Extreme Ice Survey Video

For those of you that find that multi-media presentations are a helpful way to effectively convey information to students, check out James Balog’s Time-Lapse Proof of Extreme Ice Loss, “a network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate, some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.’”

Of course, one still needs to establish the linkage of these developments to anthropogenic emissions, but the video is a striking way to illuminate the startling decline of ice masses worldwide in the past few decades.

Good reading for students on China and Wind Power

A good new reading on the potential role of renewable energy in addressing China’s burgeoning GHG emissions can be found in this week’s issue of Science (McElroy, et al., Potential for Wind-Generated Electricity in China, 325 Science 1378-1380 (2009)) though the authors also emphasize some of the imposing economic and technological constraints that we face in decarbonizing the world’s major economies. Among the important take-aways from the article:

  • Meeting the increased demand for electricity in China over the next 20 years will require construction of the equivalent of 800 GW of coal-fired power plants. If most of this demand is met by coal, as is the case for 80% of China’s electricity needs currently, that could add as much as 3.5 GT of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually;
  • While wind currently only provides 0.4% of China’s total electricity supply, a suite of 1.5 MW turbines deployed in onshore regions with favorable wind resources could potentially provide more than seven times the current national consumption of electricity:
    • Even at a relatively modest contract price, wind could viably produce sufficient electrcity to cover total projected demand for 2030
  • The authors indicate that there are, however, some formidable barriers in substantially ramping up wind power production in China. This includes the following:
    • Grid companies have little incentive to connecting new sources of wind-generated electrcity because the variability of wind resources in time and space creates discontinuities in demand that would become a great concern with major increases in utilization. The author suggest that strategies such as the development of an integrated national grid could be helpful, but this would require a substantially most costly grid management protocol;
    • Introducing 640 GW of wind farms over the next 20 years, which would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% would require an investment of 6.0 trillion RMB (about $900 billion U.S. dollars). While this is a large sum, in comparison to a current annual GDP of 26 trillion RMB, the authors argue that it is reasonable, especially given the scales of investments in generating capacity and grid infrastructure that will be required anyway in a country that’s likely to continue to experience tremendous economic growth and energy demands.

Of course, at the end of the day, it is far from certain that China will choose this path given its abundant supplies of cheap coal; however, the article suggests one reasonable path that China could take should it ultimately choose to integrate itself into the international framework to reduce emissions.

Impacts of Climate Change in the Arctic: New Study

A new study in Science (Eric Post, et al., Ecological Dynamics Across the Arctic Associated with Recent Changes, 325 Science 1355-1358 (2009) could be a very good potential reading for students on the impacts of climate change, as it emphasizes the fact that climate change is already occurring, discusses some of the impacts that I feel are under-emphasized, including phenological impacts and biogeochemical changes, and provides a portent of anticipated impacts in other parts of the world, including the impacts of shifts in species’ distribution. The article may be a bit technical for some students, but it’s a great way to get them to grapple with the scientific aspects of this issue, including extremely complex ecological dynamics potentially associated with climate change, many of which might not be immediately obvious to them.

Among the most important take-aways from the article:

  • Arctic warming rates now exceed the century-scale warming that occurred during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, a period which witnessed widespread shifts in vegetation and faunal extinctions across the Arctic;
  • During the past two or three decades seasonal minimal sea ice extent throughout the Arctic has declined by 45,000 square kilometers annually, an area the size of New Jersey;
  • Among the serious impacts already manifesting themselves from rapid climate change in the region include the following:
    • Unusually early spring rain in the Canadian Arctic had led to melting, collapse and washout of birth lairs of ringed seals, imperiling newborn pups;
    • Polar bears are experience rapid declines in birth rates and survival due to loss of sea ice habitat;
    • Enhanced lake stratification associated with warming has changed the migration pattern of some fish species and increased likelihood of species inhabiting fish-less lakes, altering lake ecosystems;
    • Changes in plant growing seasons have resulted in a trophic mismatch with caribou, threatening survival of calves.
  • The future threats posed by climate change in the region include:
    • Shifts in species composition could affect land-atmosphere greenhouse gas balances, creating feedbacks that we currently only poor understand;
    • Shifts in species may profoundly alter simple Arctic ecosystems; this appears already to be occurring in terms of species of geometric moths and the decline of Arctic fox with northward expansion of th rnage of red foxes
    • Projected warming of as much as 6C in the fjords of northeast Greenland could substantially change the dynamics of species dependent on aquatic productivity;
    • Given the relative simplicity of the Arctic ecosystem, and consequent limited functional redundancy, losses of individual species may have very immediate consequences for ecosystem processes

CAMEL Program for U.S. Climate Change Teaching

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has been awarded a three-year grant of $1,666,820 by the National Science Foundation (DUE-0950396) to create a nationwide cyber-enabled learning community for solutions to climate change to be known as CAMEL (Climate, Adaptation, and Mitigation e-Learning). CAMEL will engage experts in science, policy and decision-making, education, and assessment in the production of a virtual toolbox of curricular resources designed for teaching climate change causes, consequences, and solutions.

The project was developed by the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors <http://www.ncseonline.org/CEDD>  (CEDD), which is managed by NCSE.  The lead investigators on the project are David Hassenzahl (U. Nevada, Las Vegas), Arnold Bloom (U. California, Davis), Barry Benedict (U. Texas at El Paso), CEDD President Stephanie Pfirman (Barnard College, Columbia University), Jean MacGregor (The Evergreen State College), Andy Jorgensen (U. Toledo) and CEDD Executive Secretary David E. Blockstein (NCSE). Dr. Jorgensen took the lead in preparing the proposal as a Senior Fellow with NCSE during a recently completed sabbatical.

CAMEL’s objectives are to:

*        Assist faculty at institutions of higher education across the United States as they create, improve, test, and share resources for teaching students not only how to diagnose climate change problems, but also to identify and effect solutions;

*        Ensure that materials developed and shared are founded on the best available scientific information and follow the most appropriate educational practices;

*        Build a community of researchers, educators, and students engaged in teaching about climate change causes, consequences, and solutions;

*        Develop cyberinfrastructure that will support and promote the creation of materials and community; and

*        Evaluate the determinants of successful community building using cybermedia.

CAMEL will involve leaders in climate and solutions research and in curriculum and faculty development to integrate up-to-date content with state-of-the-art educational practice. The community and resultant content will range from general education to upper division courses for students in a variety of majors. The resources that are created will encourage faculty to learn from one another how best to involve students in a range of learning activities, including research. Furthermore, as expert contributors and the faculty learning community develop content and curricular resources, they will become available (in the NSCE online Encyclopedia of the Earth <http://www.eoearth.org/>  and at Cyber-ShARE <http://www.cybershare.utep.edu/> , an NSF CREST-funded Center of Excellence at the University of Texas at El Paso for sharing cyber-resources to advance research and education) for a nationwide and international community of faculty members to adapt, use, and evaluate. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide the opportunity for every college student to become educated about climate change: its causes, consequences, and solutions, and the personal, professional, and societal options for meeting the major challenges posed by this urgent problem.

The NSF grant follows a smaller grant from NASA, Creation and Dissemination of an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate General Education Course on Climate Change. Under this grant, faculty at more than 20 NCSE University Affiliates will (a) develop a virtual tool chest of curricular modules and resources on how to teach about climate change using the latest NASA Earth observation data, Earth system models, and visualization tools and (b) use them in introductory courses over the next two years.

The CAMEL project will commence in October. Presentations on CAMEL will take place during the upcoming meeting of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences <http://aess.info/>  (AESS) in Madison, WI from October 8-11, as well as at the meetings of CEDD in Washington, DC on January 23, 2010 and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO from July 6-8, 2010.

Once the project gets underway, we will be seeking educators to contribute existing curricular resources, develop new resources, and incorporate them into teaching.  Please contact Heidi Fuchs at to participate.

More information on CAMEL, including a PowerPoint presentation by lead PI David Hassenzahl and a video thereof, can be found at the CEDD website <http://www.ncseonline.org/CEDD/cms.cfm?id=2348> .

Heidi Fuchs

Program Coordinator, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD) & Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders (CEREL) National Council for Science and the Environment

1101 17th Street NW, Suite 250

Washington, DC 20036

202-530-5810 x222 / fax: 202-628-4311


Climate Initative in the Philippines

Here’s a press release on a proposal to address climate issues in the Philippines. wcgb


RM.209, Senate of the Philippines, GSIS Bldg. Pasay City


Press Release Pls. refer to: Perla Leoncio

04 September 2009                                                                      09285046010

Act now on climate change-Loren

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Oversight Committee on Climate Change, yesterday urged the government to act “now” on climate change which is already disrupting the lives of Filipino farmers and families living in the rural areas.

Loren cited a news report stating that farmers in Nueva Ecija, a rice-producing province, had suffered huge losses in rice harvests because of the change in the weather cycle in March and April.

The farmers in the cities of Muñoz, San Jose and Cabanatuan and Guimba towns said that unexpected rains in March and April had damaged their rice crops.

Loren also cited an ADB study that at the end of this century crop yield potential in Asia is projected to decline by 19% and in the Philippines by 75%.

“We are therefore among the nation’s most threatened by climate change,” said Loren, author and sponsor of the “Climate Change Act of 2009,” which was already passed in the Senate and in the Lower House.

Loren, who is also chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the Climate Change Act “aims to mainstream climate change into policy formulation, development planning, and poverty reduction programs.”

To perform these objectives, the measures mandates the creation of a Climate Change Commission, to be headed by the President, that shall be the sole policy-making body of the government tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.

This Commission will be empowered to formulate a Framework Strategy on Climate Change to serve as the basis for a program for climate change planning, research and development, extension, and monitoring of activities to protect vulnerable communities.

In line with the national plan, each LGU shall formulate its own Local Climate Change Action Plan. Local governments will be in the frontline in the formulation, planning and implementation of climate change action plans in their respective areas.

The national government shall also extend technical and financial assistance to LGUs for the accomplishment of their Climate Change Action Plans. Local governments may also appropriate and use their funds from their Internal Revenue allotment to implement their local plans.

“We must enhance rural livelihoods which 75% of the poor depend on for their subsistence,” Loren said. “One tested strategy is to  improve agricultural productivity and support our farmers better.  This also means addressing the issues akin to rural poverty – such as inequity in land distribution, lack of access to better seeds and irrigation technology, the lack of economic diversification, weak markets and trade barriers, and the lack of capacity to absorb and to recover from disaster losses.”

Senator Legarda, as the chair of the Senate Oversight Committee on Climate Change and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization, will conduct a hearing on climate change and its effects on agriculture and fisheries.

This will provide her committees with the additional data needed to firm up legislative initiatives to combat climate change challenges, Loren declared.

New Resource on ACES Bill

From Michael Gerrard of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School comes another excellent resource:

We have just posted a Climate Legislation Resource Center site.  It has links to the hearings, markups, floor debates, prior drafts, etc. leading up to House passage on June 26 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES, or Waxman-Markey), plus comparable Senate documents. We’ll be adding new documents as available.  One feature we have created for the page is an Excel database of all the rulemakings, studies, and other federal agency mandates in the bill; it can be sorted by agency, subject matter, type of action, and other parameters, and it is also word searchable.  Here is the link to the page.


Also posted here are numerous analyses of the bill conducted by government agencies, NGOs, trade associations, academics and think tanks. If any of you have prepared analyses that you would like to have posted here, please feel free to send them to me.

While I’m at it, here are links to the announcements of two upcoming events from the Columbia Center for Climate Change Law:

September 23 — “The Waxman-Markey Climate Bill: Too Weak? Too Strong? About Right? A Three-Way Debate”


October 23 — “Bio-sequestration and climate law and policy”

Finally, if you would like to be added to the mailing list to receive updates about new items we are adding to the Climate Legislation Resource Center page, as well as new cases added to my climate change litigation chart, please reply off-list and I’ll add you.  If  you’re already on the litigation chart update list, you’ll automatically receive these updates.  (The litigation chart is linked from the legislation page.)  Thanks.

Prof. Michael B. Gerrard
Director, Center for  Climate Change Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027
Tel: 212-854-3287
Fax: 212-854-7946

New report on facilitating adaptation in a new climate agreement

The Global Leadership for Climate Action (GLCA), a task force of former heads of state and government and business and civil society leaders from more than 20 countries, has recently released a report entitled Facilitating an International Agreement on Climate Change: Adaptation to Climate Change. This could be a good student reading on one of the centerpiece issues of the current negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Moreover, it may help to emphasize some broader issues that are germane in any climate change law or policy course, including whether developed countries should have a legal obligation to provide adaptation assistance to developing countries (an abiding issue in current negotiations for a successor to Kyoto) and the interface of adaptation and mitigation responses to broader issues such as development and governance.

 The report provides a good overview of institutional efforts to develop a framework for adapting to climate change, including the provisions of the Bali roadmap. Moreover, it provides some interesting proposals for developing an effective adaptive system for developing countries. This includes:

  • Acknowledging the large uncertainties as to the magnitude, timing and location of climate impacts, adaptation strategies should be based on “upstream” interventions that yield benefits regardless of specific climate-related events. Such strategies could include development of drought-tolerant crop strains, increased storage capacity for freshwater, and improving health infrastructure;
  • Strategies need to be developed to increase the resilience of critical ecosystems. This includes payments for protection of ecosystem services in critical areas and large-scale programs to recover degraded land;
  • Centers for Regional Adapation in Agriculture should be established by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research;
  • Adaptation planning in developing countries needs to move beyond a focus on building infrastructure. It must include an emphasis on c0mmunity-based adaptation initiatives; this will necessarily entail broad reforms, including increased transparency, participatory democracy, and a  commitment to subsidiarity, pushing decisionmaking down to the local level;
  • National Adaptation Plans of Action and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers need to be updated to include analyses of climate risks and vulnerabilities, priorities for reducing vulnerabilities, and estimates of financing needs;

The report also contains an extensive analysis of the current status of financing of adaptation initiatives in developing countries. It notes that developing countries have received less than 10 per cent of the funds pledged by developed countries for adaptation, with the poorest countries receiving the least help. Among the recommendations of the report to increase funding include the following:

  • Explore new and additional sources of funding, as prescribed for in the Bali Roadmap. The report outlines a number of potential funding sources for adaptation programs, including auctioning of international emissions trading allowances, an international air passenger adaptation levy, and a levy on international shipping;
  • Establishment of a two prong strategy, emphasizing immediate funding of programs to address the needs of developing countries already feeling the impacts of climate change, and a longer term funding mechanism of $10-50 billion annually, with a transparent governance structure, and sources of funding not tied solely to overseas development assistance

In terms of institutions to implement effective adaptation programs, the report supports UNEP’s proposal for a Global Climate Adaptation Network to enhance capacity through technology transfers and knowledge dissemination. The report argues that this would free up the UNFCCC Secretariat to focus on broader policy setting. Additionally, the report recommends that the UN should create a focal point for sharing the expertise of its programs and agencies on issues ranging from water and crop management to insurance and disaster risk reduction.

The proposals in this report are part and parcel of the recommendations from a number of other recent analyses of adaptation; however, it’s a good compendium that would provide students with a good overview on this issue.