Energy & Environment

Californians to Receive First Climate Credit

National Journal: “In a few days, customers of Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric will receive the first “Climate Credit” on their electricity bills. Consumer and environmental advocates urged the California Public Utilities Commission to implement these customer rebates, which represent the bulk of proceeds from pollution permits allocated to the state’s three investor-owned utilities under AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.”

“The California Climate Credit will be issued twice a year, in April and October, to Californians who get their electricity from one of the state’s three investor-owned utilities. The amount will range from approximately $30 to $40 each time, depending on the utility company involved, and will be the same for each household within a particular company’s service territory.”

Report: Climate Change is Here and Worst is Yet to Come

New York Times: The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that “climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans [and it warns] that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.”

“The report was among the most sobering yet issued by the intergovernmental panel.”

“’Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger,’ the report declared.”

“The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just some problem of the distant future, but is happening now.”

“While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India.”

“’Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,’ said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.”

Energy Boom Sparks Population Growth

AP: “America’s cities are still growing, with the population boom fueled by people picking up and moving to find jobs in energy production across the oil- and gas-rich areas west of the Mississippi River.”

“New 2013 census information released Thursday shows that cities are the fastest-growing parts of the United States, and a majority of the metro areas showing that growth are located in or near the oil- and gas-rich fields of the Great Plains and Mountain West.”

“The boom in the U.S. follows the use of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, to tap oil and gas reserves.”

“According to its data, revenue for mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction grew 34.2 percent to $555.2 billion from 2007 to 2012. It also was among the fastest growers in employment as the number of employees rose 23.3 percent to 903,641.”

China Surpasses U.S. in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The enormous disparity between China and this nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the Rest of the World, is displayed in this graph by Paris-based data designer “JeremY Boy.”

John Metcalfe concludes: “While emissions are a global problem, the blame for producing them is not. A few countries have been disproportionately responsible for clouding the air with climate-bending gases.”

Climate Change May Accelerate Catastrophic Mudslide Incidents

Eric Holthaus explains why the mudslide tragedy at Oso, Washington, may become more common as a result of climate change.

“One of the most well-forecast and consequential components of human-caused climate change is the tendency for rainstorms to become more intense as the planet warms. As the effect becomes more pronounced, that will make follow-on events like flooding and landslides more common.”

As explained by the Union of Concerned Scientists: “As average global temperatures rise, the warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture … Thus, when storms occur there is more water vapor available in the atmosphere to fall as rain, snow or hail.”

“It only takes a small change in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere to have a major effect.”

“Scientists have observed less rain falling in light precipitation events and more rain falling in the heaviest precipitation events across the United States. From 1958 to 2007, the amount of rainfall in the heaviest 1 percent of storms increased 31 percent, on average, in the Midwest and 20 percent in the Southeast.”

When Extreme Weather Causes Extreme Destruction

Center for American Progress: “So far, the 2010s have been the decade of severe weather in the United States. In the first four years of the decade, there was an average of 72 presidential major disaster declarations per year due to floods, storms, and wildfires—a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous decade’s average.”

“The total extreme weather cost for the 34 most severe events [between 2011 and 2013 was] 1,221 fatalities and $208 billion in damage.”

Can these events be attributed to climate change?

“Many of 2013’s other most destructive extreme weather events were symptomatic of what scientists predict will occur with greater frequency or severity as climate change accelerates. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, … recently determined that ‘Climate change … can lead to changes in the likelihood of the occurrence or strength of extreme weather and climate events such as extreme precipitation events or warm spells.’”


U.S. is Producing Ten Percent of World’s Crude

The Hill: “The U.S. is now producing a 10th of the world’s oil, the Energy Department’s statistics shop said Wednesday.”

“Overall crude oil production in the U.S. averaged 7.84 million barrels per day, accounting for more than 10 percent of total world production.”

“Tight oil operations have helped bring the U.S. into its current oil boom. A majority of the tight oil comes from South Texas and North Dakota shale formations.”

Will Nation’s Energy Boom Produce a New Export Era?

Ralph Vartabedian examines the nation’s energy production boom and the push by the oil and gas industry to open up export markets.

“The oil and gas industry is pushing the Obama administration and Congress to legalize crude exports and speed up the process of licensing gas export terminals. Industry officials argue that the U.S. is now in a position of economic strength and national security that will be further enhanced by energy exports.”
Frank Wolak, a Stanford University energy expert, cautions that it would “require billions of dollars and many years to obtain government permits for gas export terminals, giving foreign nations plenty of time to develop their own shale gas extraction programs using U.S. technology. By the time the United States is ready to export large amounts of gas, the demand could dry up.”
“Other experts worry that the U.S. will probably need all of the natural gas it will produce over the next few decades, as utilities switch from coal under pressure by environmental regulators and as the nation’s fleet of heavy trucks adopts natural gas engines.”

“The most often-heard domestic argument in favor of U.S. exports involves job growth.”

“But experts who study the industry question such exuberance. The entire oil and gas sector is a tiny part of the U.S. economy, accounting for about 600,000 direct jobs out of 132 million.”

Carbon Dioxide Levels on Path to New Record

Climate Central: “Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.”

“[Ralph] Keeling runs a carbon dioxide monitoring program for Scripps Institute of Oceanography.” The Keeling Curve shows monthly carbon dioxide concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory.

“‘It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever,’ said Ralph Keeling in a blog post.”


Most Americans Choose Environmental Protection Over Economic Growth

Gallup: “Americans are more likely to say protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.”

“Among age groups, Americans aged 18 to 29 are most likely to say the environment should be given priority over economic growth, by a 60%-to-30% margin … Both 30- to 49-year-olds and 50- to 64-year-olds prioritize the environment over economic growth, but the gap between the two topics narrows as the age group becomes older.”

Bottom Line: “When Americans prioritize the environment over economic growth, it could be a sign that they perceive a healthier U.S. economy.”

1984-2014, prioritzing the environment vs. economic growth

White House Announces New Climate Data Initiative

Washington Post: “The White House launched an initiative Wednesday aimed at expanding the use of climate data nationwide, to help communities cope with the impacts of global warming.”

“The effort includes making federal data more accessible through and launching a design competition to demonstrate the extent to which Americans are vulnerable to coastal flooding. The administration also is releasing new federal map data to depict which parts of the nation’s infrastructure are vulnerable to climate change.”

“But the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity … said the idea is part of an effort to justify stricter regulations based on the prospect of harmful climate impact. While the data initiative will come out of agencies’ existing budgets, the group said the administration is already spending too much on infrastructure in the name of climate readiness.”

Scientists Take Action on Climate Change

Justin Gillis surveys the “stark report” on climate change, released Tuesday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The report, called “What We Know,” is spearheaded by Nobel Prize winner, Mario J. Molina, and “warns that the effects of human emissions of heat-trapping gases are already being felt, that the ultimate consequences could be dire, and that the window to do something about it is closing.”

Why the need for a new report on climate change? The report underscores the overwhelming consensus by the scientific community that climate change is real: “About 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

In addition, “the language … is sharper, clearer and more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date.”

The group “plans a broad outreach campaign to put forward accurate information in simple language.”

“The scientists are essentially trying to use their powers of persuasion to cut through public confusion over this issue.”