U.S. Energy-Related Emissions, 2010

The U.S. Energy Information Agency has released its assessment of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States for 2010. Among the findings of this rather disturbing snapshot of U.S. emissions:

  1. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States saw their largest absolute and percentage increase (213 million metric tons) since 1988, translating into a 3.9% increase;
  2. The factors leading to this substantial increase included increases in population, output per capita, energy intensity (energy consumed per unit of economic activity) and carbon intensity of energy (carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy);
    1. While the increase in carbon intensity was not dramatic (0.1%), it contrasts markedly with a more than 12% decline in 2009. One very important factor was a 6% increase in coal use in 2010; coal accounted for 56% of the increase in power generation in the electric sector in 2010;
    2. Despite frequent speculation that coal use may fall into disfavor in the face of regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, coal’s overall share in total energy production in the U.S. actually increased slightly in 2010, to 45.7%, up from 46.1% in 2009;
    3. While non-carbon based energy sources saw a 1.2% increase in production, because total generation increased by 4.2%, it meant that the share of non-carbon generation fell in 2010. The primary reason for the drop was a substantial decline in hydropower use, which offset much of the increase in wind, nuclear and solar power;

The EIA cautions that one should not read any trend into the 2010 data. However, the continued unwavering commitment of our society to coal is certainly disconcerting, especially in conjunction with the setback to the fortunes of carbon capture and sequestration recently with AEP’s announcement that it was suspending its high-profile demonstration project. The report also contains some good charts for Power Point presentations, including the current composition of our energy generation mix and trends in energy intensity.

Impacts of Warming on Species

A new study published  in the journal Science demonstrates that warming trends are producing startling shifts of species, with the portent of much greater ramifications in the future. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of latitudinal and longitudinal range shifts for a range of species from different taxonomic grounds in several regions, including Europe, North and South America and Asia and correlation with temperature increases. Among the take-aways of the study:

    1. Species have moved away from the equator at a median range of 16.9 km. per decade -1; for elevation, the analysis revealed a median shift to higher elevations of 11.0 m uphill per decade -1. This is a rate three times greater than found in previous studies;
    2. Unlike previous studies demonstrating nonrandom latitudinal and elevational changes without establishing statistical  linkages between range shifts and warming, this study found a significant correlation between shifts and warming, though with a weaker correlation in terms of elevational shifts;
    3. The rates of latitudinal and elevational shifts are substantially greater than that found in a previous meta-analysis, and increase with levels of warming;
    4. The variation found within taxonomic groups was so substantial that more detailed studies of physiological, ecological and environmental data are required to provide specific assessment for individual species;
    5. The ultimate fate of species in a changing world will be complex. As one of the researchers involved in the study, Chris Thomas of York University, recently concluded: “[r]ealization of how fast species are moving because of climate change indicates that many species may indeed be heading rapidly towards extinction, where climatic conditions are deteriorating. On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers.”

This would be a good reading for a module discussing current impacts of climate change; it’s also a good case study of the complexity of climate science as it includes a good discussion of the interaction of climatic and non-climatic factors and multi-species interactions, and is yet another example of why operationalizing the precautionary principle is salutary in the context of climate change policy.

Climate Change Studio

For instructors who like to incorporate video clips into their curriculum, an excellent source is the Climate Change Studio, a collaboration of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat and the website Climate Change TV. The site includes an array of online videos from key international and national policy makers, as well as NGOs in both the North and the South.

New Online Courses on adaptation

CSDi is announcing the September launch of a module of four online field courses on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change. These courses begin by introducing basic climate change concepts, and develop as participants identify local community vulnerabilities, investigate appropriate solutions, develop full projects, launch and manage them.


Complete information and course syllabi:



Online course participants are using our courses to develop real, on-the-ground projects with real communities—both individually and through North/South student partnerships. People from 112 different countries and 250 organizations have used CSDi online courses to develop projects impacting 140.000 people.