“Climate change isn’t for the birds” – Politico, 8 September 2014

In addition to affecting food supplies and increasing the likelihood of natural disasters, climate change is drastically impacting wildlife, especially our birds.

Earlier this month, the National Audubon Society published a study, which concluded that half of North America’s bird species will be endangered, and could go extinct, at the century’s end, due to the effects of climate change.

The bald eagle and Baltimore oriole are at a huge risk for endangerment, and Louisiana, Utah, Vermont, Nevada, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Washington DC’s state birds are as well. The Audubon’s report comes after a draft of the UN’s climate change report was disclosed, which cautioned about the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.

President Obama and the EPA are doing everything they can to stop climate change in its tracks, including introducing the Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan Proposal, which are aimed at curbing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. Of course, there is pushback from Republicans, conservatives, and coal states, like Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan where politicians contend that new climate regulations will deplete jobs and increase consumer’s expenses on energy.

For the report, the Audubon studied species prevalent to the US and Canada. Of the 588 species the Audubon chose, the Audubon found that by 2080, 314 of them will be in danger of extremely diminished populations because they will be without over half of their livable geographic range. The lives of these birds are indelibly linked to their physical environment.

Moreover, renewable energy — wind and solar power — also has a lasting impact on birds. Many conservatives and conservationists are calling this, “Obama’s war on birds.”

According to a report published last year by the journal Biological Conservation, around 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed yearly through contact with wind turbines. In 2013, the Interior Department granted 30-year permits to wind farms that allowed for accidentally killing or injuring bald and golden eagles. There have also been reports of a California-based solar power plant that causes birds to catch on fire while flying.

Conservatives are using the repercussions of renewable energy on birds as more political fodder against Obama and his climate policy. Perhaps this is rightfully so, as Obama hasn’t specifically incorporated flora, fauna, and their ecosystems into his climate policy. At the same time, however, if conservative policymakers — any policymakers, at that — are concerned about the birds, then they should make efforts to integrate climate change into conservation planning. It works both ways.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 10, 2014

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The Washington Post’s “A Climate for Change”

The Washington Post announced that it is initiating a series of editorials, called “A Climate for Change,” urging a shift in the way climate change is spoken about and acted upon in the US.

In America, many still hold the paradoxical belief that climate change doesn’t exist, and/or there is nothing we can do about it, and use a number of reasons to justify their skepticism and distrust. While the general public often places the importance of the economy and jobs above the environment, Republicans contend that we can’t trust the science, curbing emissions will further injure our already-hurt economy, and the US won’t make an impact if China and India don’t also cut down on their emissions. Democrats who represent coal states don’t necessarily stand behind their party’s climate policy because it could damage their chances for reelection. Conversely, a number of environmentalists and Democrats push to win trivial conflicts, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Action on climate change has declined since President Obama arrived in the Oval Office in 2008. Obama has made climate change a key cornerstone of his agenda for both his terms, as did 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain. But when Obama took office in 2008, the Republicans simultaneously took a fierce opposition to his climate policy, forcing Obama to enact his Climate Action Plan through executive order.

Now the world desperately needs us to rethink how we deal with climate change. Sea levels, temperatures, and the likelihood of natural disasters are rapidly rising, all of which will impact every corner of the earth. As the Washington Post points out, Obama and the EPA might not even be doing enough to counteract the effects of climate change. The US should be a leader in introducing new climate change policy, which will hopefully spur other nations to follow suit.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 25, 2014

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“Americans by 2 to 1 Would Pay More to Curb Climate Change” – Bloomberg, 10 June 2014

One of the arguments against Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA‘s Clean Power Plan proposal is that the added cost of clean energy will weigh heavily on the US’s middle class. However, it seems that Americans are prepared to pay more for energy. Obama and the EPA are currently working together to pass new rules that would reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with a focus on coal-fired power plants.

As reported by the Bloomberg National Poll, 62 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for curbing carbon emissions. Forty-six percent of Republicans are also ready to pay more, as well as 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents.

There remains a margin of Democrats who aren’t in favor of new carbon emission rules, particularly Democratic Senate candidates who represent coal states like West Virginia and Kentucky. But support is mainly divided on party lines: according to the same Bloomberg poll, 70 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents would endorse candidates who are in favor of new climate policy—only 28 percent of Republicans would advocate for such policy.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2014

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The “War Of Words On Coal” Continues

Yesterday, the EPA presented new rules for power plants emissions, called the Clean Power Plan proposal. These rules are a small part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he is pursuing through executive action. The four building blocks of the EPA’s proposal are:

    • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels;
    • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
    • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days-providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
    • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

(via EPA)

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants have decreased by 13 percent since 2005. While different states will be given different emissions quotas, 30 percent is the US’s nationwide goal. States have up to three years to draft plans to meet their goals. Initial compliance plans are due June 30, 2016, but some states will be allotted a one-year extension. States that form multi-state plans will be allotted a two-year extension. If a state decides not to formulate a plan, then the EPA will write one for the state.

The EPA will present a number of options that will help the states meet target goals, such as helping power plants to become more efficient and spending more on sources of renewable energy. Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia have already passed laws that permit their environmental agencies to create unique carbon-emission plans. Louisiana and Ohio are also following suit.

Conservatives have been battling Obama’s climate regulations for months. As the 2014 midterm elections loom right around the corner, conservatives and their industry allies will do anything they can to stir the political pot and anger voters. Voters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia are the determining factor in whether or not the Democrats retain the Senate majority. Many Democrats who are openly against the new rules represent coal-producing states, such as West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall—96 percent of his state’s power comes from coal.

The coal industry contends that the new rules will have negative repercussions on the economy, including major damage to coal and manufacturing jobs, increased household electricity costs, and a rising number of brown-outs during extreme heat or cold. The US Chamber of Commerce—opponents of the new regulations—contend that the Clean Power Plan proposal will result in a loss of almost a quarter-million jobs through 2030, will force power plants across the US to shut down, and will inflict $50 billion in yearly costs.

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The US depends on coal for 40 percent of its electricity; however, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions originate from electricity, and within that percentage, coal-fired power plants make up 80% of those emissions. Overall, coal-fired power plants expel 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While conservatives, and some liberals, see the proposed regulations as an attack on the coal industry, Obama sees it as way to not only clean up our environment, but also as a way to avert a national health crisis. Current climate law is dictated by the decades-old Clean Air Act, which regulates pollutants like soot, mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, but not carbon pollution.

The EPA will permit comment on the Clean Power Plan proposal for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and will also conduct public hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh during the week of July 28. The EPA’s proposed rules won’t be finalized until next year.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 2, 2014

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