- The big news this week was that the State Department determined that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in the national interest and that President Obama rejected TransCanada’s application for a permit. This decision has big symbolic implications as we move toward the Paris Climate Summit, asserting that the U.S. is serious about being a world leader on climate change.
- Wen Stephenson, a former editor at the Atlantic and the Boston Globe, has recently written a book entitled What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice. In this article in Salon, excerpted from the book, Stephenson profiles Bill McKibben. It’s a very interesting piece.
- In previous Weekly Roundups I have provided links to the investigative reporting by Inside Climate News of Exxon’s climate change research program in the 1970’s and 80’s. Now a group of more than 40 environmental and social justice organizations has called for a federal investigation of the company. Justin Gillis and John Schwartz of The New York Times provide a look at what has transpired and a critique of the comparison of Exxon to the tobacco industry. Meanwhile, New York’s attorney general has launched an investigation into whether ExxonMobil misled the public and shareholders about the investment risks from climate change.
Doug Hendren has released a new song about Exxon.
- A major message at the recent Conservative Clean Energy Summit was that clean energy should not be a partisan issue, but rather, a concern of everyone. Amanda Little reports on the Summit and efforts to bring conservatives into the clean energy fold. This would be very good because according to Christiana Figueres, the UN’s leading climate official, the U.S. is currently “playing catch up to China” in clean energy. Of course, government is not the only actor on tackling climate change. Business has an important role to play, as discussed by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.
- A strong climate deal in Paris will reportedly launch a $90 trillion energy revolution, as projected by the International Energy Agency. This article is almost enough to make one feel very optimistic about a global energy revolution. In addition, a new report from the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law has found that the U.S. could gain up to $10 trillion in benefits by 2050 from other countries’ actions on climate change.
- News reports presented in previous Weekly Roundups have suggested that pledges for the Paris climate summit are sufficient to hold global warming to 2.7 degrees C by 2100. However, as Joe Romm points out, this is true only if certain optimistic assumptions are met. He argues that warming is likely to be greater; around 3.5 degrees C. Similarly, a new report by the U.N. Environment Program states that current pledges will only take about half way to where we need to be in limiting CO2 emissions.
- A new NASA study published in the Journal of Glaciology has found that the ice mass in East Antarctica is still increasing, although at a diminishing rate. While the rate is still larger than the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica, at some point it will be insufficient to offset those losses. The findings are proving to be controversial, even among NASA scientists. To help sort this out, Robert McSweeney of CarbonBrief takes a deeper dive into the topic. Meanwhile, a modeling study of the West Antarctic ice sheet has indicated that another 60 years of melting at current rates could set off irreversible glacial loss over the next several hundred years, ultimately raising sea level around 10 ft.
- By mid-century more of the Arctic will be ice-free and for longer periods, causing a variety of cascading effects, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.
- Women in developing countries are far more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men for a variety of reasons.
- Based upon wind speed as the measure of the strength of a hurricane, the U.S. is currently experiencing a drought in tropical hurricanes. According to a recent paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society there are better indicators of hurricane strength, such as pressure. When they are used, the drought disappears.
- While a majority of people in the U.S recognize that climate change is happening and is largely the result of human activities, most people are not concerned. In fact, less than 25 percent of people say that they are worried, according to a new AP-NORC poll. On the other hand, a new report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that the number of people concerned about climate change increased in response to the Pope’s encyclical. To further complicate matters a new Pew poll of people in 40 countries found that overall 78 percent of the respondents thought that their countries should reduce emissions as part of an international agreement. However, people in the U.S. and China were the least concerned.
- Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Jeff Merkely (D-Oregon) have introduced a bill entitled “Keep It in the Ground Act”. As the name suggests, the bill would ban all new fossil fuel development on federal lands and cancel current leases that aren’t producing. The bill was cosponsored by five other senators.
- The U.S. electricity sector is expected to emit the lowest amount of CO2 this year since 1995 according to a report from Sierra Club.
- New data from China indicate that it has been burning up to 17% more coal than previously reported. This will be a complicating factor during the Paris climate summit.
- A new NOAA report examined 28 severe weather events that occurred in 2014 and determined that 14 of them were related to climate change as a contributing cause. National Geographic provides a summary of the major results while Mashable provides more in-depth analysis. On a similar note, a study by the U.K. Met Office has found that climate change made the wet winter of 2013/14 seven times more likely.
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.