Archive | Global Warming & Climate Change

Republican Senators Pledge to Strip Obama Climate Power

A group of Republican U.S. senators Monday announced plans to strip the Obama administration of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and 10 other conservative senators introduced sweeping legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating heat-trapping emissions from power stations and industrial plants without permission from Congress.

The bill would also bar all federal agencies from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions when implementing existing laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

“My bill will shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy,” said Barrasso, an outspoken skeptic of climate change.

“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap-and-trade policies in any form.”

Environmental groups and Democratic senators fired back immediately, with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry charging that Barrasso’s bill “puts the public health at risk and encourages the outsourcing of American jobs.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the legislation threatens bipartisan efforts to serve the public by protecting the environment.

“Since president Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have worked together to protect American families from dangerous pollution,” Boxer said in a statement. “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused the Republican senators of seeking to please industrial emitters, saying: “The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters.”

While the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House can block the effort to curb powers on emissions, the proposed bill demonstrates that it will be impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on climate change. Obama’s “cap-and-trade” bill to force emissions standards halted in Congress last year.

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UN Secretary Gen. Tells U.S. to Step Up in Climate Issues

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the United States and Europe to lead the world in developing an energy-efficient economy in response to climate change.

At the Davos conference of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Ban said that developed countries can’t wait for others to act.

“This climate change campaign should be led, must be led by developed countries. This has started from industrial revolution, and the United States and European countries they have to be morally, politically responsible,” Ban said, as reported by AFP.

“The United States as a largest economy and superpower, this superpower of the world should take the political will, political leadership and invest in it,” he added.

“You have to do your own homework before waiting for others to do,” the United Nations chief said of the U.S.

“We know each other’s pollution. I think they should be responsible for humanity, we have a responsibility to keep this world sustainable,” said Ban.

“Climate change is showing us that the old model is more than obsolete. It has rendered it extremely dangerous. It is a recipe for natural disaster. It is a global suicide attack,” he said.

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Alaska Native Groups to Sue Over Polar Bear Protection Plan

A coalition of Alaska Native groups says it intends to sue the federal government over a critical habitat designation for polar bears.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) and other native groups said Monday that the Department of Interior’s designation of coastal areas of the North Slope as critical habitat for polar bears will potentially cost the state billions of dollars from delayed offshore drilling projects.

The groups sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and put in a 60-days notice of intention to sue Monday.

Polar bears were first categorized as threatened in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act. The species is suffering rapid habitat loss from diminishing sea ice caused by global warming.

But the groups contend that critical habitat designation will to nothing to combat or end climate change for the polar bears. Instead, they say, the restrictions will hurt Native communities by denying them access to their own resources.

“This, in conjunction with other cumulative impacts with government policy disruption, may force Alaska natives to abandon our ancestral villages in search of new work to support our families,” Tara Sweeney of ASRC said at an afternoon press conference, according to KTUU-TV.

The area in question is more than 187,000 square miles (484,000 square kilometers) in and near the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

“The critical habitat designation does not get at the problem of melting sea ice, so it won’t help the polar bear,” North Slope Borough Mayor Edward S. Itta said, according to The Associated Press. “As a solution, this completely misses the mark.”

Other Alaska Natives support the designation and believe it is essential to the survival of the polar bear. They say the groups are focused on financial losses.

“I think they are looking out for the interests of the corporation,” Kaktovik resident Robert Thompson told KTUU. “ASRC has offshore drilling capacity which might be slowed down with critical habit designation.”

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Monks’ Diaries Offer Clues About Climate Change

Researchers in Scotland are using centuries-old monks’ diaries to shed some light on climate change.

Academics at the University of Edinburgh say records of weather and harvest data from the past 500 years largely match modern computer simulations of European climate patterns.

Hoping to gain a fuller understanding of climate change throughout history, researchers analyzed harvest records and weather station archives from the 17th through 19th centuries. Older data is hard to come by, so they scanned European monks’ diaries for earlier weather observations.

Lead researcher Gabi Hegerl said: “Around 1675 it gets quite sparse. Before that, we’re working from monks’ diaries and harvest records and all kinds of indirect evidence about whether they experienced warm or cold summers and winters,” according to The Independent.

Hegerl says the study, which was carried out in conjunction with researchers at Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in Germany and the Universities of Bern in Switzerland and Spain, will allow climate scientists to make more accurate predictions.

“The climate models seem to be working quite well for the past, so we should expect that — at least when it comes to temperature — they will do well for the future,” Hegerl said.

Hegerl added that her team of researchers plans to look next at the causes of cold winters in the late 16th and early 19th centuries, and at fluctuations in rainfall. They will also probe the climate patterns of the tropics and southern hemispheres over the past 500 years.

The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the European Union. It was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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Climate Change Will Cost Even More than Estimated, Economist Says

The pricetag on fighting global warming has gotten even higher, according to a British economist.

Nicholas Stern, who received a 400,000-euro ($530,000) Spanish award for his 2006 study that assessed the economic implications of climate change, says the costs are higher than he previously estimated.

In his comprehensive economic analysis, Stern contends that it would be more economical to combat climate change than to do nothing. He found that world economic growth would shrink by at least 20 percent if no action were taken against climate change, while a more proactive approach through reduced emissions would cost only one percent of global output.

He received the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Science Award for his work on the study.

But things have changed since 2006, Stern said.

“The cost of cutting back emissions is more than we estimated, but that is because the consequences of climate change are already here,” the economist said, according to the BBVA Foundation.

“Emissions are rising rapidly, and the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon is less than we thought. Also, other effects, particularly the melting of the polar ice, seem to be happening much faster. We need to take more drastic steps, so the costs will inevitably be higher.”

There’s still plenty of economic incentive to tackle climate change, he said.

“Climate change economics is the next industrial revolution. The countries who invest now in this new growth market will gain the advantage of a first mover. Those who don’t risk being left behind.”

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Biomass Gets a Boost: EPA Eases Up on Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scaling back on greenhouse gas permitting requirements for facilities that burn biomass.

The EPA said it would take a three-year deferral to determine whether the biomass materials – which include farm waste, sawmill scraps and forest thinnings – should be considered a green resource.

The deferral came after members of Congress put pressure on the EPA to ease up on regulations, saying the stringent rules on industrial carbon emissions would get in the way of developing a new biomass industry that could act as a major job creator and a source of domestically produced fuel.

“We are working to find a way forward that is scientifically sound and manageable for both producers and consumers of biomass energy. In the coming years we will develop a commonsense approach that protects our environment and encourages the use of clean energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a news release. “Renewable, homegrown power sources are essential to our energy future, and an important step to cutting the pollution responsible for climate change.”

The EPA said it would amend the regulation issued earlier this month that included biomass facilities in emissions regulations. The new rule will go into effect July 1.

More than two dozen members of Congress contend that that biomass can be considered carbon neutral if regulators count emissions as something that would result anyway when wood rots.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has launched an initiative to create jobs by putting people to work thinning national forests to reduce the threat of forest fires. To pay for those jobs, he’ll need nearby biomass-burning facilities that will purchase trees and branches from thinned woodlands.

Timberland owners, who have been struggling with declining lumber prices since the housing market tanked, say biomass should be considered a green fuel.

“It is now critical that we work together in the coming months on deliberate steps to support biomass energy production,” Dave Tenny, president of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, said in a statement, according to AP.

Others say biomass isn’t as green as it seems. Meg Sheehan of the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign in Cambridge, Mass. claims that the EPA is ignoring the fact that biomass produces more greenhouse gas than coal.

“I find it very disturbing that the Obama administration and [USDA] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack are punting on making this decision until after the next presidential election,” AP quoted Sheehan as saying. “I think it shows extreme disregard for the health of the American people.”

Posted in Air Pollutants, Biofuels & Biomass, Global Warming & Climate Change, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

2010 Matches 2005 as Warmest Year in Recorded History

2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record worldwide, U.S. government climate scientists said Wednesday.

According to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year’s land and water surface temperatures averaged 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 degrees Celsius) higher than normal 20th century figures.

2010 and 2005 were also the warmest years since scientists began taking down data in 1880. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.

In addition, last year saw the most precipitation in recorded history, the NOAA said.

“The warmth this year reinforces the notion that we are seeing climate change,” said David Easterling, chief of scientific services at the climatic data center.

NOAA surveyed temperatures from land stations and ships at buoys at sea. Experts said land temperatures were the warmest on record, at 1.80 degrees Fahrenheit above normal average temperatures. Ocean temperatures were the third warmest on record, averaging 0.88 degrees above normal figures.

The Pacific Ocean experienced the fewest number of hurricanes and named storms since the 1960s, while the Atlantic swelled with the second highest number of hurricanes on record and the third highest number of storms.

Expert Bob Ward at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science says the data incontrovertibly proves the existence of global climate change.

“These new figures show unequivocally that the Earth is warming and its temperature is at record levels,” Ward said, according to AFP.

NOAA also found that Arctic sea ice cover fared poorly in 2010, shrinking to the third smallest levels since records began in 1979, just short of 2007 and 2008′s losses.

Despite overall record highs, the Northern Hemisphere was bombarded with more cold and snow than average in January and February.

Scientists said the data “also showed that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 390 parts per million, its highest level for at least 800,000 years and almost 40 per cent higher than the level before the start of the Industrial Revolution when humans started to burn fossil fuels in increasing amounts,” he said.

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Electric Cars Would Cause Added CO2 Emissions in Certain Countries

Electric cars are commonly hailed as eco-friendly alternatives to harmful gasoline-burning vehicles, but a study by Oxford University’s Reed Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch suggests that the adoption of electric cars may actually accelerate global climate change.

The results of the modeling exercise, which were published in Energy Policy last Fall, indicate that developing countries would emit more, not less, CO2 if electric cars were to eclipse gas-based vehicles.

Researchers assessed the emissions of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and internal combustion engines (ICEs) in various countries. They found that countries with high CO2 intensities – like China and India – failed to see a decrease in heat-trapping gases from the adoption of BEVs.

China and India rely on dirty power supplies, so the generation of energy for BEVs would still be environmentally harmful, and could actually lead to higher CO2 emissions.

“Given the state of their power generation mixes in 2010, the case for widespread adoption of [electric vehicles] in both China and India solely on the basis of potential CO2 emissions reductions is not too compelling, especially when the generally higher capital cost of [electric vehicles] relative to [gasoline]-based vehicles is considered,” Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch concluded.

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Climate Change Threatens Most Bird Species

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) — Climate change poses a threat to 93 percent of Hawaii’s bird species, said a report from ornithologists and environmental groups.

Birds on Pacific and Caribbean islands are more susceptible to climate change because of their inability to move to new locations, said the report titled “The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change.”

Most mainland U.S. bird species also are threatened by climate change, including many that depend on Louisiana’s fragile coastline, said the report, warning the threat to birds could foreshadow similar threats to people.

“Because birds are good indicators of environmental conditions, their predicted changes illustrate how ecosystems are likely to change and they are telling us an important story,” the report said. “Some bird species will adapt and succeed, others will struggle and decline, and some will disappear.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Scientists Chemically Turn CO2 into CO

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 10 (UPI) — U.S. and British scientists say they’ve developed a technique that chemically turns carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using visible light, such as sunlight.

The achievement by researchers from the University of Michigan, led by Professor Steve Ragsdale and researcher Elizabeth Pierce, and scientists from the University of Oxford, led by Professor Fraser Armstrong, opens the doors for scientists to consider what organism exists, or can be created, to accomplish the same task.

“This is a first step in showing it’s possible, and imagine microbes doing something similar,” Ragsdale said. “I don’t know of any organism that uses light energy to activate carbon dioxide and reduce it to carbon monoxide, but I can imagine either finding an organism that can do it, or genetically engineering one to channel light energy to coax it to do that.”

The research was reported in a recent, online early edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Global Warming & Climate Change0 Comments

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