climate change

In 2016, We’re Hitting the Ground Running

By Gina McCarthy

Heading into 2016, EPA is building on a monumental year for climate action—and we’re not slowing down in the year ahead. Last August, President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan, EPA’s historic rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest driver of climate change. Then in Paris last month, nearly 200 countries came together for the first time ever to announce a universal agreement to act on climate.

So we’re hitting the ground running. Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledge to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius at most, and pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Science tells us these levels will help prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, including more frequent and extreme droughts, storms, fires, and floods, as well as catastrophic sea level rise. This agreement applies to all countries, sets meaningful accountability and reporting requirements, and brings countries back to the table every five years to grow their commitments as markets change and technologies improve. It also provides financing mechanisms so developing economies can move forward using clean energy.

This year, we’ll build on these successes to ensure lasting climate action that protects Americans’ health, economic opportunity, and national security. EPA staff will provide their technical leadership to ensure consistent, transparent greenhouse gas reporting and inventory requirements under the Paris Agreement. Our domestic expertise in air quality monitoring and greenhouse gas inventories will help countries make sure they’re meeting their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Similarly, we’ll use our expertise to identify and evaluate substitutes in the U.S. to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another potent climate pollutant. This work domestically will help us lead global efforts to finalize a requirement in 2016 for countries to reduce production and use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

We will finalize a proposal to improve fuel economy and cut carbon pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, which could avoid a billion metric tons of carbon pollution and save 75 billion gallons of fuel by 2027. We’ll also finalize rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations—which could avoid up to 400,000 metric tons of a climate pollutant 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide by 2025. Meanwhile, we’re doubling the distance our cars go on a gallon of gas by 2025.

In 2016, EPA will defend and implement the Clean Power Plan by working closely with states and stakeholders to help them create strong plans to reduce their carbon pollution. We wrote this plan with unprecedented stakeholder input, including hundreds of meetings across the country and 4.3 million public comments. The result is a rule that’s ambitious but achievable, and falls squarely within the four corners of the Clean Air Act, a statute we have been successfully implementing for 45 years. We’re confident the Clean Power Plan will stand the test of time—the Supreme Court has ruled three times that EPA has not only the authority but the obligation to limit harmful carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Just as importantly, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan are helping mobilize private capital all over the world toward low-carbon investments. The U.S. has sent a clear signal that a low-carbon future is inevitable, and that the market will reward those who develop low-carbon technologies and make their assets resistant to climate impacts. That’s why 154 of the largest U.S. companies, representing 11 million jobs and more than seven trillion dollars in market capitalization, have signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Companies like Walmart, AT&T, Facebook, and Coca-Cola recognize that climate impacts threaten their operations, while investing in a low-carbon future is an unprecedented business opportunity.

Americans know climate action is critical—they’re seeing its impacts with their own eyes. Hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and storms are growing more frequent and extreme. Streets in cities like Miami now flood on sunny days due to sea level rise. Climate change is a moral issue, a health issue, and a jobs issue—and that’s why the strong majority of Americans want the federal government to do something about it, and support the strong outcome in Paris.

We’ve got a lot more work to do, and we’re not slowing down. Over the past year, we’ve seen remarkable climate achievements that once seemed impossible—and that’s thanks to President Obama’s leadership. His climate legacy is already impressive, but we will build on it in 2016 by continuing to protect health and opportunity for all Americans. At EPA, we’ve got our sleeves rolled up.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A View from #COP21 in Paris

By Ann Hunter-Pirtle

Last weekend in Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached a historic, universal climate agreement that had eluded the global community for two decades. I was proud to be at COP-21 helping communicate EPA and U.S. efforts on climate action at the U.S. Center, the State Department’s public diplomacy space at the COP. I had the opportunity to meet attendees from around the world and to hear about global efforts to combat climate change—so I wanted to share a few thoughts from the conference.

The most striking thing about the COP was its size. Forty thousand attendees came from around the world—educators, students, government officials, and non-profit and private sector leaders—so it was held at Le Bourget, best known as the airplane hangar for the Paris air show. The U.S. Center was one of the many pavilions where visitors could learn more during COP21.

This short video gives a sense of the scale of the COP21 venue at Le Bourget, outside Paris, France.

The U.S. Center COP21 during an event at Le Bourget, outside Paris, France.

The U.S. Center COP21 during an event at Le Bourget, outside Paris, France.

In the spirit of the event, conference organizers went all-in on sustainability with an extensive biodegradables and recycling program. Participants could return reusable plastic coffee cups for a 1 Euro deposit, and the cups quickly became as good as currency. Participants were spotted scooping up coffee cups from empty tables and desks, returning several at a time.

Reusable coffee cup with the COP21 logo from United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris, France.

Reusable coffee cup with the COP21 logo from United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris, France.

Something I didn’t fully appreciate before arriving in Paris was that the COP is a consensus process—so for the negotiations to succeed, all 195 countries had to be in favor of a deal. So the Paris Agreement reflects the threat climate change poses to every nation on Earth, as well as the global community’s determination to do something about it.

The Paris Agreement is ambitious, universal, and durable. Before the negotiations even began, 180 countries, representing more than 95 percent of the climate pollution on Earth, put forward individual pledges to cut carbon pollution.

The Paris Agreement was built from country-level plans, and it states that countries will limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius on average and make efforts to keep it under 1.5 degrees Celsius—levels science tells us will help avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

The agreement calls for transparent reporting and accountability about how nations keep track of carbon emissions. It creates a mechanism for countries to come back to the table every 5 years with increasingly ambitious national carbon pollution reduction pledges, and it includes provisions for financing to developing countries to help them grow their economies with clean energy.

American leadership paved the way for global action. Secretary Kerry spoke in the second week about the need to seize the moment for an ambitious, universal climate agreement, and how U.S. efforts have led the way. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a centerpiece of U.S. climate efforts, and Administrator McCarthy spoke at the U.S. Center about why she’s confident the rule is built to last.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at COP21 about the need for countries to seize the opportunity for an ambitious, lasting climate agreement.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at COP21 about the need for countries to seize the opportunity for an ambitious, lasting climate agreement.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at the U.S. Center about why the Clean Power Plan will stand the test of time.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at the U.S. Center about why the Clean Power Plan will stand the test of time.

American businesses are also leading the way. On the first day of the COP after President Obama and other world leaders spoke, Bill Gates and other business leaders launched “Mission Innovation” to develop the next generation of clean technologies. Meanwhile, 154 of the largest U.S. companies including WalMart, AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Facebook, representing 11 million jobs and more than 7 trillion dollars in market capitalization, signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Major companies know that climate impacts increase their financial risk, while climate action represents an unprecedented economic opportunity.

That is the real triumph of the Paris Agreement: it sends a global market signal that a low-carbon future is inevitable, and climate-smart investments are not only the right thing to do, but the profitable thing to do.

Despite the size of the COP, climate change is personal. So it was powerful to hear from the following two local leaders at a U.S. Center side event hosted by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Councilwoman Maija Lukin of Kotzebue, Alaska, and Alson Kelen of the Marshall Islands each explained that climate change threatens their communities’ existence today. Homes in Kotzebue are slowly sinking into the sea as the permafrost underneath thaws and the sea level rises. Traditional food sources—caribou, seals, berries—are disappearing. And thinning ice has made travel dangerous—Councilwoman Lukin lost 2 uncles when they fell through thin ice while traveling to the next town, which doesn’t have a road. In the Marshall Islands, rising sea levels mean just about every time it rains, garbage and sewage wash through communities, making people sick. Warming waters mean fish are disappearing.

Councilwoman Maija Lukin of Kotzebue, Alaska speaks about dwindling sea ice in her region due to climate change.

Councilwoman Maija Lukin of Kotzebue, Alaska speaks about dwindling sea ice in her region due to climate change.

Climate change is threatening our health, our economy, and our national security today. But I am convinced we will meet this challenge, in part because of the incredible will it took from countries around the world to reach the Paris Agreement. Attending the COP was a tremendous opportunity and an experience I’ll never forget—it’ll be a story for the grandkids. Read more about COP-21 here and here.

Blog author Ann Hunter-Pirtle at the entrance of the COP21 venue.

Blog author Ann Hunter-Pirtle at the entrance of the COP21 venue.

About the author: Ann Hunter-Pirtle serves as Speechwriter in EPA’s Office of Public Affairs. Previously, she served as Special Assistant for Land and Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She holds an MS in Agricultural Economics and a BA in Political Science and French from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bird Wintering: How Citizen Science Supports Climate Science

By Brittany Whited

This December, tens of thousands of individuals across the Americas will participate in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, the longest-running citizen science program in the world.

The first Christmas Bird Count took place in 1900 with just 27 individuals as a conservation-minded alternative to the “Christmas Side Hunt”- a hunt aimed at bagging feathered and furry creatures alike. Conservation was in its beginning stages at the turn of the century and citizens were growing concerned about declining bird populations.

Video still from Christmas Bird Count told by Chan Robbins Photo: Camilla Cerea National Audubon Society

Video still from Christmas Bird Count told by Chan Robbins
Photo: Camilla Cerea
National Audubon Society

Established in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman, the Christmas Bird Count is now organized by the National Audubon Society. Photo: Camilla Cerea National Audubon Society

Established in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman, the Christmas Bird Count is now organized by the National Audubon Society.
Photo: Camilla Cerea National Audubon Society

The new tradition struck a chord. One-hundred and fifteen years later, the Christmas Side Hunt has faded from our nation’s memory and the Christmas Bird Count boasts 70,000+ participants spread over 2,000 locations. At each location, birdwatchers tally the number and type of species they see and hear over a 24-hour period and report their results back to the Audubon Society.

In the 1930s, this act of citizen science helped scientists better understand the decline of wild turkey populations. At that time, the US had only an estimated 30,000 birds. Today, after notable conservation efforts, the US is home to about 7 million of the gobbling creatures.

The Christmas Bird Count continues to produce valuable information. For example, data collected by dedicated individualshas revealed that, among 305 widespread North American bird species, the average winter “center of abundance” moved northward by more than 40 miles between 1966 and 2013. The center of abundance is a point on the map that represents the midpoint of each species’ distribution. If a population of birds were to shift northward, so would the center of abundance.

Trends in the center of abundance moving northward can be closely related to increasing winter temperatures. This indicator is now used as one of the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States.

Some birds have moved farther than others- a total of 48 species have moved northward by more than 200 miles. For example, the Pine Siskin moved 288 miles north in the last 40 years.

Source: Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2014 –Third Edition, US EPA
Data source: National Audubon Society, 2014

The Christmas Bird Count is free and open to all regardless of experience. Each group of birdwatchers will have at least one skilled birder to assist in identifying birds. For dates, registration information, and the person of contact in your area, click here.

If birds aren’t your style, or you simply aren’t one to spend a day braving the December cold, there are many other opportunities to be a citizen scientist with your smartphone. There are a multitude of citizen-science apps sure to suit even the choosiest naturalist – mPING, from NOAA, lets you submit reports on the weather in your area to improve weather report predictions. Check your app store for more citizen science opportunities. Anyone with a smartphone can quickly contribute to science through data gathering – making reporting much easier than it was during the first Christmas Bird Count 115 years ago.

About the Author: Brittany Whited is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) participant hosted by the Climate Science and Impacts Branch in the EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hope: the Climate Message in Unexpected Places

By Melissa McCullough

I’ve been in the environmental protection business for a long time, and I’ve watched great progress, however slowly. Cleaner air and water. Action on the ozone hole. Acid Rain. International attention to persistent bioaccumulators.

But we all know how much is left to do. Hope is a driving force for those of us in this business, this cause, but it is sometimes maddeningly elusive. On no topic is this as true as for climate action. Sadly, humans, are better wired to pay attention to something with teeth moving at you at high speed. And as Upton Sinclair wisely said, “It is hard to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

So I was delighted recently to see an important message about climate change show up in something as unexpected as Vogue magazine.

Photograph of Mary Lubber

Photo Credit: Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin. To read Vogue’s 13 Formidable Women on the Front Line of Climate Change, click on “Climate Warriors” in the paragraph to the left of the image.

Being a comfortable-shoes type of person, I admit that my usual response to Vogue is “People actually WEAR this stuff?” But a recent newsletter from Ceres1, who’s executive director, Mindy Lubber was artfully caught (at right) by Vogue’s camera, brought this odd juxtaposition of Fashion Art and Climate Action to my attention.

The magazine presents the article “Climate Warriors,” which introduces readers to 13 women working to address the challenges of climate change. Each “climate warrior” is profiled through personal quotes highlighting their work and dedication to sustaining the planet.

I am excited about this article. First, it grabs an unexpected audience with iconic black and white portraits and the headline that there are “Formidable Women on the Front Line.” We need those non-traditional audiences; the proverbial “choir” can’t tackle climate change without broader action and support. And women can be powerful messengers when emotionally motivated. Second, the storytelling is both brief and compelling. These women’s stories are about their personal reactions, actions and impacts around climate—change from a young poet-activist from the disappearing Marshall Islands, to the co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change living with devastating droughts in Chad, to the hip-looking Rachel Kyte, vice president of the World Bank Group and special envoy for climate change. These 13 stories are powerful. They are diverse in viewpoint and the women’s strategic direction. They talk about how climate impacts have exacerbated realities of their lives, like terrorism, poverty, and struggling families. And they are all stories of women with hope for the fight and the outcome.

I encourage you to read these stories. Drink in the hope.

About the Author: Melissa McCullough is a Transdisciplinary Scientist in EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program. When challenged to describe her EPA career in six words she wrote: “Discovering sustainability, exploring applications everywhere possible.”

1. Ceres is a non-profit coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups advocating for sustainability leadership by business, to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainability business practices.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Global Climate Action at COP-21

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

This week, I’m proud to be in Paris, where the United States and countries around the world are working toward an ambitious global climate agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties, also known as COP-21.

Since day one in office, President Obama has recognized that climate change is not just an environmental concern. It’s an urgent matter of public health, our economy, and our security.

And we were reminded by Pope Francis earlier this year that acting on climate isn’t just the smart thing to do, it’s our moral responsibility—for the sake of the world’s poor and vulnerable, and on behalf of our kids and grandkids.

That’s why the work going on here Paris—where hundreds of the world’s nations are coming together and collaborating on a path forward—is so important. The global community has never before been so close to consensus on this issue. A historic agreement is at our fingertips.

Today at the State Department’s U.S. Center at COP-21, I spoke about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) role in this international effort, and how EPA is delivering on President Obama’s climate agenda.

Over the past 7 years, The U.S. has taken a series of ambitious actions to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change, and demonstrate that the U.S. is fulfilling our responsibility to act. All told, the steps we’ve taken under President Obama’s leadership will help the United States reach our national goal of cutting carbon pollution 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Whether it’s the Department of Agriculture’s “Climate Smart Agriculture” initiative to cut carbon pollution by over 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2025, or the several dozen utility-scale renewable energy projects that the Department of Interior has permitted on public lands, or NASA’s cutting-edge scientific efforts to monitor Earth-system changes. The list goes on and on.

A centerpiece of U.S. efforts is EPA’s Clean Power Plan, our historic rule to cut carbon pollution from the power sector, the largest source in the U.S. economy. Our plan puts the United States on track to slash carbon pollution 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And the cuts to smog and soot that come along with these reductions will lead to major health benefits for kids and families.

And EPA is taking a host of additional steps to push our progress even further. We’re doubling the distance our nation’s cars go on a gallon of gas by 2025. We’ve taken four separate actions to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. We’re acting on climate-damaging Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), domestically, internationally, and through voluntary programs with industry. We set standards for medium-and heavy-duty vehicles and are now going even further with a proposal that will reduce 1 billion tons of emissions.

I’m confident these actions will stand the test of time. Why? Because EPA has a 45-year legacy of finding lasting solutions to difficult environmental problems. In that time, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent while our nation’s economy has tripled.
In the U.S., we’re already seeing clean-energy innovations being rewarded. Today, the U.S. uses 3 times more wind power, and 20 times more solar than when President Obama first took office. Jobs in the solar industry are growing faster than in any other sector of our economy—good-paying jobs that grow opportunity in the communities that need it most. Our actions under President Obama’s leadership build on that trajectory.

And we’ve seen time and again the American people are ready to act on climate now. We heard from millions of people on our initial proposal for the Clean Power Plan. We heard from states, utility companies, environmental organizations, and communities across our country. What we heard is that people want to stop talking and start doing. In poll after poll, a majority of Americans say they want climate action. That’s how we know our actions will endure.

But we also know that no country can solve this challenge alone.

That’s why I’m so encouraged by the ambitious commitments we’re seeing from nations around the world. Heading into the COP-21, 180 countries, representing more than 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions already submitted national plans to reduce their emissions. That’s big.

Here in Paris, our collective efforts are finally aligning. Now is our time.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, it’s time to come together and do what’s necessary to protect our common home.

Stay up-to-date on U.S. Center events here, and follow my trip on Twitter @GinaEPA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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45 Years of Fulfilling our Mission

By Gina McCarthy

Just two weeks after the EPA was established in 1970, our first-ever Administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, issued a statement calling the birth of our agency the start of America’s “reclaiming the purity of its air, its water, and its living environment.”

Just last week, 45 years later – nearly to the day – President Obama honored Ruckelshaus with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his tireless work to get our agency up and running, protect public health, and combat global challenges like climate change.

In bestowing the award, President Obama said, “Bill set a powerful precedent that protecting our environment is something we must come together and do as a country.”

Each day, when I come to work and walk the halls at EPA, I feel proud that our agency is continuing to build on Bill’s legacy.

Later this week, I will join the US delegation to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, where our agency will play a central role in negotiations that could mark a historic turning point to protect our planet for generations to come. I’m confident that the US can get the job done.

Ruckelshaus’ well-deserved honor is a reminder of the amazing progress we’ve made as an agency in just four and a half decades. We have evolved into a world-class model of environmental protection under the law.

We’ve come so far together. Fifty years ago, we pumped toxic leaded-gas into our cars; people smoked on airplanes; and residents of cities like Los Angeles could barely see each other across the street.

Today, EPA’s work has changed all of that – and more. We’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent; we’ve phased out leaded-gasoline; we’ve removed the acid from rain, we’ve helped clear the air of second-hand smoke; and we’ve cleaned up beaches and waterways, all while our economy has tripled.

Throughout it all, EPA has embodied the concept of participatory government. We’ve engaged states, communities, industry partners, and the public. We’ve listened to the needs of people on the ground, and we’ve worked transparently, hand in hand with citizens and families to protect their health, their communities, and their ability to earn a decent living. That’s something to be proud of.

At every step of the way, we’ve followed the science and the law to tackle immensely difficult challenges. And that work is continuing every day.

I thank and congratulate everyone who has played a part in building EPA’s legacy.

Here’s to working together to fulfill our mission for another 45 years!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Alaskan Voices on Climate: Submit Your Video!

By Dianne Soderlund

In September, President Obama traveled to Alaska to see firsthand the impacts of climate change on the people who live and work here every day. During his time here, he met some of Alaska’s extraordinary people, many of whom are working every day to adapt to a changing climate. We know Alaskans are incredibly resilient and they are taking action to support their community and the environment for generations to come. Now we would like to provide an opportunity for Alaskans to share their story.

Today, we are launching Alaskan Voices on Climate and inviting Alaskans to send us their videos about the effects of a changing climate and about the work they are doing to ensure a healthy environment for future generations. How are these changes affecting your community? Have they made a difference in the way you live, work, or play? What lessons can your community share about becoming more resilient that would be helpful to other communities? We’d love to hear about all these things – and anything else you’d like to tell us about the changes you are experiencing and actions you are taking.

We will share our favorite stories by posting them on Facebook, Twitter, the EPA website, our Alaska InfoBox, and other Alaska channels. We hope you will share them with your friends and family. We anticipate lots of people inside and outside Alaska will be seeing the effects of a changing climate through your eyes. Please use this link to access the web page.  http://www2.epa.gov/ak/alaskan-voices-climate

  • Who can participate? Everybody! We’re looking for videos from Alaskans from all ages and walks of life.
  • How do you participate: It’s easy! Take a 30- to 90-second video about how our changing climate is affecting you and or your community. Include in your video a sign or segment with the hashtag #AlaskanVoices and mention where the video was filmed. Then send us your video via Twitter, Facebook, or email. You can find all the details on the EPA website.

We prepared a short video about Alaskan Voices on Climate. Please pass it along! The more videos we get, the better people everywhere will understand the impacts of climate change on Alaska and what Alaskan communities are doing to adapt or become more resilient.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at epa-seattle@epa.gov. We look forward to hearing from you, and we can’t wait to see what you submit!

About the author: Dianne Soderlund is Director of the EPA Region 10 Alaska Operations Office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Role of Biomass in Achieving Clean Power Plan Goals – A 2016 Workshop to Foster a Constructive Discussion

By Janet McCabe

Since issuing the Clean Power Plan (CPP), states and stakeholders have shown a strong interest in the role biomass can play in state plans to reduce carbon emissions under the rule. Many states are seeking to better understand how maintaining and building on their existing approaches to sound carbon- and greenhouse gas (GHG)-beneficial forestry and land management practices can yield biomass resources that will help them meet their CPP goals, and how to craft plans that will be federally approvable under the final CPP guidelines. To respond to this interest and to support state and stakeholder efforts to incorporate bioenergy in their CPP plans, we will be holding a public workshop in early 2016 for stakeholders to share their successes, experiences and approaches to deploying biomass in ways that have been, and can be, carbon beneficial.

The president’s Climate Action Plan and a range of the administration’s policies recognize that America’s forests and other lands must continue to play an essential role in mitigating the effects of carbon pollution. Biomass derived from land that is managed under programs that ensure the long-term maintenance of healthy forests can serve as an integral part of a broader forestry-based climate strategy, so the CPP expressly includes bioenergy as an option for states and utilities in CPP compliance.  It reflects the fact that, in many cases, biomass and bioenergy products in the power system can be an integral part of state programs and foster responsible land management and renewable energy.

State flexibility is a key component of the CPP. It recognizes the unique circumstances of each state’s energy mix and approaches to energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Many states already have extensive expertise in sound carbon- and GHG-beneficial forestry and land management practices, and the CPP’s flexibility will give states the ability to build in approaches to biomass and bioenergy unique to their forests and land management programs and policies.  It recognizes the importance of forests and other lands for climate resilience – in addition to the carbon benefits of biomass – fostered by a variety of land use policies, renewable energy incentives and standards, and GHG strategies. Working with stakeholders, these states promote viable forestry and agricultural product markets, which help protect and preserve healthy and productive lands and contribute to the continued and improved management of these lands.

That is why the CPP creates a pathway for states to use biomass as part of their plans to meet their emission reduction guidelines, and we expect many states to include biomass as a component in their state plans. We look forward to reviewing plans that incorporate well-developed forestry and other land management programs producing biomass that can qualify under the guidelines laid out in the CPP, and we are confident that the CPP offers sufficient lead time and flexibility for states to develop approvable programs.

So a key goal of the workshop we’ll be holding is to provide an opportunity for states with well-developed forestry and land management practices to share their experiences.  Another is to foster a constructive dialogue about how states can best include biomass in their compliance plans if that is a path they choose to follow.  The workshop will showcase the constructive compliance approaches many states are already implementing or developing.  And to prepare for the workshop, our first step is to reach out to key stakeholders to get ideas on the agenda.

We look forward to working with states and stakeholders to ensure that biomass continues to play an important role in accomplishing our climate change goals. Open lines of communication and sharing information helped shape the final Clean Power Plan, and continued constructive engagement will be vital for us to achieve significant climate and health benefits as we implement the CPP.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Coming to the Table: The Importance of a Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Climate Justice

A diverse range of federal and local stakeholders engage in discussions about the health effects of climate change on vulnerable populations. Photo: HHS
A diverse range of federal and local stakeholders engage in discussions about the health effects of climate change on vulnerable populations.
Photo: HHS

By Timothy Fields, Jr.

About the author: Timothy Fields, Jr. is Senior Vice President of MDB, Inc., a public health and environmental management consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Previously, Tim served as EPA Assistant Administrator in charge of environmental cleanup, waste management, and emergency response (1997-2001).

Climate change is one of the major public health challenges of our time.  Certain individuals and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, low-income residents, and people of color.  As the conversation about climate change has grown, a new emphasis on climate justice has emerged, focusing on the health impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.  Climate justice has become a high priority focus of the environmental justice movement.

Recent calls for action to address the public health dangers of climate change have been joined by leaders such as President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.  They and many other leaders agree that climate change is impacting communities across the country and around the globe, particularly those communities already disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards and social conditions.

This June, more than 100 people from a variety of government agencies, community organizations, academic institutions, and businesses came together in North Carolina to discuss the health effects of climate change as they relate to vulnerable populations.  Convened by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the 2015 HHS Climate Justice Conference encouraged stakeholders to share community challenges and priorities, as well as promising approaches and opportunities for collaboration for responding to emerging health effects.

Although the conference focused on the strategic elements described in the 2012 HHS Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan, the dialogue reflected the larger conversation around climate justice.  Federal staff highlighted federal efforts to build climate resilience and promote climate justice.  Representatives of community groups not only offered on-the-ground examples of how climate change is impacting vulnerable communities, they pointed to how they are mobilizing to educate and empower communities to take action. Other stakeholders discussed tools and resources designed to help communities better understand the health impacts of climate change and become more resilient to these impacts.

Key themes highlighted during the conference include:

  • All stakeholders have a role in responding to the emerging health threats of climate change.
  • Community organizations and environmental justice representatives are mobilizing to educate and empower communities to take action.
  • Vulnerable communities need to be actively involved as programs, policies, and activities are developed and implemented to ensure climate justice.
  • Strategies are needed regarding how federal agencies could provide additional resources to increase the capacity of communities to address climate justice concerns.
  • Mechanisms should be developed to support workers who live and work in communities disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and are most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
  • Relationships with communities should be established as climate change research is conducted, employing mechanisms such as citizen science and community-engaged research to help empower communities to develop useful information.

Participants also discussed the need to achieve more equitable distribution of technical and financial assistance in the face of limited local resources for addressing climate change.  To achieve this, it is important that government agencies better coordinate and share information about climate resiliency services.

The 2015 HHS Climate Justice Conference is part of the ongoing dialogue about environmental justice and climate change, occurring 21 years after the signing of the Presidential Executive Order on Environmental Justice and two years after the issuance of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.  The dialogue among all stakeholders about climate justice and public health must continue.  I encourage you to continue to engage and take appropriate actions to address the health impacts of climate change.

Check out the 2015 HHS Climate Justice Conference Report and other conference materials, including a video from the meeting: https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/conference/hhs_climate_justice/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Photography Tips for Citizen Scientists Capturing the 2015 King Tide

By Tammy Newcomer Johnson, ORISE Research Participant

The sidewalk is flooded at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  Photo by Tammy Newcomer Johnson.

I’m a scientist working at EPA and an avid photographer. I have exhibited nature-related photography in a 2-artist show, and I occasionally shoot weddings— preferably on the beach!

“King Tides,” are the highest tides of the year and they provide a glimpse of the future challenges that climate change brings to coastal communities facing rising sea levels. The main 2015 Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard King Tides will occur on October 28th. Check out this King Tides Map for predicted times. This is a bounty for photographers and a wake-up call for local planners.

Recording King Tides is a great citizen science opportunity. Anyone with a camera can participate!  Images and video of King Tides can help local planners, elected officials, and community members visualize and prepare for future flooding events from sea level rise, high tides, and coastal storms. For example, the King Tides Project teams up with classrooms in coastal communities to empower students to educate local planners about future flooding risks. Likewise, many of the National Estuary Programs are actively engaged in capturing the King Tides. The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership in Maine has an interactive King Tides Trail and an annual King Tide Party to document high water levels. What a fun way to combine art, science, and coastal management!

Want to learn more about King Tides? Check out EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management for some great resources.

Here are my King Tides photography tips:

  1. Location, location, location! Choose a place that is vulnerable to coastal flooding. Make sure that you include some familiar landmarks so that it is easy to identify the area.
  2. The early bird gets the worm! Arrive at your location about 45 minutes before the high tide to scout out the best shot.
  3. Quantity leads to quality! Take a lot of pictures so you can compare them and pick your favorite. During a recent wedding I photographed, I took over 2,000 photos. I found some real gems among all of these photos!
  4. Bonus points! Get some photos of the low tide to show the contrast and/or take a time-lapse video.

I encourage you to share your King Tides photography with the King Tides Project, the MyCoast App and your local National Estuary Program (if you are in one of those watersheds). Thank you for helping your community to be ready for climate change!

About the author: Tammy Newcomer Johnson is in the ORISE program with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries team. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science (MEES) program from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she explored the impacts of urbanization on the ecology and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.