Energy & Environment

Carbon Levels Projected to Surpass a Historic Milestone

The Guardian: “The Earth’s climate will enter a new ‘permanent reality’ from next year when concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are likely to pass a historic milestone, the head of the UN’s weather agency has warned.”

“The record concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were up 43% since pre-industrial times, said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), prompting its secretary general Michel Jarraud to say immediate action was needed to cut CO2 emissions.”

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“Concentrations of CO2 stood at a global annual average of 397.7ppm in 2014, up from about 278ppm in 1750, and the UN said the global annual average is likely to pass the symbolic 400ppm milestone in 2016. Scientists say that the ‘safe’ level of CO2 to avoid dangerous global warming is more like 350ppm.”

The Francis Effect: More Americans are Worried About Global Warming

The Yale Project on Climate Communication reports that “today more Americans and more American Catholics are worried about global warming than six months ago and more believe it will have significant impacts on human beings.  Some of these changes in Americans’ and American Catholics’ views can be attributed to the Pope’s teachings, as 17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.”

“Key findings include: Americans have become more concerned about global warming. More Americans say that global warming is happening (Americans: from 62% in March to 66% in October, +4 points; American Catholics: from 64% in March to 74% in October, +10 points).”

“More Americans think global warming will harm people here and abroad. More think global warming will cause a great deal or moderate harm to people in developing countries (Americans: from 48% to 63%, +15 points; American Catholics: from 45% to 62%, +17 points).”

“Aligned with Pope Francis’s message, Americans are more likely to think global warming is a moral issue (Americans: from 32% to 38%, +6 points; American Catholics: from 34% to 42%, +8 points).”

Obama Cements Climate Change Stance With Keystone Pipeline Decision

Philip Bump notes that Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline carries little downside.

“Republicans would have hammered Obama for the excessive delay in approval, had the president decided to approve the pipeline’s permit. There’s a wide seam of partisanship that runs through climate change as a political topic, which is readily apparent in polling on the subject. Republicans aren’t going to dislike Obama more after this decision, which most people saw coming anyway. But he gets to define himself and his party on a subject that could become enormously important over the coming decades.”

“While rejecting Keystone XL doesn’t solve the problem of climate change — and while Transcanada could try again with the next president — approving it wouldn’t have necessarily doomed the planet, either. The formal decision to reject the pipeline is best seen as political in the broadest sense: A statement from the president of the United States that climate change is a serious factor in its decision-making process. Since the issue of climate change became a critical one, it’s a statement that has nearly been unheard in Washington. And Barack Obama would appreciate if you remembered who said it.”

Renewable Energy Poised to Surge Ahead in Next 15 Years

Reuters: “Renewable energy supply in eight major economies will collectively more than double by 2030 due to new national climate and energy plans, according to a study by the think tank World Resources Institute.”

“Total clean energy supply from eight of the world’s 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters – Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the United States -will jump to 20,000 terawatt hours (TWh) from around 9,000 TWh in 2009.”
“Combined with the Paris climate agreement, it’s clear that renewable energy is poised to surge forward in the next 15 years bringing clean and affordable power to millions of people worldwide.”

Trillions in Savings Anticipated From Projected Emissions Reductions

Inside Climate News: “Global action to reduce carbon dioxide has produced at least $60 billion in economic benefits to the U.S. in the last five years, according to a new analysis. It also concludes that current rates of  emission reductions worldwide could contribute another $2 trillion in the next 15 years.  ”

“The report was published Thursday by by the Institute for Policy Integrity, a think tank and advocacy organization at the New York University School of Law, and concluded that the U.S. will gain far more from global efforts on climate change in damages avoided to the economy, public health and the environment than proposed regulations would cost.”

“To calculate the economic benefits to the U.S., the authors first multiplied the tons of carbon dioxide emission reductions pledged by other countries and the social cost of carbon to find the economic benefits for all countries. They then estimated the United States’ share of those benefits.”

“The Obama administration has estimated the social cost of carbon at $41 per ton in 2015. That cost goes up to $79 in 2050 as the effects of adding carbon to the atmosphere become more damaging.”

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

Politico: “The Obama administration is expected to reject the Keystone XL pipeline today, a move that would mean a major victory for his green supporters and a stunning defeat for the oil industry, the Canadian government and Republicans in Congress.”

“President Barack Obama will give a statement at 11:45 a.m. in the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden in attendance … The move follows months of widespread expectations that Obama would kill the pipeline, fueled by repeated public comments in which he scoffed at supporters’ predictions that it would be a major job-creator. The verdict comes after more than seven years of furious lobbying on one of the most politically charged environmental disputes in U.S. history.”

NY Attorney General Investigates Exxon for Climate Change Lies

New York Times: “The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.”

“According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.”

“The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.”

“The Exxon inquiry might expand further to encompass other oil companies, according to the people with knowledge of the case, though no additional subpoenas have been issued to date.”

“Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue. Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost those companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties.”

TransCanada Fumbles in its Approach to Keystone Pipeline

Wall Street Journal: “On Wednesday, the State Department denied TransCanada’s request earlier this week to suspend its permit application for Keystone—a move that would have essentially punted the pipeline decision to after the 2016 elections. The Obama administration is widely expected to reject the proposed pipeline as soon as this week, ending a yearslong drama.”

“Interviews with more than two dozen people—including current and former TransCanada executives and government officials—suggest that the company fumbled its U.S. push for the pipeline by pursuing a politically naive public-relations strategy over the past seven years, and failing to play an aggressive role in shaping the pipeline debate.”

“For example, TransCanada didn’t open a Washington office until June 2012, at least two years after the pipeline became a national issue in the U.S. Before that, Paul Elliot, its only full-time staff lobbyist for the pipeline in Washington, regularly commuted to the city from New York.”

“In the past two years, the company has adopted a more aggressive tone and poured more money into U.S. lobbying and advertising, spending $3.6 million in 2014. It also shuffled the roles of two senior executives to address the concerns of landowners along proposed pipeline routes and to put more emphasis on public relations.”

Americans Not Too Worried About Climate Change

“Americans are hot but not too bothered by global warming. Most Americans know the climate is changing, but they say they are just not that worried about it, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. And that is keeping the American public from demanding and getting the changes that are necessary to prevent global warming from reaching a crisis, according to climate and social scientists.”

“As top-level international negotiations to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions start later this month in Paris, the AP-NORC poll taken in mid-October shows about two out of three Americans accept global warming and the vast majority of those say human activities are at least part of the cause.”

“However, fewer than one in four Americans are extremely or very worried about it, according the poll of 1,058 people. About one out of three Americans are moderately worried and the highest percentage of those polled — 38 percent — were not too worried or not at all worried. Despite high profile preaching by Pope Francis, only 36 percent of Americans see global warming as a moral issue and only a quarter of those asked see it as a fairness issue, according to the poll which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.”

U.S. Poised to Hit a 20-Year Low in Carbon Emissions

The Hill: “The United States’ power sector is on track to hit a 20-year low in carbon dioxide emissions, thanks largely to massive numbers of coal power plant closures, an environmental group said.”

“The Sierra Club’s report, prepared with the help of Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, concluded that since 2010, a third of the nation’s coal plants have closed or announced closure, driving down carbon output.”

“Largely thanks to those closures … the United States this year is likely to reach carbon levels last seen in 1995, and will meet the goal of the 2009 cap-and-trade legislation.”

“The Sierra Club report, which relies on government data and independent research, concluded that the electricity sector’s carbon will fall below 2 billion tons this year for the first time in two decades, while the entire economy’s carbon will be about 5.3 million tons.”

Majority Support Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Eco Watch: According to a recent study by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, “a majority of the public in 23 out of the 26 states filing suits actually support setting strict limits on coal-fired power plants. Across all 26 suing states, 61 percent of the public supports the policy, ranging from 73 percent public support in New Jersey to 43 percent in Wyoming and West Virginia. Across all 26 suing states, only 38 percent of the public on average opposes the policy.”

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“America’s history of controversy over climate change and the legal and political challenges to the Clean Power Plan might suggest that the nation is divided over regulating carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Our research finds the opposite: a large majority of Americans overall support the approach. Our models find that a majority of Americans in almost every state support setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants.”

How Exxon Questions Science

Inside Climate News: “When ExxonMobil’s public relations department plucks a complex chart from the authoritative report by the world panel on climate science and starts chanting an uncertainty mantra, put your thinking cap on.”

“Apparently, it’s too easy to misunderstand—and just as easy to misrepresent—a rainbow-hued chart full of squiggly lines and obscure acronyms.”

“Exxon spokesman Ken Cohen either misunderstood or misrepresented his selected chart the other day as he pushed back against an InsideClimate News investigation into what Exxon’s own scientists knew about the emerging risks of climate change, and when they knew it.”

“Cohen made it sound like the chart’s wide range of climate outcomes was due to scientific uncertainty, when in fact much of the range is tied to social and economic unknowns. What path will the world choose to take? Will society decide on deep decarbonization, on half-measures, or on business as usual?”

“The graphs show this century’s rising global surface temperatures as simulated by climate models under different policy options.”

“Examine the chart for yourself. Especially if you are versed in the underlying science, you’ll see that it presents two kinds of uncertainties—those inherent in climate models, and those in the emission scenarios that are fed into the models.”

 

Is the Keystone XL Project in Jeopardy?

Brad Plumer in Vox: “The company trying to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has given up all hope that President Obama will approve the project — and wants a final decision delayed until after the 2016 election.”

“In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the pipeline firm said it has just filed an application with Nebraska’s energy regulator over a new route, and that review process is expected to take 7 to 12 months. In the meantime, TransCanada wants the State Department to pause its own ongoing review.”

“One obvious possibility here is that TransCanada officials believed Obama was getting ready to kill the pipeline — so they’re making a last-ditch maneuver to postpone any any final decision until after the next election.”

“Obama could come out and say, nope, I’m rejecting this pipeline right here and now. Environmental groups like 350.org are currently urging him to do just that. A formal rejection would make life much more difficult for TransCanada. The company would either have to restart the difficult and costly application entirely from scratch — or, more likely, abandon the pipeline altogether.”

“Update: The White House said on Monday night that it still plans to make a final decision on Keystone XL before Obama leaves office.”

Texas Cities Lead in Green Power Government

Fuel Fix: “The EPA on Monday said the City of Dallas is now the largest local government user of green power in the nation, taking the top spot away from the City of Houston, which still ranks second above the District of Columbia, Montgomery County in Maryland, and the City of Austin — giving Texas municipal governments three of the top five spots nationally.”

“City facilities in Dallas recently switched from having half of their electricity backed by renewable energy credits. Now, 100 percent of the City of Dallas’ electricity comes from wind power through a contract Dallas-based TXU Energy. Much of the wind power comes from Chicago-based Invenergy, which has built several wind farms in Texas. TXU also works with the City of Dallas on energy efficiency projects, such as new lighting and lighting controls.”

“While Houston is known as the energy capital of the world for oil and gas, just more than half of the City of Houston’s electricity comes from green power sources — a mixture of solar and wind power through Houston-based Reliant Energy and on-site power generation.”

“Even when competing against public corporations, Dallas and Houston still count in the top 10 nationally for green power usage.”