Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is no small task. Whether you’re acting individually or within a large organization or company, it’s important first to understand the amount and source of the emissions, and then to take steps to reduce them.
So my co-workers and I got started by holding an office challenge, using the newly updated online carbon calculator from our Make an Impact team to learn more about our carbon footprints and pledge to lower our personal impact on the planet.
I was surprised by the results.
More than a dozen military leaders say the impacts of climate change threaten military readiness and response and will increase instability and conflict around the globe.
Their assessments are included in a recent report, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, by the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board. The report’s authors – including 16 retired generals and admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – conclude that climate change impacts will act as threat multipliers and catalysts. Projected warming, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, and extreme weather events will pose risks to security within the U.S. and abroad.
At home, some of the threats are here and now. Many of the nation’s military installations are in coastal areas vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges. For example, the low-lying Hampton Roads area of Virginia is home to 29 military facilities. Sea level in the area is projected to rise 1.5 feet over the next 20-50 years and as much as 7.5 feet by the end of the century. One advisory board member, Brig. Gen. Gerald Galloway, stressed that “unless these threats are identified and addressed, they have the potential to disrupt day-to-day military operations, limit our ability to use our training areas and ranges, and put our installations at risk in the face of extreme weather events.”
Figure 1: Sea level rise projections for the Hampton Roads region, which is home to 29 different military facilities. Source: CNA, 2014
At a meeting last month in Songdo, South Korea, the fund’s board resolved a number of key organizational issues, clearing the way for the fund to start its mission as a channel for finance from developed to developing nations for climate mitigation and adaptation.
Finance for developing countries is a perennial issue in international climate negotiations. Many are hoping developed countries will come forward with new financial pledges at the September summit to help build momentum for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Many developed countries had said they would not make pledges until the fund’s organizational issues were resolved.
The Green Climate Fund will be a principal channel for delivering the $100 billion a year that developed countries agreed in Copenhagen to mobilize by 2020. The board, which is made up of representatives from 24 countries, has been meeting since August 2012 to determine how the fund would be organized and would operate.
In California, it’s almost impossible to avoid hearing about the drought. Restaurants serve water only upon request, “Save Our Water” radio ads run daily, and the issue headlines news broadcasts.
The persistent drought threatens to increase the risk of wildfires, damage crops, and harm wildlife. For example, UC Davis researchers estimate the state’s farm industry could lose $1.7 billion and nearly 15,000 jobs in 2014 due to the drought.
While Californians are no strangers to drought, this one in particular is cause for alarm. For the first time in the 15-year history of the National Drought Monitor, the entire state faces ‘severe’ (in yellow in Figure 1 below), ‘extreme’ (in red), or ‘exceptional’ (in dark red) levels of drought. In fact, October 2013-September 2014 could wind up being one of the driest periods in nearly 500 years.
Relief is unlikely to come soon. The Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests the drought will persist and intensify in California through the summer.
Figure 1. The entire state of California is experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. This is the first time this has happened since the Drought Monitor began such classifications 15 years ago. Source: US Drought Monitor: California, (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2014), http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA
The Obama Administration today took a major step toward reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that are impacting our climate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its “Clean Power Plan,” which leverages existing authority in the Clean Air Act to propose carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions. The proposal would cut emissions in the power sector by 30 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. We reviewed the basics of the Clean Power Plan with four critical questions in mind:
1. Is the standard based on emission reductions outside the power plant fence line?
The short answer is “yes.” EPA cannot require states or power plant operators to take any specific measures, but it can set the emissions target stringent enough so that it would be challenging to achieve unless certain measures are taken. EPA is proposing state-specific targets based on the capacity of each state to leverage four “building blocks.” They are:
- Make fossil fuel power plants more efficient.
- Use low-emitting natural gas combined cycle plants more where excess capacity is available.
- Use more zero- and low-emitting power sources such as renewables and nuclear.
- Reduce electricity demand by using electricity more efficiently.
Although “outside-the-fence-line” measures are not specifically required under the proposal, states would be hard-pressed to meet their targets without using programs to reduce the demand for fossil electricity, by, for example, increasing energy efficiency and encouraging renewable energy.
Looking to Figure 1, EPA has chosen the System-level Option.
Figure 1: Scope of reduction requirements