State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate News Roundup: Week of 6/19

Climate Change Lawsuit Against Utilities Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court, Bloomberg, June 20

States can’t invoke federal law to force utilities to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, shutting off one avenue for groups that advocate bolder steps against climate change. The unanimous ruling is a victory for five companies — American Electric Power Co., Duke Energy Corp. (DUK), Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL), Southern Co. (SO) and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority — that had been sued by six U.S. states, including California, and the city of New York. The states, which sought a cap on emissions, argued that carbon dioxide spewed by the utilities is a public nuisance because it causes climate change. The justices said the Environmental Protection Agency was better equipped than federal judges to assess the costs and benefits of reducing greenhouse gases.

Replacing crops with trees barely slows warming, CBC, June 20

The United Nations lists afforestation as one way developing countries can earn emission reduction credits that can be sold to industrialized countries. If 100 per cent of the area planted with crops now was gradually replaced with forests, wherever possible, over the next 50 years, warming would be reduced 0.45 degrees Celsius between 2081 and 2100, said a study by Vivek Arora, an Environment Canada researcher based at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, B.C., and Alvaro Montenegro, an earth sciences professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. The study also found that warming reductions per forested hectare were three times higher in the tropics than in boreal and northern temperate regions.

In 2012 GOP Race, Climate Policy is a Non-Issue, npr, June 21, 2011

Republican leaders’ interest in global warming has cooled considerably since 2008, when John McCain was the party’s standard-bearer. GOP White House contenders, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty have backpedalled on their stances on climate change and cap and trade. The Pew Research Center points to a sharp decline in the number of Americans who even believe that global warming is happening, let alone that it’s a serious problem.

U.S. seeks exemption to EU aviation CO2 plan, Reuters, June 22

In the strongest public criticism of the EU carbon scheme to date by President Barack Obama’s administration, Washington said U.S. airlines should be exempt from greenhouse gas penalties. The EU remains firm on its decision beginning January 1, 2012 to penalize greenhouse gas emissions from planes taking off and landing in the European Union as part of efforts to slow climate change. The EU has said it will impose fines for non-compliance.

Gore Criticizes Obama for Record on Climate, New York Times, June 22

Former Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized President Obama as lacking leadership on climate change in a magazine essay published online Wednesday, saying his policies had been little more effective than those of President George W. In the 7,000-word article in Rolling Stone, Mr. Gore said that Mr. Obama clearly understood the threat to the planet posed by global warming and that he had appointed a number of committed environmental advocates to key positions. But Mr. Gore said that in the face of well-financed attacks from fossil fuel industries and denial and delay from Republicans in Congress, Mr. Obama had failed to act decisively to alter the nation’s policies on climate change and energy.

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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