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To Stay Competitive, Businesses Urged to Make Climate Resilience a Priority

While most companies say they would benefit from investing in adaptation, few have actual plans in place to boost their resilience to warming

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jul 6, 2011
Albemarle Climate Change Adaptation Project

As Duke Energy attempts to scale back its 100 million-ton greenhouse gas footprint to reduce future emissions, the utility giant is also studying how it can cope with the damage already being caused by climate change.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based power company is in the third and final year of a $1 million effort with the nonprofit to slow saltwater intrusion in the Albemarle Peninsula, near the Outer Banks.

By creating oyster reefs and planting 20,000 different kinds of trees in the estuary, the research team aims to ward off rising sea levels and restore the ecosystem's peat-rich soils before the peninsula is submerged in a century.

Heather Quinley, Duke's director of energy and environmental policy, said the project marked the start of the utility's efforts to develop climate preparation plans for the areas it serves.

It has also made the utility one of a growing, but still small, number of companies trying to address adaptation, as global warming shifts agricultural patterns and alters coastlines.

U.S., European Media Still Worlds Apart on Climate Change Coverage

Europeans accuse the U.S. media of giving climate skeptics a disproportionate voice and perpetuating a debate that has been settled among scientists

By Tom Vandyck,

Jul 6, 2011
Journalists with Yvo de Boer, former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCCC

When it comes to reporting on climate change, European media are from hothouse Venus, and their American counterparts are from considerably more frigid Mars. The divide between them may be having a profound impact on climate and energy policy in either part of the world.

European journalists accuse their American counterparts of maintaining a false balance in their reporting, pretending climate science is still in doubt, and offering politicians cover for inaction.

But while that may have been true just a few years ago, it is changing now, say American editors.

For Peter Vandermeersch, editor-in chief at the traditionally conservative daily NRC Handelsblad in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, there is no debate about climate change.

"Absolutely, that's a given," he said. "The conviction has grown that climate change does exist, and that humans play a major role in how it evolves."

"There's almost no discussion about it," agreed Wouter Verschelden, editor-in-chief at the progressive daily De Morgen in Brussels, Belgium. "The nonbelievers have been marginalized, and they aren't taken seriously anymore. We don't have to convince our readers anymore of the fact that there is climate change, and that it's caused by humans."

Most Americans Want Scientists, Not Politicians, to Lead Climate Debate

The latest results from an ongoing Yale/George Mason study indicate that Americans want experts to explain how human activities are altering the climate

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jul 5, 2011
The melting Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park

WASHINGTON—Americans nationwide still have a quiver full of queries for experts about climate change.

But the content of their questions — and the sources they are likely to trust with answers — vary depending on their level of concern and engagement with the issue.

That's one of the latest conclusions drawn from an ongoing and wide-ranging study that has tracked how each of the "Six Americas" interprets the threats of global warming since the last presidential election. Researchers at Yale and George Mason universities first identified those half dozen separate audiences after their .

Results from the conducted in the spring, the fourth in a series, were released in late June. They indicate that most Americans want those in the know to explain how they can be sure human activities, rather than natural changes in the environment, are altering the climate.

Drilling down deeper, the questions become more nuanced depending on a respondent's "Six Americas" ranking.

For instance, the 39 percent in the "alarmed" and "concerned" categories want to ask what nations could do to curb heat-trapping gases and if there's still time to act. The 50 percent in the "cautious," "doubtful" and "dismissive" sphere want to hear how global warming is caused by human activities. And the remaining 10 percent in the "disengaged" grouping want to learn what harm global warming will cause if it is actually happening.

Climate Change Threatens Southwest's Iconic Joshua Trees

A pair of new scientific studies suggests that the specialized desert Joshua tree cannot keep pace with the rate of warming

By Bruce Dorminey,

Jul 3, 2011
Joshua Tree National Park

Three hours east of Malibu, the Pacific Coast Highway and everything that is L.A., a small multitude of Joshua trees stand sentinel over a desolate corner of Mojave high desert. They look as if they've been on this incredibly arid, lonely hillslope forever. But, trouble is, will they still be here tomorrow? 

Research ecologists are still trying to answer just how climate change will affect the Joshua tree's numbers, range and habitat.

They do know that over the millenia, the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) has evolved to thrive in the dry and hot Southwestern desert conditions and barren soils that a less specialized plant species could not tolerate.

Now, two recent papers detailing future climate scenarios for and the Joshua tree's natural range are projecting tough times for this venerable Southwest icon. 

After Long Battle, EPA to Unveil Rules for Cutting Smog from Coal Plants

Next week's transport rule is aimed at curbing smog and soot at power plants in 30-plus states. Next up: EPA's controversial mercury rule, expected in Nov.

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jul 1, 2011
Gina McCarthy during the hearing on June 30th

WASHINGTON—While much of the nation fixates on picnics, parades, patriotic music — and perhaps even the Declaration of Independence — on this approaching Fourth of July holiday weekend, Gina McCarthy will be contemplating smog and soot.

She will be dotting the i's and crossing the final t's in preparation for a midweek lifting of the curtain on the Environmental Protection Agency's long-awaited rule designed to protect downwind states from upwind pollution.

"It's time we took action and moved these rules," the assistant administrator at EPA's Office of Air and Radiation told a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee Thursday. She added that after decades of delay, "we do not believe we are rushing to judgment."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subpanel, organized to discuss a pair of safeguards the Obama administration crafted after a federal appeals court rejected two previous iterations created under the Bush administration.

As reinvented by Administrator Lisa Jackson's EPA, the two regulations are now known as the Clean Air Transport Rule and the Utility Air Toxics Rule. Final standards for the latter, which the agency will unveil in November, are geared to drastically reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired electricity generators.

REDD Forest Rescue Funding Caught in UN Carbon Feud, Study Warns

To survive, REDD will likely need investment to flow from a functioning international carbon market — which, outside the EU, is in a perilous state

By Fiona Harvey,

Jul 1, 2011
Timber from Indonesia

The world's forests are in greater danger than ever, as a United Nations mechanism intended to generate funding for their protection is unlikely to produce sizeable sums "for the foreseeable future," according to new research.

The research came as a prominent UK businessman called for an annual round of international talks devoted solely to forestry, in order to keep the world's remaining forests standing and with the goal of ending deforestation entirely by 2020.

"It's time for a reality check. There is a danger that we are sleep walking to disaster," said Ian Cheshire, chief executive of Kingfisher, the retail group.

The REDD mechanism — standing for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation — has been the cornerstone of international policy on forests for several years. In the past year, the first projects using the mechanism have started to come forward.

At the core of the mechanism is carbon trading — saving forests will generate carbon credits, which can be counted towards emissions-cutting targets.

But nearly all of the money so far devoted to REDD has come from governments, and is limited as most rich country governments are unwilling to spend more on overseas development. As a result, the mechanism is unlikely to do much to reduce deforestation, according to the study from , called Assessing the Financial Flows for REDD.

DOE Explores a New Frontier In Quest for Cheaper Solar Panels

The DOE is working with utilities and local governments to streamline U.S. solar permitting — a 'new frontier for solar cost decline,' says advocacy group

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jun 30, 2011
solar panel installation

Installing rooftop solar arrays could become far more affordable for American homeowners if new federal and state initiatives to streamline permitting take hold nationwide.

The cumbersome costs of siting, permitting, installing and connecting small-scale solar make up an increasing percentage of overall system fees — up to 40 percent — while the price of photovoltaic panels continues to drop.

The latest effort to slash these so-called balance-of-system costs comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, which in early June announced a $12.5 million as part of its SunShot Initiative.

The SunShot program is working with utilities, software providers and local governments to eliminate 75 percent of the total installation costs for solar energy systems by 2020.

Australia Closes In on National Carbon Trading Deal

If agreed by parliament later this year, the emissions market would be only the second national scheme outside Europe, following the lead of New Zealand

By Rob Taylor,

Jun 30, 2011
A coal-fired power plant in Victoria, Australia

CANBERRA—Australia's government, fighting a slump in popularity over plans to price carbon, said on Thursday it was determined to start emissions trading as soon as possible after reports it had agreed on a 2015 deadline to switch from a carbon tax.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose support is at record lows due to opposition to a carbon price and voter concern about rising living costs, said she was determined to make as short as possible a shift to a carbon market.

"An emissions trading scheme is the best way of cutting carbon pollution and making sure that we tackle climate change. It is the cheapest way," Gillard told reporters, promising to overcome opposition to one of the most controversial reforms of the A$1.3 trillion economy in decades.

Gillard's minority Labor government wants to impose a tax on carbon emissions from mid-2012 before transitioning to a carbon-trading system, under which the nation's 1,000 biggest polluters will need to buy carbon permits on an open market.

If agreed by parliament later this year, the emissions market would be only the second national scheme outside Europe, following the lead of neighboring New Zealand.

Warming, Overfishing, Plastic Pollution Destroying Ocean Life: Scientists

'If we don't do something quickly, the oceans in 50 years won't look like they do today,' scientist warns in an interview with SolveClimate News

By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

Jun 29, 2011
coral reef off the Florida coast

The state of the oceans can best be likened to a case of multiple organ failure in urgent need of intervention, suggests the most comprehensive analysis yet of the world's marine ecosystems.

Global warming, overfishing and plastic pollution are wreaking havoc at an unprecedented rate on marine life, at a recent meeting of the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

House Fast-Tracks Bill to Limit EPA Power Over Mountaintop Coal Removal

A vote is expected next week on bipartisan legislation that would restrict the power of EPA rules covering mountaintop mining, waterways and wetlands

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jun 29, 2011
Mountaintop removal mining in Virginia

WASHINGTON—Conservationists knew that new GOP anti-regulatory muscle in the 112th Congress would be intent on debilitating landmark legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

But they're still taken aback by an attempt to incapacitate the latter in one fell swoop.

Next week, the full House is expected to vote on a fast-moving bipartisan bill that would elbow the federal government aside and elevate the power of state-level rules covering mountaintop-removal mining, waterways and wetlands. Even if it passes, however, the bill isn't expected to gain traction in the Senate.

Reps. Nick Rahall, a Democrat from the coal state of West Virginia where mining is king, and John Mica, a Republican from Florida where water pollution standards are less than well-defined, are swiftly shepherding the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 () through their chamber.

Mica, Rahall and 34 other co-sponsors tout their bill as one that will restore a balanced partnership to a law that they say now subjugates state authority.

But none other than the challenges that conclusion. The agency claims the measure would "significantly undermine EPA's ability to ensure that state water quality standards are adequately protective and meet Clean Water Act requirements."