2011 Articles for Climate Change Chapter 9:
What Are Governments Doing About Climate Change

2011 Dec 14.  U.S. Envoy Relieved by Climate Talks' Outcome.  By John M. Broder, The NY Times Green Blog.  Excerpt: 
…The senior American climate change envoy, Todd D. Stern, is back in Washington from the double-overtime United Nations negotiations in Durban, South Africa, and has declared himself pretty well satisfied with the result, although closing the deal wasn’t easy….
…He said the United States team arrived in Durban with two goals. The first was to deepen the agreements reached at the two previous United Nations climate conferences, in Copenhagen  and Cancún, Mexico…The Americans’ second goal was to find some solution to what could be called the Kyoto conundrum — that is, what sort of treaty or agreement should replace the Kyoto Protocol… Resolving that problem proved to be a huge challenge, and the reason that a conference that was supposed to end Friday evening did not conclude until sunrise on Sunday…. The standoff boiled down to a dispute over what most observers would consider arcane legal language but that meant a lot to the parties involved….
…Of course there is a lot of work ahead. The delegates agreed only to begin negotiations with a deadline of 2015 to produce a new agreement to take effect in 2020. There is no certainty about what will be in such an agreement, and no confidence that the United States Senate will ratify it. But those are problems for another day….

2011 Nov 24.  A How-To Guide to Slashing California's Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050.  By Don Krotz, Berkeley Lab News Center.  Excerpt: What will a day in the life of a Californian be like in 40 years? If the state cuts its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 — a target mandated by a state executive order — a person could wake up in a net-zero energy home, commute to work in a battery-powered car, work in an office with smart windows and solar panels, then return home and plug in her car to a carbon-free grid.
Such is a future envisaged in a study published Nov. 24 by the journal Science that analyzes the infrastructure and technology changes needed to reach California’s aggressive emissions reduction goal….
…“To reach this goal, energy efficiency comes first, followed by decarbonization of electricity generation, followed by the electrification of transportation and other sectors,” says Jim Williams, the paper's lead author….

2011 November 25.  New insight into climate change in the Pacific.  Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Media Release.  Excerpt: New research providing critical information about how climate change is affecting Australia’s Pacific island neighbours and East Timor has been released today by the Australian Government’s Pacific Climate Change Science Program (PCCSP).
The landmark, peer-reviewed publication, Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research, presents the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region….
…The report includes climate projections for Cook Islands, East Timor, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Mr Hennessy also announced that information about the future climate of these countries would be easily accessible via a new interactive online tool called Pacific Climate Futures….
[Read the full report at http://www.cawcr.gov.au/projects/PCCSP/publications.html.  Download the Pacific Climate Futures tool at http://www.pacificclimatefutures.net/]

2011 November 20.  Congress kills request for National Climate Service.  By Brian Vastag, The Washington Post.  Excerpt:  ….The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to reshuffle its offices to establish a National Climate Service akin to the agency’s National Weather Service. It asked for no new funding to do so.
But in a political climate where talk of the earthly kind of climate can be radioactive, the answer in last week’s budget deal was “no.” Congress barred NOAA from launching what the agency bills as a “one-stop shop” for climate information….
…Demand for that data is threatening to overwhelm NOAA’s ability to deliver it… Between 2009 and 2010, the amount of climate data grabbed from NOAA Web sites shot up 86 percent. Climate-related phone calls and e-mails jumped from 26,000 to 30,000.
And with data spread across agency offices and Web sites, people are “often confused where to go for climate information,” said Mary Glackin, the NOAA deputy undersecretary heading up the proposal. The new service would streamline delivery, she said, and make it easier for people to find information, such as seasonal growing outlooks and drought, wildfire and flood forecasts...

2011 Nov 18. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on SREX was approved today by member governments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It provides insights into how disaster risk management and adaptation may assist vulnerable communities to better cope with a changing climate in a world of inequalities.

2011 November 14.  UN chief Ban Ki-Moon makes climate plea at Dhaka summit.  By Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News Asia.  Excerpt:  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged world leaders to establish a climate fund to help those countries worst affected by climate change.
Speaking at a conference in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, he said efforts must be made to create a $100bn (£63bn) Green Climate Fund….
…The event was organised by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which connects countries affected by extreme weather.
Mr Ban said governments meeting in Durban later this month for UN climate talks must make concerted efforts to help countries likely to bear the brunt of climate change….
[Also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/16/ban-ki-moon-climate-fund-durban]

October 28, 2011. NASA RELEASE : 11-361 NASA Launches Multi-Talented Earth-Observing Satellite. Excerpt: ...NPP carries five science instruments, including four new state-of-the-art sensors, which will provide critical data to help scientists understand the dynamics of long-term climate patterns and help meteorologists improve short-term weather forecasts. The mission will extend more than 30 key long-term datasets NASA has been tracking, including measurements of the ozone layer, land cover, and ice cover....

2011 October 13.  NASA RELEASE 11-347: NASA Continues Critical Survey of Antarctica's Changing Ice.  Excerpt:
WASHINGTON -- Scientists with NASA's Operation IceBridge airborne research campaign began the mission's third year of surveys this week over the changing ice of Antarctica….
Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is covered in ice. Scientists are concerned about how quickly key features are thinning, such as Pine Island Glacier, which rests on bedrock below sea level. Better understanding this type of change is crucial to projecting impacts like sea-level rise….
IceBridge science flights put a variety of remote-sensing instruments above Antarctica's land and sea ice, and in some regions, above the ocean floor. The G-V carries one instrument: a laser-ranging topography mapper. The DC-8 carries seven instruments, including a laser altimeter to continue the crucial ice sheet elevation record begun by the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission, which ended in 2009. The flying laboratory also will carry radars that can distinguish how much snow sits on top of sea ice and map the terrain of bedrock below thick ice cover.
While scientists in recent years have produced newer, more detailed data about the ice sheet's surface, the topography of the rocky surface beneath the ice sheet remains unknown in many places. Without knowing the topography of the bedrock, it is impossible to know exactly how much ice sits on top of Antarctica….

2011 Oct 13. Speech by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D; Rhode Island). Summary: There are some laws that Congress can change. The laws of nature aren't among them. While lobbyists continue to call for more and more "second" opinions, Sheldon points out to his colleagues that the scientific community is solidly behind the fact that climate change is a real threat.

2011 October 12.  NASA RELEASE 11-345: NASA Readies New Type of Earth-Observing Satellite for Launch.  Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- NASA is planning an Oct. 27 launch of the first Earth-observing satellite to measure both global climate changes and key weather variables.
The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) is the first mission designed to collect critical data to improve weather forecasts in the short-term and increase our understanding of long-term climate change. NPP continues observations of Earth from space that NASA has pioneered for more than 40 years.
NPP's five science instruments, including four new state-of-the-art sensors, will provide scientists with data to extend more than 30 key long-term datasets. These records, which range from the ozone layer and land cover to atmospheric temperatures and ice cover, are critical for global change science….

2011 October 4.  NASA RELEASE 11-337: Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits Second-Lowest Level. Excerpt: WASHINGTON -- Last month the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the summertime sea ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low….
...The near-record ice-melt followed higher-than-average summer temperatures, but without the unusual weather conditions that contributed to the extreme melt of 2007. "Atmospheric and oceanic conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt still neared 2007 levels," said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. "This probably reflects loss of multiyear ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable."
Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said the continued low minimum sea ice levels fits into the large-scale decline pattern that scientists have watched unfold over the past three decades….

2011 August 17. All Climate is Local: How Mayors Fight Global Warming. By Cynthia Rosenzweig, Scientific American. Excerpt: For years scientists have urged national leaders to tackle climate change, based on the assumption that prevention efforts would require the coordinated actions of entire nations to be effective. But as anyone who has watched the past 15 years of international climate negotiations can attest, most countries are still reluctant to take meaningful steps to lower their production of greenhouse gases, much less address issues such as how to help developing countries protect themselves from the extreme effects of climate change. Frustrated by the ongoing diplomatic stalemate, a number of urban leaders have decided to take matters into their own hands, adopting solutions that already exist or inventing new ones for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the effects of ongoing global warming.

2011 July 13.  Utility Shelves Ambitious Plan to Limit Carbon.  By Matthew L. Wald and John M. Broder, The NY Times. Excerpt:  A major American utility is shelving the nation’s most prominent effort to capture carbon dioxide from an existing coal-burning power plant, dealing a severe blow to efforts to rein in emissions responsible for global warming….
...American Electric Power Company officials, who plan an announcement on Thursday, said they were dropping the larger, $668 million project because they did not believe state regulators would let the company recover its costs by charging customers, thus leaving it no compelling regulatory or business reason to continue the program.
...The abandonment of the A.E.P. plant comes in response to a string of reversals for federal climate change policy. President Obama spent his first year in office pushing a goal of an 80 percent reduction in climate-altering emissions by 2050, a target that could be met only with widespread adoption of carbon-capture and storage at coal plants around the country. The administration’s stimulus package provided billions of dollars to speed development of the technology; the climate change bill passed by the House in 2009 would have provided tens of billions of dollars in additional incentives for what industry calls “clean coal.”
But all such efforts collapsed last year with the Republican takeover of the House and the continuing softness in the economy, which killed any appetite for far-reaching environmental measures….

2011 May 23. A City Prepares for a Warm Long-Term Forecast. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future. Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled…..
…The precise consequences of the increase of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are hard to determine, but scientists are predicting significant sea level rise; more extreme weather events like storms, tornadoes and blizzards; and, of course, much more heat….
...Some of these events will occur in the near-enough term that local governments are under pressure to act. Insurance companies are applying pressure in high-risk areas, essentially saying adapt or pay higher premiums — especially in urban and commercial areas….

2011 May 17. Chris Huhne pledges to halve UK carbon emissions by 2025. By Fiona Harvey and Allegra Stratton, The Guardian. Excerpt: The UK is to put in place the most ambitious targets on greenhouse gases of any developed country, by halving carbon dioxide emissions by 2025, after a tumultuous week of cabinet rifts on the issue….
…The energy and climate secretary, Chris Huhne, announced to parliament that the "carbon budget" – a 50% emissions cut averaged across the years 2023 to 2027, compared with 1990 levels – would be enshrined in law….
…The carbon budget runs from 2023 to 2027, part of efforts to meet legally binding emissions cuts of 80% by 2050, and will put the UK on target for 60% cuts by 2030. There will be a review of the budget in 2014, under a compromise….

2011 April 22. NASA RELEASE 11-121: NASA and Partners Fund New Climate Impact Studies On Species and Ecosystems. Excerpt: …NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Smithsonian Institution will provide $18 million for 15 new research projects during the next four years. Organizations across the United States in academia, government and the private sector will study the response of different species and ecosystems to climate changes and develop tools to better manage wildlife and natural resources….
…"We know very little about how the majority of species and ecosystems will respond to environmental changes related to changing climates," said Woody Turner, manager of NASA's Ecological Forecasting program in Washington. "These projects bring together NASA's global satellite data of the physical environment with ground-based data on specific species and ecosystems and computer modeling to detect and understand biological responses to climate. As a result, we will improve our management and mitigation of the impact of changing climate." ...

2011 March 28. Forest Service adopts climate-change 'scorecard.' By Bob Berwyn, Summit County Citizens Voice. Excerpt: Recognizing that climate change calls for a coordinated response, the U.S. Forest Service is implementing a climate change road map to guide the agency’s efforts in the face of potentially staggering impacts to the landscapes and watersheds it manages across the country….
…The scorecard approach will help field-level rangers plan actions that fit into a broader scope of landscape-level action aimed at addressing climate change, rather than relying on “random acts of conservation,” said regional agency planners familiar with the effort....

2011 January 12. NASA RELEASE: 11-014: NASA Research Finds 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record. Excerpt: Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 
…The record temperature in 2010 is particularly noteworthy, because the last half of the year was marked by a transition to strong La Nina conditions, which bring cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean….