Posts tagged ‘Greenhouse gases’

EPA Confirms Climate IS Changing

In another display of the sea change that has occurred at the US Environmental Protection Agency under the current administration, a new report was issued yesterday regarding indicators of climate change. The report, entitled “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” measures 24 separate indicators showing how climate change affects the health and environment of US citizens.

The report represents another step in a series of actions/statements taken on the climate change by the EPA. This EPA has certainly proved to be more active than previous administrations on this issue. They have labeled CO2 as a gas that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act because it is a significant greenhouse gas. New vehicle emissions standards have been established as well as greenhouse gas standards for such vehicles. On April 15, the EPA published the National US Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The Climate/Energy Bill currently working its way through the Senate has been heavily influenced by EPA actions and consultations. And now a report is issued regarding the indicators of climate change.

“These indicators show us that climate change is a very real problem with impacts that are already being seen,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The actions Americans are taking today to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help us solve this global challenge.”

The following are some of the key climate change indicators.

– Greenhouse gas emissions from human sources are increasing. From 1990 to 2008, emissions have grown by 14 percent in the US.

– Average temperatures are rising. Seven of the top ten warmest years on record for the continental US have occurred since 1990.

– Tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades. Of the ten most active hurricane seasons, six have happened since the mid 1990’s.

– Sea levels have risen between 1993 and 2008 at twice the rate of the long-term trend.

– Glaciers are melting and their loss of volume has accelerated over the last decade.

– The frequency of heat waves has steadily risen since the 1960’s. The percentage of the US population experiencing heat waves has also increased.

Collecting and analyzing environmental indicators can help in understanding the causes of climate change as well as predict what the future will bring. Understanding this is critical in devising strategies to avoid the worst effects of climate change as well as devising strategies for adapting to a different climate. The EPA’s report primarily describes trends within the United States but also includes global trends to provide a basis for comparison.

The report includes some very sobering statistics of how climate change is affecting a range of things like temperature, precipitation, sea levels, and extreme weather. Knowing these trends now can greatly help in the future as we grade ourselves on efforts that we undertake to address climate change.

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April 28, 2010 at 9:19 AM Leave a comment

China, U.S. clash over 2010 U.N. climate talks

The United States and China clashed on Friday about how to revive climate talks in 2010, complicating the first U.N. session since the acrimonious Copenhagen summit fell short of agreeing a treaty.

Many delegates at the 175-nation talks in Bonn from April 9-11 urged efforts to restore trust between rich and poor countries but few held out hopes for a breakthrough deal to fight global warming at the next major talks in Cancun, Mexico, in late 2010.

In a split between the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases, Washington said it wanted talks in 2010 to build on a non-binding Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming reached by more than 110 nations at the December summit.

Beijing insisted negotiations should be guided by other draft U.N. texts and said Premier Wen Jiabao had been “vexed” at one point in Copenhagen by the way the meetings were organized in small groups.

“We view Copenhagen as a significant milestone,” U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing told delegates. “We believe that the accord should materially influence further negotiations. This was not a casual agreement.”

The accord, backed by about 120 nations, sets a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), but does not say how. It also holds out the prospect of $100 billion in aid a year to developing nations.

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April 12, 2010 at 8:41 AM Leave a comment

CEOs seek firm signal on climate change policy

The chief executives of some of the biggest companies in the power, raw materials and oil businesses also said they broadly support a carbon cap-and-trade program.

Cap-and-trade was the centerpiece of a climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last year, but senators are not expected to back such a plan, which would limit greenhouse gas emissions and let companies trade permits to emit carbon.

“We are a very keen proponent of market-based energy legislation,” Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive Peter Voser said at a Wall Street Journal conference in Santa Barbara, California.

He said the industry needs “certainty on the carbon price, certainty on legislation.”

“I am still very hopeful we’ll get something passed,” Voser said. “I am skeptical (about) this year.”

The head of the largest U.S. producer of power from burning coal, American Electric Power Co Inc, also said a climate bill was unlikely this year.

But AEP CEO Michael Morris told the conference that a climate policy was needed to support investment in technologies that can reduce the environmental impact of burning coal, such as carbon capture and storage.

“We need this done, America needs to lead the world,” Morris said.

A climate bill that would help reduce U.S. emissions, the highest in the developed world, has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from lawmakers representing coal and oil states. Since Democrats lost their Senate supermajority after an election in Massachusetts, its prospects have worsened.

Tom Albanese, chief executive of mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, said his company typically does long-term planning for the mines, as much as 30 years ahead.

“For us to have some assurance that the market’s going to be there, we need to begin to create some carbon pricing signals sooner rather than later,” he said.

Such pricing would allow companies to redirect spending and provide less investment uncertainty, he added.

“Overall, on balance, I would say cap-and-trade would be our preferred view,” Albanese said.

Lewis Hay, chief executive of power utility FPL Group Inc, said U.S. utilities need to know what climate-change legislation would look like before they can invest more in developing nuclear and renewable power sources.

A lack of U.S. policy and the uncertainty surrounding it “puts a lot of investment dollars on the sidelines,” Hay said, adding that the economics surrounding it need to be clear.

“Are we going to have a price on carbon, and if so, what’s it going to be?,” he wondered.

Another system now being debated is a cap-and-dividend, under which similarly strict limits would be placed on carbon emissions, but instead of focusing on smokestacks, it would aim the cap at upstream operations, such as coal and oil companies and importers.

The “dividend” would be in the form of monthly checks to consumers to help ease the cost of higher energy prices and without the complicated trading of cap-and-trade.

In the absence of a climate bill, President Barack Obama has pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulating gases blamed for warming the planet.

Many companies oppose EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, and some hope to block it.

U.S. coal producer Peabody Energy Corp, which is suing the EPA, said incentives were needed to accelerate technology, not “draconian” regulations.

“We believe in a technology pull and not a command-and-control regulatory push in order to make changes to the energy infrastructure,” CEO Gregory Boyce said.

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March 5, 2010 at 2:53 PM Leave a comment

Turf grass not always a ‘green’ thing, study shows

Green is good, right? Not necessarily when it comes to lawns, according to a new study by UC Irvine researchers.

For the first time, scientists compared the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed by ornamental turf grass to the amount emitted in the irrigation, fertilizing and mowing of the same plots. It turns out keeping a lawn is not good for Mother Earth.

In four parks near Irvine, researchers calculated that emissions were similar to or greater than the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the air through photosynthesis — a finding relevant to policymakers seeking to control the gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“Green spaces may be good to have,” said geochemist Amy Townsend-Small, the lead researcher in the paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “But they shouldn’t be automatically counted as sequestering carbon.”

The paper is particularly timely, she added, because governments are calculating their carbon footprints and discussing whether parkland could offset other sources of emissions, such as refineries, power plants and automobiles.

Turf grass, covering an estimated 1.9% of the United States, is the most commonly irrigated crop and increasingly in demand in urban areas.

Townsend-Small and colleague Claudia Czimczik measured the carbon content of the parks’ soil and compared that with emissions from producing fertilizer, mowing with gasoline-powered equipment and pumping water to irrigate the plots. The water was recycled; but if it were fresh water transported from distant rivers, as is much of Southern California’s water, emissions would be higher, Townsend-Small said.

They also factored in the nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which is released by fossil fuel combustion.

California has no regulations to control turf grass, but the study “shows the importance of full life-cycle analysis for greenhouse gases,” said Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, which is charged with reducing the state’s carbon footprint. Research is underway, she said, to develop varieties of grass that need less mowing and use less water.

Southern Californians, Townsend-Small said, could reduce the carbon footprint of their lawns by using rakes rather than leaf-blowers and hand mowers rather than gasoline-powered equipment.

“About 40% of the drinking water we import at great financial and environmental expense is used for ,” said Paula Daniels, a Los Angeles Department of Public Works commissioner. “This study hopefully will motivate more of us to make changes in our landscapes.”

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February 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM Leave a comment

Global Warming Slowed by Decline in Atmospheric Water Vapor

A sudden and unexplained drop in the amount of water vapor present high in the atmosphere almost a decade ago has substantially slowed the rate of warming at Earth’s surface in recent years, scientists say.

In late 2000 and early 2001, concentrations of water vapor in a narrow slice of the lower stratosphere dropped by 0.5 parts per million, or about 10 percent, and have remained relatively stable since then. Because the decline was noted by several types of instruments, including some on satellites and others lofted on balloons, the sharp decrease is presumed to be real, says Karen Rosenlof, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

And because water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas, the decline has slowed the increase of global temperatures, Rosenlof, Susan Solomon, also of NOAA in Boulder, and their colleagues report online January 28 and in an upcoming Science.

“This is such a sudden decrease, we can’t explain what’s behind it,” Rosenlof says. One large source of water vapor in the stratosphere is the oxidation of methane, she notes. But the decline in concentration of that gas detected by the researchers seems to be limited to a layer 2 kilometers thick in the lower stratosphere, while methane is found throughout the stratosphere. And even though scientists have discerned a leveling off in atmospheric methane in recent years, that trend doesn’t seem to be directly linked to the drop in the concentrations of stratospheric water vapor, she says.

Article Continues HERE

January 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM Leave a comment

EPA: Greenhouse gases endanger human health

As U.N. climate talks begin in Copenhagen, the Obama administration takes steps to regulate U.S. emissions with or without congressional approval.

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people’s health and must be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson scheduled a news conference for later Monday to announce the so-called endangerment finding, officials told The Associated Press, speaking privately because the announcement had not been made.
The finding is timed to boost the administration’s arguments at an international climate conference — beginning this week — that the United States is aggressively taking actions to combat global warming, even though Congress has yet to act on climate legislation.
Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.
The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.
Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.
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December 8, 2009 at 10:22 AM Leave a comment

Cutting Greenhouse Pollutants Could Directly Save Millions of Lives Worldwide

Tackling climate change by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions will have major direct health benefits in addition to reducing the risk of climate change, especially in low-income countries, according to a series of six papers appearing on, Nov. 25 in the British journal The Lancet.

The studies, three of them coauthored by Kirk R. Smith, professor of global environmental health and one coauthored by Michael Jerrett, associate professor of environmental health sciences, both at University of California, Berkeley, use case studies to demonstrate the co-benefits of tackling climate change in four sectors: electricity generation, household energy use, transportation, and food and agriculture.

“Policymakers need to know that if they exert their efforts in certain directions, they can obtain important public health benefits as well as climate benefits,” said Smith, who was the principal investigator in the United States for the overall research effort. “Climate change threatens us all, but its impact will likely be greatest on the poorest communities in every country. Thus, it has been called the most regressive tax in human history. Carefully choosing how we reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have the added benefit of reducing global health inequities.”

For the full story click HERE

November 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM Leave a comment


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