Carbon Footprint Analysis of Economic Recovery Package 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 05 Feb 2009 15:30:00 GMT

Greenpeace will release the results of a carbon footprint analysis of the economic recovery package via teleconference this Thursday at 10:30 am ET (details below). The analysis was conducted by ICF International, a leading climate and energy consulting firm for governments, Fortune 500 companies, and non-profits (

  • ICF International: William Grayson and Dr. Joel Bluestein
  • Greenpeace: Kert Davies, Research Director and Steven Biel, Global Warming Campaign Director

According to several recent studies, global warming will create a major drag on the U.S. and world economies – $271 billion in the United States alone by 2025 according to NRDC, and 5 – 20 percent of global GDP by 2100, according to the U.K. government’s Stern Review. An effective economic stimulus must also reduce global warming through spending on energy efficiency, conservation, clean energy, and clean transportation options.

Teleconference participants will discuss how the different provisions of the stimulus package will affect the climate in the short and long run and will discuss the climate and related economic impact of different stimulus proposals and amendments under consideration.

Dial-in number: 1-319-279-1000
Toll free dial-in number: 1-866-399-5852
Participant pin: 1001217#

RSVP to [email protected]; confirmed teleconference attendees will get an advanced look at the report.

EPA Appeals Board Strikes Down Construction Of New Coal-Fired Power Plant

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 14 Nov 2008 13:30:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Power PlantYesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board ruled today that the EPA has no valid reason for refusing to place limits on the global warming emissions from Desert Power’s proposed 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Vernal, Utah.

Deseret Power’s Bonanza Generating Station would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. In July 2007, the EPA issued a permit for the plant, ignoring the Clean Air Act’s stipulation that all such permits must include a “best-available control technology” emissions limit for each pollutant “subject to regulation under the Act.” Before the Sierra Club brought suit, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened an investigation into the EPA’s decision, saying:
It is reckless to approve a huge coal-fired power plant with no global warming emission controls. This one massive plant will negate the emissions reductions being implemented by the Northeastern states in the first mandatory regional program to cut global warming pollution. The Administration’s shameful decision rewards polluters, flouts the Clean Air Act, and fails the American people.
Joanna Spalding, the Sierra Club attorney who successfully argued the case, delivered this statement:
Today’s decision opens the way for meaningful action to fight global warming and is a major step in bringing about a clean energy economy. This is one more sign that we must begin repowering, refueling and rebuilding America. The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. This decision gives the Obama Administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century.

The 69-page decision described the Bush administration’s arguments as “weak,” “questionable,” “not sustainable,” and “not sufficient,” and rebuked EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson for failing to issue CO2 regulations, repeatedly recommending an “action of nationwide scope.”

Accelerating Atmospheric CO2 Growth from Economic Activity, Carbon Intensity, and Efficiency of Natural Carbon Sinks

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 26 Sep 2008 14:00:00 GMT

What is the relationship between economic activity and CO2 growth? What is carbon intensity and how does it relate to economic activity? What are the trends in CO2 growth, carbon intensity, and changes in the efficiency of natural reservoirs to store carbon? How does the growth in CO2 compare to the various estimates of CO2 growth contained in the most recent IPCC assessment of climate change? What is permafrost and what is the extent of permafrost thaw in the Arctic? Is permafrost thaw a response to global warming and if so, what is the future likely to hold? Will permafrost thaw result in the release of additional CO2 into the atmosphere from Arctic soils? If so, what is the impact likely to be on global warming? How much carbon is stored in Arctic soils? Assuming that the Arctic continues to warm well above the global average, what is the likely fate of that soil carbon and how might it influence climate in the future?

  • Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Science Fellow, American Meteorological Society
  • Dr. Josep (Pep) Canadell, Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra, Australia
  • Dr. Vladmir Romanovsky, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
  • Dr. Howard Epstein, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Program Summary How Fast is Atmospheric CO2 Growing and Why, and Does it Suggest Ways to Mitigate Climate Change?

The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single largest human perturbation of the climate system. Its rate of change reflects the balance between human-driven carbon emissions and the dynamics of a number of terrestrial and ocean processes that remove or emit CO2. It is the long term evolution of this balance that will determine to a large extent the speed and magnitude of climate change and the mitigation requirements to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at any given level. Dr. Canadell will present the most recent trends in global carbon sources and sinks, updated for the first time to the year 2007, with particularly focus on major shifts occurring since 2000. Dr. Canadell’s research indicates that the underlying drivers of changes in atmospheric CO2 growth include: i) increased human-induced carbon emissions, ii) stagnation of the carbon intensity of the global economy, and iii) decreased efficiency of natural carbon sinks. New Estimates of Carbon Storage in Arctic Soils and Implications in a Changing Environment

The Arctic represents approximately 13% of the total land area of the Earth, and arctic tundra occupies roughly 5 million square kilometers. Arctic tundra soils represent a major storage pool for dead organic carbon, largely due to cold temperatures and saturated soils in many locations that prevent its decomposition. Prior estimates of carbon stored in tundra soils range from 20-29 kg of soil organic carbon (SOC) per square meter. These estimates however, were based on data collected from only the top 20-40 cm of soil, and were sometimes extrapolated to 100 cm. It is our understanding that large quantities of SOC are stored at greater depths, through the annual freezing and thawing motion of the soils (cryoturbation), and potentially frozen in the permafrost.

Recent detailed analysis of Arctic soils by Dr. Epstein and his colleagues found that soil organic carbon values averaged 34.8 kg per square meter, representing an increase of approximately 40% over the prior estimates. Additionally, 38% of the total soil organic carbon was found in the permafrost.

A total of 98.2 gigatonnes (1015 grams) of carbon is estimated to be stored in the soils of the North American Arctic tundra. An area-based estimate for the entire Arctic suggests the presence of approximately 160 gigatonnes of carbon. The annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is roughly 2% of this amount, so small changes in Arctic carbon storage could have substantive impacts on atmospheric CO2. The future of this stored carbon is, however, largely uncertain in the face of a changing Arctic environment. Climate change and resulting increasing temperatures in much of the Arctic could increase the decomposition rates of soil organic carbon (producing atmospheric CO2), and increase permafrost thaw, which would expose more soil organic carbon for decomposition. On the other hand, increasing temperatures could also lead to greater sequestration of atmospheric CO2 by tundra vegetation. Actual changes will be the result of complex interactions between processes that sequester carbon and those that release it. Past, Present and Future Changes in Permafrost and Implications for a Changing Carbon Budget

Presence of permafrost is one of the major factors that turn northern ecosystems into an efficient natural carbon sink. Moreover, a significant amount of carbon is sequestered in the upper several meters to several tens of meters of permafrost. Because of that, the appearance and disappearance of permafrost within the northern landscapes have a direct impact on the efficiency of northern ecosystems to sequester carbon in soil, both near the ground surface and in deeper soil layers. Recent changes in permafrost may potentially transform the northern ecosystems from an effective carbon sink to a significant source of carbon for the Earth’s atmosphere. Additional emissions of carbon from thawing permafrost may be in the form of CO2 or methane depending upon specific local conditions.

Dr. Romanovsky will present information on changes in terrestrial and subsea permafrost in the past during the last glacial-interglacial cycle and on the most recent trends in permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere. He will further discuss the potential impact of these changes in permafrost (including a short discussion on potential changes in methane gas clathrates) on the global carbon cycle. Dr. Romanovsky’s research suggests that permafrost in North America and Northern Eurasia shows a substantial warming during the last 20 to 30 years. The magnitude of warming varied with location, but was typically from 0.5 to 2°C at 15 meters depth. Thawing of the Little Ice Age permafrost is on-going at many locations. There are some indications that the late-Holocene permafrost started to thaw at some specific undisturbed locations in the European Northeast, in the Northwest and East Siberia, and in Alaska. Future projections of possible changes in permafrost during the current century, based on the application of calibrated permafrost models, will be also presented. Biographies

Dr. Josep (Pep) Canadell is the executive director of the Global Carbon Project (GCP) based at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. His work involves internationally coordinated research on i) global and regional carbon budgets and trends, ii) vulnerable carbon reservoirs to changes in climate and land use, and iii) climate mitigation strategies to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide. He has published over 70 scientific papers, 8 books and special issues, and the first global environmental change encyclopedia.

Dr. Canadell received his MSc. and Ph.D. degrees on terrestrial ecology from the University Autonomous of Barcelona, Spain, and took several research positions during the 1990s at the University of California at San Diego and Berkeley, and at Stanford University, CA.

Dr. Howard Epstein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, specializing in the ecology of arctic tundra, and dry grasslands and shrublands. His current research projects in the Arctic involve 1) the study of land-surface features in arctic tundra related to freezing and thawing of soils, 2) the “greening” of arctic tundra vegetation in response to recent warming, and 3) patterns of arctic tundra vegetation and soils along latitudinal temperature gradients in the Arctic of North America and Russia. Studies outside of the tundra include 1) wind erosion effects on plant community changes in the deserts of southeastern New Mexico, 2) carbon and water cycling in a subalpine ecosystem of western Montana, and 3) carbon sequestration during vegetation recovery in abandoned crop fields of northern Virginia.

Dr. Epstein received an M.S. degree in Rangeland Ecosystem Science from Colorado State University in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Ecology, also from Colorado State, in 1997. He later engaged in postdoctoral studies at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado. Dr. Epstein came to the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1998. As part of his arctic research, he has traveled north of the Arctic Circle nearly every summer since 1999 and recently returned from a field expedition in northwestern Siberia. He teaches courses in the Fundamentals of Ecology, Terrestrial Ecology, and Ecology of Grasslands and Tundra. He has published approximately 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on Arctic tundra and dryland ecology.

Dr. Vladimir Romanovsky is a Professor in Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks. He also heads the Geophysical Institute Permafrost Laboratory ( His work involves internationally coordinated research on permafrost temperature changes in Alaska, Russia, Canada, Greenland, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. He is also involved in numerical modeling of past, present and future permafrost dynamics and the remote sensing of permafrost and related cold-climate processes. Dr. Romanovsky’s research interests include the scientific and practical aspects of environmental and engineering problems involving ice and permafrost. These include problems in the areas of soil physics, thermodynamics, heat and mass flow, and growth and decay processes that are associated with permafrost, subsea permafrost, seasonally frozen ground, and seasonal snow cover. Dr. Romanovsky is the author of 110+ peer reviewed scientific journal publications, reports, and book chapters. He was a co-author of the 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment for Chapter 6 “Cryosphere and Hydrology” and the lead author of Chapter 7 “Frozen Ground” in UNEP’s 2007 Global Outlook for Ice and Snow.

Dr. Romanovsky received his MSc. in Geophysics, MSc. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Moscow State University in Russia. He also received a Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He has held several research and teaching positions at the Moscow State University prior to moving to Alaska in 1992, where he is currently a professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Aviation and the Environment: Emissions

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 06 May 2008 18:00:00 GMT

Curbing Soaring Aviation Emissions

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 02 Apr 2008 17:30:00 GMT

On Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is holding a hearing titled, “From the Wright Brothers to the Right Solutions: Curbing Soaring Aviation Emissions.” The hearing will take place on April 2, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1310 of the Longworth House Office Building. Witnesses will be by invitation only.

At this hearing the Committee will also vote to subpoena documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing what progress that agency has made in response to Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, which was delivered April 2, 2007.

As Congress examines all causes and impacts of heat-trapping emissions, the Select Committee is assessing aviation’s present contribution to greenhouse gasses and the potential to curb such emissions in the future. Aviation emissions generate 12 percent of U.S. transportation carbon dioxide emissions and three percent of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions. The FAA estimates that demand for passenger and cargo aviation in the United States will double or triple by 2025. As the European Union is poised to extend its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to all airlines, it is imperative for Congress to consider how aviation can contribute to or curb heat-trapping emissions through operations, technology and fuel.

  • Dan Elwell, FAA Assistant Administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning, and Environment
  • Bob Meyers, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Tom Windmuller, Senior Vice President, International Air Transport Association
  • James May, President and CEO, Air Transport Association

Are 1990 Levels by 2020 a Sufficient Cut?

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 25 Jan 2008 17:47:00 GMT

The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191), which Sen. Boxer said may come to the floor before June, sets a cap of 15% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 for covered sectors, reducing allowed emissions to the amount last seen in 1990.

Is that near-term target sufficient, in terms of the science?

As Holmes Hummel points out, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) paints a much different picture.

At Bali, all of the Annex I signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (every industrialized country other than the US and Turkey) agreed to this roadmap, which states in convoluted language that the Annex I countries “noted” that the AR4 indicates that global emissions “need to peak in the next 10-15 years” and be reduced “well below half of levels in 2000” by 2050 “in order to stabilize their concentrations in the atmosphere at the lowest levels assessed by the IPCC to date in its scenarios.” The countries also “recognized” that the AR4 indicates that to achieve those levels “would require Annex I Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

25-40% below 1990 levels is dramatically below the Lieberman-Warner target. From AR4, these “lowest levels” of concentrations are 350-400ppm CO2.

What’s the value of achieving concentrations “at the lowest levels”? The report says that using the “best estimate” for climate sensitivity (the temperature response to greenhouse gas concentrations), reaching a stable concentration of 350-400ppm CO2 leads to 2.0-2.4 degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels. But Hummel notes that the “best estimate” is just one for which half the estimates are higher and half are lower.


To have a 50% chance of making the 2°C stabilization target, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and Annex I countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 by 2020.

As AAAS president John Holdren argued in his speech Meeting the Climate Challenge (at 38:29; see also the slide presentation):
The chance of a tipping point into truly catastrophic change grows rapidly for increases in the global average surface temperature more than about 2°C above the pre-industrial level, and again we’re already committed basically to one and a half. For a better than even chance of not exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial level, CO2 emissions must peak globally no later than 2025 and they need to be falling steadily after that. That is a great task.
From the UN Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, an international panel of 18 top scientists (including John Holdren):
In our judgment and that of a growing number of other analysts and groups, however, increases beyond 2°C to 2.5°C above the 1750 level will entail sharply rising risks of crossing a climate “tipping point” that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being, in spite of all feasible attempts at adaptation.