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Climate Change, Heat Stress, and U.S. Dairy Production

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change, Heat Stress, and U.S. Dairy Production
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

In the United States, climate change is likely to increase average daily temperatures and the frequency of heat waves. Dairy cows are particularly sensitive to heat stress, and the dairy sector has been estimated to bear over half of the costs of current heat stress to the livestock industry. Greater heat stress may lower U.S. milk production 0.6-1.3 percent by 2030.

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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.

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.

Revealed: the companies doing the most to combat climate change

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Revealed: the companies doing the most to combat climate change
Source: CDP

A new global index based on companies that exhibit leadership through action to mitigate climate change outperforms The Bloomberg World Index by 9.6%. So finds analysis released today by CDP, an international NGO that drives sustainable economies.

The research is published in The A List: The CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014, which has been created at the request of 767 investors who represent more than a third of the world’s invested capital.

Information provided by nearly 2,000 listed companies has been independently assessed against CDP’s widely-respected scoring methodology and ranked accordingly.

187 businesses from around the world, including BMW AG, Centrica, Samsung Electronics and Unilever, demonstrate a superior approach to climate change mitigation. Awarded an A grade for their performance, they earn a position on the first global ranking of corporate efforts to mitigate climate change. Collectively the climate performance leaders have reduced their total (absolute) emissions by 33 million metric tons in the past reporting year, equivalent to turning London’s car owners into cyclists for two and a half years.

Fact Sheet: Polling the American Public on Climate Change (2014)

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Polling the American Public on Climate Change (2014)
Source: Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)

This fact sheet provides information on climate change polling in the United States over the last year from a variety of sources. Overall, the studies show:

  • Belief that climate change is happening and is caused by human actions is continuing to rise, but it still has not reached a level comparable to the 2007 peak
  • There is a large disparity among party lines when it comes to climate change, with a large majority of Democrats believing that human actions are changing the climate, while fewer Republicans hold the same belief
  • However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon dioxide regulations for power plants have widespread support, even across party lines
  • There is also support for somewhat higher electricity bills if it means decreasing carbon dioxide pollution

Insurance and Climate Change: Do Governments Have a Duty to Protect Property Owners?, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 16, 2014)

October 20, 2014 Comments off

Insurance and Climate Change: Do Governments Have a Duty to Protect Property Owners?, CRS Legal Sidebar (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Federal and private insurers are well aware that if the scientific consensus is correct that climate change will cause more frequent extreme weather events, they may be making substantially increased payments in the future. Commentary on the link between climate change and insurance has become voluminous.

One of the many insurance company concerns was recently in the news: whether government can be held liable for not putting in place adequate infrastructure—or maintaining existing infrastructure—to protect against property damage from climate-change-related extreme weather.

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