Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Policy

  1. Better out than in – US and the Paris Climate Agreement

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    Continued US membership in the Paris Agreement on climate would be symbolic and have no effect on US emissions. Instead, it would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration.

    Luke Kemp Nature Climate Change (2017) doi:10.1038/nclimate3309 Published online 22 May 2017  See publication here

    After the election of President Trump and a two-house Republican majority, many fear for the future of US climate policy. The new administration has indicated that they will abolish Obama’s climate legacy through executive orders1. The repeal of domestic measures will likely result in the US missing its first nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which is an inadequate target of reducing emissions by 26–28% compared to 2005 levels by 2025. If other countries adopted comparable targets, global warming would likely exceed 2 °C (ref. 2). The US would need to implement the Clean Power Plan and additional measures to reach its NDC3. Preliminary research suggests that the policies of the Trump administration would instead lead to emissions increasing through to 20253….


  2. California engages world, fights Washington, on climate change

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    California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment


    LOS ANGELES — The environmental ministers of Canada and Mexico went to San Francisco last month to sign a global pact — drafted largely by California — to lower planet-warming greenhouse pollution. Gov. Jerry Brown flies to China next month to meet with climate leaders there on a campaign to curb global warming. And a battery of state lawyers is preparing to battle any attempt by Washington to weaken California’s automobile pollution emission standards.

    As President Trump moves to reverse the Obama administration’s policies on climate change, California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment. The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord.

    In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states — and to nations — on how to fight climate change.

    “I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track, and lead in all the ways California has,” said Mr. Brown, who has embraced this fight as he enters what is likely to be the final stretch of a 40-year career in California government. “We’re looking to do everything we can to advance our program, regardless of whatever happens in Washington.”…


  3. Environmental justice movement on the rise in Sacramento

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    • The advisory committee that reports to Brown’s Air Resources Board proposes eliminating cap and trade altogether and replacing it with a system that gives polluters less leeway.

    By Laurel Rosenhall May 21, 2017 SF Chronicle full article here

    …But [Governor Brown’s] Los Angeles trip reflects the rise of environmental justice concerns inside the Capitol. A new generation of legislators and the growing clout of eco-advocates from urban communities is changing the focus of environmental debates in California. Once sidelined as a fringe voice of activism, the environmental justice perspective — focused on how environmental decisions affect poor communities and people of color — is now at the center of high-profile deliberations.

    It’s emerged at the California Air Resources Board, which is overseeing plans by Volkswagen to invest $800 million in the state as part of the legal settlement over its emissions cheating scandal. And it’s become pervasive at the state Capitol, where lawmakers are wrestling with proposals to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, a key piece of the state’s fight against global warming that makes industry pay for emitting too much greenhouse gas…

    …Some environmental justice advocates are calling for radical changes. The advisory committee that reports to Brown’s Air Resources Board proposes eliminating cap and trade altogether and replacing it with a system that gives polluters less leeway. But disadvantaged communities reap some benefits from cap and trade. One-fourth of the money generated from cap-and-trade auctions must be spent to benefit poor parts of the state, on things like solar power, electric vehicles and low-carbon transit. Brown highlighted these funds at a recent budget news conference in which he made the case that lawmakers should approve an extension of cap and trade this year.

    Benefits to low-income communities — or lack thereof — have also emerged as a point of contention in the debate over how Volkswagen will spend $800 million in California. It’s one piece of a larger legal settlement the car manufacturer reached with the government last year after it admitted installing technology to cheat pollution limits…

  4. Senate keeps climate change rule on methane from public lands oil and gas wells

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    May 10, 2017 NY Times  full article here

    In a surprising victory for President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, the Senate voted 51-49 on Wednesday to uphold an Obama-era climate change regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land….to repeal the 2016 Interior Department rule to curb emissions of methane, a powerful planet-warming greenhouse gas. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, all Republicans who have expressed concern about climate change and backed legislation to tackle the issue, broke with their party to join Democrats and defeat the resolution.

    The vote also was the first, and probably the only, defeat of a stream of resolutions over the last four months — pursued through the once-obscure Congressional Review Act — to unwind regulations approved late in the Obama administration

    …On Tuesday, Gwen Lachelt, a county commissioner from La Plata County, Colo., which sits near the Four Corners where the state abuts New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, buttonholed Mr. McCain in a Senate elevator to tell him that county residents have suffered from methane pollution drifting over from New Mexico, and she noted that the same pollution could affect his state.

    “I’m not taking credit for swaying Senator McCain’s vote, but I told him that right across the state line from my county are 35,000 oil and gas wells in New Mexico,” she said. “We all share an airshed and the winds that bring methane pollution our way, and without this federal rule, I have no way as a county commissioner to protect the people in my county. In the Four Corners, we all live under the largest methane cloud.”…

  5. Policies to curb short-lived climate pollutants could yield major health benefits

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    Controlling soot, methane, hydrofluorocarbons would yield immediate effects

    May 3 2017 Duke University

    Methane and black carbon — or soot — are the second and third most powerful climate-warming agents after carbon dioxide. They also contribute to air pollution that harms the health of billions of people worldwide and reduces agricultural yields.

    “Unlike long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, SLCPs respond very quickly to mitigation. It’s highly likely that we could cut methane emissions by 25 percent and black carbon by 75 percent and eliminate high-warming hydrofluorocarbons altogether in the next 25 years using existing technologies, if we made a real commitment to doing this,” said Drew T. Shindell, professor of climate science at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

    Acting now to reduce these emissions would contribute to long-term goals set under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement while concurrently offering governments substantial benefits in the short term for investing in sustainable development — a set of goals through 2030 that countries also agreed to in 2015….

    ..they point out that in addition to saving human lives and boosting global food security, curbing SLCPs will significantly slow the pace of climate change over the next 25 years. This could help reduce biodiversity losses and slow amplifying climate feedbacks such as snow-and-ice albedo that are highly sensitive to black carbon….

    ….Maintaining separate reporting methods for each pollutant would provide a clearer understanding of the benefits associated with SLCPs’ reduction.

    Targeting immediate reductions in SLCP emissions is the most beneficial path we can take toward achieving the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of reducing warming by 2C,” Shindell said…

    D. Shindell, N. Borgford-Parnell, M. Brauer, A. Haines, J. C. I. Kuylenstierna, S. A. Leonard, V. Ramanathan, A. Ravishankara, M. Amann, L. Srivastava. A climate policy pathway for near- and long-term benefits. Science, 2017; 356 (6337): 493 DOI: 10.1126/science.aak9521

  6. EPA website — climate science and policy pages removed; Dept of Interior changes too

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    EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

    The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information.

    One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions.

    The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies….

    ….Several career EPA employees, who asked for anonymity out of fear of retribution, said they were not briefed in advance about the decision to alter the agency’s site. “People are obviously unhappy,” one employee said. “It is, in my opinion, the best climate education website out there.”…Another EPA website, documenting climate change “indicators” across the United States, remained up on Friday.

    The Interior Department Just Quietly Scrubbed Its Climate Change Page by Sarah Emerson, Motherboard, Apr 27, 2017

  7. Science March- Scientists and Allies Stage Unprecedented Worldwide Protest

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    Scientists and their supporters amassed in large numbers in hundreds of cities across the globe on Saturday to participate in the March for Science, a worldwide protest in support of science, scientists, and the value of scientific research. More officially, the nonpartisan event was meant to encourage “political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.

    Many attendees in the U.S., however, appeared to be motivated as much by their respect for science as they were by the Trump administration’s perceived antipathy toward it. The sweeping White House–proposed budget cuts to federal agencies that fund scientists and their research was instrumental in driving interest in the march over the last few months; government science budgets were clearly on the minds of many other marchers across the world, too, as was the threat of human-driven climate change. Evidence and reality may be neutral, but in the present political climate, scientists may no longer be able to be so.

    Whatever the specific motivations of individual participants, the overall march was undoubtedly a unique event in the history of science and politics. As the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney explains after talking to some science historians, “While scientists and their allies have argued about and even occasionally protested on specific political topics over the years, taking to the streets in a sweeping defense of scientific truth itself and its role in policymaking seems considerably broader and, for the research world, more fundamental.”

    On Saturday, marches ranged in size from dozens to hundreds to as many as 40,000 people. It was also a perfect opportunity for some very smart people to think up a lot of witty and wonderfully nerdy protest signs… [see more including poster photos here…]

  8. Climate change and the Farm Bill

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    Climate change wasn’t always the political hot potato it is today. 

    —Christian Science Monitor  Full article here

    Last month, Congress held initial hearings to inform the 2018 Farm Bill.|

    Agriculture Committee members heard about the struggling farm economy, crop insurance, and rural development. One issue that wasn’t discussed, despite its profound impact on farmers, is climate change….

    The 1990 Farm Bill included a title called the Global Climate Change Prevention Act. That title established a program at the USDA to coordinate climate-related issues within the giant agency….This work included coordinating both inter-agency work as well as representing the USDA at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had just been established in 1988. Specifically, the new climate change program was to study the impacts of climate change (including drought, extreme weather, new pests) on crop production and explore the potential for developing more climate-resilient crops….

    …the climate change title was primarily focused on a research agenda, rather than a regulatory framework that directly threatened the agriculture or fossil fuel industries….

    …Another factor is that the fossil fuel industry hadn’t kicked into over-drive their campaign to politicize and discredit climate science. That multi-decade effort, even after company scientists at Exxon/Mobil had warned the company about climate change going back to the 1970s, shifted the political discussion around climate. Working particularly closely with the Bush-Cheney administration, the industry spent millions to sow doubts about climate science and reinforce the perception that environmentalists had conjured up climate change to advance their agenda….

    …Following the science, and what they are seeing in the field and supply chains, most major agribusiness and food companies are not waiting for Congress to act. CargillGeneral MillsMonsanto, and fertilizer giant Yara, among others, are openly touting how they are responding to climate change. Increasingly, farm groups like the National Farmers Union are pushing for reforms that support climate resilience.

    …Congressional inaction on climate change, led by Republicans, unfortunately reflects what is now a fiercely partisan issue. A recent Pew poll confirmed that political partisanship is the single biggest factor determining people’s views on climate change.That partisanship on climate change is continuing in the 2018 Farm Bill. Even as their home states struggle to recover from yet another extreme weather event—a devastating wildfire that killed more than 10,000 cattle across three states…

  9. Next 10 years critical for achieving climate change goals

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    Posted: 13 Apr 2017 05:46 AM PDT  ScienceDaily article here

    In order to have a good chance of meeting the limits set by the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving carbon sinks, with net emissions peaking in the next 10 years, according to a new study.

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be reduce in two ways — by cutting our emissions, or by removing it from the atmosphere, for example through plants, the ocean, and soil. The historic Paris Agreement set a target of limiting future global average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to even further limit the average increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Yet the timing and details of these efforts were left to individual countries.

    …”The study shows that the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5°C target by 2100,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner, a study coauthor.

    …In a “high-renewable” scenario where wind, solar, and bioenergy increase by around 5% a year, net emissions could peak by 2022, the study shows. Yet without substantial negative emissions technologies, that pathway would still lead to a global average temperature rise of 2.5°C, missing the Paris Agreement target.

    Walsh notes that the high-renewable energy scenario is ambitious, but not impossible — global production of renewable energy grew 2.6% between 2013 and 2014, according to the IEA. In contrast, the study finds that continued reliance on fossil fuels (with growth rates of renewables between 2% and 3% per year), would cause carbon emissions to peak only at the end of the century, causing an estimated 3.5°C global temperature rise by 2100.

    …According to the study, fossil fuel consumption would likely need to be reduced to less than 25% of the global energy supply by 2100, compared to 95% today. At the same time, land use change, such as deforestation, must be decreased. This would lead to a 42% decrease in cumulative emissions by the end of the century compared to a business as usual scenario.

    Brian Walsh, Philippe Ciais, Ivan A. Janssens, Josep Peñuelas, Keywan Riahi, Felicjan Rydzak, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Michael Obersteiner. Pathways for balancing CO2 emissions and sinks. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14856 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS14856

  10. House Republicans climate resolution and bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

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    19 House Republicans call on their party to do something about climate change

    March 20 2017 the Guardian

    With the Republican Climate Resolution, Climate Solutions Caucus, and Climate Leadership Council, Republicans are trying to end their party’s climate denial… 19 House Republicans have taken steps to pull the party in the direction of reality, and the need to combat the threats posed by human-caused climate change.

    The Republican Climate Resolution

    Last week, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Congressman Ryan Costello (R-PA) led a group of 17 House Republicans in introducing a resolution that calls on Congress to develop policies to tackle climate change.

    The Republican Climate Resolution recognizes that environmental stewardship is a conservative principle, that policies should be based on scientific evidence and quantifiable facts, that climate change is having negative impacts and is viewed by the Department of Defense as a threat multiplier, and that we can and must take meaningful action to address these threats in a manner that doesn’t constrain the American economy:

    …be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.

    The Resolution has thus far been signed by House Republicans representing districts in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Nebraska, Virginia, New Jersey, Utah, Washington, and South Carolina.

    The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

    Eleven of the Resolution’s signatories are also members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, as are Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who have not yet signed the Resolution. The Climate Solutions Caucus is a bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives – currently comprised of 13 Republicans and 13 Democrats – that explores policy options to address climate change.

    Caucus members include some prominent conservative Republicans. Darrell Issa is the former chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Mia Love is viewed as a rising star in the party. Love featured in an episode of the acclaimed program Years of Living Dangerously….