May 24, 2014

House of Representatives Votes to Bar Defense Spending on Impacts of Climate Change

The House of Representatives voted this week to bar the Department of Defense from using appropriations to explore or address the impacts of climate change. In an amendment to a defense appropriations bill the following was added:

"None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order."

The bill will now be taken up by the Senate.

-Steven Silverberg

May 11, 2014

Government Releases Climate Change Viewer

On May 9, 2014, the Secretary of the Interior announced the release of the National Climate Change Viewer. The Cimate Change Viewer is interactive, permitting the user to see two scenarios for changes up through 2099.

The description of the Viewer notes:

"The USGS National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV) includes the historical and future climate projections from 30 of the downscaled models for two of the RCP emission scenarios, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. RCP4.5 is one of the possible emissions scenarios in which atmospheric GHG concentrations are stabilized so as not to exceed a radiative equivalent of 4.5 Wm-2 after 2100, about 650 ppm CO2 equivalent. RCP8.5 is the most aggressive emissions scenario in which GHGs continue to rise unchecked through the end of the century leading to an equivalent radiative forcing of 8.5 Wm-2, about 1370 ppm CO2 equivalent. To create a manageable number of permutations for the viewer, we averaged the climate and water balance data into four climatology periods: 1950-2005, 2025-2049, 2050-2074, and 2075-2099."

-Steven Silverberg

May 6, 2014

U.S. National Climate Assessment

Today the White House issued the latest National Climate Assessment. The summary of the report notes impacts in every region of the country and what it calls "key sectors of society and the U.S. economy."

Summarizing areas of impacts it notes:

"Climate-Change Impacts on Key Sectors of Society and the U.S. Economy

• Health: “Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including through impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States. Climate change will, absent other changes, amplify some of the existing health threats the Nation now faces. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Early action provides the largest health benefits.” (NCA Highlights: Human Health)

• Transportation: “The impacts from sea level rise and storm surge, extreme weather events, higher temperatures and heat waves, precipitation changes, Arctic warming, and other climatic conditions are affecting the reliability and capacity of the U.S. transportation system in many ways. Sea level rise, coupled with storm surge, will continue to increase the risk of major coastal impacts on transportation infrastructure, including both temporary and permanent flooding of airports, ports and harbors, roads, rail lines, tunnels, and bridges. Extreme weather events currently disrupt transportation networks in all areas of the country; projections indicate that such disruptions will increase. Climate change impacts will increase the total costs to the Nation’s transportation systems and their users, but these impacts can be reduced through rerouting, mode change, and a wide range of adaptive actions.” (NCA Highlights: Transportation)

• Energy: “Extreme weather events are affecting energy production and delivery facilities, causing supply disruptions of varying lengths and magnitudes and affecting other infrastructure that depends on energy supply. The frequency and intensity of certain types of extreme weather events are expected to change. Higher summer temperatures will increase electricity use, causing higher summer peak loads, while warmer winters will decrease energy demands for heating. Net electricity use is projected to increase. Changes in water availability, both episodic and long-lasting, will constrain different forms of energy production. In the longer term, sea level rise, extreme storm surge events, and high tides will affect coastal facilities and infrastructure on which many energy systems, markets, and consumers depend. As new investments in energy technologies occur, future energy systems will differ from today’s in uncertain ways. Depending on the character of changes in the energy mix, climate change will introduce new risks as well as new opportunities.” (NCA Highlights: Energy Supply and Use)

• Water: “Climate change affects water demand and the ways water is used within and across regions and economic sectors. The Southwest, Great Plains, and Southeast are particularly vulnerable to changes in water supply and demand. Changes in precipitation and runoff, combined with changes in consumption and withdrawal, have reduced surface and groundwater supplies in many areas. These trends are expected to continue, increasing the likelihood of water shortages for many uses. Increasing flooding risk affects human safety and health, property, infrastructure, economies, and ecology in many basins across the United States… Increasing resilience and enhancing adaptive capacity provide opportunities to strengthen water resources management and plan for climate-change impacts.” (NCA Highlights: Water)

• Agriculture: “Climate disruptions to agriculture have been increasing and are projected to become more severe over this century. Some areas are already experiencing climate-related disruptions, particularly due to extreme weather events. While some U.S. regions and some types of agricultural production will be relatively resilient to climate change over the next 25 years or so, others will increasingly suffer from stresses due to extreme heat, drought, disease, and heavy downpours. From mid-century on, climate change is projected to have more negative impacts on crops and livestock across the country – a trend that could diminish the security of our food supply… Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation, and retailing. Adaptation measures can help delay and reduce some of these impacts.” (NCA Highlights: Agriculture)

• Ecosystems: “Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being affected by climate change. The capacity of ecosystems to buffer the impacts of extreme events like fires, floods, and severe storms is being overwhelmed. Climate change impacts on biodiversity are already being observed in alteration of the timing of critical biological events such as spring bud burst, and substantial range shifts of many species. In the longer term, there is an increased risk of species extinction. Events such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and pest outbreaks associated with climate change (for example, bark beetles in the West) are already disrupting ecosystems. These changes limit the capacity of ecosystems, such as forests, barrier beaches, and wetlands, to continue to play important roles in reducing the impacts of extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources… Whole-system management is often more effective than focusing on one species at a time, and can help reduce the harm to wildlife, natural assets, and human well-being that climate disruption might cause.” (NCA Highlights: Ecosystems)

• Oceans: “Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, broadly affecting ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems, and marine life. More acidic waters inhibit the formation of shells, skeletons, and coral reefs. Warmer waters harm coral reefs and alter the distribution, abundance, and productivity of many marine species. The rising temperature and changing chemistry of ocean water combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to alter marine-based food production and harm fishing communities… In response to observed and projected climate impacts, some existing ocean policies, practices, and management efforts are incorporating climate change impacts. These initiatives can serve as models for other efforts and ultimately enable people and communities to adapt to changing ocean conditions.” (NCA Highlights: Oceans) "

-Steven Silverberg

March 30, 2014

IPCC Report Expected to Show Potential Worsening Climate Change Impacts

Portions of the new IPCC report have been leaked and they do not provide good news. As reported by National Geographic, the report comes with some dire predictions for the future unless action is taken.

"The leaked draft from Working Group II further warns: 'Impacts from recent extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and wildfires, demonstrate significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to climate variability (very high confidence). These experiences are consistent with a significant adaptation deficit in developing and developed countries for some sectors and regions.'"

-Steven Silverberg

February 28, 2014

New Primer on Climate Change

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society have published a primer of Climate Change facts. Entitled "Climate Change Causes and Facts" the booklet tries to provide a fact based summary of what scientists now know and don't know about Clinate change.

The stated purpose of the report is:

"The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, offer this new publication as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate-change science. The publication makes clear what is well established, where consensus is growing, and where there is still uncertainty."

The report, which is easily downloadable notes in part:

"Recent estimates of the increase in global average temperature since the end of the last ice age are 4 to 5 °C (7 to 9 °F). That change occurred over a period of about 7,000 years, starting 18,000 years ago. CO2 has risen by 40% in just the past 200 years, contributing to human alteration of the planet’s energy budget that has so far warmed Earth by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F). If the rise in CO2 continues unchecked, warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age can be expected by the end of this century or soon after. This speed of warming is more than ten times that at the end of an ice age, the fastest known natural sustained change on a global scale."

-Steven Silverberg

December 26, 2013

Impacts on Climate Change and Local Pollution Not Sufficiently Demonstrated to Block Coal Mining Lease

In a Christmas Eve decision, the D.C. Circuit Court rejected a challenge to the granting of a lease by the Bureau of Land Management to mine coal on public lands in Wyoming. In WildEarth Guardians, et. al. v. Jewell, two groups challenged the determination to lease certain public lands for coal mining, claiming that the environmental review under NEPA failed to adequately address issues related to increased local pollution and impacts on climate change from the activities to be conducted on the leased lands.

The Court found that the entities, as a result of the purposes of the entities and the underlying interests of their members had standing to bring the action:

“The procedural injury the Appellants claim—the allegedly deficient FEIS—is tied to their respective members’ concrete aesthetic and recreational interests. “[E]nvironmental plaintiffs adequately allege injury in fact when they aver that they use the affected area and are persons ‘for whom the aesthetic and recreational values of the area will be lessened’ by the challenged activity.” Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 183 (2000) (quoting Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 735)… plaintiff “must still demonstrate a causal connection between the agency action and the alleged injury.” City of Dania Beach, Fla., 485 F.3d at 1186; accord Ctr. for Law & Educ., 396 F.3d at 1160; see also Fla. Audubon Soc’y, 94 F.3d at 664–65 (“[A] procedural-rights plaintiff must show not only that the defendant’s acts omitted some procedural requirement, but also that it is substantially probable that the procedural breach will cause the essential injury to the plaintiff’s own interest.”). We think the Appellants have done so here because the local pollution that causes their members’ aesthetic and recreational injuries follows inexorably from the decision to authorize leasing on the West Antelope II tracts. ,,, The Appellants may challenge each of the alleged inadequacies in the FEIS because each constitutes a procedural injury connected to their members’ recreational and aesthetic injuries: Their members’ injuries are caused by the allegedly unlawful ROD and would be redressed by vacatur of the ROD on the basis of any of the procedural defects identified in the FEIS.”

In determining the merits, the Court noted that it must decide whether the actions were arbitrary or capricious. In undertaking that analysis, the Court noted its task was not to “fly speck” the record but merely to determine if the agency took a “hard look” at the issues. Analyzing the merits the Court determined there was no basis for overturning the determination and rejected all but two of the claims without discussion. Rejecting the claims that there was a failure to consider the impacts of the anticipated release from the coal on global warming the court held “current science does not allow for the specificity demanded by the Appellants, the BLM was not required to identify specific effects on the climate in order to prepare an adequate EIS.” The Court likewise rejected claims that there was a failure to consider the cumulative impacts of 11 other pending lease applications, noting whether those lease would ever be issued was speculative.

The Court further rejected the claim that there was a failure to address reasonable alternatives. In noting that WildEarth claimed a number of other alternatives should have been considered the Court stated:

“We sense a bit of sandbagging here. The PRBRC participated in the scoping hearing that preceded the draft EIS and submitted written comments on the draft EIS and WildEarth submitted written comments on the draft EIS that specifically addressed the draft’s discussion of reasonable alternatives. At no point did either WildEarth or the PRBRC mention the list of alternatives WildEarth raised at the last minute. To be sure, the BLM invited written comments on the FEIS, see 40 C.F.R. § 1503.1(b), and it had the opportunity to respond before it issued the ROD. But WildEarth’s final comments did not really respond to the FEIS; instead, they raised new issues.”

The remaining claim related to the impacts of pollution on the local ozone levels. The Court again rejected this claim finding that the analysis in the FEIS was adequate.

“The Appellants’ objections to the BLM’s analysis boil down to a dispute about the adequacy of using projected emissions of ozone precursors—like NOx and NO2—as proxies by which to analyze the impact of future ozone levels. They point to one report in the record observing that there is not a one-to-one correlation between NOx and ozone levels because ozone produced per molecule of NOx emissions varies considerably depending on local conditions….‘The NEPA process involves an almost endless series of judgment calls,’ and ‘the line-drawing decisions necessitated by the NEPA process are vested in the agencies, not the courts.’ ” Duncan’s Point Lot Owners Ass’n, Inc. v. FERC522 F.3d 371, 376 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Coal. On Sensible Transp., Inc. v. Dole, 826 F.2d 60, 66 (D.C. Cir. 1987)) (alterations omitted). It may have been possible or even prudent for the BLM to separately model future ozone levels but we think that, given the limitations on such modeling and the critical role NOx plays in ozone formation, the BLM’s projections and extensive discussion of NOx and NO2 emissions suffice.”

-Steven Silverberg

December 15, 2013

Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) Potential Impact on Climate Change

A recent study by the University of Toronto looks at the potential of Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), a greenhouse gas, to have long term impacts upon climate change. An article in the Geophysical Research Letters reports the results of the study.

While only noted in trace amounts in the atmosphere, the significance of PFTBA on climate change going forward relates to its "potency". Angela Hong the lead researcher is quoted as saying:

"Calculated over a 100-year time frame, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 molecules of CO2,"

PFTBA is used in electrical equipment and is unregulated.

-Steven Silverberg

November 17, 2013

Study Shows Link Between Global Warming and Changes in Precipitation

A recently released study demonstrates a relationship between the man made effects on global warming and changes in patterns of precipitation. A news release summarizes the findings of a new study issued by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory noting that the study:

"...observed changes in global (ocean and land) precipitation are directly affected by human activities and cannot be explained by natural variability alone. ... Emissions of heat-trapping and ozone-depleting gases affect the distribution of precipitation through two mechanisms. Increasing temperatures are expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier (thermodynamic changes); and changes in atmospheric circulation patterns will push storm tracks and subtropical dry zones toward the poles."

-Steven Silverberg

November 7, 2013

EPA Announces Public Comment Period for Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans

This week the EPA released for public comment its Draft Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans, one for each of its ten Regions and seven National Programs. The notice of availability for public comment explained that in order for the EPA to carry out its functions it must address adaptation to climate change.

" Until now, EPA has been able to assume that climate is relatively stable and future climate would mirror past climate. However, with climate changing at an increasingly rapid rate and outside the range to which society has adapted in the past, climate change is posing new challenges to EPA's ability to fulfill its mission. The Agency's draft Implementation Plans provide a road map for the Agency to address future changes in climate and to incorporate considerations of climate change into its mission-driven activities."

For those interested in commenting the following information should be noted:

"The public review drafts of EPA's draft Implementation Plans have been posted to a public docket and they are available on the Agency Web site at this URL address: http://epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/fed-programs/EPA-impl-plans.html. The Docket for public comment can be found on the Federal Government Regulations Web site (http://www.regulations.gov/# !home). It is Docket Number EPA-HQ-OA-2013-0568.

DATES:
The public should respond to the EPA with comment via the public docket no later than January 3, 2014. Only comments received by the deadline will be considered by the Agency in finalizing its plan.

ADDRESSES:
If you have questions about responding to this notice, please contact Gerald Filbin by phone (202-566-2182), or by mail (1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460)."

-Steven Silverberg

November 2, 2013

Presidential Executive Order on Climate Change

On November 1, the President issued an Executive Order putting in place several policies to address preparedness for the impacts of Climate Change. The Executive Order states:

"The impacts of climate change -- including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise -- are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.... Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs."

The heart of the Order is the policy that: "[t]he Federal Government must build on recent progress and pursue new strategies to improve the Nation's preparedness and resilience. In doing so, agencies should promote: (1) engaged and strong partnerships and information sharing at all levels of government; (2) risk-informed decisionmaking and the tools to facilitate it; (3) adaptive learning, in which experiences serve as opportunities to inform and adjust future actions; and (4) preparedness planning."

The Order then goes on to establish two advisory bodies to make recommendations as to how to implement the stated policy.

a. An interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Council) which among other things is tasked to:

"(i) develop, recommend, coordinate interagency efforts on, and track implementation of priority Federal Government actions related to climate preparedness and resilience;

(ii) support regional, State, local, and tribal action to assess climate change related vulnerabilities and cost-effectively increase climate preparedness and resilience of communities, critical economic sectors, natural and built infrastructure, and natural resources, including through the activities as outlined in sections 2 and 3 of this order;

(iii) facilitate the integration of climate science in policies and planning of government agencies and the private sector, including by promoting the development of innovative, actionable, and accessible Federal climate change related information, data, and tools at appropriate scales for decisionmakers and deployment of this information through a Government-wide web-based portal, as described in section 4 of this order..."; and

b. A State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience tasked to provide recommendations to the President and the Council for how the Federal Government can:

"(i) remove barriers, create incentives, and otherwise modernize Federal programs to encourage investments, practices, and partnerships that facilitate increased resilience to climate impacts, including those associated with extreme weather;

(ii) provide useful climate preparedness tools and actionable information for States, local communities, and tribes, including through interagency collaboration as described in section 6 of this order; and

(iii) otherwise support State, local, and tribal preparedness for and resilience to climate change.

-Steven Silverberg

October 9, 2013

Copenhagen Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The city of Copenhagen has developed a comprehensive plan to address short and medium range impacts of Climate Change. From green roofs to streets that divert storm water the City has developed a comprehensive plan to address the impacts of global warming.

The plan lists some the key considerations in adaptation:

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS IN CLIMATE ADAPTATION MEASURES
To achieve successful adaptation of the city to the climate of the future, it is important that we con- sider a number of key factors:
FLEXIBLE ADAPTATION
It is pointless to plan in the very long term according to a particular scenario for future development in the climate. The City of Copenhagen will instead develop the city in relation to the main trends in the scenario and adapt the planning the whole time in relation to development in the recommenda- tions emanating from the IPCC.
SYNERGY WITH OTHER PLANNING
Climate adaptation is closely linked to the long-term planning of urban development, the area of na- ture and the environment, wastewater, groundwater etc. Incorporating climate adaptation in those sectors that are affected by climate change is therefore of crucial significance in utilising the strategy achieved by joint thinking on the action taken. Climate adaptation can be transformed into an asset for the city and help to secure growth in Copenhagen.
HIGH TECHNICAL LEVEL
Adapting the city to climate change is expensive. It is therefore important that the basis for decisions on investments and prioritisations is at a high technical level, so that wrong investments are not made. This situation applies to all types of analyses and studies, analyses of climatic threats, choices of solution models and economic analyses.
AN ATTRACTIVE, CLIMATE-ADAPTED CITY
In Copenhagen we will focus on climate adaptation measures also representing an asset in them- selves, regardless of the extent of the expected climate change. In this connection we will work in particular on the use of blue and green elements in the urban space, which will make Copenhagen an even more attractive city.
CLIMATE ADAPTATION RESULTS IN GREEN GROWTH
We have been working on climate adaptation in Copenhagen for many years. Our efforts have been focused on managing stormwater and the opportunities for recreational use and a better environment in Copenhagen’s areas of water. The results have required the development of new methods to retain and treat stormwater. The need for a climate-adapted city makes further de- mands on the development of strategies and methods for climate adaptation. Climate adaptation must therefore be part of the green growth strategy for Copenhagen by attracting both national and international projects and investors for the development and production of systems for cli- mate adaptation. The municipality will ensure that part of the investment in climate adaptation is recouped in the form of growth.

-Steven Silverberg

September 16, 2013

USDA to Establish Hubs to Assist Farmers With Climate Change Adaptation

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is establishing seven regional Hubs to assist farmers and forest owners with climate change adaptation and mitigation. According to the USDA site:

"These hubs are needed to maintain and strengthen agricultural production, natural resource management, and rural economic development under increasing climate variability."

The USDA is in the process of selecting Hubs from among existing facilities. A fact sheet issued by the USDA states that the Hubs will provide "support to USDA agriculture and land management program delivery by providing tools and strategies for climate change response to help producers cope with challenges associated with drought, heat stress, excessive moisture, longer growing seasons, and changes in pest pressure. The Hubs will support applied research and develop partnerships."

-Steven Silverberg