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.

Fracking Opponents Rack Up Victories in Local Battles

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:26:00 GMT

This Election Day, opponents of the hydrofracturing boom achieved a number of local ballot victories, overcoming massive spending by the fossil-fuel industry.

  • Voters in Denton, Texas, the “birthplace” of the modern fracking boom, banned fracking in a landslide vote. Supporters of the ban were outspent by the oil-and-gas industry ten to one.
  • Athens, Ohio voters “overwhelmingly” passed a ban on fracking. An astounding 78 percent of voters supported the ban.
  • Central California’s San Benito County, which lies atop the Monterey Shale formation, passed Measure J to ban fracking, overcoming $1.8 million in spending from Chevron, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum and other oil companies. Supporters of the ban won despite being outspent 15 to one.

There were additional local victories for oil-industry opponents and environmentalists across the nation.

In Richmond, the San Francisco suburb home to a major Chevron refinery which exploded in 1989, 1999, and 2012, a five-member progressive slate for mayor and city council won decisive victory over the Chevron-supported candidates. The progressives, supported by Richmond Working Families (ACCE Action, APEN Action, SEIU 1021), and by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, overcame $3 million in spending by the oil giant, a 60 to one spending ratio.

Fracking opponent Kristy Pagan, a first-time candidate, won election in Michigan’s state House 21st District.

In one of the few national races to swing unexpectedly for Democrats, Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, a major Keystone XL backer, lost to Democratic challenger Brad Ashford, who has also expressed support for the pipeline but was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.

In another local victory against industrial interests, a ban on genetically engineered crops in Maui County, Hawaii, narrowly passed, overcoming $8 million in spending from opponents such as Monsanto and Dow, who profit from the treatment of food as intellectual property. The failed opposition outspent advocates 87 to 1. GMO-labeling measures failed under a similar spending onslaught in Colorado and Oregon.

Their wins aren’t wins just for their communities — they are wins for all of us pushing back against the fossil fuel industry and for a climate safe future,” Oil Change International’s David Turnbull wrote. “They are bright spots in an otherwise dim night.”

VIDEO: Cory Gardner Says Climate Scientists "Want To Tell Us How We Live Our Lives"

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:57:00 GMT

Speaking at a right-wing conference in Steamboat Springs, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) claimed climate policy is a conspiracy to attack workers in the fossil-fuel industry.

“You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers,” he said. “This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.”

“It’s a war on the kind of energy we use every day — fossil fuels — whether it’s gas, coal, oil,” he continued, “because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, we drive our cars.”

Dick and Liz Cheney were the featured stars at the Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference, which took place in Steamboat Springs, Colo., on August 23, 2013. Gardner was the first speaker at the conference.

Refusing to accept the reality of fossil-fueled global warming, Gardner described policy attempts to reduce fossil-fuel pollution as part of a liberal conspiracy against hard-working Americans.

“It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day,” Gardner claimed President Obama opposes, “working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families.”

In reality, the coal industry, whose carbon pollution remains unregulated, has been marked by reduced employment and higher corporate profits, as labor protections and regulations have been blocked or eliminated by conservatives.

Gardner went on to criticize Obama and his scientific advisors for explanations they made of how market forces would encourage fuel-switching away from coal given a price on carbon pollution. In doing so, he misidentified Harvard geochemist Dan Schrag, a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, as Obama’s top science advisor, who is in fact Harvard physicist John Holdren.

Both Schrag and Holdren have publicly described the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Transcript:

CORY GARDNER: You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers. This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.

This is a president who said when he ran for office, ‘Under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily going to skyrocket.’

This is a president whose Secretary of Energy said he’d like to see European-style energy prices.

This is a president whose top science advisor said, ‘A war on coal is exactly what we need.’

It’s more than a war on coal, though. It’s a war on the kind of energy that we use every day, fossil fuels, whether it’s gas, coal, oil, because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, how we drive our cars.

But make no — it is not just about coal, though. It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day, that we don’t do, because we’ve chosen other options in life, but they’re in a mine, deep under the ground, in a pit, working heavy equipment, working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families. This president has decided he doesn’t like those jobs. And that’s simply wrong. And we’ve got to hold him accountable for it. I hope you’ll — In northwestern Colorado let’s make sure every — every rotary club, every school, every chamber, everybody knows about it, and that the voices are heard in Washington DC.

Thank you very much, Steamboat Institute, and have a great, great rest of the weekend.

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