The National Climate Assessment took center stage in the top five Energy and Climate Report stories for the week ending May 9.
1. U.S. Issues Loudest, Clearest Alarm Bell on Climate Action to Date, Adviser Says
As covered in this story, the White House has sent the “loudest and clearest alarm bell to date” signaling the need for urgent action to combat climate change.
The message, given by John Holdren, who directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was in response to the release of the third and most comprehensive installment of the National Climate Assessment. It concludes human-induced climate change is growing stronger as its impacts are increasingly felt across the country.
“Climate change is not a distant threat,” he said. “It is already affecting every region in the country and key sectors of the economy.”
The assessment looks at current and future climate impacts across eight regions and seven sectors, including water, energy, transportation and agriculture. It was developed over four years by hundreds of climate scientists and technical experts.
2. Congress Splits Along Party Lines in Reaction to Warnings in National Climate Assessment
As detailed in this story, members of Congress split along party lines in reacting to the National Climate Assessment.
Republicans decried the report as a political document designed to bolster President Barack Obama's regulatory agenda while imposing costly mandates on the energy industry.
Democrats, however, said the report provided irrefutable evidence that the effects of climate change were already being felt coast-to-coast and confirmed the need for immediate, urgent action to address those impacts.
3. Maryland Governor Signs Legislation Addressing Climate Change, Other Matters
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed several pieces of legislation, as detailed in this story, including several climate change and energy-related measures passed during the General Assembly's recently completed 2014 legislative session.
Among the signed bills, H.B. 615 establishes a 15-member Coast Smart Council to develop siting and design criteria for state-funded construction projects that take into account sea-level rise and coastal flooding risks.
The criteria must be developed by June 30, 2015. Until that time, the bill requires state agencies to continue operating under guidelines set by O'Malley in a December 2012 executive order regarding flood risk mitigation.
4. Administration Relying on Inaccurate Methane Data, Cornell Researchers Say
As covered in this story, two Cornell University researchers said the amount and potency of methane emissions is significantly underestimated, which understates the climate impact of hydraulic fracturing.
Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea told reporters the Obama Administration has overestimated the climate benefits of increased reliance on natural gas compared to other fossil fuels such as coal. As a result, the White House's recent strategy to address methane won't provide the emissions reductions necessary to address the impacts of climate change, they said.
The EPA estimates methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period when it calculates the pollutant's effect on climate. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has increased its estimate of methane's potency in every report since 1996, and it now estimates methane to be 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
5. Climate Report: Industry Sees Costly Rules; Scientists, Others See Costs of Not Acting
As detailed in this story, the National Climate Assessment is sending a signal to the fossil-fuel industry: look out.
Supporters and opponents saw the full embrace by the White House of the assessment as laying the groundwork for wide-ranging new efforts to curb emissions blamed for climate change.
In June, the EPA is set to release rules to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. Refineries, cement makers and other industries could be next. The agency also is considering curbs on methane released from oil and gas production.
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