California Is About to Do Something Great That No State Has Ever Done Before – —By Tim McDonnell | Thu Sep. 3, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

“If California can do this, it could really be the beginning of the snowball.”

Gabriel Rodríguez/Flickr

Gabriel Rodríguez/Flickr

Back in January, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made a promise. His state, he said, would pursue a new package of climate goals that are the most ambitious in the nation (and among the most ambitious in the world). California was already a leader in efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy. Brown pledged to go further. By 2030, he declared, California would double the energy efficiency of state buildings; get half its electricity from renewables; and halve consumption of gasoline by cars and trucks.

At the time, all those nice-sounding goals were just words in a speech. But they could very soon become the law of the land. The state legislature is currently considering several bills (SB 350 is the most important) that would codify Brown’s climate agenda. The legislation is widely expected to pass before the end of the legislative session next Friday, but not without a fight from the state’s powerful oil lobby.

Before we get into the bills themselves, let’s talk about California. Believe it or not, the state where America fell in love with cars and highways is now leading the nation, and the world, when it comes to climate action. And that matters, because California, the world’s seventh-largest economy, is a world-class emitter of greenhouse gases. It ranks second for state emissions, behind Texas, and if it were its own nation, it would rank 20th globally, right between Italy and Spain. Still, it’s remarkably clean for its size: On a per-capita basis, it ranks 45th among US states and 38th when compared with countries around the world. (Below, the bars represent total emissions and the dots represent per-capita emissions.)

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Obama to mandate steeper emissions cuts from US power plants – August 2, 2015 10:43AM ET Updated August 3, 2015 3:35AM ET

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President Barack Obama will impose even steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants than previously expected, senior administration officials said Sunday, in what the president called the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to fight global warming.

year after proposing unprecedented carbon dioxide limits, Obama was poised to finalize the rule at a White House event on Monday. In a video posted to Facebook, Obama said the limits were backed up by decades of data showing that without tough action, the world will face more extreme weather and escalating health problems like asthma.

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” Obama said. “Not anymore.”

The president called the new rules “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

Opponents vowed to sue immediately, and planned to ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. Many states have threatened not to comply.

In his initial proposal, Obama had mandated a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The final version will require a 32 percent cut instead, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

The final rule also gives states an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, officials said, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. States will also have until 2018 instead of 2017 to submit their plans for how they’ll meet their targets.


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EPA Report Puts a Staggering Price Tag on Climate Inaction – —By Luke Whelan| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 6:59 PM EDT


According to a report released Monday by the Obama administration, doing nothing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions would cost the United States billions of dollars and thousands lives.

The findings come as part of an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to quantify the human and economic benefits of cutting emissions in an effort to reduce global warming. The report is the latest piece of President Obama’s recent climate push and provides a tool that he hopes to use in negotiations at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.

The report, which was peer-reviewed, estimates that if nothing is done to curb global warming, by 2100, the US will see an additional 12,000 annual deaths related to extreme temperatures in the 49 cities analyzed for the report. In addition, the report projects an increase of 57,000 premature deaths related to poor air quality, annually. The economic costs would be enormous, as well. By 2100, climate inaction will result in:

  • $4.2-$7.4 billion in additional road maintenance costs each year.
  • $3.1 billion annually in damages to coastal regions due to sea level rise and storm surges.
  • $6.6-$11 billion annually in agricultural damages.
  • A loss of 230,000-360,000 acres of cold water fish habitat.
  • A loss of 34 percent of the US oyster supply and 29 percent of the clam supply.
  • $110 billion annually in lost labor due to unsuitable working conditions.

The EPA also used a number of charts to illustrate the difference between taking action to stop (or “mitigate”) climate change and continuing with business as usual (which the charts refer to as the “reference” case.)

For example, if we don’t mitigate climate change, temperatures will continue to skyrocket:

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California sets tough new targets to cut emissions – BBC News 29 April 2015

Dead tree near Salton Sea, California
Governor Brown says climate change threatens his state

California has stepped up its attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by setting tough new targets for 2030.

Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order to bring down emissions to 40% below 1990 levels, in the next 15 years.

The US state was already one of the most ambitious in its previous targets and has forced companies to pay for their carbon pollution.

Mr Brown said the new target must be met for the sake of future generations.

He called the plan “the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions”.

There were few details about how he intends to meet this target, but the governor has previously talked about increasing renewable electricity sources, reducing petrol use in vehicles and improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings.

Mr Brown mentioned by name some sectors that will have to reduce emissions – industry, agriculture and energy, plus state and local governments.

“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” he said in a statement.

California is the second-biggest producer of carbon dioxide through fossil fuels among US states.

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Obama’s Piecemeal Climate Policy Is Gradually Paying Off – By Eric Holthaus APRIL 24 2015 4:39 PM

Obama's latest move on climate change involves incentives for the agriculture industry to cut back on methane emissions. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Obama’s latest move on climate change involves incentives for the agriculture industry to cut back on methane emissions.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While Obama’s Earth Day speech in the Everglades turned out to be a big nothingburger—except if you’re the parent of a fourth-grader who’ll now receive a free annual National Park pass—there are renewed signs this week that his nickel-and-dime approach to fighting climate change is finally starting to pay off.

I’ve been critical of the president’s climate policy in the past for lacking ambition. Even the much-celebrated deal with China last year only puts our planned domestic carbon cutting at about the middle of the pack, globally. We need to do much more than that to “lead the world,” as Obama said on Wednesday. The proof is in the numbers: America’s greenhouse gas emissions have now risen two years in a row, while global emissions last year stayed flat.

But the fact that current U.S. climate policies probably don’t yet match with our stated goal of reducing emissions by 26-28 percent in the next 10 years is partially offset by Obama’s growing climate influence abroad. We’re not yet leading the world on fighting climate change, but at least we’re not being as willfully obstinate as we had been during past administrations.

On Wednesday, as the president spoke in the Florida swamp, diplomats were gathering in Bangkok to discuss a possible global deal to phase out hydroflorocarbons (HFCs), one of the fastest growing contributors to climate change. This deal wouldn’t be possible without help from the Obama administration.

HFCs, which are used primarily as refrigerants in air conditioning, were phased in as a replacement for CFCs in the 1980s and 1990s in an attempt to stop the growth of the hole in the ozone layer. Since then, they’ve become a big problem in and of themselves—even though viable alternatives are readily available.

Lima climate talks sputter as deadline looms – December 12, 2014 4:08PM ET

 Old rivalries and debates hamstring attempt at laying groundwork for major Paris talks next year

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“We are almost there,” Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told delegates. “I am sure we will find solutions.” The talks had been due to end on Friday afternoon but were extended to last overnight.

China and the United States announced a bilateral climate change pact last month, raising expectations for the Lima talks, which focused on the scope of pledges that all 190 members states of the U.N. are due to make in 2015 to tackle global warming. Those national pledges, due by an informal deadline of March 31, 2015, will be the basis of a deal to be agreed on in Paris in December 2015 and are meant as a step toward reversing rising world greenhouse gas emissions.

Lack of progress in Lima throws new doubt on what can be accomplished in Paris. In a brief visit to Lima, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged governments to stop bickering over who should do what to rein in the carbon pollution blamed for heating the planet. “Pretty simple, folks: It’s everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share,” Kerry said Thursday.

In surprise move, US, China agree to limit greenhouse gases – By Timothy Cama – 11/11/14 10:59 PM EST

Getty Images

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Wednesday that their countries would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The historic, unexpected deal commits each country to far-reaching goals to cap greenhouse gas emissions believed to cause climate change.

The United States will cut its emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the White House said.

It is the first time the U.S. has agreed to cuts greater than the 17 percent reduction Obama set as a goal in 2009.China agreed that its emissions of Earth-warming gases would peak by 2030 or earlier, according to the White House.

Xi’s end of the deal represents the first time China has made any pledge to stop its rapidly growing greenhouse gas pollution, the highest of any country in the world. China has resisted calls to cut emissions, saying that as a developing country the pollution is necessary to its growth.

In a joint press conference with Xi in Beijing, Obama emphasized the historic nature of the pact and the impact on the world as a whole.

“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” he said.

He called the U.S. commitment “an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal,” that would help public health and the economy while creating jobs and providing many other benefits.

“This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship and it shows what’s possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge,” Obama said.

He was also clear that he and Xi hope to put pressure on other major countries to come forth with deep emissions reduction plans.

“By making this announcement today, together, we hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious,” he said.

The announcement from the White House came as part of Obama’s trip to China, which included agreements over tariffs, military conflict and visas. It was announced late Tuesday in the United States, which was Wednesday in China.

An administration official told the Washington Post that the White House expects the U.S.-China deal to energize the world’s major countries as they prepare to write a binding international agreement to cut climate change in Paris next year.

Both countries face political and economic pressure against the cuts. Any additional government action to cut carbon pollution in the U.S. is likely to face a tough fight in the newly Republican controlled Congress, and China is burning more and more coal each day.

But officials told the Post that they are confident that Obama has the power and ability to implement the necessary cuts to live up to the new agreement.

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UN panel wraps up climate report – By Bernie Becker – 11/01/14 01:36 PM EDT

A United Nations panel has finished off a report that it says proves that humans are contributing to climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrapped up the report after hours of negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Associated Press reported. The report will be released to the public on Sunday.

According to the AP, the report will make the case that the impacts of climate change could become permanent unless greenhouse gas emissions are rolled back around the world. The UN panel also says it’s practically certain that those emissions and deforestation are the major causes of the worldwide increase in temperatures in recent decades.

Among scientists, there is a consensus that human activity is playing a large role in climate change. But a small minority of scientists, and some conservative activists and lawmakers, reject that view.

Senior Republicans like Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) have tried in recent months to brush aside the debate over climate change by noting they’re not scientists.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), applauding the coming climate report, urged the GOP on Saturday to drop that approach.

“Many Republicans now respond to the crisis of climate change by saying they are not scientists and therefore have no opinion,” Sanders said. “Well, most of them are not doctors but they respect doctors’ opinions on cancer and heart disease. Most of them are not generals but they respect the opinions of our military leaders. It’s time for them to respect the views of the scientific community on climate change.”

Stopping Climate Change ‘Almost Impossible’ If China Can’t Quit Coal, Report Says – By Emily Atkin May 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm Updated: May 12, 2014 at 1:32 pm

A woman walks past houses against a coal-fired power plant in Beijing Friday, April 12, 2013. China is the world's largest producer of carbon dioxide.

A woman walks past houses against a coal-fired power plant in Beijing Friday, April 12, 2013. China is the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andy Wong

If China doesn’t begin to limit its coal consumption by 2030, it will be “almost impossible” for the world avoid a situation where global warming stays below 2°C, a new study released Monday found.

The study, led by the U.K.’s Center for Climate Change Economics and Policyand the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, recommends China put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from coal by 2020, and then swiftly reduce its dependency on the fossil fuel. The reductions would not only increase public health and wellness and decrease climate change, but could also “have a major positive effect on the global dynamics of climate cooperation,” the report said.

“The actions China takes in the next decade will be critical for the future of China and the world,” the study said. “Whether China moves onto an innovative, sustainable and low-carbon growth path this decade will more or less determine both China’s longer-term economic prospects in a natural resource-constrained world, … and the world’s prospects of cutting greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to manage the grave risks of climate change.”

The general question surrounding the prevention of climate change is whether the earth can avoid a 2°C situation — that is, whether we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions swiftly enough to keep global average surface temperatures from rising to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. World leaders, including China, agreed to avoid that 2°C situation in 2009 by signing the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, a three-page nonbinding pledge to fight climate change.

In 2011, one-fifth of the world’s total fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions came solely from China’s coal, and coal was responsible for more than 80 percent of the country’s 8 gigatons of fossil fuel emissions that year.

But despite increasing calls for China to reduce its coal-burning — not only because of climate impacts but because of infamous, choking air pollution — it has been unclear whether the country has made enough effort to actually make a dent in its consumption. The country has taken steps to replace thousands of small-scale coal mines with large ones, and its largest cities have pledged to make drastic reductions in emissions.

However, a Chinese government report recently found that only a tiny fraction of Chinese cities fully complied with pollution standards in 2013, while approving the construction of more than 100 million tonnes of new coal production capacity in 2013, according to a Reuters report.

“Coal, in absolute terms, is growing in China,” Fergus Green, one of the authors of the study, told ThinkProgress. “But its share of electricity is declining as other sources of electricity take up additional shares of capacity. So we see absolute growth, but signs of serious moderation.”

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British Columbia Enacted the Most Significant Carbon Tax in the Western Hemisphere. What Happened Next Is It Worked. – —By Chris Mooney | Wed Mar. 26, 2014 3:00 AM PDT


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SUPPOSE THAT YOU LIVE IN VANCOUVER and you drive a car to work. Naturally, you have to get gas regularly. When you stop at the pump, you may see a notice like the one above, explaining that part of the price you’re paying is, in effect, due to the cost of carbon. That’s because in 2008, the government of British Columbia decided to impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, enacting what has been called “the most significant carbon tax in the Western Hemisphere by far.”

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: The BC government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal. That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump—for gasoline, it’s 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon)—or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies. (Canadian dollars are currently worth about 89 American cents).

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”

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