Donald Trump Meets with Al Gore

On December 8, 2016, in Uncategorized, by timprofeta
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Just a few weeks after U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, a critic of climate change science, told New York Times journalists he had an “open mind” on climate change, he and his daughter Ivanka met with former vice president and climate advocate Al Gore.

“I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect,” said Gore of Trump. “It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued.”

Though Trump and Gore’s topic of discussion wasn’t directly referenced in his statement, it is speculated that climate change was on the list. The Washington Post reports that an aide to Gore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the former vice president “made clear in his statements following the election that he intended to do everything he could to work with the president-elect to ensure our nation remains a leader in the effort to address the climate crisis.”

Regarding the meeting with Ivanka, however, Gore was more forthcoming.

“It’s no secret that Ivanka Trump is very committed to having a climate policy that makes sense for our country and for our world,” Gore said. “And that was certainly evident in the conversation that I had with her before the conversation with the President-elect.”

Trump’s EPA: Leader Tapped

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to replace current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. The nomination seems to follow with Trump’s campaign promises to rollback EPA regulations.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” said Trump in a statement. “As my EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, the highly respected Attorney General from the state of Oklahoma, will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

Pruitt, whose biography indicates he is a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” offered that he intends to run the EPA in a way that “fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

Pruitt was one of two rumored candidates for this post who have called for significant rollbacks in regulations. He has sued the EPA over its regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act. In an interview with Reuters in September, Pruitt said that he sees the Clean Power Plan as a form of federal “coercion and commandeering” of energy policy and that his state should have “sovereignty to make decisions for its own markets.”

Warming Could Dramatically Increase Soil Carbon Losses 

A study published last week in the journal Nature documents how carbon loss in soil worsens climate change. The 25-year study finds that as the planet warms, the respiration of microorganisms in soils increases, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The scientists’ compilation of 49 empirical studies of soil carbon emissions from plots around the world revealed that climate change will lead to the loss of at least 55 trillion kilograms of carbon from the soil by mid-century.

“It’s of the same order of magnitude as having an extra U.S. on the planet,” said Thomas Crowther, a co-author with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

The study found that carbon losses will be greatest in colder places at high latitudes and altitudes—places that have massive carbon stocks but that have largely been missing from previous research.

The researchers note that their global mid-century total for soil carbon emissions is a gross figure, not the net after uptake by above-ground plants.

Correction: In last week’s story about an Arctic Council report on climate and other changes in the Arctic, we should have said that temperatures in the region had reached 9–12 degrees Celsius (16–22 degrees Fahrenheit) above seasonal averages.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Businessman Donald Trump became the next U.S. president-elect early Wednesday after beating his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump’s win could have great implications for the environment, as he’s promised a shift from the Obama administration’s energy and climate policies.

What could his presidency mean for energy policy?  It may take some time to evaluate what part of President Trump’s statements remain in the realm of the campaign, and what provides the guiding points for how he will govern.

One thing seems clear—Trump has voiced plans to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Based on Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Power Plan was first proposed in June 2014 to put limits on greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants and was finalized in August 2015. In setting those limits, the rule considers states’ ability to shift power generation to cleaner sources.

Currently, the Clean Power Plan is being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit as a result of a suit brought by 27 states and some corporate interests over whether the EPA properly exercised its authority under the Clean Air Act. The case is expected to go to the Supreme Court next year—where the next president’s pick for a vacant court seat could determine the rule’s fate.

Other commentators have noted that Trump could decide to stop defending the Clean Power Plan in court, take steps to rescind the rule, or seek Congressional support for blocking it.

But the Clean Power Plan is not the only environmental measure facing uncertainty. Trump has voiced his intention to repeal federal spending on renewable energy in favor of a more “fossil fuel-centric” energy policy. Nevertheless, Forbes reports, utility-scale solar and wind, which have grown consistently due to lower costs, will continue to thrive under Trump.

More dramatically, Trump’s campaign statements even called into question if and how much of the EPA remains. In previous speeches, like one delivered at a March GOP debate, Trump proposed dismantling the EPA and naming climate change skeptic, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to head the EPA transition team.

I’d “get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form,” Trump said. “We are going to have little tidbits left but we are going to take a tremendous amount out.”

His presidency could also have implications for the Paris Agreement, which aims to hold the global average temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But Trump has vowed to withdraw from the agreement, which officially came into force Nov. 4 and which global leaders are discussing this week in Marrakech, Morocco. Pulling out of the climate agreement would not require senate approval and could be done in a variety of ways. The effect could be substantial, according to analysis by Climate Interactive, because a large chunk—20 percent—of emissions cuts produced under the agreement come from the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter.

“If the U.S. pulls out of this, and is seen as going as a rogue nation on climate change, that will have implications for everything else on President Trump’s agenda when he wants to deal with foreign leaders,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists at the U.N.’s annual gathering in Marrakech.

Nations Grapple with Implementation of Paris Agreement; UN Says World Off Path to Meet Its Goal

A day before election results were finalized, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that 2011–2015 was the hottest five-year period on record, evidencing an “increasingly visible human footprint.” The likelihood of many extreme events during the period was increased, according to the WMO, as a result of man-made climate change. The probability of some extreme high temperatures rose by a factor of 10 or more. The authors also said that 2016 will probably break the record for warmest year.

The report was released in Marrakech, Morocco, where nearly 200 nations are meeting at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22), the annual United Nations (U.N.) climate conference, to begin hammering out details regarding how they are going to live up to their pledges to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Paris Agreement. Delegates’ goal: to come up with a work plan for the next two years, at the end of which they’ll assess progress on implementing the agreement’s measures.

COP22 comes on the heels of the unexpectedly quick entry into force of the agreement—and none too soon finds another report from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) that suggests the pledges underpinning the agreement will put the world on course for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius this century.

A scientific assessment of how countries’ actions and pledges tally with emissions trajectories consistent with the long-term goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the report suggests that 2030 emissions will be 12 to 14 gigatons above levels needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and 15 to 17 gigatons above levels needed to limit it to 1.5 degrees—even with follow through on Paris pledges.

“We are moving in the right direction: the Paris Agreement will slow climate change, as will the recent Kigali Amendment to reduce HFCs,” said UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim. “They both show strong commitment, but it’s still not good enough if we are to stand a chance of avoiding serious climate change. If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakesh, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy. The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver. The science shows that we need to move much faster.”

The report points to energy efficiency and action by non-state actors—the private sector, cities, regions, and other sub-nationals—as ripe for reducing the emissions gap.

EPA Finalizes Voluntary Carbon Trading Model for Clean Power Plan Compliance

Last week, the EPA forwarded a voluntary carbon trading model for Clean Power Plan compliance to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The model rules would allow states to comply with the federal carbon regulations for reducing emissions from power plants by participating in an optional emissions trading program. It would also earn states additional credit for early investments in alternative energy through a finalized Clean Energy Incentive Program.

A lot of states and electric utilities are interested in carbon trading, E&E News reported, because modeling suggests it is likely the simplest and least expensive way to meet Clean Power Plan goals (subscription).

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Whenever prices at the gas pump soar, President Obama’s popularity takes a hit, he suggested at a private fundraising event—and which is backed up by a recent poll. House Speaker John Boehner argued high gas prices could even cost Obama the 2012 election.

Obama argued the long term solution is clean energy, but to try to help in the shorter term, though, the administration launched two new efforts. The Justice Department will conduct a probe into speculation in oil trading, to see if it is inflating oil prices, as Obama has claimed before. Also, a new federal program will aid homeowners in getting loans to pay for improvements that boost energy efficiency. “We’re making it easier for American homeowners to save money by saving energy,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

A “Crazy and Unsustainable” Policy

With the 2012 Presidential elections approaching, some Republican hopefuls have lit into Obama’s approach to energy. To help with high oil prices, last week Donald Trump supports Libyan intervention if the U.S. can take their oil. This week, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty called for opening drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as more offshore wells, while saying  Obama “sat on his hands” regarding drilling in America.

Despite calls to boost domestic fossil fuel production, “it is simply crazy and unsustainable to continue to subsidize the oil-and-gas companies when we need to reduce our deficit and invest elsewhere,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Several major oil-and-gas companies should report significant profit, according to the Associated Press.

Since the 2009 G20 meeting, Obama has been pushing for an end to fossil fuel subsidies around the world. Obama may be gaining traction on this issue, with Speaker Boehner saying oil companies “ought to be paying their fair share” of taxes.

Who Resurrected the Electric Car?

Electric cars have been resurrected, with the maker of the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” to film a follow-up, “Revenge of the Electric Car.”

While electric cars are still a minuscule slice of the auto market, the market continues to shift in larger ways, according to a new report. As the economy has recovered somewhat from the Great Recession, sales of most kinds of cars have risen. But sales of small cars, hybrids, and diesels (which are often fuel efficient) are growing much faster than car sales as a whole. Compared to the first quarter last year, this year sales jumped roughly 25 to 45 percent for various classes of more efficient cars, but rose only 7 percent for SUVs.

Western Water Woes to Deepen

Water supplies in the Western U.S. will only get tighter as climate change worsens, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which billed it as “the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major … river basins,” including the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin. Flows in these three basins, the government report said, are likely to decline by 8 to 14 percent by 2050—a time frame in which future warming is largely already set by past emissions. In California, however, there’s large uncertainty about the impacts, making planning all the more difficult.

When it comes to moisture-loving fungi, climate change is already changing landscapes. Truffle-hunting dogs have turned up troves of the valuable fungi in Germany, where they were never known to exist before, a new study reports. Although the study was on expensive edible fungi, the findings could have much wider implications. “Without fungi, plants don’t work,” the study leader, a fungal ecologist, told Wired Science. “We know climates are changing and that fungal habitats are shifting. What we’re not certain about are the effects.”

Nuclear Power Protests Mark Chernobyl Anniversary

With progress slow on controlling Japan’s damaged nuclear power plants, farmers from the area protested against nuclear power, and thousands protested in France and Germany against nukes in their countries.

Meanwhile, NRG Energy announced it is pulling the plug on a nuclear power plant it was building in Texas.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

A “blockbuster” court case that’s been wending its way through the courts for seven years finally reached the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court this week, who heard initial arguments that greenhouse gas emissions should be regulated because they’re a “public nuisance.”

In their questions, the justices were generally wary of getting courts involved in regulating greenhouse gases. “Asking a court to set standards for emissions sounds like the kind of thing that EPA does,” said one justice, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA is currently authorized to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, and they have set out a timeline for slowly phasing in regulations—but their ability to do so may still be undercut by Congress, although several attempts to do so have failed so far.

New data show the global recession accomplished what other measures struggled to do: it made greenhouse gas emissions plummet. In 2009, greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and the European Union both fell drastically—between 6 and 7 percent compared with the year before—according to new data from their respective environmental protection agencies.

Efforts to boost clean energy and energy efficiency are moving ahead—despite encountering opposition from sometimes unexpected corners. The U.S. government finally approved building the first U.S. offshore wind farm in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which had long faced opposition from the Kennedy clan.

Gulf Still Faces Oil Threat on Anniversary of Spill

Activists anxious to cut emissions faster broke into the grounds of a coal-fired power plant near Chicago and unfurled a banner calling for the plant’s closure, before being arrested. The protest against all fossil fuel use was part of a Day Against Extraction, pegged to highlight the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Wednesday. Treehugger marked the date with a roundup of some of the past year’s best reporting on the spill. In a bit of unfortunate timing, the day was also marked by a spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid at a Pennsylvania natural gas well.

Although the Deepwater Horizon well has been plugged, the Gulf still faces a big risk from oil leaks, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Based on federal documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, the AP reports there are 3,200 abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells in the Gulf classified as active.

Are Smart Meters Vulnerable to Cyber Attack?

Now another battle is heating up, over smart meters, which provide power companies real-time information on their customers’ power consumption, and which could save energy and distribute electricity use more evenly throughout the day.

Residents of northern California, where the utility Pacific Gas & Electric has installed smart meters, were among the first to blame the meters for a variety of maladies. Rollouts of smart meters in Maine, British Columbia, and elsewhere are likewise encountering health scares. But the meters use signals like those from cordless phones, posing no special risk, according to a recent report by the California Council on Science and Technology.

In the U.K., where installation of smart meters is also under way, the security of the data seems to be a bigger concern, as research has shown the meters are vulnerable to attack by computer viruses or could be hacked.

The Donald Wants to Seize Middle East Oil

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who said he’s considering running for president in 2012, blamed Obama for the high price of oil in the world. Trump proposed several remedies, including demanding the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sell their oil for cheaper, as well as invading Libya to “take their oil,” and seizing Iraqi oil as reimbursement for the cost of war there.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund warned the world is facing increased oil scarcity, while the International Energy Agency echoed similar warnings of another recession triggered by high oil prices. It also urged Saudi Arabia to boost its oil production, since it’s the only country that claims to have substantial spare oil production capacity.

However, Saudi Arabia argued there’s actually an oversupply of oil, and that’s why it cut its production in April by about 800,000 barrels per day—a 9 percent drop—compared to the month before. The Financial Times questioned Saudi claims that the market is oversupplied, pointing out that the country’s oil minister said the same in November, and yet since then prices have risen from $86 to $121 a barrel.

President Obama disagreed, blaming speculators for high oil prices.

War for Oil After All?

Trump isn’t alone in talking about invasions providing better access to oil supplies, according to secret memos obtained by U.K. newspaper The Independent.

Politicians have roundly rebutted any link between oil and the war, with former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair saying in 2003, “the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it.” However, the memos reveal a different story. Months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.K. Foreign Office wrote in one memo: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there…”

“It has never seemed likely that the US and Britain invaded Iraq primarily for its oil,” wrote political reporter and Iraq expert Patrick Cockburn in The Independent. “But would they have gone to war if Iraq had been producing cabbages? Probably not.”

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

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