 2014. Multiple studies, including a major publication in Science by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), had also proposed ocean temperatures were being consistently underestimated by global climate models. NOAA discovered that newer ocean buoys reported water temperatures slightly cooler than the ship-based instruments they replaced, but climate skeptics strongly objected to the findings. The latest study backs up NOAA’s analysis by using three independent data sets collected by satellites, buoys, and robotic floats. The researchers found that all three data sets agreed with NOAA’s results. Study co-author, Dr. Kevin Cowtan with the University of York, said, "We were initially skeptical of the NOAA result, because it showed faster warming than a previous updated record from the UK Met Office. So we set out to test it for ourselves, using different methods and different data. We now think NOAA got it right, and a new dataset from the Japan Meteorological Agency also agrees.”

    For more information see:

    BBC, Washington Post, Associated Press

     

    Perspectives within the Climate Science Community are Heavily Skewed Towards the “Global North”

    A study by an international group of 14 scientists found evidence of a significant gap in climate research and data generated by developed and developing nations. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, says the research disparity makes it more difficult for developing nations to assess the fairness of national emissions targets and that the lack of diverse perspectives in international climate dialogues can hinder policy advances. According to the study, affluent countries have an average of 3,220 researchers per million people, while poorer countries have 393. In addition, 10,422 scientific and technical journals were published by experts based in the “Global North” versus 1,323 in the “Global South” over the same time period. While some United Nations institutions are beginning to adjust policies to encourage greater representation among nationalities, study co-author Saleemul Huq said, “a lack of emphasis on the importance of adaptation to climate vulnerable regions reflects the bias of the authors from developed countries.”

    For more information see:

    Climate Change News, Study

     

    American Forests Face Heavy Losses as Climate Change Allows Destructive Insects to Expand Their Range

    Climate change, global trade, and drought are allowing invasive insects to harm forest biodiversity across the United States. The insects cause billions of dollars in damages annually in the form of dead tree removal, declining property values, and timber industry losses. According to a peer-reviewed study in the journal Ecological Applications, 63 percent of the nation's forests will be at risk from the pests through 2027. Several species of hemlock and nearly 20 species of ash may be threatened with extinction due to the onslaught. The die-offs erase habitat and food sources for wildlife, remove carbon sinks, and can increase the risk of wildfires. Invasive insects pose the greatest risk to forests in the Northeast, Midwest, California, Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina. U.S. Forest Service entomologist Andrew Liebhold said, “The primary driver of the invasive pest problem is globalization, which includes increased trade and travel, but there are cases where climate change can play an important role. As climates warm, species are able to survive and thrive in more northerly areas.”

    For more information see:

    Washington Post

     

    Managers of Maryland Wildlife Refuge Strive to Protect its Valuable Ecosystems from Rising Waters

    Maryland is working to protect its distinct marshland habitats from rising waters caused by climate change. The habitat, known as Blackwater, was designated as a federal refuge for migrating birds in 1933 and has developed into a key environmental and economic resource for the Eastern Shore region. Blackwater draws over 180,000 tourists annually, while the marshes serve as both valuable commercial fish habitat and as a buffer against flooding and erosion for local communities. The refuge's waters have risen more than a foot over the past century, destroying native grasses and turning eight square miles of marsh into open water. New marshland has also formed as a consequence, but they are populated with different grasses and do not support the biodiversity of the older marshes. Blackwater's managers are pumping mud from the river bottom to slowly elevate the marshland, combating invasive species that displace native grasses, and using projections through 2050 to guide land acquisitions.

    For more information see:

    Baltimore Sun

     

    Headlines

    Dr. Piers Sellers, NASA Astronaut and Climate Scientist, Passes Away

    France to Launch “Green Bond” for Financing Climate Mitigation and Environmental Protection

    France Releases Plan for Reducing Emissions by 75 Percent from 1990 Levels by 2050

    Future Climate Change Impacts Could Spur Migration from Rural Mexico to the United States

    Major California Wine Producer Pursues Climate Adaptation and Sustainability Measures

     

    Events

    How to Feed the World and Cool the Planet: Soil Is the Solution

    Wednesday, January 11

    9 am - 11 am

    U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Room 212-10

    Breakfast will be provided

     

    The Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International are pleased to invite you to an important briefing. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute

    is a co-sponsor of this event.

    Hope for the future depends on reversing three disturbing trends: dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases, and rapidly vanishing natural resources, especially water. These problems have one thing in common: They can't be solved without soil. We might take dirt for granted, but we can't do much without it. In this briefing, experts will explain how our ability to feed the world and cool the planet depends on how we care for the soil.

    Speakers include Will Allen of Cedar Circle Farm, VT; Diana Donlon, Director at the Soil Solutions Project, Center for Food Safety; Dr. Kristine Nichols, Chief Scientist at the Rodale Institute; Kristin Ohlson, author of “The Soil Will Save Us”; Judith Schwartz, author of “Cows Save the Planet" and "Water In Plain Sight”; and David Smith, Deputy Chief for Soil Science and Resource Assessment at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

     

    To RSVP, email Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director, Organic Consumers Association at alexis@organicconsumers.org.

    Click here for more information

     

    Writer and Editor: Brian La Shier