Remarks by top federal officials related to climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and the Senate's all-night session to urge climate change action made up the top five Energy and Climate Report stories for the week ending March 14.
1. Federal Agencies Developing Data, Tools for Local Climate Resiliency, McCarthy Says
As covered in this March 10 story, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told the National League of Cities that federal agencies are developing the data and tools local governments need to develop their own climate adaptation and resiliency strategies.
“We're hunkering down to provide tools and information so people can really address this on their own,” McCarthy said. President Barack Obama's budget request for a $1 billion fund for climate resiliency would provide enough funding for the EPA and other agencies to address climate resiliency and adaptation programs in 100 additional cities beyond those already participating in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, she said.
The fund, which Obama announced in February, is intended to assist coastal areas and other regions prepare for severe storms, drought and other weather events that could be intensified by climate change.
2. Carbon Capture Feasible But Not Required for Power Plants, McCabe Tells House Panels
The EPA's proposed carbon dioxide performance standard wouldn't explicitly require coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture systems, but the technology is feasible and will be available, Janet McCabe, the agency's acting administrator for air and radiation, said during a joint congressional hearing covered in this story.
“When it comes to the technology we based those numbers on, we believe if you look across all the information and data that's available, we believe there's adequate data that the various components are in use, have been in use and will be ready,” she told the House Science, Space and Technology's subcommittees on the environment and energy.
McCabe defended the EPA's determination that carbon capture has been adequately demonstrated to the point that the EPA used that technology to establish new source performance standard for new coal-fired power plants that were proposed Jan. 8. She said Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to set performance standards, is intended to drive development and deployment of new emissions control technologies.
“There are many examples going back through time when Section 111 was the mechanism that took emerging technologies and brought them into the mainstream,” McCabe said.
3. 28 Senators to Hold All-Night Session March 10 to Urge Climate Change Action
The announcement that Independent and Democrats in the Senate would participate in an all-night session—from the evening of March 10 through 9 a.m. March 11—on the Senate floor to discuss the need to address climate change is detailed in this story.
“Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the session's organizer, said. "On Monday night we're going to show the growing number of Senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change.”
The evening session was the highest profile event to date from the Senate Climate Action Task Force, which was launched by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) in January with the dual goals of defending Obama's climate action plan from Republican attacks and launching an offensive campaign to urge action on climate change.
4. Kerry Says if Climate Action Not Taken, 'Life on the Earth Could Literally End'
On March 13, as covered in this story, Secretary of State John Kerry defended his comments last month that put climate change in the top tier of global threats including terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, warning the House Foreign Affairs Committee that if action is not taken soon “life on the Earth could literally end.”
“Is it an instrument of destruction on a global basis? There [are] all kinds of implications,” Kerry said, noting that climate scientists are predicting a host of impacts in the decades ahead if temperatures continue to rise unchecked, from food scarcity to “climate refugees” who could flee en masse from rising sea levels
During a February trip to Indonesia, Kerry said climate change should be considered a top global threat alongside threats ranging from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to poverty. The secretary said climate change “ranks right up there with every single one of them” as a significant global threat.
5. 31 Senators in All-Night Session Urge Renewed Push for Climate Legislation
As detailed in this March 11 story, during the Senate's all-night session on climate change 29 Democrats and two Independents, in 30-minute segments, said the point of the evening was not to push new legislation but rather to raise public awareness of the issue in hopes of passing a comprehensive climate change bill within two or three years.
“Tonight is not about a specific legislative proposal,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said. “It's about showing the environmental community, young people and anyone paying attention to climate change that the Senate is starting to stir.”
Democratic participants throughout the evening argued that 97 percent of scientists have concluded that climate change is occurring and cited example after example of how it is already impacting their states.
Republicans countered that the session was merely political theater and a waste of time. Several Republicans, like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), indicated to Bloomberg BNA that, if asked, they might have participated in the session.
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