Should the US stay in the Paris Agreement?

Should the US stay in the Paris Agreement? A majority of Democrats and Republicans think so.

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Protesters gathered in D.C. on April 29 for People’s Climate March. 9602574@N02/flickr, CC BY

In December 2015, officials from nearly every country in the world met in Paris to negotiate a global agreement to limit global warming. Last April, the U.S. and 174 other countries signed the agreement, with most of the others following suit since then. The Conversation

For the past month, President Donald Trump and his senior advisers have wrestled over whether to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement, repeatedly postponing their meeting to reach a final decision.

We would not presume to know the mind of the POTUS or his senior advisers. But, because we have polled the American people about climate change nearly two dozen times in recent years, we have a good understanding of what voters think about this issue.

Our research finds that a clear majority of Americans say that global warming is happening, human-caused and a serious threat requiring action. More specifically, there is broad public support for the Paris Agreement – even among Trump voters.

Support for Paris

By more than 5 to 1, voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement.

In a nationally representative survey conducted last November after the election, we found that seven in 10 registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement. Only 13 percent say the U.S. should not.

Edward Maibach, CC BY-SA

Majorities of Democrats and Independents, as well as half of Republicans, say the U.S. should participate. Only conservative Republicans are split, with marginally more saying the U.S. should participate than saying we should not.

By nearly 2 to 1, Trump voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris Agreement. Almost half of Trump’s voters say the U.S. should participate, compared with only 28 percent who say the U.S. should not.

Edward Maibach, CC BY-SA

We have also found that a majority of Americans in all 50 states say that the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement.

Even states with the lowest levels of popular support – West Virginia (52 percent support), North Dakota (56 percent) and Kentucky (56 percent) – have a majority of citizens who say the U.S. should participate in the global agreement. So do the states that provided President Trump with his electoral win: Pennsylvania (68 percent), Michigan (65 percent) and Wisconsin (64 percent).

Attitudes toward climate change

Over the past decade, a growing number of Americans have come to understand that global warming is happening and that Americans are already being harmed by it.

A small and declining number of Americans continue to dismiss the reality and the risks of global warming. Our analysis finds that, currently, 9 percent of Americans have what we characterize as “dismissive” beliefs about the issue. Meanwhile, 18 percent are “alarmed” (i.e., very concerned about the issue) and 34 percent are “concerned” (moderately concerned about the issue).

Edward Maibach, CC BY-SA

Conservative Republicans are the least likely to accept that global warming is happening. However, large numbers of conservative Republicans have revised their views in the past several years.

Between spring of 2014 and fall of 2016, the proportion of conservative Republicans who said that global warming is happening increased 18 percentage points – from 28 percent to 46 percent. It is rare to see such a large change in public attitudes in such a short span of time, especially on issues that have long been debated and politically polarized.

It’s too soon to know if President Trump will side with the nationalists on his advisory team who want to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, or whether he will side with his moderate advisers (including members of his own family) and with dozens of American business leaders who want the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement.

However, one thing is clear: Americans and American voters – by a wide margin – want our nation to remain a participant and leader in the international agreement to reduce global warming pollution.

Ed Maibach, Director of Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University; Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Yale University, and Jennifer Marlon, Research Scientist, Yale University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

To Curb Climate Change We Need To Protect And Expand US Forest


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Cypress swamp near Mandeville, Louisiana.Neal Wellons/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

William Moomaw
Tufts University

Forests have been removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon for more than 300 million years. When we cut down or burn trees and disturb forest soils, we release that stored carbon to the atmosphere. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from human activities have come from deforestation. The Conversation

To slow climate change, we need to rapidly reduce global emissions from fossil fuels, biofuels, deforestation and wetland and agricultural soils. We need to also accelerate the removal of carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere.

In a new report published by the nonprofit Dogwood Alliance, my co-author Danna Smith and I show that we have a major opportunity to make progress on climate change by restoring degraded U.S. forests and soils. If we reduce logging and unsustainable uses of wood, we can increase the rate at which our forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and ensure that it will remain stored in healthy forests.

An undervalued resource

At the 2015 Paris climate conference, the United States and 196 other nations agreed to combat climate change by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement recognizes that forests play an important role in meeting climate goals by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon in trees and soils. But the agreement calls for steps only to protect and restore tropical forests.

These forests clearly are important. They hold such enormous amounts of carbon that if they were a country, their emissions from logging and forest clearing would rank them as the world’s third-largest source, behind China and the United States.

But these activities are also having a serious and little-recognized impact in the United States. Net U.S. forest growth each year removes an amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equal to 11 to 13 percent of our fossil fuel emissions. This is only about half of the average carbon uptake by forests worldwide. In other words, U.S. forests are much less effective at capturing and storing carbon relative to our fossil fuel emissions than forests globally.

The greatest contribution to this gap is logging. We are cutting trees in the United States at a rate that has reduced the carbon storage potential of U.S. forests by 42 percent of its potential. Recent satellite images show that the southeastern United States has the highest forest disturbance rate in the world.

Environmental impacts of the wood pellet industry in the southeastern United States.

Overharvesting reduces carbon storage

When European settlers arrived at the start of the 17th century, forests covered much of the eastern and northern portion of North America. By the late 1800s, 85 to 90 percent of these forests had been cut. Only about 1 percent of original intact old-growth forest remains in the lower 48 states. Regrowth now covers 62 percent of areas that originally were forested, and commercial tree plantations cover an additional 8 percent.

Tree plantations grow rapidly but are harvested frequently and retain very little soil carbon and are harvested more frequently. As a result, they store less carbon than natural forests.

And we are still logging our forests at a significant rate. According to recent studies, timber harvesting in U.S. forests currently releases more carbon dioxide annually than fossil fuel emissions from the residential and commercial sectors combined.

These harvests support a large wood and paper products industry. The United States produces about 28 percent of the world’s wood pulp and 17 percent of timber logs – more than any other country in the world. It is also the leading producer of wood pellets and wood chips for the growing forest bioenergy sector (burning wood in various forms for energy) at home and abroad.

Wood energy is not low-carbon

Forest bioenergy is widely considered to be a renewable fuel source, because new trees can grow – albeit slowly – to replace those that are consumed. But it is not a low-carbon energy source. Bioenergy produces about as much carbon as coal per unit of heat released. Burning wood in power plants to generate electricity is typically 50 percent more carbon-intensive than coal-fired generation per unit of electricity produced.

But proponents assert that forest bioenergy is carbon-neutral because new tree growth, somewhere now or in the future, removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and “offsets” carbon emissions when biofuels are burned. Although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated clearly that bioenergy is as carbon-intensive as fossil fuels, the European Union and many U.S. states classify biomass as a zero-carbon energy source like wind and solar power.

Wood yard, Schiller Station, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One boiler at the four-unit plant was converted to wood in 2006 and has consumed more than five million tons of wood fuel. PSNH/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Today 60 percent of the European Union’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy. Notably, the United Kingdom is ending its use of coal for electricity, but is replacing coal with wood pellets imported from the southeast United States.

Needless to say, it does not make economic sense to import eight million tons of wood pellets yearly across the Atlantic Ocean. However, the British government has provided over $1 billion in annual subsidies to utilities to pay the cost of pellet production and transport.

Moreover, under climate accounting rules, emissions from burning wood for energy are counted as coming from land use change — that is, harvesting trees. This means that the United Kingdom is outsourcing carbon emissions from its wood-fired power plants to the United States. And the U.S. forest products industry and U.K. power companies are profiting from activities that have serious harmful impacts on Earth’s climate.

The value of standing forests

Forests provide more than forest products or carbon storage. They prevent flooding, provide natural filtration for drinking water, support wildlife, moderate local temperature extremes and provide a storehouse of scientific knowledge, cultural values and recreation opportunities.

To make forests part of our climate strategy, we need a carbon accounting system that accurately reflects flows of carbon between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Bioenergy emissions should be counted as coming from energy production, rather than as a land use change.

We also must manage our forest systems on a sound ecological basis rather than as an economic growth-oriented business, and value the multiple ecosystem services that forests provide. One way to do this would be to pay landowners for maintaining standing forests instead of only subsidizing logging for timber, fiber or fuel. We cannot log and burn our way to a low-carbon, stable climate future.

William Moomaw, Professor Emeritus of International Environmental Policy, Tufts University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


Major “People’s Climate March” Being Organized For April 29, 2017 In Washington D.C

January 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC In the wake of last weekend’s Women’s Marches, activists have announced a major “People’s Climate March” on April 29th, 2017  in Washington, D.C. and across the country. The effort is being organized by the coalition formed out of 2014’s People’s Climate March, which brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York City and many more around the world.

The April 29th march comes in response to widespread outrage against President Trump’s disastrous anti-climate agenda – including his executive orders yesterday advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines – as well as his attacks on healthcare, immigrants, and programs and policies that improve the lives of all Americans. The event will cap off 100 days of action to fight Trump’s proposals to reverse climate action, dismantle our government and hand power over to the one percent.

Mike Tidwell, Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network: ” Trump made clear that he is putting pipelines over people. We want to make clear: We will never stop fighting. In Trump’s first 100 days of office, we will continue mobilizing a historic movement to protect our water, our climate, and our communities.”

Over 145 protests in local communities took place across the country in the first 100 hours of the Trump presidency, demonstrating widespread opposition to the administration’s anti-environment and corporate agenda as part of an ongoing campaign organized by the People’s Climate Movement.

The People’s Climate Movement grew out of the largest climate march in U.S. history in New York in September of 2014, creating a groundbreaking coalition of green and environmental justice groups, labor unions, faith, students, indigenous peoples and civil rights groups working to advance a climate agenda rooted in economic and racial justice.

With the 100 days of action and April march, this coalition will leverage their power once again, to resist the Trump administration and corporate leaders’ efforts to thwart or reverse progress towards a more just America.

Now more than ever, it will take everyone to change everything. So, the People’s Climate Movement is calling on everyone to join in resisting Trump, his crooked administration and the one percent who are running our country.

Learn more at: People’s Climate Change

An Ambitious HFC Amendment to the Montreal Protocol

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 15, 2016

Kigali, Rwanda – The world came together today in yet another milestone on the path toward a safer, more sustainable future. In Kigali, Rwanda, I was proud to help represent the United States as the nearly 200 Parties to the Montreal Protocol agreed to an amendment to phase down the use and production of potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The Kigali Amendment we adopted could avoid up to half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

The amendment also amplifies the important message we’ve been sending to industry and the private sector: Entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere can continue to invest in climate solutions with confidence. Nations in every part of the world are committed to changing the course our planet has been on. We are moving toward a more sustainable world – and our pace is quickening.

The Kigali Amendment is just the latest example of the tangible progress the world is making to address climate change. Just last week, the Paris Agreement reached the thresholds to enter into force – the fastest entry into force of a global environmental agreement ever – and we also adopted a measure aimed at carbon neutral growth in the international aviation sector.

It hasn’t been easy to get to this point – and the hard work is far from over. Climate change is a massive challenge, and it will take intense diplomacy, continued innovation, and real persistence to prevail. But in the end, we are all in this together. And our children, our grandchildren, and every one of us will be better off for what the Parties to the Montreal Protocol achieved today.