ESA Policy News: March 1

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp. Read the full Policy News at http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2010/02262010.php.

Read More

Ups and downs: climate change in January 2010

This post was contributed by Piper Corp, ESA Science Policy Analyst, and Katie Kline A lot has happened over the last couple of weeks when it comes to climate change: 2009 was tied for the second warmest year on record, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski took aim at the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and China joined several other rapidly industrializing nations in agreeing to submit plans to cut emissions by the end of the month. Here is an overview of recent climate change issues: 2009 listed among second warmest years in recorded history According to NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) research, the average global temperature in 2009 was only a fraction of a degree cooler than in 2005, the warmest year on record; it joined five other years—1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007—as second warmest. Map showing increase in 2000-2009 average temperature compared to 1951-1980. Image Credit: NASA/GISS Data were gathered from more than 1,000 weather stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and measurements from Antarctic research stations. A NASA video describes the analysis and implications of the data, and the possible causes of the temperature hike. And according to GISS and analyses from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last decade was the warmest on record—average global temperatures have risen about 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade over the last thirty years. James Hansen, GISS director, says in the NASA article: There’s always an interest in the annual temperature numbers and on a given year’s ranking, but usually that misses the point. There’s substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Niño-La Niña cycle. But when we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find that global warming is continuing unabated. Murkowski introduces resolution to prevent EPA action To keep EPA from moving forward with plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a “disapproval” resolution, which would retroactively veto the agency’s 2009 finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health. Murkowski’s resolution has little chance of succeeding—even if it makes it through Congress (Murkowski decided to use a disapproval resolution because it requires 51 Senate votes rather than 60, as an amendment would require), President Obama would still have the option of vetoing it. Senate Climate Bill Chances of a climate law in 2010 are slim. With unemployment at 10 percent, a still-weak economy and midterm elections on the way, the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress will likely focus almost entirely on creating jobs. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says...

Read More

ESA Policy News Update

My sincere apologies for this week’s EcoTone drought… this blogger was away on vacation. To re-whet your appetite, here are highlights from the latest Policy News Update from ESA’s policy analyst, Piper Corp. House Climate Bill: On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 33 to 25.  The committee approved a number of amendments, including ones establishing a federal “clean energy” bank, which would provide financial assistance for clean energy projects, and a “cash for clunkers” program, which would provide consumers with up to $4,500 toward replacing gas-guzzling cars with more efficient models. The committee also voted down Republican-backed amendments to add nuclear and hydroelectric power to the renewable electricity standard, as well as ones to provide a means for terminating the cap-and-trade program in the event of increased job loss or energy prices. Among the things yet to be decided are acceptable sources of biomass for renewable energy mandates (see the March 5 Policy News), emissions allocations for refineries, and repercussions for violations in gas, power and carbon markets. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he expects a possible floor debate in late June or early July, following another month of fast-paced committee action. Senate Energy Bill: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) appears to have gathered the twelve votes necessary to move forward with a renewable energy standard (RES) measure in the chamber’s massive energy bill. The current RES would require utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, allowing companies to cover roughly a fourth of the target with efficiency offsets. Committee members are still debating the specifics, however, and could mark up as many as 49 amendments next month. Fisheries: The Obama administration’s 2010 budget request includes $18.6 million for “catch-share” programs, new fisheries management programs that take a cap-and-trade-style approach to regulating catches. Under the traditional system, managers set a limit to the fishery’s total catch, and boats compete to bring in as many fish as possible before the fishery hits its limit. The resulting “race for fish” is, according to several studies, a major contributor to fishery decline and collapse. Catch-share programs are designed to incentivize more sustainable practices by guaranteeing all fishers a fixed number of shares from the total catch, a limit that is set annually by scientists. These shares, which can be bought and sold, increase in value when the fish populations increase, increasing the financial benefit of preserving the long-term health of the fishery. Recent studies have shown that catch-share programs can cut the collapse rate for fisheries in...

Read More