Category Archives: Climate

What the SCOTUS Stay Mean for the Clean Power Plan

Though legal challenges to full implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) were expected, the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday to stay progress on the CPP was a surprising and unexpected setback. The EPA regulation is president Obama’s signature action to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

A coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and fossil energy interests,claiming the CPP was a “power grab,” prevailed upon the court in a 5-to-4 vote that fell along idealogical leanings. All four of the liberal justices noted they did not favor the decision.

It is reportedly unprecedented to stay any regulation before its legal standing has been considered. A similar request for a stay was rejected by the DC Circuit US Court of Appeals in December.

The stay does not overturn the CPP nor does it comment on the legal merits of the plan, which will be considered by the Court of Appeals in oral arguments on June 2.  Once the Court of Appeals makes its decision, it is assumed the Supreme Court will then hear the case and issue its final decision by June of 2017 and likely “no later than June of 2018,” said Joanne Spalding, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club at a press conference on Thursday.

The Clean Power Plan calls for states to come up wth their own individual plans for cutting emissions by September, though a 2-year extension is allowed. The CPP calls for a 32 percent overall reduction in emissions against 2005 levels by 2030. Implementation of the state plans does not begin until 2022.

Since the court’s ruling this week, at least four states – California, Virginia, Colorado and Washington – have pledged they will continue implementing their plans. A New York-led coalition of 14 states have also issued a statement stressing their support of the CPP.

Experts from the Sierra Club, World Resources Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists participated in Thursday’s press conference. Our post on GlobalWarmingisReal details their comments and outlook for continued climate action despite the temporary setback handed down by the Supreme Court.

Image credit: MPCA Photos, courtesy flickr

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for January

An unusually warm January over the Arctic ocean combined with a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation shrunk sea ice extent to its lowest point for any January in the satellite record going back to 1979.

With air temperatures as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit above average over much of the Arctic ocean, sea ice extent was 405,000 square miles below the 1979-2010 average. At 5.2 million square miles, sea ice extent was 42,500 square miles below the previous record low set in 2011. The amount of sea ice extent below average is equal to the size of Texas, New Mexico, Maryland and New Hampshire combined.

Arctic Anomaly

The Arctic region “is behaving very oddly this winter,”  said Mark Serreze director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado:

“For the Arctic this is definitely the strangest winter I’ve ever seen” 

For Alaska, it is very much the year without winter. In Fairbanks only 1.8 inches of snow fell between December 1 and January 31, 20 inches below average and the lowest snow fall on record for period. By contrast, New York City saw 2.5 inches of snowfall just last Friday morning.

Downward trend for Arctic sea ice extent

Arctic Sea ice declining average

Since 2005 January sea ice extent has been less the 5.5 million square miles, contrasting the January extent prior to 2005 (1979-2004) with sea ice extent greater than 5.5 million sq. miles. The trend continues, with January sea ice extent declining at a rate of -3.2 percent per decade.

Climate Negotiations in Paris: the Art of the Possible

COP21 was winding down on Friday, December 11, but excitement was in the air as promise of a first-ever global climate agreement neared its dramatic conclusion.

On the way in to the Le Bourget conference site that day I shared an electric car ride with Juliana Phillip from the negotiating team for the EU.

As we discussed the outcome of the conference, I was interested to hear the perspective of someone “on the inside” of the negotiating rooms.

As we walked down the “Champs de Elysées” at Le Bourget, Ms. Phillip commented how interesting it had been to watch the negotiations play out over the proceeding weeks and months, culminating in the present moment that chilly Friday morning. 

As we parted ways, we both commented on how it demonstrated the Art of the Possible.

Indeed, the Paris Agreement signed at COP21 is far from perfect, but it was also a momentous step forward. When I arrived back home the next day, I wrote COP21, the Paris Agreement and the Art of the Possible