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EPA Regulates Carbon Dioxide Emissions From New Power Plants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed the first-ever federal limits on heat-trapping pollution from new power plants, marking a critical step to curtail human-caused climate change. EPA proposes first carbon pollution standard for future power plants, EPA, March 27, 2012. The proposed rule -- years in the making following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling -- will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced. EPA to impose first greenhouse gas limits on power plants, Washington Post, March 26, 2012. On average, coal plants now emit 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (compared to 800 to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour by natural gas plants).
News about RMCO and Partners
News about RMCO Partners
A new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Kevin Trenberth attempts to reframe the oft-posed query as to whether a particular weather event was "caused" by climate change. Climate variation, change, or both?, NCAR, March 2012. Published in the journal Climatic Change, the paper says the correct formulation is that "all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be."
News about Climate Action
Global warming skepticism rose as the economy tanked, USA Today, March 7, 2012. A new study points to the dismal economy as the prime reason for the growing skepticism about climate change in the United States in recent years.
Regional, State and Local Climate Policies
Kitzhaber's new 10-year energy plan draft floats big ideas to reactivate green energy, Oregonian, March 3, 2012. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is poised to debut a 10-year energy action plan for the state that includes initiatives aiming to promote renewables, efficiency, and green transportation in the name of lowering heat-trapping gas emissions as well as providing energy security and jobs.
Reservation's remotest corners get light with small-scale, solar-wind systems, Durango Herald, April 1, 2012. Enabled by subsidies provided by the Navajo Nation, small hybrid solar-wind systems, installed on a rent-to-own basis, are helping provide electricity to remote reservation homes for the first time.
Coal power drops below 40% of U.S. electricity, lowest in 33 years, Think Progress, March 12, 2012. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal's share of monthly power generation dropped below 40% in November and December 2011 in the United States, the lowest level since March 1978.
Oil & gas industry can reduce methane waste by 80 percent, cutting U.S. methane pollution by one-third while saving industry $2 billion annually, Natural Resources Defense Council, March 28, 2012. A recent report argues that the natural gas industry can reduce methane losses by as much as 80 percent -- and make $2 billion a year in the process -- by employing "technically proven, commercially available, and profitable" control technologies. Such developments would be crucial to the industry in light of reports questioning the long-term viability of natural gas as a tool in the fight against climate change given its current fugitive emission rates. Natural gas industry must tighten up methane leaks - and save $2 billion per year in the process, Think Progress, March 29, 2012.
The green elite: The top 10 states for renewable power, Atlantic, March 28, 2012. While the nation as a whole still generates just a small fraction of its electricity from renewable sources, sixteen states beat the national average, led by states in New England, the Mountain West, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific Coast. Idaho tops the class, generating a whopping 84 percent of its power from renewable sources.
Solar power growth jumps to new record, Reuters, March 14, 2012. According to a new report, the national solar industry installed a record number of panels in 2011, more than double its 2010 total, and is poised for continued growth in 2012. The surging business and the promise of enormous returns is attracting new large investors, including Google and Warren Buffett. Solar 15% returns lure investments from Google to Buffett, Business Week, March 15, 2012.
Sprawling solar plant on tap for San Luis Valley, Denver Post, March 27, 2012. A giant solar project featuring two 656-foot-tall towers that will be visible from up to 25 miles away is on tap for San Luis Valley and figures to produce jobs, tourism, and up to three times as much electricity as the other three solar power plants in the valley combined.
Expensive home appliances that eat up your electric bill, Huffington Post, March 19, 2012. Huge savings can be reaped by eliminating power-hungry appliances from the home, with old refrigerators and freezers topping the list.
Use of public transit grew in 2011, report indicates, New York Times, March 12, 2012. Last year, Americans took 10.4 billion rides on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses -- a billion more rides than in 2000 and the second most since 1957.
RFTA buses will run on compressed natural gas, Aspen Times, March 23, 2012. Nearly one-third of the Roaring Fork Valley's public buses will run on compressed natural gas by fall 2013, following a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority vote to spend $16.5 million to buy 22 new buses and install supporting infrastructure.
News about Climate Disruption
Environment: Act now or face costly consequences, warns OECD, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, March 15, 2012. Economic forecasts by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development indicate rising energy demand by 2050 that could result in up to a 50% increase in annual heat-trapping gas pollutants, threatening irreversible change to the environment without prompt action.
Warm weather records smashed, more than 90 cities with warmest March on record, Washington Post, April 2, 2012. With more than 7,700 daily record high temperatures set or tied during March, large swaths of the United States experienced spells of warm weather unmatched in recorded history -- in some cases by extreme margins. Monthly average temperatures were 15 degrees or higher above the climate normals in many places. Despite these abnormally high temperatures, one preliminary study cautions that climate change may have only been a minor factor in contributing to the heat wave. NOAA says record warmth -- "March madness" -- was more freak occurrence than global warming, Associated Press, April 2, 2012.
It's a broken record of record-breaking heat, Climate Central, March 20, 2012. The geographic scope of March's record heat wave, its timing, duration, and the margins by which heat records were broken all serve as indications that it may have been an unprecedented event in the historical record. The phenomenon also meant the extra-early arrival of spring across the country as depicted in this telling map. State-by-state look at how early spring has arrived, Climate Central, March 23, 2012.
The winter that wasn't checks in at fourth warmest, Climate Central, March 9, 2012. December through February temperatures, which averaged 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1901-2000 long-term average, ranked as the fourth-hottest winter on record for the contiguous United States and the hottest this century, according to figures form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Study: Global temperatures could rise 5 degrees by 2050, USA Today, March 25, 2012. A new study based on what its authors call the most complex climate modeling yet projects a 2.5 to 5.4 degree increase in global average temperatures by 2050 if heat-trapping gas emissions are not curbed, a faster rate of warming than most other models predict.
Extreme Weather and Climate Events
Reports link heat waves, deluges to climate change, Washington Post, March 28, 2012. Two new reports bolster scientific understanding that recent upticks in heat waves and heavier rainfall are linked to human-caused heat-trapping gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 594-page report involved work from 220 authors in 62 countries and notes that there has been a change in some weather extremes since 1950, which stem in part from climate change. Another analysis, published in Nature Climate Change, examines patterns of extreme weather since 2000 and determines the likelihood of certain types of events was heightened by human-driven climate change.
Texas drought cost $2 billion more than previously thought, Huffington Post, March 21, 2012. New estimates for crop and livestock losses reached 7.62 billion for Texas' 2011 drought, nearly doubling the previous record of $4.1 billion in 2006.
98 percent of Colorado in a drought, say CSU climatologists, Denver Post, April 3, 2012. Just two percent of the state is not in some type of drought condition, a drastic change since October, when 60 percent of the state was drought-free.
Driest March on record prompts Boulder County fire ban, Boulder Daily Camera, March 27, 2012. With three days remaining in March, Boulder had only recorded .01 inches of rain, which would best the 1910 record of .05 inches of rain for the lowest ever recorded for the city in March, typically the snowiest month of the year.
March snow a new low for Aspen, Aspen Times, April 3, 2012. In March, Aspen received six inches of snow, a record-low amount, compared to an average of 27 inches.
Sea Level Rise
Rising sea levels seen as threat to coastal U.S., New York Times, March 13, 2012. More frequent coastal flooding spurred by rising seas due to climate change threatens up to 3.7 million Americans who live in at-risk areas, with estimates projecting such events to occur every few years by mid-century if acceleration occurs as expected.
Climate change sends beetles into overdrive, Science, March 16, 2012. According to a new study, unseasonably hot temperatures appear to be prompting a reproductive frenzy in mountain pine beetles, allowing them to churn out an extra generation of beetles each year compared to normal, further threatening western forests. In Canada, where over 60 percent of whitebark pines are dead or dying in some parts, researchers are collecting seeds to help preserve the trees' chances of existing in the future. University of Alberta research finds pine beetles, exotic fungus endanger iconic high mountain pines, Edmonton Journal, March 18, 2012.
Hunters, anglers report warming winters bad for wildlife, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2012. Rising average winter temperatures are changing the behavior of wildlife and threaten the survival of some species, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation. Key at-risk species include trout, waterfowl, and moose, according to observations by anglers and hunters whose pastimes are similarly under threat.
Resource of the Month:
Southwest Climate Assessment Report
The Southwest Climate Alliance has released a draft "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: A Technical Report Prepared for the U.S. National Climate Assessment." Covering a region comprised of parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, the report is a snapshot of current knowledge of climate change in the U.S. Southwest. The report highlights that the last decade was the hottest and third-driest in the region since 1901, the region has experienced extensive but not unprecedented drought this century, and major rivers have seen a decline in their average flows. The report also projects worrisome future changes to the region's climate, from longer, hotter heat waves in summer and a decline in river flows and late-season snowpack to increased flooding in some areas and changing distributions of plant and animal species. Comments on the draft will be accepted through April 11, 2012.
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Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: email@example.com