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The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change

August 12, 2014 Comments off

The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change (PDF)
Source: Council of Economic Advisers (White House)

The signs of climate change are all around us. The average temperature in the United States during the past decade was 0.8 ° Celsius (1.5 ° Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1901 – 1960 average, and the last decade was the warmest on record both in the United States and globally. Global sea levels are currently rising at approximately 1.25 inches per decade, and the rate of increase appears to be accelerating. Climate change is having different impacts across regions within the United States. In the West, heat waves have become more frequent and more intense, while heavy downpours are increasing throughout the lower 48 States and Alaska, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. The scientific consensus is that these changes, and many others, are largely consequences of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

The emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO 2) harms others in a way that is not reflected in the price of carbon – based energy, that is, CO 2 emissions create a negative externality. Because the price of carbon – based energy does not refl ect the full costs, or economic damages, of CO 2 emissions , market forces result in a level of CO2 emissions that is too high . Because of this market failure, public policies are needed to reduce CO 2 emissions and thereby to limit the damage to economies and the natural world from further climate change.

There is a vigorous public debate over whether to act now to stem climate change or instead to delay implementing mitigation policies until a future date. This report examines the economic consequences of delaying implementing such policies and reaches two main conclusions, both of which point to the benefits of implementing mitigation policies now and to the net costs of delaying taking such actions.

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Climate Change Could Alter Range of Caribou and May Impact Hunters’ Access

July 30, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change Could Alter Range of Caribou and May Impact Hunters’ Access
Source: USGS (PLoS ONE)

Due to climate change, some communities in rural Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada may face a future with fewer caribou according to new research published by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the recent issue of PLoS ONE. Scientists examined the future effects of fires on winter habitats of caribou herds and determined that wildfires will reduce the amount of winter habitat for caribou, thus caribou may need to shift their wintering grounds

Warming temperatures will increase the flammability of lichen-producing boreal forests, which are important winter habitat for caribou herds. Caribou serve as nutritional as well as cultural sustenance for certain communities. Caribou avoid burned areas in winter and the changes in their distribution can persist across multiple generations of hunters. Those who rely on caribou in fire-prone areas may therefore have fewer available as climate change increases the number and sizes of fires in the boreal forests.

Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flood Frequency Changes around the United States

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flood Frequency Changes around the United States (PDF)
Source: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) water level (tide) gauges have been measuring water levels around the U.S. for over a century, providing clear evidence of sea level rise relative to land (SLR rel ) around most of the continental United States and Hawaii. As SLR rel increases mean sea level (MSL), there is naturally an increase in tidal datum elevations, which are typically used to delineate inundation thresholds. Direct consequences of rising sea level against fixed elevations such as today’s built infrastructure also include increased inundation during extreme events both spatially and temporally. Not only are extreme flooding events reaching high er grounds and covering larger areas due to SLR rel , the frequency and duration of these extreme flood events are increasing.

Another consequence of SLR rel is the increase in lesser extremes such as occasional minor coastal flooding experienced during high tide. These events are becoming more noticeable and widespread along many U.S. coastal regions and are today becoming more of a nuisance . As sea levels continue to rise and with an anticipated acceleration in the rate of rise from ocean warming and land-ice melt, concern exists as to when more substantive impacts from tidal flooding of greater frequency and duration will regularly occur. Information quantifying these occurrences to inform mitigation and adaptation efforts and decision makers is not widely available.

In this report, we show that water level exceedances above the elevation threshold for “minor” coastal flooding (nuisance level ) impacts established locally by the National Weather Service (NWS) have been increasing in time. More importantly, we document that event frequencies are accelerating at many U.S. East and Gulf Coast gauges, and many other locations will soon follow regardless of whether there is an acceleration of SLR rel . Lastly, we show a regional pattern of increasingly greater event-rate acceleration as the height between MSL and a location’s nuisance flood threshold elevation decreases.

Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States

July 23, 2014 Comments off

Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Livestock-based food production is an important and pervasive way humans impact the environment. It causes about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is the key land user and source of water pollution by nutrient overabundance. It also competes with biodiversity, and promotes species extinctions. Empowering consumers to make choices that mitigate some of these impacts through devising and disseminating numerically sound information is thus a key socioenvironmental priority. Unfortunately, currently available knowledge is incomplete and hampered by reliance on divergent methodologies that afford no general comparison of relative impacts of animal-based products. To overcome these hurdles, we introduce a methodology that facilitates such a comparison. We show that minimizing beef consumption mitigates the environmental costs of diet most effectively.

Proximity to Coast Is Linked to Climate Change Belief

July 23, 2014 Comments off

Proximity to Coast Is Linked to Climate Change Belief
Source: PLoS ONE

Psychologists have examined the many psychological barriers to both climate change belief and concern. One barrier is the belief that climate change is too uncertain, and likely to happen in distant places and times, to people unlike oneself. Related to this perceived psychological distance of climate change, studies have shown that direct experience of the effects of climate change increases climate change concern. The present study examined the relationship between physical proximity to the coastline and climate change belief, as proximity may be related to experiencing or anticipating the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise. We show, in a national probability sample of 5,815 New Zealanders, that people living in closer proximity to the shoreline expressed greater belief that climate change is real and greater support for government regulation of carbon emissions. This proximity effect held when adjusting for height above sea level and regional poverty. The model also included individual differences in respondents’ sex, age, education, political orientation, and wealth. The results indicate that physical place plays a role in the psychological acceptance of climate change, perhaps because the effects of climate change become more concrete and local.

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet
Source: NOAA

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.

Public Support for Conserving Bird Species Runs Counter to Climate Change Impacts on Their Distributions

July 14, 2014 Comments off

Public Support for Conserving Bird Species Runs Counter to Climate Change Impacts on Their Distributions
Source: PLoS ONE

There is increasing evidence that global climate change will alter the spatiotemporal occurrences and abundances of many species at continental scales. This will have implications for efficient conservation of biodiversity. We investigate if the general public in Denmark are willing to pay for the preservation of birds potentially immigrating and establishing breeding populations due to climate change to the same extent that they are for native species populations currently breeding in Denmark, but potentially emigrating due to climate change. We find that Danish citizens are willing to pay much more for the conservation of birds currently native to Denmark, than for bird species moving into the country – even when they are informed about the potential range shifts associated with climate change. The only exception is when immigrating species populations are under pressure at European level. Furthermore, people believing climate change to be man-made and people more knowledgeable about birds tended to have higher WTP for conservation of native species, relative to other people, whereas their preferences for conserving immigrant species generally resembled those of other people. Conservation investments rely heavily on public funding and hence on public support. Our results suggest that cross-country coordination of conservation efforts under climate change will be challenging in terms of achieving an appropriate balance between cost-effectiveness in adaptation and the concerns of a general public who seem mostly worried about protecting currently-native species.

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?

July 11, 2014 Comments off

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?
Source: Climate Central

If it feels hot to you now in the dog days of this summer, imagine a time when summertime Boston starts feeling like Miami and even Montana sizzles.

Thanks to climate change, that day is coming by the end of the century, making it harder to avoid simmering temperatures.

Summers in most of the U.S. are already warmer than they were in the 1970s. And climate models tell us that summers are going to keep getting hotter as greenhouse gas emissions continue. What will this warming feel like? Our new analysis of future summers illustrates just how dramatic warming is going to be by the end of this century if current emissions trends continue unabated.

Consequences of Climate Change Damages for Economic Growth: A Dynamic Quantitative Assessment

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Consequences of Climate Change Damages for Economic Growth: A Dynamic Quantitative Assessment
Source: OECD

This report focuses on the effects of climate change impacts on economic growth. Simulations with the OECD’s dynamic global general equilibrium model ENV-Linkages assess the consequences of a selected number of climate change impacts in the various world regions at the macroeconomic and sectoral level. This is complemented with an assessment of very long-run implications, using the AD-RICE model. The analysis finds that the effect of climate change impacts on annual global GDP is projected to increase over time, leading to a global GDP loss of 0.7% to 2.5% by 2060 for the most likely equilibrium climate sensitivity range. Underlying these annual global GDP losses are much larger sectoral and regional variations. Agricultural impacts dominate in most regions, while damages from sea level rise gradually become more important. Negative economic consequences are especially large in South and South-East Asia whereas other regions will be less affected and, in some cases, benefit thanks to adjustments from international trade. Emissions to 2060 will have important consequences in later decades and centuries. Simulations with the AD-RICE model suggest that if emissions continue to grow after 2060, annual damages of climate change could reach 1.5%-4.8% of GDP by the end of the century. Some impacts and risks from climate change have not been quantified in this study, including extreme weather events, water stress and large-scale disruptions. These will potentially have large economic consequences, and on balance the costs of inaction presented here likely underestimate the full costs of climate change impacts. More research is needed to assess them as well as the various uncertainties and risks involved. However, this should not delay policy action, but rather induce policy frameworks that are able to deal with new information and with the fact that by their nature some uncertainties and risks will never be resolved.

Nonlinear permanent migration response to climatic variations but minimal response to disasters

July 3, 2014 Comments off

Nonlinear permanent migration response to climatic variations but minimal response to disasters
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

We present a microlevel study to simultaneously investigate the effects of variations in temperature and precipitation along with sudden natural disasters to infer their relative influence on migration that is likely permanent. The study is made possible by the availability of household panel data from Indonesia with an exceptional tracking rate combined with frequent occurrence of natural disasters and significant climatic variations, thus providing a quasi-experiment to examine the influence of environment on migration. Using data on 7,185 households followed over 15 y, we analyze whole-household, province-to-province migration, which allows us to understand the effects of environmental factors on permanent moves that may differ from temporary migration. The results suggest that permanent migration is influenced by climatic variations, whereas episodic disasters tend to have much smaller or no impact on such migration. In particular, temperature has a nonlinear effect on migration such that above 25 °C, a rise in temperature is related to an increase in outmigration, potentially through its impact on economic conditions. We use these results to estimate the impact of projected temperature increases on future permanent migration. Though precipitation also has a similar nonlinear effect on migration, the effect is smaller than that of temperature, underscoring the importance of using an expanded set of climatic factors as predictors of migration. These findings on the minimal influence of natural disasters and precipitation on permanent moves supplement previous findings on the significant role of these variables in promoting temporary migration.

See: With climate change, heat more than natural disasters will drive people away (EurekAlert!)

New From the GAO

July 2, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Climate Change Adaptation: DOD Can Improve Infrastructure Planning and Processes to Better Account for Potential Impacts. GAO-14-446, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-446
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663733.pdf

2. Prescription Drugs: Comparison of DOD, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D Retail Reimbursement Prices. GAO-14-578, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-578
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664522.pdf

3. Nuclear Security: NNSA Should Establish a Clear Vision and Path Forward for Its Security Program. GAO-14-208,May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-208
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663746.pdf

Carbon Storage in U.S. Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Contributing to Climate Change

June 30, 2014 Comments off

Carbon Storage in U.S. Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Contributing to Climate Change
Source: USGS

On the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a new report showing that forests, wetlands and farms in the eastern United States naturally store 300 million tons of carbon a year (1,100 million tons of CO2 equivalent), which is nearly 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year or an amount that exceeds and offsets yearly U.S. car emissions.

In conjunction with the national assessment, today USGS also released a new web tool, which allows users to see the land and water carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. This tool was called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

“Today we are taking another step forward in our ongoing effort to bring sound science to bear as we seek to tackle a central challenge of the 21st century – a changing climate,” said Secretary Jewell. “This landmark study by the U.S. Geological Survey provides yet another reason for being good stewards of our natural landscapes, as ecosystems play a critical role in removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that contributes to climate change.”

With today’s report on the eastern United States, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has completed the national biological carbon assessment for ecosystems in the lower 48 states – a national inventory of the capacity of land-based and aquatic ecosystems to naturally store, or sequester, carbon, which was called for by Congress in 2007.

Together, the ecosystems across the lower 48 states sequester about 474 million tons of carbon a year (1,738 million tons of CO2 equivalent), comparable to counter-balancing nearly two years of U.S. car emissions, or more than 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year.

Risky Business Report Finds That U.S. Regions and Business Sectors Face Significant Economic Risks From Climate Change

June 24, 2014 Comments off

Risky Business Report Finds That U.S. Regions and Business Sectors Face Significant Economic Risks From Climate Change
Source: Risky Business Project

The American economy could face significant and widespread disruptions from climate change unless U.S. businesses and policymakers take immediate action to reduce climate risk, according to a new report released today. The report, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” summarizes findings of an independent assessment of the impact of climate change at the county, state, and regional level, and shows that communities, industries, and properties across the U.S. face profound risks from climate change. The findings also show that the most severe risks can still be avoided through early investments in resilience, and through immediate action to reduce the pollution that causes global warming.

The Risky Business report shows that two of the primary impacts of climate change—extreme heat and sea level rise—will disproportionately affect certain regions of the U.S., and pose highly variable risks across the nation. In the U.S. Gulf Coast, Northeast, and Southeast, for example, sea level rise and increased damage from storm surge are likely to lead to an additional $2 to $3.5 billion in property losses each year by 2030, with escalating costs in future decades. In interior states in the Midwest and Southwest, extreme heat will threaten human health, reduce labor productivity and strain electricity grids.

Conversely, in northern latitudes such as North Dakota and Montana, winter temperatures will likely rise, reducing frost events and cold-related deaths, and lengthening the growing season for some crops.

Climate Change: Implications for the Energy Sector

June 24, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change: Implications for the Energy Sector (PDF)
Source: World Energy Council

The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nation’s most comprehensive analysis of our changing climate. It provides the scientific fact base that will be used around the world to formulate climate policies in the coming years.

This document is one of a series synthesising the most pertinent findings of AR5 for specific economic and business sectors. It was born of the belief that the energy sector could make more use of AR5, which is long and highly technical, if it were distilled into an accurate, accessible, timely, relevant and readable summary.

Although the information presented here is a ‘translation’ of the key content relevant to this sector from AR5, this summary report adheres to the rigorous scientific basis of the original source material.

The EPA Is Shifting Its Approach for Calculating Benefits of Climate Rules, Including For Power Plants Emissions

June 17, 2014 Comments off

The EPA Is Shifting Its Approach for Calculating Benefits of Climate Rules, Including For Power Plants Emissions
Source: Brookings Institution

President Obama’s proposed rule for limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants is estimated to have a compliance cost $7.3 billion dollar while providing a climate benefit of $30 billion in 2030. But a new working paper from Ted Gayer and Kip Viscusi suggests that the EPA’s methodology for calculating the benefit represents a shift away from typical practice. A more traditional cost-benefit analysis would estimate climate benefits of only $2 billion to $7 billion – less than the estimated compliance cost of the rule.

The authors write that the assessments used to determine benefits for Obama’s rule has, like other recent EPA proposals to limit greenhouse gases, shifted to a global benefits approach. Rather than considering only the benefits to U.S. citizens, the analysis considers benefits for other countries while Americans bear the full costs.

The implications of this shift go beyond calculations of climate rules. Gayer and Viscusi write that “[I]f applied broadly to all policies, [this practice] would substantially shift the allocation of societal resources.” For example, a global perspective would likely shift immigration policy to one of entirely open borders, would shift away from transfers to low-income U.S. citizens and towards transfers to much lower-income non-U.S. citizens, and would substantially alter U.S. defense policy.

CRS — President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (updated)

June 16, 2014 Comments off

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG), and to encourage adaptation to expected climate change. The President affirmed his 2009 pledge to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well. In 2012, U.S. gross GHG emissions were approximately 10% below 2005 levels.

CRS — EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions

June 16, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Taking action to address climate change by reducing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is among President Obama’s major goals. At an international conference in Copenhagen in 2009, he committed the United States to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases 17% by 2020, as compared to 2005 levels. At the time, 85 other nations also committed to reductions.

Since U.S. GHG emissions peaked in 2007, a variety of factors—some economic, some the effect of government policies at all levels—have brought the United States more than halfway to reaching the 2020 goal. Getting the rest of the way would likely depend, to some degree, on continued GHG emission reductions from electric power plants, which are the largest source of U.S. emissions.

In June 2013, the President released a Climate Action Plan that addressed this and other climate issues. At the same time, he directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose standards for “carbon pollution” (i.e., carbon dioxide, the principal GHG) from existing power plants by June of this year and to finalize them in June 2015. Under the President’s timetable, by June 2016, states would be required to submit to EPA plans to implement the standards.

On June 2, 2014, EPA responded to the first of these directives by releasing the proposed standards.

New Report Shows Climate Change Putting Landmark U.S. Historic Sites at Risk

June 13, 2014 Comments off

New Report Shows Climate Change Putting Landmark U.S. Historic Sites at Risk
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Sea level rise, worsening wildfires and floods are putting at risk landmark historic sites around the United States, according to “National Landmarks at Risk,” a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report lists 30 at-risk sites, including places where the “first Americans” lived, the Spaniards ruled, English colonists landed, slavery rose and fell, and gold prospectors struck it rich. Some of the sites also commemorate more modern “firsts,” such as the race to put the first man on the moon.

The EPA Is Shifting Its Approach for Calculating Benefits of Climate Rules, Including For Power Plants Emissions

June 13, 2014 Comments off

The EPA Is Shifting Its Approach for Calculating Benefits of Climate Rules, Including For Power Plants Emissions
Source: Brookings Institution

President Obama’s proposed rule for limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants is estimated to have a compliance cost $7.3 billion dollar while providing a climate benefit of $30 billion in 2030. But a new working paper from Ted Gayer and Kip Viscusi suggests that the EPA’s methodology for calculating the benefit represents a shift away from typical practice. A more traditional cost-benefit analysis would estimate climate benefits of only $2 billion to $7 billion – less than the estimated compliance cost of the rule.

The authors write that the assessments used to determine benefits for Obama’s rule has, like other recent EPA proposals to limit greenhouse gases, shifted to a global benefits approach. Rather than considering only the benefits to U.S. citizens, the analysis considers benefits for other countries while Americans bear the full costs.

The implications of this shift go beyond calculations of climate rules. Gayer and Viscusi write that “[I]f applied broadly to all policies, [this practice] would substantially shift the allocation of societal resources.” For example, a global perspective would likely shift immigration policy to one of entirely open borders, would shift away from transfers to low-income U.S. citizens and towards transfers to much lower-income non-U.S. citizens, and would substantially alter U.S. defense policy.

CRS — The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2015

June 5, 2014 Comments off

The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United States supports international financial assistance for global climate change initiatives in developing countries. Under the Obama Administration, this assistance has been articulated primarily as the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), a platform within the President’s 2010 Policy Directive on Global Development. The GCCI aims to integrate climate change considerations into U.S. foreign assistance through a range of bilateral, multilateral, and private sector mechanisms to promote sustainable and climate-resilient societies, foster low-carbon economic growth, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and land degradation. The GCCI is implemented through programs at three “core” agencies: the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Most GCCI activities at USAID are implemented through the agency’s bilateral development assistance programs. Many of the GCCI activities at the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury are implemented through international organizations, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Least Developed Country Fund and Special Climate Change Fund, as well as multilateral financial institutions such as the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund. The GCCI is funded through the Administration’s Executive Budget, Function 150 account, for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

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