Here’s some recent climate change, climate policy, and fossil fuel news for you, in case you missed it (a lot going on this past week):
Climate Change, Climate Politics, & Climate Policy
Showtime To Air Climate Change Series From James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger: “‘YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY’ to feature Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Alec Baldwin as first-person narrators on the ground; series also to be executive produced by ’60 Minutes’ veterans Joel Bach & David Gelber.”
2012: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Multiple Extremes and High Temperatures: “The years 2001–2011 were all among the warmest on record, and, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.”
House Committee Leaders Deny Climate Change While Extreme Weather Devastates Their States: “On November 27th, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced the new and returning House committee chairmen (and yes, they are all men). Some of these congressmen will run committees with jurisdiction over federal climate, energy, and environmental programs. This includes funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Clean Air Act, balancing the use of our public lands between energy production and recreation, and determining the infrastructure needs of a nation that now faces unpredictable extreme weather threats linked to climate change.
“The vast majority of these chairmen voted for legislation that would dismantle EPA’s ability to limit industrial carbon pollution, and for retention of special tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas, coal, and electric utility companies have cozied up to many of these chairmen, giving them roughly $3.8 million in campaign contributions over the course of their careers.
“Meanwhile, many climate-related extreme weather events have severely afflicted Americans over the past two years, including in their home states. Record-breaking drought and heat waves, severe floods, and heavy storms wreaked havoc for the families living in the chairmens’ backyards. Scientists predict that these weather events will become more frequent and/or severe if the industrial carbon pollution responsible for climate change remains unchecked.”
One Easy Agenda Item On Climate: OMB Should Release DOE Energy Efficiency Rules: “Action on climate change should be one of the first things President Obama takes on in his second term. There are countless steps the President might take, but perhaps one of the easiest things for him to do on that front is to instruct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release eight Department of Energy (DOE) rules regarding energy efficiency currently under OMB’s review. Regular readers will know that OMB is a kind of regulatory purgatory where rules can be held up seemingly indefinitely or sent back to the agencies responsible for them to be reconsidered in light of OMB’s widely questioned cost benefit analysis. As Earthjustice and others have noted, President Obama could make substantial progress on climate change by telling his own OMB that it needs to move on the rules…. Some of the DOE rules have been at OMB for well over a year, and the benefits of energy efficiency are being foregone while they are held up.”
Analysis: Rich Countries Spend Five Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Climate Aid: “In 2009, world leaders at the G20 summit agreed that phasing out fossil fuel subsidies should be a top priority. Three years later, with very little progress on actually repealing those subsidies, promises for reform ring hollow.
“Now, as diplomats gather in Doha, Qatar for an international climate summit — an event that experts say will bring very few meaningful commitments — groups are stepping up the pressure on fossil fuel subsidy reform.
“Rich countries spent $58 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011. That’s roughly five times the amount they spent on ‘fast start‘ financing for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, according to an analysis released today at the Doha climate talks by Oil Change International.”
Poll: Superstorm Sandy Linked To Climate Change By 69% Of New Yorkers, Including 73% Of Independents: “In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers overwhelmingly acknowledge that the storm was linked to climate change. A new poll from Siena Research Institute found that voters connect recent extreme storms to a changing climate by a 69-24 percent margin.
“The results are similar throughout the state. In every region of New York, at least 63 percent of voters say that the extreme weather of 2011 and 2012 demonstrates that climate change in action. More than two thirds of independents and nearly half of Republicans also say that Superstorm Sandy was the result of climate change.”
IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!: “A key reason the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change keeps issuing instantly irrelevant reports is that it keeps ignoring the latest climate science. We have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the melting of the permafrost.”
Pledges To Fight Global Warming Inadequate, U.S. Off Track, Study Finds: “Major nations’ policies are inadequate to limit global warming and the United States is off track even in carrying out its weak pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a scientific scorecard showed on Friday.”
In Defense Of A Carbon Tax: “Just before Thanksgiving, Grist political blogger David Roberts posted a sharp challenge to carbon-tax advocates, contending that we were, in effect, ascribing “magical” properties to carbon taxes. Roberts spelled out 10 drawbacks to carbon taxes, with this bottom line: any carbon tax legislation that could make it through Congress would likely be feeble and regressive, and perhaps even counter-productive.
“David is arguably the green community’s most prolific and astute blogger, particularly on environmental politics. His qualms about pushing for a U.S. carbon tax deserve to be taken seriously. We’ve reproduced his Grist post, below. Alongside it is our point-by-point response. Let us know what you think.”
Typhoon Kills At Least 283 In Philippines: “Blocked roads and severed communications in the southern Philippines frustrated rescuers on Wednesday as teams searched for hundreds of people missing after the strongest typhoon this year killed at least 283 people.”
‘Exceptional’ Drought Conditions Expand In The U.S., Likely Persisting Through February: “The stubborn U.S. drought that hit the Southeast and Midwest hard this summer isn’t letting up. According to the latest drought monitor, conditions have worsened slightly across the country, with ‘exceptional drought’ conditions expanding from 38 percent of the lower-48 states to 42 percent. Those conditions could last into February.”
Rogue ‘Ice Islands’ Pose New Threat In The Arctic: “Glaciologists were appalled in 2010 when Greenland’s Petermann Glacier discharged a slab of ice four times the size of Manhattan into Baffin Bay. They were appalled again when Petermann dropped a two-Manhattan slab in 2012 — understandably so, since these, along with even more gargantuan ice discharges from Antarctica, are a clear signal that the planet is warming fast.
“Derek Mueller is appalled by a more immediate risk, however. After they break off, these enormous slabs of ice — sometimes as much as 300 feet thick — can potentially wander into shipping lanes or slam into drilling rigs before they eventually break up. ‘People have this misguided view that climate change is reducing ice hazards,’ said Mueller, a geographer at Carlton University in Ottawa, said in an interview. ‘But the danger from these “ice islands” is increasing.'” [sic]
New Evidence Of Human Fingerprints On Global Warming: “It’s pretty easy to show that global temperatures are rising, or that spring is arriving earlier than it once did, but since climate has changed plenty of times in the past, that alone doesn’t prove anything. Tying climate change to human greenhouse-gas emissions — an area known as detection and attribution, or fingerprinting — is a lot harder.
“That’s what makes a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences so important. Using state-of-the-art climate models, Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and 21 colleagues have found what they call ‘some of the clearest evidence to date of a discernible influence on atmospheric temperature.'”
World’s Largest Mining Firm: ‘In A Carbon Constrained World, Coal Is Going To Decline. And Frankly It Should.’: “One of the world’s biggest mining firms says that extreme weather caused by climate change is already impacting some of its assets, thus forcing the company to re-evaluate its investments in the coal sector.”
India’s Coal Illusion: “The biggest untold story in the world is now out in the open. Despite warnings from the World Bank about the dangers of unchecked climate change the coal industry has a global pipeline of nearly 1,200 plants planned, 2/3 of which are in India and China. India alone has plans to build a coal fleet nearly twice the size of the entire U.S. coal fleet. But if this pipeline has you thinking that a coal fired future is inevitable think again. These grandiose plans are an illusion the coal industry seeks to maintain because the truth is the majority of this global pipeline is nothing but vapor.”
New Study Shows Oil Dispersant Makes Oil Up To 52 Times More Toxic To Gulf Of Mexico Microorganisms: “The massive amounts of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded was devastating to marine life, but the dispersant used in the aftermath to try and break down the oil slicks may have been even worse for some species, according to new research done by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico.
“Based on laboratory toxicity tests, the study found that the oil-dispersant mix was up to 52 times more toxic to tiny rotifers, microscopic grazers at the base of the Gulf’s food chain.” Of course, many of us knew that at the time, and that the dispersant’s only real purpose was to make the problem less visible to the public.
Global Carbon Emissions Hit Record High, Report Finds: “In a development that underscores the widening gap between the necessary steps to limit global warming and the policies that governments are actually putting into place, a new report shows that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will likely reach a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes in 2012, up 2.6 percent from 2011. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing the sun’s energy and preventing heat from escaping back into space.”
Irony Alert: American Petroleum Institute Calls For Obama To Aid ‘Economic Catastrophe’ Due To Warming-Fueled Drought: “This summer’s historic drought hasn’t let up (in fact, it’s actually expanding in some areas) and it’s causing a lot of trouble in regions whose economies are driven by major bodies of water.
“The drought, coupled with a seasonal dry period, has caused water levels on the Mississippi River to fall to near-record lows, which has hurt the Mississippi shipping industry badly. If water isn’t replenished soon (which doesn’t look likely, according to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center), the major waterway may be closed to cargo companies in the coming weeks. Right now, the river is about 13 feet deep in many places, which is 15 to 20 feet lower than normal. If it dips to around 9 feet – which National Weather Service hydrologists predict could happen by Dec. 9 – protruding rocks will make it nearly impossible for barges to pass. A closed Mississippi – or even closed portions – would mean companies would have to find other ways of shipping crops, fuel and other goods throughout the country.
“These conditions have caused many members of congress and the business community to call on President Barack Obama to help Mississippi River shipping businesses get back to normal. They want the president to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dynamite the rocky riverbed near two southern Illinois towns – Thebes and Grand Tower – to deepen the shipping channel, allowing ships to pass through on less water. They also want the Corps to stop reducing water flow from a Missouri River reservoir, which the Corps does each year to conserve water for the spring. Members of congress have sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and spoken out about the issue, and on Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups and organizations sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to declare emergency in the region and calling for ‘immediate assistance in averting an economic catastrophe in the heartland.’
“Ironically, many of these organizations have refused to acknowledge a growing problem behind the Mississippi’s water woes. Climate change will impact water levels in the U.S. for years to come: science has shown that a warming earth will likely leadto more frequent and more intense droughts like the one the U.S. is experiencing now.”