Changing Planet

Studies Link Warming to Increased Weather Extremes

new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds global temperatures to be one of the best predictors of hurricane activity. In fact, the PNAS study found that a one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures could multiply the frequency of Katrina-like storms by two to seven times.

In the Arctic, melting sea ice—which reached its sixth lowest level on record—is driving its own extreme weather patterns. “For the past few winters, large parts of Asia, North America, and Europe experienced these cold conditions above normal snowfall,” said Jiping Liu of the University of Albany who led a study in PNAS on the topic. “When we started to explore the reason why, our study suggested it was the decline of Arctic sea ice.” Liu was among several researchers to discuss the topic at a news conference, where it was noted that warming conditions in the Arctic may be weakening jet stream currents, causing extreme weather systems to hover in northern mid-latitudes.

States Are Taking an Active Role in Clean Energy Deployment  

In Congress, signs of progress on a few small-scale energy bills are evident, but action at the state level is more robust. Washington D.C. and 29 states have renewable energy standards that require electric utilities to get a portion of their power from clean energy sources such as solar or wind. More than 20 states have created clean energy trust funds, and more than 40 offer some form of clean energy loans. These measures are responsible for helping double renewable energy capacity in the United States.

These successes aren’t without challenges. Renewable standards in 22 states could be lowered or repealed as part of a multi-pronged campaign to reverse Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates. Some of the most heated debates are in Kansas, Vermont, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio—where there’s a bill recommending repeal of the state’s 2008 standard requiring utility companies to get 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Plan Designed to Help Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change

A new plan—dubbed the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy—establishes key priorities to help wildlife adapt to climate change. The nationwide plan describes the expected future impacts to wildlife habitats, noting that “Even if further GHG emissions were halted today, alterations already underway in the Earth’s climate will last for hundreds or thousands of years. If GHG emissions continue, as is currently more likely, the planet’s average temperature is projected to rise 2.0 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with accompanying major changes in extreme weather events, variable and/or inconsistent weather patterns, sea level rise, and changing ocean conditions including increased acidification.”

Seven goals for resource managers are highlighted in the plan, which was developed in response to a request from Congress. The goals include conserving and connecting habitat, managing species and habitats to allow sustainable use and protect ecosystems, reducing non-climate stressors such as pollution and invasive species, conducting research to increase knowledge and educating the public about climate change and its effects on resources.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad.

In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.

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