CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS FOR NOV. 2017...

Effects of Climate Change

 

On Nov. 10 Flannery Winchester of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) published an article titled, Climate Solutions Caucus members introduced a carbon pricing bill in Congress...

The bill, sponsored by Democrats in the Caucus,  would put an increasing national price on CO2 emissions, starting at $49 per ton and increasing at 2% per year plus inflation.  Under the bill the money raised would be used for several purposes, including: repairing or replacing crumbling infrastructure, helping workers and communities heavily dependent on fossil fuels make the transition to renewable energy sources and jobs, and helping low-income families with their energy bills.  More on the America Wins Act on be found on the CCL Communities page on legislation of interest

One significant difference between this scheme and that from CCL is that the latter proposes that all of the money raised (minus administrative costs) be used for a monthly dividend to all citizens, with none going for other purposes.
While the bill is unlikely to become law without significant bipartisan support and without a veto by Trump, it is encouraging for the future.
The Sierra Club recently announced that there are 10 cities across the U.S. that in 2017 committed themselves to transition to 100% renewable energy. They are some of the more than 160 mayors who have committed themselves so far.  You can get the new report for 2017, along with a 1-minute video from the website above.
Climate Access has announced a webinar on Nov. 21 at 1:00 to 2:00 PM with speakers from Pueblo, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia - cities that have pledged themselves to 100% renewable energy.  If you would like to attend,, please register at the website.
Alexander Kaufman in the Huffington Post of Nov.13 posted an article titled, Fossil Fuel Emissions Set To Hit All-Time High In 2017 As Coal Burning Increases.  He wrote, 
“Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are surging again after staying flat for three years, climate scientists reported on Monday, a sign that efforts to rein in planet-warming gases still have a long way to go.
Emissions from fossil fuels and industrial uses are projected to grow 2 percent this year, reaching 41 billion tons by the end of 2017, according to the report presented at the United Nations’ climate summit in Bonn, Germany. The increase was predicted to continue in 2018.
Total greenhouse gas emissions remained level, at about 36 billion tons per year from 2014 to 2016, even as the global economy grew, which suggested carbon dioxide emissions had crested with the rise of renewable electricity sources and improved fuel efficiency standards. But emissions from fossil fuels will hit 37 billion tons this year, a report from the Global Carbon Project finds. The report draws from three papers in the journals Nature Climate Change, Environmental Research Letters and Earth System Science Data Discussions.
This is very disappointing,” Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said in a statement. “We need to reach a peak in global emissions in the next few years and drive emissions down rapidly afterwards to address climate change and limit its impacts.”The uptick comes as climate change is becoming more tangible. Vicious hurricanes ravaged the Atlantic this summer, killing hundreds and leaving billions of dollars of destruction in places such as the Barbuda, Puerto Rico and Houston. In August, flooding and mudslides killed thousands in disasters from the South Asian nations of India, Nepal and Bangladesh to Sierra Leone in West Africa. The grueling six-year civil war in Syria, which began shortly after its worst drought in 900 years, is now considered the world’s first major “climate war.”
On Nov. 13 William J. Ripple published a paper in BioScience titled, World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.  They wrote,
Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (see supplemental file S1). These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.
The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth's ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the ­biosphere can tolerate ­without ­substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future (Crist et al. 2017). They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse (figure 1, file S1). Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014). Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”
They ended with the following Epilogue:
“We have been overwhelmed with the support for our article and thank the more than 15,000 signatories from all ends of the Earth (see supplemental file S2 for list of signatories). As far as we know, this is the most scientists to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article. In this paper, we have captured the environmental trends over the last 25 years, showed realistic concern, and suggested a few examples of possible remedies. Now, as an Alliance of World Scientists ­scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu) and with the public at large, it is important to continue this work to document challenges, as well as improved situations, and to develop clear, trackable, and practical solutions while communicating trends and needs to world leaders. Working together while respecting the diversity of people and opinions and the need for social justice around the world, we can make great progress for the sake of humanity and the planet on which we depend.”

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
 at http://www.eesi.org/publications/Newsletters/CCNews/ccnews.htm
 
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community. 
On November 3, the U.S. government issued the fourth edition of its authoritative report on climate science, the National Climate Assessment (NCA4). The publication represents the first of two volumes to be issued for the NCA4. The second volume of the NCA4, as well as the State of the Carbon Cycle Report, are currently going through a public review period. The NCA4 was authored by scientists from across the federal government and academia, including NOAA, NASA, and the Department of Energy, and drew from more than 1,500 scientific studies. The report found that it is "extremely likely" that human activities are the "dominant cause" of global warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from industry and agriculture are the largest contributors. The report stated that the past 115 years have been the warmest in modern history, with global average temperatures increasing by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit during that time. Without emission mitigation efforts, this mark could soar to 9 degrees F relative to the pre-industrial baseline. The NCA4 also noted that sea levels have risen 3 inches since 1993, a rate faster than during any century over the past 2,800 years. The NCA4's findings directly contradict the positions of many high-ranking Trump administration officials.
For more information see:
Alaska Governor Issues Administrative Order on Climate Change
On October 31, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed an administrative order establishing an Alaska Climate Change Strategy and a leadership team for addressing climate change in the state. The leadership team is responsible for developing a plan of action by September 1, 2018. The team will be headed by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot and will include 15 "diverse stakeholders" from the public. In announcing the administrative order, Gov. Walker expressed hope that Alaska will transition toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro. Walker emphasized the need for community and economic resilience, while "mitigating environmental harm." The order comes days after 16 Alaskan youth joined to sue the state for failing to act on climate change. The group claimed that the state is violating their constitutional rights by valuing their long-term safety and well-being less than fossil fuel production. The plaintiffs in the case were unimpressed by Walker's administrative order, which doesn't include any actionable rules for limiting fossil fuels.
For more information see:
New Zealand Considering Creation of Special Visa Designation for Climate Change Refugees
New Zealand's newly elected Labour-led governing coalition is actively exploring the creation of a visa category for people displaced by climate change. The proposal for the special visa was part of the Green party's campaign platform, which promised to issue 100 such visas and increase the country's overall refugee quota. Recently, two families were rejected by New Zealand immigration authorities after trying to seek asylum from climate impacts on the island of Tuvalu. Despite Tuvalu's lack of clean water and rising sea levels, a tribunal ruled the family was not being persecuted, making them ineligible for refugee status under the 1951 international convention. A 2014 case saw a resident of the Pacific island of Kiribati apply to become the world's first climate refugee, but the case was dismissed by New Zealand's supreme court. Professor Alberto Costi of Victoria University noted, "The conditions are pretty strict. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries."
For more information see:
NOTE: It. looks like we have a ways to go before nations realize that there can be such a thing as a climate refugee.  I’m sure that if we stick to a “business as usual” path, the number of refugees will be staggering.
pastedGraphic.pdfReport: Climate Change Poses Major Threat to Public Health Worldwide
A new report published in the Lancet has found that hundreds of millions of people around the world are experiencing detrimental health impacts from climate change. The report draws its findings from research conducted at 26 different institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Meteorological Organization. Heatwaves, air pollution from burning fossil fuels, crop losses due to extreme weather, and the increasing prevalence of deadly diseases are among the threats documented. Temperature increases have placed the greatest number of people at risk. Outdoor laborers and the elderly are two groups that are particularly vulnerable to the surge in heat and humidity. Research also showed that warmer temperatures have facilitated the spread of dengue fever, since mosquitoes that carry the disease are able to breed more quickly. Professor Anthony Costello of WHO said, "The outlook is challenging, but we still have an opportunity to turn a looming medical emergency into the most significant advance for public health this century."
For more information see:
NOTE: Another health effect we can expect is the spread of the Zika virus, carried by  mosquitos, farther north.
Cost of Combating U.S. Forest Fires Continues to Escalate
The U.S. federal government spent $2.7 billion combating national forest fires in fiscal year 2017, surpassing the overall record of $2.1 billion set two years prior. Hotter and drier weather in already fire-prone areas has increased the frequency of fires while extending the wildfire season. Federal, state, and local agencies share the fiscal responsibility for combatting wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service exceeded their firefighting budget by $500 million in 2017, which was 25 percent more than the allocated funds. CalFire, California's firefighting agency, had a more robust budget of $1 billion, plus $469 million in emergency funding for significant fires. However, in three months alone California has used half of its emergency funding. Agencies have considered expanding these budgets, but do not want to cut programs like forest management, which help prevent fires. Two bills to re-label forest fires as natural disasters have been introduced by the U.S. Congress. If passed, some efforts to combat major wildfires could be eligible for financial assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_1.pdfpastedGraphic_2.pdfHazardous Waste from California Wildfires Causes Public Health Emergency
In the wake of recent wildfires, at least three Northern California counties declared public emergencies over the health risks of toxic ash and debris. The fires burned more than 5,700 structures, most of them homes, each containing a potentially dangerous mix of household chemicals. Risks include pesticides, paint, plastics, propane, gasoline, treated wood, and even melted electronics, which can release harmful metals such as lead. As the wildfires are brought under control, the next challenge for Californians will be cleaning up the waste left behind. Dr. Alan Lockwood, a retired neurologist, called the situation in California "unprecedented" and a "major hazard for the public." Ash and debris, if not swiftly removed, can adversely affect community health and the local ecosystem. Following a 2011 fire in Alberta that destroyed 400 homes, the local landfill was found to be leaching toxins after receiving the fire debris. At the moment, it's unclear who will take the lead on clean-up efforts - the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and local governments, or the impacted homeowners. Many residents fear a prolonged clean-up period will delay rebuilding for years.
For more information see:
Phoenix Tries to Adapt to Searing Heat
Phoenix, AZ suffered 150 heat-related deaths in 2016, the most since agencies began keeping track. Climate change is expected to make conditions even worse in the future, with average temperatures projected to climb for the Phoenix metropolitan area. Scientists anticipate Phoenix's current record high of 122 degrees Fahrenheit may become the new average yearly high before the end of the century. Today, Phoenix's "hot season," featuring temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F, starts an average of three weeks earlier and lasts two to three weeks longer than it did 100 years ago. Heat-related fatalities are often overlooked since they occur over a prolonged period and tend to make existing health conditions worse, masking some of the blame. Many urban heat wave victims live in poorer neighborhoods that lack cooling greenspaces and the money to either own or operate an air-conditioner. Studies show that neighborhoods with minimal tree cover can experience average temperatures eight degrees warmer during the summer versus areas with more shade.
For more information see:
NOTE: Some studies indicate that parts of the earth may become uninhabitable by 2100 because of very high temperatures.
pastedGraphic_3.pdfClimate Change's Effect on Food Security Recognized by G7 Countries and the European Union
In Bergamo, Italy, agriculture ministers representing the G7 nations (United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, and France) and the European Union signed a communique describing climate change as a major threat to "our capacity to feed a growing population and need[s] to be taken into serious consideration." The ministers stated that recent natural disasters such as floods, droughts, pest infestations, earthquakes, and plant and animal diseases were recognized as threats to the agricultural industry that are likely to be amplified by climate change. The ministers also commissioned a study on the impact of extreme weather events on agriculture and food production. References to the Paris Climate Accord were largely excluded from the communique due to U.S. opposition to any potential endorsement of the international agreement. Although U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed the communique, he reiterated his position as a science skeptic to the press, voicing his opinion that human-caused climate change has not been "proven."
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_4.pdfSolar Industry Offers Assistance in Restoring Power to Puerto Rico
Solar energy companies have worked to deliver renewable energy capabilities to San Juan, Puerto Rico, following near-total damage to the U.S. territory's electric grid from Hurricane Maria. As part of the humanitarian effort, Sunrun plans on shipping more than 12 tons of solar equipment, while Tesla has promised its Powerwall battery systems to enable energy storage. The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group, has received more than $1.2 million in pledges for solar products and financial aid for Puerto Rico from its members. Industry, relief workers, and NGOs have also helped bring solar-powered microgrid systems to help power fire stations participating in rescue and recovery efforts. Sunrun views the solar experiment at the fire stations as a test for expanding renewable microgrids to other locations on the island. While restoring power remains the current priority, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello said that they must pursue "[opportunities] to not just rebuild the old system but rather to establish a platform so that we can consider microgrids [and other renewable sources]."
For more information see:
GAO Report Warns Federal Government of Fiscal Impact of Climate Change
On October 24, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the auditor of the federal government, published a report on the economic effects of climate change with a focus on how much it could cost the government. The federal government has spent $350 billion on extreme weather events in the last decade. Just this past week, the Senate passed a $36.5 billion disaster-relief package for areas affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires. The GAO report predicts that spending on natural disasters will increase in coming years, and recommends executive action to assess and mitigate the risks of climate change, which are "unevenly distributed" across regions and industries. The report was requested by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who have stated that the government should consider climate change to be a fiscal responsibility. "We simply cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional funding that's going to be needed if we do not take into account the consequences of climate change," said Collins.
For more information see:
Vital Weather Forecasting Agency Understaffed as Hurricane Season Rages
The National Weather Service (NWS) has found itself spread dangerously thin as one of the worst stretches of natural disasters in U.S. history has unfolded. Hundreds of vacant forecaster positions have left the agency "teetering on the brink of failure," according to the NWS Employees Organization, the agency's labor union. Managers have had to reduce operations, while staff are showing signs of being overworked. Leading up to and during a natural disaster, NWS provides services to government agencies, emergency managers, and the media. In the NWS office serving the Washington-Baltimore region, the vacancies have reportedly led to cutbacks in forecasting, even with staff working double shifts and foregoing vacation time to cover key forecasting stations. Brooke Taber, a forecaster at a Vermont NWS office, said, "Given our staffing, our ability to fill our mission of protecting life and property would be nearly impossible if we had a big storm." The NWS union has raised the alarm about the vacancies for the past five years, but stressed "understaffing is not due to underfunding," instead directing criticism toward agency leadership.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_5.pdfBoston Fearful of Future Hurricane Strikes
The city of Boston, located in a vulnerable location on the Atlantic Coast, is considering building a seawall to protect itself from future storms. The seawall would cost about $10 billion by one estimate, an amount that could be paid back through avoided flood damages. A recent study by MIT finds that a Category 1 hurricane accompanied by a few feet of storm surge could flood a quarter of a million Boston residents. Boston's leaders are eager to act, fearing the destruction a Harvey-scale storm could cause. Rising sea levels are an especially alarming threat to the city, which sank nine inches during the 20th century. Sea-level around Boston could rise three feet by 2070, making the need for flood-resistant infrastructure urgent. In 2016, the city released its "Climate Ready Boston Plan," a roadmap for climate adaptation that offered many potential solutions to the city's vulnerability. Kathy Abbot, president of Boston Harbor Now, said, "We've got to think about the impact of climate change from inland to the coast, out into the harbor and the harbor islands and beyond."
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_6.pdfNorfolk Naval Base Under Siege by Rising Sea-Levels
Sea-levels around the Hampton Roads region of Virginia are rising twice as fast as the global average, threatening 18 military sites and 1.7 million residents, many of them military personnel. Naval Station Norfolk, home of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, is among the sites affected. In the last 100 years, recorded sea-level rise was 1.5 feet, and a 2014 study by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center warns that an additional 1.5 feet could be a "tipping point" for Naval Station Norfolk. At the current rate, 1.5 feet of rise is expected in the next 20-50 years. The city of Norfolk has already taken action to protect itself from rising water by elevating roads and houses, building floodwalls, and creating wetland buffers. The Department of Defense has conducted many studies on climate change vulnerability, but has not yet funded any physical projects targeting sea level rise. The Trump administration has rolled back prior climate adaptation policies for the military, although Congress may accept an amendment to the pending Defense Authorization Act containing language to provide some climate change planning.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_7.pdfLow-Lying Kiribati Faces Existential Threat from Rising Sea Levels
Rising sea levels are presenting a serious danger for the 33 islands of Kiribati and its 100,000 residents. Salt water is threatening to contaminate fresh water sources upon which islanders rely for drinking water and agriculture. Long-time residents worry that they have no place else to go if they are displaced. Meanwhile, typical protective seawalls are viewed as unlikely to stand up to strong ocean waves. The 2016 election of President Taneti Maamau has brought along Kiribati Vision 20 (KV20), which plans to increase national revenue through fishing licenses. The plan puts little emphasis on addressing climate change, which the past president, Anote Tong, was passionate about. Tong said, "Climate change for most if not all of the countries in the Pacific is a survival issue. If we do not address the climate change challenge, all of our efforts in trying to achieve economic survival, economic viability all will come to naught." Tong is looking to the upcoming United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Germany for representatives of Australia and Fiji to speak up on behalf of Kiribati.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_8.pdfMedical Professionals Call for Greater Preparedness for Health Impacts of Climate Change
A set of 11 studies published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship highlights the many ways climate change threatens public health and how the nursing profession can adapt to these challenges in the future. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico represents a "worst-case scenario" for public health, according to professionals in the field. The lack of access to potable water, electricity, and communication systems has endangered the island's residents, particularly those who were already in need of medical treatment or special services. Groups such as National Nurses United are calling upon the federal government to use its resources to deliver relief to Puerto Rico, while also better preparing for the next disaster. Eileen Sullivan-Marx, an editor of the journal edition and dean of New York University's College of Nursing, said, "Recent natural disasters have had considerable health consequences, including deaths in nursing homes and an extreme lack of access to medical services. It is critical that the nursing community work with other health professionals to plan for changing conditions."
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_9.pdfStudy: Melting Glaciers Could Cause Sea Level to Rise in Rapid Bursts
A new study found that sea-level rise during the planet's last significant warming period may have occurred in rapid bursts. Researchers examined fossilized coral 200 feet below the surface of Texas's coastal waters. Between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago, the reef grew in a step-like pattern, forming a coral terrace. Coral can only survive close to the ocean's surface. If sea-level rises, coral has to grow towards the shoreline to survive. The steepness of the coral terraces suggest that water levels rose several meters in a matter of decades. The terrace levels correspond with warming periods determined from ice core samples from Greenland. Scientists believe that the rapid collapse of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age caused meltwater pulses across the globe. In the future, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and West Antarctic ice sheet due to global warming could have a similar effect. Rice University Professor André Droxler, one of the study's authors, believes his research might provide a type of "analog" for future events.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_10.pdfCity of Miami Passes Bond Measure to Help Finance Climate Resilience Projects
Miami voters approved a new bond measure to provide $400 million in funding for public infrastructure investment. The bond endorsement will allow the city government to borrow from the municipal bond market and use a new property tax to finance storm drain upgrades, flood pumps, and sea walls at a cost of $192 million. The bond measure would also cover housing, recreation, transportation, and public safety initiatives. Miami's outgoing mayor, Tomás Regalado, pitched the bond as a means to combat climate change. About 55 percent of Miami's electorate voted in favor of the bonds during November 7th's election, despite strong opposition from labor unions and a majority of candidates for public office. Bond advocates cite the four inches of sea level rise and a 400 percent increase in flooding the city has experienced within the past decade. Miami joins other American cities, including Seattle and San Francisco, in passing bond sales to finance climate resilience projects.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_11.pdfCity of Jacksonville to Offer Buy-Outs of Floodplain Homes
Officials in Jacksonville, Florida have proposed voluntary buy-outs of homes in low-lying neighborhoods that were most recently flooded during Hurricane Irma. The plan would focus on the historically flood-prone neighborhood of South Shores and allow owners of 73 properties to sell their land to the city. The reaction from residents has been mixed. The proposed plan would clear several blocks of homes and convert the area back to a natural wetland. A cost has not yet been assessed, but city officials are relying on a FEMA flood-mitigation grant to cover three-quarters of the cost. The use of federal funds bars the city from condemning the property, leaving the decision to move up to residents. Sea level rise is expected to worsen flooding in neighborhoods adjacent to the St. Johns River and its drainage system. City Councilwoman Lori Boyer said, "This is an opportunity for these property owners to be made whole ... and put [their investment] someplace else where they're not going to have this problem."
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_12.pdfSyria Plans to Ratify Paris Agreement, Isolating the United States on Climate Change
Syria announced its intention to ratify the Paris Climate Accord on November 7 at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany. Syria is the final signatory, following Nicaragua, who joined in October. Syria was unable to sign the agreement at its inception due to European and American sanctions imposed in response to the country's civil war. Syria has not yet submitted emissions reductions targets, as all members of the agreement are required to do. Roua Shurbaji, a spokeswoman for the Syrian delegation, said that leaders are in the process of developing targets. She explained the country's decision to join as part of an effort "to be effective in all international areas including climate change." Syria's addition makes the United States the only country openly opposed to the Paris Agreement. In June 2017, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the treaty, but the country cannot officially exit the agreement until 2020.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_13.pdfOn Climate Change, India's Development Creates Challenges and Opportunities
An estimated 240 million people in India still lack access to electricity, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised electricity for the country's entire population by the end of 2018. As India continues to develop, energy consumption is expected to at least double by 2030, and how that energy is produced will have a significant impact on global climate change. Although India's emissions per person are below the global average, it is the only major polluting nation with rising emissions (emissions from the United States, China, and the European Union are in decline). Half of the world's most polluted cities are in India, and air quality could get worse as urban populations grow by 200 million people between now and 2030. Despite many challenges, India's development also creates opportunities. Wind and solar energy are blossoming in India and the government has no plans for new coal-fired power plants in the near-term. India also has an ambitious proposal to ban the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2030.
For more information see:
Report: Climate Change Can Contribute to Regional Conflicts
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) released a new report describing the effects climate change has on regional conflicts. The report states that climate-driven events, such as droughts and food insecurity, can contribute to potentially violent conflict. Rob van Riet of the World Future Council said, "Existing threats - like resource shortages, poverty, famine, terrorism or extreme ideology - are only amplified by climate change." Those most heavily hit are North Africa and the Middle East where increased temperatures have dried up agriculture and grazing land. One region of Nigeria has lost 60,000 lives over the last 15 years due to a conflict between grazers and farmers. Climate impacts have also increased the amount of refugees moving to new countries, which can sometimes overwhelm regional institutions and place a strain on resources. This sudden influx can worsen the relationship between refugees and a country's citizens, such as the mass migration Germany recently experienced. SIPRI director Dan Smith has advocated for a collaborative effort between agencies at the United Nations to address the issue of climate migration.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_14.pdfNo Simple Solutions for Flood Insurance Problems
By December 8, Congress must decide if it will reauthorize the troubled National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the primary provider of flood insurance in the United States, administered by FEMA. NFIP has been in the red since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In October 2017, following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, NFIP drained its $30 billion borrowing capacity and Congress agreed to a bailout including $16 billion in debt forgiveness. Both environmental advocates and fiscal conservatives agree that the program is in dire need of reform. NFIP uses problematic methods for setting rates, resulting in low premiums that are insufficient to cover claims and encourage high-risk coastal development. Although there is broad support for reforming the NFIP, there is no consensus on how to accomplish reform. Re-privatizing the flood insurance market would address many issues, but private insurers are unlikely to serve the tens of thousands of "severe repetitive risk properties," that is, homes that have a history of recurrent flooding.
For more information see:
Virginia Regulatory Board Approves Draft Proposal to Cap Utility Sector Carbon Emissions
On November 16, the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved a draft rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the Commonwealth and join a regional carbon trading network. The rule resulted from a months-long study ordered by departing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and a panel working in conjunction with the state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). If the rule is adopted, it would make Virginia the 10th state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the only state beside New York to do so via executive action. The proposal would establish a carbon cap for Virginia of either 33 or 34 million tons of CO2 starting in 2020, followed by an annual decrease of 3 percent. Virginia's power plants emitted 34 million tons of CO2 in 2016. Under the trading scheme, fossil-fuel power plants generating more than 25 megawatts would be given emission allowances from the state. The plants could then "consign" their allowances to the RGGI auction in return for revenue or to purchase additional allowances to cover their excess CO2 emissions, as needed.
For more information see:
pastedGraphic_15.pdfTrump Administration's Promotion of Fossil Fuels at Climate Conference Met with Jeers
On November 13, the only public event held by the United States on the sidelines of the United Nations climate conference drew vocal protests and sharp rebukes. The Trump administration's panel discussion was meant to promote the continued use of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power and featured speakers from those industries. White House energy aide George David Banks argued that renewable energy was insufficient for displacing fossil fuels on the electric grid and that the use of fossil fuels would help alleviate poverty in developing regions. The panel was met with a spirited crowd of 100 protesters who chanted criticism of the panel's positions before exiting the room, leaving it half-empty. When asked by a reporter if the administration felt the Paris Agreement's two-degree Celsius threshold for limiting the increase in global average temperature needed to be met, Banks replied, "I actually don't know what that means, the 2C target." Fijian Prime Minister and president of COP23, Frank Bainimarama, called coal the dirtiest fossil fuel, adding, "There is really no need to talk about coal because we all know what coal does with regard to climate change."
For more information see:
Global Mayors Pursue Greater Ambition on Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
On November 12, a coalition of 25 mayors from across the globe vowed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and improve the climate resilience of their cities. The geographically diverse coalition represents 150 million urban residents and features major cities, including London, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, and Accra. The mayors intend to finalize their individual climate action plans by 2020, with support from the C40 Cities Network. C40 and the German government will also be assisting nine African cities, including Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Lagos, and Nairobi, in developing long-term sustainability plans that align with the Paris Agreement's goals. Meanwhile, the 7,500-strong Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy announced a new international standard for measuring and reporting emissions from cities and local governments, beginning in 2018. Officials emphasized the need to acquire more funding for cities to build sustainable infrastructure and greater renewable energy capacity. One delegation of local leaders led by the mayor of Quito, Ecuador would recruit the G20 governments and international financial institutions to acquire funding for such efforts.
For more information see:
Twenty Nations Reaffirm Their Commitment to Phase-Out Coal-Fired Electricity by 2030
On November 16, the United Kingdom and Canada announced an alliance of 27 countries and states that have pledged to phase out coal-fired power plants and end all domestic and international investment in coal. The "Powering Past Coal Alliance" was organized by climate ministers Catherine McKenna of Canada and Claire Perry of the UK during the United Nations climate conference in Bonn. Among the initial members are Austria, Costa Rica, France, New Zealand, and El Salvador, as well as five Canadian provinces and the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. The alliance further solidifies existing commitments, as each member had already planned on phasing out coal on their own, with some small island members having never used coal. The Netherlands is the most coal-dependent member, generating 32 percent of its energy from coal. The alliance intends to expand to more than 50 members by the next UN climate conference in Poland in 2018. Private sector businesses are also being encouraged to pledge a divestment from coal and join the group.
For more information see:

Monday, November 20, 2017

ctolman141@gmail.com
New Castle County Congregations of Delaware Interfaith Power and Light
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David Pike, Editor