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|CO2 Levels Reach 400 PPM||
For the first time in what is believed to be 3 million years, carbon dioxide levels were recorded this week at 400 ppm on top of the 11,000 foot Mauna Loa mountain in Hawaii. As noted by National Geographic, the last time CO2 was at those levels:
" the Earth then was in the final stage of a prolonged greenhouse epoch, and CO2 concentrations were on their way down. This time, 400 ppm is a milepost on a far more rapid uphill climb toward an uncertain climate future."
|NASA Study Predicts Climate Change Will Increase Extremes in Rainfall and Drought||
NASA released a study predicting that, with increased global warming, areas prone to heavy rains will see increases in rainfall while areas prone to drought will experience even less rainfall. The the announcement of the study released on May 3, 2013 notes:
"The models project for every 1 degree Fahrenheit of carbon dioxide-induced warming, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9 percent and light rain will increase globally by 1 percent. However, total global rainfall is not projected to change much because moderate rainfall will decrease globally by 1.4 percent....Some regions outside the tropics may have no rainfall at all. The models also projected for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the length of periods with no rain will increase globally by 2.6 percent. "
|New Reaserch on Greening of the Arctic||
A study released on March 31, 2013 projects a significant increase in Arctic tree cover and resultant impacts on climate change into the 2050s. As reported in Science Daily, a study appearing in Nature Climate Change Projects a 50% increase in wooded areas. The increase in tree cover is projected to absorb greater heat and therefore add further to global warming.
|U.S. Releases National Strategy to Address Climate Change||
On March 26, 2013 the Obama Administration released what it calls the "first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts that climate change is having on natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them." In a press release the Climate Adaptation Strategy for Fish, Wildlife and Plants is referred to as providing "a roadmap of key steps needed over the next five years to reduce the current and expected impacts of climate change."
The strategy sets for seven steps for safeguarding fish, wildlife and plants as:
" Conserve habitat to support healthy fish, wildlife, and plant populations and ecosystem functions;
Enhance capacity for effective management;
Support adaptive management through integrated observation and monitoring and use of decision support tools;
Reduce non-climate stressors to help fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems adapt"
The process in developing the strategy was led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other Departments of the U.S. Government and the New York DEC, representing state governments.
|Draft Supplemental EIS For Keystone Pipeline Released||
The State Department released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline last week. Along with the full report is a summary of the history of the project.
The discussion of the impacts of climate change on the proposed pipeline, while acknowledging significant ongoing changes in temperature and weather patterns, concluded in section 126.96.36.199:
"In summer, warmer summer temperatures, increased number of hot days, increased number of consecutive hot days and longer summers are predicted, which could lead to impacts associated with heat stress and wildfire risks. Keystone has confirmed that the proposed Project is designed in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations and the PHMSA 57 Special Conditions (Appendix B), and that these design standards are sufficient to accommodate an increased number of hot days or consecutive hot days. Keystone has also stated that because the proposed pipeline would be buried to at least 4 feet of cover to the top of the pipe, it would be below most surface temperature impacts, including wild fires and frequent freezing and thawing (Keystone 2012)."
The level of emissions from the pipeline during operations are described in section 188.8.131.52:
"The total annual GHG emissions from the operation of the pipeline, as shown above, amount to 3.19 million metric tons per year of CO2e2. The annual CO2e emissions from the proposed Project is equivalent to CO2e emissions from approximately 626,000 passenger vehicles operating for one year, or 398,000 homes using electricity for one year.3 Recommended GHG mitigation measures during proposed Project operation are listed in Section 184.108.40.206, Greenhouse Gases."
Section 220.127.116.11 recommendations for mitigation of GHGs during operations are as follows:
"During proposed Project operations, the following mitigation measures are recommended to reduce GHG emissions to the atmosphere:
There is a 45 day public comment period. Comments may be sent to email@example.com
|NASA Study Finds Cimate Change Impacts On Rain Forest||
NASA has released a report showing severe impacts on a large area of the Amazon rain forest resulting from the effects of climate change. The report notes that a 2005 drought, likely resulting from the same weather patterns that brought severe weather to the Southern United States, severely impacted 270,000 square miles of the forest with an even larger area having less severe impacts.
The report found that the impacts of the drought were more long lasting than anticipated. As a result, the forest had not fully recovered from the 2005 drought when another drought hit in 2010 that impacted nearly half the forest. NASA notes
"The drought rate in Amazonia during the past decade is unprecedented over the past century. In addition to the two major droughts in 2005 and 2010, the area has experienced several localized mini-droughts in recent years. Observations from ground stations show that rainfall over the southern Amazon rainforest declined by almost 3.2 percent per year in the period from 1970 to 1998. Climate analyses for the period from 1995 to 2005 show a steady decline in water availability for plants in the region. Together, these data suggest a decade of moderate water stress led up to the 2005 drought, helping trigger the large-scale forest damage seen following the 2005 drought."
|Draft Climate Assessment Report Released||
The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has released a draft climate assessment report for public comment. The Draft Report discusses the various aspects of climate change and specific impacts on the various regions of the United States.
The Executive Summary provides an overview of the report with cross references to topics contained in specific chapters.
Noting human contribution to climate change the Executive Summary states:
"Human-induced climate change means much more than just hotter weather. Increases in ocean and freshwater temperatures, frost-free days, and heavy downpours have all been documented.Sea level has risen, and there have been large reductions in snow-cover extent, glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. Winter storms along the west coast and the coast of New England have increased slightly in frequency and intensity. These changes and other climatic changes have affected and will continue to affect human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, and many other aspects of society (Ch. 2,3,4,5,6,10,12,16,20,24,25)."
The Executive Summary goes on to note:
For those who are interested, there is a link in order to create an account and comment on the draft.
|New Study Determines Sea Level Rise Has Been Underestimated||
In the Environmental Research Letter released this week in IOP Science, a new study concludes that recent projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underestimate actual sea level rise. The study concludes: " the rise in CO2 concentration and global temperature has continued to closely match the projections over the past five years, while sea level continues to rise faster than anticipated. The latter suggests that the 21st Century sea-level projections of the last two IPCC reports may be systematically biased low. Further support for this concern is provided by the fact that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are increasingly losing mass (Rignot et al 2011, Van den Broeke et al 2011), while those IPCC projections assumed that Antarctica will gain enough mass in future to largely compensate mass losses from Greenland (see figure 10.33 in Meehl et al (2007))."
|California Climate Change Assessment||
California has issued its third assessment of the Impacts and potential responses to Climate Change. "Our Changing Climate 2012" issued by the California Climate Change Center looks at "adaptation options in regional case studies and offers insights into regulatory, legal, socioeconomic and other barriers to adaptation so that they can be addressed effectively at the local and state levels."
Significantly the study notes there is a range of potential changes in climate over the next century but "study findings show that the climate choices society makes today and in the coming years can have a profound impact on future conditions."
The study goes on to find:
"By 2050, California is projected to warm by approximately 2.7°F above 2000 averages, a threefold increase in the rate of warming over the last century.
The study then goes on to analyze the impacts on public health, energy resources, coastal areas, etc. It notes the need to examine both mitigation and adaptation to changes that cannot be avoided: "the latest climate science makes clear that State, national and global efforts to mitigate climate change must be accelerated to limit global warming to levels that do not endanger basic life-support systems and human well-being. Success in mitigation will keep climate change within the bounds that allow ecosystems and society to adapt without major disruptions."
|Green Buildings May Receive Tax Exemption Under New York Law||
New York adopted a law in July that provides for local implementation of tax exemptions for improvements to property, in excess of ten thousand dollars, that obtain LEED(R) certification or meet a similar standard, based upon adoption of a local law implementing such a provision. To be eligible the construction must commence in or after January 2013 and the Statute provides for exemption, on a sliding scale, over ten years.
Chapter 188 of the Laws of 2012, which is the new section 470 of the New York Real Property Tax Law reads:
§ 470. Exemption for improvements to real property meeting certif-
|DC Circuit Upholds EPA Regulations on Greenhouse Gas Emissions||
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision this week rejecting a challenge to a series of EPA reguations aimed at curtailing GHG emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources. In Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Court summarized its decision as follows:
"Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)—which clarified that greenhouse gases are an “air pollutant” subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA)—the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated a series of greenhouse gas-related rules. First, EPA issued an Endangerment Finding, in which it determined that greenhouse gases may “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” See 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1). Next, it issued the Tailpipe Rule, which set emission standards for cars and light trucks. Finally, EPA determined that the CAA requires major stationary sources of greenhouse gases to obtain construction and operating permits. But because immediate regulation of all such sources would result in overwhelming permitting burdens on permitting authorities and sources, EPA issued the Timing and Tailoring Rules, in which it determined that only the largest stationary sources would initially be subject to permitting requirements.
In addressing the claim by the Plaintiffs that the EPA's Endangerment Finding relative to GHG's has uncertainties as to cause and effect, the Court discussed the nature of such findings and regulations noting:
"Rather, they contend that the record evidences too much uncertainty to support that judgment. But the existence of some uncertainty does not, without more, warrant invalidation of an endangerment finding. If a statute is “precautionary in nature” and “designed to protect the public health,” and the relevant evidence is “difficult to come by, uncertain, or conflicting because it is on the frontiers of scientific knowledge,” EPA need not provide “rigorous step-by-step proof of cause and effect” to support an endangerment finding. Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, 541 F.2d 1, 28 (D.C. Cir. 1976). As we have stated before, “Awaiting certainty will often allow for only reactive, not preventive, regulation.”'
The Court then conducted a detailed analysis of the arguments against the suject regulations, rejecting all of the challenges.
|U.S. Atlantic Coast Called "Hot Spot" For Sea Level Rise||
The U. S. Geological Survey issued a press release today stating that sea level rise along a 600 mile stretch of the U.S. Atlantic coast Is at a pace three to four times that of other areas of the world. The press release states the published article in "Nature Climate Change" concludes that in the last 22 years: "...sea-level rise in the 600-mile stretch of coastal zone from Cape Hatteras N.C. to north of Boston, Mass. -- coined a "hotspot" by scientists -- has increased 2 - 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 – 1.0 millimeter per year."
The press release notes that "the increases in sea level rise rate that have already occurred in the hotspot will yield increases in sea level of 8 to 11.4 inches by 2100. This regional sea level increase would be in addition to components of global sea level rise."
|UCLA Study Predicts Significant Warming in L.A. Region||
In a study released this week, UCLA predicts significant warming in Los Angeles and the surrounding area by mid-century. The study "shows projected climate changes down to the neighborhood level..."
Among the study's conclusions:
"Southern Californians should expect slightly warmer winters and springs but much warmer summers and falls, with more frequent heat waves. Temperatures now seen only on the seven hottest days of the year in each region will occur two to six times as often. The number of days when the temperature will climb above 95 degrees will increase two to four times, depending on the location. Those days will roughly double on the coast, triple in downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, and quadruple in Woodland Hills. In Palm Springs, the number of extremely hot days will increase from an annual average of 75 to roughly 120."
|Scottish Government Announces Climate Justice Fund||
The government of Scotland announced the formation of a Climate Justice Fund to aid less industrialized countries deal with the impacts of climate change.
In a press release from the government, Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission is quoted as saying:
"Climate justice is a key issue for many of our sister institutions around the world, especially in developing countries where the impacts of climate change are being felt right now, and in very harsh terms, by some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Climate change impacts on rights to life, livelihoods and the ways of life of many millions of people in the developing world, and is the greatest challenge to our planet this century.
The people who have contributed least to the problem are suffering the most. This situation is manifestly unfair and cannot continue. The Climate Justice Fund is a welcome step forward, and should result in Scotland opening up new ways to share technology, experience and expertise, as well as funding."
|Virginia Supreme Court Holds No Insurance Coverage for Claimed Damages Contributing to Climate Change||
Last week the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that an insurance carrier had no liability to cover its insured in an action claiming the insured's activities had contributed to damages resulting from the effects of climate change. In AES Corporation v Steadfast Insurance Co., the Virginia Supreme Court noted that the action resulted from a lawsuit by a Native Alaskan Village against several companies, including AES, claiming they damaged "the village by causing global warming through emission of greenhouse gases".
In holding that the insurance policy did not provide coverage for the claims made against AES, the Court found:
"Under the CGL policies, Steadfast would not be liable because AES’s acts as alleged in the complaint were intentional and the consequences of those acts are alleged by Kivalina to be not merely foreseeable, but natural or probable. Where the harmful consequences of an act are alleged to have been not just possible, but the natural or probable consequences of an intentional act, choosing to perform the act deliberately, even if in ignorance of that fact, does not make the resulting injury an “accident” even when the complaint alleges that such action was negligent.
Kivalina asserts that the deleterious results of emitting carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are something that AES knew or should have known about. If an insured knew or should have known that certain results were the natural or probable consequences of intentional acts or omissions, there is no “occurrence” within the meaning of a CGL policy."
As more similar actions are likely in various jurisdictions, it will be interesting to see how the case law in this area develops.