State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Climate News Roundup — Week of 6/21

State of VA Attorney General continues climate science probe, The Charlottesville Daily Progress

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is fighting UVa’s request to end the fraud case issued against climate scientist Michael Mann. Mann, currently teaching at Penn State University, one of the scientists involved in the “climategate” controversy that erupted last winter, was an assistant professor of Environmental Science at UVa from 1999-2005. Cuccinelli’s office alleges that Mann violated Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act when he received $466,000 of federal and state university grants to research climate change. The university has retaliated by filing a request that a judge set aside the AG’s subpoena on the grounds that it oversteps its constitutional authority and infringes upon academic freedom.

EU set to begin importing solar power from N. Africa in five years time, Reuters

After a meeting with the energy ministers of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger indicated that the EU will likely be importing solar power from the Sahara Desert within the next five years. Underwater cables are already planned in the Mediterranean Sea to carry renewable energy from Africa to Europe, helping the EU ensure that 20 percent of its energy comes from renewables by 2020. While initially the renewable electricity would likely come from small pilot projects, Oettinger said he hopes that production will increase to thousands of megawatts in coming years. The initiative, dubbed Desertec, is a program projected to cost around $495 billion. “Desertec as a whole is a vision for the next 20 to 40 years with investment of hundreds of billions of euros,” said Oettinger. “To integrate a bigger percentage of renewables, solar and wind, needs time.”

Defense experts want more explicit climate models, The New York Times

Military and national security experts are pressing scientists to provide climate models that can help them better understand future risks and uncertainties associated with climate change. At a conference organized by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, military, national security, and climate experts met to discuss which forecasts will be most needed for future foreign policy planning — and clarifying the distinctions between risk and uncertainty. The uncertainty in climate forecasting makes policy planning difficult. Projected averages are typically emphasized over extremes, which can leave policymakers guessing whether or not to plan for the most extreme and devastating future scenarios. “We’ve just barely gotten to the stage where we can make these projections,” said Bruce Cornuelle, a physical oceanographer at Scripps. “The problem of putting probabilities on them is much harder.” Still, it is interesting to note that as Congress debates over whether or not climate change is an actual phenomenon, the Defense Department is already negotiating directly with climate modelers to develop more robust and explicit climate forecasts.

Democrats’ climate bill strategy congeals, The New York Times

In a caucus gathering on Friday, Senate Democrats promised to work towards obtaining the 60 votes necessary to achieve climate legislation by the end of the summer. Using the Gulf oil spill as a backdrop to their efforts, Democrats will rally around the political principle of “polluters pay” to pass a bill — though which one is still up for debate. Harry Reid and other Democrats are hoping the Gulf Spill will provide a good political atmosphere to address climate change; Senate Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have said making the connection between the spill and climate legislation is “tenuous.” Some are also worried that the strategy comes too late in the year — with only 30 days left in the summer session, and with no clear idea of which climate bill Democrats will be back, the momentum behind the strategy might be too little, too late — for this session, at least.

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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