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Climate Change Blog 40

By Carl Howard posted 05-19-2021 05:02 PM

  

Climate Change Blog 40

Facts on the Ground:

Severe weather in the form of violent tornados caused widespread damage and loss of life in the Southern states of Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina. Tornado watches and warnings were issued from Oklahoma to the Carolinas and North Texas in early May. Hail the size of softballs and wind gusting to 80 mph accompanied some of these storms in Georgia. Many storms snapped utility poles, power was lost, trees were down and many structures had their roofs blown off.

New Mexico’ faced its first major wildfire of the year in late April as nearly 6,000 acres burned in a matter of days. In the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona officials ordered the evacuation of 200 homes as heavy winds spread flames through dry pine forests. And in California, Los Angeles County is facing wildfires which forced the evacuation of homes and threatened a sheriff’s facility storing weapons and ammunition. This region is drier than usual as the winter snowpack is a small fraction of its usual size.

The Southwest could experience a major burning season given the on-going, multiyear, drought, among the worst the area has experienced in centuries. There has been both a lack of rain as well as diminished snowfall. And, of course, heat.

“We’re looking at widespread fire activity this year, and by widespread, I mean statewide,” said Tiffany Davila of the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Twelve times as much land in Arizona has burned during the first four months of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020. Research suggests that global warming increases the likelihood of more of the same.

Climate change is blamed for altered precipitation patterns across the Southwest, which has dried both soil and vegetation, intensified wildfire seasons and threatened water supplies for people, agriculture and wildlife.

“The risks have just been increasing year to year,” Wendy Mason, a New Mexico wildfire prevention official, said. “This year’s drought in the state is quite possibly the worst since records have been kept.”

Arizona has had 311 fires this year, compared with 127 through the first four months of 2020; 15,555 acres have burned, compared with 1,290 acres in the same period last year.

“We don’t normally see a lot of fire activity in Mohave County until May or June,” she said. “We’re pretty much in extreme drought across nearly the entire state.”

Similarly, in California, windstorms propelled dozens of wildfires across the state in the usually calm month of January. “It also set the all-time records for hottest summer,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, adding,

“We have been using groundwater unsustainably for more than a century,” Mr. Mount said. “That’s had a cascade of unintended and unwanted consequences: community wells drying up, land subsidence of many feet, the drying up of springs and wetlands.”

Weird weather included a mid-April frost in France, the worst in decades, has ravaged a French wine industry already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and what is known among winegrowers as the “Trump tax.”

Destruction from the cold covered 80% of France’s winegrowing regions, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire according to Jean-Marie Barillère, the head of a major wine industry association. Vines were the worst hit but almond and fruit trees were also affected, as well as some other crops, including beets and rapeseed.

Anne Colombo, who is president of the Cornas appellation, a prized winegrowing area in the Rhone region, said it was the worst frost in more than a half-century. “We’ve had greater problems with hail than frost, but this year was devastating.”

Reeling off the names of great Rhone wines — Condrieu, Cornas, Côte Rotie — she indicated they were all severely affected. “It’s a terrible blow after the virus which has shut restaurants and bars, and so slashed demand, and after the Trump tax.” Trump had imposed tariffs on French wines after failing to resolve various subsidy and tax disputes with France. The import taxes contributed to a 14% decline in global French wine and spirit exports last year.

Biden Addresses Climate Change

NYS Bar Association’s Environment and Energy Law Section co-sponsored its second annual Earth Day event. Dr. Sarah Kapnick, a Research Physical Scientist and Deputy Division Leader at NOAA, explained many of the hazards presented by climate change, including 230’ of potential sea level rise should we pass a tipping point and cause the polar ice caps to collapse; and, “wet bulb” conditions in many parts of the world where the temperature is increasingly too extreme for working outdoors as the heat combined with increased humidity does not allow for sweat evaporation and cooling off; and other possible nightmarish scenarios under our current rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

She was followed by two speakers addressing the many Biden initiatives addressing climate change, which he has called one of his top priorities. While we were meeting virtually, Biden was meeting virtually with leaders from three dozen countries where he increased the US pledge pursuant to the Paris Accord to reduce by 50% US GHG emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Mike Gerrard, my co-chair of the Global Climate Change Committee, and the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, focused on mitigation measures necessary to meet that goal, and Alice Hill, a senior fellow for climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly special assistant to President Obama, focused on adaptation measures as the impacts of climate change are being felt across the US. Many of these topics are addressed below.

Jose Almanzar, Associate with Beveridge & Diamond, spoke of Biden’s commitment to Environmental Justice by ensuring that 40% of climate investment benefits go to disadvantaged communities. Jose explained that NY’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act also stressed the importance of EJ via the creation of the Climate Justice Working Group and the EJ Advisory Group.

Tomi Vest, General Counsel for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, spoke about the challenges of protecting 520 miles of NYC coastline. She noted that heat is currently the number one health risk in the city, killing an average of 115/year (more on this below). Tomi noted that the City had set a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050. She also touched on the 5 separate projects to protect lower Manhattan from storm surges.

Jon Binder, Chief of the Bureau of Climate, Air, and Energy, Office of General Counsel, NYSDEC, spoke about the States’ CLCPA, and its goal of 85% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 and 40% reduction by 2030, as well as 100% zero-carbon electricity generation by 2040. Much of this renewable energy is to come from offshore wind.

Consistent with the above efforts, the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, received final approval from the Biden administration and should generate 800 megawatts of electricity, enough electricity to power 400,000 homes. The project includes up to 84 turbines located about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The $2.8 billion project is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

Trump had moved to cancel the project’s permitting process. Biden has pledged to build 30,000 MWs of offshore wind in the US by 2030, and expects to create $12 billion in capital investments annually, supporting 77,000 direct and indirect jobs by the end of the decade. Construction could begin later this year and be operational by 2023.

“It’s a big deal on its face. It’s the first of its kind,” said Frank Callahan, president the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. He praised the administration and said, “I think it’s an important message that these jobs will be good union jobs with good wages and benefits.”

Biden has stated his intention to fast-track permits for projects off the Atlantic Coast and will offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrades to US ports to support wind turbine construction.

“This is the icebreaker, it’s the first one, it’s charting the course,” Rafael McDonald, an electricity and renewable analyst at IHS Markit, said. “There’s all this pent-up demand from state mandates, and Vineyard Wind is the bellwether.”

About a dozen additional offshore wind projects along the East Coast are under federal review. The Interior Department estimates that by the end of the decade offshore wind projects could include over 2,000 turbines from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Offshore wind is thriving in Europe but has been slow to develop in the US. Only two wind farms currently operate, off the coasts of Virginia and Rhode Island, producing a total of 42 MWs of electricity. But that is expected to change as Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have committed to buying more than 25,000 MWs of offshore wind power by 2035.

Meeting these clean energy goals is essential to reach Biden’s goals. The planned offshore projects could cut 78 million metric tons of US GHG emissions.

A new study (led by Tamsin Edwards, a climate scientist at King’s College, London) says that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) could reduce sea level rise from melting ice sheets from about 10 inches to about five by 2100. But the world has already warmed about 1.1C since 1900 and is currently on course to exceed 3C. That’s why we must move so fast.

In a second study (by Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University) also published in the journal, Nature, another group of scientists focused only on Antarctica and found that 3C of warming could trigger an abrupt increase in the rate of melting around 2060, and drive a rate at the end of the century that would be 10 times faster than today’s.

Melting polar ice and SLR are two crucial indicators of planetary health and these two studies are the latest best forecasts of note. Climate change continues to contribute to SLR which will cause more flooding, force costly adaptation measures for coastal infrastructure and potentially create millions of additional climate refugees. Thus, the absolute necessity of rapidly reducing warming by drastically cutting GHG emissions.

“You can conclude from both studies that mitigation and emissions reductions will be important with regard to how much sea level rises,” said Peter U. Clark, a geologist at Oregon State University.

 A special report published in 2019 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that total SLR by 2100 could range from about 1’ to more than 3’ depending on how much the world warms.

Overall, the range in findings from the first study — which are likely to be incorporated in the next climate assessment report from the IPCC, expected next year — are similar to previous reports. That, Dr. Edwards said, is an indication that the uncertainties are narrowing as the models improve.

If warming is limited to 2C, Dr. DeConto said, the ice sheet could continue to behave the way it does now. “When we jump to a world that reaches 3C by 2100, things really start to change.”

The new study finds that when surface melting in Antarctica increases to the point where the ice cliff instability kicks in, around 2060 or 2070, it may enable land-based ice to slide into the sea leading to catastrophic SLR.

As per all forecasts of the impact of melting ice on SLR, the melting will continue long after the century ends. If GHG emissions levels stay high, “things really begin to take off in the next century,” Dr. DeConto said.

Daniel M. Gilford, a postdoctoral researcher at Rutgers University who contributed to the study, said that once Antarctic ice shelves become unstable the process likely would be irreversible. Even if commercial scale technology were to be developed that removed CO2 from the atmosphere, warming would remain at a level where new ice would not replace melting and calving ice.

“There isn’t any ‘get out of melting free’ card,” said Dr. Gilford, who now works for the research organization Climate Central. “You are going to have to reduce greenhouse gases now and in the near term if we want to avoid these long-term impacts.”

New research demonstrates the varied and deadly implications of global warming in the urban environment. Not only are polar ice caps melting and seas rising, but the direct impact of increasing heat on humans is increasingly dire. As the temperature rises, energy consumption follows as people turn on air conditioners. This increased energy demand has resulted in a 60% rise in power failures since 2015 according to research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The study showed that American cities (with some of the most advanced energy systems in the world) are not prepared for the risk of heat waves followed by power demand and blackouts.

The power demands of three cities, Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix, were studied and the findings suggest that a combined blackout and heat wave would expose at least two-thirds of residents in those cities to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Only 2% of the population of those cities would be able to find relief in public cooling centers.

“A widespread blackout during an intense heat wave may be the deadliest climate-related event we can imagine,” said Brian Stone Jr., a professor at the School of City & Regional Planning at Georgia Institute of Technology and the lead author of the study. Yet such a scenario is “increasingly likely,” he said.

Electric grids can be over-whelmed by extreme cold too as demonstrated by the recent winter storm that knocked out power for millions of people in Texas and caused over 150 deaths.

But the greater risk to human health is from extreme heat. Heat kills some 12,000 Americans each year (and more in Europe, even more in the developing world).

Consequently, power failures are increasingly common. From 2015 to 2020, the number of blackouts annually in the US doubled. And those blackouts were more likely to occur during the summer as people turn up their ACs.

Should that happen in Atlanta, more than 350,000 people, or about 70% of residents, would be exposed to indoor temperatures equal to or greater than 32C (89.6F), the level at which the National Weather Service’s heat classification index says heat exhaustion and heat stroke are possible.

In Detroit, more than 450,000, or about 68%, would be exposed to such indoor temperature. In Phoenix, where a vast majority of residents rely on ACs, the entire population would be at risk — almost 1.7 million people.

“We find that millions are at risk,” Dr. Stone said. “Not years in the future, but this summer.”

Biden’s call for change, including deep emissions cuts, appears to be getting a favorable response from the business community. Over 300 large businesses including Google, McDonalds and Walmart, pushed Biden to reduce the US target for cuts in GHG emissions. Electric utilities, Exelon and Pacific Gas & Electric, supported the proposed cuts as did companies based in Republican districts, as well as Target, Verizon and Altria Group, parent of the tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, once a firm ally of the Republican Party, and Philip Morris International.

“I think this signals a major shift in the corporate community’s understanding of the urgency of climate change as a systemic financial risk,” said Anne Kelly, vice president for government affairs at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres.

Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming-R) opposes such cuts, saying “The Paris climate agreement will result in increased energy costs for Americans while Russia and China increase greenhouse gas emissions.”

Patrick Flynn, vice president of sustainability for Salesforce, said he hopes businesses will lobby Congress to support Biden’s target. “We know it will create millions of jobs, we know it’s a good thing for the economy, and we know if we do it right we can do it in a way that leaves no one behind,” he said.

The corporate response is all the more remarkable because Biden’s plan for curbing climate change would be paid for in large part by raising corporate tax rates, a move sure to raise objections among at least some of the climate-conscious corporations. He also has called for a clean electricity standard and promised new regulations on the utility sector, automobile makers and oil and gas industries.

Now that the US is back in the Paris Agreement and the US has upped its pledged emissions reduction, other nations have upped their pledges too. Unfortunately, no major emitting country was even reaching its prior pledge. The US is currently less than halfway to its original goal.

Concentrations of atmospheric CO2 continue to rise. According to a recent measurement taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, concentrations exceed 420 parts per million for the first time since levels have been recorded.

EPA has resumed measuring the consequences of climate change after Trump stopping the accounting. Wildfires have grown larger and begin earlier in the year. There are hotter and more frequent heat waves. Seas are rising and warming and flooding is more common. The temperature of the ground and atmosphere is hotter.

“There is no small town, big city or rural community that is unaffected by the climate crisis,” Michael S. Regan, the EPA Administrator, said. “Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close, with increasing regularity.” The recently compiled data, the federal government’s most comprehensive and up-to-date information yet, reveals that the warming world is both making life harder for Americans, and threatening their health, safety, businesses and homes.

The EPA data helps people understand the changes they are experiencing, according to Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. That’s helpful because many Americans think of climate change as affecting other people or more remote parts of the world, she said. “Having relevant indicators is a really important way to show people that climate is already changing, and it’s changing in ways that affect you,” Dr. Hayhoe said. “It helps us connect climate change to our lived experience.”

The data shows that temperatures not only are rising but that the increase is accelerating. Since 1901, surface temperatures across the lower 48 states have increased by an average of 0.16F each decade; since the late 1970s, that rate has increased .5F per decade.

Alaska as experienced a far greater increase, parts of which had average temperatures rise more than 4F since 1925. Most ominously, at 14 of 15 sites measured, permafrost temperatures rose between 1978 and 2020. Melting permafrost releases stored methane and is a potential tipping point that scientists are watching closely.

With that in mind, scientists warn that we must prevent global warming beyond 3.6F (2C) above preindustrial levels to avoid irreversible damage to the planet.

The new data shows that rising temperatures has melted Arctic sea ice to the point where sea ice cover in 2020 was the second smallest on record. Oceans reached record warmth in 2020.

Melting polar ice and warming water is causing sea levels to rise along the East Coast and Gulf Coast. In some places, the sea level relative to the land rose more than eight inches between 1960 and 2020.

Rising seas produced more flooding. An increase has been tallied for both the number of days of flooded communities along the East and Gulf Coasts as well as the rate of that flooding. At many locations, “floods are now at least five times more common than they were in the 1950s,” according to the EPA.

“These measurements are either setting records or they’re well above the historical average,” said Michael Kolian, an environmental scientist at the agency.

Putting a dollar value to this data is the job of insurance companies and Swiss Re has proposed that the world economy will decline by $23 Trillion by 2050. It forecast such losses from rising temperatures leading to reduced crop yields, increase in disease, and coastal cities inundated by SLR. It suggested that climate change could reduce by 11 to 14% global economic output by 2050. Asian nations could suffer losses of 33% should governments fail to act decisively on climate.

“For hazards where confidence of a direct link with global warming is medium/high, such as heat waves, wildfires, droughts and torrential rainfall, we are adjusting our pricing model,” Jerome Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re’s chief economist, said. He noted that Swiss Re and other insurance companies collectively manage about $30 trillion in assets, and such projections may influence future investments.

The report noted that should countries meet the Paris Accord goal of holding average global temperature increases to less than 2C above preindustrial levels, economic losses by midcentury would be no more than 5%.

But current emission levels are likely to increase as much 2.6C by 2050 based on current trajectories, according to the report. In such a scenario, the US economy could be reduced 7% and Canada, Britain and France, 6 to 10%.

Poorer nations likely will suffer more. Such nations tend to be more exposed to heat and have fewer resources to adapt their infrastructure and economies. Even at a 2C increase in global temperature, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand could suffer economic growth losses of 20%, as per the report.

The report also provided a “severe-case” scenario of a 3.2C increase by 2050. In such a case, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand could suffer a 50% economic decline, Indonesia 40%, and India 35%.

As the incidence and severity of natural disasters has increased, so too has the cost of insurance. The US government implemented a new pricing structure for flood insurance, which has higher costs for homes in the most flood-prone areas. Similarly, California homeowners in areas exposed to wildfires are paying more for coverage, if it is available at all (which prompted state officials to intervene).

The US has experienced nearly 300 climate-related disasters exceeding $1 billion in losses each in the past 40 years, noted Donald L. Griffin, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association. Last year alone, there were 22 such billion-dollar disasters.

For the insurance industry, such coverage is unsustainable. The cost of insurance is becoming too high in at-risk areas. “We can’t just continue to rebuild in the same way,” Mr. Griffin said. “It’s going to make the product less affordable.”

Washington:

In addition to the above, Biden proposed a $2 trillion recovery plan. It aims to reduce emissions from cars and trucks, America’s biggest source of CO2 emissions, by converting to electric vehicles, which today represent 2% of vehicles in use. To “win the E.V. market,” as he put it (China being the main competitor), he proposed $174 billion to build half a million charging stations along the highways, plus various tax credits to persuade manufacturers to make EVs with batteries that can be recharged as quickly as filling a tank with gas, and point-of-sale credits to induce people to purchase them.

He also proposed a national clean power standard, a federal mandate requiring that a specified (and steadily increasing) percentage of electricity be generated by zero-carbon, or very-low-carbon, sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear. All those EVs and residential heat pumps in Biden’s proposals will need huge amounts of power from carbon-free sources.

Obama-era rules revoked by Trump likely will be restored and strengthened, including vehicle emission reduction rules. These rules could be significant since they could require manufacturers to produce increasingly more fuel-efficient cars before the transition to EVs which is likely a decade or two away.

Biden is enjoying the rewards of his efforts under Obama and the $800 billion economic recovery plan enacted in 2009. That plan included $90 billion in tax credits, loans and incentives for clean energy projects, including weatherizing homes and promoting EVs (which may be responsible for the existence of Tesla which received a loan under the program). The effect on renewables like wind and solar was particularly striking as the prices for both have dropped to the point that both now compete favorably with fossil fuels.

Biden’s call for a “whole of government” approach to climate change was echoed by Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, who used her first speech to make the case for using trade policies to fight climate change.

“For too long, the traditional trade community has resisted the view that trade policy is a legitimate tool in helping to solve the climate crisis,” Ms. Tai said. She also addressed illegal logging and overfishing and promised to enforce environmental rules in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. She had blunt words for the World Trade Organization, saying it was “considered by many as an institution that not only has no solutions to offer on environmental concerns but is part of the problem.”

Similarly, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that she had hired John E. Morton to lead Treasury’s new climate “hub” and to advise her on fusing climate and economic policy across Biden’s agenda. Mr. Morton was senior director for energy and climate change on the National Security Council under Obama and held senior roles at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The Biden administration is preparing to take new steps to address the financial risks associated with climate change. Its focus is on mortgages, retirement funds, insurance companies and companies that do business with the federal government.

Mr. Morton said that the response to climate change should be viewed as an economic opportunity and he advocated for the new financial risk disclosure requirements that Ms. Yellen and regulators are considering. “The issue of climate risk disclosure within financial institutions is going to move from what is now a relatively voluntary haphazard set of coalitions to a more mandatory requirement in the years ahead,” Mr. Morton said.

Ms. Yellen said that the consequences of climate change are “steep” and that addressing it would be a top priority for Treasury. “Climate change requires economywide investments by industry and government as well as actions to measure and mitigate climate-related risks to households, businesses and our financial sector,” Ms. Yellen said. “Finance and financial incentives will play a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis at home and abroad and in providing capital for opportunities to transform the economy.”

Senate Democrats used a once-obscure law, the Congressional Review Act, to resurrect Obama-era regulations on methane that the Trump administration had rolled back. In 2017, congressional Republicans used the procedure to wipe out 14 late-term Obama administration rules in the first 16 weeks under Trump. Now, for the first time, Democrats invoked the law to reverse a Trump methane rule.

The CRA allows Congress to reverse any executive-branch rule within 60 legislative days of its enactment. It prohibits Senate filibusters and ensures one administration’s last-minute regulations can be swiftly overturned with a simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress.

The 2016 methane rule had imposed the first federal limits on leaks from oil and gas wells, requiring companies to monitor, plug and capture leaks of methane from new drilling sites. Biden has directed EPA to prepare new rules that will also require companies to impose controls on methane leaks from existing oil and gas drilling sites. This is another part of Biden’s emissions reductions pledge.

Methane is a more potent GHG than CO2. It lingers in the atmosphere for less time than CO2 but has about 80 times the heat-trapping power in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

A new United Nations report declares that reducing emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, is crucial if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The report notes the necessity of deploying currently unproven technologies capable of pulling GHGs out of the air, and notes that expanding the use of natural gas will defeat the Paris goal of keeping global warming to 1.5C.

Many major oil and gas companies support methane regulations: Exxon, Shell and BP had urged the Trump administration to maintain the Obama methane rules. Those companies have invested millions of dollars to promote natural gas as a cleaner fuel than coal because natural gas produces about half as much CO2 when burned. They fear that unrestricted leaks of methane could undermine that marketing message and hurt demand.

Vicki Hollub, chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, testified in support of the reinstatement of the methane regulations. “We need to have regulation in place to ensure that we have adequate control throughout the industry.”

EPA is repealing another rule Trump had rolled back impairing both EPA’s ability to curb air pollution and driving climate change. Under Obama, the cost-benefit rule had been used to impose restrictions on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. The heavy costs of this rule were justified by adding both the benefits from reduced mercury emissions and the benefits of reducing sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter and other pollutants that were cut by the equipment installed by the power plants. Co-benefits were also calculated, such as avoided asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and other health problems.

Trump’s EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, called that tabulation “dishonest.” He then adopted a policy claiming to promote transparency but acknowledged that it was aimed at preventing future administrations from imposing restrictions on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. It required EPA to calculate the public health benefits derived directly from a new regulation separately from the value of ancillary benefits, or “co-benefits.”

Current Administrator Regan said, “revoking this unnecessary and misguided rule is proof positive of this administration’s commitment to science.” The agency will “continue to fix the wrongs of the past.”

EPA is also set to take another important step toward reducing GHG emissions by placing the first national limit on hydrofluorocarbons. The move will sharply reduce a class of chemicals that is thousands of times more potent than CO2 at warming the planet.

The proposed regulation is intended to reduce the production and importation of HFCs, which are used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, in the US by 85% over the next 15 years. This is a rare bipartisan goal shared by environmentalists and the business community which jointly championed legislation passed by Congress in December addressing this pollutant.

HFCs replaced ozone hole-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the 1980s but turned out to be a significant driver of global warming. Over a dozen states have either banned HFCs or are drafting restrictions.

EPA estimates that from 2022 to 2050, the rule will eliminate the equivalent of 4.7 billion metric tons of CO2, or about three years’ worth of emissions from the US power sector. Scientists estimate that reducing these GHGs could slow the pace of global warming by 0.6C by midcentury.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, 197 nations, including the US, signed an accord in Kigali, Rwanda, agreeing to phase out HFCs. Trump refused to seek Senate ratification of the Kigali amendment. Biden will request it.

Finally, concerning NYS, voters will be asked on November 2, if Article 1, the Bill of Rights, of the New York State Constitution should contain the Green Amendment which states: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” It was passed by the state legislature in both 2019 and 2021 and it is now up to the voters to approve it. Based on similar amendments in Pennsylvania and Montana, it would give state residents the right to sue governmental entities to protect their individual right to clean air, water and a healthful environment. Courts in both PA, and MT have upheld such rights in the limited number of cases that have been brought.

The views expressed above are my own.
Carl Howard, Co-chair, Global Climate Change Committee

Follow me on Twitter @Howard.Carl

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