State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup – Week of 2/1

Obama Seeks to Boost Nuclear Power in New Budget, Yahoo News

A White House Official states Friday that President Obama plans to triple government loan guarantees for nuclear power development to over $54 billion. This increase follows President Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday night, which urged legislators to reach a bi-partisan consensus on a climate bill. Nuclear power often has the support of both conservative and liberal lawmakers. Many climate-conscious politicians see nuclear power as a necessary “bridge” technology to a carbon stabilized future. The US currently relies on nuclear power for 20% of its energy needs. However, since nearly all plants were constructed in the 70’s and 80’s, many are nearing the end of their life-cycles. The industry will need considerable investments to cultivate the growth required to keep pace with our rising energy needs and replace the reactors going off-line in coming years.

Landmark SEC Ruling Calls on Firms to Disclose Climate Impacts,

Under existing SEC rules, companies are required to disclose to investors any issues that have potential “material” effects on their business operations. The SEC has expanded on that in a recent ruling that companies and firms must additionally disclose to investors any possible effects climate change and related legislation would have on their operations. SEC chairman Mary Schapiro assured that the new rules do not “create new legal requirements or modify existing ones – it is merely intended to provide clarity and enhance consistency.” The ruling will hopefully alert investors to the risks that climate change poses to US companies and businesses.

Massachusetts Sets Ambitious Energy Standards, The New York Times

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approves a plan to incentivize electricity conservation. The plan calls for a statewide reduction of 2.4% in electricity usage and 1.15% in natural gas use annually for three years. The incentives, which encourage behavior such as replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, are funded by $1.6 billion. With these incentives in place, Massachusetts will become the number one state in terms of funds spent per person on conservation efforts.

Radiation Levels Cloud Future of Vermont Reactor, The New York Times

Owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant are seeking a 20-year extension of the plant’s operating license. However, rising levels of radioactive tritium in surrounding groundwater over the past weeks have put the reactor under further scrutiny. Increased tritium is often an indication that reactor coolant water is leaking into the surrounding environment. Although tritium has not been found in wells for drinking water, the concentrations found in other groundwater exceed federal standards for drinking water. No operating license extension has been denied since 1989, when NIMBY- related pressure forced a nuclear facility in Sacramento to close.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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