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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

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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.

CRS — Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief (August 19, 2014)

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Coal represents a major energy resource for the United States. Coal-fired power plants provided approximately 37% of U.S. generated electricity (about 1.5 billion megawatt-hours) in 2012, while consuming over 800 million tons of coal. Power plants that use coal are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, contributing approximately 28% of total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2012.

As part of federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, loan guarantees and tax incentives have been made available to support private sector investment in “clean coal.” Both loan guarantees and tax incentives were included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05, P.L. 109-58). Mitigating CO2 emissions has also become the primary focus of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) efforts within the clean coal research and development program (now Coal R&D) within its Office of Fossil Energy. At issue for Congress is the extent to which the private sector has used the financial incentive tools available, and whether they are the right tools for promoting the development of technology to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants.

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (September 24, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On September 23, 125 heads of state and governments, as well as business, religious, community, and civil society leaders, gathered in New York City for Climate Summit 2014. The Summit was hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and branded as an event “to galvanize and catalyze climate action.” While it may have accomplished little in its quest for deeper government commitments than already pledged, it provided a platform for private and nonprofit organizations to announce a wide variety of actions, including pledges of U.S. $200 billion to finance climate-related actions, mostly from investors and other private entities, and that may move markets and secure future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. The European Union pledged U.S. $18 billion of the total.

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