Climate change

More Evidence There Is No ‘Pause’ in Global Warming

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

With researchers these days ignoring climate change because there is no scientific consensus on it, it would seem this logic is impossible to refute. Ha, just kidding: In fact, a peer-reviewed study last week in Geophysical Research Letters throws horse manure over it (a copy is available here). Shaun Lovejoy is a physics professor at Montreal’s McGill University who ran a statistical analysis of global temperatures from 1998 to 2013. He believes that what skeptics deride as a “pause” in warming was caused by natural temperature fluctuations, and that these fluctuations helped muddle the ongoing and very real progression of climate change.

Geography Plays a Role in Whether People Believe in Climate Change

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

Who believes in climate change? We know liberals mostly do, and that women are more likely to than men. Now, a New Zealand-based study adds another demographic to the planet-sympathizing mix: people who live near the coast.

And that’s not just because lefties prefer beachfront property. The researchers polled several thousand randomly selected New Zealanders across the country. While political orientation and gender were the strongest predictors of climate-change belief, proximity to the ocean also had a significant, isolatable effect.

Poll: 60% back carbon tax if used for renewables

Read the full story in USA Today.

Most Americans oppose a carbon tax, considered by many economists a cost-effective way to fight climate change, but they are willing to support it if the money is returned to them or used to fund renewable energy, a poll Monday finds.

Only a third, or 34%, say they support taxing fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas that emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide when burned, according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy and Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public Opinion. This general lack of support, which is lowest among Republicans, is consistent with the authors’ prior polling.

Yet a different picture emerges when survey participants are asked about three possible uses of the tax revenue. If used to fund programs for renewable power like solar and wind, 60% back the tax overall, including 51% of Republicans, 54% of Independents and 70% of Democrats.

EPA Proposes Updates to Reduce Methane, Other Harmful Pollution from New Landfills

As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health. The agency also is seeking broad public feedback on how and whether to update guidelines for existing landfills.

Non-hazardous waste from homes, business and institutions ends up in municipal solid waste landfills, where it decomposes and breaks down to form landfill gas, which includes carbon dioxide, a number of air toxics and methane. Methane has a global warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” said Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This latest step from the President’s methane strategy builds on our progress to date and takes steps to cut emissions from landfills through common-sense standards.”

Today’s proposal would require new MSW landfills subject to the rule to begin controlling landfill gas at a lower emissions threshold than currently required. Under the proposal, landfills would capture two-thirds of their methane and air toxics emissions by 2023 – 13 percent more than required under current rules. EPA estimates the net nationwide annual costs of complying with the additional requirements in the proposed rule would be $471,000 in 2023.

Today, methane accounts for nearly 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane in the country, accounting for 18 percent of methane emissions in 2012. Regulatory and voluntary programs, including the agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, have helped reduce emissions from landfills by 30 percent from 1990 to 2012. However, without additional actions, methane emissions are projected to increase through 2030.

Also today, EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking broad public input on whether and how to update current emissions guidelines for existing landfills to further reduce their emissions, including methane. The agency is considering updating those guidelines based on a several factors, including significant changes that have occurred in the landfill industry since the original guidelines were issued in 1996. Nearly 1,000 MSW landfills in the U.S. currently are subject to either the 1996 emission guidelines for existing landfills or the 1996 NSPS for new landfills.

EPA will take public comment on the proposed performance standards updates and the ANPR for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. If a hearing is requested, it will be held on August 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 sets 85% carbon emissions reduction goal by 2050, strongest in the United States

Read the full post in the Climate Law Blog.

On June 19, 2014 both houses of the Rhode Island legislature passed the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014, which addresses climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and establishes greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets of 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% by 2035, and 85% by 2050. The bill also provides many guidelines for meeting these targets, such as a focus on improving efficiency in order to reduce its need for “energy from out-of-state sources.” It also calls for “intentional community effort that networks existing capacities in state agencies” and declares a need to establish “new capacities, purposes, goals, indicators, and reporting requirements for climate change mitigation and adaptation in public agencies.” The Resilient RI Act was supported by Governor Lincoln Chafee, a number of state agencies, and academic institutions including Brown University.

Global warming ‘pause’ reflects natural fluctuation

Read the full story from McGill University.

Statistical analysis of average global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 shows that the slowdown in global warming during this period is consistent with natural variations in temperature, according to research by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy.

In a paper published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, Lovejoy concludes that a natural cooling fluctuation during this period largely masked the warming effects of a continued increase in man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“Return periods of global climate fluctuations and the pause”, Shaun Lovejoy, Geophysical Research Letters, published online July 14, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060478. Online at http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~gang/eprints/eprintLovejoy/neweprint/Anthropause.GRL.final.13.6.14bbis.pdf

Op-Ed: The carbon taxes we’re already paying

Read the full Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times.

We’re already paying a de facto carbon tax on the energy we use, because we’re laying ourselves open to costly environmental risks that will ultimately have to be covered by taxpayers, writes Mark Schapiro. “Every time we use fossil fuels, we increase our tax burden, a burden that unfolds like a sequence of trap doors, just like climate change itself,” he writes

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.

Highlights:

  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2 threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.
  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.
  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.

State of the Climate in 2013 is the 24th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

“State of the Climate is vital to documenting the world’s climate,” said Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. “AMS members in all parts of the world contribute to this NOAA-led effort to give the public a detailed scientific snapshot of what’s happening in our world and builds on prior reports we’ve published.”

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Without Much Straining, Minnesota Reins In Its Utilities’ Carbon Emissions

Read the full story in the New York Times.

When city leaders and state legislators agreed last year to fund roughly half the $1 billion cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, they attached the usual strings for such projects: It had to be architecturally iconic, employ steel made from Minnesota iron ore and offer at least a few cheap seats.

It also had to be energy efficient, from lighting to building materials to the sources of its power. In this state, that is not unusual. Minnesota has mandated sharp reductions in energy use in every new state-financed building for more than a decade, and in renovated buildings for more than five years.

While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities’ carbon pollution for decades — not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either.

Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: States’ Tools for Reducing Costs & Increasing Benefits to Consumers

Download the document.

States are well positioned to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, according to a new study conducted by Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney and Vice Presidents Paul Hibbard and Andrea Okie. The report, “EPA’s Clean Power Plan: States’ Tools for Reducing Costs & Increasing Benefits to Consumers,”is based on a careful analysis of states that already have experience regulating carbon pollution. It finds that those states’ economies have seen net increases in economic output and jobs. “Several states have already put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, and their economies are doing fine. The bottom line: the economy can handle – and actually benefit from – these rules,” said Dr. Tierney.

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan would regulate carbon emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants using EPA’s existing authority under the Clean Air Act. The draft rules, due to be finalized next year, allow a variety of market-based and other approaches states can choose from to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The Analysis Group team analyzed the carbon-control rules already in place in several states to see what insights they might hold for the success of the national rule. The report was based on states’ existing track records, rather than projecting costs and benefits that might be expected under the Clean Power Plan. The report, funded by the Energy Foundation and the Merck Family Fund, was released at the summer conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in Dallas, Texas.