Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature
Source: Environmental Research Letters
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Climate Change: Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers. GAO-13-242, April 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653740.pdf
2. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Cost Savings Goal. GAO-13-378, April 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654091.pdf
3. Defense Infrastructure: Communities Need Additional Guidance and Information to Improve Their Ability to Adjust to DOD Installation Closure or Growth. GAO-13-436, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654598.pdf
1. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Billions of Dollars in Savings, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-627T, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654606.pdf
International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)
Over the past several decades, the United States has delivered financial and technical assistance for climate change activities in the developing world through a variety of bilateral and multilateral programs. The United States and other industrialized countries committed to such assistance through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, Treaty Number: 102-38, 1992), the Copenhagen Accord (2009), and the UNFCCC Cancun Agreements (2010), wherein the higher-income c ountries pledged jointly up to $30 billion of “fast start” climate financing for lower-income countries for the period 2010-2012, and a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020. The Cancun Agreements also proposed that the pledged funds are to be new, additional to previous flows, adequate, predictable, and sustained, and are to come from a wide variety of sources, bo th public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.
One potential mechanism for mobilizing a share of the proposed international climate financing is the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund (GCF), proposed in the Cancun Agreements and accepted by Parties during the December 2011 conference in Durban, South Africa. The fund aims to assist developing countries in their efforts to combat climate change through the provision of grants and other concessional financing for mitigation and adaptation projects, programs, policies, and activities. The GCF is to be capitalized by contributions from donor countries and other sources, including both innovative mechanisms and the private sector. Currently, the GCF complements many of the existing multilateral climate change funds (e.g., the Global Environment Facility, the Climate Investment Funds, and the Adaptation Fund); however, as the official financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, some Parties believe that it may eventually replace or subsume the other funds. While many Parties expect capitalization and operation of the GCF to begin shortly after the November 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, many issues remain to be clarified, and some involve long-standing and contentious debate . They include what role the CGF would play in providing sustained finance at scale, how it would fit into the existing development assistance and climate financing architecture, how it would be capitalized, and how it would allocate and deliver assistance efficiently and effectively to developing countries.
The U.S. Congress—through its role in authorizations, appropriations, and oversight—would have significant input on U.S. participation in the GCF. Congress regularly determines and gives guidance to the allocation of foreign aid between bilateral and multilateral assistance as well as among the variety of multilateral mechanisms. In the past, Congress has raised concerns regarding the cost, purpose, direction, efficiency, and effectiveness of the UNFCCC and existing international institutions of climate financing. Potential authorizations and appropriations for the GCF would rest with several committees, including the U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Foreign Affairs (various subcommittees); Financial Services (Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade); and Appropriations (Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs); and the U.S. Senate Committees on Foreign Relations (Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection); and Appropriations (Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs). As of April 2013, the U.S. Administration—through its State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs 150 account—has made no specific budget request for appropriated funds to be contributed to the GCF.
Black Carbon and Kerosene Lighting: An Opportunity for Rapid Action on Climate Change and Clean Energy for Development
Source: Brookings Institution
Replacing inefficient kerosene lighting with electric lighting or other clean alternatives can rapidly achieve development and energy access goals, save money and reduce climate warming. Many of the 250 million households that lack reliable access to electricity rely on inefficient and dangerous simple wick lamps and other kerosene-fueled light sources, using 4 to 25 billion liters of kerosene annually to meet basic lighting needs. Kerosene costs can be a significant household expense and subsidies are expensive. New information on kerosene lamp emissions reveals that their climate impacts are substantial. Eliminating current annual black carbon emissions would provide a climate benefit equivalent to 5 gigatons of carbon dioxide reductions over the next 20 years. Robust and low-cost technologies for supplanting simple wick and other kerosene-fueled lamps exist and are easily distributed and scalable. Improving household lighting offers a low-cost opportunity to improve development, cool the climate and reduce costs.
Source: European Commission
The European Commission today took the first step towards developing a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies. It adopted a Green Paper which launches a public consultation on the content of the 2030 framework. The Commission also published a Consultative Communication on the future of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Europe, aimed at initiating a debate on the options available to ensure its timely development. Finally, the Commission adopted a report assessing Member States’ progress towards their 2020 renewable energy targets and reports on the sustainability of biofuels and bioliquids consumed in the EU.
Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century
Source: World Bank
- New World Bank-commissioned report warns the world is on track to a “4°C world” marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise.
- Adverse effects of global warming are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and goals.
- Bank eyes increased support for adaptation, mitigation, inclusive green growth and climate-smart development.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
If constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil (e.g., synthetic crude oil or diluted bitumen) derived from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to destinations in the United States. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it requires a Presidential Permit that is issued by the Department of State (DOS). The permit decision rests on a “national interest” determination, a term not defined in the authorizing Executive Orders. DOS states that it has “significant discretion” in the factors it examines in this determination.
Key events related to the Presidential Permit include
• September 19, 2008: TransCanada submitted an application for a Presidential Permit for its Keystone XL pipeline.
• November 10, 2011: DOS announced it needed additional information concerning alternative pipeline routes through the Nebraska Sandhills.
• January 18, 2012: In response to a legislative mandate in P.L. 112-78, DOS, with the President’s consent, announced its denial of the Keystone XL permit. • May 4, 2012: TransCanada submitted a revised permit application to DOS.
• January 22, 2013: Nebraska Governor approved TransCanada’s new route through Nebraska.
Although some groups have opposed previous oil pipeline permits, opposition to the Keystone XL proposal has generated substantially more interest among environmental stakeholders. Pipeline opponents are not a monolithic group: some raise concerns about potential local impacts, such as oil spills or extraction impacts in Canada; some argue the pipeline would have national energy and climate change policy implications.
A number of key studies indicate that oil sands crude has a higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity than many other forms of crude oil. The primary reason for the higher intensity: oil sands are heavy oils with a high viscosity, requiring more energy- and resource intensive activities to extract. However, analytical results vary due to different modeling assumptions. Moreover, industry stakeholders point out that many analyses indicate that GHG emissions from oil sands crude oil are comparable to other heavy crudes, some of which are produced and/or consumed in the United States.
Because of oil sands’ increased emissions intensity, further oil sands development runs counter to some stakeholders’ energy and climate change policy objectives. These objectives may vary based on differing views concerning the severity of climate change risk and/or the need for significant mitigation efforts. Opponents worry that oil sands crude oil will account for a greater percentage of U.S. oil consumption over time, making GHG emissions reduction more difficult. On the other hand, neither issuance of a Presidential Permit nor increased oil sands development would preclude the implementation of energy/climate policies that would support less carbon intensive fuels or energy efficiency improvements.
A primary local/regional environmental concern of any oil pipeline is the risk of a spill. Environmental groups have argued that both the pipeline’s operating parameters and the material being transported imposes an increased risk of spill. Industry stakeholders have been critical of these assertions. To examine the concerns, Congress included provisions in P.L. 112-90 requiring a review of current oil pipeline regulations and a risk analysis of oil sands crude.
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and oil sands development often highlight the environmental impacts that pertain to the region in which the oil sands resources are extracted. Potential impacts include, among others, land disturbance and water resource issues. In general, these local/regional impacts from Canadian oil sands development may not directly affect public health or the environment in the United States. Within the context of a Presidential Permit, the mechanism to consider local Canadian impacts is unclear.
Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
On October 15, 2012, the Obama Administration took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles when it promulgated GHG emission standards for model year 2017-2025 light duty vehicles. Under the standards, GHG emissions from new cars and light trucks will be reduced about 50% by 2025 compared to 2010, and average fuel economy standards will rise to nearly 50 miles per gallon. EPA had previously set GHG emission standards for MY2012-2016 vehicles as well as for 2014-2018 model year medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
These steps have been taken as the Congress (particularly the House) and the Administration have reached an impasse over climate issues. The Administration has made clear that its preference would be for Congress to address the climate issue through new legislation. Nevertheless, in the wake of a 2007 Supreme Court decision, it has moved forward on several fronts to define how the Clean Air Act will be used and to promulgate regulations.
The key to using the CAA’s authority to control greenhouse gases was for the EPA Administrator to find that GHG emissions are air pollutants that endanger public health or welfare. EPA Administrator Jackson promulgated such an endangerment finding in December 2009. With the endangerment finding finalized, the agency has proceeded to regulate emissions from motor vehicles.
In all, EPA has received 12 petitions asking that it make endangerment findings and proceed to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. Ten of the 12 petitions addressed mobile sources: besides motor vehicles, the petitions cover aircraft, ships, nonroad vehicles and engines, locomotives, and fuels, all of which are covered by Title II of the CAA. This report discusses the full range of EPA’s authority under Title II and provides information regarding other mobile sources that might be regulated under this authority, in addition to describing the car and truck regulations.
Regulation of GHGs from mobile sources has led the agency to establish controls for stationary sources, such as electric power plants, as well. Stationary source options, the authority for which comes from different parts of the CAA, are addressed in CRS Report R41212, EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: Congressional Responses and Options.
Source: National Academies
This year’s State of the Union address focused on topics such as energy, climate change, and early childhood education. The National Academies Press provides resources directly related to these national issues. A selection has been highlighted below.
We’ve posted the full transcript of the President’s speech, annotated with lists of our related materials. Read our complete guide…
A New Harvard Report Probes Security Risks of Extreme Weather and Climate Change
Source: Harvard University Center for the Environment
Increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, severe storms, and heat waves have focused the attention of climate scientists on the connections between greenhouse warming and extreme weather. Because of the potential threat to U.S. national security, a new study was conducted to explore the forces driving extreme weather events and their impacts over the next decade, specifically with regard to their implications for national security planning. The report finds that the early ramifications of climate extremes resulting from climate change are already upon us and will continue to be felt over the next decade, directly impacting U.S. national security interests. “Lessons from the past are no longer of great value as a guide to the future,” said co-lead author Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies at Harvard University. “Unexpected changes in regional weather are likely to define the new climate normal, and we are not prepared.”
Changes in extremes include more record high temperatures; fewer but stronger tropical cyclones; wider areas of drought and increases in precipitation; increased climate variability; Arctic warming and attendant impacts; and continued sea level rise as greenhouse warming continues and even accelerates. These changes will affect water and food availability, energy decisions, the design of critical infrastructure, use of the global commons such as the oceans and the Arctic region, and critical ecosystem resources. They will affect both underdeveloped and industrialized countries with large costs in terms of economic and human security. The study identifies specific regional climate impacts—droughts and desertification in Mexico, Southwest Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean, and increased flooding in South Asia—that are of particular strategic importance to the United States.
The report concludes that the risks related to extreme weather require that the U.S. sustain and augment its scientific and technical capacity to observe key indicators, monitor unfolding events, and forewarn of impending security threats as nations adapt to a changing climate. The study recommends a national strategy for strategic observations and monitoring— including greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions, ocean temperatures, and satellite observations of the Arctic—and improved forecast models. “Our critical observational infrastructure is at risk from declining funding,” added co-lead author D. James Baker, Director of the Global Carbon Measurement Program at the William J. Clinton Foundation and former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “Without that knowledge, the needs of civil society and national security for mitigation and adaptation will go unmet.”
Source: Carbon Balance and Management
A regional-scale sensitivity study has been carried out to investigate the climatic effects of forest cover change in Europe. Applying REMO (regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology), the projected temperature and precipitation tendencies have been analysed for summer, based on the results of the A2 IPCC-SRES emission scenario simulation. For the end of the 21st century it has been studied, whether the assumed forest cover increase could reduce the effects of the greenhouse gas concentration change.
Based on the simulation results, biogeophysical effects of the hypothetic potential afforestation may lead to cooler and moister conditions during summer in most parts of the temperate zone. The largest relative effects of forest cover increase can be expected in northern Germany, Poland and Ukraine, which is 15–20% of the climate change signal for temperature and more than 50% for precipitation. In northern Germany and France, potential afforestation may enhance the effects of emission change, resulting in more severe heavy precipitation events. The probability of dry days and warm temperature extremes would decrease.
Large contiguous forest blocks can have distinctive biogeophysical effect on the climate on regional and local scale. In certain regions of the temperate zone, climate change signal due to greenhouse gas emission can be reduced by afforestation due to the dominant evaporative cooling effect during summer. Results of this case study with a hypothetical land cover change can contribute to the assessment of the role of forests in adapting to climate change. Thus they can build an important basis of the future forest policy.
See: Planting Trees May Not Reverse Climate Change, but It Will Help Locally (Science Daily)
EPA Updates Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted the second year of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions data on its website, which provides public access to emissions data by sector, by greenhouse gas, and by geographic region such as county or state.
Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.
The 2011 data, collected through the congressionally mandated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program, includes information from facilities in 41 source categories that emit large quantities of greenhouse gasses. The 2011 data also contains new data collected from 12 additional source categories, including petroleum and natural gas systems and coal mines.
For facilities that are direct emitters of GHGs the data show that in 2011:
- Power plants remain the largest stationary source of GHG emissions, with 2,221 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), roughly one-third of total U.S. emissions. 2011 emissions from this source were approximately 4.6 percent below 2010 emissions, reflecting an ongoing increase in power generation from natural gas and renewable sources.
- Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest sector, with emissions of 225 mmtCO2e in 2011, the first year of reporting for this group.
- Refineries were the third-largest emitting source, with 182 mmtCO2e, a half of a percent increase over 2010.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The latest State of the Climate National Overview report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reveals that 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record by a wide margin.
According to the latest statistics from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature for the contiguous United States for 2012 was 55.3° Fahrenheit, which was 3.2° Fahrenheit above the twentieth-century average and 1.0° Fahrenheit above the previous record from 1998. Every state in the contiguous United States had an above-average annual temperature for 2012. The year consisted of the fourth-warmest winter, a record-warm spring, the second-warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average autumn.
Source: World Bank
Today’s developed countries urbanized mostly gradually, their cities expanding over a period of 100 years or more as jobs shifted from farms to factories. The pace allowed for trial and error in growth patterns and policies. Developing countries today don’t have that luxury. They’re facing rapid migration that will tilt some populations from less than 20 percent urban today to more than 60 percent in just 30 years.
City leaders must figure out now how they will provide the affordable homes, transportation, jobs, and basic infrastructure and services necessary to support already ballooning urban populations, do so with the least impact on the environment and prepare for increasing vulnerabilities stemming from climate change.
Getting this rapidly paced urbanization right is the key to resilient and sustainable growth. The challenge goes well beyond planning – governments must find innovative ways to finance infrastructure.
A new World Bank report, Planning, Connecting and Financing-Now: What City Leaders Need to Know, provides a framework for urban growth planning and finance, backed by case studies, to help leaders identify the impediments to urbanization and find the right combinations of policy options that would work politically, technically, and fiscally for their cities and countries. It helps them think through questions such as, What must be done to create jobs and expand basic services? What must be done to improve living conditions in slums and hazard-prone areas? What must be done to manage the city’s physical form?
NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis Tuesday that compares temperatures around the globe in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago.
See: 2012 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend, NASA Finds (Science Daily)