China to Launch ‘Environmental Police’ Force

From: Al Jazeera
Published: January 8, 2017

World’s largest greenhouse gas emitter will deploy squad targeting polluters to combat toxic air crisis.

China has announced plans to set up an “environmental police” force responsible for enforcing pollution restrictions across the capital Beijing in a bid to improve the city’s notorious air quality.

Cai Qi, who is both the deputy chief of the country’s ruling party and mayor of Beijing, promised to impose tougher measures in the city’s 16 districts to combat a long-standing and widespread toxic smog problem that has brought “harm” to people’s lives.

“Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads – these acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement,” Cai was quoted by the Xinuhua news agency as saying.

Read more at Al Jazeera

Ready to Defend Obama’s Environmental Legacy? Top 10 Accomplishments to Focus On

From: Keith Gaby – Environmental Defense Fund
Published: January 12, 2017

If you ever wonder whether the political process can yield real results for the environment, President Barack Obama has your answer. Having a leader committed to clean energy, climate progress, and protecting our natural heritage in the White House for the past eight years has resulted in major achievements.

While advocates always want more, President Obama’s environmental legacy is impressive. It is, along with the accomplishments of the Nixon Administration, the most consequential of any president in our history. Obama leaves a better, cleaner, more sustainable world for all of our kids.

Here’s one advocate’s view of the president’s top 10 environmental accomplishments (in no particular order):

1. National climate progress

His Clean Power Plan was the first ever national limit on carbon pollution from its largest source. It sent a signal to states and utilities, which is now transforming the way we produce energy. The president also used his office to educate Americans about the dangers of climate change with major speeches and TV appearances. He leaned in.

2. An international climate agreement

President Obama’s diplomatic leadership, and work with China, led to a long-sought global agreement among 195 nations to reduce climate pollution.

3. Pollution limits for power plants

The Obama Administration put in place overdue pollution limits for power plant smokestacks. These are major sources of air toxics like mercury, as well sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which lead to smog, soot, and acid rain pollution.

4. Reducing air pollution from oil and gas operations

We now have common sense protections for oil and gas development that avoid waste and protect public health and the environment by reducing emissions of smog-forming pollution while conserving a valuable domestic energy resource. These safeguards reduce methane, which drives one-quarter of current global warming, and save almost $2 billion worth of American energy.

5. Cleaner cars and trucks

The Obama EPA enhanced fuel efficiency and sensible pollution standards for vehicles. Consumers are saving money at the same time that we’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our communities are breathing cleaner air, and auto manufacturing in America is resurgent. Cars are now on a path to average over 50 miles per gallon.

6. Clean energy investment

Way back in 2009, the “stimulus” package not only helped us out of the Great Recession, it invested billions in clean energy technology. These programs have paid for themselves and made the American government $1 billion in interest payments, while also helping to make wind and solar energy more affordable in the last eight years, as deployment has soared.

7. Chemical safety

The president signed the first major environmental law in two decades, passed with bipartisan support, fixing our broken chemical safety system.

8. Sustainable agriculture, western water, and endangered species

The President established regional Climate Hubs and several initiatives to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities combat climate change and adapt to extreme weather. He signed a landmark agreement with Mexico providing greater flexibility in the management and restoration of the Colorado River, which allowed the river to reach the sea for the first time in decades. And he brought industry, environmentalists and private landowners together across 11 states to voluntarily protect the greater sage grouse and avoid a listing.

9. Fisheries rebound

Through strong implementation of revisions to the national fisheries law, under President Obama the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reduced overfishing and recovered a record number of fisheries in US waters. Catch shares now govern more than half the volume of fish landed in the United States and have prompted the dramatic recovery of previously overfished species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper and several Pacific rockfishes.

10. Protecting our natural heritage

The president has preserved 260 million acres for future generations, more than any of his predecessors, by designating 19 national monuments. He signed into law and began implementing the RESTORE Act, the nation’s largest-ever commitment to protect and restore the Gulf Coast.

The best way to honor these accomplishments is to protect and defend them. Can we do so in a Trump Administration? If we are relentless in our activism, yes we can.

Read more at Environmental Defense Fund

Measuring the ‘True Social Cost’ of Carbon Dioxide Emissions

From: The University of Oxford
Published: January 13, 2017

The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has proposed a new framework for US agencies to use to estimate the ‘social cost of carbon dioxide’ emissions. Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the Environmental Change Institute, helped compile the report which will strengthen the scientific basis and provide greater transparency for US climate policy.

The social cost of carbon (SC-CO2) is an estimate, in dollars, of the net damages incurred by society from the emission of a single additional tonne of carbon dioxide in a given year. The dollar figure also represents the value of damages avoided by cutting emission of one tonne. The SC-CO2 is intended to be a comprehensive estimate of the net damages from carbon emissions —that is, the net costs and benefits associated with the effects of climate change such as changes in agricultural productivity, risks to human health, and damage from events like floods. The US government has to estimate the costs and benefits of proposed regulations, for example, in standards for emissions from vehicles or fossil-fuel powered plants, or energy efficiency standards for appliances.

This framework can be used to translate reductions of carbon dioxide emissions into monetary benefits. The report recommends that four key steps of social cost of carbon dioxide estimation: the projection of future socioeconomics and emissions, the translation of emissions into climate change, the translation of climate change into damages to human welfare, and the discounting of damages over time.

An organisation called the federal Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (IWG) developed a methodology in 2010 to estimate the social cost of carbon. This followed a court ruling creating an obligation that still continues, so if the government wants to propose regulations that decrease or increase carbon dioxide emissions, it is legally required to estimate the economic consequences. This latest report updates the methods of calculating the monetary costs.

Read more at The University of Oxford