Lessons Between the Lines in Fed’s Final Guidance for Evaluating Climate Change Impacts in NEPA Documents

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

On August 1, 2016, after nearly six years and two drafts, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a final version of its guidance for considering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the effects of climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (Final Guidance).  CEQ previously released its initial draft guidance in February 2010 and a revised draft guidance in December 2014.

Like the previous drafts, the Final Guidance primarily reinforces the fundamental tenets of NEPA as applied to climate change.  It offers little practical advice in attributing climate change effects to a particular federal action, and validates the broad discretion of individual federal agencies to tailor their NEPA reviews as they see fit.  By its own admission, the Final Guidance is not a rule or a regulation, and the recommendations “may not apply to a particular situation.”  Nevertheless, several important lessons become evident in the most recent changes.

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by nuclear tests, plastic pollution and domesticated chicken.

New Publication: Managing Climate Change Refugia to Protect Wildlife

Read the full story from the Northeast Climate Science Center.

NE CSC’s Research Ecologist Toni Lyn Morelli and colleagues have a new paper describing how scientists and natural resource managers are working together to understand how safe havens from climate change might be identified and conserved to protect species and cultural traditions.

Congressional Climate Witch Hunt Reaches an Impasse

Read the full story in Triple Pundit.

Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Science Committee, has used his position to demand emails and documents from state attorneys general and environmental NGOs as a response to their investigation of ExxonMobil. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Union of Concerned Scientists are amongst the parties involved. They allege ExxonMobil suppressed climate change science, researched by the company’s own staff scientists over 30 years ago and Rep Smith has requested email logs from the accusers.

NGOs including 350.org and Greenpeace have pushed back, claiming that Smith’s subpoenas amount to federal overreach and have an ulterior agenda of interfering with their researchers’ work. In the latest twist of events, 350.org’s outside counsel requested a meeting with the Science Committee last month to discuss the subpoena and issues related to climate change science. According to 350.org, however, the request to meet Smith and the committee has been denied.

Study: Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

A new study from University of Michigan researchers challenges the widely held assumption that biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are inherently carbon neutral.

Contrary to popular belief, the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when biofuels are burned is not fully balanced by the CO2 uptake that occurs as the plants grow, according to a study by research professor John DeCicco and co-authors at the U-M Energy Institute.

Human-caused climate change has been happening for a lot longer than we thought, scientists say

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

A new paper is challenging our understanding of how long human-caused climate change has been at work on Earth. And the authors say their findings may question existing ideas about how sensitive the planet is to greenhouse gas emissions — with potentially big implications for our global climate policy.

The new study, just out on Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggests human-caused, or anthropogenic,  climate change has been going on for decades longer than existing temperature records indicate. Using paleoclimate records from the past 500 years, the researchers show that sustained warming began to occur in both the tropical oceans and the Northern Hemisphere land masses as far back as the 1830s — and they’re saying industrial-era greenhouse gas emissions were the cause, even back then.

Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans

Download the document.

Identifying risks associated with climate change and managing them to reduce their impacts is essential. This Workbook presents a guide to climate change adaptation planning based on EPA’s experience with watershed management, the National Estuary Program and the Climate Ready Estuaries program. The Workbook will assist organizations that manage environmental resources to prepare a broad, risk-based adaptation plan.

The audience for this Workbook is professionals at organizations that manage environmental resources, especially organizations with a coastal or watershed focus. They are knowledgeable about their systems but not necessarily sophisticated about climate science or risk management. They may be addressing a myriad of issues that require immediate attention and have limited time to focus on adaptation planning for the future. Furthermore, they may need to adapt to climate change impacts within their organization’s existing resources. Despite these challenges, managers who realize that climate change will affect their ability to meet their goals will see the need to incorporate climate change risk into their planning.