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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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Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action

October 16, 2014 Comments off

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action
Source: Georgetown Climate Center

The Georgetown Climate Center released 100 recommendations today to improve federal programs that could be used to prepare for climate change. The new report will inform the White House State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

The report, Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action, draws from a series of workshops with leading federal, state and local officials and builds upon lessons learned post-disaster in New Orleans (following Hurricane Katrina), New York (following Hurricane Sandy) and Vermont (after Hurricane Irene). The report identifies more than 30 federal programs, initiatives and laws that can be used to prepare for extreme events such as storms, floods and heat waves as well as rising seas.

The report recognizes that recent extreme weather events and the mounting economic losses from such events have shown how vulnerable many states and communities are to climate change. Although state and local governments will be the primary actors when it comes to preparing for climate change impacts, the federal government can boost – or impede – preparedness.

See also: State and Local Adaptation Plans

New From the GAO

October 16, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Climate Change: USDA’s Ongoing Efforts Can Be Enhanced with Better Metrics and More Relevant Information for Farmers. GAO-14-755, September 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-755
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665809.pdf

2. Specialty Metals: DOD Dissemination of National Security Waiver Information Could Enhance Awareness and Compliance with Restrictions. GAO-15-133, October 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-133
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666533.pdf

A Low-Carbon Energy Transition Can Save the Global Economy Trillions over the Next 20 Years

October 15, 2014 Comments off

A Low-Carbon Energy Transition Can Save the Global Economy Trillions over the Next 20 Years
Source: Climate Policy Initiative

Two reports released October 9th by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) clearly demonstrate that, with the right policies, a low-carbon energy system consistent with avoiding the most damaging effects of climate change could free up trillions of dollars over the next 20 years to invest in better economic growth.
The first report, “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition,” compares the costs of low-carbon electricity and low-carbon transportation systems with current systems. The second, “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values,” focuses on the risk of losses in the financial value of existing fossil fuel assets (so called “asset stranding”). A loss in assets’ value is critical because it constrains governments and businesses’ ability to borrow against them to finance growth and investment, including investment in a low-carbon transition. The reports were commissioned by the New Climate Economy project as part of the research conducted for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

+ Both reports

Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Roadmap

October 14, 2014 Comments off

Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Roadmap (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.

While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action. Every day, our military deals with global uncertainty. Our planners know that, as military strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight.”

It is in this context that DoD is releasing a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. Climate change is a long-term trend, but with wise planning and risk mitigation now, we can reduce adverse impacts downrange.

Who are the Big Ten in the carbon pollution business?

October 9, 2014 Comments off

Who are the Big Ten in the carbon pollution business?
Source: Environment & Energy Publishing

What ties America’s second-biggest energy company, ConocoPhillips Co., to a small Houston-based shale driller, Halcón Resources Corp.? They had some of the worst carbon pollution rates among their peers in 2012.

Oil and gas operations have come under scrutiny for their climate impacts primarily because they leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The fossil fuel sector is the second-biggest emitter of the gas, which is 86 times as bad as carbon dioxide for the climate on a 20-year time scale. Where carbon dioxide works over centuries to wreak climate havoc, methane is its speedier cousin, working much more rapidly before decaying into less virulent gases. For climate change, both gases matter.

Halcón, whose name means “hawk” in Spanish, is a company founded by Floyd Wilson, a wildcatter who sold his Petrohawk Energy Corp. (the first company to drill in the Eagle Ford Shale in 2008) to BHP Billiton Ltd. for an astounding $15.1 billion in 2011. Halcón, which owned $5 billion in assets in 2012, emitted 6.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents of methane per million cubic feet (mtCO2e/MMcf) of energy produced at the wells it operated. It was the dirtiest producer among the nation’s top 40 energy companies in 2012.

In comparison, Houston-based ConocoPhillips is a multinational energy company with operations around the world, and it owned $117 billion in assets in 2012. The company emitted at about half of Halcón’s rate, but its presence in the top 10 is remarkable given that comparable multinational companies like Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. were cleaner.

Encroaching Tides; Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years

October 9, 2014 Comments off

Encroaching Tides; Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Today scores of coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.

An analysis of 52 tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas shows that most of these communities will experience a steep increase in the number and severity of tidal flooding events over the coming decades, with significant implications for property, infrastructure, and daily life in affected areas.

Given the substantial and nearly ubiquitous rise in the frequency of floods at these 52 locations, many other communities along the East and Gulf Coasts will need to brace for similar changes.

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