Climate change

The Last Climate Frontier: Leveraging the Arctic Council to make Progress on Black Carbon and Methane

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Impacts from climate change are threatening the Arctic environment and way of life. Warming in the Arctic is happening twice as fast as at lower latitudes. Sea ice is retreating and vast frozen areas are melting, leading to a variety of adverse effects for ecosystems and communities. Sea level rise, melting permafrost, and the decline in snow cover create feedbacks that can accelerate these adverse impacts. The implications of a melting Arctic are not limited to the region, but affect communities worldwide. The Arctic is now “ground-zero” in the struggle against climate change and failure to protect it adequately could doom other climate mitigation efforts.

Of particular importance, in-Arctic and near-Arctic emissions of short-lived climate forcing pollutants i.e., black carbon and methane have a disproportionate impact on increasing Arctic temperatures and melting. Arctic sources of black carbon have been estimated to have a 10-100 times greater impact on Arctic warming than black carbon from mid-latitude sources. Black carbon deposits darken snow and ice, accelerating melting. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with over eighty times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over the nearterm. Methane emissions from oil & gas development in the Arctic are projected to rise as development increases over the next few years. So, actions to reduce these emissions will provide a disproportionate benefit to the region. Importantly, most of the sources of these pollutants are within the jurisdiction of the nations that make up the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council is the international body charged with fostering cooperation among Arctic nations and indigenous peoples. Made up of the littoral Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States), the Council is able to address regional issues of shared interest that extend beyond the borders of individual nations. Because of its mission, geographic focus, and membership, the Council is uniquely positioned to address regional emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. Protecting the Arctic is an important part of the Council’s mission, but the direct threat that climate change poses to the region presents the opportunity for this intergovernmental body to take a lead role in addressing the threat.

As the United States prepares to take over the chairmanship of the Council in 2015, we congratulate the Obama Administration for making climate change a central theme of its tenure and encourage the Administration to identify the links between global warming and all other critical Arctic issues. Moreover, in this report, we identify four specific ways that, under U.S. leadership, the Arctic Council can seize the opportunity to curb emissions of black carbon and methane and help buy the Arctic environment precious time as global measures to check greenhouse gas emissions are developed and implemented.

For decades, Arctic nations have cooperated on a variety of issues, primarily related to environmental protection, through the Arctic Council. In addition to the United States, China and India are now official observers, meaning that the world’s largest emitter nations are now engaged with the Arctic Council process. The Arctic Council has already made some progress on the issue of black carbon and methane emissions and there exists a strong foundation for expanding efforts to reduce emissions. In recent years, the Council has established the administrative capacity, organization, and reporting systems necessary for joint work on these pollutants. Previous consultation between the member states, scientific experts, permanent participants, and non-governmental organizations has produced studies and assessments that lay the groundwork for action. Now, it is time for the Council to move forward with the steps necessary to achieve reductions in these key pollutants.

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2014.

The Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS) team at Columbia University has a specific, targeted goal: a near universal carbon fee on fossil fuels. The group’s mission statement, under About Us, is a great place to start. Then explore Dr. James Hansen’s TED talk, an eighteen minute argument for the political responsibilities of climate scientists as well as regular citizens. The section titled Our Work will take readers to five headings – Climate Research, Climate Data, Public Awareness and Policy Solutions, 350.org, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and Our Children’s Trust –  each of which links to timely and educational projects. Finally, the In the News section features videos and articles showcasing the work of Dr. Hansen and his fellow climate activists. [CNH]

California Moves to Revoke Carbon Credits After Inquiry

Read the full story from Bloomberg.

California, operator of the nation’s biggest carbon market, plans to revoke offset credits issued to EOS Climate Inc. and Environmental Credit Corp. for ozone-depleting substances destroyed at a plant in violation of its federal permit.

The companies operated projects that delivered refrigerants, proven to destroy the earth’s ozone layer, to a Clean Harbors Inc. (CLH) complex in El Dorado, Arkansas, for disposal. California is proposing to invalidate 231,154 of the credits they generated from the projects in 2012 because the El Dorado plant was found to be selling a brine byproduct instead of disposing of it as federal law requires.

The credits in question represent about 5 percent of the total under investigation because of Clean Harbors’ permit violation. The probe prompted the project registry group Climate Action Reserve last week to lower its forecasts for credits through 2017, saying the inquiry had chilled the offsets market.

Seeing is Believing: Creating a New Climate Economy in the United States

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A growing body of evidence finds that economic growth and tackling climate change can be achieved together. This is changing the way decision-makers think about economic and climate action.

The new study Seeing Is Believing builds on the global New Climate Economy report, identifying five sectors in the United States that are primed to capture additional economic benefits and combat climate change.

Seeing is Believing shows many real-world examples where sustained technological progress and public policies are creating opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while delivering net economic benefits.

In addition, a number of emerging new technologies could unlock even more opportunities to achieve reductions sooner and faster.

Seeing is Believing offers policy recommendations that would further reduce emissions and bring additional economic benefits. These recommendations will bring even more efficient products to market, hasten the uptake of better technologies and products, and encourage improvements to existing buildings and equipment.

Oil Companies Quietly Prepare For a Future of Carbon Pricing

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

The major oil companies in the U.S. have not had to pay a price for the contribution their products make to climate change. But internal accounting by the companies, along with a host of other signs, suggest that may soon change — though the implications of a price on carbon are far from clear.

Few U.S. states preparing for climate change, study says

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

Fewer than half of American states are working to protect themselves from climate change, despite more detailed warnings from scientists that communities are already being damaged, according to a new online clearinghouse of states’ efforts compiled by the Georgetown Climate Center…

The online tool is meant to give communities a way to track what their state is doing to adapt to climate change. Lawmakers and regulators could also use the tool to glean ideas from states that are further along.

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Resilient Chicago highlights the many faces of climate change

Read the full post from Lakeside Views.

Anjanette Riley was at last week’sResilient Chicago workshop on climate trends and adaptive planning. She had this to say about the event:

Presentation after presentation, what struck me most is just how muchclimate change already is and will continue to impact our daily lives—and how interconnected those impacts are. Actually, a quick glance at the agenda was all it took to realize this workshop was going to be about much more than just predictions of yearly rainfall or average temperatures. The speakers were climatologists, public health experts, community planners, and policy specialists. And the participants were just as diverse—educators, urban planners, local officials, and private consultants.