Climate News Roundup 10/23/2015

  • In a study published in the journal Nature, economists at Stanford and UC Berkeley have found that failure to address climate change could lower per-capita GDP as much as 23% by 2100. This estimate is based solely on lost productivity due to warmer temperatures and does not consider the impacts of sea level rise and other factors on infrastructure, health, etc.
  • On Friday the U.S. EPA published its Clean Power Plan (CPP) in the Federal Register. Immediately, 24 states joined in a law suit against EPA over the plan and two other states filed separate suits. Nevertheless, Tomas Carbonell, Director of Regulatory Policy and Senior Attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, says that the CPP rests on a solid legal and technical foundation. If you would like to see a map indicating where each state stands, go here.
  • A new analysis by the International Energy Agency of the pledges by over 150 nations prior to the Paris climate summit shows that while CO2 emissions will be slowed, the global emission rate will still be increasing by 0.5% a year in 2030.
  • Based on Tuesday’s hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there appear to be a number of misconceptions about the upcoming Paris Climate Summit. Using testimony by Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Gwynne Taraska of the Center for American Progress refutes three common myths.
  • Climate negotiators have their work cut out for them in Bonn in preparation for the Paris climate summit in December because developing nations are unhappy with the draft accord and are demanding a guarantee of climate finance provisions. Nevertheless, the French are in the middle of an unprecedented diplomatic drive to ensure that the Paris meeting is a success, resulting in a strong global accord.
  • Because of accounting procedures adopted in previous climate negotiations, countries are responsible only for the CO2 emissions from within their own borders, regardless of where the fossil fuel being burned originated. This has allowed the U.S. to chide India and China about their increased use of coal, even though some of that coal came from the U.S. Not only that, the coal came from public lands (i.e., it belongs to American citizens) and is being sold to coal companies at a deep discount. Such situations make it difficult for us to be taken seriously in climate negotiations.
  • On its surface, burning trees (as wood pellets) to generate electricity appears to be carbon neutral because if the land is replanted with trees, over time the CO2 emitted by burning will be reabsorbed as new trees grow. Many scientists argue, however, that the practice of burning trees to generate electricity is not really a good thing to do because of the long time required to grow new trees and because of the loss of biodiversity associated with their harvest. John Upton of Climate Central explores the issues associated with burning trees in a multi-part series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. This issue is particularly important to Virginia.
  • Krill is the foundation of the entire Antarctic aquatic food chain, as well as an important target for commercial fishing. Thus it is disturbing to find that ocean acidification could reduce Antarctic krill production by 20 to 70 percent by 2100.
  • On Monday another 68 companies signed onto a voluntary White House initiative, “American Business Act on Climate”, to reduce their climate impact, joining 13 that had joined in June.
  • For some time now the Pentagon has recognized climate change as a threat multiplier from a national security perspective. This has led to slow recognition of climate change as a national security issue. Analysts caution, however, that there are both pluses and minuses in framing climate change in that manner.
  • Utility-scale solar energy (USSE) requires large tracts of land. For example, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the deployment of 500 GW of USSE would require a land area equivalent to that of South Carolina. Although we often assume that desert land has low biodiversity, that is often not the case. Consequently, care must be exercised in the siting of USSE facilities to minimize the loss of biodiversity.
  • An interesting new study in The Anthropocene Review examines human interactions with the biosphere and their potential ability to drive the sixth great extinction. The study did not focus exclusively on climate change, but rather posited four drivers of current changes on Earth: (1) global homogenization of flora and fauna, (2) human domination of net primary production, (3) human-directed evolution of other species, and (4) increasing interaction of the biosphere with the technosphere. Jeremy Hance has an excellent essay summarizing the study in The Guardian.
  • Indonesia has experienced an exceptionally large number of wildfires this year. Furthermore, because over half of those fires are in peat formations, since September the daily CO2 emissions have exceeded the daily CO2 emissions from all U.S. economic activity.
  • According to NOAA data, September 2015 was the hottest September on record. In addition, so far 2015 is progressing as the hottest year on record by a wide margin.
  • The latest installment of Inside Climate News‘ investigative report on Exxon focuses on its role in sowing doubt about climate change by stressing uncertainty.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

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