Energy & Environment

Donald Trump Once Supported Urgent Action on Climate Change

Vox: “As negotiators headed to Copenhagen in December 2009 to forge a global climate pact, concerned US business leaders and liberal luminaries took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for aggressive climate action. In an open letter to President Barack Obama and the US Congress, they declared: ‘If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.'”

“One of the signatories of that letter: Donald Trump.”

“In every conceivable way, the letter contradicts Trump’s current stance on climate policy. On the campaign trail, Trump has said he is ‘not a big believer in man-made climate change.‘ Last fall, after Obama described climate change as a major threat to the United States and the world, Trump said that was ‘one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard in politics — in the history of politics as I know it.'”

Can Trump Actually “Cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement?

Politico: “In a roomful of oil and gas executives in North Dakota late last month, Donald Trump reiterated his threat to ‘cancel’ the Paris climate agreement, insisting the way to ‘make America great again’ is to resurrect the coal industry and drill our way to prosperity.”

“Formally speaking, Trump can’t just wave a wand and pull the United States out of the Paris treaty; to leave it officially would require the United States to first wait three years, and then give a one-year notice—effectively putting a withdrawal beyond the next presidential election. Nor could Trump hope to renegotiate the international climate accord, which was reached by more than 170 countries after nearly 25 years’ worth of backroom meetings and formal negotiations. A President Trump would not be able to herd all those diplomats back to the table.”

“What Trump could do, however, is obstruct compliance at home by holding up key appointments, squeezing key agencies’ budgets or taking other executive actions that would have the cumulative effect of slowing down the international momentum Obama has built on climate.”

Trump Says Wind Turbines Are Killing Eagles

In a rare prepared speech, Donald Trump outlined his energy policy in Bismarck, North Dakota, MSNBC reports.

“Trump is known for bucking conservative orthodoxy but, on Thursday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee largely hewed to the typical Republican line. Reading from a teleprompter, Trump called for reducing restrictions on energy exploration, opening up more federal lands to drilling, and reducing dependence on foreign oil. He said he would try to reopen negotiations to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Obama rejected.”

“Trump’s contempt for regulations did not seem to extend to renewable energy, though, where he complained that wind turbines were ‘killing all of the eagles’ and predicted the industry would fail without subsidies.”

Germans Were Actually Paid to Consume Electricity

Quartz: “On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%. Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.”

https://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/topics/-agothem-/Produkt/produkt/76/Agorameter/

February Warmest Month on Record

Eco Watch: “February ​shattered the global ​satellite temperature records to become the warmest ​above average month in recorded history. While not yet confirmed by official datasets, this new finding is particularly notable as it comes from one of the two satellite datasets frequently referenced by climate deniers.”

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“Last month was likely somewhere between 1.15°C and 1.4°C warmer than average, marking the fifth straight month that global average temperatures were more than 1°C above average.”

Climate Carbon Budget Could Soon Max Out

Climate Central: “If the world hopes to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, humanity must emit less than half the carbon dioxide than previously thought in the coming years, a new study shows.”

“In order to keep global warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) — the basis for the Paris climate agreement struck last year — scientists have devised a ‘carbon budget‘ for how much carbon can be emitted before warming crosses into catastrophic territory.”

“Their estimates range from about 590 gigatons (1 gigaton is 1 billion metric tons) to 2,390 gigatons … But the 2°C mark could be hit sooner as the globe warms and a more realistic budget ranges from 590 gigatons to 1,240 gigatons of carbon dioxide emission after 2015, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

“’At current rates, the carbon budget would thus be exhausted in about 15 to 30 years,’ said lead author Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.”

Republican Lawmakers Receive Failing Grades on Environmental Report Card

Think Progress: “Congress’ annual environmental scorecard is out, and it doesn’t look good for Republican lawmakers and some presidential candidates.”

“The League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard gave House Republicans an average score of 3 percent, while Senate Republicans got just 5 percent. Republican Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) both got scores of zero, as they issued what the report calls the “anti-environment vote” every time throughout 2015.”

“The 2015 scorecard describes a Republican-led Congress that the report calls ‘the most anti-environmental Congress in our nation’s history.’”

 

senate map

How Republicans Could Get Behind Climate Change

Jeremy Deaton, writing in Think Progress, examines whether political convergence on climate change is possible.

“’A lot of the narrative [put forward by environmentalists] plays out as one of costs, punishment and constraints,’ said Lynn Scarlett, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush … ‘When you get to solutions that sort of transcend what has become kind of a symbolic umbrella, you start to see common ground.’”

“The social science largely supports this. If conservatives and liberals differ on climate change, it’s because they disagree about the role of government in the market.”

“There are, however, a limited number of policies that find support on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives may balk at what they see as federally-imposed limits on industry, like the Clean Power Plan, but they believe in the promise of American innovation. So even while climate change remains contentious, clean energy does not.”

“Scarlett believes lawmakers should prioritize renewable energy. Invest in research and development. Modernize the electric grid.”

“If there is hope for a grand climate bargain, Scarlett believes it will be found in tax reform. Republicans have long aimed to lower the corporate income tax. Scarlett says conservatives and libertarians may welcome a revenue-neutral carbon tax if the proceeds are used to offset a reduction in the corporate tax rate.”

The impact of a carbon fee.

EPA Reports an Increase in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Hill: “American greenhouse gas emissions increased by less than 1 percent in 2014, according to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data released this week.”

“In the draft version of the EPA’s annual greenhouse gas report, the agency said emissions in the U.S. increased by 0.9 percent between 2013 and 2014 after a 2.2 percent increase the previous year.”

“The EPA blamed the increase on higher fossil fuel consumption in the energy and transportation sectors.”

“In all, the U.S. accounted for 6,873 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2014. That figure is still about 7.5 percent less than emissions in 2005, the baseline used for Obama administration greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

Spike in Methane Eliminates Climate ‘Benefit’ of Fracked Gas

The Guardian: “There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.”

“The United States alone could be responsible for between 30-60% of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30% spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.”

“The research shows that emissions increased the most in the middle of the country, but the authors said there is too little data to identify specific sources. However, the increase occurred at the same time as America’s shale oil and gas boom, which has been associated with large amounts of methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines nationwide.”

“With the US responsible for as much as 60% of global methane emissions growth, it’s critical that the country reduce natural gas use as quickly as possible, said Robert Howarth, a Cornell University ecologist and methane researcher.”

“’There is simply no way to do that by reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone because of lags in the climate system,’ he said. ‘Even with major carbon dioxide emission reductions starting now, the planet would reach 1.5C in 12 years and 2C in 35 years. But the planet responds much more rapidly to methane, so a reduction in methane emissions now would slow the rate of global warming immediately.’”

Supreme Court’s Action on Obama’s Climate Plan: Opportunity or Disaster?

Michael Gerard, writing in Yale Environment 360 argues that the Supreme Court’s stay on Obama’s Clean Power Plan is “one of the most environmentally destructive actions the court has ever taken.”

“By acting as it did, the Supreme Court shut down the most important actions being taken by the United States to address the greatest environmental challenge ever faced … almost no one expected the Supreme Court to halt the preliminary planning work; after all, the first compliance period does not begin until 2022. The Clean Power Plan was the centerpiece of the U.S. pledges at the Paris climate conference last December, and there was immediate fear that the stay would give other countries an excuse to back off on fulfilling their own pledges.”

David Victor, however, argues that the Court’s action creates an opportunity: “Troubles with the Clean Power Plan will create an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate how countries can deal with the reality that in every nation it will be difficult to plan precisely the necessary deep reductions in warming pollution. It is in the United States’ acute national interest to show how the system established in Paris can bend and adjust, rather than break, in the face of challenges like the one presented last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“In updating the world on what’s actually happening within the United States, the government can point to the many other policies that remain in place even if the Clean Power Plan gets stalled — such as the extension of tax incentives for renewable power, which was part of the budget deal reached between the Obama administration and Congress last December.”

America’s Teachers Are Confused About Climate Change

City Lab: “Given the topic’s partisan grip in the U.S., with many conservatives unlikely to trust mainstream news outlets, early education has a huge role to play, too. That’s a problem, according to a new study in the journal Science, because many middle- and high-school teachers are confused about climate change themselves.”

Researchers “conducted what they call the ‘first nationally representative survey of science teachers focused on climate change’ … The researchers found that most teachers devoted only about an hour or two of class time to climate change … But the quality of that education was often as poor as the quantity: only 54 percent of teachers emphasized the consensus view among scientists that modern warming is the result of human activity and not likely due to natural causes.”

“Instead, a considerable share of teachers (roughly 31 percent) offered students the mixed message that current climate change is caused by both humans releasing greenhouse gases and natural shifts in temperature. The survey found that one in 10 teachers denied the human source of global warming in the classroom—only telling students that it’s the result of nature. Another 5 percent offered no causal explanation for climate change at all.”

“A key problem, according to the researchers, is that teachers themselves seem to be ‘unaware of the extent of scientific agreement.’”