emissions

New Report Spotlights Toxic Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Sites in California

A new report from Earthworks shines a light on air pollution, including methane leaks, from oil and gas wells in California, the nation's third largest oil producing state in 2013 – highlighting the ways that potentially toxic gases from the sites raise red flags for the health of those living nearby.

Published Thursday, the report is the first analysis of California's oil and gas air pollution based on infrared video footage combined with air sample testing and revealed toxic gases in the air surrounding oil and gas wells in Kern County and Ventura County. Many of the sites tested were at existing oil and gas wells, including one sample drawn while a well was abandoned. People living near the sites were also surveyed.

“Air sampling revealed the presence of 15 compounds known to have negative effects on human health, as well as 11 compounds for which no health data is available,” the researchers reported.

How Obama’s Campaign For Fast Track Authority On The Trans Pacific Partnership Is At Odds With Efforts To Combat Climate Change

In his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama made the case for Congress granting him fast track authority to negotiate free trade deals.

“I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.”

Obama is specifically seeking special authority to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a so-called free trade agreement his administration is in the midst of negotiating with Canada, Mexico and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region like Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam—countries that, together, constitute 40% of the world’s GDP and 26% of global trade, according to the Washington Post.

Despite opposition from his own party, Obama has been on the stump for “trade promotion authority,” also known as “fast track authority,” which Congress would have to grant, essentially waiving its Constitutional right to give “advice and consent” on any international agreements negotiated by the president

On January 8, several Democrat members of Congress went so far as to join with union leaders and environmental and consumer advocates to hold a press conference on their opposition to fast track authority for the TPP.

In a letter to Congress sent the day after the State of the Union speech, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and 42 other environmental groups urged the rejection of forthcoming legislation that would grant Obama fast track authority and “enable the president to push through flawed international trade agreements at the expense of the environment, public health, and communities.”

Social Cost Of Carbon Drastically Underestimated: Report

The U.S. government could be drastically underestimating how much climate change is going to cost us, according to a study published by Stanford researchers in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The researchers concluded that the Obama Administration is using a Social Cost of Carbon estimate that may be just one-sixth of the true cost—and that the true cost is high enough to justify aggressive measures for lowering emissions enough to limit global temperature rise to the 2 degrees Celsius that scientists tell us is the threshold for averting catastrophic climate change.

The Social Cost of Carbon is an official estimate of how much economic damage will be caused per metric ton of carbon emitted into our atmosphere—damages like lower crop yields and higher healthcare costs. It is used by the EPA and other federal agencies to calculate the benefits of policies intended to improve energy efficiency, lower emissions, and combat climate change. It is also often used to justify not taking action if the proposed action would cost more than the damage it is intended to mitigate.

The Obama Administration raised its official estimate of the economic cost of a metric ton of CO2 from $21 to $37 in November 2013. Even back then, however, many experts challenged that estimate as far too low.

According to the team at Stanford, that estimate was way too low—they calculate the true Social Cost of Carbon as $220 per metric ton.

Climate Legacy: Report Offers Stark Reminder Why Fossil Fuel Industry Is So Intent To Avoid Accountability For Pollution

If the governments of the world get serious about tackling climate change and adopt aggressive limits on global warming emissions, many fossil fuel companies’ could see their assets become stranded, forcing them to fundamentally change their business models or go out of business altogether.

But there’s another reason why those companies are so desperate to forestall any and all attempts to rein in climate emissions by holding polluters accountable: fossil fuels companies themselves are responsible for a massive amount of the greenhouse gases cooking our climate.

The Climate Accountability Institute has updated its Carbon Majors Project in time for the climate talks in Lima, Peru, “detailing the direct and product-related emissions traced to the major industrial carbon producers in the oil, natural gas, coal, and cement industries” through 2013. CAI has found that the carbon-based fossil fuels and cement produced by just 90 entities were responsible for 65% of the 1,443 billion metric tonnes of CO2 emitted between 1751, the dawn of the industrial era, and 2013.

Some 50 investor-owned companies are among the 90 entities on the Carbon Majors list, and they are collectively responsible for nearly 22% of all global warming emissions up to 2013, while the 36 state-owned companies on the list are responsible for another 20%.

Shell’s Top Climate Advisor Says Company “Values” Relationship with Climate-Denying ALEC at COP20

David Hone, Shell’s top climate advisor told an audience at the COP20 climate negotiations underway in Lima, Peru today that the company enjoys its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a contentious corporate ‘bill mill’ known for its climate change denial and aggressive efforts to counteract emissions reductions and regulations.

More than 90 companies have parted ways with ALEC since 2012, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, after ALEC’s contentious position on climate science drew the ire of shareholders, citizen groups and unions.

Perhaps most famously, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of “literally lying” about climate science and publicly announced the company’s decision to forego renewing its ALEC membership. The decision prompted a ‘tech exodus’ from ALEC which saw companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo!, and AOL cut ties with the free market group.

Financing Climate Action Among Major Concerns in First Week of COP20 Climate Negotiations

COP20 UNFCCC DeSmog Canada

How to finance a global shift away from toxic greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels was one of the key talking points during the first week of the annual United Nations climate change conference held this year in Lima, Peru.

The conference, which began Monday and is scheduled to end next Friday, started with a statement by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who said negotiators must draft a new, universal climate change agreement that will hopefully be endorsed next year at COP21 in Paris.

Figueres also said negotiators “must enhance the delivery of finance, in particular to the most vulnerable” as well as stimulating “ever-increasing action on the part of all stakeholders to scale up the scope and accelerate the solutions that move us all forward, faster.”

Walmart’s Reliance On Dirty Energy Responsible For 8 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Pollution Per Year

Recent revelations that the Walton Family, majority owners of Walmart, are funding attacks against the rooftop solar industry called into question the big-box retailer’s very public “100% renewable energy” commitment. A new report by the Institute on Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) documenting Walmart’s massive carbon emissions is likely to add even more fuel to that fire.

According to ILSR, which also exposed the Walton Family’s anti-rooftop solar initiatives, Walmart is one of the heaviest users of coal-fired electricity in the United States, resulting in 8 million metric tons of carbon pollution produced every year by the mega chain’s operations.

Since making its environmental commitments in 2005 with great fanfare, Walmart has done little to honor its pledge to transition to renewable energy and “be a good steward of the environment.”

Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at ILSR and co-author of the new report, wrote in April that Walmart's use of renewables peaked in 2011 and has slipped since then.

“Walmart’s progress on renewable power is particularly pitiful when you look at other retailers,” she added. “Staples, Kohl's, and Whole Foods, along with numerous small businesses, have already passed the 100 percent renewable power mark.”

Today, just 3% of the electricity powering Walmart’s U.S. stores comes from renewable sources.

China-U.S. Climate Deal Is Historic, But On Its Own Is Not Enough

Despite the fact that they've been using the “climate action is useless because China won't act” canard as one of their favorite arguments for years now, Republicans' outraged response to the historic climate deal between China and the U.S. probably took noone by surprise.

Because that's the thing: it is historic. For the first time ever, China has agreed to put a cap on the emissions produced by its rapid, voracious economic expansion. While it's certainly not true that the U.S. taking responsibility for its share of global warming pollution wouldn't have had a meaningful impact anyway, it also can't be ignored that averting runaway climate change would be nearly impossible if China's emissions keep growing unabated.

But to say it's historic that two of the world's biggest economic superpowers—and the world's two largest carbon polluters, together responsible for nearly half of global emissions—have agreed to begin to lower their respective contributions to global warming is not the same thing as saying that the deal President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck is enough to get the job done.

The most important issue, of course, is the emissions targets themselves, which come nowhere near what climate scientists say are needed to prevent catastrophic warming. We must lower global warming pollution 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century, yet the US is still using 2005 as its baseline, and has only committed to lowering emissions 26-28% by 2025. China, meanwhile, needs to see its emissions peak by 2020, climate scientists say, but has only committed to doing so by 2030.

Peabody Energy Goes On Offense With New PR Campaign Designed To Sell Same Old Dirty Coal

Despite what you may have heard about the death of the coal industry, Peabody Energy is ramping up mining activities and going on the offensive, pushing “clean coal” on the world’s poor with a disingenuous but aggressive PR campaign. And for good reason: Peabody has got to sell the coal from the world's largest coal mine to someone.

Speculation is rife that the new GOP-led Senate will join with its similarly fossil fuel-beholden House colleagues to usher in a new era of coal. Peabody, the world’s largest privately held coal company, isn’t waiting around to find out.

The company has teamed with public relations firm Burson-Marsteller—the notorious PR giant that helped Big Tobacco attack and distort scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking tobacco—to launch Advanced Energy for Life, a desperate attempt to shift the discussion around coal away from its deleterious effects on health and massive contributions to climate change and instead posit the fossil fuel as a solution to global poverty.

The aim of this PR offensive, according to a piece by freelance journalist Dan Zegart and former DeSmog managing editor Kevin Grandia (one of Rolling Stone’s “Green Heroes,” and deservedly so), the reason for Peabody’s charm offensive is simple: there’s money to be made selling coal in Asian markets, and Peabody aims to make it—as long as initiatives to combat global warming emissions don’t intervene. Which makes Burson-Marsteller the perfect ally:

Burson-Marsteller, which has a long history of creating front groups to rehabilitate the images of corporate wrongdoers, helped Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, tackle the Asian market, where Burson fought anti-smoking regulations and developed crisis drills for Philip Morris personnel in Hong Kong on how to handle adverse scientific reports.
 

As the US produces a glut of cheap natural gas, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan seeks to set emissions standards that would make building new coal-fired power plants all but impossible impossible, and the domestic demand for coal drops, Peabody’s value as a company has dropped as well, from $20 billion to just $3.7 billion in the space of three years. The company is in desperate need of new business if it’s to even stay afloat.

The EU’s New Climate Commitments Make Canada and the U.S. Look Ridiculous

connie hedegaard, climate change, EU

The European Union has reached a new legally-binding climate change agreement that would see greenhouse gas emissions drop by at least 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

The agreement, signed off in Brussels two weeks ago by the EU’s 28 member nations, is designed to ensure Europe meets its objective of cutting emissions by at least 80 per cent by mid-century.

It also puts Europe in the lead position to help persuade other nations trailing far behind the EU’s emissions-reduction goals to reach a long-sought global climate change accord next year in Paris.

The 2030 climate and energy plan also calls for the share of renewable energy to increase to 27 per cent of 1990 levels while seeing a 27 per cent increase in energy efficiency.

In an official statement, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the 2030 package is very good news for the fight against climate change.

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