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States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
 

Press Release: Observed Impacts of Climate Change in the U.S.

Press Release
November 9, 2004     

Contact:  Katie Mandes
703.516-0606 

OBSERVED IMPACTS OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
New Report Shows Disturbing Ecological Changes in the U.S.

Washington, DC — Over the past century, Earth’s average temperature has increased by approximately 1oF.  There is now strong evidence that this global warming is largely due to human emissions of greenhouse gases from a growing fossil fuel economy.  Unless these emissions are checked, additional warming of 2-10 degrees is projected by the end of the 21st century.  There are abundant signs, however, that the warming has already been sufficient to induce significant changes in the ecosystems and wildlife of the United States. 

A new report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S., by Camille Parmesan of The University of Texas at Austin and Hector Galbraith of Galbraith Environmental Sciences and the University of Colorado-Boulder, reviews the broad range of ecological changes that have occurred in response to human induced changes in the global and U.S. climate. 

“U.S. ecosystems and wildlife are already responding to the warming climate,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  “And this is only the beginning.  With warming for the next century projected to be two to ten times greater than the last, we’re heading toward a fundamental and potentially irreversible disruption of the U.S. landscape and wildlife.”

Numerous changes have already been observed and these changes have a range of implications for the United States, its ecosystems, and biodiversity.  The responses of plants and animals to a changing climate are indicative of their natural ability to adapt, yet future global warming is likely to exceed the ability of many species to migrate or adjust. Furthermore, one species’ success in coping with climate change may be another species’ failure.  The red fox, for example, is expanding into the range of the arctic fox, forcing the arctic fox into an ever-contracting area. 

Other observed changes include a long-term trend toward an earlier spring, with earlier flowering and reproduction of plant and bird species. Butterflies on the U.S. west coast are moving north and to higher altitudes in search of tolerable climate conditions, with some populations disappearing altogether from the southern end of their ranges.  And perhaps most alarming  -- the frozen Arctic tundra is thawing, releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in a feedback loop that could ultimately accelerate global warming. 

In addition, wildlife attempting to cope with current global warming must also contend with myriad other challenges such as habitat fragmentation, invasive species, water diversion, environmental contamination, and over-exploitation, all of which collectively undermine their ability to adapt.  

“What’s happening to our environment is not natural – it’s a problem of our own making.  The longer we delay in reducing greenhouse gas emissions the greater the problem will become,” said the Pew Center’s Claussen.

The report also highlights actions that can be taken to better manage U.S. natural resources to minimize the effects of climate change.

The full text of these and other Pew Center reports is available at http://www.c2es.org.  

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The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment.  The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change.  The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

An Effective Approach to Climate Change

POLICY FORUM: CLIMATE POLICY

An Effective Approach to Climate Change

By Eileen Claussen

Enhanced online at www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5697/816
Originally published October 29, 2004: VOL 306 SCIENCE

The Bush Administration’s “business as usual” climate change policy (1), with limited R&D investments, no mandates for action, and no plan for adapting to climate change, is inadequate. We must start now to reduce emissions and to spur the investments necessary to reduce future emissions. We also need a proactive approach to adaptation to limit the severity and costs of climate change impacts.

Science and Economics

Those who are opposed to national climate change policies make much of the uncertainties in climate models, specifically the rate and magnitude of global warming. The Climate Change Science Program’s plan, points out Secretary Abraham, would address these uncertainties, although he offers no assurances that the program will be adequately funded. However, the scientific community already agrees on three key points: global warming is occurring; the primary cause is fossil fuel consumption; and if we don’t act now to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it will get worse.

Yes, there are uncertainties in future trends of GHG emissions. However, even if we were able to stop emitting GHGs today, warming will continue due to the GHGs already in the atmosphere (2).

National climate change policy has not changed significantly for several years. The first President Bush pursued a strategy of scientific research and voluntary GHG emissions reductions. The new Climate Change Science Program has a budget comparable, in inflation-adjusted dollars, to its predecessor, the Global Climate Research Program, during the mid-1990s. The Administration’s current GHG intensity target will increase absolute emissions roughly 14% above 2000 levels and 30% above 1990 levels by 2010 (3). These increases will make future mitigation efforts much more difficult and costly.

While reducing uncertainty is important, we must also focus on achieving substantial emissions reductions and adapting to climate change.

Low-Carbon Technology Development

The Administration’s more substantive R&D initiatives, such as Hydrogen Fuels and FutureGen (clean coal) are relatively modest investments in technologies that are decades away from deployment. We need a far more vigorous effort to promote energy efficient technologies; to prepare for the hydrogen economy; to develop affordable carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and to spur the growth of renewable energy, biofuels, and coal-bed methane capture.

Equally important, we need to encourage public and private investment in a wide-ranging portfolio of low-carbon technologies. Despite the availability of such technologies for energy, transportation, and manufacturing, there is little motivation for industry to use them. Widespread use of new technology is most likely when there are clear and consistent policy signals from the government (4).

One-fifth of U.S. emissions comes from cars and trucks (5). The Administration’s targets to improve fuel economy for light trucks and “sports utility” vehicles (SUVs) by 1.5 miles per gallon over the next three model years fall far short of what is already possible. California is setting much more ambitious emission standards for cars and light trucks. Current efficiency standards can be improved by 12% for subcompacts to 27% for larger cars without compromising performance (5).Hybrid vehicles can already achieve twice the fuel efficiency of the average car.

About one-third of U.S. emissions results from generating energy for buildings (6). Policies that increase energy efficiency using building codes, appliance efficiency standards, tax incentives, product efficiency labeling, and Energy Star programs, can significantly reduce emissions and operating costs. Policies that promote renewable energy can reduce emissions and spur innovation.Sixteen states have renewable energy mandates (7).

The Power of the Marketplace

Policies that are market driven can help achieve environmental targets cost-effectively. A sustained price signal, through a cap-and-trade program, was identified as the most effective policy driver by a group of leaders from state and local governments, industry, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (8).

Senators Lieberman (D–CT) and McCain’s (R–AZ) 2003 Climate Stewardship Act proposes a market-based approach to cap GHG emissions at 2000 levels by 2010. The bill, opposed by the Administration, garnered the support of 44 Senators. Nine Northeastern states are developing a regional “cap-and-trade” initiative to reduce power plant emissions. An important first step would be mandatory GHG emissions reporting.

Adapting to Climate Change

An important issue that Secretary Abraham failed to address is the need for anticipating and adapting to the climate change we are already facing. Economic sectors with long-lived investments, such as water resources, coastal resources, and energy may have difficulty adapting (9). A proactive approach to adaptation could limit the severity and costs of the impacts of climate change.

By limiting emissions and promoting technological change, the United States could put itself on a path to a low-carbon future by 2050, cost-effectively. Achieving this will require a much more explicit and comprehensive national commitment than we have seen to date. The rest of the developed world, including Japan and the European Union, is already setting emission-reduction targets and enacting carbon-trading schemes. Far from “leading the way” on climate change at home and around the world, as Secretary Abraham suggested, the United States has fallen behind.

References and Notes

1. S. Abraham, Science 305, 616 (2004). |
2. R. T. Wetherald, R. J. Stouffer, K. W. Dixon, Geophys. Res. Lett. 28, 1535 (2001).
3. “Analysis of President Bush’s climate change plan” (Pew Center on Global Climate Change,Arlington,VA, February 2002); available at www.c2es.org.
4. J. Alic, D. Mowery, E. Rubin, “U.S. technology and innovation policies: Lessons for climate change” (Pew Center on Global Climate Change,Arlington,VA, 2003).
5. National Research Council, “The effectiveness and impact of corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards” (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2002).
6. “U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: 1990–2002”(EPA/430-R-04-003, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 2002), Table 3–6.2002.
7. Workshop proceedings, “The 10-50 solution: Technologies and policies for a low-carbon future,”Washington, DC, 25 and 26 March 2004 (The Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy, Arlington,VA, in press).
8. J. Smith, “A synthesis of potential climate change impacts on the United States” (Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington,VA, 2004). Published by AAAS

by Eileen Claussen, President— Appeared in Science, October 29, 2004
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California Announces Intention to Cut Vehicle GHG Emissions 30 Percent

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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On September 24, 2004, the California Air Resources Board voted to issue regulations implementing legislation passed in 2002. The legislation directs the ARB to adopt regulations that would achieve the "maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles." The standard will require that tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles be reduced by 22 percent by the 2012 model year and 30 percent by the 2016 model year. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont currently follow California’s vehicle emission standards, and may opt to either adopt the new regulations, or fall back to federal standards. New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have already indicated that they will follow California’s standard. The cost-effective reduction measures identified by the staff include discrete variable valve lift, dual cam phasing, turbocharging with engine downsizing, automated manual transmissions, and camless valve actuation. The ARB expects that the regulations will add around $1000 to the cost of a new car in 2014 but that the increased up-front cost will be more than offset by decreased operating costs over the life of the vehicle. The regulation will apply only to model years 2009 and later. The Board considered the final staff proposal at a public hearing in September 2004, and the ARB is required by law to adopt standards by January 1, 2005. The standards will not enter into effect until January 1, 2006, to give the legislature time to review the regulations and modify them, if necessary.

Press Release
Read the CARB Report
Read Our Report: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation
Case study on California's GHG Vehicle Standard

Press Advisory: Is Global Warming Causing Hurricanes?

Media Advisory
September 15, 2004

Contact: Katie Mandes  
703-516-4146 

IS GLOBAL WARMING CAUSING THE HURRICANES?
Straight answers from a reliable source—The Pew Center on Global Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Is there a connection between the recent severe weather events and global warming?  Some are suggesting the 2004 hurricane season is unprecedented; but is it really?

Scientists know that higher ocean temperatures are more suitable for hurricane formation (especially major hurricanes), while lower temperatures are associated with less active hurricane seasons, so the speculation is that hurricanes will increase in frequency or intensity in a warmer world.

“While there is much we can say about global warming with a high degree of confidence, the incidence of severe weather and its link to global warming is an area that requires further research,” says Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, “The ability of scientists to predict the potential response of hurricanes to global warming is very limited at the moment, so there is little that can be said with confidence.”

Claussen, who is widely regarded as one of the most credible resources on the topic of climate change, is a former Secretary of State for the Oceans and Environment and currently works with business leaders, policy-makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often controversial issue. Her approach is based on sound science, straight talk, and a belief that we can work together to protect the climate while sustaining strong economic growth. 

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has compiled a list of the frequently asked questions concerning a possible link between global warming and hurricanes. 

  • Is this year’s hurricane season unusually active?
  • Will global warming create more hurricanes in the future?
  • Will global warming create other types of severe weather?
  • Will damage from severe weather become worse in the future?
  • What can we do to reduce the consequences of severe weather?

The Pew Center has become a catalyst for collaboration in the business community, a key advisor to Congressional and international policymakers, and most importantly, an honest broker on the issue of climate change.

California Legislature to Allow Hybrids in HOV Lanes

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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On September 3, 2004, the California legislature passed a bill allowing drivers of hybrid electric vehicles to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, even if the driver is the only occupant. In order to go into effect, the bill would have to be signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, after which the state would have to obtain federal approval because California’s 1,200 miles of HOV lanes were built using federal funds. The bill, AB 2628, requires the state to distribute decals to owners of hybrid vehicles that average at least 45 miles per gallon, up to a maximum of 75,000 vehicles. Virginia already has a program in place allowing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes, even with only one occupant. Similar legislation is included in the federal transportation bill now under consideration in the U.S. Congress, and has also been introduced in the state legislatures of Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington. The goal of the legislation is to encourage the purchase of hybrid vehicles, in order to achieve energy security benefits and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Press Release
Read the Legislation

States Litigate for Utility Emissions Reductions

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On July 21, 2004, officials from eight states and New York City filed a lawsuit that seeks to force five utilities to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The states are basing their action on federal common law of public nuisance, arguing that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers the health of their citizens. The lawsuit would require that the utilities reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by increasing efficiency, investing in cleaner technologies, and increasing the use of their existing cleaner and more efficient electricity generation facilities. The plaintiff states are California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The utilities – American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp., and the federally run Tennessee Valley Authority – emit 646 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, or about 25 percent of power sector emissions and 10 percent of the nation’s total emissions. This is the first time any state has filed a lawsuit against a company for emitting carbon dioxide. The plaintiffs are not requesting financial compensation.

Press Release

Rhode Island Passes Renewable Energy Standard

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On June 29, 2004, Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri signed the Clean Energy Act, which requires state electricity retailers to derive at least 3 percent of the electricity they sell in state from renewable energy by December 31, 2006. The percentage of renewable energy required will then rise 1 percent per year through 2020, though the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission (PUC) is authorized to revise the schedule after 2013. Existing renewable resources may only contribute 2 percent of the required amount of renewables in any year; the rest must be from new renewable energy production. All energy for compliance must be generated in or delivered into the New England Power Pool electric grid, and compliance will be tracked using New England Generation Information System certificates, an accounting system for generation attributes. The law includes a number of flexibility mechanisms designed to lower the cost of compliance, including credit for adding renewables ahead of schedule and limited carry-over of credits from year to year. The PUC is directed to adopt regulations to implement the standard by December 31, 2005. The PUC is to design the regulations to achieve substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions, among other goals.

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Western Governors Adopt Clean Energy Resolution

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On June 22, 2004, the Western Governors' Association (WGA) unanimously resolved to examine the feasibility and actions required to reach a goal of 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2015 and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. The Governors will also examine what is needed to meet the West's generation and transmission needs over the next 25 years. The resolution cites the need to protect against energy shortages and price spikes, accommodate the population's growing energy needs, position the Western energy system to respond to environmental challenges, and take advantage of new technologies that will lower the cost of renewable energy and of controlling emissions from the fossil fuel resource base. According to the resolution, the project will stress "incentive-based, non-mandatory approaches," and it will also consider federal programs that could assist in reaching the goal. The WGA will form a diverse working group to develop policy proposals for achieving these goals. By November 2004, the Western Governors’ Association will develop a charter and budget for the working group, and secure funding for its operation.

Information on the Resolution
WGA's Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative Website

Hawaii Adopts Renewable Portfolio Standard

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Hawaii has enacted a law that requires the state's public utilities to provide 8 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by December 31, 2005. The percentage of renewables required rises to 10 percent in 2010 and by 1 percent every year thereafter, reaching 20 percent in 2020. The bill, signed by Governor Linda Lingle on June 2, 2004, cites the legislature's concern with Hawaii's growing dependence on oil imports. It allows the Public Utilities Commission to excuse a utility from meeting the standard if the Commission determines that the standard could not be met in a cost-effective manner or as a result of circumstances beyond the utility's control. The bill also directs the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to undertake certain projects to support the private sector's development of renewable energy projects.

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Maryland Adopts Renewable Portfolio Standard

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Maryland has adopted a renewable portfolio standard that requires the state’s electricity suppliers to generate increasing percentages of their electricity from renewable sources beginning in 2006. The legislation, which passed by a veto-proof margin in April by the House and the Senate, was signed by Governor Robert Ehrlich on May 26, 2004. The law requires that electricity suppliers produce 1 percent of their electricity from “Tier 1” renewable resources in 2006; the portion of renewables required rises by 1 percent every two years, reaching 7 percent in 2017. Tier 1 renewable resources include solar, wind, ocean, qualifying biomass, geothermal, landfill or wastewater methane, renewably-fueled fuel cells, and small hydroelectric plants. The law also requires that 2.5% of the portfolio each year be produced through either Tier 1 or “Tier 2” resources, until 2017, when all renewable generation must be from Tier 1. Tier 2 includes hydroelectric power, incineration of poultry litter, and waste-to-energy.

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