White House and Industry Announce Emission Reduction Collaboration on Anniversary of Montreal Protocol
Washington, DC, 16 September, 2014 - In an event hosted by the White House today, a group of industry leaders made pledges to protect the environment by reducing emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that are up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and helping to drive climate change. Participants including Coca Cola, Dupont, Honeywell, Thermal King and Unilever revealed their partnership with the Administration to invest in the next generation of safer HFC alternatives and to incorporate climate-friendly technologies into their products as a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
Today also marks 27 years of the Montreal Protocol, deemed “International Day for Preservation of the Ozone Layer” by the United Nations Environment Programme, this year’s theme is entitled “Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On.”
“This is another important step by the White House in their effort to capture the biggest climate prize in near term by the phasing down of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, a strategy now supported by over 100 countries,” says Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) liaison to the Department of Defense (DOD) for climate and ozone, and former co-chair of the Technology & Economic Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol.
Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
The White House HFC Fact Sheet is here.
Science report confirms Montreal Protocol's past successes, warns of future dangers
World’s best environmental treaty puts stratospheric ozone layer on path to recovery, Protects climate more than climate treaty
Washington, DC, 10 September 2014 - A report released today by the Montreal Protocol's Scientific Assessment Panel confirms that the treaty has put the stratospheric ozone on the path to recovery by 2025-2040 in the mid-latitudes and by 2045-2060 in the Antarctic by phasing out 98% of the production and consumption of over 100 ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Phasing out these 100 chemicals also has provided powerful climate protection, avoiding the equivalent of an estimated 9.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – approximately five times more than the emissions reductions of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008-2012).
The science report warns of two future dangers. The first is that the climate protection provided by Montreal Protocol could be wiped out by the accelerating use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are super greenhouse gases. The report also warns that climate change itself poses a risk to the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer, as tropical ozone levels may be depleted by changes in atmospheric circulation driven by climate change. Ozone depletion over the tropics would increase skin cancer cataracts, suppress the human immune system and damage agricultural crops and ecosystems.
“The world owes the Montreal Protocol a debt of gratitude for doing so much to protect both the climate and the stratospheric ozone layer,” said IGSD president Durwood Zaelke. “It’s now time to finish the HFC amendment, and take another big bite out of the climate problem—avoiding the equivalent of between 100 and 200 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050, and avoiding up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century.” Read more from IGSD's Press Release here.
Women’s hearts at greater risk from black carbon pollution
On August 25, researchers found increased exposure to black carbon, a potent short-lived climate pollutant, significantly impacts the health of women’s hearts, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The study followed 280 women in rural China and found that exposure to black carbon from traditional wood cookstoves doubles women’s blood pressure, which directly impacts heart disease. Nearly half the world still cooks this way. Women living near highways received additional exposures of black carbon from traffic emissions, leading to three times higher blood pressure levels. Black carbon, the second leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide, is made of tiny black particles released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, wood, and waste. “Cutting black carbon pollution from stoves and traffic is a win-win for the climate and human health,” said IGSD President, Durwood Zaelke. “In addition, cutting black carbon and the other short-lived climate pollutants can cut the rate of global warming by half and Arctic warming by two-thirds through mid-century. We need a crash course that starts today.”
See the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America study here.
Glacial Melt Speeding Up, Sea-levels Rising
August 15th – Researchers announced that global warming from anthropogenic sources has become increasingly responsible for glacial retreat in recent decades, according to a publication in Science this week. The study found that glaciers can take decades to centuries to respond to variations in climate, and so only 25% of global glacial melt over the last century and a half can be linked to anthropogenic emissions. But since 1991, those emissions have been responsible for almost 70% of melt and as the world’s glaciers adjust to a warmer climate, they are likely to be locked into accelerated ice loss in the coming century. Shrinking glaciers are a major contributor to sea-level rise, which threatens coastal communities and infrastructure through flooding and increased vulnerability to storm surges.
Fast cuts to short-lived climate pollutants (SLPCs), including black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, and tropospheric ozone are shown to be the best strategy to fight the looming threat of sea-level rise. The annual rate of sea-level rise could be reduced up to 24% by 2100 by controlling these four climate pollutants, and that cumulative sea-level rise could be reduced by 22%, according to a study by Hu et al (2013). Cutting these air pollutants and chemical coolants can cut warming in half for many decades, and, along with CO2 mitigation, is a key strategy for staying below the 2°C warming benchmark.
“The need for fast action is critical,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Delaying SLCP mitigation by even 25 years will decrease the impact of CO2 and SLCP mitigation, and will make it difficult if not impossible to keep warming below 2°C by the end of the century.”
See the Attribution of global glacier mass loss to anthropogenic and natural causes here.
Wildfire Smoke Proves Even More Devastating for Climate, Health
Research by Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson published July 30 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres calculates that the smoke from wildfires and other biomass burning is contributing more to climate change and causing more deaths than previously understood. “We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,” Jacobson said. “That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year” and perhaps up to 435,000 a year.
Jacobson calculates that 8.5 billion tons of CO2 pollution is caused by biomass burning (about 18 percent of the 46.5 billion tons of anthropogenic CO2 emitted each year). Biomass burning also produces black carbon and brown carbon, which cause further warming. According to Jacobson’s computer simulation, biomass burning accounts for 0.4oC of the total 0.9oC warming simulated over a 20-year period (or more than 44 percent of the total). “We’ve determined that 7 percent of the total net warming caused by biomass burning – that is, 7 percent of the 0.4oC net warming gain – can be attributed to the direct heat caused by the fires,” said Jacobson.
In addition to wildfires, biomass burning includes agricultural burning and biomass for energy production, or bioenergy, which is often promoted as a “sustainable” alternative to burning fossil fuels. While fuel for bioenergy can be grown, processed, and converted to energy on a cyclic basis, the thermal and pollution effects of its combustion – in any form – cannot be discounted, Jacobson said. “The bottom line is that biomass burning is neither clean nor climate-neutral. If you’re serious about addressing global warming, you have to deal with biomass burning as well.”IGSD President Durwood Zaelke commented, “As raging wildfires are becoming increasingly common, these studies reiterate the escalating effect of climate change right now. Fast action to reduce agriculture burning and to manage the fire risk of our forests can provide critical mitigation, and save millions of lives a year.”
Read the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres Study here.
Double Blow to Food Security from Air Pollution and Global Warming
On July 27, a study published in Nature Climate Change revealed that ground-level ozone pollution is expected to increase with rising temperatures due to climate change and cause additional damage to food production. Ground-level ozone increases as temperatures rise, and slows photosynthesis and otherwise harms plants, including food crops. According to a press release from MIT, “While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact.” The study calculated that climate change is likely to reduce crop yields at least 10 percent by 2050 from 2000 levels. In a “pessimistic” scenario with higher ozone pollution, crop yields would decrease 15 percent by 2050, while the "intermediate” scenario reduced yields 9 percent. “The bad news is that the double barrel damage from air pollution and climate change will be devastating for food security,” said IGSD President, Durwood Zaelke. “The good news is that we know how to clean up air pollution and save millions of lives a year, while significantly improving food security for a growing population.”
See the Threat to future global food security from climate change and ozone air pollution study here.
As Climate Impacts Accelerate, Speed of Mitigation Becomes Key
Bad news can be paralyzing, and that's a problem when it comes to climate change. The steady drumbeat of bad news can numb us. We've recently learned that a large part of the West Antarctica ice sheet is disintegrating and cannot be stopped, with ten feet or more of sea-level rise now inevitable. More recently we learned the bad news from the U.S. climate assessment, confirming that climate impacts have moved "firmly into the present," with costs mounting quickly -- more than $100 billion in the U.S. alone in 2012 -- and a near certainty that things will get worse quickly.
In the face of this news, the U.S. risks moving from climate denial to climate despair--that citizens can do little to stop impacts, that government doesn't have the political courage needed to adequately address the problem, and that industry genius will falter and not develop the technologies to solve climate change in time to avoid the worst impacts. To avoid this it would be extremely helpful to implement fast mitigation that shows near-term improvements in the climate, on a timescale relevant to politicians' short election cycles, and that can demonstrably reduce impacts and the risk of passing dangerous tipping points that set off self-amplifying warming that feeds on itself.
Can any strategy produce such fast results? Read more from Mario Molina, V. Ramanathan, and Durwood Zaelke’s Huffington Post Op-Ed here.
EPA to Ban HFCs in Cars, Grocery Stores for Fast Climate Mitigation
Washington, DC, July 11 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday a proposal to ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) where climate-friendly alternatives are available, starting with mobile air conditioners, food refrigeration systems, foam blowers, and aerosol propellants, as industry leaders have successfully developed and implemented alternatives in these sectors. The EPA’s bans will cut the equivalent of 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
This is the second major step in the EPA’s continued effort to reduce HFCs, referred to as “super greenhouse gases”, under President Obama's Climate Action Plan. It follows a complementary proposal two weeks ago to approve new climate-friendly alternatives under EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program. The US is pursuing aggressive action to phase down HFCs internationally as well, including proposing a global phasedown of HFCs under the under the Montreal Protocol. Fast reductions in HFCs globally by 2020 could provide the equivalent of up to 200 billion tonnes of CO2 in mitigation by 2050.
“The more the US does to reduce HFCs at home, the more credibility it has when it asks the rest of the world to follow its lead,” said IGSD’s President Durwood Zaelke. “The EPA bans will knock out a major part of the HFC problem in the US, and demonstrate to other countries that superior alternatives are already available.” Read more of IGSD’s Press Release here.
UNEP Mandate: Combat Air Pollution, Save Millions ofLives, Cut Global Warming in Half
On June 23 to 27, the inaugural UN Environment Assembly, attended by high-level delegations from 160 States, gave the UN Environment Programme a mandate to combat air pollution, which will save millions of lives every year and cut global warming in half in the near-term.
Among the sixteen decisions and resolutions to strengthen environmental protection and promote sustainable development, air pollution was targeted as a top priority because it is now the world’s single largest preventable health risk. According to the World Health Organization, one in eight deaths in 2012 was from air pollution—more than malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS combined.
The Environmental Assembly’s resolution strengthens UNEP’s ongoing air pollution programs, including its work through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and the Atmospheric Brown Cloud program.
“Fast action to reduce SLCPs can cut the rate of climate change in half, slowing global temperature rise by up to ~0.6°C by 2050 and 1.5°C by 2100, while preventing 2.4 million air pollution-related deaths per year, and avoiding around 30 million tonnes of crop losses annually,” said Durwood Zaelke, IGSD President, speaking at a CCAC side-event at the Environmental Assembly.
The CCAC also launched its new publication, Time to Act, to explain the benefits of cutting the four SLCPs—black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, the main component of urban smog, and hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used primarily as refrigerants. Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
Bipartisan Team to Introduce Super Pollutants Act to Cut HFCs, Black Carbon, Methane
Goal is fast mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants
Can provide six times more climate benefit than CO2 cuts in near-term
Washington, DC, 26 June 2014 – Senators Murphy (D-Connecticut) and Collins (R-Maine) announced today their plans to introduce the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 to cut short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by requiring the Administration to establish a task force to review specific policies and laws to reduce black carbon, methane, and high-global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). SLCPs currently account for 40% or more of global warming. Because they are fast acting, they can provide more than half the solution needed to stay below the 2°C guardrail through the end of the century. It is essential to also reduce CO2 emissions to stay within the 2°C guardrail.
The proposed legislation will reinforce the Administration’s international efforts to reduce SLCPs. “The Super Pollutants Act will accelerate and coordinate Administration efforts already underway to reduce SLCPs”, said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke, and “this will reinforce the President’s international leadership on this critical climate strategy. It’s essential to reduce SLCPs along with carbon dioxide to keep the climate within safe bound, but in the near-term through 2050, reducing SLCP can avoid six time more warming that an aggressive CO2 mitigation strategy can avoid.” Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
G-7 Urges Ambitious Climate Action, Including HFC Cuts
On June 5, leaders of the G-7 affirmed their support for ambitious actions to mitigate climate change in the Brussels G-7 Summit Declaration, including reducing HFCs. The G7 also will begin mobilizing resources under the Green Climate Fund and support committing $100 billion per year by 2020 to help with mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. The G-7 also reaffirmed their support for phasing down production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, and for enhancing energy efficiency:
We will work together and with others to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) under the Montreal Protocol. We will also continue to take action to promote the rapid deployment of climate-friendly and safe alternatives in motor vehicle air-conditioning and we will promote public procurement of climate-friendly HFC alternatives.
The G-7 declaration follows the G-20 commitment to cut HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, and compliments recent efforts by the EU to cut HFCs by 80% by 2030, and efforts by the US EPA to start restricting HFCs. “The Montreal Protocol can quickly and effectively eliminate the climate threat from one of the six main greenhouse gases,” said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke. “HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world, and sending them out of the universe is the biggest, fastest and cheapest climate mitigation opportunity available to the world today.”
See the G-7 Brussels Declaration here.
China Announces Aggressive Cuts to HFCs
Washington, DC, 28 May 2014 - China announced an aggressive target for reducing HFC emissions by the equivalent of 0.28 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2015. The State Council released the HFC target to the public on 26 May 2014. It appeared on 15 May 2014 in the 2014-2015 Energy Conservation, Emissions Reduction and Low Carbon Development Action Plan.
"China should be congratulated for its strong HFC target, which sets an example for the rest of the world to get on with the job of phasing out HFCs with high global warming potential,” stated Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) liaison to the Department of Defense (DoD) for climate and ozone, and former co-chair of the Technology & Economic Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol. “China’s action makes it increasingly inevitable that HFCs will be phased down under the Montreal Protocol, and soon.” Read more from IGSD’s press release here.
Insurance Leaders Call for Urgent Actions Against Climate Risks
On May 16, 66 CEOs of the world’s leading insurance companies issued the Climate Risk Statement of the Geneva Association, expressing serious concerns about the devastating consequences of extreme climate change, and calling for urgent climate mitigation actions by policymakers and other bodies. With assets totaling nearly $15 trillion, the leaders of insurance companies committed to supporting the development of low carbon energy projects and the implementation of sustainable practices, such as energy efficiency building codes. “Insurance companies have the capacity to influence both the industries they insure and the policymakers who set the rules to reduce climate pollution,” said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke. “The insurance industry has a critical role to play in slowing climate change.”
See the Climate Risk Statement of the Geneva Association is here.
Micronesia, North American Countries Propose HFC Cuts under Montreal Protocol
On May 16, the Federated States of Micronesia filed a formal proposal to phase down production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. The North American countries (US, Canada, and Mexico) filed a similar proposal. In a related domestic action earlier in May, the U.S. EPA targeted HFC reductions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy Program, proposing both to add new climate friendly refrigerants and to remove from the list of acceptable alternatives several HFCs with high global warming potential. The rules will likely revoke approval for HFC-134a.
"The U.S. proposed rules are already sending a powerful signal to global markets," said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke, “and this is helping build the consensus for phasing down HFCs globally under the Montreal Protocol.”
Climate Change Is “Conflict Catalyst”, Threat to National Security
On May 13, In addition to being a threat multiplier, extreme weather, drought and flooding, and other climate impacts can catalyze instability and conflict especially in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, according to a report released by the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board, an elite group of retired three- and four-star flag and general officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps that studies pressing issues of the day to assess their impact on America’s national security.
The Military Advisory Board found that the accelerating pace of climate change and its impacts pose a severe danger to U.S. national security interests both domestically and abroad, especially to military, infrastructure, economic, and social support systems. At the same time, increasingly severe and frequent weather events are projected to increase the need for emergency assistance while taxing the military’s ability to respond. Melting Arctic sea ice poses a political challenge to the U.S. as well, as the Arctic region becomes increasingly available for shipping, fishing, and resource uses in areas that were historically inaccessible.
“This report will help the military prepare to operate in the climate stressed world of the future, where the frequency and severity of climate disasters continue to grow”, stated Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, IGSD Director of Research. “The militaries of the world can help reduce climate emissions, including HFCs and other short-lived climate pollutants such black carbon and methane. The voice of the military will help persuade policymakers that the time to act is now.”
See National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change here.