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.
- Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere lead to increased acidity in the oceans, which is damaging to shellfish and other marine life.
- Warmer water temperatures and melting of glaciers (due to warmer air temperatures) increase average sea level across the globe.
- Climate change is affecting the frequency and intensity of heat waves, heavy rainfall events, and several other types of extreme weather and disasters.
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.
The following was published in March 2016 on the EcoWomen blog. View the original post here.
By Manjyot Bhan, Policy Fellow, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.
Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.
Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.
The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.
Under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA sets unique emissions goals for each state and encouraged states to craft their own solutions. It is projected that the rule will reduce power sector carbon emissions at least 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.
Last month’s stay does not challenge “whether” EPA can regulate—the court has already ruled that it can—but rather “how” it can regulate. And the stay is not stopping many states and power companies from continuing to plan for a low-carbon future.
Some of the key ingredients that led to success at COP 21—national leadership and a strong showing by “sub-national actors,” including states, cities and businesses—will also be fundamental to U.S. success in meeting its climate goals.
A recent event in Washington—held by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and New America—outlined the gap between existing policy trajectories and the U.S. goal. A secondary outcome of the meeting also explored how federal, state, and local policies and actions can leverage technology to close the gap.
An analysis by the Rhodium Group found that even without the Clean Power Plan, the recently extended federal tax credits for solar and wind energy will help significantly. Existing federal policies on fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency also support the U.S. goals, as well policies in the works to regulate hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
States and cities made a strong showing of support for the Paris Agreement, and they have emerged as leaders in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy.
Additionally, many states are continuing to work toward implementing aspects of the Clean Power Plan. And even those not doing public planning are discussing ways states and the power sector can collaborate to cut carbon emissions cost-effectively. Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric and alternatively fueled vehicles. The Clean Power Plan stay can be looked at as giving states more time to innovate.
More than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge committing to steps such as cutting emissions, reducing water usage and using more renewable energy across their supply chains. One hundred companies have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, which calls the entire business community to transition to a low-carbon future.
Following the court’s stay, many power companies came out in support of the rule or reaffirmed plans to work toward clean energy and energy-efficiency.
A 2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. While it is hard to accurately quantify the specific contributions of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in reducing emissions, they have the potential to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. meets its climate goals.
The City of Phoenix has developed innovative partnerships with the private sector, investors, and the state across various projects to promote energy efficiency and increase the share of renewable energy. As these projects are expanded or emulated, they may help regulated entities comply with the Clean Power Plan.
President Obama's Climate Action Plan:
By Michael Tubman
Two years after President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, the administration has made marked progress toward achieving its goals. The plan, announced June 25, 2013, outlines 75 goals in three areas: cutting carbon pollution in the United States, preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to address climate change. To date, there has been at least initial government action related to every item in the plan.
July 15, 2008
Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, (703) 516-4146
WASHINGTON, D.C. – When the Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in 1998, climate change was largely viewed as a fringe concern. Today, 10 years later, climate change sits atop the list of global issues facing world leaders, and the November election presents new opportunities for climate leadership in Washington. These developments posit a potential turning point for generating the political will necessary for action both globally and domestically.
"For more than a decade, the Pew Center has served as an honest broker in the complex and often controversial debate over climate change,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). "Their message that we can protect the climate and grow the economy has resonated with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. The years of hard work the Pew Center has put into this issue is a major reason why the tide is turning in Congress, and we will soon pass strong legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and addresses the challenge of climate change.”
In the 10 years since the Pew Center's inception, U.S. states and regions have adopted innovative climate strategies, an ever-increasing segment of the business community is calling for reasonable – but mandatory – climate policy for the U.S, and Congress has taken significant steps toward developing such a plan. And internationally, negotiators have established a solid road map toward a comprehensive post-2012 agreement.
"We have seen an enormous amount of progress on this issue in the last decade,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, on the occasion of the organization's 10-year anniversary. "But obviously, much more needs to be done – and the Pew Center remains as committed as ever to providing the information and answers that will lead to real, wide-ranging action to protect the climate.”
Ten years ago, the Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) was launched with 13 companies dedicated to climate solutions. While climate change was relevant to the business community 10 years ago, the continued growth of the BELC – now 42 members with over $2 trillion in combined revenue and nearly 4 million employees – reflects the critical importance of climate solutions to today's businesses. Demonstrating a continued commitment to engaging the corporate community, the Pew Center today welcomes two new BELC members – BASF Corporation and Deere & Company.
BASF Corporation is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, the world's largest chemical company.
With more than $90 billion in annual sales globally, BASF is actively engaged in climate protection efforts from the development of innovative technologies and materials to a focus on energy-efficient production.
The German-based business invests more than $600 million annually in its energy efficiency, climate protection, and conservation research. Working in a variety of industries, including oil and gas, plastics, and agriculture products, BASF applies advances in modern chemistry to deliver sustainable products that result in greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Deere & Company is the world's leading provider of advanced products and services for agriculture and forestry and a major provider of advanced products and services for construction, lawn and turf care, landscaping and irrigation.
Deere participates in the EPA's Climate Leaders program and is a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). USCAP is a coalition of major corporations and nongovernmental organizations, including the Pew Center, that is calling on Congress to pass climate change legislation at the earliest possible date.
In June, the Illinois-based Deere & Company announced plans to further reduce its total global greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent per dollar of revenue from 2005 to 2014. Deere locations worldwide will implement energy-saving projects to meet the target.
"BASF and John Deere reflect the leadership and innovation required to answer the challenges of climate change,” Claussen said. "These two industry leaders join a dedicated group of businesses that, after 10 years, continue to demonstrate a true commitment to implementing effective solutions for their companies, customers, and the climate. I welcome the involvement of BASF and John Deere as we pursue enactment of a sensible, mandatory national climate policy and a new international agreement.”
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established as a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization. The Center's mission is to provide credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. Highlights of the Center's engagement with decision-makers at the federal, state, and international levels include:
- Testimony before the U.S. House and Senate on topics ranging from international negotiations, cost-effective policy options, and climate change science;
- Meetings with top Executive Branch officials and leaders of both political parties in Congress about key federal climate legislation, such as the Lieberman-Warner and McCain-Lieberman bills and the Biden-Lugar resolution;
- Active involvement with Governors and other top state officials to inform the design of state (e.g., California) and regional (e.g., RGGI) greenhouse gas reduction efforts; and
- Capitol Hill briefings on climate science, policy approaches, and business efforts.
Working on an issue that is often polarized and politicized, the Pew Center has provided a forum for objective research and analysis and for the development of pragmatic policies and solutions. Today, the Pew Center is a leading voice for sensible action to address the most pressing global environmental challenge of the 21st century.
"Dealing successfully with climate change is the greatest challenge of my generation,” said J. Wayne Leonard, Chairman and CEO of Entergy, a BELC member. "The Pew Center's thoughtful analyses of the science and economics of climate change have helped bridge what was once a sharp divide between business and environmental interests. Their work has helped convince many in the business community that the costs of addressing climate change are far outweighed by the costs of doing nothing. It's a credit to Eileen Claussen and the Pew Center that it's no longer unusual to see business leaders and Boards of Directors step forward and support mandatory national climate policy.”
Convening business leaders to shape solutions. In 10 years, the Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) has become the largest U.S.-based association of companies committed to advancing both policy and business solutions to climate change. The Council started with 13 members and now includes 42 mainly Fortune 500 companies with combined revenue of over $2 trillion and nearly 4 million employees. In addition, the Pew Center serves as a founding and active member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an influential business-NGO coalition calling on Congress to establish a mandatory national climate policy.
Producing first-rate information and answers. Highlighting the broad mix of approaches required to tackle the climate challenge, the Pew Center has produced nearly 100 reports by noted climate experts covering a range of critical topics, including Economics, Environmental Impacts, Policies, and Solutions. The Pew Center's "Climate Change 101” series presents a detailed and accessible introduction to critical subjects, while a wide collection of Briefs and White Papers inform more specific audiences. The Pew Center also regularly appears before Congress and meets with other key stakeholders to share innovative ideas for addressing climate change.
Advancing international solutions. Internationally, the Pew Center engages closely with leading governments and experts to advance effective options for a new global climate agreement. In the Center's Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, senior policymakers and stakeholders from 15 countries produced an influential consensus report recommending ways to engage all major economies in the post-2012 effort. The Center regularly attends the U.N. climate negotiations and has partnered internationally with the World Economic Forum, the Asia Society, and other leading organizations.
Building public awareness of the problem – and solutions. In addition to keeping policymakers informed, the Pew Center seeks to educate the public through the media about the many complexities of climate change. Pew Center experts have become go-to sources for mainstream newspapers and magazines, and they frequently appear on national TV and radio programs to explain solutions to climate change that already exist, as well as innovations demanding more advanced technologies.
As U.S. leaders move closer to developing a national climate plan and a new global framework for reducing emissions, the Pew Center will continue providing credible, independent information on domestic and international climate policies and solutions.
"The Pew Center has built its reputation over the past 10 years by providing credible information and reasonable answers,” Claussen said. "And we are committed to continuing in this role as the United States finally gets serious about addressing the most urgent global environmental challenge of our time.”
More information about the Pew Center's ongoing initiatives can be found at www.c2es.org.
The members of the BELC are: ABB; Air Products; Alcoa Inc.; American Electric Power; Bank of America; BASF; Baxter International Inc.; The Boeing Company; BP; California Portland Cement; CH2M HILL; Citi; Cummins Inc.; Deere & Company; Deutsche Telekom; DTE Energy; Duke Energy; DuPont; Entergy; Exelon; GE; Hewlett-Packard Company; Holcim (US) Inc.; IBM; Intel; Interface Inc.; Lockheed Martin; Marsh, Inc.; Novartis; Ontario Power Generation; PG&E Corporation; PNM Resources; Rio Tinto; Rohm and Haas; Royal Dutch/Shell; SC Johnson; Toyota; TransAlta; United Technologies; Weyerhaeuser; Whirlpool Corporation; and Wisconsin Energy Corporation.