Trump eliminates climate change advisory panel

The White House has moved to dissolve its panel on climate change, despite the fact that temperatures in recent decades were higher than they have been in 1,500 years. (Michael Vadon/flickr)
Jenna Ladd| August 22, 2017

The Trump administration announced on Friday that it will terminate the U.S. climate change advisory panel.

The panel, called the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, was established two years ago by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The group is tasked with producing a National Climate Assessment every four years and working with policymakers and business leaders to interpret the report’s findings and act accordingly. Its fifteen members included scientists, local officials and business representatives.

The charter for the panel expired Sunday after NOAA administrator Ben Friedman announced that the Trump administration had decided to dissolve the group. The next National Climate Assessment was due to be released this spring.

A major component of the spring 2018 assessment called the Climate Science Special Report is currently under review at the White House. The report, which was written by scientists from thirteen separate institutions, states that human activity is responsible for steadily rising global temperatures from 1951 to 2010.

This report has not yet been approved by the Trump administration.

Fighting climate change could benefit the economy

The closing ceremony of COP21 in Paris featuring Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left); Christiana Figueres (left), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Laurent Fabius (second right), Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) and François Hollande (right), President of France. (United Nations/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | January 13, 2017

A statement from the White House on Thursday outlined the relationship between climate change policy and economics.

The authors of the report, Senior Advisor Brian Deese and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, point out that carbon pollution steadily decreased while the U.S. economy continued to improve from 2008-2015. During those years, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. dropped by 9.5 percent while the economy grew by 10 percent.

These trends defy an old reality: increased carbon emissions means increased economic output.

Research from the International Energy Agency demonstrate that the same is true on an international scale. For example, although carbon dioxide emissions stayed the same in 2014 and 2015, the global economy grew.

The statement said that the international community took an important step in combating climate change when the Paris Agreement took effect in 2015. However, the report notes, “But Paris alone is not enough to avoid average global surface temperature increases that climate scientists say are very risky — additional policies that reduce CO2 emissions are needed, in the United States and elsewhere, to ensure that these damages are avoided.”

Failure to address climate change with meaningful policy is costly over time. The report expresses the estimated annual economic damages due to climate change as a fraction of the global gross domestic product from 2050 through 2100. “Climate damage cost” can be thought of as what all nations can expect to pay per year in terms of economic output due of the changing climate. These costs include sea level rise, illness and death related to heat, pollution, tropical diseases, and the effects of rising temperatures on agricultural productivity.

Climate Change Damage Estimates.png
Figure 1. Climate Change is Costly; Serious Climate Policy is a Bargain, The White House

Figure 1 does not include those effects of climate change that are difficult to quantify, such as the increasing  frequency and intensity of extreme weather. The statement said, “Failing to make investments in climate change mitigation could leave the global economy, and the U.S. economy, worse off in the future.”

The report ended with a warning:

“In deciding how much to reduce carbon pollution, and how quickly to act, countries must weigh the costs of policy action against estimates of avoided climate damages. But we should be clear-eyed about the fact that effective action is possible, and that the economic and fiscal costs of inaction are steep.”

Dubuque recognized for efforts to address climate change

Dubuque has been declared a presidental disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)
Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | December 9, 2014

Dubuque, Iowa was among 15 other local and tribal communities to be named Climate Action Champions by the White House last week.

Dubuque was recognized because of its Community Climate Action & Resiliency Plan which has set a greenhouse gas reduction goal of being 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030. The plan – which examined Dubuque from 2003 to 2011 – traced emissions to four main sources: industrial (31%), residential (24%), transportation (23%), and commercial (17%), with the remaining 5 percent coming from the landfill methane.

The city hopes to further offset carbon emissions by further utilizing renewable energy sources. The report states that “solar and wind installations in Dubuque are expected to yield 10,000-30,000 mt (metric tonnes) of annual reductions by 2030.” Wind energy and other renewables generated 18 percent of electricity in Dubuque during the study in 2010.

In addition to efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Dubuque was also honored because of the city’s emphasis on flood-conscious infrastructure. Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times in the last 16 years so the city is now focused on mitigation efforts.

The Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project is a $179-million project that will focus on a 6.5 square mile district where more than half of the city’s population lives or works. The project aims to “both reduce the volume and slow the rate of stormwater in the upper watershed, provide safer conveyance of stormwater in flood-conducive areas, and protect the City’s wastewater treatment plant from stormwater.” Construction is expected to begin fall 2015 and be completed by 2016.

The Climate Action Champions were selected by representatives from the Department of Energy.

New climate plan asks for cooperation from states

Nick Fetty | June 3, 2014
Photo via Matt; Flickr

A new plan proposed by President Obama to cut carbon pollution will rely on states to set and meet their own emissions standards.

The plan aims to “cut carbon pollution from power plans by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.” Similar to the President’s health care initiative, individual states will be responsible for devising unique plans to meet the standard set by the federal government.

The article cites that farmers in Iowa and Minnesota currently generate up to 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources – such as solar and wind – while states in the southeast utilize nuclear energy. Critics say the new proposal will eliminate jobs and raise utility costs.

For more information, visit the EPA’s website. Also check out this infographic released by the White House.

White House announces methane emissions plan

Flickr; Charlie Coffey.
Flickr; Charlie Coffey.

The White House has released a plan to help reduce methane emissions in agriculture, along with other industries in an effort to combat climate change.

Methane accounts for 9 percent of the domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and has increased by 11 percent since 1990, the White House said.

The plan involves capturing livestock manure by using biodigesters to generate electricity. The White House then suggests using it to avoid fuel costs or provide an additional source of revenue.

Click here for more information on the proposed plan.

Lawmakers look to reach car mileage deal

Photo by Luis Tamayo, Flickr

Car manufacturers and the White House are looking to come to a conclusion on the new, higher fuel economy standards.

Read more from the New York Times below:

The Obama administration and automakers are nearing an agreement to increase fuel economy standards for vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a lower target than the White House had sought.

The administration had earlier proposed a goal of 56.2 miles per gallon, while Detroit automakers and Michigan lawmakers have been pushing for a lower standard. Continue reading