Archive for the ‘science’ Category

The 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

October 24, 2014 Comments off

The 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard
Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

For the past eight years, the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard has measured the progress of state policies and programs that save energy while also benefiting the environment and promoting economic growth. Using data vetted by state energy officials, we rank states in six categories—utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives, and appliance standards. In this eighth edition of the State Scorecard, Massachusetts secured the top spot for the fourth year in a row. Joining Massachusetts in the top five were California, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Vermont. The most-improved states in 2014 were Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. Indiana and Ohio, meanwhile, fell the furthest in the rankings due to decisions by legislators in both states to roll back energy savings targets. Despite setbacks in these states, energy efficiency has remained a key resource, with utilities budgeting more than $7.7 billion in 2013 for efficiency programs across the country.

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The Modern Outback: Nature, people and the future of remote Australia

October 23, 2014 Comments off

The Modern Outback: Nature, people and the future of remote Australia
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

The Outback is the vast heartland of Australia. It includes places of exquisite beauty and wildness. It is an area of extremes, alternately lush and bountiful, harsh and inhospitable. The people and land of the Outback embody much that is most distinctive and characteristic of Australia. Yet while the Outback is quintessentially Australian, it is also a place of international consequence.

The Outback has deeply interconnected threads of people and landscapes. Its natural environments support people, jobs, and economies, as well as some of the world’s most diverse and unusual plants and animals. The Outback’s environmental values merit the attention and concern of the nation and the world. However, some of these values are being lost, diminished, or degraded because of particular threats. Managing these risks more effectively, or removing them entirely, would allow for significant progress in ongoing efforts to maintain the environmental, natural and cultural values of the Australian continent as a whole.

Weather-driven energy intensity increase led to higher energy-related emissions in 2013

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Weather-driven energy intensity increase led to higher energy-related emissions in 2013
Source: Energy Information Administration

U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased in 2013 by 129 million metric tons (2.5%), the largest increase since 2010 and the fourth-largest increase since 1990. Emissions trends reflect a combination of economic factors (population multiplied by per capita output [GDP/population]), energy intensity (energy use per dollar of GDP), and carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed).

In the decade prior to 2013, energy intensity decreased on average by 2.0% per year; given that it increased by 0.5% in 2013, this meant there was a 2.5% swing compared to trend. Energy intensity changes can reflect weather variations that directly affect energy use for heating and cooling as well as changes in the composition of economic activity. Heating degree days, a measure of heating requirements, increased about 19% between 2012 and 2013. As compared to the 2003-12 trend, the increase in energy intensity added about 134 million metric tons.

Who Pollutes? A Household-Level Database of America’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Who Pollutes? A Household-Level Database of America’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint
Source: Center for Global Development

This paper describes the creation of a database providing estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints for 6 million US households over the period 2008-2012. The database allows analysis of footprints for 52 types of consumption (e.g. electricity, gasoline, apparel, beef, air travel, etc.) within and across geographic regions as small as individual census tracts.

Potential research applications with respect to carbon pricing and tax policy are discussed. Preliminary analysis reveals:

  • The top 10% of US polluters are responsible for 25% of the country’s GHG footprint. The least-polluting 40% of the population accounts for only 20% of the total. The average GHG footprint of individuals in the top 2% of the income distribution is more than four times that of those in the bottom quintile.
  • The highest GHG footprints are found in America’s suburbs, where relatively inefficient housing and transport converge with higher incomes. Rural areas exhibit moderate GHG footprints. High-density urban areas generally exhibit the lowest GHG footprints, but location-specific results are highly dependent on income.
  • Residents of Republican-held congressional districts have slightly higher average GHG footprints than those in Democratic districts – but the difference is small (21.8 tCO2e/person/year in Republican districts; 20.6 in Democratic). There is little relationship between the strength of a district’s party affiliation and average GHG footprint.

New From the GAO

October 23, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Small Business Administration: Additional Steps Needed to Help Ensure More Timely Disaster Assistance. GAO-14-760, September 29.
Highlights –
Podcast –

Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Attribution of extreme events is a challenging science and one that is currently undergoing considerable evolution. In this paper, 20 different research groups explored the causes of 16 different events that occurred in 2013. The findings indicate that human-caused climate change greatly increased the risk for the extreme heat waves assessed in this report. How human influence affected other types of events such as droughts, heavy rain events, and storms was less clear, indicating that natural variability likely played a much larger role in these extremes. Multiple groups chose to look at both the Australian heat waves and the California drought, providing an opportunity to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies. There was considerable agreement about the role anthropogenic climate change played in the events between the different assessments. This year three analyses were of severe storms and none found an anthropogenic signal. However, attribution assessments of these types of events pose unique challenges due to the often limited observational record. When human-influence for an event is not identified with the scientific tools available to us today, this means that if there is a human contribution, it cannot be distinguished from natural climate variability.

In Times of Drought: Nine Economic Facts about Water in the United States

October 22, 2014 Comments off

In Times of Drought: Nine Economic Facts about Water in the United States
Source: Brookings Institution

This Hamilton Project memo presents nine economic facts that provide relevant background context to the water crisis in the United States. Chapter 1 reviews the historical, current, and projected occurrence of drought in the United States. Chapter 2 describes the importance of water to our national economy. Chapter 3 underscores some of the economic and institutional barriers to more efficient use of water. We examine these issues through the lens of economic policy, with the aim of providing an objective framing of America’s complex relationship with water.


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