The Week Ahead: Sea-Level Rise on Federal, Local Climate Change Agendas

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Four possible scenarios of global sea-level rise—ranging from 8 inches to 6.6 feet—that were developed by scientists for the U.S. National Climate Assessment will be discussed Jan. 9 during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seminar in Silver Spring, Md.

The scenarios, designed to help resource managers and residents consider a range of adaptation and mitigation actions, are included in a technical report, Global Sea-Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment, released by NOAA Dec. 6, 2012. The scenarios do not predict future changes, NOAA said, but are intended to describe "future potential conditions."

NOAA said there is a 9 in 10 chance that sea levels will rise at least 8 inches and no more than 6.6 feet by 2100 based on 1992 levels. The extreme range is due to uncertainty over the degree to which ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica continue to melt, according to NOAA.

The lowest 8-inch-rise scenario is based on historic rates of observed sea-level change. A 1.6-foot rise is based on projected ocean warming. A 3.9-foot rise is based on projected ocean warming and recent ice sheet loss. A 6.6-foot rise reflects ocean warming and the maximum plausible contribution of ice-sheet loss and glacial melting.

As detailed in a Dec. 24 World Climate Change Reportarticle, a recent study published in the journal Nature Geosciencefound that West Antarctica has warmed faster than scientists previously thought during the past 50 years, and a continued rise in summer temperatures could lead to more frequent and extensive melting of the ice sheet. The scientists said the area is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, and the melting of the ice sheet is contributing to sea-level rise.

NOAA's technical report is just one piece of the national assessment, which is expected to be released at the end of 2013. Federal departments and agencies are developing the assessment under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The 2013 assessment will focus on how the United States can mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Newark, N.J., Mayor to Speak

The group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) will host an event Jan. 9 in Newark, N.J., at which city Mayor Cory Booker (D) will discuss the challenges of devising policy responses to climate change and needed state and federal action in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Damage from Sandy, which killed more than 100 people, is estimated to be up to $80 billion for New York and New Jersey.

Congress passed a bill Jan. 4 to provide $9.7 billion to areas hit by Sandy. More aid legislation, bringing the total to $60 billion, is expected to come up for a vote later this month.

The question of how to address climate change is expected to receive more attention from Congress in 2013. A Dec. 5, 2012, article covers remarks made by several senators in the wake of Sandy and other extreme weather events vowing to introduce climate change legislation this year. Also, as detailed in a Dec. 11, 2012, article, the storm's impact led Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to form a caucus focused on moving climate legislation forward.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will hold a stakeholder conferenceJan. 8 to solicit input on the Integrated Planning Model (IPM), which is used to analyze the projected impact of U.S. environmental policies on the electric power sector. Industry groups have argued that IPM does not accurately reflect actual emissions. The review of the modeling is part of a wider review RGGI is undergoing. The key item under review is the carbon dioxide emissions cap and whether it should be lowered.

RGGI, which covers greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants, includes the six New England states, plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland.

Other Climate, Energy Events

The American Petroleum Institute will hold its "State of American Energy" meeting Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C. Jack Gerard, API's president, will give the keynote address. 

Also on Jan. 9, the Carnegie Endowment's Energy and Climate Program will hold a symposium in Washington, D.C., on "Unconventional Oil." The agenda includes sessions on climate impacts from changes in technology and how to get international oil companies to address climate change. 

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol will hold webinars Jan. 8, 9, and 10 on how companies can measure and report direct and indirect emissions across the supply chain (Scope 3). The protocol, developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is widely used for corporate accounting of greenhouse gas emissions.