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UN Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit

November 21, 2014 Comments off

UN Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit
Source: United Nations Environmental Programme

In order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. This would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020, says a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.

Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.

Building on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows the global emission guardrails that would give a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit, including a peaking of emissions within the next ten years, a halving of all greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse gas emissions.Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.

Building on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows the global emission guardrails that would give a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit, including a peaking of emissions within the next ten years, a halving of all greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse gas emissions.

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New From the GAO

November 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier: Congress Should Consider Revising Cost Cap Legislation to Include All Construction Costs. GAO-15-22, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-22
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667091.pdf

2. Climate Change: Better Management of Exposure to Potential Future Losses Is Needed for Federal Flood and Crop Insurance. GAO-15-28, October 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-28
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666697.pdf

3. Financial Stability Oversight Council: Further Actions Could Improve the Nonbank Designation Process. GAO-15-51, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-51
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667095.pdf

4. Bank Capital Reforms: Initial Effects of Basel III on Capital, Credit, and International Competitiveness. GAO-15-67, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-67
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667113.pdf

5. Small Business Innovation Research: Change in Program Eligibility Has Had Little Impact. GAO-15-68, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-68
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667099.pdf

6. Building Partner Capacity: State and DOD Need to Define Time Frames to Guide and Track Global Security Contingency Fund Projects. GAO-15-75, November 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-75
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667116.pdf

Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations

November 19, 2014 Comments off

Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations
Source: Ceres

Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, ranks the nation’s 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority.

This report summarizes responses from insurance companies to a survey on climatechange risks developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In 2013, insurance regulators in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, NewYork and Washington required insurers writing in excess of $100 million in direct written premiums, and licensed to operate in any of the five states, to disclose their climate- related risks using this survey.

The aim of the survey, and Ceres’ analysis of the responses, is to provide regulators,insurers, investors and other stakeholders with substantive information about the risks insurers face from climate change and the steps insurers are taking—or are not taking— to respond to those risks. Because virtually every large insurer operates in at least one of the mandatory climate risk disclosure states, this analysis effectively opens a window into the entire industry. The report distills key findings and industry trends, and includes company specific scores based on disclosed actions taken to manage climate risks. It also offers recommendations for insurers and regulators to improve the insurance sectors’ overall management of climate change risks.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Proposal: Are the Emission Rate Targets Front-Loaded?, CRS Insights (November 3, 2014)

November 18, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Proposal: Are the Emission Rate Targets Front-Loaded?, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On June 18, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations (the “Clean Power Plan”) addressing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. Carbon dioxide is the primary human-related greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and these electric generating units, as a group, account for the largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States.

The proposal would establish state-specific CO2 emission rate targets measured in pounds of CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation. The targets include both a 2030 goal and an interim goal to be achieved “on average” between 2020 and 2029. States would prepare and submit to EPA implementation plans describing the state-specific activities that would achieve the emission rate targets.

Assuming the proposal becomes a final rule in June 2015, states would then have until June 30, 2016, to submit their implementation plans. However, states could request an additional year for submission of a complete plan, provided that they have taken “meaningful steps” toward completion by the 2016 deadline. Alternatively, states participating in a multistate plan would have until June 30, 2018, to submit a plan.

Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach

November 15, 2014 Comments off

Agricultural stakeholder views on climate change: Implications for conducting research and outreach (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Understanding U.S. agricultural stakeholder views about the existence of climate change and its causes is central to developing interventions in support of adaptation and mitigation. Results from surveys conducted with six Midwestern stakeholder groups (corn producers, agricultural advisors, climatologists, Extension educators, and two different cross-disciplinary teams of scientists funded by USDA-NIFA) reveal striking differences. Individuals representing these groups were asked in 2011-2012 to “select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate change.” Three of five answer options included the notion that climate change is occurring but for different reasons (mostly human activities; mostly natural; more or less equally by natural and human activities). The last two options were “there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not” and “climate change is not occurring.” Results reveal that agricultural and climate scientists are more likely to believe that 30 climate change is mostly due to human activities (50 to 67%) than farmers and advisors (8 – 12%). Almost a quarter of farmers and agricultural advisors believe the source of climate change is mostly natural causes; and 22-31% state there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether it is occurring or not. This discrepancy in beliefs creates challenges for communicating climate science to agricultural stakeholders in ways that encourage adaptation and mitigation. Results suggest that engagement strategies that reduce threats to worldviews and increase public 36 dialogue could make climate information more relevant to stakeholder groups with different belief structures.

CRS — Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced? (October 7, 2014)

November 12, 2014 Comments off

Federal Pollution Control Laws: How Are They Enforced? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As a result of enforcement actions and settlements for noncompliance with federal pollution control requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that, during FY2013, regulated entities committed to invest an estimated $7.0 billion for judicially mandated actions and equipment to control pollution (injunctive relief), and $22.0 million for implementing mutually agreed-upon (supplemental) environmentally beneficial projects. EPA estimated that these compliance/enforcement efforts achieved commitments to reduce or eliminate 1.3 billion pounds of pollutants in the environment, primarily from air and water, and to treat, minimize, or properly dispose of 148 million pounds of hazardous waste. Noncompliance with federal pollution control laws remains a continuing concern. The overall effectiveness of the enforcement organizational framework, the balance between state autonomy and federal oversight, and the adequacy of funding are long-standing congressional concerns.

CRS — Ozone Air Quality Standards: EPA’s 2015 Revision (October 3, 2014)

November 12, 2014 Comments off

Ozone Air Quality Standards: EPA’s 2015 Revision (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nearing the end of a statutorily required review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The agency is under a court order to propose any revisions to the standard by December 1, 2014.

NAAQS are standards for outdoor (ambient) air that are intended to protect public health and welfare from harmful concentrations of pollution. If the EPA Administrator changes the primary standard to a lower level, she would be concluding that protecting public health requires lower concentrations of ozone pollution than were previously judged to be safe. In high enough concentrations, ozone aggravates heart and lung diseases and may contribute to premature death. Ozone also can have negative effects on forests and crop yields, which the secondary (welfarebased) NAAQS is intended to protect.

As of July 2014, 123 million people (40% of the U.S. population) lived in areas classified “nonattainment” for the primary ozone NAAQS. A more stringent standard might affect more areas, and sources that contribute to nonattainment might have to adopt more stringent emission controls. This could be costly: in 2011, EPA concluded that the annual cost of emission controls necessary to attain a primary NAAQS of 0.070 ppm (as opposed to the then-current standard of 0.075 parts per million, which remains in place today) would be at least $11 billion in 2020.

See also: EPA’s Upcoming Ozone Standard: How Much Will Compliance Cost?, CRS Insights (October 15, 2014) (PDF)

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