Energy & Environment

A Partisan Divide on Climate Change Concerns

Washington Post: “A clear but declining majority of Americans say climate change is a serious problem facing the United States in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with giant partisan disagreement on all aspects of the issue.”

“Sixty-three percent of Americans say climate change is a serious problem facing the country, slipping from 69 percent in June. Just over half say the issue is ‘very serious,’ also dipping by a similar amount.”

“The poll finds that nearly half of Americans, 47 percent, say the federal government should do more to deal with global warming than it does today, marking a decline from 61 percent in 2008 during the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency.”

“The large gap between perception and reality of scientific agreement reflects the heated nature of political debates over policy on the issue, as well as the impact of efforts to raise skepticism about scientific consensus. A Yale University study published this month found a tight connection between corporate funding and publications raising doubts about long-term climate change.”

“The survey finds that the biggest partisan disagreements exist among those with more education. Among people who have graduated from college, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are 43 percentage points more likely than Americans who lean Republican to say scientists agree on global warming. Among those without college degrees, the partisan gap is 22 points, about half as large.”

A Decline in Fracking Could Hurt Efforts to Tackle Climate Change

Mason Inman, writing in Grist, asks: “What happens if the shale boom truly goes bust?”

“My worry is that natural gas and oil prices will shoot back up, driving a return to coal, an expansion of tar-sands extraction, and more generally a push to scrap limits on greenhouse gas emissions … According to EIA data, in nearly all the nation’s major shale gas zones — including the biggest of all, the Marcellus — production is now falling.”

graph: Natural gas production from four biggest US shale zones

“With higher natural gas and oil prices serving as a brake on the U.S. economy — and economic growth worldwide — I fear these short-term economic interests will trump the long-term effort required to tackle climate change.”

“To avoid this kind of reversal, the United States needs to continue and expand efforts that will accelerate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.”

“To accelerate the rollout of renewable energy, the country can reinstate tax credits that aided wind, and extend tax credits for solar that are due to expire at the end of 2016.”

“My hope is that if oil and natural gas prices do shoot back up, alternative sources like solar, wind, and electric vehicles will have made enough progress to be able to better compete. But even so, the transition to clean energy will require the enactment of wise, increasingly strict policies — and keeping them in place— whether oil and gas prices are low or high.”

2015 Hottest Year on Record and 2011 to 2015 Hottest Period Ever

Eco Watch: “The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced today that 2015 is likely to top the charts as the hottest year in modern observations, with 2011-15 the hottest five-year period on record.”

“With two full months still to add in, the global average surface temperature for January to October in 2015 was 0.73C above the 1961-1990 average. This already puts it a long way above 2014, in which average global temperature reached 0.57C above the 1961-1990 average.”

“To put today’s news another way, global temperature in 2015 is likely to pass the “symbolic and significant” threshold of 1C above preindustrial levels, says the WMO.”

Global annual average temperature relative to 1961-1990 based on the three major global temperature datasets (HadCrut4, NASA GisTEMP and NOAA). Red bars indicate an El Niño year, blue is La Niña and grey is neutral. Margin of error is about 0.1C. Photo credit: WMO

A Failing Grade for GOP Candidates’ Climate Science Knowledge

Associated Press: “When it comes to climate science, two of the three Democratic presidential candidates are A students, while most of the Republican contenders are flunking, according to a panel of scientists who reviewed candidates’ comments.”

“At the request of The Associated Press, eight climate and biological scientists graded for scientific accuracy what a dozen top candidates said in debates, interviews and tweets, using a 0 to 100 scale.”

“To try to eliminate possible bias, the candidates’ comments were stripped of names and given randomly generated numbers, so the professors would not know who made each statement they were grading. Also, the scientists who did the grading were chosen by professional scientific societies.”

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had the highest average score at 94. Three scientists did not assign former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a score, saying his statements mostly were about policy, which they could not grade, instead of checkable science.”

Americans Increasingly Concerned With Harmful Effects of Global Warming

The most recent Yale Project on Climate Change newsletter announces the the release of their latest national survey: Climate Change in the American Mind: October 2015.

“This report details results from our latest national tracking survey about global warming beliefs, risk perceptions, conversations, perceived ethical dimensions, and the impact of Pope Francis on American views of global warming.”

“Here are a few interesting findings. Since spring 2015, the number of Americans who think global warming will cause harm has increased substantially. More think global warming will harm them personally (42%, +6 percentage points since spring 2015), people in the U.S. (56%, +7 points), people in developing countries (61%, +9 points), and future generations (70%, +7 points).”

“The number of Americans who say they discuss global warming with family and friends at least occasionally increased by 9 percentage points over the past six months, from 26% in spring 2015 to 35% in fall.”

“Majorities of Americans say global warming is a major environmental (69%), scientific (62%), or agricultural issue (56%). About half consider it a major health (49%) or economic issue (47%). Fewer consider it to be a major moral (24%), poverty (17%), social justice (17%), national security (14%), spiritual (8%), or religious issue (7%).”

Climate Change Risk Becomes an Investment Issue

CBC News: “Climate change risk has arrived as an investment issue, according to the world’s largest institutional investment manager. BlackRock Inc., with $4.5 trillion US under management, has begun watching carbon risk on all its portfolios.”

“In a new report, it warns a raft of new rules to curb carbon emissions out of the climate change summit in Paris may have a significant effect on investment returns in the years ahead.”

“This so-called ‘regulatory risk,’ meaning the impact of climate change regulations, is an impact that all corporations will be seeking to manage, says Ewen Cameron Watt of BlackRock.

“Long-term asset owners worry about ‘stranded’ assets, such as coal or oil that may have to be left in the ground to keep the world from warming by two degrees Celsius [and] there is the impact on the insurance industry of paying for repairs after extreme weather and the potential for growth among clean-energy companies.”

Recently “three new climate change indexes, which measure carbon exposure to individual companies, have been developed for the Toronto and New York markets. In addition BlackRock partnered with FTSE to create a Fossil Fuels Index Series that excludes companies linked to extraction and sale of fossil fuels.”

Watt: “The bigger the carbon footprint to start with, the greater the mitigation effort can be.”

The Latest in a Trend of Global Warming Milestones

Mashable: “The planet has not been only record warm this year, it’s been so unusually mild that the temperature records themselves have set records of their own. This is the case with October 2015, according to new preliminary NASA data released Tuesday.”

“The information shows that October 2015 was by far the warmest October on record, dating back to 1880. Not only that, but October also had the largest temperature departure from average of any month on record.”

“Importantly, this was also the first time that a single month exceeded the 1-degree Celsius temperature anomaly, surpassing the 0.97 degree Celsius temperature anomaly in January 2007. This is a symbolic milestone, but one that will be broken more frequently as the climate continues to warm due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air because of human activities.”

“According to NASA, the January through October period ranks as the warmest such period in its 136 years of record-keeping, with a temperature anomaly of 0.82 degrees Celsius, or 1.45 degrees Fahrenheit. This beats global average temperature anomalies for the same period last year, which was 0.76 degrees Celsius, or 1.37 degrees Fahrenheit above average.”

‘War on Coal’ Rhetoric Cools in 2016 Campaign

The Hill: “Coal is largely taking a back seat in the Republican race for the White House.

“GOP candidates instead are calling for an increase to oil and natural gas production while they promise to roll back Obama’s regulations, some of which affect the coal industry.”

“Talking about coal isn’t the best way to appeal to younger voters, say some experts. And while coal is a dominant issue in some states, it’s not seen as a national issue.”

“It seems that just intoning ‘war on coal’ is only good politics in Appalachia — and a few other places like Wyoming — and Republican politicians still use that language there, but they probably feel they have little to gain by framing things in those terms at the national level,” said Philip Wallach, of the Brookings Institution.

Still, “Daniel J. Weiss, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, noted that each Republican candidate opposes Obama’s new anti-climate change rules for power plants. That means that they want more coal-fired electricity generation.”

Oklahoma Experiences More Earthquakes Than Anywhere Else in the World

Eco Watch: “It’s official: Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world, according to a spokesman from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), which oversees the Sooner State’s oil and gas industry.”

“OCC has developed areas of interest, where earthquake clusters have occurred. A cluster is two earthquakes within a half mile of each other, with one measuring at least magnitude 3.2. Originally, they were three-mile circles, then six-mile circles. The circles grew in number and now encompass a very large area of Oklahoma—about 9,000 square miles in all.”

“Oklahoma went from two earthquakes a year before 2009 to two a day. This year, roughly 700 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher has shook the state, compared to 20 in 2009.”

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“Scientists have linked this never-ending spate of tremors to the state’s drilling boom. The Oklahoma Geological Survey concluded that the injection of wastewater byproducts into deep underground disposal wells from fracking operations has triggered the seismic activity in Oklahoma.”

Governments Spend Over $450 Billion Annually to Subsidize Fossil Fuels

Inside Climate News: “The governments of the world’s 20 largest economies spend more than $450 billion annually subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, a new analysis has concluded, four times more than what they spend on renewable energy.”

“The report by Oil Change International, a Washington-based advocacy organization, and the Overseas Development Institute, a British research group, calculates the amount of money the G20 nations provide to oil, gas and coal companies through tax breaks, low cost loans and government investments.”

Will Solar Die if the Investment Tax Credit Isn’t Renewed?

Wall Street Journal: “At the end of next year, the 30% investment tax credit for solar and other renewable power is set to expire for residential systems and plunge to 10% for commercial installations. Boosters are calling for Congress to extend the credit in its current form.”

“Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. “

“According to Energy Information Administration data, if the 30% credit is not extended, rooftop solar photovoltaic installations will plunge 94% in 2017 from a year earlier and utility-scale projects will decline 100%, with neither recovering anywhere close to today’s levels even a decade from now. Bloomberg predicts solar installations will drop by two-thirds in 2017, which the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates will cost America 100,000 jobs.”

“The tax credit has been a solid investment for America, which shouldn’t be abandoned abruptly or prematurely. If our goal is to diversify and decarbonize our nation’s energy portfolio, why would we eliminate the credit before removing billions of dollars of subsidies for fossil fuels? If our goal is to provide more consumer choice and lower electricity bills, why would we want to cut off the credit just as it is starting to benefit America and its households?”

Suing States Quietly Look for Ways to Comply with Clean Power Plan

E&E News: “Legal opposition to U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan roared into action in recent weeks, with Mississippi being the latest of 27 states now challenging the regulation in court.”

“But a review of how all the suing states are approaching the climate rule reveals that even though a state may be litigating the Clean Power Plan, it doesn’t mean it’s not actively considering how to achieve the required emissions cuts.”

“Few suing states are not publicly discussing how they might comply with the rule; most in this category have Republican governors with presidential aspirations. And in recent weeks, the ‘just say no’ strategy encouraged by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems to have faded away.”

“Even EPA’s staunchest opponents are saying it would be impractical to ignore the climate rule altogether.”

“Much of this is because the parties charged with actually achieving the carbon emissions reductions — air regulators, power companies and grid operators — want to know their state’s strategy might work as soon as possible.”

“In Michigan, the first state to announce it will be writing a compliance plan while suing EPA, leaders argued that this strategy will ensure that the compliance plan doesn’t end up in federal control. This decision was quickly applauded by many of the state’s power companies.”

Renewables to Overtake Coal as World’s Largest Power Source

Eco Watch: “The International Energy Agency’s latest report found that ‘in advance of the critical COP21 climate summit in Paris, there’s a clear sign that an energy transition is underway.’ The World Energy Outlook 2015 report, published today, found that ‘renewables contributed almost half of the world’s new power generation capacity in 2014 and have already become the second-largest source of electricity (after coal).’”

“The report also found renewables are set to become ‘the leading source of new energy supply from now to 2040.’ And renewables will overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation by the 2030s.”

“’Renewables-based generation reaches 50 percent in the EU by 2040, around 30 percent in China and Japan, and above 25 percent in the United States and India,”’ according to IEA estimates.”

Pie charts are rubbish - but basically less coal, more wind, solar

Global Temperatures to Reach an Alarming New Record

Mashable: “The globe is set to pass a symbolic yet significant climate threshold in 2015 while careening into a new era of supercharged global warming, new data released Monday shows.”

“This year, global average surface temperatures are likely to reach 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — which is above preindustrial temperatures for the first time, according to the UK Met Office. This puts the world halfway to the internationally agreed warming target of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“The Met Office is one of four agencies in the world that maintain official global temperature records. Another of these groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S., corroborated the UK report on Monday.”

Temperature Increase