Friday, November 30, 2012

Cutting-Edge Study Finds Ice Sheet Loss At Both Poles Increasing

Nov 29: As negotiators meet in Doha, Qatar at COP18/CMP8 [See WIMS 11/26/12] to craft an international response to the issue of climate change and a warming planet, an international team of experts supported by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has combined data from multiple satellites and aircraft to produce the most comprehensive and accurate assessment to date of ice sheet losses in Greenland and Antarctica and their contributions to sea level rise.

    In a landmark study published Thursday (November 29, 2012) in the journal Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories report the combined rate of melting for the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica has increased during the last 20 years. Together, these ice sheets are losing more than three times as much ice each year (equivalent to sea level rise of 0.04 inches or 0.95 millimeters) as they were in the 1990s (equivalent to 0.01 inches or 0.27 millimeters). About two-thirds of the loss is coming from Greenland, with the rest from Antarctica.

    According to a release, this rate of ice sheet losses falls within the range reported in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The spread of estimates in the 2007 IPCC report was so broad, however, it was not clear whether Antarctica was growing or shrinking. The new estimates, which are more than twice as accurate because of the inclusion of more satellite data, confirm both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice. Combined, melting of these ice sheets contributed 0.44 inches (11.1 millimeters) to global sea levels since 1992. This accounts for one-fifth of all sea level rise over the 20-year survey period. The remainder is caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, melting of mountain glaciers and small Arctic ice caps, and groundwater mining.

    The study was produced by an international collaboration -- the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) -- that combined observations from 10 satellite missions to develop the first consistent measurement of polar ice sheet changes. The researchers reconciled differences among dozens of earlier ice sheet studies by carefully matching observation periods and survey areas. They also combined measurements collected by different types of satellite sensors, such as ESA's radar missions, NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). 

    Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager in Washington said, "What is unique about this effort is that it brought together the key scientists and all of the different methods to estimate ice loss. It's a major challenge they undertook, involving cutting-edge, difficult research to produce the most rigorous and detailed estimates of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica to date. The results of this study will be invaluable in informing the IPCC as it completes the writing of its Fifth Assessment Report over the next year."

    Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom coordinated the study, along with research scientist Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Shepherd indicated that the venture's success is because of the cooperation of the international scientific community and the precision of various satellite sensors from multiple space agencies. Shepherd said, "Without these efforts, we would not be in a position to tell people with confidence how Earth's ice sheets have changed, and to end the uncertainty that has existed for many years," .

    The study found variations in the pace of ice sheet change in Antarctica and Greenland. Ivins said, "Both ice sheets appear to be losing more ice now than 20 years ago, but the pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s. In contrast, the overall loss of ice in Antarctica has remained fairly constant with the data suggesting a 50-percent increase in Antarctic ice loss during the last decade."
    Access a release from NASA (click here). Access more information from ICESat (click here). Access more information from GRACE (click here). Access the IMBIE website which is under development and should contain more documents soon (click here). [#Climate]
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

EPA On Notice For Suit On GHG Cap-And-Trade Program

Nov 28: The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) at New York University School of Law submitted a notice of intent to file suit against U.S. EPA unless the Agency institutes a cap, or limit, on greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from cars, boats, and planes. IPI indicated that over the past four years, EPA has put several regulations in place to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. But none are as comprehensive and cost-effective as placing a cap on emissions. IPI said, "According to almost all economists, that means companies pay more than necessary to comply."
    Richard Revesz, dean of the New York University School of Law said, "The benefits of protecting the public from the threats of climate change outweigh the costs. A cap is the cheapest, best way to address climate change. Why pay more than we must to make necessary cuts to our emissions?"
    IPI indicates that the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy was widely linked with the increased risks associated with climate change of intense storms and the particular exposure of low lying areas. The storm, which came at the end of a presidential election in which climate change was not emphasized by either major party candidate, highlighted the policy gridlock on the issue.
    Michael Livermore,IPI  Executive Director said, "Climate change must remain on the national agenda. Though legislative action is preferable, if Congress is stalled, EPA has the authority to move forward with a cap, reducing emissions and giving businesses flexibility to comply at the lowest possible price tag."
    The filing of the "intent to sue" follows a formal petition by IPI submitted in July 2009 making the same request. The Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act require EPA to respond to petitions within a reasonable amount of time, and allow public petitioners to sue for unreasonable delay. The filing submission serves as the required notice that, unless EPA give[s] the petition prompt consideration, IPI will file suit in 180 days to compel action on the petition. The petition and the potential suit request that EPA regulate greenhouse gases from cars, boats, and planes under Sections 211 and 231 of the Clean Air Act. These sections give EPA broad authority to use a flexible compliance tool like cap-and-trade to rein in GHG emissions.
    Access a release from IPI (click here). Access the intent to sue notice (click here). Access the original petition (click here). Access links to a detailed legal analysis of the Clean Air Act, and fact sheets on the legal background and using cap-and-trade(click here). [#Climate, #Air]
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Provisional Statement On The State Of Global Climate In 2012

Nov 28: A new United Nations report released today (November 28, 2012) indicates that temperatures this year are the ninth highest on record since 1850 despite the effect of La Niña, a meteorological phenomenon which is supposed to have a cooling influence on the Earth's atmosphere. High temperatures were accompanied by unprecedented melting of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world. The report also reminds that the last eleven years (2001–2011) were among the top warmest years on record.

    The findings are among the highlights of the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) "Provisional Statement on the State of Global Climate in 2012," released at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar (COP18), where thousands of representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society are meeting to advance ways to cut global carbon emissions and pollution. The Statement provides an annual snapshot of weather and climate events around the world. In March, WMO will publish final updates and figures for 2012 in its annual statement on the status of the global climate.

    WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said, "Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale, but they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities. The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth's oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records."

    WMO indicated that notable extreme events were observed worldwide during the period of January–October 2012, including heat waves in North America and Europe, drought in the United States, China, Brazil and parts of Russia and Eastern Europe, floods in the Sahel region, Pakistan and China, and snow and extreme cold in Russia and Eastern Europe. The Atlantic basin also experienced an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year with a total of 19 storms, with 10 reaching hurricane status, the most notable being Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the U.S. east coast. East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons, the biggest one being Sanba, which impacted the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, affecting thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damage.

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a separate release from WMO with additional information (click here). Access the 14-page Provisional Statement (click here). Access the UNFCCC COP18 website for complete information including agenda, documents, statements, and much more (click here). [#Climate]

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Factoring A Thawing Permafrost Into Climate Negotiations

Nov 26: A new report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP18/CMP8 meeting in Doha, Qatar focuses on the issue of a thawing permafrost. Permafrost, covering almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere contains 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon -- twice that currently in the atmosphere, and could significantly amplify global warming should thawing accelerate as expected. The report also indicates that a warming permafrost can also radically change ecosystems and cause costly infrastructural damage due to increasingly unstable ground.

    The report -- Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost -- seeks to highlight the potential hazards of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost, which have not thus far been included in climate-prediction modeling. The science on the potential impacts of warming permafrost has only begun to enter the mainstream in the last few years, and as a truly "emerging issue" could not have been included in climate change modeling to date. The report recommends a special IPCC assessment on permafrost and the creation of national monitoring networks and adaptation plans as key steps to deal with potential impacts of this significant source of emissions, which may become a major factor in global warming.

    UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world. Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long. This report seeks to communicate to climate-treaty negotiators, policy makers and the general public the implications of continuing to ignore the challenges of warming permafrost."

    The report indicates that most of the current permafrost formed during or since the last ice age and extends to depths of more than 700 meters [nearly 2,300 feet] in parts of northern Siberia and Canada. Permafrost consists of an active layer of up to two metres in thickness, which thaws each summer and refreezes each winter, and the permanently frozen soil beneath. Should the active layer increase in thickness due to warming, huge quantities of organic matter stored in the frozen soil would begin to thaw and decay, releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. Once this process begins, it will operate in a feedback loop known as the permafrost carbon feedback, which has the effect of increasing surface temperatures and thus accelerating the further warming of permafrost -- a process that would be irreversible on human timescales.

    Arctic and alpine air temperatures are expected to increase at roughly twice the global rate, and climate projections indicate substantial loss of permafrost by 2100. A global temperature increase of 3°C means a 6°C increase in the Arctic, resulting in an irreversible loss of anywhere between 30 to 85 per cent of near-surface permafrost. Warming permafrost could emit 43 to 135 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2100 and 246 to 415 gigatonnes by 2200. Emissions could start within the next few decades and continue for several centuries.

    Permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total emissions, and the report's lead author warned that this must be factored in to the treaty to address global climate change expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Lead author Kevin Schaefer, from the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center said, "The release of carbon dioxide and methane from warming permafrost is irreversible: once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost. Anthropogenic emissions' targets in the climate change treaty need to account for these emissions or we risk overshooting the 2°C maximum warming target."

    The report indicates that most of the recent climate projections are biased on the low side relative to global temperature because the models do not at this time include the permafrost carbon feedback. Consequently, targets for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions based on these climate projections would be biased high. The report issues the following specific policy recommendations to address the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of permafrost degradation in a warming climate:

  • Commission a Special Report on Permafrost Emissions: The IPCC may consider preparing a special assessment report on how carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost would influence global climate to support climate change policy discussions and treaty negotiations.
  • Create National Permafrost Monitoring Networks: To adequately monitor permafrost, individual countries may consider taking over operation of monitoring sites within their borders, increasing funding, standardizing the measurements and expanding coverage. This applies particularly to countries with the most permafrost: Russia, Canada, China and the United States. The International Permafrost Association should continue to coordinate development and the national networks should remain part of the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost.
  • Plan for Adaptation: Nations with substantial permafrost, such as those mentioned above, may consider evaluating the potential risks, damage and costs of permafrost degradation to critical infrastructure.  Most nations currently do not have such plans, which will help policy makers, national planners and scientists quantify costs and risks associated with permafrost degradation.
    Access a lengthy release from UNEP with more details and links to related information (click here). Access the complete 38-page report (click here). [#Climate]
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Monday, November 26, 2012

2-Week International Climate Change Conference Begins In Doha

Nov 26: The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, COP18/CMP8), in Doha, Qatar began today with calls for governments to focus on essential tasks ahead of them so that the meeting can deliver agreed outcomes and constitute another step forward in the global response to climate change. The newly elected President of COP18/CMP8, H. E. Mr. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Chairman of Qatar's Administrative Control and Transparency Authority, urged the conference to stick to agreed timetables and speedily implement already agreed decisions.
    He said, "Climate change is a common challenge for humanity. We must work in earnest for a better future for present and for future generations. We have a precious opportunity over the coming days, and we must make full use of it. Many delegates have stressed the importance of finalizing work on time, and that requires that we all show flexibility." Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, highlighted an important set of reports published shortly before Doha, which all point to the urgency to act to keep global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of 2 degrees Celsius degrees centigrade, beyond which climate impacts become extremely serious.
  • Analysis published by the World Bank shows the world remains firmly at risk of seeing temperatures rise towards 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, creating devastating effects, if current levels of ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not raised [See WIMS 11/19/12].
  • The World Meteorological Organization says greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have reached yet another record high at 390.9 parts per million, with no identified change in the upwards trend [See WIMS 11/20/12].
  • The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that the gap between what is needed in terms of emission reductions to stay below 2 degrees Celsius and what is so far promised by countries is still widening, not decreasing [See WIMS 11/21/12].
  • [Additionally, and not mentioned by Figueres] PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) released its annual Low Carbon Economy Index indicating that even doubling the current rate of decarbonization, would still lead to emissions consistent with six degrees of warming -- far beyond the 2 degree goal [See WIMS 11/5/12].
    However, she indicated that all reports underline that the technology, the funding and the policy options to remain below the 2 degrees Celsius goal are already available, provided that governments and societies take the necessary action rapidly enough. Figueres said, "Expert analysis consistently says that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay. In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever. But the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution. Governments have said they intend to work hard to advance their decision texts before the high-level segment [i.e. CMP8, which begins December 4], so they can hand over a very limited set of options to ministers and close successfully at the end of next week."
    The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha (26 November to 7 December) is currently being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media. More than 100 Ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which ends with a decision-making plenary on December 7. The opening of the high-level segment will also be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
    As examples of momentum for change which is already building at all levels of society, and to highlight the scope for action, the UNFCCC secretariat will be showcasing so-called "lighthouse activities" in Doha. These are prime examples of public-private climate initiatives in developing countries which have already improved the lives of the urban poor, and which can inspire governments and businesses to do more. Two further pillars of the secretariat's Momentum for Change Initiative will be launched during the conference -- one highlighting the role of women in providing solutions to climate change, and the other drawing attention to innovative approaches to climate finance. 
    The key objectives that governments have set themselves for COP18 in Doha include:
  • To ensure the seamless continuation of the Kyoto Protocol as of 1 January 2013
  • To plan the work under the Durban Platform
  • To complete the Bali Action Plan
  • To complete new infrastructure and chart the way forward on long-term climate finance
  • Adaptation Support of developing country action
  • Actions on forests
  • Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Agriculture Development and transfer of technology
  • Avoiding negative consequences of climate action
    Access a lengthy release from UNFCCC with further details on each of the objectives (click here). Access the UNFCCC COP18 website for complete information including agenda, documents, statements, and much more (click here). Access on-demand webcasts including briefings and statements from individual countries and organizations (click here). Access daily reporting from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State COP18 website (click here). [#Climate]
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Subscribers & Readers Notice

WIMS will not be publishing today as we continue our Thanksgiving Day holiday break. We'll be back on Monday, November 26, 2012.
Waste Information & Management Services, Inc. (WIMS) has been providing environmental information services to environmental professionals since 1980. In addition to covering national and international environmental and energy issues, we have a specialty in Michigan and Great Lakes issues were we provide even more in-depth coverage. We cover the issues that every environmental attorney and manager must be on top of to maintain their leadership position with their clients and customers -- the day-to-day administrative, political and interest groups actions that guide environmental and energy policy and decision making. We also cover the environmental decisions of every U.S. Court of Appeals circuit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Report Highlights Struggle To Meet 2°C Warming Goal

Nov 21: Yet another report -- The Emissions Gap Report -- coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation warns that international action on climate change needs to be scaled-up and accelerated without delay if the world is to have a running chance of keeping a global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) this century. The report, released days before the convening of the Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Doha (COP18, Monday,  November 26 to Friday, December 7, 2012), shows that greenhouse gas emissions levels are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be in 2020. Instead of declining, concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are actually increasing in the atmosphere-up around 20 per cent since 2000.
    On November 18, the World Bank released its report, Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided [See WIMS 11/19/12]; and on November 4, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) released its annual Low Carbon Economy Index [See WIMS 11/5/12]. Both reports indicated that the global community is not on track to keep warming below the 2°C warming target.

    Emission scenarios analyzed in the report and consistent with a "likely" chance of meeting the 2°C target have a peak before 2020, and have emission levels in 2020 of about 44 GtCO2e (range: 41-47 GtCO2e). However, the report, which has involved 55 scientists from more than 20 countries, warns that if no swift action is taken by nations, emissions are likely to be at 58 gigatonnes (Gt) in eight years' time. This will leave a gap that is now bigger than it was in earlier UNEP assessments of 2010 and 2011, and is in part, as a result of projected economic growth in key developing economies and a phenomenon known as "double counting" of emission offsets. Previous assessment reports have underlined that emissions need to be on average at around 44 Gt or less in 2020 to lay the path for the even bigger reductions needed at a cost that is manageable.

    The 2012 Report points out that even if the most ambitious level of pledges and commitments were implemented by all countries -- and under the strictest set of rules -- there will now be a gap of 8 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2020. This is 2 Gt higher than last year's assessment with yet another year passing by. Preliminary economic assessments, highlighted in the new report, estimate that inaction will trigger costs likely to be at least 10 to 15 per cent higher after 2020 if the needed emission reductions are delayed into the following decades.

    Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director said, "There are two realities encapsulated in this report -- that bridging the gap remains do-able with existing technologies and policies; and, that there are many inspiring actions taking place at the national level on energy efficiency in buildings, investing in forests to avoid emissions linked with deforestation and new vehicle emissions standards alongside a remarkable growth in investment in new renewable energies worldwide, which in 2011 totaled close to US$260 billion."

    "Yet the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low carbon, inclusive Green Economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt target is narrowing annually. While governments work to negotiate a new international climate agreement to come into effect in 2020, they urgently need to put their foot firmly on the action pedal by fulfilling financial, technology transfer and other commitments under the UN climate convention treaties. There are also a wide range of complementary voluntary measures that can that can bridge the gap between ambition and reality now rather than later."

    The report estimates that there are potentially large emissions reductions possible-in a mid-range of 17 Gt of CO2 equivalents-from sectors such as buildings, power generation and transport that can more than bridge the gap by 2020. Meanwhile, there are abundant examples of actions at the national level in areas ranging from improved building codes to fuel standards for vehicles which, if scaled up and replicated, can also assist.

    Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, "This report is a reminder that time is running out, but that the technical means and the policy tools to allow the world to stay below a maximum 2 degrees Celsius are still available to governments and societies. Governments meeting in Doha for now need to urgently implement existing decisions which will allow for a swifter transition towards a low-carbon and resilient world. This notably means amending the Kyoto Protocol, developing a clear vision of how greenhouse gases can be curbed globally before and after 2020, and completing the institutions required to help developing countries green their economies and adapt, along with defining how the long-term climate finance that developing countries need can be mobilized. In addition, governments need to urgently identify how ambition can be raised."

    In a separate release on the upcoming Doha COP18 meeting, Figueres said, "Doha is as important as any COP before it. Governments have agreed it is imperative to stay at least below a two degree average global temperature rise to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But they know this cannot be achieved without further dramatic transformation in energy production and use, and without effective support to developing nations so they can build their own sustainable futures. A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible, both in terms of the international policy response and increasing action at national and sub-national policy level and from global business. Doha must make sure the response is accelerated."

     The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a release drawing attention to the "string of recent reports" which they said, "paints a clear picture that the world is not on track to fulfill leaders' stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F)." Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at UCS said, "The alarm bells scientists have been ringing for years are turning into a chorus. World leaders set a goal of avoiding 2 degrees of warming, but the commitments they've made to meet that goal are inadequate. Without much more aggressive action, we will lose the fight to avert the worst consequences of climate change."
    UCS said the latest UNEP Gap Report echoes two others including: the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2012, that concluded, "if action to reduce CO2 emissions is not taken before 2017, all the allowable CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing at that time." The agency found that two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to retain the possibility of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees [See WIMS 11/13/12]; and the World Bank report that said without further action, "the world is likely to warm by more than 3 degrees C [5.4 F] above the preindustrial climate." It further found, "Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20 percent likelihood of exceeding 4 degrees C by 2100. If they are not met, a warming of 4 degrees C could occur as early as the 2060s." [See WIMS 11/19/12].
    In a related matter, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Ed Whitfield (R-KY) requesting a hearing on the World Bank report which they said details the "devastating" impacts of climate change. In the letter, the members write, "This is an alarming and sobering report from an organization not known for its environmental activism. As we develop our energy agenda for the next Congress, members of the Committee should have the opportunity to examine the latest information about climate change and the very serious global consequences of inaction."
    Access a lengthy release from UNEP with links to related information (click here). Access the complete report, executive summary and appendix (click here). Access a release from UNFCCC on the upcoming COP 18 meeting (click here). Access complete information on the COP18 meeting (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). Access a release and the letter from the House Democrats (click here). [#Climate]
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CARB & EDF Say First Cap-And-Trade Auction A Success

Nov 19: A release from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a summary information from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) provide and overview and results from California's first cap-and-trade auction held last Wednesday, November 14 [See WIMS 11/14/12]. EDF indicates that the CARB summary report demonstrates that the auction was transparent and fair, with oversight mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of the auction. The California cap-and-trade program [See WIMS 12/17/10]. California's program will be second in size only to the European Union's Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) based on the amount of emissions covered [See WIMS 10/31/12].
    According to the information, both vintage years 2013 and 2015 carbon allowances were available at auction at a floor price of $10.00 per allowance. One hundred percent of the 23,126,110 vintage 2013 carbon allowances were sold at a settlement price of $10.09 each, while 5,576,000 of the 39,450,000 vintage 2015 carbon allowances were sold at a settlement price of $10.00 each.

    Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President (and former Chief Economist) for EDF said, "This inaugural auction was a successful first step in setting a fair price on carbon. The demand for 2013 allowances was greater than the supply, showing that businesses are ready to be active participants in cleaning up California's air." The auction set into motion a robust carbon market that will aid California in achieving its climate change pollution goals in a cost effective manner. By establishing a price on carbon, the new market gives regulated industries a market incentive to find innovative solutions to reduce their pollution.

    Timothy O'Connor, EDF's Director of California Climate and Energy Initiative said, "The smooth execution of this first auction paves the way for a cleaner California. With cap and trade, Californians don't have to choose between the environment and the economy. It will attract more investments in clean energy, keep California competitive, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."    The next allowance auction is scheduled for February 2013. Quarterly auctions, combined with as needed cost containment reserve sales of allowances, will ensure sufficient opportunity for bidders to obtain the allowances they will need for compliance.
    CARB Chairman Mary Nichols issued a brief statement on the auction saying, "The auction was a success and an important milestone for California as a leader in the global clean tech market. By putting a price on carbon, we can break our unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels and move at full speed toward a clean energy future. That means new jobs, cleaner water and air -- and a working model for other states, and the nation, to use as we gear up to fight climate change and make our economy more competitive and resilient."
    On November 16, the Los Angeles Times published an article indicating that a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of 1,520 registered California voters indicated strong support for the State's ambitious program to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The poll, conducted from Nov. 7 to 12, indicated 63% said the law is needed and 32% said the state can't afford it, while 5% had no opinion. The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and American Viewpoint, a Republican company. The margin of sampling error is 2.9 percentage points.
    On November 13, the California Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate California's "cap and trade" auction arguing that CARB exceeded the authority granted to it under AB 32 in establishing the revenue raising program. The complaint, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, asserts that AB 32 does not authorize CARB to impose fees other than those needed to cover ordinary administrative costs of implementing a state emissions regulatory program. The complaint states, "What was not authorized by AB 32 is the Board's decision to withhold for itself a percentage of the annual statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances and to auction them off to the highest bidders, thus raising from taxpayers up to $70 billion or more of revenue for the state to use."
    According to a release, CalChamber, other members of the business community, members of the Legislature, the Legislative Analyst's Office and CARB have all highlighted the fact that the auction is not needed to achieve the goals of AB 32. The business community has repeatedly underscored the fact that the auction will raise energy costs significantly in the state, harm the economy and impact California's competitiveness, without providing any additional environmental benefits. Allan Zaremberg, President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce said, "AB 32 gives California the opportunity to be the leader in reducing carbon emissions. Unless we adopt the most cost effective way of reducing carbon emissions, other states will not follow us. The current CARB proposal is the most costly way to implement AB 32 and it will hurt consumers, the job climate, and the ability of businesses to expand here."
    In a related matter, the Carbon Price Communiqué was officially presented to policymakers and representatives of key governments at an event on November 19, in Brussels, co-hosted by the European Commission and The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change. The Communiqué, signed by over 80 international companies, calls on policymakers to focus on achieving a clear and effective global carbon price as a way of driving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It cites the progress made in some advanced developing countries and regions that are starting to implement cap and trade programmes alongside other measures and calls for such measures to be expanded.
    Access a release from EDF (click here). Access the statement from CARB (click here). Access complete information on the auction and the summary report from CARB (click here). Access the LA Times article and link to the details of the poll (click here). Access a release from CalChamber and link to the complaint and other legal documents (click here). Access complete information on the Carbon Price Communiqué including signatories (click here). [#Climate, #Air]
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Monday, November 19, 2012

World Headed Toward 4°C Warming & Cataclysmic Changes

Nov 18: A new scientific report released today that was commissioned by the World Bank indicates that, "The world is barreling down a path to heat up by 4 degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change, triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people. All regions of the world would suffer -- some more than others -- but the report finds that the poor will suffer the most.

    A snapshot of the latest climate science prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Climate Analytics, says that the world is on a path to a 4 degree Celsius (4°C) warmer world by end of this century and current greenhouse gas emissions pledges will not reduce this by much. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, "A 4 degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided -- we need to hold warming below 2 degrees. Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest."

    The report says that the 4°C scenarios are potentially devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher under and malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased intensity of tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

    PIK Director, John Schellnhuber said, "The Earth system's responses to climate change appear to be non-linear. If we venture far beyond the 2 degrees guardrail, towards the 4 degrees line, the risk of crossing tipping points rises sharply. The only way to avoid this is to break the business-as-usual pattern of production and consumption."

    The report notes, however, that a 4°C world is not inevitable and that with sustained policy action warming can still be held below 2°C, which is the goal adopted by the international community and one that already brings some serious damages and risks to the environment and human populations. Kim said, "The world must tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively. Greater adaptation and mitigation efforts are essential and solutions exist. We need a global response equal to the scale of the climate problem, a response that puts us on a new path of climate smart development and shared prosperity. But time is very short."

    The World Bank Group's work on inclusive green growth has found that with more efficient and smarter use of energy and natural resources opportunities exist to drastically reduce the climate impact of development without slowing poverty alleviation or economic growth. Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development said, "While every country will take a different pathway to greener growth and balance their own need for energy access with energy sustainability, every country has green growth opportunities to exploit."

    According to the report, those initiatives could include: putting the more than $1 trillion (US) of fossil fuel and other harmful subsidies to better use; introducing natural capital accounting into national accounts; expanding both public and private expenditures on green infrastructure able to withstand extreme weather and urban public transport systems designed to minimize carbon emission and maximize access to jobs and services; supporting carbon pricing and international and national emissions trading schemes; and increasing energy efficiency -- especially in buildings -- and the share of renewable power produced. Kyte said, "This report reinforces the reality that today's climate volatility affects everything we do. We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge." 

    The report, Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided -- summarizes a range of the direct and indirect climatic consequences under the current global path for greenhouse gas emissions. Key findings include:

  • Extreme heat waves, that without global warming would be expected to occur once in several hundred years, will be experienced during almost all summer months in many regions.  The effects would not be evenly distributed.  The largest warming  would be expected to occur over land and range from 4° C to 10° C. Increases of 6° C or more in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States.
  • Sea level-rise by 0.5 to 1 meter by 2100 is likely, with higher levels also possible. Some of the most highly vulnerable cities are located in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
  • The most vulnerable regions are in the tropics, sub-tropics and towards the poles, where multiple impacts are likely to come together.
  • Agriculture, water resources, human health, biodiversity and ecosystem services are likely to be severely impacted.  This could lead to large-scale displacement of populations and consequences for human security and economic and trade systems.
  • Many small islands may not be able to sustain their populations.  

    The report states that the science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes are already being observed. The global mean temperature has continued to increase and is now about 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels. While a global warming of 0.8°C may not seem large, the report notes that many climate change impacts have already started to emerge, and the shift from 0.8°C to 2.0°C warming or beyond will pose much larger challenges. But a global mean temperature increase of 4°C approaches the known historic level of change for the planet, which harks back to the last ice age when much of central Europe and the northern United States were covered with kilometers of ice and global mean temperatures were about 4.5°C  to 7°C lower. And this contemporary human-induced climate change, the report notes, is occurring over a century, not millennia.

    The World Bank is helping 130 countries take action on climate change. Last year, it doubled its financial lending that contributes to adaptation. The Bank-administered US$7.2 billion Climate Investment Funds are now operating in 48 countries, leveraging an additional US$43 billion in clean investment. Increasingly, the Bank is supporting action on the ground to finance the kind of projects that help the poor grow their way out of poverty, increase their resilience to climate change, and achieve emissions reductions.

    Access a release from UNEP (click here). Access a lengthy release from the World Bank with links to related information (click here). Access the complete 106-page report (click here). [#Climate]

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Reactions To BP Criminal Settlement; & New Explosion

Nov 15: A number of Federal legislators and organizations have responded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement of the $4.5 billion criminal settlement agreement with BP on the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico over two years ago [See WIMS 11/15/12]. The following are some of the reactions:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee said, "Eleven Americans died. Then BP lied to the American people. And then they tried to cover it up. BP deserves this record-breaking penalty. The Obama administration and the Department of Justice have held BP to the highest level of accountability that the law allows, including for their lies to Congress. Now it is up to Congress to enact laws that raise both the safety standards for offshore drilling and the liability cap for companies that still spill.
    "Two years after the worst environmental disaster in America's history ended, oil is still being dredged up by storms and recently leaked from wreckage at the bottom of the Gulf. This settlement may have closed a chapter of this disaster with the government, but we still have a responsibility to monitor the lingering effects from the spill and put in place new laws that reduce the likelihood of such a catastrophe occurring ever again."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "I commend the Department of Justice for holding BP criminally accountable for its actions related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster - the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. Eleven lives were lost and untold damage was done to the Gulf Coast region, and then BP lied to the American people and Congress to cover up the enormous amount of oil that was spilling into the ocean. It is entirely fitting that the company will pay a record $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties, and I strongly encourage BP to quickly and responsibly resolve the civil claims that are still pending."
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), President Fred Krupp said, "Today's settlement is the largest penalty ever paid in a criminal case, and we applaud the Department of Justice for pursuing unprecedented fines and for allocating a huge portion of funds to restoration in the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, restoration projects are expected to include large-scale river diversions, which EDF strongly supports. It is deeply gratifying to see the Justice Department stand firmly on the side of the citizens and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to get large-scale restoration projects going along the Gulf Coast and in the Mississippi River Delta."
    "The full magnitude of environmental damages in the Gulf will not be known for years, but we do know that the spill's effects continue to unfold. Therefore, it's essential that BP be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. BP broke two major laws that have two very important purposes, and they should pay for violating both. The Gulf Coast depends on full justice being served. This settlement raises our expectations that the Department of Justice will continue to hold BP fully accountable for its civil violations under both the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act."
Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Attorney Marc Fink said, "These penalties don't close the book on this disaster. We continue our fight for full accountability from BP and environmental justice for the Gulf of Mexico region. As we have said from the very beginning, BP should be fully responsible for the complete restoration of the Gulf, and still must publicly disclose all toxic components that spewed into the Gulf during the spill. The BP spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and yet, deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has largely returned to business as usual. If we didn't learn a lesson from the nation's largest ever environmental disaster, it's hard to know what it will take." CBD notes: "The settlement does not address BP's liability for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, which under the Act could be well over $20 billion. In June 2010, CBD brought a citizen suit against BP seeking the maximum amount of civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and federal right-to-know statutes. A hearing is scheduled before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Dec. 4 in New Orleans."
Oceana, deputy vice president Jacqueline Savitz said, "Oceana is pleased that BP is admitting it played a criminal role in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and that the government is trying to hold BP accountable for its negligence. By rights, this settlement should be just a first step. BP still owes Americans tens of billions of dollars more, possibly as much as $90 billion according to our analysis, including $20 billion under the Clean Water Act, an estimated $30 billion for natural resource damages and additional compensation for economic damages to the fishing and tourism industries. (Other estimates suggest the figure could be twice as large.). . ."
National Wildlife Federation (NWF), president and CEO Larry Schweiger said, "This is a good down payment on the massive restoration needed for the Gulf's ecosystems and the people and communities that depend on them. There's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to penalizing the parties responsible for the Gulf oil disaster through the civil provisions of the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act, but this criminal settlement marks important progress and devotes much-needed resources toward restoration. We look forward to working toward a full settlement that will not only hold BP and all other parties responsible for the devastation of the Gulf oil disaster, but deter future violations by sending a clear message that America holds reckless polluters fully accountable."
Note: As this article was being prepared (11:00 AM ET, November 16) the Coast Guard indicated breaking news that there was an explosion and a fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Reportedly, four persons were air-lifeted to hospitals and early reports indicated two persons may be missing and/or dead.The location was approximately 29 miles off the coast of Louisiana and it was not a deepwell drilling oil rig. More on this as details become available.
    At around 1 PM, Rep. Ed Markey issued a statement on the Gulf platform fire and said, "The Coast Guard and the Department of Interior have informed my committee staff that the fire is out, and they are responding to aid the victims. The fire on the Black Elk Energy rig reportedly occurred when construction crews cut through a line with a torch. The shallow-water platform had shut in all wells before the incident. There are conflicting reports about whether there is pollution in the water, and what exactly the source of the pollution is.

    "This incident raises a number of questions about the nature and adequacy of safety measures on this offshore rig, and I will be asking Black Elk, the Department of Interior and the Coast Guard for full reports on this latest tragedy. This is yet another reminder that our work on oil drilling safety is not complete. The Obama administration has taken important steps to increase safety standards for blowout preventers, well design and construction in offshore drilling. Congress still needs to pass legislation that codifies the actions taken by the Obama administration, increases penalties and liabilities for companies that spill and ensures that the agencies charged with overseeing offshore oil drilling have the resources they need to protect workers and the environment."

    Other reports indicate that there were 22 people on board at the time of the explosion, according to the Coast Guard. Two missing persons are feared dead.Eleven crew members were flown to hospitals, and four of them are listed in critical condition. No one has been confirmed dead.

    Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access the statement from CBD (click here). Access the statement from Oceana (click here). Access the statement from NWF (click here). Access a statement from Rep. Markey on today's explosion (click here). Access a video and report from ABC news (click here). Access an NBC news and video (click here). [#Energy/OilSpill]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Thursday, November 15, 2012

$4.5 Billion Criminal Settlement Agreement With BP Announced

Nov 15: Attorney General Eric Holder at a press conference in New Orleans indicated that, "Today, in U.S. District Court here in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Department filed a 14-count information charging BP with 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began in April 2010. BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges -- admitting responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The company also has agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and penalties."
    He said, "This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution – $4 billion – in the history of the United States." Further he stated, ". . .in addition to the charges filed against BP, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the two highest-ranking BP supervisors who were on board the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the explosion with 23 criminal counts -- including 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The grand jury also charged a former BP executive -- who served as a deputy incident commander and BP's second-highest ranking representative at Unified Command during the spill response -- with hiding information from Congress and allegedly lying to law enforcement officials.

    "These and other matters remain open, including a separate civil action that's pending in federal court here in New Orleans.   We're looking forward to the trial -- which is scheduled to begin in February of next year -- in which we intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill. In that lawsuit, we are seeking civil penalties and a judgment that BP and others are liable for removal costs and natural resource damages -- exposure that could amount to billions of dollars. Though we have been unable to date to resolve the civil case, we remain as determined as ever to hold those responsible accountable. In addition, my colleagues and I are firmly committed to combating oil-spill fraud by investigating and prosecuting those who attempt to reap criminal profits from such a terrible tragedy. . ."

    BP also announced that it had reached agreement with the United States government, subject to court approval, to resolve all Federal criminal charges and all claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the company stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident, oil spill, and response. BP summarized the key items in the agreement as follows:
  • Resolution of all criminal claims with Department of Justice includes $4 billion paid in installments over a period of five years
  • Resolution of all securities claims with Securities and Exchange Commission includes $525 million paid in installments over a period of three years
  • Existing $38.1 billion charge against income to increase by approximately $3.85 billion
  • BP is prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims
    Bob Dudley, BP's Group Chief Executive said, "All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region. From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today's resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."

    In eliminating the possibility of any further Federal criminal charges against the company based on the accident, BP has taken another significant step forward in removing legal uncertainty and can now focus more fully on defending itself against all remaining civil claims. Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP's Chairman said, "We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders. It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims."
    Further information released by BP indicates that as part of the resolution, BP has agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of Misconduct or Neglect of Ships Officers relating to the loss of 11 lives; one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. This resolution is subject to U.S. federal court approval.

    Thirteen of the 14 criminal charges pertain to the accident itself and are based on the negligent misinterpretation of the negative pressure test conducted on board the Deepwater Horizon. BP acknowledged this misinterpretation more than two years ago when it released its internal investigation report. Today's agreement is consistent with BP's position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations. The remaining criminal count pertains to two BP communications made to a member of Congress during the spill response about flow rate estimates. As part of its resolution of criminal claims with the U.S. government, BP will pay $4 billion, including $1.256 billion in criminal fines, in installments over a period of five years. BP has also agreed to a term of five years' probation.

    Under the resolution with the Department of Justice (DOJ), a total of $2.394 billion will be paid to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) over a period of five years. In addition, $350 million will be paid to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) over a period of five years.
    Access a release from the Attorney General (click here). Access a lengthy summary of the agreement released by BP (click here). Access additional information from BP on the agreement and related matters (click here). [#Energy/OilSpill]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

President Says More In Coming Months & Years On Climate Change

Nov 14: President Obama held his first press conference since being re-elected and was asked what he plans to do in his second term regarding climate change. Specifically, the question stated, "In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you're going up to -- to New York City, where you're going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of -- of how a -- a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of attacks on carbon?  The President responded:

"You know. . .we can't attribute any particular weather event to climate change.

"What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing. Faster than was predicted even ten years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting, faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily -- there -- there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

"And I am a firm believer that climate change is real. That it is impacted by human behavior, and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

"Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.

"But we haven't done as much as we need to. So, what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks -- next several months is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then, you know, working through an education process that I think is necessary -- a discussion, a conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

"I don't know what -- what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because, you know, this is one of those issues that's not just a partisan also. I also think there's -- there are regional differences. There's no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. And, you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's gonna go for that. I won't go for that.

"If on the other hand we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.

"So, you know, you can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps moves this -- moves this agenda forward."

    Access the full text of the President's press conference and a video from the (click here). Access the full text of the President's press conference and a video from the White House (click here, posted soon). [#Climate]

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