VIDEO: Legislators Choke with Laughter as Florida Official Struggles to Avoid Saying "Climate Change"

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:31:00 GMT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s secret climate-change gag rule turned a state legislative hearing into a screwball farce last Thursday. Legislators chortled as the state’s top emergency-management official struggled under the dry questioning of state Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) to avoid saying the words “climate change.” At one point, Clemens offered a suggestion to Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, recommending Floridians use the euphemism “atmospheric re-employment” as one that would be more acceptable to the governor, an outspoken denier of the science that the continued burning of fossil fuels is destabilizing the climate system and threatening Florida with rapid sea level rise.

The hearing room of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development broke out with laughter, including the legislator sitting next to Clemens, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

The conversation about the new FEMA guidelines that include climate change considerations continued, with Clemens needling Koon’s apparent fear of saying the words “climate change.”

“My understanding at this point is that future versions of our mitigation plan will be required to have language discussing that issue,” Koon said.

“What issue is that?” Clemens replied.

“Uh, the issue you mentioned earlier, regarding, um . . .”

At this point, the chair of the committee, Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), doubled over in his chair, choking with laughter.

A spokesman told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: “The Florida Division of Emergency Management does not have any policy which prohibits the use of the words ‘climate change.’ ”

The exchange was featured on The Daily Show’s Wednesday episode. Stewart piled on with other climate-change euphemisms, including “moisture inconvenience” and “state-wide jacuzzification.”

Transcript:

CLEMENS: You were in DC last time when we went through this particular issue and as you said these are federal funds. Are you familiar with the new procedures FEMA issued just this week dealing with climate change and the, the fact that they’re going to be requesting or demanding that states have a climate change plan before they’re going to, to issue some of these preparedness dollars?

KOON: I am.

CLEMENS: Is this going to affect those moneys at all?

KOON: It will not. That, that one refers to, uh, a state’s hazard mitigation plan which is done every five years, uh, and the next iterations of them will required to have, uh, language to that effect.

OFF-CAMERA: What were those words, Mr. Chairman? What were the words you were using?”

CLEMENS: I used ‘climate change,’ but I’m suggesting that maybe as a state we use ‘atmospheric re-employment.’ That might be something that the governor would . . .

[LAUGHTER]

CLEMENS: So, my worry obviously is with these dollars even in a more general sense to make sure we as a state have to come up with some sort of plan to keep our preparedness dollars for hurricanes. I’m assuming that’s something you’re going to speak with the governor about, and trying to take up, so we don’t lose our dollars in the future.

KOON: Yes, Senator. Our next state mitigation plan is due to the feds in 2018 so we have some time, uh, in which to have that conversation.

CLEMENS: Even though that takes place, the edict starts in March of 2016 we only have to . . .

KOON: That’s right, but my understanding at this point is that future versions of our mitigation plan will be required to have language discussing that issue.

CLEMENS: What issue is that?

KOON: Uh, the issue you mentioned earlier, regarding, um . . .

[LAUGHTER, COUGHING]

CLEMENS: I’m going to turn the chair back over. Well, maybe I shouldn’t right now.

Secretary of State John Kerry Calls Climate Inaction "Just Plain Immoral"

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 12 Mar 2015 19:55:00 GMT

In a passionate address yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry called inaction on carbon pollution “just plain immoral,” as it is “gambling with the future of Earth itself.” Kerry’s remarks were made at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., setting the stage for this December’s international climate negotiations in Paris.

“Lincoln took risks, Gandhi took risks, Churchill took risks, Dr. King took risks, Mandela took risks, but that doesn’t mean that every risk-taker is a role model. It’s one thing to risk a career or a life on behalf of a principle or to save or liberate a population,” Kerry said. “It’s quite another to wager the well-being of generations and life itself simply to continue satisfying the appetites of the present or to insist on a course of inaction long after all the available evidence has pointed to the folly of that path.”

“Gambling with the future of Earth itself when we know full well what the outcome would be is beyond reckless,” he continued. “It is just plain immoral.”

“And it is a risk that no one should take. We need to face reality. There is no planet B.”

Kerry also called for a renewed global commitment to cutting carbon pollution to avoid the 2-degree-Celsius warming threshold agreed to by President Obama. Using language that could have practical policy implications, Kerry argued that energy-investment decisions must “include the long-term cost of carbon pollution.”

It is time, my friends, for people to do real cost accounting. The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the price of immediate energy needs. We have to include the long-term cost of carbon pollution. We have to factor in the cost of survival. And if we do, we will find that pursuing clean energy now is far more affordable than paying for the consequences of climate change later.

Such decisions notably include the long-awaited Presidential determination on the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which if built would have the carbon-pollution impact of 40 new coal-fired power plants.

The Secretary of State made reference to the news uncovered by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that Florida governor Rick Scott’s administration censored use of the words “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sea level rise.”

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so. Literally a couple of days ago, I read about some state officials who are actually trying to ban the use of the term “climate change” in public documents because they’re not willing to face the facts.

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible. I have been involved in public policy debates now for 40-plus years, whatever, since the 1960s. It is rare, rare, rare – I can tell you after 28 years-plus in the Senate – to get a super majority of studies to agree on anything. But 97 percent, over 20-plus years – that’s a dramatic statement of fact that no one of good conscience has a right to ignore.

Climate activist group Forecast the Facts is petitioning for an investigation.

Kerry’s speech had one factual misstep – he claimed that the first Senate hearings on climate change were held in 1988, when Dr. James Hansen famously warned Congress that global warming was already measurably affecting the climate.

Climate change is an issue that is personal to me, and it has been since the 1980s, when we were organizing the very first climate hearings in the Senate. In fact, it really predates that, going back to Earth Day when I’d come back from Vietnam. It was the first political thing I began to organize in Massachusetts, when citizens started to make a solid statement in this country. And I might add that’s before we even had an Environmental Protection Agency or a Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act or a Marine Mammal Protection Act or a Coastal Zone Management Act. It all came out of that kind of citizen movement. And that’s what we have to be involved in now. And the reason for that is simple: For decades now, the science has been screaming at us, warning us, trying to compel us to act.

And I just want to underscore that for a moment. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some. Science is and has long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change. Al Gore, Tim Wirth, and a group of us organized the first hearings in the Senate on this, 1988. We heard Jim Hansen stand in – sit in front of us and tell us it’s happening now, 1988. So we’re not talking about news reports or blog posts or even speeches that some cabinet secretary might give at a think tank. We’re talking about a fact-based, evidence-supported, peer-reviewed science. And yet, if you listen to some people in Washington or elsewhere, you’d think there’s a question about whether climate change really is a problem or whether we really need to respond to it.

In fact, the first Senate hearings on climate change were 11 years earlier in 1977, when the science subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology held a series of four hearings on the National Climate Program Act. The first House hearings on the same act of legislation were a year earlier.

The risk of fossil-fueled climate change was brought to the Congress’s attention by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his February 8, 1965 address on the environment, now over fifty years ago.

Transcript of full remarks:

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. Fred, thank you very, very much for a very generous introduction. I’m delighted to be here with everybody. Distinguished ambassadors who are here this morning, thank you for taking time to represent your countries and come here and share your concern about this critical issue.

And I’m delighted to be accompanied by our envoy on climate, who’s been toiling away in the fields for a long time now in helping to shape President Obama’s and the State Department’s policy on this, Todd Stern. Todd, thanks for your many efforts on it.

Fred, thank you for leadership here at the Atlantic Council. I think Fred has demonstrated that he seems to always have the ability to have his finger on the most critical issues of the day, not just today actually, but of tomorrow. And as a result, we can always count on the Atlantic Council to be ahead of the curve and to be challenging all of us to think. So we appreciate very much what you do. And thank you, all of you, who are on the board and/or a part of and committed to the efforts of the council.

I have to add you also have an impeccable eye for talent. I was not surprised to hear that you had the good sense to hire Ambassador Richard Morningstar. He’s one of the most experienced global energy experts and a good friend of mine and Massachusetts – a son of Massachusetts. And now that he’s the director of the new Global Energy Center, you couldn’t be in better hands. And secondly, my former legislative assistant on energy and climate and then went to the White House, Heather Zichal, is part of this great family of effort on climate. So I think we’re kind of a family here this morning, in fact.

It’s clear that from Venezuela to Iraq to Ukraine, there is no shortage of energy challenges in the world today. And we’ve had many conversations recently. I was in Brussels. We had an U.S.-EU energy summit, where we laid out an agenda for how we can liberate some of these countries from their one-country dependency in the case of Russia and others. It has huge strategic importance. But I have to tell you, at the top of the list of energy challenges is climate change. And that is why the Road to Paris series, the very first hosted by the center, is so very important, and I am really delighted to be here and be a part of it.

As Fred mentioned, climate change is an issue that is personal to me, and it has been since the 1980s, when we were organizing the very first climate hearings in the Senate. In fact, it really predates that, going back to Earth Day when I’d come back from Vietnam. It was the first political thing I began to organize in Massachusetts, when citizens started to make a solid statement in this country. And I might add that’s before we even had an Environmental Protection Agency or a Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act or a Marine Mammal Protection Act or a Coastal Zone Management Act. It all came out of that kind of citizen movement. And that’s what we have to be involved in now. And the reason for that is simple: For decades now, the science has been screaming at us, warning us, trying to compel us to act.

And I just want to underscore that for a moment. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some. Science is and has long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change. Al Gore, Tim Wirth, and a group of us organized the first hearings in the Senate on this, 1988. We heard Jim Hansen stand in – sit in front of us and tell us it’s happening now, 1988. So we’re not talking about news reports or blog posts or even speeches that some cabinet secretary might give at a think tank. We’re talking about a fact-based, evidence-supported, peer-reviewed science. And yet, if you listen to some people in Washington or elsewhere, you’d think there’s a question about whether climate change really is a problem or whether we really need to respond to it.

So stop for a minute and just think about the basics. When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that. Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that.

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so. Literally a couple of days ago, I read about some state officials who are actually trying to ban the use of the term “climate change” in public documents because they’re not willing to face the facts.

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible. I have been involved in public policy debates now for 40-plus years, whatever, since the 1960s. It is rare, rare, rare – I can tell you after 28 years-plus in the Senate – to get a super majority of studies to agree on anything. But 97 percent, over 20-plus years – that’s a dramatic statement of fact that no one of good conscience has a right to ignore.

But what’s really troubling is that those same scientists are telling us what’s going to happen, not just the fact of it being there, but they’re telling us what’s coming at us. These scientists also agree that if we continue to march like robots down the path that we’re on, the world as we know it will be transformed dramatically for the worse. And we can expect that sea levels will continue rising to dangerous levels. We will see nations moved as a consequence in the Pacific and elsewhere – Bangladesh, countries that are low.

We will see large swaths of cities and even some countries under water. We can expect more intense and frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. We can expect disruptions to the global agricultural sector that will threaten job security for millions of farmers and undermine food security for millions of families. We can expect prolonged droughts and resource shortages, which have the potential to fan the flames of conflict in areas that are already troubled by longstanding political, economic, religious, ideological, sectarian disputes. Imagine when they’re complicated by the absence of water and food.

These are the consequences of climate change, and this is the magnitude of what we are up against. And measured against the array of global threats we face today – and there are many. Terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation, all challenges that respect no borders – climate change belongs on that very same list. It is, indeed, one of the biggest threats facing our planet today. And even top military personnel have designated it as a security threat to not just the United States but the world. And no one who has truly considered the science, no one who has truly listened objectively to our national security experts, could reach a different conclusion.

So yes, this is personal to me. But you know what? The bottom line is it ought to be personal to everybody, every man, woman, child, businessperson, student, grandparent, wherever we live, whatever our calling, whatever our personal background might be. This issue affects everyone on the planet. And if any challenge requires global cooperation and urgent action, this is it.

Make no mistake, this is a critical year. And that is why this Road to Paris series is so important. The science tells us we still have a window of time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, but that window is closing quickly. We’re already in a mode where we’re looking at mitigation, not just prevention. In December, the world will come together at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, and we will see whether or not we can muster the collective political will to reach an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.

Now even those of us who are most involved in the negotiations – and Todd and I have talked to this, and talked about it with the President – we all understand. We know that even the agreement we’re trying to reach in Paris will not completely and totally be able to eliminate the threat. It’s not going to. But it is an absolutely vital first step, and it would be a breakthrough demonstration that countries across the globe now recognize the problem and the need for each and every one of us to contribute to a solution. And it will set the market moving; it will change attitudes; it will change governments. And then progressively, no one can quite measure what the exponential productivity of all of that effort will produce. So we have nine short months to come together around the kind of agreement that will put us on the right path.

Now rest assured – not a threat, but a statement of fact – if we fail, future generations will not and should not forgive those who ignore this moment, no matter their reasoning. Future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a collective moral failure of historic consequence. And they will want to know how world leaders could possibly have been so blind or so ignorant or so ideological or so dysfunctional and, frankly, so stubborn that we failed to act on knowledge that was confirmed by so many scientists, in so many studies, over such a long period of time, and documented by so much evidence.

The truth is we will have no excuse. You don’t need to be a scientist to see that the world is already changing and feeling the impacts of global climate change and significantly. Many of the things I mentioned a moment ago are already beginning to unfold before our eyes. Just look around you. Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record in all of history have occurred since 2000, in all of recorded history. Last year was the warmest of all. And I think if you stop and think about it, it seems that almost every next year becomes one of the hottest on record.

And with added heat comes an altered environment. It’s not particularly complicated. I don’t mean to sound haughty, but think about it for a minute. Life on Earth would not exist without a greenhouse effect. That is what has kept the average temperature up, until recently, at 57 degrees Fahrenheit, because there is this greenhouse effect. And it was called the greenhouse effect because it does exactly what a greenhouse does. When the sun pours in and bounces off at a different angle, it goes back up at a different angle. That can’t escape, and that warms things – a very simple proposition.

Now it’s difficult to tell whether one specific storm or one specific drought is solely caused by climate change, or a specific moment, but the growing number of extreme events scientists tell us is a clear signal to all of us. Recently Southeastern Brazil has been experiencing a crippling drought, the worst the region has seen in 80 years. The situation is so dire that families in Sao Paulo have been drilling through their basement floors in search of groundwater.

And the historic droughts in some parts of the world are matched only by historic floods in others. Malawi is currently in the midst of a disaster in which more than 150 people have died. Tens of thousands of people have been stranded by the rushing waters, cut off from food, clean water, healthcare, and thousands more have been forced from their homes.

This is happening now. It’s not a future event. And you can find countries, places – in fact, California, where they’ve had 100-year, 500-year droughts and massive fires and so forth as a consequence of the changes. Ask any scientist who studies the movement of species, and they’ll tell you how species are moving steadily north, fish moving. Everything is changing. It’s happening before our eyes, and that’s the first reason there is no excuse for ignoring this problem.

The second reason is that, unlike some of challenges that we face – I can readily attest to this – this one has a ready-made solution. The solution is not a mystery. It’s staring us in the face. It’s called energy policy. Energy policy. That’s the solution to climate change. And with the right choices, at the right speed, you can actually prevent the worst effects of climate change from crippling us forever. If we make the switch to a global, clean-energy economy a priority, if we think more creatively about how we power our cars, heat our homes, operate our businesses, then we still have time to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. It really is as simple as that. But getting there is proving not to be as simple.

So what, more specifically, do we need to do? I’m not going to come here and just describe the problem. What do we need to do?

To begin with, we need leaders with the political courage to make the tough, but necessary, policy choices that will help us all find the right path. And I am pleased to say and proud to serve with a President who has accepted that challenge, who has taken this head on. Today, thanks to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the United States is well on its way to meeting our international commitments to seriously cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. And that’s because we’re going straight to the largest sources of pollution. We’re targeting emissions from transportation and power sources, which account for about 60 percent of the dangerous greenhouse gases that we release. And we’re also tackling smaller opportunities in every sector of the economy in order to be able to address every greenhouse gas.

The President has put in place standards to double the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks on American roads. We’ve also proposed regulations that will curb carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

But it’s not enough just to address the pollution generated by dirty sources of energy; we also have to invest in cleaner alternatives. Since President Obama took office, the United States has upped its wind energy production more than threefold and increased our solar energy generation more than tenfold. We’ve also become smarter about the way we use energy in our homes and businesses.

And this is by far the most ambitious set of climate actions that the United States of America has ever undertaken. And it’s a large part of why today we’re emitting less than we have in two decades. It’s also the reason that we were able to recently announce the goal of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, and accomplish that by year 2025. And that will put us squarely on the road to a more sustainable and prosperous economy. Now, this upper end target would also enable us to be able to cut our emissions by 83 percent by mid-century, which is what scientists say we need to do in order to prevent warming from exceeding the threshold level of 2 degrees centigrade, Celsius.

But I can’t emphasize this enough, no single country, not even the United States, can solve this problem or foot this bill alone. And that isn’t just rhetoric. It’s physically impossible. Think of it this way: Even if every single American bikes to work or carpooled to school, or used only solar panels to power their homes; if we each planted a dozen trees, every American; if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions – guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world. The same would be true if China went to zero emissions but others continued with business as usual. It’s not enough for one country or even a few countries to reduce emissions if their neighbors are unwilling to do their share. So when I say we need a global solution, I mean it. Anything less won’t work.

Now of course, industrialized countries, obviously, play a major role in bringing about a clean-energy future. And the days of the Industrial Revolution all the way through the last century – obviously the industrial countries benefitted by developing and growing, but they also created the basic template for this problem. But even if all the industrial countries stopped today, it doesn’t solve the problem. And it certainly is a signal that other countries shouldn’t go off and repeat the mistakes of the past. We have to remember that, today, almost two-thirds of global emissions come from developing nations. So it is imperative that developing nations be part of the solution also.

Now I want to make this very, very clear. In economic terms, this is not a choice between bad and worse. Some people like to demagogue this issue. They want to tell you, “Oh, we can’t afford to do this.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We can’t afford not to do it. And in fact, the economics will show you that it is better in the long run to do it and cheaper in the long run. So this is not a choice between bad and worse, not at all. Ultimately, this is a choice between growing or shrinking an economy. Pursuing cleaner, more efficient energy is actually the only way that nations around the world can build the kind of economies that are going to thrive for decades to come.

And here’s why. Coal and oil are only cheap ways to power a nation in the very near term. But if you look a little further down you road, you begin to see an entirely different story. When you think about the real numbers over time, the costs of those outdated energy sources actually pile up very quickly.

Start with the economic impacts related to agriculture and food security and how scientists estimate that the changing climate is going to cause yields of crops like rice and maize and wheat to fall by 2 percent every decade. Consider what that means for millions of farmers around the world and the inflationary impact that will have on food prices. Now factor in how that would also exacerbate global challenges like hunger and malnutrition that we already face. Add to that the other long-term health-related problems caused by dirty air – asthma is an example, which predominantly affects children and already costs Americans an estimated $50 billion annually. The greatest single cause of young American children being hospitalized in the course of a summer in the United States is environmentally-induced asthma, and that costs billions.

The reality is that carbon-based air pollution contributes to the deaths of at least 4.5 million people every year. No part of that is inexpensive. And any nation that argues that it simply can’t afford to invest in the alternative and renewable energy needs to take a second look at what they’re paying for, consider the sizable costs that are associated with rebuilding in the wake of devastating weather events. In 2012 alone, extreme weather cost the United States nearly $120 billion in damages. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines a little over a year ago, the cost of responding exceeded $10 billion. And that’s just the bill for the storm damage. Think of the added health care costs, the expenses that result from agricultural and environmental degradation. It is time, my friends, for people to do real cost accounting.

The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the price of immediate energy needs. We have to include the long-term cost of carbon pollution. We have to factor in the cost of survival. And if we do, we will find that pursuing clean energy now is far more affordable than paying for the consequences of climate change later.

But there’s another piece of reality to take into account. And as you can see, these arguments begin to compound and grow, become irrefutable, frankly. Clean energy is not only the solution to climate change – guess what? It’s also one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time. Want to put people to work? This is the way you put people to work. The global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known. We’re talking about a $6 trillion market today, with four to five billion users today. That will grow to nine billion users over the next few decades. By comparison, the great driver of wealth creation in this country in the 1990s, when super-billionaires and millionaires were created and every income level of America went up, that was a technology market. And it was a $1 trillion market with only a billion users – just to get a sense of the possibilities here.

Between now and 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion. That’s more than the entire GDP of China and you just have to imagine the opportunities for clean energy. Imagine the businesses that could be launched, the jobs that will be created in every corner of the globe. And by the way, the United States of America, in the year 2015, doesn’t even have a national grid. We have a great big gaping hole in the middle of our country. You can’t sell energy from the wind farm in Massachusetts or in Minnesota to another part of the country, because we can’t transmit it. Think of the jobs in creating that grid. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. All you have to do is look at the results that we are already seeing in places like my home state of Massachusetts.

In 2007, we set a couple of goals. We pledged to build 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2020, and more than 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017. It was pretty ambitious. It was unprecedented. But we knew that the potential benefits to the state were enormous.

Fast forward to today, and Massachusetts has increased renewable energy by 400 percent in the last four years alone. We used a bulk purchasing program for residential solar to help keep prices low for residents and businesses across the state. And because of that, today there are residential solar installations in 350 of Massachusetts’s 351 cities and towns. Today, the commonwealth’s clean energy economy is a $10 billion industry that has grown by 10.5 percent over the past year and 47 percent since 2010. It employs nearly 100,000 people at 6,000 firms, and it’s the perfect example of how quickly this transformation could happen and how far its benefits reach.

If we put our minds to it, folks, if we make the right decisions and forge the right partnerships, we can bring these kinds of benefits to communities across the United States and around the globe. To get there, all nations have to be smarter about how we use energy, invest in energy, and encourage businesses to make smart energy choices as well.

Now, we’ll have to invest in new technology, and that will help us bring renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro not only to the communities where those resources are abundant, but to every community in every country on every continent. We’ll have to stop government money from going towards nonrenewable energy sources, like coal and oil. It makes no sense to be subsidizing that. Which is why the United States has been helping to drive efforts in the G-20 and APEC to phase out wasteful fossil fuel subsidies.

And we’ve actually taken steps to prevent now global financial institutions from funding dirty power plants and putting public money into those things that we know are going to go in the wrong direction. We’ll have to strengthen legal and regulatory frameworks in countries overseas to help spur investment in places where it’s insufficient. It’s much easier for businesses to deploy capital when they have confidence in the local legal and regulatory policy. And to attract money, we need to control risk. The more you can minimize the risk, the greater confidence people, investors will have to bring their capital to the table.

We also have to continue to push for the world’s highest standards in the environmental chapters of the trade agreements that we’re pursuing, just like we are doing in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And just like labor standards in other agreements, these environmental agreements have to be really fully enforceable.

Finally, we have to find more ways for the private and the public sector to work together to make the most of the innovative technology that entrepreneurs are developing here in the United States and around the world. And this is the idea that is behind the White House announcement that they made last month, the Clean Energy Investment Initiative. Its starting goal is to attract $2 billion in private sector investment to be put toward clean energy climate change solutions.

Now, the good news is much of the technology that we need is already out there. And it’s becoming faster and faster, easier to access and cheaper to access. A report that the Department of Energy released this morning actually projects that in the United States, wind power is going to be directly competitive with conventional energy technologies within the next 10 years. None of this, therefore, none of what I have said, is beyond our capacity. It’s not a pipe dream; it’s a reality. It’s right there. And it’s up to us to grab it. The question is whether or not it is beyond our collective resolve.

Now, we have seen some encouraging progress, frankly, over the past few months. During President Obama’s trip to New Delhi early this year, and Fred referred to it in his introduction, India – well, both China and India – the President – affirmed its far-reaching solar energy target, and our two nations agreed on a number of climate and clean energy initiatives. We also committed to working closely together to achieve a successful global agreement in Paris. So India is joined in that challenge.

And that came on the heels of the historic announcement in China that the United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon pollution – two countries, by the way, long regarded as the leaders of opposing camps in the climate negotiations – have now found common ground on this issue. And I joined President Obama as he stood next to President Xi, and Todd was there when we unveiled our respective ambitious post-2020 mitigation commitments. That is an enormous achievement.

And it had an impact. It was felt in Lima at the COP meeting in Lima recently, and had an impact on the ability to move towards Paris with greater momentum. Around the same time, the EU announced its target as well, which means we now have strong commitments from the three largest emitters in the world.

Now we need more and more nations to follow suit and announce their ambitious mitigation targets as well. And because this has to be a truly all-hands-on-deck effort, I invite all of our partners – businesses and industry groups, mayors, governors throughout the country and around the world to announce their own targets, their commitments leading up to Paris, so we can set an example and create a grassroots movement towards success. This will help us come forward with plans that will help every country be able to reach their goals.

Now I am keenly aware that we can do a better job of engaging the private sector and our partners at the sub-national level of government in this effort. And I can tell you today that I plan to make certain in the next months that that happens. I know many of you have already made impressive announcements, those of you engaged in business or on the boards of an enterprise or eleemosynary or educational institutions. And you’ve helped to lay out how we can combat climate change, and I thank you for doing that. But now it’s time to build on those pledges. Let us know how you are doing. I say let us know through the State Department, through state.gov, and how we can help you make progress. And this is the kind of shared resolve that will help ensure that we are successful in Paris and beyond.

In closing, I ask you to consider one basic question. Suppose stretching your imaginations, as it will have to be, that somehow those 97 percent of studies that I just talked about – suppose that somehow they were wrong about climate change in the end. Hard to understand after 20 years of 97 percent, but imagine it. I just want you to imagine it. What are the consequences we would face for taking the actions that we’re talking about, and based on the notion that those might be correct? I’ll tell you what the consequences are. You’ll create an extraordinary number of jobs, you’ll kick our economies into gear all around the world, because we’ll be taking advantage of one of the biggest business opportunities the world has ever known.

We’ll have healthier people. Those billions of dollars of costs in the summer and at hospitals and for emphysema, lung disease, particulate cancer, will be reduced because we’ll be eliminating a lot of the toxic pollution coming from smoke stacks and tall pipes. Air will be cleaner. You can actually see your city. We’ll have a more secure world because it’ll be far easier for countries to attain the long-lasting energy independence and security they thrive – they need to thrive and not be blackmailed by another nation, cut off, their economy turned into turmoil because they can’t have the independence they need and the guarantees of energy supply.

We will live up in the course of all of that to our moral responsibility to leave the planet Earth in better condition than we were handed it, to live up to even scripture which calls on us to protect planet Earth. These – all of these things are the so-called consequences of global action to address climate change. What’s the other side of that question? What will happen if we do nothing and the climate skeptics are wrong and the delayers are wrong and the people who calculate cost without taking everything into account are wrong? The answer to that is pretty straightforward: utter catastrophe, life as we know it on Earth.

So I through my life have believed that you can take certain kinds of risks in the course of public affairs and life. My heroes are people who dared to take on great challenges without knowing for certain what the outcome would be. Lincoln took risks, Gandhi took risks, Churchill took risks, Dr. King took risks, Mandela took risks, but that doesn’t mean that every risk-taker is a role model. It’s one thing to risk a career or a life on behalf of a principle or to save or liberate a population. It’s quite another to wager the well-being of generations and life itself simply to continue satisfying the appetites of the present or to insist on a course of inaction long after all the available evidence has pointed to the folly of that path. Gambling with the future of Earth itself when we know full well what the outcome would be is beyond reckless. It is just plain immoral. And it is a risk that no one should take. We need to face reality. There is no planet B.

So I’m not suggesting it’s going to be easy in these next months or even these next few years. If it were, we would have solved this decades ago when the science first revealed the facts of what we were facing. But it is crunch time now. We’ve used up our hall passes, our excuses. We’ve used up too much valuable time. We know what we have to do. And I am confident that we can find a way to summon the resolve that we need to tackle this shared threat. And we can reach an agreement in Paris, we can carve out a path toward a clean energy future, we can meet this challenge. That is our charge for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren, and it is a charge we must keep. Thank you all. (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE: I wanted to thank Secretary Kerry for his significant, passionate, focused remarks, important remarks that I think will really set up the road to Paris, but really way beyond that. We understand that you have to rush out to a very important meeting at the White House. I do want to ask just one question to close this off, and if you can broaden this to the energy world at large. We’re seeing falling prices, we’ve got the U.S. energy boom. How are you looking at the impact of both of those things in context of this? What is the geopolitics of these falling prices and the rise of America as really the leading, if not a leading energy producer in the world?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the impact is very significant, obviously. It’s certainly affected Russia’s income and the current situation in Russia. It’s affected the situation in Iran. It’s affected the budgets of those producing states. It has potential on some sides to strategically be helpful and the potential on other sides to be strategically damaging. For instance, if Petrocaribe were to fall because of events in Venezuela or because of price and so forth, we could wind up with a serious humanitarian challenge on our – in our near neighborhood.

And so there are a lot of pluses and minuses of it, but you have to remember the primary reason for America’s good fortune in this turnaround right now is LNG. It’s the production of gas and fracking and what’s happened in terms of our independence, at least – and we’re also producing more oil, by the way, at the same time. And we’ve become one of the world’s largest, if not the largest energy producer. That’s positive as long as we’re on a road to deal with the problem I just laid out here today.

But remember, while LNG is 50 percent less carbon-intensive than oil, it’s nevertheless carbon, and it has its impact. So it’s a movement in the right direction, but in the end, we’re going to have to do all the things I just talked about, which is move to sustainable, renewable, alternative other kinds of energy that don’t have that problem. And the way the world is going right now because of the dependency – another negative impact of that is that it has greatly reduced the price of coal, and therefore in certain countries, people are just going on a price basis and racing to coal. And that means we have a number of coal-fired power plants coming online in various countries at a rate that is simply destructive. And they’re not coming on with the latest technology in all cases.

There is no such thing in the end as absolutely clean coal. And so we have a challenge with respect to what we’re going to do. There are technologies that significantly clean coal, and when put in place, that’s very helpful. And if you can do carbon sequestration and storage, which isn’t happening enough – there’s a way to use it – but it’s, in the marketplace, I think, going to be far more expensive in the end than these other technologies which are coming online to produce other things at a far better cost. As I mentioned to you, wind is about to be in the next 10 years competitive with other energy. So that’s going to be an enormous transformation.

But what really has to happen here is the setting of a goal through the Paris agreement so that people suddenly see that countries everywhere are moving in this direction, and then the marketplace begins to move. That’s when innovators and entrepreneurs and investors start to say this is the future and it takes hold, and that accelerates the process itself. And when that begins to happen, that’s when this $6 trillion market and the ultimately 9 billion users component of this really kicks in and takes over.

So it’s a mixed bag for the moment, but I think we certainly see the roadmap to move in the right direction. Thank you.

Rep. Grijalva Asks for Conflict-of-Interest Disclosures from GOP's Go-To Climate Science Witnesses

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:35:00 GMT

Climate-denier academics
Climate-disinformation academics (clockwise from top left): Willie Soon, David Legates, Judith Curry, Robert Balling, Steven Hayward, Roger Pielke Jr, Richard Lindzen, John Christy
The conflict-of-interest scandal involving a climate denier secretly funded by the fossil-fuel industry is spreading to other academics who oppose regulation of climate pollution. A top House Democrat has issued letters asking several researchers who have appeared as Republican witnesses before Congress questioning climate science to disclose their funding sources.

Over the weekend, multiple news organizations reported on the undisclosed funding of Harvard-Smithsonian's Dr. Willie Soon by Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, and other greenhouse polluters. "There are just so many things that we do not know about how the climate really works and what are the factors that cause it to change," Soon testified before the U.S. Senate in 2003, "to really jump to the conclusion that it will all be CO2."

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, is asking the universities of seven academics, some of whom are climate scientists, others social scientists, who are part of a small stable of repeat Republican witnesses on climate science and policy.

Soon and the targets of this investigation have appeared at least three dozen times before Congress over the past twenty-five years to question the scientific need to limit greenhouse pollution.

"I am hopeful that disclosure of a few key pieces of information will establish the impartiality of climate research and policy recommendations published in your institution's name and assist me and my colleagues in making better law," Grijalva wrote. "Companies with a direct financial interest in climate and air quality standards are funding environmental research that influences state and federal regulations and shapes public understanding of climate science. These conflicts should be clear to stakeholders, including policymakers who use scientific information to make decisions. My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships."

The letters request the institutions' disclosure policies, drafts and communications relating to Congressional testimony, and sources of external funding for the academics in question.

The disclosure requests are needed because Congressional "truth in testimony" rules require witnesses to disclose government funding sources, but not private or corporate funding. Under Republican control, the rules are unevenly implemented, with not-for-profit witnesses required to submit pages of additional disclosures, while corporate-sector witnesses are not.

The seven academics who dispute the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming who have been asked to disclose their funding are (dates of Congressional testimony in parentheses):

Update: Further appearances by Curry, Pielke Jr, and Christy in 2006 and 2007 have been added (h/t Dr. Curry).

Canadian Paper Found Guilty of Defaming Climate Scientist Andrew Weaver with "Climategate" Smears

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 06 Feb 2015 18:41:00 GMT

Andrew WeaverThe conservative Canadian newspaper National Post and several of its reporters have been found guilty of defaming a climate scientist in numerous articles that attacked his character. The defendants - the Post, its publisher Gordon Fisher, and its journalists Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster, and Kevin Libin - have to retract all their articles about climate scientist Andrew Weaver and pay $50,000 in general damages jointly.

The judge in the case, Justice Emily Burke, did not find the defendants guilty of malice, merely that they "deliberately created a negative impression of Dr. Weaver" because of their climate-change denial and "have been careless or indifferent to the accuracy of the facts."

Dr. Andrew Weaver is one of the world's pre-eminent paleoclimatologists, a professor at the University of Victoria since 1992. He has spent considerable time working to educate the public on climate change, writing Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World in 2008 and acting as a lead author for every IPCC report since 1995. During the

In a series of articles and editorials, the Post claimed Weaver, as "Canada's warmist spinner-in-chief," was part of a global scientific conspiracy to concoct fear about fossil-fueled global warming. This "Climategate" smear against varied climate scientists was promoted by conservative media worldwide during the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. While other scientists were being smeared following the hacking of a set of email correspondence, Weaver was the victim of an office break-in. The Post then falsely claimed Weaver blamed the oil industry for the burglary. The Post also falsely claimed Weaver was trying to dissociate himself from the IPCC and was generally corrupt and deceitful. In 2010, Weaver filed suit against the Post, after years of asking for corrections and retractions.

Justice Burke found the defendants' claims that their articles did not defame Weaver's character completely unconvincing. She found, instead, they lied and defamed Dr. Weaver. According to Burke, they "altered the complexion of the facts and omitted facts sufficiently fundamental that they undermine the accuracy of the facts expressed in the commentary to the extent the facts cannot be properly regarded as a true statement of the facts."

As she wrote in her decision:

Essentially, the allegations of the defamatory character of the words in the four articles can be summarized as the following innuendos or inferences that Dr. Weaver:

(a) attempted to divert public attention from the IPCC and Climategate scandal by fabricating stories about the involvement of the fossil fuel industry with respect to the break-ins at his office, theft of emails from a UK University, and hack attacks at the Centre;

(b) engaged in deceptive misconduct in the news media to do so;

(c) engaged in willful manipulation and distortion of scientific data for the purposes of deceiving the public in order to promote a public agenda;

(d) in doing so, is motivated by a corrupt interest in receiving government funding and financial rewards;

(e) is wilfully concealing scientific climate data;

(f) knows or believes the IPCC reports concerning global warming are unscientific and fraudulent and seeks to avoid personal accountability for the manipulation/distortion of those reports by disassociating himself from that organization;

(g) has deceitfully or incompetently linked current weather and temperature events with global warming;

(h) authored a deceitful and manipulative work of agitation propaganda known as The Copenhagen Diagnosis; and

(i) is untrustworthy, unscientific and incompetent.

As of this writing, the National Post has not yet removed the offending articles from its website.

The full judgment can be found here.

Coral Davenport Repeats Keystone XL 'Little Impact on Climate' Falsehood

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:25:00 GMT

Coral Davenport
Coral Davenport

Coral Davenport, one of The New York Times’ few environmental reporters, is repeating her past mistakes on Keystone XL reporting. The Keystone XL pipeline would connect Canada’s tar sands to Texan oil refineries, allowing the high-carbon product to reach the global oil market. Over its forty-year intended lifetime, the pipeline’s tar sands crude would have a greenhouse-pollution footprint of about 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of forty new coal-fired power plants. By any reasonable measure, the Keystone XL pipeline is a major piece of infrastructure for the Canadian tar-sands industry and a significant threat to a safe climate.

In a recent story entitled “Experts Say That Battle on Keystone Pipeline Is Over Politics, Not Facts,” Davenport claimed that the tar-sands pipeline has little real policy significance.
But most energy and policy experts say the battle over Keystone overshadows the importance of the project as an environmental threat or an engine of the economy. The pipeline will have little effect, they say, on climate change, production of the Canadian oil sands, gasoline prices and the overall job market in the United States.

On Earth Day last year, Davenport penned a nearly identical story, writing, “when it comes to the pipeline’s true impact on global warming, energy and climate change experts — including former Obama administration officials — say Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.”

The original version of last year’s story understated the scale of the tar-sands pipeline’s greenhouse pollution by a factor of ten.

Davenport’s new story relies on experts who have done work on behalf of the oil and gas industry, leading with Robert Stavins, the influential Harvard Kennedy School economist who has studied climate policy for the last thirty years. Stavins claims:
“The political fight about Keystone is vastly greater than the economic, environmental or energy impact of the pipeline itself. It doesn’t make a big difference in energy prices, employment, or climate change either way.”

An active supporter of the boom in natural gas extraction, Stavins also opposes the climate movement’s campaign to divest universities and other institutions from the fossil fuel industry.

It does not appear that Stavins has conducted any published work on Keystone XL or the economics of Canadian tar sands. However, a Kennedy School doctoral candidate named Gabe Chan has analyzed the climate economics of Canada’s tar sands. Chan and his co-authors found that under global policy that maintains a safe climate, Canada’s tar-sands development would collapse. The study raises serious questions about whether approval of Keystone XL is consistent with the international climate commitments the State Department has made at the direction of President Barack Obama.

Canada tar-sands development under climate policy
With climate policies implemented worldwide, the Canadian bitumen production is significantly reduced. Left (e) shows global climate policy scenario, right (f) global climate policy with carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology. (Chan et al. 2012)

The other people denoted as “experts” by Davenport are Robert McNally, a former George W. Bush official who now works as an professional advocate for the oil and natural gas industry, and Christine Tezak, a pipeline-finance analyst, who bet that Keystone XL would be approved in 2011 (as did her current boss, Kevin Book).

Stavins has done consulting work for Chevron, Exelon, Duke Energy, and the Western States Petroleum Association. Neither McNally nor Tezak publicly disclose their clients who are part of or invest in the fossil-fuel industry. None have a scientific background, and none have published work analyzing the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In the words of climate scientist John Abraham, “People who think Keystone is a minor issue don’t understand science and they sure don’t understand economics.”

Paid by Peabody, Laurence Tribe Argues Coal Is 'Bedrock' to Economy

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 06 Dec 2014 21:13:00 GMT

Laurence TribeLaurence Tribe, the Harvard law professor who argued the losing side of Bush v. Gore, is now defending the coal industry against the Environmental Protection Agency's planned rules for greenhouse pollution from power plants. In a submission to the EPA's comment period for the Clean Power Plan, Tribe and Peabody Energy's notorious climate-science-denying lobbyist Fred Palmer argued that coal is a "bedrock" of the United States economy.
In short, coal has been a bedrock component of our economy and energy policy for decades. The Proposed Rule, which manifestly proceeds on the opposite premise, thus represents a dramatic change in directions from previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

"It is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority," Tribe and Peabody Energy wrote, in strident language reminiscent of Fox News rhetoric. "Indeed, the Proposed Rule raises serious constitutional questions."

Tribe and Peabody put great weight in the past history of coal's importance to the U.S. economy, as opposed to its future. Hillary Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter get special mention.

Both Democrats and Republicans should stand in strong support of the rule of law. And both Democratic and Republican Administrations have promoted the prudent use of domestic coal in order to reduce dependence on imported oil. In contrast, the Proposed Rule will require a dramatic decline in coal-fired generation of electricity, in order to implement EPA’s system of state-by-state mandates. In fact, under EPA’s plan, the agency envisions that coal generation would be eliminated altogether in 12 states. The Proposed Rule thus reverses policies that reach back to John F. Kennedy. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
[The rule] retroactively abrogates the federal government’s policy of promoting coal as an energy source. Private companies – and whole communities – reasonably relied on the federal government’s commitment to the support of coal.
The Proposed Rule represents a reversal of decades of a bipartisan federal policy emphasizing increased use of domestic coal to achieve U.S. energy independence, reduce imported foreign oil, and provide the Nation with reliable and affordable electricity. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
Both Democratic and Republican Administrations championed coal throughout the 20th century. John F. Kennedy explained, “It would be the height of folly for this nation to permit its coal mines to be abandoned – to permit the skills of our miners to be scattered throughout the country, in other industries – and to neglect further research and development in this major American industry. … We need intensive research on the development and use of our coal resources.”
Coal has been a central tenet of energy policy for every president since Jimmy Carter, who urged a “shift to plentiful coal” in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. President Carter promised a certain and consistent policy to provide industry with the confidence necessary to make investments to move the U.S. toward energy independence.

Harvard Law School's conflict-of-interest policy requires only that professors like Tribe disclose outside work to the Dean. Tribe's public conflict of interest report discloses his work opposing the offshore wind project Cape Wind on behalf of fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch.

As Tribe fights in the pay of fossil-fuel polluters, seven Harvard students have filed a lawsuit against the University pushing it to divest from fossil-fuel investments.

The full submission can be read here.

Global launch of the Emissions Gap Report 2014

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:00:00 GMT

UN Report Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit

Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions Including Non-CO2 Must Shrink To Net Zero by 2100

Emissions Gap May Widen by 2030 but Low Carbon Path Offers Opportunities for the Future

– In order to limit global temperature rise to 2o C and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. This would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020, says a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.

Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.

Building on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows the global emission guardrails that would give a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit, including a peaking of emissions within the next ten years, a halving of all greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse gas emissions.

“An increase in global temperature is proportional to the build-up of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially CO2. Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, where little progress is made in the development and implementation of global climate policies, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to up to 87 Gt CO2e by 2050, way beyond safe limits.”

“Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond in order to limit a global temperature rise to below 2°C. This fifth Emissions Gap Report underlines that carbon neutrality-and eventually net zero or what some term climate neutrality-will be required so that what cumulative emissions are left are safely absorbed by the globe’s natural infrastructure such as forests and soils,” added Mr. Steiner.

“The Sustainable Development Goals underscore the many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals. Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development,” he concluded.

To avoid exceeding the budget, global carbon neutrality should be reached between 2055 and 2070, meaning that annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions should hit net zero by then on the global scale. Net zero implies that some remaining CO2 emissions could be compensated by the same amount of carbon dioxide uptake, or ‘negative’ emissions, so long as the net input to the atmosphere due to human activity is zero, the report finds.

Taking into account non-CO2 greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons, total global greenhouse gas emissions need to shrink to net zero between 2080 and 2100.

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute said, “Negotiating a global climate deal should not be based on emotions or political whims, it should be driven by science and facts. This report provides one of the most clear eyed, technical analyses of global emissions that shows how country commitments and actions measure against science.”

“Unfortunately, the world is not currently headed in the right direction. But, with the growing momentum for global climate action, we have the opportunity to close the emissions gap and keep within the limits of what the science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”

Since 1990, global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by more than 45 per cent. To have a likely chance of staying below the 2o C limit, global greenhouse gas emissions should drop by about 15 per cent or more by 2030 compared to 2010, and be at least 50 per cent lower by 2050 on the way to net zero.

Past issues of the Emissions Gap Report focused on good practices across different sectors and their ability to stimulate economic activity and development, while reducing emissions.

This year, the report also looks at how international development targets and corresponding policies at the national level can bring about multiple benefits, including climate change mitigation focusing in particular on energy efficiency.

Bridging the Gap

The 2014 Emissions Gap Report defines the emissions gap as the difference between emission levels in 2025 and 2030 consistent with meeting climate targets versus the levels expected if country pledges are met.

Scientists estimate the gap in 2020 at up to 10 Gt CO2e and in 2030 at up to 17 Gt CO2e. Relative to business-as-usual emissions in 2030 (68 Gt CO2e), the gap is even bigger at 26 Gt CO2e.

Despite the fact that the gap is not getting smaller, the report estimates that it could be bridged if available global emissions reductions are fully exploited: The potential for emission reductions in 2030 (relative to business-as-usual emissions) is estimated to be 29 Gt CO2e.

The Cost of Delayed Action

Postponing rigorous action until 2020 will provide savings on mitigation costs in the near-term but will bring much higher costs later on in terms of:

• Higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium-term; • Lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; • Dependence on using all available mitigation technologies in the medium-term; • Greater costs of mitigation in the medium- and long-term, and greater risks of economic disruption; • Reliance on negative emissions; and • Greater risks of failing to meet the 2°C target, which would lead to substantially higher adaptation challenges and costs.

Energy Efficiency and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Not only does energy efficiency reduce or avoid greenhouse emissions, but it can also increase productivity and sustainability through the delivery of energy savings, and support social development by increasing employment and energy security.

For example:

It is estimated that between 2015 and 2030, energy efficiency improvements worldwide could avoid at least 2.5–3.3 Gt CO2e annually.

The International Energy Agency reports that end-use fuel and electricity efficiency could save 6.8 Gt CO2e, and power generation efficiency and fossil fuel switching could save another 0.3 Gt CO2e by 2030.

Countries and other actors are already applying policies that are beneficial to both sustainable development and climate mitigation. About half the countries in the world have national policies for promoting more efficient use of energy in buildings.

About half are working on raising the efficiency of appliances and lighting. Other national policies and measures are promoting electricity generation with renewable energy, reducing transport demand and shifting transport modes, reducing process-related emissions from industry, and advancing sustainable agriculture. The Sustainable Development Goals being discussed show the many close links between development and climate change mitigation goals.

For example, efforts to eradicate energy poverty, promote universal access to cleaner forms of energy, and double energy efficiency—if fully realized—would go a long way towards putting the world on a path consistent with the climate target.

For more information and to arrange interviews with experts on the topic, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, shereen.zorba@unep.org, Tel. +254 788 526 000

Hugh Searight, News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, hugh.searight@unep.org, Tel. 202 957 6978

Venue: National Press Club

Keystone XL Is Designed for a Burning Planet

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:38:00 GMT

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, now under consideration for approval by the U.S. Senate, would have a significant and dangerous impact on the climate, incompatible with the White House goal of a sustainable climate.

In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.

To have an 80 percent chance of staying below 2C warming, no more than 900 GtCO2 can be burned before 2050.

In the Keystone XL scenario, over 1700 GtCO2 are burned by 2040—nearly double the safe amount, with a decade to go.

Keystone XL CO2 baseline

The International Energy Agency scenario reflects an estimated 2/3 chance of staying below 2C warming with the burning of 1260GtCO2 through 2050. Burning 1700 GtCO2 by 2040 would put the world on a catastrophic pathway of 3C warming or more.

The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited. The carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.

Graphs: U.S. and China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:23:00 GMT

The climate commitments announced by Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in China are momentous given the political status quo, but they still leave human civilization on a catastrophic trajectory, a Hill Heat analysis shows.

The non-binding targets agreed to in Beijing — that China would peak in emissions by 2030 and the U.S. would accelerate emissions cuts to reach 80 percent of current pollution levels (74 percent of 2005 levels) by 2025 — are a positive step forward. Without such targets catastrophic warming is guaranteed.

President Obama reaffirmed that limiting global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels is his goal, claiming the announced targets “means the United States is doing its part to contain warming to 2 degrees Celsius.”

What do the announcements actually mean in the context of what is needed?

Below, we explore the targets in the context of a “Russian roulette” 2C pathway, with pollution levels that scientists estimate lead to a one-in-five chance of exceeding 2C. (Ed.: Russian roulette odds are actually a bit better.)

US-China Climate Commitments

By 2030, US and China alone will have emitted about 80% of the carbon budget, leaving the other 75% of the global population with little to spare. By 2050, US and China will have emitted about 160% of the carbon budget, making the “Russian roulette” scenario impossible. To be clear, even 2C warming is highly risky, to say the least (Hansen et al, 2013).

US-China Climate Commitments Far Exceed Budget

Graphing cumulative emissions, the U.S.-China trajectory becomes more readliy apparent, as the combined carbon footprint continues to grow rapidly through 2050. The carbon budget is used up by the two nations’ pollution alone by 2035.

The Trillionth Tonne Problem

How did we get to this point? About 420 gigatons of carbon were burned (1540 GtCO2) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to 2014, one quarter of which came from the United States, one eighth from China. Most of China’s carbon pollution has been emitted in the past 15 years. The 2015-2050 budget for an 80% chance of staying below 2C warming is only 105 GtC (390 GtCO2) more. Right now, human civilization is emitting about 10 GtC (39 GtCO2) a year—which means that even if global emissions growth slows, the carbon budget will be exceeded within about ten years.

This conundrum has been referred to as the “trillionth tonne” problem, which (somewhat confusingly) has been formulated in two different ways. One is that the 2000-2050 budget for a 75% chance of staying below 2C warming was estimated in Meinshausen et al. 2009 at 272 GtC, which equals 1000 GtCO2—that is, one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide. (Ed.: The use of the British spelling “tonne” is a useful indicator of the 1000-kilogran metric “tonnes” used in the U.K., as opposed to the 2000-pound short tons used in the U.S., which are a bit smaller. Each metric ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 metric tons of carbon dioxide due to the added oxygen atoms.)

Alternatively, the all-time budget (starting with the Industrial Revolution and going forward to 2500) for 2C being the mostly likely warming scenario, with a 95% interval of 1.3-3.9C warming, was estimated in Allen et al. 2009 at 1000 GtC — or one trillion metric tons of carbon. With about 560 GtC burned 1751-2014, that leaves 440 GtC for the rest of time for humanity to burn for less than even odds of staying below 2C.

These competing formulations of the “trillionth tonne” problem were co-published in the April 30th 2009 issue of Nature.

Both mechanisms of analysis — which are confirmed, updated, and bolstered in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group 1 Chapter 12) — are based on the warming impact of all climate pollution, which is predominated by carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, but also includes methane, aerosols, nitrous oxides, and exotic super-greenhouse gases. Aerosols, which reduce warming by blocking out the sun, are on the decrease, while non-CO2 greenhouse gases are increasing. The calculations in this post are based on the assumption that the CO2 emissions calculated by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center can be used in lieu of the total CO2-equivalent emissions. That assumption is increasingly untenable, especially as nations switch from coal to natural gas, which increases methane emissions. Thus, the scenarios presented here-in should be considered optimistic.

The construction of any new fossil-fuel infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is simply incompatible with a pathway toward climate safety. This fact is implicitly acknowledged in the climate-impact analysis of the tar-sands project, which uses a high-emissions energy scenario as its baseline.

In summary: anyone who believes “we have a moral obligation to fight climate change,” to use President Obama’s words, should be working to phase out all of our existing fossil-fuel infrastructure over the coming ten years, with the goal of a carbon-negative global economy.

Even if the rest of the world follows the US and China lead with commitments to stop emissions growth by 2030, there will be a high risk of catastrophic global warming. Assuming the US and China meet their targets and the rest of the world follows suit, humanity will burn through the Russian-roulette chance at staying below 2C warming before 2025.

US-China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

For small-island nations, coral reefs, global forests, Arctic ice, permafrost, and global ice sheets — and quite possibly the rest of human civilization — to have a long-term chance of survival, limiting warming to 1.5C looks to be needed. (This would require a rapid transition to a fossil-free economy with massive reforestation to reduce existing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or lower, the inspiration for the name of the climate organization 350.org.)

A higher tolerance for catastrophic warming — by raising the risk of 2C warming from 20 percent to 50 percent — gives the world a more leeway for pollution, but not enough to make the announced US-China targets “safe”. The global budget for a 50-50 chance of 2C warming will be exhausted before 2040.

US-China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

The insufficiency of these newly announced targets — and the howls of outrage heard from the Republican Party in the United States — reflect the dangerous power the global fossil-fuel industry has over our future, at a time when our species’ collective power should be directed at building a fossil-free civilization.

U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Nov 2014 05:13:00 GMT

Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping concluded a U.S.-China trade summit with the announcement of new climate targets for the two nations. Obama set a U.S. target of a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. The China commitment is for CO2 emissions to peak by 2030, with a non-fossil-fuel share (renewable and nuclear) of energy production of 20 percent by 2030.

The “fact sheet” released by the White House reads:

U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation

President Obama Announces Ambitious 2025 Target to Cut U.S. Climate Pollution by 26-28 Percent from 2005 Levels

Building on strong progress during the first six years of the Administration, today President Obama announced a new target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. At the same time, President Xi Jinping of China announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 percent by 2030.

Together, the U.S. and China account for over one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s joint announcement, the culmination of months of bilateral dialogue, highlights the critical role the two countries must play in addressing climate change. The actions they announced are part of the longer range effort to achieve the deep decarbonization of the global economy over time. These actions will also inject momentum into the global climate negotiations on the road to reaching a successful new climate agreement next year in Paris.

The new U.S. goal will double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2 percent per year on average during the 2005-2020 period to 2.3-2.8 percent per year on average between 2020 and 2025. This ambitious target is grounded in intensive analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the United States on the right trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80 percent by 2050.

The Administration’s steady efforts to reduce emissions will deliver ever-larger carbon pollution reductions, public health improvements and consumer savings over time and provide a firm foundation to meet the new U.S. target.

The United States will submit its 2025 target to the Framework Convention on Climate Change as an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” no later than the first quarter of 2015.

The joint announcement marks the first time China has agreed to peak its CO2 emissions. The United States expects that China will succeed in peaking its emissions before 2030 based on its broad economic reform program, plans to address air pollution, and implementation of President Xi’s call for an energy revolution.

China’s target to expand total energy consumption coming from zero-emission sources to around 20 percent by 2030 is notable. It will require China to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 – more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.
Building on Progress

In 2009, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were projected to continue increasing indefinitely, but President Obama set an ambitious goal to cut emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020. Throughout the first term, the Administration took strong actions to cut carbon pollution, including investing more than $80 billion in clean energy technologies under the recovery program, establishing historic fuel economy standards, doubling solar and wind electricity, and implementing ambitious energy efficiency measures.

Early in his second term, President Obama launched an ambitious Climate Action Plan focused on cutting carbon pollution, preparing the nation for climate impacts, and leading internationally. In addition to bolstering first-term efforts to ramp up renewable energy and efficiency, the Plan is cutting carbon pollution through new measures, including:

  • Clean Power Plan: EPA proposed guidelines for existing power plants in June 2014 that would reduce power sector emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 while delivering $55-93 billion in net benefits from improved public health and reduced carbon pollution.
  • Standards for Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles: In February 2014, President Obama directed EPA and the Department of Transportation to issue the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by March 2016. These will build on the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 through 2018), proposed and finalized by this Administration.
  • Energy Efficiency Standards: The Department of Energy set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy conservation standards issued during this Administration. These measures will also cut consumers’ annual electricity bills by billions of dollars.
  • Economy-wide Measures to reduce other Greenhouse Gases: The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. At the same time, the State Department is working to slash global emissions of potent industrial greenhouse gases called HFCs through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol; the Environmental Protection Agency is cutting domestic HFC emissions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program; and, the private sector has stepped up with commitments to cut global HFC emissions equivalent to 700 million metric tons through 2025.

Expanding U.S. and China Climate & Clean Energy Cooperation

To further support the achievement of the ambitious climate goals announced today, the United States and China have pledged to strengthen cooperation on climate and clean energy. The two countries are expanding their ongoing and robust program of cooperation through policy dialogue and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.

The United States and China agreed to:

  • Expand Joint Clean Energy Research and Development: A renewed and expanded commitment to the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). This will include:
    • Extending the CERC mandate for an additional five years from 2016-2020;
    • Renewing funding for the three existing tracks: building efficiency, clean vehicles, and advanced coal technologies with carbon capture, use and sequestration (CCUS); and
    • Launching a new track on the interaction of energy and water (the energy/water ‘nexus’).
  • Advance Major Carbon Capture, Use and Storage Demonstrations: Expanding our work under the Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) and under the CERC, and partnering with the private sector, the United States and China will undertake a major carbon capture and storage project in China that supports a long term, detailed assessment of full-scale sequestration in a suitable, secure underground geologic reservoir. The United States and China will make equal funding commitments to the project and will seek additional funding commitments from other countries and the private sector. In addition, both sides will work to manage climate change by demonstrating a new frontier for CO2 use through a carbon capture, use, and sequestration (CCUS) project that will capture and store CO2 while producing fresh water, thus demonstrating power generation as a net producer of water instead of a water consumer. This CCUS project with Enhanced Water Recovery will eventually inject about 1 million tons of CO2 and create approximately 1.4 million cubic meters of freshwater per year.
  • Enhance Cooperation on Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs): Building on the historic Sunnylands agreement between President Xi and President Obama regarding HFCs, the United States and China will enhance bilateral cooperation to begin phasing down the use of high global warming potential HFCs, including through technical cooperation on domestic measures to promote HFC alternatives and to transition government procurement toward climate-friendly refrigerants.
  • Launch a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Initiative: Urbanization is a major trend in the 21st century, and cities worldwide account for a significant percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In response, the United States and China are establishing a new initiative on Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group. Under the initiative, the two countries will share city-level experiences with planning, policies, and use of technologies for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon growth. This initiative will eventually include demonstrations of new technologies for smart infrastructure for urbanization. As a first step, the United States and China will convene a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities “Summit” where leading cities from both countries will share best practices, set new goals, and celebrate city-level leadership.
  • Promote Trade in Green Goods: The United States announced that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will lead a Smart Cities/Smart Growth Business Development Mission to China April 12-17, 2015, focused on green infrastructure, energy efficiency and environmental trade sectors. The mission will highlight the benefits of sustainable urbanization, technologies to support China’s air pollution and climate goals, and green buildings opportunities. In addition, USTDA will conduct three reverse trade missions to bring Chinese delegations to see environmental, smart grid, and CCUS technologies in the United States over the next year.
  • Demonstrate Clean Energy on the Ground: U.S. DOE, State, and USTDA will undertake a number of additional pilot programs, feasibility studies, and other collaborative efforts to promote China’s energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. These will include expansion of our cooperation on “smart grids” that enable efficient and cost-effective integration of renewable energy technology, as well as the implementation through a U.S. and Chinese private sector commercial agreement of a first-of-its-kind 380 MW concentrating solar plant in China.

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