Table Of Contents
Effort to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gases Fails in Senate
On June 10, a resolution in the Senate to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) failed to pass by a vote of 47-53. The disapproval resolution (S. J. Res. 26) introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would veto EPA’s endangerment finding, a formal determination that allows the agency to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. "Politically accountable members of the House and Senate, not unelected bureaucrats, must develop our nation's energy and climate policies," said Murkowski. "I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Congress will not pass bad legislation in order to stave off bad regulations." The resolution failed to garner the 51 votes needed to proceed, with all 41 Republicans and six Democrats – Evan Bayh (IN), Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR) and John D. Rockefeller IV (WV) – voting in favor of the resolution.
Sen. Lugar Introduces 'Practical Energy and Climate Plan'
On June 9, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced climate legislation that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency standards, support for renewable electricity, and incentives to build nuclear reactors and retire coal-fired power plants. Lugar said his legislation would cost $3.75 billion over five years, reduce dependence on foreign oil by more than 40 percent and decrease national energy consumption by 11 percent by 2030. The Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010 (S. 3464) does not include a cap and trade program on GHG emissions like the one contained in the American Power Act, a bill introduced a month ago by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). “The carrot-stick approach is the basis of cap-and-trade,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had worked with Kerry and Lieberman on the earlier legislation but dropped his support before the bill was introduced. “This is a carrot-stick approach, but there are more carrots than sticks.” Graham, as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are co-sponsors of Lugar’s bill.
Polls Finds Large Majority of Americans Believe in Global Warming, Support Government Action
A survey conducted June 1 to June 7 revealed that three out of four Americans believe global warming is happening and that they want the government to do something about it. According to Dr. Jon Krosnick, professor at Stanford University and author of the study, “Several national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people. But our new survey shows just the opposite.” Krosnick added, “Our surveys reveal a small decline in the proportion of people who believe global warming has been happening, from 84 percent in 2007 to 74 percent today. Statistical analysis of our data revealed that this decline is attributable to perceptions of recent weather change by the minority of Americans who have been skeptical about climate scientists.” In addition to this large proportion (74 percent) of Americans who believe global warming is happening, 86 percent of Americans said the federal government should limit the amount of air pollution businesses can emit, and 84 percent supported offering tax breaks to encourage power companies to use renewable energy sources.
On June 8, a study published by researchers from Yale and George Mason Universities corroborates the results of the Stanford poll, revealing that the number of Americans who are concerned about global warming and believe humans are partly responsible has been rising. According to Anthony Leiserowtiz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, “The stabilization and slight rebound in public opinion is occurring amid signs the economy is starting to recover, along with consumer confidence, and as memories of unusual snowstorms and scientific scandals recede. The BP oil disaster is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which may be increasing support for clean energy policies.” Seventy-seven percent of Americans favor regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant; 83 percent support tax rebates for people who buy fuel-efficient vehicles and solar panels; 65 percent believe the United States should sign an international treaty which cuts carbon dioxide emissions 90 percent by the year 2050; 61 percent believe power companies should be required to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources. According to Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, “More than seven out of 10 Americans say the United States should take action to power our nation with clean energy. Even more Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including 64 percent of Republicans.”
UN Climate Talks Conclude in Bonn
On June 11, negotiators from 185 nations concluded two weeks of negotiations in Bonn, Germany, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The meeting produced a 22-page draft outlining a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 50-85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050” and for developed nations to cut emissions by at least 80-95 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Yvo de Boer, the outgoing UNFCCC Executive Secretary, called the draft a “major advance,” in an interview. “There is increasing convergence on key issues,” he said. The draft was prepared by Zimbabwe’s Margaret Mukahanana- Sangarwe, UN chair of global actions, in preparation for the next Conference of Parties to be held in December in Cancun, Mexico. De Boer said decisions can be made in Cancun that may be turned into a treaty a year later at a subsequent summit in South Africa. His successor, Christiana Figueres, said that she is optimistic that some kind of a treaty can be reached, though an all-encompassing deal that ends climate change is unlikely in her lifetime.
New Mexico Supreme Court Rules State May Proceed with Work on Emissions Cap
On June 7, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Environmental Improvement Board can resume consideration of state regulations that would cap greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The decision reversed a lower court ruling that effectively halted the board’s process for gathering expert testimony and public comments related to a proposal offered by New Energy Economy, an environmental group. Opponents of the proposal had filed a lawsuit, arguing that the state panel did not have the authority to regulate GHG emissions, and that the regulation would harm New Mexico’s economy. New Energy Economy initially petitioned state regulators in December 2008 to impose a cap that would affect any business that emitted more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year. A revised proposal submitted in March 2010 specified a phased-in program that would include only electricity generators and businesses in the oil and gas industry that emit more than 25,000 metric tons per year. It sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from those sources by 3 percent each year from levels set in 2010. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King petitioned the high court for an extraordinary writ to have the District Court injunction dissolved, a spokesman said. “This case was about the state having the authority to effectively make rules,” King said. “This is the right decision for the state, it is clear that we now have an orderly process for rule-making and I am very pleased the Court granted our Writ of Superintending Control.”
Number of Investors Considering Climate Change Investment Policies Double
On June 7, a report released by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) revealed that “the number of asset owners considering investors’ climate change policies as key to selection has doubled since 2007.” Seventy percent of the 26 institutions surveyed said they had commissioned or supported climate change research compared to 45 percent who said they had done so in 2008. Eighty percent said that climate change was very relevant in their work with companies because they were discussing ways of incorporating climate change into product design, business strategies and operations. Seventy-five percent of investors said they worked with companies to set policy commitments on climate change, yet only 20 percent of investors said they incorporated climate change into investment manager agreements. “However,” according to David Russell, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) co-head of responsible investment, “climate change issues are largely not integrated when policy does not make the issue material, when there are uncertainties surrounding climate change policy and when the long-term nature of many physical climate change impacts means that they are outside current investment horizons.”
IEA: Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies Would Cut Carbon Emissions, Oil Demand
On June 6, the International Energy Agency released a study that looked at global financial assistance devoted to oil, natural gas and coal consumption, finding the world economy spends more than $550 billion a year in energy subsidies to these industries. The study concluded that phasing out these subsidies by 2020, as agreed to by the G20 last year, would create vast savings in energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “This is the only single policy item that could make such a major change in the global energy and climate change game,” said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA. He noted that removing subsidies was a policy that could change the energy game “quickly and substantially.” GHG emissions from burning carbon-based fuels would fall by 2.4 gigatons a year, equivalent to the emissions of Europe’s five biggest economies, Birol said. The new report will be discussed at the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26-27.
UN Climate Financing Panel Looks for New Sources of Funding
On June 7, the UN High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing announced it was looking for new sources of funding to help poor countries fight climate change and deal with the heat waves, droughts, rising ocean levels and floods which are expected to occur as a result of climate change. Created in March as part of the Copenhagen Accord, the Advisory Group aims to raise $100 billion a year beginning in 2020. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, co-chair of the Advisory Group, has suggested shipping and carbon markets may be potential targets. It may be possible to fine aviation and shipping sectors for their greenhouse gas emissions and send the revenue to developing nations. The option of carbon markets could entail either auctioning off permits for carbon dioxide emissions and giving the money generated by the auctions to poor countries, or it could be to earmark revenues from carbon markets which exist today. A final option would be for developed countries to increase the amount of aid they give to developing countries. Regardless of where the funds come from, “It has to be additional at least to what we are allocating today. Whether it will be additional in other ways – it is part of the process to agree on that,” Stoltenberg said.
NASA to Study Arctic Climate Change Impacts
On June 15, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy plans to depart for the Arctic Ocean in order to gather data on how climate change has changed the region’s ecosystems and biological, geochemical, and physical health. With a team of 43 scientists, the Healy will be spending five weeks cutting its way through Arctic ice, taking digital pictures of phytoplankton cells, sampling ice, recording sea ice thickness and cover measurements, and taking carbon dioxide readings. Researchers from NASA and Stanford University will be taking part in the mission. According to Kevin Arrigo, a professor at Stanford University and the chief scientist of the project, “We’re beginning to understand how the melting of the Arctic sea ice is related to climate change. Unfortunately, we know very little about what these changes have in store for Arctic marine life. During this expedition, we hope to gather enough hard data to begin to put the pieces together,” he said.
Climate Change Linked to Major Vegetation Shifts Worldwide
A paper published June 4 in Global Ecology and Biogeography has found that climate change is linked to major vegetation shifts worldwide. A meta-analysis which incorporated data from over 200 field studies revealed that one-tenth to one-half of global land may be highly to very highly vulnerable to climate change. “Temperate mixed forest, boreal conifer and tundra and alpine biomes show the highest vulnerability, often due to potential changes in wildfire. Tropical evergreen broadleaf forest and desert biomes show the lowest vulnerability,” the paper said. This shift in vegetation is occurring towards the poles and the equator and up to higher altitudes. According to Patrick Gonzalez, author of the study and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Forestry, “Vegetation shifts can increase fuel for wildfires by increasing the amount of biomass available for burning.” In addition to the increased potential for wildfires is the increased risk of extinction for species which have difficulty adapting to new conditions or cannot move to higher elevations. It also has negative repercussions for human populations who have reduced access to wood for fire and cooking and have reduced access to water during the summer because snowpack has been melting. “Approximately one billion people now live in areas that are highly to very highly vulnerable to future vegetation shifts,” said Gonzalez. “Ecosystems provide important services to people, so we must reduce the emissions that cause climate change, then adapt to major changes that might occur.”
Study Finds China and United States Have Capacity to Measure and Report CO2 Emissions
On June 7, World Wildlife Fund released a report finding that the United States and China have the capacity to measure and report carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Not only do both countries have the technology to measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it would be advantageous for both of them to collaborate in their measurements and share information about their processes and experiments, the report concluded. It went into detail explaining how China and the United States could develop a good relationship in which they work together and learn from each other. According to Keya Chatterjee, Director of World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Program in the United States, “The United States and China have historically been at loggerheads when it comes to measuring and reporting emissions. . . . Working together is essential for reducing tensions and fostering an environment of trust that will be needed for a fair, ambitious and binding international climate treaty.”
June 16: Biogas -- Too Valuable to Waste
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on renewable biogas from urban and agricultural waste streams and ways to capture and use it to help address our nation’s climate, energy, and resource management challenges. This briefing will take place on Wednesday, June 16, from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in SVC 203/202 Capitol Visitor Center. (The entrance to the Capitol Visitor Center is on the east side of the U.S. Capitol Building. Please allow extra time to go through security. Food and drink are not permitted. Once inside, follow signs to Senate Meeting Rooms.) This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, please contact Ned Stowe at bioenergy[at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1885.
June 18: The Zero Energy Commercial Buildings Consortium -- A Public-Private Consortium for Zero Energy High Performance Buildings
The High Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition invites you to a briefing to learn about the Zero Net Energy Commercial Buildings Initiative. In 2007, Congress passed legislation, which established the Zero Net Energy Commercial Buildings Initiative, and required the U.S. Department of Energy to work with a high-performance green building partnership consortium to include wide representation from the commercial buildings industry. Attend this briefing to hear about efforts to date and how you can get involved in transforming the sector to zero energy. This briefing will take place on Friday, June 18, from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m. in 2325 Rayburn House Office Building. All interested Congressional staff are cordially invited to this widely attended event. There is no charge for the event, but space is limited. Please RSVP by June 14, 2010, to Garth Otto by email to email@example.com. Lunch will be served.