Category Archives: Science

Protecting the Planet: A Report from the International Conference on Mercury in Edinburgh

(EDF’s Mandy Warner co-wrote this post)

This week, experts in science, policy, and industry are meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP).

We are honored to join them to discuss international mercury science and policy, and to share EDF’s work on mercury.

The ICMGP has been held periodically for more than 18 years. It has become the pre-eminent international forum for formal presentation and discussion of scientific advances concerning mercury, and gathers between 700 and 1200 experts for the five-day conference and exhibition.

This year’s conference will be of particular importance, because this year will launch the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Legally Binding Treaty on Mercury — which can provide much-needed global action on mercury.

This year, UNEP has also released its new report, Global Mercury Assessment 2013 – Sources, Emissions, Releases and Environmental Transport.

So this year’s meeting is perfectly timed to celebrate the release of the report AND the launch of the international treaty — and most important, to discuss how to put the treaty into practice. It will be a great opportunity for policymakers and scientists to collaborate on solutions that address worldwide mercury emissions.

It is well-known that mercury is an extremely toxic metal.

Mercury primarily exists in three chemical forms in nature: elemental mercury, oxidized mercury and methylmercury.

Methylmercury is the most neurotoxic substance that builds up collects in our aquatic foodchains.

About 400,000 children are born in the U.S. each year with so much mercury in their blood that healthy brain development is threatened.

As they grow, these children’s capacity to see, hear, move, feel, learn and respond is compromised.

While some forms of mercury are deposited near the emissions source, other forms — such as gaseous mercury — are stable in the atmosphere for approximately a year. Gaseous mercury can be deposited far from its source, even thousands of miles away – which is why it has global impacts.

The U.S. is leading the way to reduce mercury emissions from a variety of sources, including coal-fired power plants — the largest remaining source of mercury in America.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants are in place thanks in part to strong support from EDF members, and from our partners in the environmental, health, faith, environmental justice, and business communities.

Power companies are working now to meet emission standards by spring 2015, by installing American-made technology.

EDF has helped advance mercury policy at the state and national level in the U.S. over the past several decades.

During the development of the recently finalized Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, we provided technical comments and testimony; worked with EPA, states, companies; collaborated with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to defend protective standards; and worked through the courts to advance strong mercury standards.

Our partner organizations like Moms Clean Air Force have helped engage diverse voices from across America, and bring new constituencies to the forefront of the national policy discussion on air pollution and toxics.

We now have the privilege of highlighting the U.S. experience reducing mercury and advancing technology solutions in the power sector to this important international scientific and policy forum.

We hope to forge new partnerships to advance an international solution to mercury pollution that can protect the health not only of Americans, but people across the globe.

Also posted in Health, International, Policy | Comments closed

Climate Change Imperils Human Health

Health organizations have made it clear that climate change is a health issue.

American Lung Association has said:

[S]cientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels.

Climate change will impact many facets of human health in the U.S. through worsened air quality, increased transmission of infectious diseases from insects, and increased impacts from extreme weather.

These climate impacts will affect our health, daily lives, and our pocketbook.

Numerous health organizations have recognized the impact climate change is having on human health, and the need for action to mitigate emissions and assist with adaptation.

Here’s a look at what some leading health organizations and their representatives have to say about climate change and human health.

American Academy of Pediatrics journal publication:

Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increase in climate-sensitive infectious disease, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.

American Lung Association website:

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States.

World Health Organization fact sheet:

Climate change affects social determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

American Medical Association news/opinion piece:

Climate change produces weather extremes on both ends of the temperature spectrum. In Maine… it’s expected to have a rising rate of heart attacks and problems related to extreme snow, ice and cold. [Furthermore], in Maine, that’s being seen in a marked increase of Lyme disease. Warmer and shorter winters mean that deer ticks die off in smaller numbers, which means more will breed.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation website:

Twenty-five million Americans, including 7 million children, have asthma, and 50 million Americans have allergies… They are more likely to sleep poorly at night, miss school or work, and risk hospitalization and even death because of the increasing environmental triggers due to climate change.

Despite these alarming emerging health-climate issues, I am optimistic about our ability to implement the needed climate solutions to reduce emissions and adapt to impacts.

Just last year, 40 percent of all new electric capacity built was wind power, more than any other source added.

States like Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and California are leading the way on wind power. The U.S. has now installed 60 gigawatts of wind, one-fifth of the world's total wind capacity.

The economic benefits of wind power are clear. Wind energy companies pumped $25 billion into the U.S. economy in 2012 alone through new project investments, and the wind industry employs 80,000 people.

Other solutions, like energy efficiency, continue to advance each year as well.

Annual savings from electricity and natural gas efficiency programs in 2011 were 19% higher than in 2010. That’s a huge improvement, although enormous efficiency savings – savings that can reduce emissions and save consumers money — still remain on the table.

Our fate is in our own hands.

We can continue to make progress reducing emissions by implementing President Obama’s Climate Action Plan while growing a strong economy.

Making the choice to reduce climate destabilizing emissions will mean a better world for my seven-month old daughter, her generation, and the generations to come. And better air quality will mean my daughter can take full advantage of those long summer days we all enjoyed growing up.

We have a responsibility to take aggressive steps now in order to help stem the tide of the more severe climate impacts we know are coming.

Also posted in Health, News | 1 Response, comments now closed

Facing a Frightening Milestone: What We Can Do About Greenhouse Gas Levels at 400 ppm

We recently learned that the earth’s greenhouse gas levels are surging past 400 parts per million (ppm), a level not reached in 3 million years. It is clear why: humans are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, including last year’s all-time high of 35 billion tons. And as the planet warms as a result, we’re getting an early glimpse at the superstorms, drought and other challenges we’ll face in an increasingly dangerous environment if we don’t change course.

Lots of people are rightly worried, and the media have largely focused on the worst potential outcomes for us and future generations if we don’t curb emissions. It’s important for everyone to know what’s at stake, but it’s also crucial that everyone understands we’re not helpless to act. There are steps we can take that will make a real difference, as individuals and as a country. So before you become too pessimistic about the milestone, take a look at some of the ways we can do something about it:

Continue to feed the conversation.

Whether in the media or at your dinner table, simply talking about why 400 ppm is important will inform others and keep climate change at the front of everyone’s mind. It will be especially important to include less traditional allies whom studies show increasingly recognize the reality of climate change.

Reduce climate accelerants.

Because it burns cleaner than coal, natural gas can be a positive for our climate. The challenge is that natural gas comes with its own set of serious risks to public health and the environment, and methane (the main ingredient in natural gas) is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. We must ensure this resource is harnessed in a way that minimizes methane leakage and has as little impact on people and the environment as possible. No one should have to trade their health or quality of life for cheap energy.

Accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

The U.S. is poised to spend around $2 trillion over the next two decades replacing our antiquated electricity infrastructure, creating a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionize how we generate, distribute and use electricity. We must seize this opportunity to modernize our electricity grid and put the right policies in place to accelerate investments in clean, homegrown renewables, energy efficiency and other innovative ways to generate and use energy. These approaches can address the need for power, spur economic development, lessen our carbon footprint and help America gain a global leadership position in the multi-trillion dollar clean energy economy.

Use the Clean Air Act.

The Administration is authorized to use the Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama should utilize it to both establish new CO2 emission standards for power plants and vigorously defend the rules he has already put in place.

Put a price on carbon.

We must acknowledge and act on what economists from across the political spectrum have long argued — the most efficient way to cut carbon pollution is with a cap or tax. Either would be a powerful tool that would help drive cleaner power developments. We could ease the impact on working families and businesses through lower taxes on either labor or capital.

The 400 ppm milestone is a reminder that the status quo won’t do if we want to protect the world we leave our kids. But the news has prompted new conversations about emissions across the country. I hope we seize this opportunity to talk not only about how we got here, but more importantly, what we’re going to do about it.

Also posted in News, Policy | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Wanted: Sound Climate Science from the House Science Committee

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that dangerously distorted the science behind man-made global warming.

It is patently false to suggest, as Chairman Smith did, that there is a “great amount of uncertainty” regarding the fundamental science underlying our understanding of the drivers of climate change. Man-made warming has been confirmed repeatedly by the vast majority of scientific organizations including NASA, the National Academies of Science and the American Meteorological Society. A recent review also reaffirmed that 97% of peer-reviewed scientific publications that address the causes of climate change endorse the consensus that climate change is real and man-made.

Chairman Smith argues that since the US decreased its greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2012 we cannot be responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions. However, carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere so long the US is responsible for more of the warming we are currently experiencing than any other nation.  In 2011, the United States’ emissions remained the second highest behind only China, a country with more than four times the population of the US.  The US continues to emit significantly more greenhouse gas per person than does any of the larger nations of the world, the few smaller exceptions are major fossil fuel producing countries. The fact that the US is not currently the single largest emitter is no excuse not to lead on addressing climate change.  The logic used by Chairman Smith implies that we should only ask the very largest emitters to clean up criteria air pollution or water pollution across the US. If we utilized that strategy our water and air would not have seen the improvements of the past 40 years, which have reduced death rates and restored the places we cherish.

He also discusses recent findings that temperatures have not warmed significantly in the past 15 years, which is not actually the case – rather several cooler years has reduced the rate of warming, as it has several times over the past decades of rapid warming. As EDF Vice President Nat Keohane recently wrote in response to this finding, this “underscores the fundamental nature of climate change — that we are creating dangerous uncertainties” and there are various explanations for this finding, notably that an unusual amount of heat has been stored in the deep ocean, rather than at the surface.

Chairman Smith also claimed that Hurricane Sandy was not caused by climate change. Scientists, including Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Bob Corell from the American Meteorological Society and Jeff Masters of Weather Underground and formerly of NOAA, confirm that Sandy’s damage was increased by rising seas, warming oceans, and was consistent with scientists’ climate predictions based on a warming artic. Just as we can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther, and now climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme of weather events, giving us weather on steroids.

Lastly Chairman Smith says that greenhouse gas regulations would hurt our economy. He does not account for the economic costs of inaction on climate change that many studies say outweigh the cost of action. Three of the most costly weather disasters in the US, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the 2012 Midwest drought, have happened in the past 6 years, costing $128 billion, $62 billion and $35 billion respectively. American taxpayers are footing a large portion of this cost including $12 billion from Sandy and $16 billion from Katrina under the National Flood Insurance Program, and $11 billion in crop insurance claims from the 2012 drought. These costs will only continue to increase as the effects of climate change become more apparent.

I appreciate that Chairman Smith is writing about climate change because it is a critical national debate. As chairman of the House Science Committee, however, he should start that discussion by acknowledging the most important and sound scientific facts: Climate change is real, it is caused by pollution from human activity, and it will become increasingly expensive for the US and the world.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, News | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Reports about Weather Disasters, Cost, and Climate Change

Congress just passed a bill to provide more than $50 billion to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

If you think that seems like a lot of money, consider this Hurricane Sandy was just one of the eleven weather disasters in the U.S. last year that caused more than $1 billion each in losses.

For a long time now, the world’s top climate researchers have told us about the strong evidence of links between our weird weather and climate change.

(Of course, here at EDF, we’ve been talking about the links between weird weather and climate change too — as regular readers of Climate 411 know.)

Greenhouse gas pollution traps heat in our atmosphere, which interferes with historic weather patterns – and is resulting in more severe and damaging weather events.

Our particularly awful weather last year has put climate change back in the news:

  • In his Inaugural Address, President Obama talked about the threat of climate change — saying, “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
  • Two Members of Congress just formed a new bicameral task force on climate change.
  • The World Economic Forum just released its Global Risks Report 2013, which says: “Following a year scarred by extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to flooding in China, respondents rated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third most likely global risk overall.”

How bad was it really? Four other reports — all released in the last few weeks – found that evidence showing the impacts of climate change is piling up.

Two new reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that both America and the world are warming – by leaps and bounds.

According to NOAA, “By a wide margin, 2012 was the United States’ warmest year on record.”

NOAA’s State of the Climate National Assessment found that the average temperature for the continental U.S. in 2012 was one full degree Fahrenheit higher than the previous warmest year on record – and 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average.

And NOAA’s State of the Climate Global Analysis found that 2012 was the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. That means the last time the global temperature wasn’t above average was in 1976 – when America was celebrating its bicentennial and Jimmy Carter was elected President. Anyone under the age of 35 has never seen a year when the Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th century average.

NASA also measures global temperatures, and their report also found 2012 to be one of the top 10 hottest years ever for planet Earth.

Why? According to NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt,

The planet is warming. The reason it's warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Let’s go back to NOAA’s data for more frightening statistics from 2012:

  • Every state in the contiguous United States had an above-20th century-average annual temperature. (You can check NOAA’s web page to see which cities broke any records or had their hottest year).
  • July 2012 was the hottest month ever observed in the continental U.S. since we began keeping records in 1880.
  • Nineteen states had their warmest year on record, and another 26 states had one of their ten warmest years since 1880.
  • Temperatures were above the 20th-century average in every month from June 2011 to September 2012 – an unbroken 16-month stretch that we’ve never seen before since we started keeping records.
  • The winter snow cover for the contiguous United States was the third smallest on record, and snowpack totals across the Central and Southern Rockies as of April 2012 were less than half of the 1971-2000 average.

In 2012, America also had the second largest extent of extreme weather events ever recorded in a single year. (A weather event has a variable at the high or low end of the observed historical range.)

And we saw vastly different types of weather extremes at the same time – which is consistent with weird weather linked to climate change. While most of the continental U.S. withered in drought, some areas got drenched — Florida had its wettest summer on record.

Along with Hurricane Sandy, 2012 weather lowlights include:

  • Hurricane Isaac, which caused flooding along the Gulf Coast and killed 9 people.
  • The Derecho storm that caused severe damage in eleven states from Indiana to Maryland.
  • Flooding in and around Duluth, Minnesota, where rivers reached all-time high flood levels.
  • A massive drought that covered more than 60 percent of the country and led to widespread crop failures. Crop prices are now rising because of last year’s drought. Corn, wheat and soybean prices are all up – which means your grocery bills will soon be up too.
  • Wildfires burned more than nine million acres around the West, about 1.5 times the ten year average from 2001 to 2010. A fire near Colorado Springs destroyed almost 350 homes, and New Mexico recorded its largest wildfire ever. Wildfire risk increases when drought is combined with high heat and low levels of humidity.

Now for the really bad news – it’s likely to get worse.

This month, the U.S. government released a first draft of another new report, the National Climate Assessment. More than 300 scientists contributed to writing the report, which warns that the U.S. could warm up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, unless we take steps now to reduce climate change.

According to the assessment:

Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans … The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: The planet is warming.

Unfortunately, the new reports are just the tip of the rapidly-melting iceberg. There’s a lot more evidence of climate change and its effects on our weather — evidence that shows that we need to take serious action to reduce carbon pollution and stop climate change.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, News | Comments closed

EDF's Business-Friendly Suggestions for Fighting Climate Change

We’ve been hearing the same question a lot lately – what should President Obama do in his second term to fight climate change?  

In today’s online Harvard Business Review, EDF’s Eric Pooley has some thoughts on that subject. He's laid out a five-point plan to help us address climate change.

Those points range:

[F]rom no-brainer ideas almost everyone can agree on to ambitious items that would require Congressional action

And they all have one thing in common – they are business friendly.

As Eric puts it: 

It is worth remembering that strong business support helped secure passage of the House climate bill in 2009, and though that effort failed in the Senate, no serious legislation can move without the backing of men and women in the engine room of the American economy. To be politically viable, climate solutions must be economically sustainable.

Here’s the (very) short version of Eric’s plan:

  • Feed the conversation
  • Reduce climate accelerants
  • Start a clean energy race
  • Use the Clean Air Act
  • Put a price on carbon

If you’d like to read the whole plan, you can find it here: A Business-Friendly Climate Agenda for Obama's Second Term

Also posted in Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy | Comments closed

Geoengineering: Ignore Economics and Governance at Your Peril

How serious is global warming? Here’s one indication: the first rogue entrepreneurs have begun testing the waters on geoengineering, as Naomi Klein laments in her must-read New York Times op-ed.

Sadly, Klein misses two important points.

First, it’s not a question of if but when humanity will be compelled to use geoengineering, unless we change course on our climate policies (or lack thereof). Second, all of this calls for more research and a clear, comprehensive governance effort on the part of governments and serious scientists – not a ban of geoengineering that we cannot and will not adhere to. (See point number one.)

Saying that we ought not to tinker with the planet on a grand scale – by attempting to create an artificial sun shield, for example – won’t make it so. Humanity got into this mess thanks to what economists call the “free rider” effect. All seven billion of us are free riders on the planet, contributing to global warming in various ways but paying nothing toward the damage it causes. No wonder it’s so hard to pass a sensible cap or tax on carbon pollution. Who wants to pay for something that they’re used to doing for free – never mind that it comes at great cost to those around them?

It gets worse: Turns out the same economic forces pushing us to do too little on the pollution front are pushing us toward a quick, cheap fix – a plan B.

Enter the Strangelovian world of geoengineering – tinkering with the whole planet. It comes in two distinct flavors:

  • Sucking carbon out of the atmosphere;
  • Creating an artificial sun shield for the planet.

The first involves reversing some of the same processes that cause global warming in the first place. Instead of taking fossil fuels out of the ground and burning them, we would now take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and bury it under ground. That sounds expensive, and it is. Estimates range from $40 to $200 and more per ton of carbon dioxide – trillions of dollars to solve the problem.

That brings us to the second scary flavor – which David Keith, a leading thinker on geoengineering, calls “chemotherapy” for the planet. The direct price tag to create an artificial sun shield: pennies per ton of carbon dioxide. It’s the kind of intervention an island nation, or a billionaire greenfinger, could pay for.

You can see where economics enters the picture. The first form of geoengineering won’t happen unless we place a serious price on carbon pollution. The second may be too cheap to resist.

In a recent Foreign Policy essay, Harvard’s Martin Weitzman and I called the forces pushing us toward quick and dirty climate modification “free driving.” Crude attempts to, say, inject sulfur particles into the atmosphere to counter the carbon dioxide that's already there would be so cheap it might as well be free. We are talking tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That’s orders of magnitude cheaper than tackling the root cause of the problem.

Given the climate path we are on, it’s only a matter of time before this “free driver” effect takes hold. Imagine a country badly hit by adverse climate changes: India’s crops are wilting; China’s rivers are drying up. Millions of people are suffering. What government, under such circumstances, would not feel justified in taking drastic action, even in defiance of world opinion?

Once we reach that tipping point, there won’t be time to reverse warming by pursuing collective strategies to move the world onto a more sustainable growth path. Instead, speed will be of the essence, which will mean trying untested and largely hypothetical techniques like mimicking volcanoes and putting sulfur particles in the stratosphere to create an artificial shield from the sun.

That artificial sunscreen may well cool the earth. But what else might it do? Floods somewhere, droughts in other places, and a host of unknown and largely unknowable effects in between. That’s the scary prospect. And we’d be experimenting on a planetary scale, in warp speed.

That all leads to the second key point: we ought to do research in geoengineering, and do so guided by sensible governance principles adhered to be all. We cannot let research get ahead of public opinion and government oversight. The geoengineering governance initiative convened by the British Royal Society, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and the Environmental Defense Fund is a necessary first step in the right direction.

Is there any hope in this doomsday scenario? Absolutely. Country after country is following the trend set by the European Union to institute a cap or price on carbon pollution. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and also California are already – or will soon be – limiting their carbon pollution. India has a dollar-a-ton coal tax. China is experimenting with seven regional cap-and-trade systems.

None of these is sufficient by itself. But let’s hope this trend expands –fast – to include the really big emitters like the whole of China and the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, and others. Remember, the question is not if the “free driver” effect will kick in as the world warms. It’s when.

Also posted in Economics, Geoengineering | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Antarctica's Glacial Melt

There should no longer be any doubt. Climate change is here, and it is happening. 26,000 broken heat records this summer speak for themselves.

Extreme weather events hit home. Another consequence of climate change, by contrast – rising sea levels – often seems far away and far off.

“Far away” is easily dismissed. U.S. coasts are as much in danger as sea shores anywhere else on the planet.

"Far off” often seems tougher to address. After all, seas have only risen by inches so far. Projections say we could see three or more feet by the end of the century.

Even right now, though, we’re seeing the evidence of sea level rise. Antarctic ice sheets have been melting to the tune of 24 cubic miles of melt water per year, every year, since 2002.

That is a huge number, but a fairly abstract number. So The Globalist designed a quiz to make the giant quantity feel a bit more real. EDF was honored to help with the research for the quiz.

See if you can answer the question:

If you were to take the melt-off from Antarctica's ice sheets over the past decade (2002 to 2012) and pour it into a California-sized Jell-O mold, how high would the water rise?

The right answer might surprise you. Hint: Think Paul Sturgess, the world's tallest professional basketball player.

And check out The Globalist quiz for more details.

Also posted in Arctic & Antarctic, Extreme Weather, News, Oceans | 1 Response, comments now closed

Hot Topic: Climate Change and Our Extreme Weather

Americans have been griping all summer about the weather. It feels hotter than usual this year.

Turns out, that’s because – it is.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just confirmed that America is enduring the hottest weather in our recorded history.

In fact, the past 12 months have been the warmest 12 months in the continental U.S. since record-keeping began back in 1895.

It’s not a coincidence either. NOAA says the odds of our record heat being a random event — rather than part of a global warming trend — are about 1 in 1.6 million.

How hot is it, really? Consider these facts from NOAA:

  • From June 1st through July 10th of this year, the U.S. broke 147 all-time high-temperature records.
  • In June of 2012, communities across the U.S. broke 2,284 daily maximum temperature records. In the week of July 1st through July 9th of this year, they broke another 2,071.
  • The average temperature in the contiguous United States was 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit this June – two full degrees above the 20th-century average.

Those scary statistics are just for the past six weeks. But our miserable June followed the blistering heat from last year.

Read all about it in NOAA’s new report, State of the Climate in 2011.)

Take a look at this partial list of cities that broke records from June of 2011 through May of 2012:

  • Detroit – 101 degrees (daily record)
  • Syracuse – 101 degrees (daily record)
  • Mitchell, SD – 102 degrees (daily record)
  • Minneapolis – 103 degrees (daily record)
  • Bridgeport, CT – 103 degrees (all-time record)
  • Denver – 105 degrees (all-time record)      
  • Newark– 108 degrees (all-time record)
  • Houston – 109 degrees (all-time record)
  • Miles City, MT – 111 degrees (all-time record)
  • Wichita – 111 degrees (daily record)
  • Little Rock – 114 degrees (all-time record)
  • Childress, TX – 117 degrees (all-time record)

We’ve included some of those temperatures in our newest EDF public service announcement, which is running on the jumbo screen in Times Square. Just in case you’re not in Times Square right now — see the ad here.

The blazing temperatures have led to other problems as well:

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor says more than 56 percent of the contiguous United States is now under drought conditions — the highest level since record-keeping began in 2000.
  • Wildfires destroyed 1.3 million acres in Colorado and across the U.S. last month.
  • Wyoming recorded its driest June ever this year; Colorado and Utah recorded their second-driest Junes.

At the same time:

  • Florida recorded its wettest June ever — thanks in part to Tropical Storm Debby, which dumped more than two feet of rain on some towns, and spawned flash floods and almost two dozen tornadoes.
  • Duluth, Minnesota also had record floods last month.
  • Large parts of the East Coast got hit by a killer Derecho storm that killed more than two dozen people; more than three million lost electricity, some for more than a week.
  • Washington, D.C. broke its record for worst heat wave ever, according to the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, these bad weather trends are not unexpected. For a long time now, the world’s top climate researchers have told us about the strong evidence of links between dangerous weather and climate change.

Here at EDF, we’ve been talking – and blogging – about the issue for a long time. It was barely more than six months ago that we posted about the IPCC report on climate change and extreme weather. Sadly, looking back at the last round of weather disasters gives our current sweltering summer a sense of déjà vu.

Greenhouse gas pollution traps heat in our atmosphere, which interferes with normal weather patterns. That means we can expect more – and probably worse – weird weather in the future.

Climate change doesn’t just mean higher heat. It means more severe and damaging weather events across the country – including more frequent and heavier rains in some areas, increased drought in others, a potential increase in the intensity of hurricanes, and more coastal erosion because of rising sea levels.

Changing weather patterns changes will affect our agriculture, water supplies, health and economy. They’ll affect every American community and, ultimately, every American.

That’s why EDF is dedicated to reducing carbon pollution.

After all the reports, and all the statistics, and all the bad weather –there's no excuse for not fighting climate change.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News | Comments closed

A Great Day for Science Too: More on the Court Decision Affirming Historic Climate Protections

On good days, the facts prevail — and Tuesday was one of those very good days.

As Fred wrote, on Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. issued a unanimous, historic decision upholding EPA’s actions to reduce climate pollution.

In our press release, Fred called it a good day for the “thin layer of atmosphere that sustains life on Earth.”

He’s right of course. But our planet wasn’t the only big winner. It was also a great day for science.

The court roundly rejected challenges to EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (commonly called the Endangerment Finding).

In the process, the court reaffirmed the importance of having rigorous, independent science as the bedrock of efforts to protect our health and environment.

The court’s eloquent statement speaks for itself:    

EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment:  it sought out and revised existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.  It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research.  . . .  This is how science works.  EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(That’s from page 27 of the ruling. I added the emphasis.)

The court dismissed the challenges to the Endangerment Finding as without “merit”, noting that EPA relied upon an “ocean of evidence” including 18,000 peer-reviewed studies. (You can find those quotes on pages 26, 34 and 38 of the decision.)  

In dismissing this challenge the court acted in concert with our long history of relying on science-based evidence — not only to shape our health and environmental protections, but as the foundation of American innovation and ingenuity. 

EPA’s Endangerment Finding is based on an extensive review of climate change research, including assessments of climate research prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The creation of these assessment reports involved thousands of scientists, reviewing thousands of articles from peer-reviewed research journals.

This massive body of research documents the effects that rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping emissions are having on our climate. It also documents the harm that climate impacts cause to human health and welfare. 

Affirming EPA's reliance on state-of-the-art climate science, the court discussed the substantial evidence supporting EPA’s Endangerment Finding on page 30 of the decision:

To recap, EPA had before it substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases “very likely” caused warming of the climate over the last several decades. . .  Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.  It found that extreme weather events, changes in air quality, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, and increases in temperatures are likely to have adverse health effects … The record also supports EPA’s conclusion that climate change endangers human welfare by creating risk to food production and agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, ecosystems, and wildlife. 

The call from scientists worldwide urging swift action to curb climate-destabilizing emissions has been heard. 

EPA’s efforts to fulfill its statutory responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous pollution have been resoundingly affirmed.   

It is a good day to be a scientist, and an American.

(You can read more about the court cases on our website and in my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog on the subject. And stay tuned for more analysis of the historic decisions.)

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, What Others are Saying | 1 Response, comments now closed
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