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This past monthly newsletter is filled with information about news and developments on climate disruption and its impacts and on climate action in the West. You can sign up for our newsletter, which is sent out by email, by sending your own email to admin@rockymountainclimate.org. To see more, previous newsletters, continue clicking on "Next" on the bottom right of this and subsequent pages.

 
 

June 2017

Featured Item
States, Local Governments, and Businesses Ready to Fill Leadership Gap

There are many reasons to object to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the international community’s most important agreement to limit climate change, the Paris Climate Agreement. As the world’s sole superpower and the nation that has emitted the most heat-trapping pollution, the United States, more than any other nation, should be leading international action to protect the climate, not joining the few pariah nations that are not party to that agreement. See a June 6 opinion piece by the Billings Gazette editorial board (Au revoir, Paris; hello Iraq, Syria and North Korea), which also lays out as well as anything we have seen how the President’s decision flies in the face of the market forces that are reshaping the western energy economy and the fates of coal communities.

Mostly, though, we want to draw attention here to how states, local governments, and businesses are stepping up to assume the mantle of responsibility on climate protection as the Trump administration stands down.

Quite fittingly, California, the state that has always led the way on climate action, is again at the forefront. This past week Governor Jerry Brown met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and afterward said that Xi “has definitely given the green light for more collaboration between China and California and, I would say, other states through this subnational-level arrangement.” See Jerry Brown in China with a climate message to the world: Don't follow America's lead and China is now looking to California – not Trump – to help lead the fight against climate change, Los Angeles Times, June 7 and 6, 2017, and also Fighting Trump on climate, California becomes a global force, New York Times, May 23, 2017.

In Washington State, a June 5 release by Governor Jay Inslee, United States Climate Alliance adds 10 new members to coalition committed to upholding the Paris Accord, describes how he, Governor Brown, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have teamed up to convene fellow governors to commit to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan. So far, at least 14 state and territorial governors have signed on. See also States step into void left by exit from Paris climate accord, Rocky Mountain PBS, June 1, 2017 and US mayors, governors vow to stick with Paris accord, CNN, June 2, 2017.

Local governments are also energized. A June 1 posting by the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda states, “As 274 US Mayors representing 58 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

On a broader front, Bloomberg delivers U.S. pledge to continue Paris climate goals to U.N., Reuters, June 5, 2017, describes a letter supporting the Paris accord goals that as of June 5 has been signed by over 1,000 U.S. governors, mayors, county commissions, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities. See also State, local, and business leaders will continue to support US climate action to meet the Paris Agreement, blog post, World Wildlife Fund, June 5, 2017, to view the full statement, quotes, and list of signatories.

President Trump’s decision is a huge step backward, but continued progress is still possible if the rest of the nation does more even as the federal government does less.

News About RMCO and Partners

News About RMCO Partners

The City of Aspen on May 18-19 convened an event to kick off the formation of a proposed Compact of Colorado Communities, a concept championed by Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron and inspired by his participation in the Paris climate agreement meetings last year. Representatives from 27 local governments signed a commitment to take the organization’s proposed charter, which will be composed by a working group, to their respective town councils and county commissions for consideration. Since Trump denies climate change, local government officials meet in Aspen to vow action, Aspen Times, May 20, 2017.

The City and County of Denver ties for ninth place in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard of large U.S. cities, moving up one spot from 2015.

The City of Boulder takes new actions to support electric vehicles. Boulder to double stock of public electric vehicle charging stations this summer, Boulder Daily Camera, May 5, 2017, financed by a grant from the Regional Air Quality Council.

News About Climate Disruption

Water

Mapping 50 years of melting ice in Glacier National Park, New York Times, May 24, 2017. New data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University shows that the park’s glaciers shrank by more than a third between 1966 and 2015, and that 10 had lost more than half their area, graphically represented.

Climate change is shrinking the West’s water supply, High Country News, May 15, 2017. Summarized are three 2017 studies projecting the impacts on water supplies from a disrupted climate:

See also Reckoning ahead for Arizona as water imbalance grows on Colorado River, Water Deeply, May 18, 2017.

Ecosystems

Climate change is unraveling natural cycles in the West, High Country News, May 11, 2017. Maps from the USA Phenology Network indicate spring arrived 1-3 weeks early this year in much of the country, except for the West’s mountains and the Northwest. See time-lapse mapping for the entire country here.

Insects and disease are ravaging the Southland's urban trees. Who's going to stop them?, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2017. An estimated 40 percent of trees in Southern California are at risk of succumbing to Southern California’s heat, drought, and insect infestations in a changed climate. Scientists are looking to find less vulnerable species that could be replanted, but funding is scarce to clear dead trees and to do the replanting. (RMCO has long pointed to the effects of climate change on western forests—see the Union of Concerned Scientists and RMCO report, Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk: Confronting Climate-driven Impacts from Insects, Wildfires, Heat, and Drought.)

Wildlife

Report: Extinction looming for most of California’s salmon and trout, Water Deeply, May 17, 2017. Three-fourths of California’s native salmon and trout may be extinct within 100 years due to climate change and habitat degradation, according to a report by biologists at the University of California, Davis, and California Trout.

Agriculture

Survey: Montana farmers and ranchers accept climate change as reality, Missoulian, June 5, 2017. A recent survey shows that five of six Montana farmers believe climate change is a problem, but under half think the changes are human-caused.

Heat-Trapping Emissions

Second biggest jump in annual CO2 levels reported as Trump leaves Paris Climate Agreement, Inside Climate News, June 1, 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 2016 recorded the second-biggest jump in global atmospheric carbon dioxide on record and that l ast year's increase was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979. See also the NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, showing trends for all of the major heat-trapping pollutants.

News About Climate Action

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies    

California climate program has struggled. Why the billion-dollar rebound?, Sacramento Bee, May 24, 2017. Following the rejection of legal challenges to California’s cap-and-trade program, the latest auction reverses rather anemic sales of carbon-pollution credits over the previous years, bringing in close to $1 billion.

Clean Energy

Nevada legislature clears bills raising net metering rates, RPS mandate, Utility Dive, June 7, 2017. Awaiting action by Governor Brian Sandoval are bills that restore net metering rates close to retail levels for rooftop solar customers, following the Public Utilities Commission's controversial 2015 decision to reduce compensation, and that would increase the state renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030, up from the current 25 percent by 2025 goal, including a provision allowing energy storage to meet 10 percent of the goal.

Colorado decoupling proposal unites Xcel, distributed energy advocates, Utility Dive, June 7, 2017. Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission is considering a filing by Xcel Energy to decouple rates, the tool gaining momentum nationwide focused on breaking the link between how much energy a utility delivers and the revenues it collects. With decoupling, regulators authorize a utility that is facing revenue losses (or excess revenues) to reset rates between rate cases, instead of utilizing fixed charges. Xcel says decoupling will align the utility’s need to recover its costs with Colorado’s efficiency and distributed energy goals.

So about those coal jobs: Turns out replacing coal with solar could keep a lot more people alive., Daily Climate, June 5, 2017. Swapping out remaining U.S. coal energy for solar would prevent 52,000 premature deaths every year, according to a new analysis from Michigan Technological University. In addition, the savings in health care costs added to the value of the solar electricity could in some cases bring in money, offsetting the costs of the switch.

As Trump ditches Paris, California is one step closer to getting wind power from Wyoming, Desert Sun, June 1, 2017. Conservative billionaire Phillip Anschutz’s proposed massive Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm, which would be the largest in the country if built, gets U.S. Forest Service right-of-way permits for the transmission line needed to get the output to California, bringing approvals up to about two-thirds of the distance.

Old coal mines have a place in the future of clean energy, Bloomberg News, May 24, 2017. Pilot projects are underway, including in California, to turn abandoned mines into pumped water storage facilities that generate power at times when other solar and wind energy lag.

Fossil Fuels

Idaho Power wants to speed closure of Nevada coal plant, Associated Press, May 4, 2017. Idaho Power announces its intention to close a Nevada coal plant it co-owns with NV Energy 10 years sooner than planned, a cost-savings move that would shutter by 2025 Nevada’s last utility-owned, coal-burning power plant.

Water Preparedness

Report outlines new strategy for stretching Rio Grande water supply, Water Deeply, May 19, 2017. Among the findings of a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report on the impacts of climate change on the upper Rio Grande basin is that native water sources are projected to decrease by about one third over the course of the 21st Century, with evaporative losses playing a key factor in the decline. A recent Wild Earth Guardians report proposes that significant reductions in evaporative losses could be achieved by decommissioning Elephant Butte, the basin’s largest reservoir, and storing its water in other reservoirs upstream.

Ecosystems

Why the Endangered Species Act can’t save whitebark pines, High Country News, June 1, 2017. Even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made an endangerment finding in 2011, funding has yet to be allocated to protect the trees whose nuts grizzlies depend on as a critical food source. The U.S Forest Service is now ramping up a collaborative restoration program that includes replanting with disease-resistant seedlings. See also Measuring the impact of a changing climate on threatened Yellowstone grizzly bears, Phys.org, May 11, 2017.

Resource of the Month

Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change (2016)
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

This report examines the current state of science of extreme weather attribution, citing worldwide studies (some in the West), and concluding it is now possible to estimate the influence of climate change on some types of extreme events. The report shows how the science has advanced rapidly in recent years, and identifies ways to move the science forward to improve attribution capabilities. Confidence is strongest in attributing types of extreme events that are influenced by climate change through a well-understood physical mechanism, such as more frequent heat waves, but is lower for other types of events, such as hurricanes, whose relationship to climate change is more complex.

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Suggestions and comments are welcome!

Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: saunders@rockymountainclimate.org
Tom Easley, RMCO director of programs: easley@rockymountainclimate.org
Suzanne Farver, RMCO director of outreach: farver@rockymountainclimate.org

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