House eyes vote this week on $2 trillion spending plan

Tracking Water in the Face of Drought

Farmers, ranchers, and community resource managers know all too well that climate change can contribute to increased drought in the western United States. A new web-based platform called OpenET puts NASA data on water in 17 western states into the hands of users, helping them better calculate crop water requirements, use water more efficiently, and better plan irrigation.

The “ET” in OpenET stands for evapotranspiration, which is the process through which water leaves plants, soils, and other surfaces and returns to the atmosphere. Warmer temperatures from climate change can even increase the rate at which water evaporates from plants, meaning many farms in the region need to increase irrigation to protect their crops. Evapotranspiration is a crucial measurement for farmers and other water-resource managers, especially in the western United States, where most of the water used by people goes to irrigate crops and produce food. The primary satellite dataset for OpenET is from the Landsat program, a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

In addition to helping farmers, OpenET also can enable rural communities and water managers to design locally driven water conservation, trading, and other innovative programs to build more sustainable water supplies.

More details about NASA’s role in this project can be found in the story OpenET: A Transformative Tool for Tracking Water in the U.S. West.

California Voters Support Full Transition to Electric Vehicles by 2030

The post California Voters Support Full Transition to Electric Vehicles by 2030 appeared first on Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Dan Haar: Why two Yale profs returned from the U.N. climate summit with optimism

The post Dan Haar: Why two Yale profs returned from the U.N. climate summit with optimism appeared first on Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

On fourth and goal, budget reconciliation needs a carbon price to score

On fourth and goal, budget reconciliation needs a carbon price to score

On fourth and goal, budget reconciliation needs a carbon price to score

By Rick Knight

Imagine you’re playing in the Super Bowl. Your team has the ball 10 yards from the end zone in the fourth quarter, down by four points with 10 seconds left, and it’s fourth down. Everyone knows you’ve got one play to get into the end zone. The coach sends in the play: kick a field goal. 

Why would he do this? So that your team will lose by less? Well, it’s still possible to win. Maybe the holder will fumble the snap, and the kicker will then pick it up and run into the end zone. Anything is possible!

On Oct. 27, President Biden announced that the Senate had agreed to a framework for a budget reconciliation package including policies capable of meeting his goal of 50% reduction in carbon pollution below 2005 levels by 2030. This was a critical step forward to establish U.S. leadership just prior to the big COP26 climate conference in Glasgow the following week.

The President’s confidence in our ability to meet this goal was based partly on a report by the Rhodium Group (1). The top-line message from that report is that there is a path forward that has a chance of getting us close to 50% emissions cut below 2005 levels, but it requires much more than the policies in the reconciliation package, including new EPA regulations, climate legislation at the state level, and even voluntary private-sector commitments. 

The Rhodium report makes it clear that the risks of failure to meet the goal are many and serious. Just as one example, any new climate regulations under the Clean Air Act will be challenged in court, delaying their implementation for years and possibly striking them down altogether. That legal risk has, just in the last few weeks, further increased with the news that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the EPA’s foundational authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Legal observers believe that at least five of the Justices are inclined to overturn that authority, which would pull the rug out from under many of the regulations Biden is relying on to cut emissions beyond what is possible under the reconciliation bill.

The CCL Research Team reviewed analyses from seven different energy modeling sources (2), putting them all on the same basis — net CO2-equivalent emissions. We found that under their business-as-usual scenarios — if budget reconciliation fails altogether — U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 would be lower than 2005 emissions by about 22%, or 1.4 gigatons (Gt). So, getting those cuts to 50% (or 3.3 Gt lower) by 2030 requires an additional 28%, which translates to about 1.9 Gt of CO2-equivalent. That’s how much greenhouse gases must be cut beyond what current policies, not counting those in the reconciliation bill, can do. 

Previous modeling by Princeton and Energy Innovation analysts suggests that what’s currently in the Build Back Better legislative package could cut around 1 Gt. Another 0.2 Gt could be achieved by a fee on industrial methane leakage that is still under consideration. If both of those are enacted, they could get the U.S. to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, leaving about 0.7 Gt still to be cut in order to reach the 50% target. 

Keep in mind that this does not mean the reconciliation package will cut 40% from the emissions we are currently putting into the atmosphere. Comparing the cuts to 2005 emissions — one of the highest emissions years in U.S. history — makes that achievement sound bigger than it really is. But the expected cuts in this plan would actually be only about 28% below current emissions, about two-thirds of what’s needed to fulfill America’s promise for 2030.

We conclude that there remains a serious need to reliably cut emissions well beyond what the current reconciliation outline is likely to achieve. Fortunately, a carbon fee with cash payments allocated to households has near unanimous support in the Senate and, depending on how strong it is, could more than make up for the remaining emissions gap. A previous Rhodium study showed that a carbon polluter fee alone could cut energy-related CO2 emissions by 33-41% below 2005 level with no additional policies. That does not mean adding a carbon fee to the reconciliation package would slash emissions an additional 41% below what the legislative plan can achieve — there would be some redundancy with other policies — but a Resources for the Future analysis of the reconciliation package in September 2021 found that adding a carbon fee could improve CO2 reductions from 38% of 2005 emissions to 51%. 

Consequently, we can say with some confidence that a robust carbon fee would be a powerful insurance policy to smash through that 50% by 2030 target. Indeed, the Rhodium report named a carbon price first among “additional policy opportunities” that should be considered if Build Back Better provisions “come up short due to legal challenges or implementation delays.” We agree.

The world stands at a truly critical juncture on climate, and we can’t afford to come up short. We can’t settle for a field goal. This is a contest we have to win, and the carbon price is the play that can get us into the end zone. 

CCL’s Research Team discussed this topic during the Grit and Gratitude virtual conference. You can watch this related session below.

Footnotes: 

  1. Note: this report was issued October 19, when the budget reconciliation bill was still nominally at $3.5 trillion.
  2. Resources for the Future (RFF), Energy Innovation Policy & Technology (EIP&T), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Rhodium Group (Rhg), Princeton University Zero Lab (PUZL), and Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

The post On fourth and goal, budget reconciliation needs a carbon price to score appeared first on Citizens' Climate Lobby.

NASA’s Eyes on the Earth Puts the World at Your Fingertips

In Brief:

The 3D real-time visualization tool lets users track NASA satellites as well as the vital Earth science data they provide. Recent upgrades make for an even more fascinating experience.

NASA’s real-time 3D visualization tool Eyes on the Earth got a recent upgrade to include more datasets, putting the world at your fingertips. Using the tool, you can track the planet’s vital signs – everything from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to sea level and soil moisture levels – as well as follow the fleet of Earth satellites providing those measurements.

Eyes on the Earth offers an engaging, interactive resource to learn more about environmental phenomena and their impacts.

For instance, to see measurements of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in a particular part of the globe, navigate to the Vital Signs menu and click the carbon dioxide button. Eyes on the Earth will show a visualization of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite, which measures the gas from the ground to the top of the atmosphere. (To ensure the greatest accuracy, the mission reprocesses the data in the months prior to it appearing in Eyes.) Click “animate data,” specify a date range and see how levels shift over time.

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With NASA’s Eyes on the Earth, you can track Earth science satellites in real time as they orbit our planet and explore the trove of information they provide. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There are eight vital signs to choose from, with background information on the role each plays.

The newest version of Eyes on the Earth also provides snapshots of significant events in the natural world. For instance, you can see details about the maximum wind speeds of a tropical storm, the impacts of a northern California fire, even see the scale of a phytoplankton bloom off of New Zealand and why it matters.

The improvements also include upgrades for a more seamless user experience.

An Inside Perspective of the SWOT Mission

With the latest advancements in technology, we are able to harness these innovations to combine larger amounts of data and imagery for users to visualize how our planet is constantly changing,” said Jon Nelson, group supervisor of the Visualization Technology Applications and Development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which developed Eyes.

If you want to know more about the Aqua satellite, just click the icon that shows the spacecraft’s course around the globe. Along with background information about the mission, there’s an interactive 3D model to provide a closer look.

While you’re at it, you can check out the recently launched Landsat 9 as well as two powerful forthcoming missions: NISAR (short for NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) and SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography).

The graphics are as rich as the data, making for fascinating deep dives as you learn about the science, get to know the planet better, and learn about some of the many NASA missions that track the globe’s health. And while no downloads are required, the web-based application makes a great addition to any device with a browser and an internet connection including your smartphone.

An arrest warrant, a fugitive CEO: Puerto Rico’s effort to privatize its electrical grid is off to a rocky start

Oil and gas avoided censure in Glasgow for the 26th time. Let’s not make it 27

Investor and state-owned oil companies in the G20 find common cause in watering down climate ambition; we need to confront their influence

The post Oil and gas avoided censure in Glasgow for the 26th time. Let’s not make it 27 appeared first on Climate Home News.

Photos: Columbia Climate School at COP26

By hosting and participating in a number of special events, scholars from the Columbia Climate School helped to shape the conversation at the UN climate summit. Here are a few highlights.

Texas education board considers how middle schools teach climate change and sexuality as officials fight over library books