Day: March 18, 2016

Attributing Weather Events to Climate Change — the National Academies of Science Weighs in

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

Over the past decade, as the scientific consensus about the fact and nature of anthropogenic climate change has solidified, extreme weather events have destroyed enormous sums of assets, infrastructure investments, and large numbers of human lives. Set against the backdrop of climate change, these events have prompted charged arguments over whether and how much climate change “caused” the occurrence or severity of a given event. The stakes—financial, legal, political—are often high, but the absence of agreed scientific standards has generally left these arguments unmoored from criteria that all parties are willing to accept as valid grounds for resolution.

This is the circumstance that the National Academies of Sciences hopes to address with its report, published on March 11, Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change. The new NAS report articulates three critical issues: (1) the grounds for and levels of confidence in the ability of science to accurately attribute the contribution of climate change to particular types of extreme weather event; (2) technical and rhetorical considerations for those developing and publicizing information about climate change attribution; and (3) an agenda for the scientific community to pursue in order to improve attribution science still further.

U.S., Canada Announce Methane Reduction Plan

Read the full story in National Geographic.

In a move that could help the United States and Canada meet pledges they made at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to cut oil and gas industry methane emissions 40–45 percent, compared to 2012 levels, by 2025. In Canada, the environment ministry will work with provinces and other parties to implement national regulations by 2017; in the United States, the plan calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations “immediately” (subscription). Although the EPA issued a methane rule for new oil and gas sources last year, some experts and Obama administration officials believe that a regulation for existing sources is needed to meet the new reduction pledge.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the EPA will begin tackling the issue by requiring oil and gas companies to report certain data about methane output in April.

More Onsite Power Means Less Revenues for Utilities. What’s Next?

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

With an increasing number of both business and residential customers expected to generate their power using rooftop solar panels, the renewable revolution could cost utilities big dollars. The extent of that dynamic is still to be figured. But some of the latest numbers show billions are at stake. What now?

That’s, of course, the $64,000 question — or as much as the $35 billion question, which is the lost revenues to utilities, in the minds of some. The forward thinking utilities want a piece of the action — to use their leverage in electricity markets in combination with the technology providers to help them better manage their grids.

An Opportunity to Develop a North American Price on Carbon

Read the full story from the Center for American Progress.

Instruments for pricing carbon are beginning to proliferate. In recent years, South Korea implemented a trading system; France and Portugal implemented carbon taxes; China began seven subnational trading system pilots and announced a national trading system for implementation by 2020; and South Africa and Chile announced carbon taxes that will take effect in 2016 and 2017, respectively. These developments augment a landscape of carbon pricing instruments that are already well-established in various countries and regions, including the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and the Nordic countries.

7.5 MW Of New Rooftop Solar In One Blow For US Navy

Read the full story in Clean Technica.

Solar giant SolarCity has just announced the completion of a “massive” 7.5 megawatt rooftop solar project spread out among military housing at five different US Navy bases among the four east coast states of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

France moves toward full ban on pesticides blamed for harming bees

Read the full story from Reuters.

French lawmakers approved plans for a total ban on some widely used pesticides blamed for harming bees, going beyond European Union restrictions in a fierce debate that has pitched farmers and chemical firms against beekeepers and green groups.

The EU limited the use of neonicotinoid chemicals, produced by companies including Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, two years ago after research pointed to risks for bees, which play a crucial role pollinating crops.


While They Were Shouting – A Botanist’s Lament About Presidential Politics

Read the full story at Dot Earth.

Peter H. Raven, a lifelong prober and defender of biological diversity and president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, just distributed a note placing this year’s surreally unpredictable presidential race (watch in virtual “surreality” here) in the broader context of consequential environmental and social trends that perpetually seem to hide in plain sight.

What Weather Is the Fault of Climate Change?

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Like politics, weather can be a contentious subject, especially when you throw climate change into the mix.

One view holds that no single storm or drought can be linked to climate change. The other argues that all such things are, in some sense, “caused” by climate change, because we have fundamentally altered the global climate and all the weather in it.

While true, this “all in” philosophy doesn’t adequately emphasize the fact that not all of the extreme weather we experience today has changed significantly. Some of it is just, well, the weather.

But some of our weather has changed significantly, and now a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has outlined a rigorous, defensible, science-based system of extreme weather attribution to determine which events are tied to climate change.

The Water Cycle for Schools

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have teamed up to create a water-cycle diagram for schools.

The Continued Targeting of Environmental Activists

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Since the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres on March 3, regular demonstrations have been held across the globe demanding justice for her killers. For decades, Cáceres stood at the front lines in the struggle to protect native land in Honduras from being turned into dam and mining projects by local and foreign developers. Her death is now added to the long tally of murdered activists in Latin America, and like the ones before her, it’s unlikely that her killers will ever be held accountable.

Cáceres grew up witness to the ever-expanding socioeconomic disparity that plagued Honduras during the 1970s and ’80s. In 1993, as a university student, she co-funded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), where she collaborated with communities to prevent the industrialized takeover of the natural land. Over the course of a decade, Cáceres spearheaded a highly-publicized campaign against the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric dam intended to be built in the Río Blanco. Construction was planned to take place on the Gualcarque River, a sacred water source for indigenous people in the area. The building process had begun without any consent from locals.

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