CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR MARCH 2018

CC NEWS FOR MARCH 2018
On Feb. 27 Eric Holthaus posted an article in Grist titled, Meet the teens schooling us on climate.  He reports that teenagers “are increasingly finding their voices in the Trump era, expanding media-savvy campaigns for racial equality and gun control to encompass climate change. A group of high school students are now planning a nationwide series of climate marches on July 21, when they will confront lawmakers in Washington, D.C., with a list of their demands for a livable climate.”  The head leader of he marches is Jamie Margolin, a 16-year old high school sophomore.
“Margolin is one of 13 young plaintiffs suing Washington state government for not taking sufficient action to address climate change.”  “And the Seattle teen is not an anomaly: Statistically, young women of color like Margolin are the demographic most engaged on climate issues.
“Margolin started planning the upcoming climate march, which she calls “Zero Hour,” last August, after the Trump administration announced its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. She recruited Mrinalini Chakraborty, head of strategy for the national Women’s March, to help the students file for permits and plan logistics. Now, the organizing committee includes dozens of youth from Connecticut to California. The official website for the march launched last week.
Now, the group is drawing inspiration from the teen-led movement for federal gun control in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Margolin was particularly impressed when the Parkland students confronted lawmakers about accepting money from the NRA — which produced some predictably awkward stammers. Her team is considering making similar demands for politicians to refuse money from the fossil fuel industry.”
NOTE: Thank God, for the youth! They can get the older ones like me to finally get up off their duffs and provide a healthy, livable world for future generations.  The actions of these young people reminds me of Our Children’s Trust – a law suit brought against the government of the United States for not protecting the rights of young people to life, liberty and property.  You can see a 2-minute video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZVfNDcWOpU
Climate Home News published an article on January 3 by Joseph Curtin titled, Only one country will be to blame if the Paris climate deal fails.  He writes,
“US scientists like Charles Keeling and James Hansen are largely responsible for drawing the world’s attention to global warming. States like California are leading the world in their policy response, and American innovation in areas like electric vehicles and battery storage may well prove crucial in long-term. At the same time, American politics has prevented real action to reduce emissions for two decades, not just at home but globally.”
“No country has a perfect record, but the situation either side of the Atlantic is incomparable. Each European emits about 6.4 tonnes of heat-trapping CO2 per year, compared to 16.5 tonnes for the average American. (emphasis added)The EU will overachieve its 2020 targets by a considerable distance, whereas the US federal government has reneged on its commitments.
A notable achievement is the EU-wide emissions trading scheme, which places a modest but steadily increasing price on carbon emissions. Binding targets for the growth of renewables have spurred their uptake, while demanding energy standards for appliances, vehicles and homes have transformed behaviour.”
Curtin points out that though China has been the world’s major emitter (tons of CO2/yr) since 2006, CO2 has such a long atmospheric lifetime that it is the total amount that is most important in warming the climate.  Since 1870 the total Chinese emissions have been 194 billion metric tons tons while those of the U.S. have been 393 billion.  Furthermore, China has taken the lead in manufacturing solar panels and electric cars, while the U.S. is falling behind in the technologies of the future.  Curtin ends with this:
“It is often said that climate change is a global problem requiring a global solution. This might be true, but the biggest barrier to action is that the biggest contributor with the greatest means refuses to lead. America holds the key, and if its government, its capital, its innovators, its communities, and its citizens can lead, the world will follow. I have absolutely no doubt that change is around the corner, but the clock is ticking.”
On Feb. 28 the NY Times Climate Forward published an article by Henry Fountain titled, What are the leading/viable technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?  This is what he wrote:
“There are five major approaches to carbon dioxide removal:
Plant more forests. Trees remove carbon dioxide naturally, incorporating it into their tissues as they grow. Worldwide, forests store about one billion to two billion tons of carbon annually, offsetting a chunk of the roughly 10 billion tons emitted by human activity. Reforestation and afforestation, properly managed, could remove a lot more and keep it out of the atmosphere. But planting forests is slow work — as Icelanders know well — and requires a lot of land. The world is currently much better at cutting down forests than planting new ones.
Crush a lot of rock. This technique is called enhanced weathering, and is based on the fact that some types of rock weather by naturally combining with carbon dioxide in the air or water. One suggested approach would use the mineral olivine, which is plentiful, crushing it into fine sand and spreading it on land, perhaps along coastlines. But mining, crushing and transporting the billions of tons needed would be expensive and energy intensive. And the carbon removal would still be exceedingly slow.
Burn plants for energy and capture the carbon dioxide. In this high-tech approach, called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS, vegetation would be used to naturally remove carbon dioxide. The vegetation would then be burned in a power plant and the carbon dioxide in the exhaust gases would be captured and stored. So far there are only a handful of working BECCS projects; others have been canceled. Among the many questions about the technology is whether emissions are really negative if the carbon cost of growing and harvesting the vegetation is taken into account.
Sprinkle iron in the ocean. Like enhanced weathering, fertilizing the ocean by putting iron particles or other nutrients in the water is among the more far-fetched approaches. The idea is that the nutrients would stimulate the growth of tiny marine plants called phytoplankton, which would incorporate carbon dioxide as they grew and then sink to the bottom of the ocean when they died, taking the carbon with them. Generally, however, putting large amounts of metal or chemicals into seawater is considered ocean dumping. There have been only a few tests of the idea, one of which was conducted without scientific oversight off Western Canada in 2012 under the pretense of helping a native Canadian community improve its salmon catch.
Suck carbon dioxide out of the air. There has been a significant amount of research into “direct air capture.” Much of the technology is similar to what is used in carbon capture projects at power plants: chemicals bind with carbon dioxide molecules and then are heated or otherwise treated to release them for capture. Several companies, including Carbon Engineering and Climeworks, have developed machines to do this. But carbon capture at a fossil-fuel plant, where carbon dioxide can make up perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the exhaust gases, is one thing. Doing it from the air is another. For all the rightful concern about rising carbon dioxide levels, the gas still makes up only about 0.04 percent of the atmosphere. Removing a significant amount of it would involve moving huge volumes of air through thousands upon thousands of capture machines, and powering the machines for decades.
Fountain wrote:  
“Some removal technologies are more fanciful than others, but as for which are most viable, it could be argued that none are, at least not yet. In a report last month, the European Academies of Science Advisory Council offered a pessimistic outlook for carbon removal, saying that it offered only “limited realistic potential” to have a climate impact. The authors argued that the world should not count on removal technologies to make up for a failure to sharply reduce or eliminate emissions in the first place.”
On March 1 Hiroko Tabuchi posted an article in the NY Times titled, Parts Suppliers Call for Cleaner Cars, Splitting With Their Main Customers: Automakers. He wrote,
On March 7 Nicholas Kusnetz posted an article in Inside Climate News titled, Children’s Climate Lawsuit Heads to Trial: Court Rejects Trump Attempt to Block It.  He wrote,”A federal appeals court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to halt a landmark climate change lawsuit on Wednesday, ruling that the case can proceed to trial in a lower court.
The lawsuit, brought in 2015 by 21 youths, argues that the federal government has violated their constitutional rights by failing to act on climate change.
“We’re excited to be back in the district court,” said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit that is representing the youths. “We’ll promptly ask for a new trial date for 2018 and get there as quickly as we possibly can, given the urgency of the climate crisis.”
The plaintiffs are asking the courts to force the government to enact policies that would cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and end subsidies to fossil fuel companies.
The Obama administration tried to get the case dismissed in 2016, but a federal district judge in Oregon rejected the request and set a trial date for February 2018. Last year, the Trump administration tried to halt the case, this time by employing an unusual legal tactic to have an appeals court review the lower court’s ruling before the case proceeded to trial.”
On March 13 Georgina Gustin posted an article in Inside Climate News titled, 22 National Science Academies Urge Government Action on Climate ChangeShe wrote,
“As some of the world’s biggest polluters resist efforts to address climate change—most glaringly, the United States—thousands of scientists from countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations say their governments need to take bolder steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
On Monday, the national science academies of 22 Commonwealth countries, including from the UK, Canada, India and Australia, issued a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change,” declaring that the “Commonwealth has the potential, and the responsibility, to help drive meaningful global efforts and outcomes that protect ourselves, our children and our planet.”
The statement comes one month before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, where leaders intend to discuss sustainability and climate change.
Monday’s statement warns that countries need to adopt stronger measures to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels—the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The statement points out that, even if countries meet their existing greenhouse gas reduction targets under the agreement, a recent report from the United Nations projects “a global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In the statement, scientists from 22 national academies of sciences call on the government leaders to use the “best possible scientific evidence to guide action on their 2030 commitments” under the agreement and “take further action to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during the second half of the 21st Century.”
“The 53 countries of the Commonwealth comprise former territories of the British Empire, including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and are home to about 2.4 billion people.”  (emphasis added)

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under “publications”
 at http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
 
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 
Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Methane Emission Controls
On March 1, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Trump administration to cease its suspension of rules that require oil and natural gas producers on federal and tribal lands to take preventative measures against rogue methane leaks. Judge William Orrick granted New Mexico and California’s bid for a preliminary injunction against the repeal of the rules, which had taken effect in January 2017. The case was combined with a similar suit filed by a coalition of 17 tribal and environmental groups. Orrick reasoned that the Bureau of Land Management had not provided substantial evidence for justifying the rules’ repeal. Orrick stated, “[The plaintiffs] have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.” This marks the third federal court to rule in favor of preserving the rules. Oil and gas industry representatives and the states of Texas and North Dakota had joined the administration in pursuing the repeal.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic.pdfHurricane Debris Adds to U.S. Virgin Islands’ History of Environmental Strife
During the 4.5 months since Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Army Corps and local contractors have gathered more than 61,000 truckloads of debris in their effort to clean up the three major islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. The consequence of this work has been mountains of waste appearing at local landfills, to the point that they have become part of the visible landscape on the scenic islands. Gov. Kenneth Mapp has requested the Army Corps remove the debris from the islands, fearing they pose a fire hazard. Residents fear burning the waste would present threats to public health and the environment. The cleanup effort is already projected to cost $275 million. The U.S. territory has a history of environmental incidents being inflicted upon it. Hess constructed one of the world’s largest oil refineries in St. Croix in the 1960s, but residents suffered from a string of issues. Complaints over the lax environmental standards there led to the facility closing in 2012.
For more information see:
As a Water Shortage Worsens, Inequality in Cape Town becomes More Apparent
In a few months Cape Town’s primary water supply could run dry. The drought that has hit the South African city is proving to be a challenge for all citizens, but some are more affected than others. The water crisis seems to be widening the divide between rich and poor. The wealthy have been spending on several countermeasures, such as buying enormous quantities of bottled water, hiring companies to dig wells, and purchasing desalination machines. Many of the city’s impoverished residents are left to consider cutting back on food to buy water at inflated prices. Giulio Boccaletti, of the Nature Conservancy, said, “Inequity plays out in water very obviously, and what we’re seeing in Cape Town risks becoming an example of that.” Residents in informal settlements around and within Cape Town, just a few kilometers from the expensive villas of the richer neighborhoods, are the most affected. The government has announced that these informal settlements will be prioritized in the emergency water distribution plan. 
For more information see: 
NOTE: As a general rule, the poorest people, who are least responsible for the emmissionn of greenhouse gases, suffer the most from climate change, because they don’ have the resources to adapt.
pastedGraphic_1.pdfA Rebuilt New Orleans Braces for Future Storms
Despite installing some of the strongest environmental protections of any American city since Hurrican Katrina, New Orleans may still not possess enough defenses to spare itself from future disasters. The city’s storm damage risk reduction system is only graded as strong enough to protect against storms that would cause a “100-year” flood, or one that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. However, as the effects of climate change advance, the odds of a major flood increase and the system becomes less effective. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, stated, “What we should have done is build to a 10,000-year flood standard, which is what the Netherlands built to, and we didn’t, and that was for the country a monetary decision.” A Dutch study even suggested that New Orleans needs a “5,000-year” storm protection system. The 100-year standard is what the federal government currently uses to assess eligiblility for flood insurance in a flood zone, which in turn influenced the protection systems selected.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_2.pdfReport: Sea Level Rise Threatening U.S. Military Sites
On February 26, the Center for Climate and Security released a report indicating that U.S. military sites are facing an accelerating threat from sea level rise and extreme weather events. More than 200 domestic military facilities have been flooded by storm surges recently, versus 30 such incidents in 2008. The report also describes the extensive consequences of sea level rise, including loss of life, infrastructure, and electricity, in addition to damage to critical equipment and communications capabilities. Installations damaged by extreme weather events abroad could become limited in their ability to assist other nations in the region, such as delivering humanitarian aid following a major storm. The total value of the Department of Defense’s global installations exceeds a trillion dollars. To address climate change, the report recommends identifying operational and infrastructure vulnerabilities, integrating climate change into planning, accounting for potentially catastrophic scenarios, and collaborating with local communities and international partners. The report was discussed in detail during the 2018 Climate and National Security Forum, held in conjunction with EESI.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_3.pdfMontana Wildfires Shed Light on Long-Term Health Effects of Smoke Exposure
Last summer, Montana had several major wildfires, resulting in the worst season for wildfire smoke on record. The number of people visiting emergency rooms due to respiratory problems more than doubled in some Montana communities, from 163 in 2016 to 378 in 2017, suggesting that the more exposure a person has to polluted air, the worse it is for their health. The healthy limit on air pollution is an average daily concentration of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of polluted air, but this summer it reached over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter of polluted air at times. Scientists don’t know what the long-term effects of prolonged smoke exposure are, but this summer’s events may provide some answers, as scientists track the health of Seeley Lake residents. Chris Migliaccio with the University of Montana’s School of Pharmacy suspects scientists may observe an increase in respiratory infections due to people being exposed to greater amounts of fine particulates present in wildfire smoke.
For more information see:
Arctic Temperatures Surge to 50 Degrees Fahrenheit Above Average
Scientists are alarmed over a bizarre stretch of above-freezing temperatures in the Arctic during what should be some of the coldest weeks of the year there. On February 25, temperatures at the North Pole were more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. While the North Pole reading was generated from satellite and other temperature data, a weather station at Greenland’s northernmost point recorded an air temperature of 43 degrees F. Giant gaps in Arctic sea ice formations indicate that the ice formation has stagnated more than month ahead of schedule, contributing to a record-low winter sea ice extent for the region. Researcher Zachary Labe of the University of California-Irvine said, “There are other cases in the reanalysis record with greater than 20 degree Celsius departures. However, it does appear this particular event featured one of the largest departures on record.” Meanwhile, Western Europe has been slammed with record-breaking cold, though meteorologists say its still difficult to tell how closely the two events may be related.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_4.pdfClimate Change Poses Serious Threat to King Penguin Species
A new study appearing in Nature Climate Change has found that the majority of the planet’s king penguin population could come under threat by 2100. The problem lies in the penguins’ primary source of food moving away from the species’ current breeding grounds. This food source, a band of nutrient-rich water called the Antarctic Polar Front, provides more than 80 percent of the king penguins’ nutrition. The research forecasts the band will shift closer to the South Pole, increasing the distance between the penguins’ ice-free island habitat and their food supply. Emiliano Trucchi, a researcher with the University of Ferrara, said it was “surprising … to find such a massive change is going to happen in such a short time frame.” Trucchi added that a massive relocation (about 1 million penguins) could have unexplored and unpredictable impacts on their and other species’ survival. The predictions were based on a range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios, the most severe of which estimates the relocation or disappearnce of 70 percent of the king penguin breeding pairs.
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pastedGraphic_5.pdfFederal Flood Insurance Chief Urges All Florida Residents to Purchase a Policy
Speaking at an insurance industry conference, Roy Wright, who manages FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, said all Floridians should consider themselves at risk of flooding. Wright’s point was that the risk is so acute in the state, that rather than relying on flood zone maps, Floridians should hold a flood insurance policy no matter what. Hurricane Irma showed how winds and storms can span for hundreds of miles, nearly covering the entire state. Immediately before Irma, data showed that the number of insured homes in high-risk zones in Florida had decreased by 15 percent over the past five years. Wright said the problem lies partly in flood maps, which can sometimes mislead property-owners on the actual risks. He added, “We really gotta help people move beyond and quit focusing just on the lines. Because nature … pays no attention to the lines.” Flood claims in Florida stemming from Hurricane Irma have reached $850 million, totaling 28,000 claims. Private insurers covered another 900,000 claims for other damages, totaling $8 billion.
For more information see:
Aftermath of Hurricane Maria Is Accelerating the Exodus from Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s population has been declining, due in part to the damage of Hurricane Maria. Residents had been leaving the island even before Hurricane Maria struck, with roughly 500,000 Puerto Ricans departing for the mainland United States over the past decade. Residents have been burdened with power outages, infrastructure failures, and communication lapses left in the hurricane’s wake, quickening the pace of migration for those who have the means to leave. Tens of thousands of Puerto Rico’s residents have been without electricity for nearly five months. Scandal and mismanagement have plagued the island’s bankrupt public utility, while the governor’s recent plan to privatize it has led to protests and suspicions. Almost 58,000 homes have nothing more than blue tarps for roofs and more than 437,000 residents have requested financial assistance from FEMA for repairs. Since Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917, they have been moving between the island and the mainland. However, the latest migration trends could end up changing the island’s demographics in a more permanent fashion and influence recovery efforts.
For more information see:
NOTE: Puerto Rico is an example of what have been called “climate refugees,” whose numbers are expected to increase greatly as a result of climate change, sea level rise, and conflict over food and water.
pastedGraphic_6.pdfSea Level Rise Threatens Millions in Indonesia
Villages on the north coast of Java, Indonesia are being flooded as a result of man-made environmental degradation and sea level rise. The subsidence of coastal lands has been caused partly by the over-pumping of groundwater to supply large cities, such as Jakarta. With around 40 percent of Jakarta situated below sea level, new walls have been built to defend the city against flooding, but these measures have been ineffective. The recurring flooding is affecting millions of people, forcing them to leave their homes and elevate their belongings. Indonesia is home to about 81,000 km (50,000 miles) of coastline and more than a fifth of the world’s mangroves, which can help block the ocean tides. However, over the past 30 years, the number of mangroves has declined significantly due to clear-cutting to make way for fish farming and rice paddies. The Indonesian government has tried to replant the mangroves, build dykes, and relocate residents, but many people are unwilling to leave or have nowhere to go on the crowded island of Java.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_7.pdfClimate Skeptics Occupy Top Posts in Trump Administration
According to a review of the Trump administration’s top agency advisors and leaders, at least 20 have a record of disparaging climate science and/or expressing overt skepticism toward the validity of scientific findings on anthropogenic climate change. The roster of vocal climate skeptics includes the president himself, the attorney general, the director of OMB, numerous EPA, Energy, and Interior appointees (including the cabinet secretaries for those agencies), the nominee for NASA administrator, the Homeland Security secretary, and many others. These views accompanied the administration’s removal of climate change information from government websites, the dismissal of scientists from agency advisory boards, and the exclusion of climate change from the list of threats in the government’s latest national security strategy review. The White House has tried to portray itself as holding moderate views on climate change, telling media outlets that “the climate has changed and is always changing. The administration supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate.” However, observers note that this view is both misleading and fails to line up with the administration’s real actions and appointments to date.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_8.pdfInterior Officials Continue Attempts to Censor Climate Change Findings
A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study warned that “the warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent.” This conclusion drew criticism from two high-level Interior Department officials, Doug Demenech and Scott Cameron. In an email, Domenech wrote, “This is a perfect example of [agency analysts] going outside their wheelhouse.” Cameron characterized the study’s language as “inflammatory.” The correspondence, revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request, provides a prominent example of Interior’s political appointees attempting to insert themselves into the agency’s climate science work. According to a policy created during the Trump administration, news releases from Interior must undergo a “policy review” by department officials. Andrew Fountain, a co-author of the study, said, “In short, they just didn’t like the idea we found yet more evidence of climate warming. This is what we do. It is our wheelhouse.” Agency officials had previously requested language attributing sea level rise to climate change be removed from a news release for a study published in a scientific journal.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_9.pdfU.S. Energy Secretary and European Oil Companies Diverge on Future of Energy
During the CERAWeek conference, held March 7 in Houston, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry declared a world without fossil fuels would be “immoral,” while Shell CEO Ben van Beurden called for the development of renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions in the energy sector. The two speeches showed a widening gap between powerful American and European energy stakeholders. Shell and other European oil companies are supporters of the Paris Agreement and have been actively developing renewable energy projects for their fossil-heavy portfolios. In contrast, Perry firmly leaned into fossil fuels, stating, “We are passionate about renewable energy. But the world, especially developing economies, will continue to need fossil fuels, as over a billion people on the planet live without access to electricity.” Some executives at the conference echoed Perry’s remarks, dismissing the viability of renewable energy and electric vehicles. Others, such as BP President Robert Dudley, urged the development of carbon capture technologies and carbon pricing.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_10.pdfScientists Say Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough Could Be (Relatively) Close
A team of scientists at MIT claim they may have the technology to fast-track a breakthrough in the use of nuclear fusion for commercially-viable energy generation. The team is developing a new class of high-temperature superconductors. The superconductors play a role in producing smaller, more powerful magnets, which create the magnetic field necessary to contain plasma hotter than the center of the sun. The experimental reactor is designed to produce about 100 megawatts of heat, which would theoretically be twice as much energy as it would require to heat the plasma. The potential of positive net energy production would be transformative for the global grid. The nuclear fusion reaction would not produce greenhouse gas emissions or hazardous radioactive waste. While the research team says it could get fusion power on the grid within 15 years, other scientists are skeptical of such a rapid development timeline. Despite this, Prof. Howard Wilson of York University added, “The exciting part of [the project] is the high-field magnets.”
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_11.pdfEPA Administrator and California Headed Towards Showdown on CAFE Standards
With an April 1 deadline approaching, EPA must decide whether the 2009 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards should remain in place or not. In a March 13 interview with Bloomberg News, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that California’s actions “shouldn’t and can’t dictate to the rest of the country what these [vehicle emission] levels are going to be.” California has been permitted to set more stringent standards than the federal government since 1966 under the Clean Air Act. Pruitt added that the EPA is not “presently” seeking to extend the more stringent CAFE standards beyond 2025. California officials had previously offered to consider easing the state’s current transportation emission standards if the current national standards were to be extended beyond 2025. Some automakers are urging the administration to loosen the CAFE standards, while others support the current standards since they have invested billions to gain a larger stake in the Californian and foreign automotive markets. Overall, the auto industry has expressed a desire for the federal government and California to achieve a consensus on emission standards.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_12.pdfFEMA Strips Climate Change from its Strategic Planning Document
On March 15, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released its strategic planning document for the years 2018 to 2022. One major change is that the document no longer contains any references to climate change, despite counting “rising natural hazard risk” among the greatest threats to buildings and infrastructure. In addition, the document does not mention sea level rise, global warming, or extreme weather events in its “Emerging Threats” section. The absence of climate change as a factor in worsening hurricane and wildfire seasons contradicts findings from other federal agencies that greenhouse gases are likely contributing to the increasing severity of these disasters. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, there were 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each in the United States in 2017. The version of the document released during the Obama administration directly addressed climate and called for the agency to incorporate those risks into its long-term planning. FEMA Administrator Brock Long, a Trump appointee, has previously expressed doubt about whether climate change is happening.
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pastedGraphic_13.pdfMajor Federal Climate Change Report Reaffirms Impacts of Climate Change
On March 12, the U.S. National Academies publicly released a draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The legally mandated report was compiled by the federal Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The report examines how climate change is affecting states, regions, and different economic sectors. The last edition of the report was issued in 2014, while the updated version is expected later in 2018. The content has been reviewed and approved by a panel at the National Academies. Review committee chair Robin Bell of Columbia University said, “We had 16 experts review [the report], go through it in detail, see if it meets the congressionally mandated requirements, and we agree that it did.” The fundamental climate science in the report is based on the USGCRP’s Climate Science Special Report, issued in late 2017. While the special report did not encounter any political meddling, concerns remain that the draft report may be challenged, given its detailed accounting of impacts on communities and industries.
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pastedGraphic_14.pdfRecurring Droughts in East Africa Endangering Food and Economic Security for Millions
The Horn of Africa is becoming hotter and drier more quickly than any time over the past 2,000 years, with its cyclical precipitation patterns proving less reliable than in the past. Over the last two decades, four major droughts have taken their toll on the region, dramatically affecting millions of the world’s poorest inhabitants. The risk of famine has become even more acute, with 12 million people relying on food aid and 650,000 children under the age of five severely malnourished across the countries of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The main source of income in the region is raising livestock, since very little food can be grown in the harsh conditions. The droughts have taken a toll on local herders, who are losing their animals more quickly than they can afford to replenish them. Some residents have turned to charcoal production to make money, but this is further depleting the few trees that have survived. The lack of water and resources has sometimes led to conflict among the herders, leading them to expand their range even further for basic necessities.
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pastedGraphic_15.pdfStudy: Development of Rural Land into Suburbs Leads to Emissions Spike
The world’s cities produce roughly 60 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, but the technology to detect and measure urban emissions is a relatively recent development. Various cities have hosted CO2 monitoring projects for more than 10 years, but the devices are only placed in a single location, making it difficult to analyze emission variations across different urban landscapes. A new study carried out in Salt Lake City, featuring an emissions sensor network covering multiple locations, has shown that high density urban areas emit less than sprawling suburban areas. The data showed that emissions are dependent on population density and population growth, with new housing developments constructed in areas with fewer than 1,000 people per square mile resulting in significant emission increases. Areas with more than 5,000 people per square mile saw a much lower increase in emissions relative to their population growth. The study also found that “on-road emissions increased when rural areas were developed into suburban areas.”
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Warming Climate Projected to Cause Prolonged Pollen Allergy Seasons
Researchers have found that warmer temperatures are leading to longer allergy seasons. Depending on how future greenhouse gas emissions progress, pollen counts of all plant varieties could double by 2040 in some parts of the United States. Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations from the preindustrial level of 280 parts per million (ppm) to today’s 400 ppm have corresponded with a doubling of pollen production for ragweed. Higher CO2 concentrations have been found to cause plants to generate more pollen. Plants release their pollen in response to environmental signals, such as temperature, precipitation, and sunlight. Different plants release pollen across different seasons (spring, summer, and fall), meaning an overlap in these periods due to temperature changes could lead to fewer periods of relief for allergy sufferers. Around eight percent of American adults suffer from hay fever caused by pollen allergies, with treatment costing the country between $3.4 and $11.2 billion annually in direct medical expenses.
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New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light