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CRS — Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future (August 20, 2014)

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report surveys existing law for legal issues that have arisen, or may arise in the future, on account of climate change and government responses thereto.

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Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality — Low Carbon Economy Index 2014

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality — Low Carbon Economy Index 2014 (PDF)
Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

The 2014 Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) shows an unmistakeable trend. For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2˚C. Confronted with the challenge in 2013 of decarbonising at 6% a year, we managed only 1.2%. To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2% a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100. On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty six years ahead of schedule. This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century.

314 North American Bird Species Threatened by Global Warming, Audubon Scientists Reveal in New Study

September 10, 2014 Comments off

314 North American Bird Species Threatened by Global Warming, Audubon Scientists Reveal in New Study
Source: National Audubon Society

Climate change threatens nearly half the bird species in the continental United States and Canada, including the Bald Eagle and dozens of iconic birds like the Common Loon, Baltimore Oriole and Brown Pelican, according to a new study published today by National Audubon Society (http://www.audubon.org/climate).

The study identifies 126 species that will lose more than 50 percent of their current ranges – in some cases up to 100 percent – by 2050, with no possibility of moving elsewhere if global warming continues on its current trajectory. A further 188 species face more than 50 percent range loss by 2080 but may be able to make up some of this loss if they are able to colonize new areas. These 314 species include many not previously considered at risk. The report indicates that numerous extinctions are likely if global temperature increases are not stopped.

World Meteorological Organization — Record Greenhouse Gas Levels Impact Atmosphere and Oceans

September 9, 2014 Comments off

Record Greenhouse Gas Levels Impact Atmosphere and Oceans
Source: World Meteorological Organization

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide. This is according to the World Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which injected even greater urgency into the need for concerted international action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

In 2013, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750), and of methane and nitrous oxide 253% and 121% respectively.

The observations from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) network showed that CO2 levels increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984. Preliminary data indicated that this was possibly related to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere in addition to the steadily increasing CO2 emissions.

U.S. Forest Service — New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs

August 27, 2014 Comments off

New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing that as the cost of fighting forest fires has rapidly increased over the last 20 years, the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent and mitigate fire damage, have substantially shrunk. The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas.

“Climate change, drought, fuel buildup and insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America’s forests,” Vilsack said. “In order to protect the public, the portion of the Forest Service budget dedicated to combatting fire has drastically increased from what it was 20 years ago. This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies.”

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.

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.

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