Science

What Hurricane Harvey tells us about climate change

The heartbreaking consequences of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in Texas and Louisiana over the past week have led many public figures to comment regarding the potential connection between hurricanes and global climate change. With Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Caribbean and Florida, this question will likely get another bump in the news cycle.

What does the science tell us about this connection? In 2014, the White House released the latest update of the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment (NCA), a report produced by the relevant scientific agencies every few years. The NCA made the following statement:

The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

That remains a good summary as far as hurricanes go, but there is a more fundamental point that I think decision-makers should be focused on as they consider how to direct investments to enhance our resilience to climate change: Precipitation extremes are intensifying and will continue to do so as the climate warms.

Consider the following:

  • In April 2014, southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle experienced a historic rainstorm that set local records for daily and hourly rainfall totals. In Pensacola, nearly 6 inches of rain fell in an hour and more than two feet of rain fell over two days, causing catastrophic flash flooding.
  • In October 2015, many areas of Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas experienced extreme rainfall and flash flooding. The greatest totals were south of Dallas, where more than 20 inches of rain flooded highways and derailed a freight train. Houston received around 10 inches and experienced flash flooding.
  • In March 2016, Louisiana experienced historic flooding and areas of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas experienced extreme rainfall and flash flooding. More than 20 inches of rain fell in Monroe, Louisiana, with one reporting station recording nearly 27 inches over three days.

Now we have Hurricane Harvey.

These events are a small selection of a large number of major flood events to strike Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas recently. Gulf states have seen historic flooding disasters from extreme precipitation every year for at least four years running. Many of these events were associated with hurricanes (or tropical storms in general). All of them required an enormous source of atmospheric moisture to generate such extreme rainfall totals in a matter of hours to days. 

That moisture source is no mystery: It is the warm tropical waters of the North Atlantic (principally the Gulf of Mexico) and eastern Pacific oceans. These bodies of water have been warming over recent decades and are evaporating more and more moisture into the atmosphere along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. The atmosphere is also warming, and warmer air holds more water vapor. As the climate warms, therefore, more moisture becomes available to supply rainfall.

This fact is basic physics and there isn’t any real uncertainty about it. Moreover, it is well understood that the oceans and atmosphere are warming as a direct result of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. (Without those emissions, the climate system would actually be cooling slightly).

The consequences are not limited to the Gulf Coast. The National Climate Asessment chart below shows the percent increase in the amount of rainfall associated with the heaviest 1 percent of downpours in regions of the United States from 1958 to 2012.

So what does Hurricane Harvey tell us about climate change? It confirms that our risk is rising as the climate warms. Harvey also teaches us about our vulnerabilities and adaptation needs.

As Dan Huber and I have explained, individual weather events are unpredictable, but our overall risk from changing weather patterns is predictable. Reducing our climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions will limit how much we ultimately ratchet up that risk. However, since the climate is already changing and the risk of damages is rising, we also need to adapt to the changes that are in the pipeline. Both reducing emissions and adapting to unavoidable change are essential to managing the risk

Jay Gulledge, Ph.D., is a Senior Adviser to C2ES

Webinar: Using Climate Data in the Real World

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
0
Register Here

Please join the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions for a free webinar

Using Climate Data in the Real World

Sept. 27, 2017
1 – 2:30 p.m. ET

Register Here

The recent landfalls of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the potential threat to the U.S. mainland from Hurricane Maria, demonstrate the importance of climate data for companies concerned with resilience planning. Join us Sept. 27 for a free webinar on real-world use of climate data. We’ll explore what data to use, where to find it, downscaling climate models, and a practical example from the energy sector.

Speakers

Ellen Mecray, Regional Climate Services Director, Eastern Region, NOAA

Ellen Mecray is the NOAA Regional Climate Services Director for the Eastern Region, based in Taunton, Mass. Ms. Mecray helps bring NOAA’s climate information to other federal agencies as well as regional, state, and local geographies and specific sectors of importance to the eastern region. She currently works with the transportation, coastal, public health, marine fisheries, and energy sectors. Ms. Mecray is currently serving as the Federal Convening Lead Author for the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Northeast Chapter and an author on the Energy national chapter. Her work is published in a number of research journals. Mecray holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Colgate University and a master’s degree in geological oceanography from the University of Rhode Island.

Dr. Thomas Wall, Infrastructure and Preparedness Analyst, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Thomas Wall leads Argonne’s Climate Impact Data and Decision Support effort, which aims to leverage Argonne’s deep capabilities in climate science and modeling, advanced computing, infrastructure risk analysis, and decision science to provide actionable climate impact information to the engineering and planning communities, to industry, and to state and local governments. Dr. Wall also has extensive experience in the area of critical infrastructure analysis and protection. He earned an honors BS in civil engineering at Oregon State University, and an MS and Ph.D in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where his research focused on climate resilience, adaptation, and infrastructure management for transportation systems.

Dr. Yan Feng, Atmospheric and Climate Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Yan Feng is an Atmospheric and Climate scientist in the Environmental Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory, and a fellow with the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago. Her research work includes improving the accuracy of climate change predictions by global and regional climate models. Dr. Feng is also interested in modeling global life cycle of atmospheric particles such as dust, soot, and sulfate and their impact on climate and environment. She has published more than 20 peer-reviewed journal papers including Nature Geoscience, PNAS, and contributed to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 3rd Assessment Report by the Working Group I. Dr. Feng obtained her Ph.D. in atmospheric science (2005) and M.S. in computer science and engineering (2002) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Brian D’Agostino, Meteorology Program Manager, San Diego Gas & Electric

 

Brian D’Agostino is the Meteorology Program Manager in Emergency Management for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). As program manager, Mr. D’Agostino provides operations support for the delivery of safe and reliable energy. D’Agostino oversaw the design and construction of SDG&E’s weather network, one of the United States most sophisticated and extensive weather networks. Mr. D’Agostino currently serves as an advisor and former chair of the American Meteorological Society’s National Energy Committee and works closely within the meteorological community coordinating research projects specializing in fire science, solar forecasting, climate adaptation and emergency management. He is a graduate of Plymouth State University with a bachelor’s of science degree in meteorology.

Ashley Lawson, Senior Solutions Fellow, Policy and Resilience, C2ES

Ashley Lawson is Senior Solutions Fellow for Policy and Resilience at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She evaluates climate policies and provides expert advice to policymakers, especially on market-based approaches to mitigating climate change. She also works on climate resilience efforts by businesses, cities, and states. Ms. Lawson was previously part of the Point Carbon analyst team at Thomson Reuters, where she developed and maintained forecasting models for North American carbon markets and contributed to the team’s domestic and international research publications. Ms. Lawson holds a master’s degree in environmental science and engineering from the California Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of South Carolina.

 

 

 

 

Other speakers to be announced.

Extreme Weather


Last updated July 2016

Extreme Weather Event Map: Click on any circle to learn about one of the billion-dollar weather events, or any state to learn about billion-dollar droughts. All events occurred between 2000 and June 2017.

>$50 billion
$20-$50 billion
$5-$20 billion
$2-$5 billion
< $2 billion
(Note: circle sizes correspond to the map view of the continental U.S.)

This map shows billion-dollar weather events in the United States since 2000, as identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The Top 10 costliest events are listed at the bottom of this page, along with a description of major U.S. droughts since 2000.

Floods, Tornadoes, Thunderstorms, Hail, Tropical Storms, Wildfires, and Winter Storms are all shown as circles, with the costs indicated by the area of the circles (see image to the right).  The location of the circles correspond to places where impacts were experienced (note: locations are approximate; many of the events actually impacted a large area, beyond the boundaries of the circle). Droughts are not shown by circles, but by the shading in the states – states with darker colors have experienced more droughts since 2000, while states that are lightly shaded have experienced fewer droughts. No billion dollar events have occurred in Hawaii since 2000; some of the wildfire impacts (e.g., fire seasons in 2006, 2007, and 2008) included damages in Alaska, but the markers appear in the continental United States.

Many of these events, including heat waves and heavy rainfall, are likely to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change. Climate change can also worsen the impacts of some of these events. For example, sea level rise can increase the impacts of coastal storms and warming can place more stress on water supplies during droughts. But it’s important to note that not ALL of these events will necessarily happen more frequently as a consequence of climate change. The links between climate change and tornadoes, ice storms, and hail are unclear, and represent current areas of research.

These events demonstrate ways our communities and infrastructure are vulnerable to extreme weather, and that the costs associated with impacts can be large.

More Resources on Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Fact Pages: Learn more about the links between climate change and:

 

Weathering the Next Storm - Extreme weather is costly. The events shown on the map above all cost billions of dollars, and several events had widespread and long-lasting implications.

A  2015 C2ES Report, Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience, examines how companies are preparing for climate risks and what is keeping them from doing more. It also suggests strategies for companies and cities to collaborate to strengthen climate resilience. The report synthesizes public disclosures by S&P Global 100 companies, in-depth interviews and case studies, and workshops. It updates the groundbreaking 2013 report, Weathering the Storm, Building Business Resilience to Climate Change, which provided a baseline for how companies were assessing their climate vulnerabilities.

 

 

Related Blogs

 

Table 1: Top 10 Disasters by Cost Since 2000
Event and DateCostFatalitiesDescription
Hurricane Katrina
August 2005
$148 billion1,833The hurricane initially hit as a Category 1 near Miami, FL, then as a stronger Category 3 along the eastern LA-western MS coastlines, resulting in severe storm surge damage (maximum surge probably exceeded 30 feet) along the LA-MS-AL coasts, wind damage, and the failure of parts of the levee system in New Orleans. High winds and some flooding occurred in Ala., Fla., Ga., Ind., Ky., Miss., Ohio and Tenn.
Hurricane Sandy
October 2012
$65.7 billion159Sandy caused extensive damage across several northeastern states (Conn., Del., Mass., Md., N.J., N.Y., R.I.) due to high wind and coastal storm surge, particularly in N.J. and N.Y. Damage from wind, rain and heavy snow also extended more broadly to other states (N.C., N.H., Ohio, Pa., Va., W.Va.), as Sandy merged with a developing Nor'easter. Sandy interrupted critical water and electrical services in major population centers and caused 159 deaths (72 direct, 87 indirect). Sandy also shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two consecutive business days, which last happened in 1888 due to a major winter storm.
Drought
2012
$30.0-$30.3 billion123The 2012 drought was the most extensive in the U.S. since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country for a majority of 2012. Costly impacts included widespread harvest failure for corn, sorghum and soybean crops, among others. The associated summer heat wave also caused 123 direct deaths, but the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown.
Hurricane Ike
September 2008
$29.2 billion112Ike made landfall in Texas as a Category 2 hurricane. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record by size, causing a considerable storm surge in coastal TX and significant wind and flooding damage in Ark., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Mich., Mo., Ohio, Pa., Tenn. and Texas. Severe gasoline shortages occurred in the Southeast due to damaged oil platforms, storage tanks, pipelines and refineries.
Hurricane Wilma
October 2005
$19 billion35The Category 3 hurricane hit SW Florida, resulting in strong damaging winds and major flooding across southeastern Florida. Prior to landfall, Wilma as a Category 5 recorded the lowest pressure (882 mb) ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.
Hurricane Rita
September 2005
$19 billion119The Category 3 hurricane hit Texas-Louisiana border coastal region, creating significant storm surge and wind damage along the coast, and some inland flooding in the Fla. panhandle, Ala., Miss., La., Ark., and Texas. Prior to landfall, Rita reached the third lowest pressure (897 mb) ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.
Hurricane Charley
August 2004
$18.5 billion35The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida, resulting in major wind and some storm surge damage in FL, along with some damage in the states of S.C. and N.C..
Hurricane Ivan
September 2004
$17.2 billion57The Category 3 hurricane made landfall on Gulf coast of Ala., with significant wind, storm surge, and flooding damage in coastal Ala. and Fla. panhandle, along with wind/flood damage in the states of Ga., Miss., La., S.C., N.C., Va., W.Va., Md., Tenn., Ky., Ohio, Del., N.J., Pa., and N.Y.
Drought
2011
$12.0-$12.4 billion95In Texas and Oklahoma, a majority of range and pasture lands were classified in "very poor" condition for much of the 2011 growing season.
Hurricane Frances
September 2004
$11.1 billion48The Category 2 hurricane made landfall in east-central Fla., causing significant wind, storm surge, and flooding damage in FL, along with considerable flood damage in the states of Ga., N.C., N.Y. and S.C. due to 5-15 inches of rain.

 

Table 2: Drought Events since 2000

YearCostFatalitiesDescriptionStates Affected
2016$3.5–$3.6 billion0California's 5-year drought persisted while new areas of extreme drought developed in states across the Northeast and Southeast. The drought in California has damaged forests where over 100 million trees have perished creating a public safety hazard. Agricultural impacts were reduced in California but agricultural impacts developed in the Northeast and Southeast due to stressed water supplies.Ala., Calif., Conn., Ga., Mass., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt.
2015$4.5 billion0Drought conditions continued to affect California throughout 2015, heavily impacting the agricultural sector. Drought conditions improved in Texas and Oklahoma due to several major flood events.Ariz., Calif., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Ore., Utah, Wash.
2014$4 billion0Historic drought conditions affected the majority of California for all of 2014, making it the worst drought on record for the state. Surrounding states and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas also experienced continued severe drought conditions. This is a continuation of drought conditions that have persisted for several years.Ariz., Calif., Kan., Nev., N.M, Okla., Ore., Texas.
2013$11 billion53The 2013 drought slowly dissipated from the historic levels of the 2012 drought, as conditions improved across many Midwestern and Plains states. However, moderate to extreme drought did remain or expand into western states. In comparison to 2011 and 2012 drought conditions the US experienced only moderate crop losses across the central agriculture states.Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Kan., Neb., Nev., N.M., Okla., Ore., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wyo.
2012$30.0-$30.3 billion123The 2012 drought was the most extensive drought to affect the U.S. since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country for a majority of 2012. Costly drought impacts occurred across the central agriculture states resulting in widespread harvest failure for corn, sorghum and soybean crops, among others. The associated summer heatwave also caused 123 direct deaths, but an estimate of the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown.Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Ga., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Minn., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.D., Okla., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wyo.
2011$12.0-$12.4 billion95Drought and heat wave conditions created major impacts for affected areas. In Texas and Oklahoma, a majority of range and pastures were classified in "very poor" condition for much of the 2011 crop growing season.Ariz., Kan., La., N.M., Okla., Texas
2009$5.0-$5.4 billion0Drought conditions occurred during much of the year across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains, and southern Texas causing agricultural losses in numerous states. The largest agriculture losses occurred in Texas and California.Ariz., Calif., Kan., N.M., Okla., Texas
2008$2.0-$2.2 billion0Severe drought and heat caused agricultural losses in areas of the South and West. Record low lake levels also occurred in areas of the Southeast.Calif., Ga., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Texas
2007$5.0-$5.6 billion15Severe drought with periods of extreme heat over most of the Southeast and parts of the Great Plains, Ohio Valley, and Great Lakes area reduced crop yields, stream flows and lake levels.Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Miss., Neb., N.Y., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Texas, Va., W.Va., Wis.
2006$6.0-$6.9 billion0Severe drought affected crops in the Great Plains and across portions of the South and far West.Ala., Ark., Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., N.M., N.D., Okla., S.D., Texas, Wyo.
2005$1.0-$1.2 billion0Severe localized drought caused significant crop losses, especially for corn and soybeans.Ark., Ill., Ind., Mo., Ohio, Wis.
2002$10.0-$12.9 billion0Moderate to extreme drought was experienced over large portions of 30 states, including the West, Great Plains, and much of the eastern U.S.Ala., Ariz., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan., La., Maine, Md., Mich., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.J., N.M., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Texas, Utah, Va., Wyo.
2000$4.0-$5.4 billion140Severe drought and persistent heat over south-central and southeastern states caused significant losses to agriculture and related industries.Ala., Ariz., Ark, Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan., La., Miss., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.C., Okla., Ore., S.C., Tenn., Texas, Utah, Wash., Wyo.

 

US companies, communities rely on federal climate science

Businesses rely on government for factual, unbiased information to help them make decisions about where and how to grow.

They need U.S. Census data to see how patterns of population growth could affect the demand for goods and services. They need energy supply and demand data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to understand this critical input to productivity.

And they need climate data to help them identify the risks climate impacts pose to their facilities, operations, and supply and distribution chains.

The National Climate Assessment -- mandated by Congress -- is one of the tools that helps companies understand and prepare for climate risks – risks that more than 90 percent of major companies recognize. The latest version (still in draft form) is the product of researchers at 13 federal agencies and has undergone rigorous, independent peer-review by a 14-member committee at the National Academies.

But the administration is disbanding the federal advisory panel that helps policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the National Climate Assessment into long-term planning. And researchers say they are worried the findings in the final release will be altered or suppressed by administration officials who oppose federal action on climate change.

That would be a mistake.

Government officials concerned about the health and competitiveness of U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy need to know that businesses rely on unbiased federal scientific data for decision making.

Sea-level rise projections let coastal property owners choose the right amount of flood protection for their needs. Accurate counts of frost-free days help farmers understand how growing seasons are changing so they can adjust their practices. City and state governments also need reliable data to ensure infrastructure is built to last and communities are prepared for more extreme heat waves, droughts, and downpours.

It is in the interest of the U.S. economy to see strong support for science continue at the federal level.

The National Climate Assessment is a valuable tool companies and communities use to plan for the impacts of climate change. It is by no means the only government report that gives evidence of the reality of climate change. Countless observations show us that the world of today is unlike the world of our parents. The annual State of the Climate report -- edited by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, peer-reviewed, and published in August in the scientific journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society --  assembles the latest observations, including:

  • 2016 was the hottest year globally on record (surpassing record-setting 2015 and 2014)
  • Global mean sea level in 2016 was the highest since satellites began making measurements
  • Arctic temperatures reached 3.5°C above 1900 levels, a new high.
  • Greenhouse gas concentrations topped 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years

Every credible line of evidence tells us that the Earth’s climate will continue to change in mostly harmful ways. That means governments, communities, and companies need to reduce climate-altering emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change impacts we’re already experiencing and that will grow worse without emissions reduction.

To help planners and risk managers in the public and private sectors make use of existing government climate data, C2ES is hosting a webinar to discuss “Using Climate Data in the Real World.” Government scientists from NOAA and Argonne National Lab will describe the climate datasets available for public use and how climate model outputs can be “downscaled” to provide granular data relevant to resilience planners. Business representatives will share their experience using this data in real world decision-making.

The September 27 webinar is just one component of C2ES’ work to promote information-sharing and collaboration between scientists, businesses, and governments to assess climate vulnerabilities and develop resilience strategies. 

New research highlights flood risks from sea-level rise

Recent scientific studies on the impacts of sea-level rise can help cities and businesses in coastal areas strengthen their climate resilience planning.  

Coastal flooding is expected to be a particularly costly climate impact. As the seas rise, U.S. cities from Miami to Atlantic City, New Jersey, now routinely deal with tidal flooding, also called nuisance flooding or sunny day flooding. But higher sea levels can also magnify flooding from more rare major storms like hurricanes.

Researchers at Princeton and Rutgers recently took into account the fact that coastal cities face this combination of small (high-probability) and large (low-probability) flooding events. They took observations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tide gauges and used statistical techniques to measure the occurrence of historically low- and high-probability events across coastal locations. They then used sea-level rise projections to understand how the frequency of low- and high-probability events would change at each location.

The key insight from this study is that sea-level rise will have a different impact on flooding patterns in different regions of the country. Charleston, South Carolina, will see a larger increase in moderate floods than in severe floods (though both types of floods will increase), while Seattle will see the opposite pattern.

The study also demonstrates that flood frequencies will increase dramatically in many coastal areas by 2050. The blue and green dots in the maps below show the places where flood frequencies will increase by hundreds or even thousands of times from today (Alaska and Hawaii were also modeled in the study, but not shown in this map. The full dataset is here).


Source: Princeton University, 2017.

It’s no wonder, then, that cities and businesses across the country are taking steps to prepare for flooding and other climate change risks. We continue to urge them to work together to find the options that work best for the community overall. 

When it's too hot to fly

We’re used to blizzards disrupting winter travel plans, or hurricanes interrupting summer vacations, but what about travel delays due to excessive heat?

That’s what greeted many air travelers in the Southwest on the first day of summer. An oppressive heat wave across California, Arizona, and Nevada sent temperatures as high as 120 degrees. In Phoenix, American Airlines canceled dozens of flights because higher temperatures mean thinner air, which makes it more difficult for smaller planes to take off.

When scientists talk about trying to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, non-scientists may hear, “It could be 2 degrees hotter.” But that’s not what climate change means. Rising average temperatures go hand in hand with longer, more intense, and more common extreme heat waves.

A recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that global warming has increased the severity and probability of the hottest day or month at more than 80 percent of places on Earth. Globally, 2017 has been the second-warmest year to date on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sees a greater than average chance of above-normal temperatures in most of the country in July.

Heat waves can cost dollars, like the financial impacts of lost work productivity and flight cancellations, not to mention increased cooling costs for homes and businesses.

Climate impacts can also cost lives. Hyperthermia, or prolonged high body temperature, is blamed for the deaths of an elderly man and woman in San Jose, California, which had a week of 103-degree temperatures. In New Mexico, extreme heat is believed to have played a role in the deaths of a father and son who were hiking at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. A 1995 heat wave in Chicago was blamed for hundreds of deaths, and thousands of deaths across Europe were attributed to a 2003 heat wave.

The risks of heat-related deaths don’t apply to everyone equally. The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are more at risk. People with low incomes are less likely to have air-conditioning. People in urban areas with vast stretches of heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt also experience the heat island effect, which can increase evening temperatures as much as 22 degrees Fahrenheit above surrounding areas.

Bob Perciasepe's statement on President Trump’s executive order related to climate change

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

March 27, 2017

On President Trump’s executive order related to climate change:

President Trump’s actions reflect a fundamental misreading of the economic stakes – and economic opportunities – presented by climate change.

America’s communities and businesses are already bearing the rising costs of extreme weather, sea level rise and other climate impacts, all of which will intensify with more global warming. The “social cost of carbon” is a sensible tool to prudently factor those very real economic costs into government decision-making. Ignoring those costs won’t make them go away.

On the other side of the ledger, the clean energy transition already underway is a powerful engine of economic growth Nuclear energy, renewables, natural gas, and carbon capture and storage technology all have a role to play in creating clean energy opportunity and jobs. The U.S. power sector is getting cleaner every year thanks partly to state and federal policies, but largely to market forces that the Clean Power Plan is designed to accelerate. Withdrawing federal leadership will only jeopardize this promising clean energy transition and the jobs that go with it.

C2ES works every day with leading U.S. companies that see unchecked climate change as a growing risk to their businesses, and see smart investments in climate solutions as a way to create jobs and profits and strengthen their competitiveness abroad. But to keep moving in the right direction, these companies need greater certainty. Instead, the administration’s actions promise confusion, litigation and delay.

An “America first” climate policy must recognize the risks and benefits to the entire U.S. economy and harness market forces to deliver cost-effective solutions. Whatever the impact of President Trump’s executive orders, the administration will face a continuing scientific and economic imperative – and a legal obligation – to deliver credible alternatives. As an organization committed to building bridges and consensus, C2ES is prepared to work with the administration on meaningful climate solutions.

--

To reach a C2ES expert, contact Laura Rehrmann at rehrmanl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

It's certain: The Earth is getting warmer, and human activity is largely to blame

The case for climate action is having a hard time in Washington these days. While public officials acknowledge the climate is changing, they’re not necessarily saying why or what should be done about it.

Let’s clear up a few points.

 

1.The Earth is heating up.

Scientists have measured global temperatures for over a hundred years and see that the Earth is getting hotter. The trend can be best visualized by comparing each year’s average temperature with the long-term average. This figure shows observations of the world’s annual average temperature made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It compares each year’s temperature to the average over the entire century. Blue bars are years that were cooler than average and red bars are years that were warmer than average. In recent decades, the years have always been hotter. If there were no long-term temperature trend, you would expect a mix of red and blue bars throughout the record. That’s not what we see.

Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

 

2. Human activity is largely responsible for this warming.

Over geologic time, the Earth’s average temperature has changed as a result of the sun’s output, the tilt and position of the Earth in its orbit, and the concentration of greenhouse gases. Scientists have developed a good understanding of the natural variations in these factors by examining different proxies for ancient temperatures. Observations tell us that these natural factors have not been changing over the last hundred years or so in a way that would explain the observed temperature increases.

In contrast, greenhouse gases have been changing in a way that can explain the observed temperature increases. The pre-eminent record of modern atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations is based at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Researchers there have been sampling pristine air from a mountaintop in Hawaii every month since 1958 and analyzing its composition. Their observations show that both the concentration and isotopic composition of CO2 is changing, and is consistent with manmade sources, including the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Moreover, physics tells us how different climate variables will change the temperature of the atmosphere at different heights. For example, changes in solar output will heat the atmosphere uniformly, while changes due to greenhouse gases will warm the surface but cool the higher part of the atmosphere (the stratosphere).

The National Centers for Environmental Information, run by NOAA, conduct monthly observations of atmospheric temperatures at different levels. Its 39-year record shows that the temperature change is not uniform. This is consistent with the effect of greenhouse gases, and inconsistent with other types of natural effects (e.g., changes in the sun’s output).

 

3. The impacts of climate change are growing, and we need to stop adding to the problem.

The result of this buildup of greenhouse gases is that we’re trapping heat within the climate system. The basic physics behind this has been establish for over 100 years. But climate change isn’t just a matter of the air temperature being a few degrees warmer.

Some observed climate changes are not bad. For example, growing seasons are lengthening in some parts of the country and costs for winter heating go down when temperatures are mild. But the overall impacts are estimated to be negative and costly.

The good news is that we’re making progress, and that we have many of the tools right now to make a difference, including expanding use of renewable power; zero-carbon nuclear power, carbon capture, use and storage; energy efficiency technologies, and electric vehicles. Many businesses, cities, and states are pursuing clean energy and clean transportation to improve public health, save money, and create jobs.

The question is not whether climate change is happening, but what we want to do about it.

C2ES Events at the 6th Annual Climate Leadership Conference

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
0
Mariott Chicago DowntownChicago9 a.m. -- 11 a.m.How Cities Are Driving a New Climate Future11 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m.What Makes Infrastructure Resilient?

Climate Leadership ConferenceThe Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry co-convene the Climate Leadership Conference each year around the prestigious Climate Leadership Awards. The CLC is dedicated to professionals addressing global climate change through policy, innovation, and business solutions.

Climate Leadership Conference
March 1-3, 2017 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago

See Our Speakers
Register Here
 

C2ES will host or co-host the following events at the 2017 Climate Leadership Conference.

March 1, 2017
9 a.m. -- 11 a.m.

How Cities Are Driving a New Climate Future

Hosted by: C2ES and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

This event highlights two important aspects of local climate action: 1) how cities and their leaders are using their platform to facilitate transformative climate solutions, and 2) how cities and private actors are implementing local solutions. Speakers will engage attendees in a discussion about how cities are driving the new climate future through political leadership and action, and present tangible ideas that attendees can take home and put into practice. Who should attend? Local leaders, practitioners and private sector partners.

March 1, 2017
11 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m.

What Makes Infrastructure Resilient?

Hosted by: C2ES

What makes infrastructure resilient? Cities and businesses across the country are taking action to strengthen the resilience of their buildings, transportation systems, energy and water services, and telecommunication systems to climate change. This session will explore issues associated with resilient infrastructure, including challenges and barriers, priorities, innovative solutions, and opportunities for collaboration. Facilitated discussions will allow participants to discuss some of these issues based on their own experiences, and exchange ideas about infrastructure needs and opportunities.

Speakers

Darcy Immerman
Senior Vice President, Resiliency
AECOM
 
Emilie Mazzacurati
Founder & CEO
Four Twenty Seven
 
Michael Mondshine
Vice President
WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff
 
Katy Maher
Resilience Project Coordinator
C2ES
 
Janet Peace, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President, Policy and Business Strategy
C2ES

 

C2ES again ranks among top environmental think tanks

Press Release
January 26, 2017
Contact Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org

C2ES again ranks among top environmental think tanks

WASHINGTON -- The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is honored to be recognized once again as one of the world’s leading environmental think tanks.

C2ES ranked fourth among environment policy think tanks in the University of Pennsylvania’s 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index, based on a worldwide survey of more than 2,500 scholars, academics, public and private donors, policymakers, and journalists.

C2ES was also recently named the top U.S. energy and environment think tank by Prospect magazine for helping lay the groundwork for the Paris Agreement.

“C2ES’s consistently high ranking is a tribute to our unique ability to bring together diverse stakeholders to achieve practical, commonsense solutions,” said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe. “We work with companies, cities, states, and national governments to develop and implement economically sound, innovative policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts.”

“I congratulate and thank our outstanding staffers, supporters, partners, and board members, including Board Chairman Ted Roosevelt IV, who have helped C2ES achieve and maintain our success,” Perciasepe said.

This is the 10th year for the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program to rank the world’s 6,846 leading think tanks. According to the report, the top environmental think tanks “excel in research, analysis and public engagement on a wide range of policy issues with the aim of advancing debate, facilitating cooperation between relevant actors, maintaining public support and funding, and improving the overall quality of life.”

--

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Syndicate content