Category Archives: Climate Change & Energy

Cap and trade: Deal reached on California climate program

Katy Murphy, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers late Monday announced a proposal to extend through the next decade California’s landmark program to regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases — known as cap and trade — which is set to expire in 2020.

Also unveiled late Monday was a separate bill to clean up the air in chronically polluted areas — to reduce harmful emissions from factories and plants as well as from cars and trucks.

“The Legislature is taking action to curb climate change and protect vulnerable communities from industrial poisons,” Brown said in a statement released late Monday night.

The two bills were revealed after weeks of talks between Brown, Republican and Democratic lawmakers and environmental and industry groups.

Lawmakers won’t be able to vote on the proposals before Thursday because of a ballot measure Californians passed in November requiring a bill to be in print for 72 hours before the state Assembly or Senate can vote on it. The bills are:

Assembly Bill 398 — for which Brown and legislative leaders aim to secure a two-thirds vote — would extend the cap-and-trade program to 2031.

Assembly Bill 617, which needs only a simple majority vote to pass, responds to activists’ demands to clean up the pollution that for generations has plagued residents in parts of the state. It would require oil refineries and other plants in heavily polluted areas to replace their equipment with cleaner technology by the end of 2023.

Among the proposed changes to the complex cap-and-trade program — in which refineries, power plants and factories pay to pollute, buying permits at auction — is a hard limit, or “ceiling,” on the price of carbon. Proponents of the change argue that it would prevent spikes in energy prices.

Read more at: Cap and trade: Deal reached on California climate program

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Rooftop solar dims under pressure from utility lobbyists

Hiroko Tabuchi, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Some of the slowdown in smaller-scale rooftop solar has come in maturing markets in states like California, where rooftop solar companies are having trouble expanding their customer base beyond early adopters.

Over the past six years, rooftop solar panel installations have seen explosive growth — as much as 900 percent by one estimate.

That growth has come to a shuddering stop this year, with a projected decline in new installations of 2 percent, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

A number of factors are driving the reversal, from saturation in markets like California to financial woes at several top solar panel makers.

But the decline has also coincided with a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.

Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations.

Read more at: Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Is inequality bad for the environment?

Danny Dorling, THE GUARDIAN

That equality matters in terms of health and happiness has been clear for some years. But it is also better for the environment. The evidence (which is still emerging) suggests the most unequal affluent countries contribute more to climate change via pollution than their more equal counterparts.

They may suffer more, too. A new report predicts the United States will actually see its levels of economic inequality increase due to the uneven geographical effects of climate change – resulting in “the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history”, according the study’s lead author.

In a 2016 report, Oxfam found that the greatest polluters of all were the most affluent 10% of US households: each emitted, on average, 50 tonnes of CO2 per household member per year. Canada’s top 10% were the next most polluting, followed by the British, Russian and South African elites.

In more equitable affluent countries such as South Korea, Japan, France, Italy and Germany, the rich don’t just pollute less; the average pollution is lower too, because the bottom half of these populations pollute less than the bottom half in the US, Canada or Britain, despite being better off.

In short, people in more equal rich countries consume less, produce less waste and emit less carbon, on average. Indeed, almost everything associated with the environment improves when economic equality is greater.

Read more at: Is inequality bad for the environment? | Inequality | The Guardian

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Study: Climate change will perpetuate U.S. inequality

Lisa Nickolau, HUMANOSPHERE

Unmitigated climate change will make much of the United States poorer and generally exacerbate rising wealth inequalities, according to a new study.

For every one degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, the study projects that the country will lose about 1.2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. The economic impact of climate change will not be uniform, say the researchers in this week’s Science magazine, with a few regions possibly experiencing gains.

“Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States,” said lead author Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, as reported by Reuters.

“If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history.”

Read more at: Study: Climate change will perpetuate U.S. inequality

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Julie Cart, VENTURA COUNTY STAR

In Sonoma County, Highway 37, built on a base of mud, flooded on 27 days last winter and has already sunk more than two feet, according to Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt. He said that the state’s transportation agency, Caltrans, told local officials that it could get to the problem in 2088.

Four affected counties, unable to wait 71 years, are considering a number of options, including putting the critical commuter highway atop a 6-foot levee. The price tag for the 20-mile project is as much as $4 billion, and no one knows who will pay for it. 

For Will Travis, it began 12 years ago, with an eye-opening article in the New Yorker magazine about rising seas and the widespread flooding and dislocation that would bring. As the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the region’s coastal management agency, he needed to know more.

Travis directed his staff to research the issue. In 2007 they handed him a report that foretold catastrophe. The agency produced maps with colorful, frightening flood projections and shared it with local policymakers. Trillions of dollars in public and private infrastructure were at risk, Travis told them. The time to prepare was now.

Yet the region’s elected officials and Silicon Valley’s cluster of high-tech firms were deaf to the urgency of his message. No one was planning for higher seas. Their problems were more immediate.“

What I heard a lot was, ‘I’m trying to get my kid into a good college, my wife wants me to lose weight, the car transmission is making a funny noise and you want me to worry about sea level rise?’” Travis said. “‘Yeah, I’ll get to that when I prepare my earthquake supplies.’”

He crafted a policy response for his region anyway. In 2011, after four years of scientific analysis, intense bickering, and legal fights, the commission issued what Travis described as the nation’s first enforceable requirement that all shoreline development address the problem of rising seas.

Read more at: Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Transportation

Carbon in atmosphere is rising, even as emissions stabilize 

Justin Gillis, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Scientists say their inability to know for certain is a reflection not just of the scientific difficulty of the problem, but also of society’s failure to invest in an adequate monitoring system to keep up with the profound changes humans are wreaking on the planet.

CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.

But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.

For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.

Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions.

That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing?

“To me, it’s a warning,” said Josep G. Canadell, an Australian climate scientist who runs the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration among several countries to monitor emissions trends.

Read more at: Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize – The New York Times

Filed under Air, Climate Change & Energy, Habitats

Campaign seeks to defend California marine sanctuaries in face of Trump energy order 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Top political leaders are joining North Coast counties and environmentalists in supporting marine sanctuaries in the face of President Donald Trump’s order to reconsider additions to all four of the sanctuaries that protect the California coast from oil drilling.

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and the Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino county boards of supervisors have officially called for preserving sanctuaries that surround the Channel Islands and protect the coast from San Luis Obispo County to Point Arena in Mendocino County.

“Californians cherish their Pacific coastline and ocean resources,” Feinstein and Harris said in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week, extolling the value of the sanctuaries. “These areas are simply irreplaceable.”

The four sanctuaries cover more than 12,300 square miles — about the size of the coastal counties from Marin to Del Norte plus Napa and Lake counties — and protect places such as the Monterey Canyon, Farallon Islands and Cordell Bank, a biologically rich seamount off the Marin coast.

The pro-sanctuary campaign gained focus Friday with an announcement that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will open on Monday a 30-day public comment period on a review of recent additions to the sanctuaries ordered by Trump on April 28.

Read more at: Campaign seeks to defend California marine sanctuaries in face of Trump energy order | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma Coast

California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation during heat wave

ASSOCIATED PRESS

California ISO – See graphs for electricity supply and demand, renewable energy production and more: http://www.caiso.com/Pages/TodaysOutlook.aspx

The operator of California’s power grid has issued a so-called Flex Alert calling for voluntary electricity conservation between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, the expected peak of the current heat wave.

The California Independent System Operator says consumers shouldn’t use major appliances during those hours and should set air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher and turn off unnecessary lights to ease strain on the grid.

The forecast peak electricity usage is expected to exceed 47,000 megawatts each day.

Source: California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

California clamps down on natural gas leaks from pipelines 

David R. Baker, SFGATE

California utility regulators on Thursday approved new rules designed to prevent, find and fix leaks at natural gas facilities ranging from storage sites to pipelines.

California regulators have approved rules designed to cut natural gas leaks from pipelines and pumping stations by 40 percent, as part of the state’s far-ranging fight against global warming.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to adopt the rules, which will require utility companies to conduct frequent inspections and fix even minor leaks within three years.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping atmospheric heat.

“This certainly is an approach other states can take, and we think the data will show that it’s the right thing to do,” said Tim O’Connor, director of California oil and gas policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, which has made cutting gas leaks nationwide one of its top priorities. The group called the package of natural gas regulations the nation’s toughest.

Once fully implemented, the regulations approved Thursday could save $8 million worth of gas each year, enough to supply 72,000 homes, O’Connor said. Although the Trump Administration is delaying the implementation of Obama-era federal rules to rein in methane emissions, other states including New York and Massachusetts are moving forward with their own regulations, O’Connor said.

Source: California clamps down on natural gas leaks from pipelines – SFGate

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Logging plays bigger climate change role than U.S. acknowledges, report says

Georgina Gustin, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS

The U.S. has consistently underestimated the impact that logging has on accelerating climate change and the role that preserving its forests can play in sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s the conclusion of a new report that also seeks to rebut the notion that burning wood is a “carbon neutral” alternative to burning coal and oil for electricity.

Published by the Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina-based forest conservation group, the report argues that the U.S. has placed too much emphasis on protecting the world’s tropical forests, while ignoring the logging industry’s impact on greenhouse gases released from cutting its own natural woodlands, especially older forests.

“The U.S. has just failed to acknowledge the role that the logging industry has played in the climate crisis, and has failed to embrace the need to restore old growth, intact forests across the U.S. as a critical piece of the puzzle in solving the climate crisis,” said Danna Smith, a co-author of the report.

The report comes as the issue of burning wood for energy is getting fresh attention in Washington. This week, Congress, backed by the logging industry, included language in its budget deal that would declare the burning of woody biomass for electricity “carbon neutral,” sparking the latest controversy in a long-running debate.

“We can’t log our way out of climate change,” said Kirin Kennedy, associate legislative director for lands at wildlife at the Sierra Club. “Burning wood products actually contributes more toward the increase of emissions into the atmosphere.”

Read more at: Logging Plays Bigger Climate Change Role Than U.S. Acknowledges, Report Says | InsideClimate News

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Forests