Two recent studies outline the potentially devastating economic impacts of unchecked climate change. In a recent study released by Citigroup, the economic effects of action on climate change versus inaction on climate change were compared, with the conclusion that inaction brought much greater potential economic impacts. This week the Journal Nature issued a report concluding inaction on climate change could result in a 23% reduction in global income by 2100.
The California Legislature is currently considering two bills that would have a significant impact on the consumption of energy in that State. Aimed at reducing emissions the two proposals, if enacted, would be unprecedented.
The first bill, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, proposes to reduce the use of oil by 50% and increase the use of sources of renewable energy by 50% within the next 15 years.
The Second bill, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, seeks to amend a 2006 statute by advancing the date for certain reductions in emissions. For example, the new bill proposes an interim limit on greenhouse gases (GHG) of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 with a total reduction of 80% below 1990 GHG levels by 2050.
Recent legislation has directed the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) to prepare regulations addressing projections of sea level rise, along with adaptation strategies. As a part of that process the DEC held a series of meetings last week in order address issues outlined by the DEC in its published Summary for Stakeholders.
As noted by the DEC:
“It is important to compare outlays for adaptation measures with the costs of doing nothing, and to take into account the importance of climate change losses to society.
A bill has been submitted in Congress that if adopted will completely alter Federal energy policies and restrict or eliminate the ability of federal agencies to regulate activities that have potentially significant environmental impacts.. The so called “American Energy Renaissance Act of 2015” addresses everything from fracking, the Keystone XL Pipeline, drilling in the outer continental shelf, tribal lands and drilling for oil in Alaska to renewable fuel, the budget deficit and regulation of greenhouse gases.
The proposed act also restricts judicial review of actions pursuant to the bill, creates short statutes of limitation to seek judicial review, short periods for action by the applicable agencies to process permit applications and prohibits recovery of legal fees for challenges to actions.
While there are many aspects of the bill that would impact Climate Change policies, the sections below repealing renewable fuel standards,and preventing the EPA from adopting regulations that regulate greenhouse gases seem to be the provisions that most directly reject the concept of Climate Change. Moreover the bill proposes the “term ‘air pollutant’ does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.”
FEMA has issued new guidelines, effective as of March 2016, for evaluating State plans to reduce or eliminate risks from natural hazards. The new Guide establishes the new standards, now including climate change, that must be met by states in planning for reduction of the risks from natural disasters. Significantly, funding to the states can be impacted by the failure to meet these guidelines.
Referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, the Guide notes that “the challenge posed by climate change such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future”.
The Guide also requires that states assess their current capabilities to address risk and indicate how those capabilities may be strengthened. The plans must establish hazard mitigation goals and how the states plan to meet those goals. These should include everything from land use regulations to utilities, transportation and emergency planning.
On January 30,2015 the President issued an Executive Order fixing new standards for construction within a floodplain. The new Flood Risk Management Standard amends Executive Order 11988 of May 24, 1977.
The new standards impact projects where agencies ” guarantee, approve, regulate, or insure any financial transaction which is related to an area located in an area subject to the base flood”.
The old order established floodplains as areas with at a minimum of a one percent or greater annual chance of flooding. The new rule is broader and more stringent stating:
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.
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.”
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:
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.”