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Climate change: It’s cosmic rays on steroids … or something

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Climate change: It’s cosmic rays on steroids … or something


I’m just back from a quick trip to Chicago, which was beautiful and sunny (and reminded me that, California citizen or not, I’m still a Midwesterner at heart).  Contrast that with the crazy heat wave hammering the East Coast. 

Many have asked, Is this heat wave caused by climate change?  The answer, as usual, is that it’s nearly impossible to link any one event with climate change, but that the frequency of events is almost certainly a result of the warming planet.  As Next Generation’s Tom Steyer likes to put it, it’s like Barry Bonds and steroids: you can’t say that any one home run was the result of doping, but you can sure say that Bonds nearly doubling his home run average each year after he started using drugs was related to those drugs.

Last week the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss just this relationship between climate change and frequency – and severity – of catastrophic weather events. The hearing, entitled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now,” included testimony from Frank Nutter, President of the Reinsurance Association of America.  Frank urged Senators to follow the insurance industry approach, and start planning for the long-term risks posed by climate change:  “We are committed to work with you to address the exposure of citizens and their property to extreme weather risk.” Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) urged “tolerance” for climate deniers, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) floated the theory that current weather patterns are caused by “cosmic rays”.

Luckily, these Senators’ views don’t reflect those of the American people. According to a new survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council, two in three Americans support action on climate change, in particular limiting carbon pollution from power plants as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

And we have the woman in place to push that ball forward:  Gina McCarthy was finally confirmed to replace Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator, where she inherits the unenviable task of implementing the President’s climate action plan—along with a possible 34 percent reduction in EPA funding.

In California, though, we aren’t having this same debate over basic policy action—not to say that implementing our climate and energy policies is easy!  Here’s some news on AB32, Prop 39, and other actions in the Golden State:

There are some good articles out this week about AB32, in particular this one from Mary Nichols about how we’ve learned from Europe how to structure our carbon market so it’s stronger than the embattled ETC. Mary focuses on the trend toward “subnational” carbon markets and talks about California’s agreement to join forces with Quebec.  Maybe a Western states deal is next?

On Proposition 39, take note small school districts: You have the ability to pool two years of Prop 39 funding but only if you get your applications in by August 1!  Districts with fewer than 1000 students can apply for bundled funds here.  And everyone interested in following the ins and outs of the program can sign up for California Energy Commission’s new Prop 39 listserve here.

We’re continuing to kick some butt on solar:  The huge Ivanpah project, generating 377 MW of solar power out in the Mojave Desert, will go on line in a few weeks. California now ranks 6th nationally in per capita solar capacity according to a new study by the Environment California Research & Policy Center (I actually would have thought it was higher but I guess we lost out to states with lots of solar and not so many people).

On fracking: The lone remaining fracking bill, Senator Pavely’s SB  4, continues to move through the Capitol and will be heard next by Assembly Appropriations in August. If the bill passes, it will change state law to require monitoring, regulation, and tracking of every oil or gas well using the “hydraulic fracturing” technique. And speaking of natural gas (though it’s not the main issue here in California, where we frack for shale oil), check out this new Center for American Progress report arguing that if natural gas is a bridge, we better make sure it goes somewhere—and that we start ramping down its use by 2030.

I’m out of space and time so will stop here.  But if you want even more news on energy and climate, with fantastic commentary from my colleague Pat McVeigh, check out her new blog, Pat’s Picks »

See you all next week!



New EPA chief Gina McCarthy will take on sweeping climate agenda

The success or failure of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda now rests squarely on Gina McCarthy’s shoulders. She’s charged with doing the things that Republicans warned she would do: Sweeping crackdowns on toxic pollution from power plants, a massive expansion of federal greenhouse gas regulations, and steps to stem the increasingly controversial water pollution problems caused by coal and minerals mining. Her work as EPA administrator may determine whether Obama’s legacy on climate change is a historic shift in carbon pollution or a fizzled effort, lost to lawsuits and bureaucratic fumbling.
18/Jul » Politico

Insurance Industry, Republicans Split on Climate Change

The U.S. insurance industry told Senators that a surge in weather-related catastrophes has forced billions of dollars in payouts, offering an assessment at odds with Republicans who have expressed doubt about global warming.
18/Jul » Bloomberg

Judge a carbon market by its cap, not its prices

The carbon market, like any market, will have its ups and downs. The key task for policy makers is to establish declining limits on carbon pollution strengthen them when needed – and not be surprised if costs turn out to be lower than predicted. That is the point of using cap-and-trade systems in the first place.
16/Jul » Financial Times

California’s Cap-and-Trade Program Has Learned From Europe

Despite claims to the contrary, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is not dead. It will survive, but in the meantime the international community must keep moving forward with other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, California has been able to learn from the pioneering efforts in Europe, and as a result the state is poised to be a major player in the effort to fight climate change.
16/Jul » EnergyBiz

Unpacking ARB's Proposed Cap-and-Trade Amendments

The California Air Resources Board just released a sweeping set of proposed amendments to the cap-and-trade program, a key element of the state’s comprehensive effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions under AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act.
18/Jul » NRDC Switchboard

Novel Program Shaves Electricity Bills By 34% In South Carolina

Dozens of low-income households in South Carolina have more money at the end of each month thanks to a novel financing program that eliminates the upfront cost to install energy upgrades. After loan payments, participants in the “Help My House” on-bill financing program have reduced their electricity bills by nearly $300 annually.
22/Jul » Forbes

Know Before You Go: Preparing for Prop 39 Funds

Through a CEC-funded program, school districts can receive free technical assistance for planning their use of Prop 39 funds. In a Green Technology interview, Jim Kelsey of kW Engineering describes the program, and what school should be doing now to be ready to access energy efficiency funds.
17/Jul » Green Technology Magazine

California Fracking Regulations Near Approval

A proposal in Sacramento to change state law to monitor, regulate and track every well that uses hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has moved closer to becoming state law.
20/Jul » NBC Bay Area

California officials wrestle with handling trade secrets on fracking

State officials have been flooded with more than 20,000 comments and suggestions regarding proposed regulations of a controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as fracking, officials said Wednesday.Members of the California Water Commission voiced concerns of their own Wednesday about whether the state should treat the recipes for some fracking liquids as trade secrets, not to be disclosed to the public. 
17/Jul » Los Angeles Times

As World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant Opens, California Looks to End Solar Wars

In a few weeks, the largest solar plant of its kind in the world will start producing power in California’s Mojave Desert. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will supply both Northern and Southern California, inching the state one step closer to its ambitious renewable energy goal.
19/Jul » KQED

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