British Columbia to Protect Rainforests

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By Julie Gordon, Reuters, 2/1/16. “British Columbia unveiled [on February 1, 2016] a historic agreement to protect a massive swath of rainforest along its coastline, having reached a deal that marries the interests of First Nations, the logging industry and environmentalists after a decade of often-tense negotiations. Under the agreement, about 85 % of forest within the Great Bear Rainforest would be protected, with the other 15 % available for logging under the ‘most stringent’ standards in North America, environmental groups involved in the talks said. The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests and the habitat of the Spirit Bear, a rare subspecies of the black bear with white fur and claws. It is also home to 26 Aboriginal groups, known as First Nations.”

Bernie Sanders Would Ban Fracking

Bernie Sanders’ Radical Environmental Proposal. By Rebecca Leber, New Republic, 1/27/16. “There’s one environmental issue where Sanders truly stands apart [from all the other candidates]: He wants to ban hydraulic fracturing outright… That’s an indication of just how radical Sanders’s stance really is, but it also raises an important question: Is a fracking ban remotely plausible? Fracking… is one of the few areas of consensus among establishment Democrats and Republicans. Sanders, meanwhile, wants to halt the practice nationwide, a stance he’s taken since at least 2014, when Vermont banned the approach…

“Is it even possible to ban fracking nationwide? In short, no—not without Congress. The House and Senate would have to approve a tax on greenhouse gas emissions or to amend the ‘Halliburton loophole.’ Passed in 2005 in the Energy Policy Act, the loophole exempted fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which otherwise would regulate how contaminants are injected underground. (In 2013, Sanders proposed a Climate Protection Act to repeal the loophole.)… However, the president has the power to set strict standards for leasing federal lands for fossil fuel development, and Sanders has proposed ending all federal leases to oil, gas, and coal companies… Under Sanders, EPA could also exercise its regulatory authority against fracking companies.”

The Social Cost of Carbon

How Do We Define the Cost to Society of Climate Pollution? By Elizabeth Shogren, High Country News, 1/27/16. “In a 2007 [U.S. Court of Appeals] ruling on a dispute concerning fuel economy standards for cars, a judge sent a clear message to federal agencies. They could no longer continue business as usual and fail to account for climate change when assessing the costs and benefits of regulations… Judge Betty B. Fletcher’s ruling challenged government officials to come up with a dollar amount that represents how much a ton of carbon pollution will ‘cost’ society over the long run. Economists refer to this as the social cost of carbon. The concept is still evolving and will only become more important to understand as governments grapple with how to address climate change in the most effective and least costly manner…

“In early 2009 White House officials decided… to develop a unified way for agencies to estimate the social cost of carbon… The interagency group turned to academic researchers who had been studying the economics of climate change.. The government opted to utilize three widely-used models, taking the average of the three to derive the federal government’s official estimate. First, the models estimate how a metric ton of carbon pollution will impact concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Second, the models estimate how those concentrations will affect temperature on Earth. Third, they analyze how increases in temperature will translate into a range of impacts such as the loss of usable dry land because of sea level rise; stresses to agriculture from droughts; and increased need for air conditioning… the interagency working group asked advice from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which appointed a group of engineers, climate scientists and economists to review the government’s estimates and consider ways to update the methodology. Its first report, in January 2016, did not recommend any major short-term changes but suggested ways to better communicate uncertainties. A more comprehensive and final report is expected in 2017.”