greenhouse gas emissions

New Report Identifies The Fossil Fuels We Must Keep In The Ground To Avert Catastrophic Climate Change

As the US Senate haggles over a comprehensive energy bill, climate activist groups have identified the global fossil fuel reserves that must be kept in the ground if we’re to limit global warming to the critical 2-degree-Celsius threshold.

This week saw the Senate debating the hotly contested energy bill, which has been criticized by environmentalists for including a number of fossil fuel industry giveaways, including expedited permitting for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and subsidies for coal technology, among other troublesome provisions.

Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) responded by introducing an amendment into the energy bill designed to express Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science.

Senate Democrats ultimately stopped the energy bill from moving forward on Thursday over the fact that a $600-million amendment to address the water crisis in Flint, MI was not included.

The US is not the only country that needs to do some soul-searching when it comes to energy policies, however.

Here Are The Corporate Foxes In The COP21 Henhouse

Top corporate sponsors of the climate talks in Paris have long histories of destroying the environment and interfering in environmental policymaking that are at odds with the green image they’re seeking to project by being part of COP21.

Global banking giant BNP Paribas, French utility Électricité de France (EDF) and fossil fuel conglomerates Engie (formerly GDF Suez) and Suez Environnement, all official COP21 sponsors, are the focus of a new report from Corporate Accountability International that details the companies’ environmental abuses and aggressive lobbying efforts to undermine environmental and climate policy.

All four either directly own or have investments in some of the most emissions-intensive energy projects in the world, from oil sands in Canada to fracking in the UK and coal-fired power in India — conflicts of interest that make it impossible for them to contribute meaningfully to any sound climate policy, the report’s authors argue.

Dramatic UK Emission Drop Just a ‘Taste of What Could Be Achieved’

UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by 8.4 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to official figures released today by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Carbon emissions fell by 9.7 percent. 

A 23 percent reduction in coal use and record warm temperatures were the main contributors to the decline in emissions. Continued falls in energy use were also a factor.

This dramatic drop in emissions is the largest on record for a growing UK economy. In fact, the economy grew faster in 2014 than it has in any year since 2007.

US Could Slash Global Warming Emissions By Curbing Fossil Fuels Extraction On Public Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior this week announced new fracking regulations that will serve as the only federal rules enforcing any kind of safety measures on the controversial drilling technique when they go into effect in a few months.

The rules only apply to oil and gas wells on public lands, however, and most fracking is done on private or state-owned land. The Obama Administration says it is hoping to set an example for states to follow when setting their own fracking standards, but if that’s the case, the federal government actually has plenty of opportunity to lead by example when it comes to reining in carbon emissions from fossil fuel development.

According to a new report by the Center for American Progress and The Wilderness Society, there is “a blind spot in U.S. efforts to address climate change.” Fossil fuel extraction on public lands, the source of almost 30% of U.S. energy production, is responsible for more than a fifth of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon equivalent of having 280 million more cars on the road. But the DOI “has no comprehensive plan to measure, monitor, and reduce the total volume of GHG emissions that result from the leasing and development of federal energy resources.”

“The Department of the Interior has long been in the business of approving well after well, mine after mine, without assessing the impacts of its energy policies on U.S. carbon pollution levels,” Matt Lee-Ashley, senior fellow and director of the public lands project at the Center for American Progress, told FuelFix.

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.

Wall Street Journal Tries to Pour Cold Water On Growing International Climate Action

Climate change

This is a guest post by Climate Nexus.

A recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal by Rupert Darwall paints efforts to address climate change through international policy as doomed from the start, ignores recent progress and dismisses mounting public support for action. 

As countries negotiate in Lima, Peru, this week, long-time climate change skeptic Rupert Darwall seizes the moment to rehash tired critiques of past international efforts on climate.

In fact, the U.S.-China deal will deliver real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the costs of climate impacts clearly outweigh the costs of climate change mitigation and initial national pledges to the Green Climate Fund are meant to spur additional, substantial private sector investment.

Government Accountability Office Report on Oil Export Ban Based On Industry-Funded Studies

oil exports

Earlier this year, at CERAWeek, the must-attend energy conference for industry players, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made an interesting statement while advocating for lifting the oil export ban in her keynote speech.

This year – 2014 – will be the Year of the Report. Think tanks and research institutions across the country are examining the possibility of crude exports and the potential ramifications. Working groups are assembling, writing papers, crunching numbers.  And that’s a good thing,” Murkowski said.

Sen. Murkowski made this statement as part of prepared remarks described as a “roadmap” for lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Murkowski’s prediction would make it seem like she already knew the reports would reach the conclusion that lifting the ban on crude oil exports was “a good thing.” Perhaps it was just a lucky guess for her back in March, but she was right.

In October, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) reached just that conclusion in its report, Changing Crude Oil Markets: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices. It should be noted that the GAO undertook this effort at the request of none other than Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The GAO concluded that lifting the crude oil export ban was a positive because it could potentially lower consumer fuel prices in the U.S. However, when it came to analyzing the environmental impacts of increased oil production and exports, the Congressional agency was unable to reach any quantifiable conclusions.

EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule To Finally Move Forward

First issued in 2011 but quickly met with numerous legal challenges, the EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule is finally cleared for takeoff.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit lifted a hold it had placed on the CSAPR, effectively giving the EPA a green light to begin implementing the rule, which regulates air pollution from power plants in 28 states that drifts across state lines, contributing to ozone and fine particle pollution.

The CSAPR creates a two-step process: first the EPA determines whether or not a state contributes more than 1% of the pollution causing a neighbor to exceed federal air standards, then the EPA gives the polluter state an emissions budget based on a complex modeling system.

It's been a long road for the EPA to get to this point. Courts struck down the agency's first two attempts to draft a rule for regulating sulfur and nitrogen emissions from power plants that drift from one state to another. After the EPA announced the final CSAPR in July of 2011, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a hold on the rule the following December before throwing it out altogether last year in response to a lawsuit filed by 15 power utilities and upwind states.

But in April of this year, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of the EPA, upholding the CSAPR. In the majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the CSAPR “is a permissible, workable, and equitable interpretation of the Good Neighbor provision” of the Clean Air Act, which grants the EPA the authority to regulate intersate pollution that threatens national air quality standards.

Commissioner’s Report Shows Canada Must Do More For Environment

David Nanuk

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Canadians expect to have our environment protected, and to know how it’s being protected. A report from Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development shows we’re being short-changed.

In many key areas that we looked at, it is not clear how the government intends to address the significant environmental challenges that future growth and development will likely bring about,” commissioner Julie Gelfand said of the report, which used government data, or lack thereof, to assess the government’s success or failure to implement its own regulations and policies.

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