State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Climate News Roundup – Week of 5/31

United States Climate Report to UN Projects 4% Emissions Rise by 2012, Associated Press (via Metronews Halifax)
On Tuesday, the U.S. delivered its first emissions report to the United Nations since 2006.  The projections indicate about a 4% increase in emissions between now and 2020, which includes a 1.5% rise in CO2 emissions.  The emphasis of the report, however, shifts from CO2 to hydrofluorocarbons which are projected to nearly double between 2005 and 2020.  The report also includes new funding proposals to address climate change, including a increases in spending for climate research, global climate change funds brokered under the Copenhagen Accord, research and development, and land management programs through 2012.

Amid Spill Anger, Obama Asks Cut in Oil Tax Breaks, Associated Press (via Yahoo News)

Tying together the Gulf oil spill and climate legislation, President Obama on Wednesday stated that our ongoing dependence on fossil fuels will “continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.”  The oil spill, he argued, should serve as a catalyst for new legislative efforts at seizing “a clean energy future,” which include new climate legislation, cap-and-trade efforts, and tax raises on oil companies including a 34-cent per barrel tax to help fund spill clean ups.  Acknowledging a volatile political environment, the president stated that “the votes might not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.”

New South African Coal Plant Seeks Emission Credits for ‘Cleaner’ Coal, ClimateWire (via the New York Times)

A controversial coal-fired power plant in South Africa is again drawing ire in its application for international climate credits.  The Medupi Power Station came under attack after being loaned $3.05 billion by the World Bank for its completion, which includes $260 million directed towards piloting a 100-megawatt wind power project.  The Medupi Power Station will produce 4,800 megawatts of electricity and 25 millions tons of CO2 emissions annually.  Environmentalists insisted that these emissions were unacceptable; the World Bank and the South African government argued that reducing poverty through energy access were their main priorities — even if it meant burning coal.  New controversy has erupted as Eskom, the power station’s developer, has applied for carbon credits for incorporating “supercritical technology [that allow it to] operate with greater efficiency.”  While Medupi would become the first power station in the continent of Africa to use “cleaner” supercritical technology, environmentalists argue that Eskom is using scarce public funds to “get paid twice” while still contributing substantially to greenhouse gas emissions.

World is at Warmest on Record, NASA’s Hansen Says, Bloomberg Businessweek

A 37-page draft report released by NASA on Tuesday noted an increase in global mean surface temperatures for April 2009 to April 2010.  Utilizing data from over 6,300 monitoring stations, the report indicated a mean increase of 0.65 degrees Celsius over the 1951-1980 average, making the year through April warmer than the previous peak year of 2005.  While the data for one year is less important than long-term trends in climate change, Michael Grubb of the U.K. Climate Change Committee stated that Hansen’s paper “looks like a modest addition to the continuing build-up of evidence” for global warming.  The paper will be submitted for peer review to Reviews of Geophysics, a scientific journal.
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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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