Table Of Contents
NOAA State of the Climate Report: Earth Is Continuing to Warm
On July 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2009 State of the Climate report indicating that the earth is continuing to warm. “For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. “The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather ballons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: our planet is warming.” The report emphasized that while short-term, year-to-year changes are variable and due to natural climatic events like El Nino/La Nina, the long-term, decade-to-decade trend is one of increasing average temperatures. Each decade since 1980 has been warmer than the last. Key indicators include: higher temperatures over land and oceans, warmer oceans, higher near-surface air temperatures, increased humidity, higher sea surface temperatures and levels, less snow cover and sea ice, and shrinking glaciers. “Each indicator is changing as we would expect if the world truly were warming,” said Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites. “Not a single analysis disagrees that the global climate is changing. The bottom line conclusion that the world’s been warming is simply undeniable.”
EPA Rejects Challenges to Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding
On July 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected ten petitions contesting its 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gases (GHGs). “The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. This action by the EPA removes an obstacle barring the agency from regulating GHG emissions from vehicles, power plants, and other sources. Ten groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the states of Texas and Virginia, had asked the EPA to reconsider its decision, saying the finding was flawed or that the agency erred in evaluating scientific evidence. The petitioners have said they will appeal the decision.
Congress Works on Pared Down Energy Legislation
On July 27, House and Senate Democrats each introduced pieces of energy legislation aimed at overhauling offshore drilling regulations following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate originally had intended to push a more comprehensive energy bill that included a nationwide cap and trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions and provisions to encourage development in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. On July 22, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that Democrats would no longer pursue such provisions and instead offered a pared-down bill in response to the oil spill. The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010 (S. 3663) was introduced by Sen. Reid on July 28, and includes removing the $75 million liability cap on companies that own or operate offshore rigs, as well as providing incentives for natural gas and electric vehicles. Debate is tentatively scheduled before the Senate leaves for its August recess, though it may be pushed until the Senate returns in September.
Western Climate Initiative Outlines Regional Cap and Trade Program
On July 27, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a coalition of seven western U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, outlined a new regional cap and trade program to reduce regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 beginning in January 2012. “Cap and trade has proven to be a successful means of reducing air pollution. It also is considered one of the most cost-effective and reliable strategies for pricing carbon emissions and providing emitters of GHG emissions with an incentive to limit pollution,” WCI’s Program Design Summary said. “With the trading component, cap and trade allows emitters to be flexible and creative in how to make needed reductions.” Of all the partners of WCI, only California, New Mexico, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia will be participating in the program beginning in January 2012. These states and provinces will create a market for reducing GHG emissions while also reducing GHG emissions considerably, since they account for about two-thirds of total emissions from WCI partners. “Action continues to be needed at the national and international levels to address clean energy and climate change, but California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners are not waiting to take action,” said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Climate Change May Mean More U.S.-Mexico Immigration
On July 26, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published research finding that climate change may drive as many as seven million Mexicans to emigrate to the United States in the next 70 years. The researchers used historical patterns of emigration, crop yield and climate change between 1995 and 2005 to project that as much as 10 percent of Mexico's population could be forced to migrate in coming decades. The number of “climate refugees” could vary anywhere from 1.4 to 6.7 million Mexicans, depending on how much warming occurs. The study calculated that for every 10 percent of lost crop yields in Mexico, another 2 percent of Mexicans are likely to leave their country. "There is a significant response of emigration from Mexico to past climate variations," says atmospheric scientist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, an author of the study. "Climate changes predicted by the global circulation models would cause several percent of the Mexican population to move north [if] all other factors are held constant."
UN Report: Transnational Firms Can Boost Low-Carbon Economic Growth
On July 22, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published its World Investment Report 2010 finding that transnational corporations (TNCs) can boost low-carbon economic growth. “TNCs can contribute to global efforts for combating climate change by improving production processes in their operations at home and abroad, by supplying cleaner goods and services and by providing much-needed capital and cutting-edge technology,” the report said. In 2009, foreign direct investment in low-carbon technology, renewable energy sources and recycling was estimated at $90 billion. In the report, UNCTAD highlighted the need for an increase in such investments, suggesting the creation of a “Global Partnership for Low-Carbon Investment,” which would link climate change mitigation with low-carbon investment. The partnership would establish clean-investment promotion strategies, enable the dissemination of clean technology, secure international investment agreements’ (IIAs) contribution to climate change mitigation, harmonize corporate greenhouse gas emissions disclosure, and set up an international low-carbon technical assistance center.
Study Analyzes U.S. Regulatory Scenarios for Reducing Carbon Emissions
On July 23, the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report analyzing potential U.S. regulatory scenarios for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. “The study highlights both the need to pass climate legislation and the importance of preserving existing authorities,” said Jonathan Lash, President of WRI. “The study’s findings make it very clear that current efforts by Congress to curb U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA authority will undermine U.S. competitiveness in a clean energy world economy, block control of dangerous pollutants, and put the U.S. at odds with its allies.” The report analyzes three scenarios in which potential GHG emissions reductions are projected if the federal and state governments pursue “Lackluster,” “Middle-of-the-Road,” or “Go-Getter” agendas. Under the “Go-Getter” scenario, in which federal and state governments pursue greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions uncompromisingly through 2016, federal agencies like the EPA and the Departments of Energy and Transportation would be able to keep the United States on track towards meeting President Obama’s pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Under the “Lackluster” and “Middle-of-the-Road” scenarios, the United States would fall short of its pledge. “Without federal climate legislation that locks in longer-term economy-wide reductions, the longer-term picture is unclear,” said study co-author Nicholas Bianco. “A long-term declining cap on emissions, creating a robust carbon price, is still very much needed.”
Scientists Say Soot a Key Factor in Warming
On July 29, a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research indicated that soot from fossil fuels, solid-biofuels and gases, and methane may be a key factor in global and Arctic warming and that controlling soot production may be a quicker method of arresting global warming and the melting of Arctic ice. The study’s results show that after carbon dioxide (CO2), soot is the second leading cause of global warming. Where it differs from CO2 is its ability to stay in the atmosphere for only about two weeks, making the reduction of soot a quicker, more effective method of combating global warming. “Controlling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades,” said Mark Jacobson. “We have to start taking its effects into account in planning our mitigation efforts and the sooner we start making changes, the better.”
Plankton Decline Across Oceans as Waters Warm
On July 29, a study published in Nature revealed that marine phytoplankton populations have declined by 40 percent since 1950 as ocean waters warmed. “What we think is happening is that the oceans are becoming more stratified as the water warms,” said co-author Daniel Boyce. “The plants need sunlight from above and nutrients from below; and as it becomes more stratified, that limits the availability of nutrients.” The study indicated that the drop in phytoplankton levels is particularly drastic in the southern and equatorial Atlantic, equatorial Pacific and the Arctic Ocean. The Indian Ocean was the only ocean in which phytoplankton was not in decline. In addition to the fact that phytoplankton produces a large amount of the oxygen in the atmosphere, it is also an essential part of the food chain – during phytoplankton declines, other species such as sea birds and marine mammals also decline. Additionally, phytoplankton plays a role in cooling the earth by taking carbon dioxide out of the air. A big concern is whether or not this decline will continue. “It’s tempting to say there will be further declines, but on the other hand there could be other drivers of change, so I don’t think that saying ‘temperature rise brings a phytoplankton decline’ is the end of the picture,” Boyce said.
Global Warming Threatens Apes
On July 23, a study published in the Journal of Biogeography revealed that global warming threatens the survival of African apes. Already endangered because of hunting and habitat destruction by humans, increasing temperatures and shifting patterns of rainfall may render 50 percent of chimpanzee habitat and 75 percent of gorilla habitat uninhabitable. The increased heat of the day will curb the amount of time apes can spend foraging and doing daily survival activities without overheating, which renders some habitats uninhabitable. “Our results highlight that solving direct local threats, such as hunting and habitat loss due to human activities, may not be sufficient to prevent the extinction of African apes,” said lead author Julia Lehmann of Roehampton University. “Ensuring safe havens in optimal habitat must be a critical component of any conservation strategy, lest all current conservation efforts prove to be in vain.”
Climate Change Could Leave Penguins Unable to Hunt
On July 25, a study was published in Ecology which revealed that climate change may have a negative effect on the survival of Adélie Penguins. Adélie Penguins are dependent on pack ice and a certain amount of light throughout the year. Their long migrations depend on the presence of pack ice and its movement. As climate change causes large amounts of ice melt, Adélies will be forced to withdraw inward from where the ice is melting and their migratory trajectories will be cut short. This inward movement and shortened migration will force the penguins to remain where there is little ambient light during some parts of the year rendering hunting more difficult. They may also be forced to spend winters in close proximity with other colonies of penguins, which could reduce food supply. "From studying the long-term history of this species in Antarctica, we know that animals are actually very good at adapting to fluctuating conditions in their environment," said lead author Grant Ballard. "They do this by changing their migration routes or altering other feeding behaviors. In this case, however, ice conditions are changing so rapidly the penguins may not be able to adapt in time."