Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Flawed Global Warming Analysis in the Wall Street Journal

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by a few scientists and engineers who believe man-made climate change will have less impact on the environment than the vast majority of the scientific community has concluded it will.

Debate is normal and necessary in science — it occurred even on such questions as whether smoking causes lung cancer — so this disagreement is part of the process. However, people considering this issue should not lose sight of the fact that thousands of scientists studying decades of data have established an extremely strong link between carbon dioxide emissions and rising global temperatures. The underlying physics is well understood. 

Further, hundreds, if not thousands, of peer-reviewed studies indicate that the impact on Earth’s climate will be substantial and dangerous. That is why so many scientific organizations and national academies have concluded climate change is a serious danger.

Many of the specific claims in the Journal piece also have already been definitively laid to rest. As the Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed out:

the authors claim there has been a “lack of warming” for 10 years…. [yet] 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record. 

Moreover, every decade since the 1950s has been warmer than the last.

The authors recycle an out-of-context quotation from Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to imply that he harbors doubts about warming. As Trenberth has said publicly:

I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability.

The authors misuse his words in service of what they call an “inconvenient fact” that is no fact at all. They ignore the multiple streams of scholarship that rebut their claims and point to rising global temperatures caused in large part by anthropogenic emissions.

In truth, climate skeptics may be finding it harder to cling to their doubts. Last year, for example, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley – in a study partially funded by climate skeptics – found that technical issues that skeptics claim skew global warming figures had no meaningful effect on them.

As the Guardian reported:

The Berkeley Earth project compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s from 15 sources around the world and found that the average global land temperature has risen by around 1C since the mid-1950s.

This figure agrees with the estimate arrived at by major groups that maintain official records on the world’s climate, including Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, with the University of East Anglia, in the UK.

“My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly skeptical,” Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project, said.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science / Read 2 Responses

State of the Union Address: A Nation “Built to Last” on Clean Energy

President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address last night, and energy issues played a starring role in the speech.

 Here are some of the comments that caught my attention:

 The President drew some firm lines in the sand.

The address was a strong defense of the importance of clean energy to America’s long-term economic prosperity. The President said:

 “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.”

In the speech, the President called for Congress to pass a clean energy standard and extend clean energy tax credits, while ending a century of tax subsidies for oil companies. 

The President again rejected the false choice between a clean environment and jobs.

He said:

“We don’t have to choose between the environment and our economy.”

His description of the remarkable comeback of American vehicle manufacturers, which are rapidly innovating to meet aggressive fuel economy standards, proved his point.

A mixed bag on natural gas.

On natural gas, the President committed to full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

 But — he missed an opportunity to lay out the bargain that must be struck.

We can help revolutionize America’s energy picture with our newly abundant supplies of gas, but to do so responsibly, we must get the environmental rules right to protect our air, land and water wherever “fracking” wells are drilled. 

Getting the environmental rules right means disclosure of the chemicals used in drilling. It also means reasonable standards to ensure high-integrity well design, safe water and chemical management, and methane gas containment to prevent additional harm to our climate.

With those kinds of safeguards in place, gas can reduce our environmental problems instead of increasing them.

The blueprint for action already exists in the recommendations of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board. They must be swiftly implemented.

Standing by new mercury standards

The President ended 2011 with historic action to reduce mercury in our air, water, and food. 

As you probably remember, EDF was a strong advocate for those groundbreaking new standards.

Last night, the President stood by his action, declaring:

“I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.”

Last night’s speech wasn’t the only time President Obama has talked about a clean energy future recently.

Earlier this month, he spoke to EPA staff and told them:

“We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment, and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America.

He’s right about that, but make no mistake — in the weeks and months ahead, there will still be efforts in Washington to block efforts to change the environmentally-destructive and irresponsible course on which the nation, and the world, are bound.  

We at EDF will continue working to remind our lawmakers, and all Americans, that the science of climate change is clear and so are the economics. 

The fact is that we can build a more sustainable future using market-based approaches that preserve public health and the environment while creating new businesses and new jobs for American workers.

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New Website Lets You Find the Largest Sources of Climate Pollution in Your Area

I’m very excited about a brand new website that will let me – and all Americans – learn about sources of climate pollution in my community and across America.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the website today. The consumer-friendly web platform has new greenhouse gas emissions data that will help Americans work together to develop innovative ways to reduce climate pollution.

The public availability of this data means that Americans now, for the first time, have access to accurate information about the heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted by large industrial sources in their communities.

For a decade and a half now, since 1995, fossil-fuel fired power plants over 25 megawatts have reported their carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Those reports have created a rigorous database of emissions data for the nation’s single largest source sector.

Under the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December of 2007 (H.R. 2764; Public Law 110–161), other large emitters of carbon pollution started reporting their emissions too.

Now, that long-awaited data is finally available. The new EPA’s website has climate pollution data for about 6,700 industrial facilities, based on 2010 annual pollution discharges.

The facilities include:

  • Power Plants
  • Cement Plants
  • Iron and Steel Producers
  • Landfills
  • Metals Manufacturing
  • Mineral Production
  • Petroleum Refineries
  • Pulp and Paper Manufacturing
  • Chemicals Manufacturing
  • Government and Commercial Facilities
  • And Other Industrial Facilities

These are sources that emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or more per year. Those levels are comparable to the emissions from 131 rail cars of coal consumed, or 58,000 barrels of oil consumed. Collectively, they’re responsible for billions of tons of climate-disrupting pollution.

Churches, cattle, and other small sources of emissions do not have to report their emissions.

The website includes data on emissions of the following climate-disrupting pollutants:

  • carbon dioxide
  • methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • hydrofluorocarbons
  • perfluorocarbons
  • sulfur hexafluoride
  • other fluorinated gasess

The website lets you search for, and sort, emissions information by geographic area and industry sector. You can compare emissions among facilities. You can also share information using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter.

Americans have a right to know about the pollution in their air. All this information will help us make historic progress towards that goal.

The new data promotes transparency and provides a strong foundation for Americans to work together in deploying smart climate. It also will strengthen corporate governance and sustainability by providing rigorous, facility-based pollution data that tracks pollution levels for comparison with other facilities. And, it will provide investors with transparent information, helping to drive investment decisions informed by the companies and facilities that are leading the way in reducing climate pollution and those that are lagging behind.

EPA also released the data as a factsheet. And of course, there’s lots more information on the main EPA website.

But all of us at EDF are especially happy to have the new interactive website – it’s a great tool for fighting climate change.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Read 1 Response