EPA Makes Plans to Curb Plane Emissions

The Obama Administration has initiated talks on restricting the aerospace industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, stating that it might take some time before exact regulations take effect.

According to the EPA, like the automobile industry and power plants, airplanes also negatively impact human health; thus, restrictions are necessary. Creating the regulations will take some time — nothing will be enacted while Obama is in office, and will be the next president’s responsibility.

The EPA is waiting for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is tasked with creating international aviation regulations, to develop worldwide carbon emission rules. The deadline is February 2016; ICAO members are obligated to enact international regulations approved by the agency. The EPA is collaborating with multiple international agencies, like the ICAO, to create aerospace regulations.

Environmentalists would like the EPA to issue their rules before February 2016 because they worry that the ICAO — an agency that works with both the EPA and airline industry — will be biased and present lenient restrictions. Environmental groups want the US to lead the way.

Per the Flying Clean campaign, flights in and out of the US constitute almost one-third of the world’s airplane emissions; airline emissions will likely double by the end of 2020 if nothing is done soon.

Of course, Republicans have their issues with Obama cutting airplane emissions, specifying that airfare prices will skyrocket and hurt domestic air travel. Airline companies agree, explaining that they have already done so much to curb emissions, including using fuel alternatives, enhancing aerodynamics, and using lighter inflight materials. As reported by the International Air Transport Association, decreasing an airplane’s weight by 5.5 pounds is equivalent to a one-ton cut in yearly carbon emissions.

But the aviation industry continues to grow: more and more people are flying each year. Although air flights only comprise 2 percent of worldwide emissions, it’s projected that by 2020, international flights can reach 70 percent above 2005 numbers, regardless of whether fuel efficiency is advanced by an annual 2 percent.

To combat this, in the past, the EU tried to enact the Emissions Trading System, which was subsequently banned by the US, China, and other countries. With the support of both Democrats and Republicans, Obama even passed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which banned American airlines from partaking in the EU’s system.

Airlines have pledged to limit their emissions by 2 percent every year until 2020, when emission growth will cap. The ultimate goal is for the aerospace industry’s emissions to be at half 2005′s numbers by 2050.

At this point, using newly-made airplanes that have better fuel economies are our best bet. Boeing has introduced its new 787 Dreamliner and Airbus has introduced the A350, both of which are more fuel efficient but not in wide use just yet.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2015

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“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics” – New York Times, 16 January 2015

Climate change skeptics might no longer have a leg to stand on, as it has now been reported that 2014 has been the hottest year since weather patterns were first recorded in 1880.

The previous warmest year was 2010; the 10 hottest years on record have taken place after 1997, generating intense heat waves across the western US coast and extreme cold fronts across the eastern US coast. This is further proof that climate change is spurred by human activity and will have a disastrous impact on the Earth.

Moreover, 2014 didn’t have a prominent El Niño — or the warming of the Pacific Ocean that sends excessive heat into the atmosphere — which is odd. It’s easy to imagine that now the effects of climate change have gotten to the point where the world doesn’t need an extra push to reach excessively hot temperatures.

Climate skeptics assert that global warming stopped in 1998, the year of the last extremely strong El Niño. That year was also the warmest year on record in the 20th century. The hottest years have occurred after 1998, in 2005, 2010, and 2014; climate skeptics’ insistence is unjustified at this point.

Human activity continues to take a toll on our environment, causing temperatures to increase, killing flora and fauna, and making sea levels increase. Records for 2014 have been released from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a Japan-based agency. A British group is also slated to issue their findings in a few weeks.

Interestingly, satellite temperature readings indicate that 2014 wasn’t the hottest year, though they do reveal that last year was very close. Satellites study atmospheric temperatures and not temperatures on the surface of the earth, which accounts for the disparity.

Though climate change seems to be old news at this point, any headway on the matter has been recent. Last year, 300,000 marched in New York City in hopes to mobilize the issue; and last month, almost 200 nations met in Lima, Peru to discuss a global accord to combat the effects of climate change.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 19, 2015

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“A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure” – New York Times, 14 December 2014

Last month, almost 200 nations gathered in Lima, Peru to agree on a global pact to reduce fossil fuel emissions, one of the primary causes of climate change. The deal — called the Lima Accord — shows huge progress in global effort to fight the effects of climate change: it’s the first time that these nations will make a unilateral effort to curb the use of oil, gas, and coal.

However, the Lima Accord is not lawfully mandatory. If it were legally binding, then the nearly 200 nations wouldn’t have agreed to the deal — not even the US. Instead, the hope is that global peer pressure will be the impetus to move the accord forward. At this point, every nation has agreed to place limits on its carbon emissions.

According to the accord, each nation will have to introduce carbon-cutting domestic legislation by either March or June. Laws will delineate how each country will curb emissions after 2020. These proposals are known to the UN as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” which will be included in an upcoming climate deal in Paris in 2015.

But because the Lima Accord has no requirements, countries could conceive of feeble plans that wouldn’t drastically combat the effects of climate change. Countries also have the choice of not even offering a plan — and if they don’t submit a plan, there are no fines or retribution.

Again, the accord relies on peer pressure and a method called “name-and-shame.” Each countries’ plan will be posted to the UN’s site as public information. If the countries’ plans are made public and some are found to be weak in comparison, then the shame of such a weakness will hopefully push that country to strengthen its plan.

The biggest worry comes with the top three polluters: the US, China, and India. While President Obama has tried to make climate change a vital element of his second term, his legacy really depends on what happens after his term is over. He has vowed to reduce emissions by at least 28 percent by 2025, which can be attained if tailpipe and power plant emissions regulations are passed. Unfortunately, most Republican White House contenders are staunch opponents of Obama’s climate change policies and likely don’t care about global urgencies.

China has been pushed to seek methods of reducing emissions due to discord among its citizens, as citizens disapproved of China’s worsening air quality. The country has now eclipsed the US as the number one polluter — President Xi Jinping has promised that China’s emissions will spike in 2030 and then fall. In order to ensure that target, the country is enacting a national cap-and-trade structure where polluters will have to purchase greenhouse gas emissions.

Because curbing emissions can be costly, it is a difficult burden for developing nations. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast aside any efforts towards reversing climate change, instead focusing on economic growth and poverty, which could mean building new coal power plants. However, India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has stated that the country will offer a plan in June.

Other countries that climate change policy observers are following are Russia and Australia. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin doesn’t believe that humans cause climate change, and Australia has phased out its Department of Climate Change, and also revoked a carbon tax.

While we have a majority of the countries on board with the deal, there are a few important strays that will determine whether or not the Lima Accord is indeed productive.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 15, 2014

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