August 26, 2016
Following more than a year of legislative toing and froing, California’s leaders agreed this week on how ambitious the state will be in the fight against climate change after 2020.
Short answer: very.
A progressive culture and Silicon Valley-style innovation a decade ago thrust California toward the head of the worldwide pack when it comes to shifting away from polluting fossil fuels in favor of cleaner alternatives.
This week, the state Assembly and Senate ensured the state’s leadership will be strengthened when lawmakers approved two key bills.
The legislation will require Californian agencies take steps needed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 40 percent in 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Gov. Jerry Brown plans to sign it.
The state’s new climate goals are far more ambitious than those of the U.S. overall, and they’re in line with ambitions in Europe, which is a world leader on climate action.
Both the European Union and California are shooting for 40 percent pollution reductions in 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The Europeans got off to an earlier start, setting a more ambitious target for 2020 than California. That means California will have to work harder to reach its goals for 2030.
“This is exactly the right goal for California,” said Chris Busch, director of research at Energy Innovation, a policy think tank in California. “It’s strong but undeniably achievable and beneficial.”
Just as California is the star of climate action in the U.S., the European Union has its own big shot — Germany. Germany aims to reduce its climate impacts by 40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, which is something California and the EU aim to achieve a decade later.
Still, per person, Californians and Germans continue to be heavier polluters than most Europeans, releasing the equivalent of about 12 tons each of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in 2013. That’s a third more than the European Union average.
For comparison, the average Indian releases less than 2 tons a year, a figure that is rising as the country’s economy grows.
California runs a number of programs that help it reduce its climate pollution, including financial support for electric vehicle purchases, mandates on biofuels and requirements that utilities source a substantial amount of their power from renewable sources.
The new legislation requires the California Air Resources Board to strengthen these programs, or roll out new ones, to ensure that the new targets are met.
California also was among the first in the world to set up a cap-and-trade program, which imposes a limit on the amount of pollution that industry can release each year. By selling tradeable allowances needed to pollute, the state raises money that reduces electricity bills and that funds programs that can reduce climate pollution.
The cap-and-trade program is withering like a Californian tomato left out in the sun.
One problem is that California’s notoriously dysfunctional legislature can’t agree on how to spend more than $1 billion in cap-and-trade funds, meaning the money is just sitting around instead of being put to work.
“It’s not like a savings account that we put in the bank and wait for retirement,” a frustrated Sen. Fran Pavley recently opined to the L.A. Times.
The final legislative sessions for the year are planned for next week, ahead of elections scheduled for November. Many hope the spending will be approved before the break.
“We still have a few more days,” the Environmental Defense Fund’s Erica Morehouse optimistically pointed out
Not even close.
A bigger problem is that the cap-and-trade program expires at the end of 2020. Legal experts have concluded that a two-thirds vote from the Assembly and Senate may be needed to extend the program after 2020.
That could see the program destroyed just when it’s needed the most — to help achieve increasingly ambitious climate goals.
“The important thing to recognize about the post-2020 market in California is that the level of effort fundamentally changes,” Stanford expert Michael Wara said.
The unlikelihood of supermajority lawmaker support for cap-and-trade may help to explain why just a small portion of pollution allowances were sold during California’s last two quarterly auctions, reducing anticipated funds flowing into California by nearly $1 billion.
California officials have been reluctant to even admit that the legal conundrum exists, perhaps wary of weakening their position in a future court battle. This week, though, senior Brown advisor Nancy McFadden suggested a ballot measure might help circumvent the need for supermajority lawmaker support.
When a reporter asked Brown about the future of cap-and-trade on Wednesday, he said he expects California’s business community will eventually demand that lawmakers support it, because it would provide an efficient way of helping to comply with the new law.
“I think a lot of it’s going to be driven by the business interests themselves,” Brown said. “They’re going to plead for a market system called cap-and-trade.”
Independent experts also point out the program could probably continue operating after 2020 under current law, but only if it hands out the pollution allowances for free. Such an idea is likely be opposed as a handout by Californian lawmakers.
A study finds for the first time that as levels of aridity increase due to climate change, abrupt changes are experienced on dryland ecosystems.
Mediterranean-type climates face immediate drops in rainfall when greenhouse gases rise, but this could be interrupted quickly if emissions are cut.
Scientists found that while all regions of the country can expect an earlier start to the growing season as temperatures rise, the trend is likely to become more variable year-over-year in hotter regions.
Insect declines and extinctions are accelerating in many parts of the world. With this comes the disappearance of irreplaceable services to humans, the consequences of which are unpredictable. A group of scientists from across the globe has united to warn humanity of such dangers.
A team of marine biology and environmental genomics researchers have demonstrated that epigenetic modifications in reef-building corals can be transmitted from parents to their offspring.
Institutional investors are factoring climate risks into their investment decisions.
A new study offers the most complete picture available of where life occurs on Earth and what the most critical environmental factors are for determining why it's in specific places. The study's authors envision it providing a way to adapt management practices as climate change disrupts ecosystems across the planet. ...
Climate scientists propose that massive amounts of melting sea ice in the Arctic drained into the North Atlantic and disrupted climate-steering currents, thus playing an important role in causing past abrupt climate change after the last Ice Age, from about 8,000 to 13,000 years ago.
In a new study, scientists with NASA's Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) used planes equipped with the Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer -- Next Generation (AVIRIS -- NG), a highly specialized instrument, to fly over some 20,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the Arctic landscape in the hope of ...
Climate change, with more and more storms and heat waves, also has consequences for our energy supply. An international research team has now developed a new method for calculating how extreme weather affects energy systems.
At least 26 per cent of our oceans need urgent conservation attention to preserve Earth's marine biodiversity, a new study has found. Experts have said the international community needed to rapidly increase marine conservation efforts to maintain the health of the world's oceans.
Explore our new wind and solar forecasting tool. How much electricity did solar and wind installations generate in your area in the past 24 hours? How much power will they produce today and tomorrow? The vast majority of Americans support expanding the production of solar and wind energy. But the average person ...
With less than two weeks before PennEast’s requested in-service date, the pipeline company requested a two-year extension. New Jersey Conservation Foundation, The Watershed Institute, and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to oppose PennEast’s baseless request for an extension of time. On ...
Plants that break some of the 'rules' of ecology by adapting in unconventional ways may have a higher chance of surviving climate change, according to researchers.
A statement from Tom Gilbert, campaign director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ March 25, 2019 — “Today, the Senate cast a welcome bipartisan vote for a healthier, safer, cleaner New Jersey. “These amendments will ensure that the state takes the steps necessary to reduce emissions as ...
PennEast has been dealt a serious setback in its attempt to build an unsafe and unneeded pipeline through Mercer and Hunterdon Counties. Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower federal court decision that had allowed PennEast to seize state lands. The Third Circuit ruled that PennEast, as ...
Researchers examined the rainfall history of Central America over the last 11,000 years. The results provide context for the development of tropical rainforest ecosystems in the region, and long-sought answers to what has been controlling rainfall in Central America for several millennia.
Researchers studied recent extinctions from climate change to estimate the loss of plant and animal species by 2070. Their results suggest that as many as one in three species could face extinction unless warming is reduced.
Researchers measured methane levels in ancient air samples and found that scientists have been vastly underestimating the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere via fossil fuels. The researchers indicate that reducing fossil fuel use is a key target in curbing climate change.
Statement of Tom Gilbert, Campaign Director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation & ReThink Energy NJ The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) yesterday told PennEast that it hadn’t met the minimum legal requirements for the agency to be able to begin application review. “It is not surprising that NJDEP ...
Study of an 'extremophile' found in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park can be used to help researchers understand climate change.
An analysis of the so called climate spectrum shows why the ice ages have not behaved precisely as the models predict. A large element of coincidence is involved when an ice age begins or ends, the analysis shows. The results imply we should maybe use a more conservative risk assessment ...
The Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans, is particularly vulnerable to storm surge. As the climate warms, the region will be even more susceptible to extreme storm surges, according to new research.
Employing a game theory model, researchers demonstrate how strategic decisions influence the environment in which those decisions are made, alterations which in turn influence strategy. Their analysis, which identifies how incentives can tip a strategy from one extreme to another, applies to fields as diverse as fisheries dynamics to climate ...
A secret to survival amid rising global temperatures could be dwelling in the tidepools of the US West Coast. Biologists studying the genome of an unusual fish residing in those waters offer new possibilities for humans to obtain dietary protein as climate change imperils traditional sources.
One of the ocean's loudest creatures is smaller than you'd expect -- and will get even louder and more troublesome to humans and sea life as the ocean warms, according to new research.
About 55 million years ago, a rapidly warming climate decimated marine communities around the world. But according to new research, it was a different story for snails, clams and other mollusks living in the shallow waters along what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States. They were able ...
When it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change, scientists and policymakers are thinking too small, according to a new research review.
U.S. and Australian researchers have found a potential tool for identifying stress-tolerant 'super corals.' In experiments that simulated climate change stress, researchers found corals that best survived had symbiotic algae communities with similar features.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied PennEast pipeline’s request for a rehearing on its ruling that PennEast lacks legal authority to seize or condemn state-owned lands for its proposed pipeline. The Third Circuit decision means PennEast no longer has authority to condemn more than 40 properties preserved by the ...
Click for Larger View of Animation Climate Central examined flood risks facing NASA's active space launch complexes at the John F. Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Using our proprietary Portfolio Analysis Tool (PAT). We found that the launch pads most vulnerable to ...
A major new report highlights new and emerging policy trends in the Arctic, a region on the front lines of climate change, geopolitics, and global governance.
Researchers have decoded the genetic map for how maize from tropical environments can be adapted to the temperate US summer growing season. They believe that if they can expand the genetic base by using exotic varieties, they might be able to counter stresses such as emerging diseases and drought associated ...
Future farming in regions that were previously unsuitable for agriculture could significantly impact biodiversity, water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
A statement from Tom Gilbert, campaign director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ On Thursday, May 23, New Jersey legislature passed a bipartisan bill that requires the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to set benchmarks for reducing emissions and adopt measures to ensure we meet them. May ...
By Ayurella Horn-Muller, Climate Central This story was produced through a partnership between Climate Central, a non-advocacy science and news group, and WVLT, a CBS-affiliated television station in Knoxville. WVLT meteorologist Ben Cathey contributed local reporting. Click here for the Climate Central report, “POLLEN PROBLEMS: Climate Change, the Growing Season, ...
As the effects of climate change become more evident, more than half of US adults (56%) say climate change is the most important issue facing society today, yet 4 in 10 have not made any changes in their behavior to reduce their contribution to climate change, according to a new ...
A new study suggests that iron fertilization may not have a significant impact on phytoplankton growth, at least on a global scale.
Research has revealed the effect of climate warming on the complex interactions between tree masting and the insects that eat their seeds.
Aerosol emissions from burning coal and wood are dangerous to human health, but it turns out that by cooling the Earth they also diminish global economic inequality, according to a new study.
The United States could generate 20% of its electricity from wind within 10 years, without requiring any additional land, according to new research.
This new work sheds fresh light on the complicated interplay of factors affecting global climate and the carbon cycle -- and on what transpired millions of years ago to spark two of the most devastating extinction events in Earth's history.
In several new studies, researchers explore the importance of learning and knowledge in environmental decision-making and the different ways in which scientific knowledge can become more relevant and useful for societies.
How can fossils predict the consequences of climate change? A research team compared data from fossil and marine organisms living today to predict which groups of animals are most at risk from climate change.
New work shows how using next-generation DNA sequencing on ancient packrat middens -- nests made out of plant material, fragments of insects, bones, fecal matter, and urine -- could provide ecological snapshots of Earth's past. The study may pave the way for scientists to better understand how plant communities -- ...
Land trusts are engaging in strategic conservation planning to build resilience and minimize vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change in different ways. Learn more.