More Action, No Delay: the Obvious Tasks of the U. S.’s Climate Change Policy

Many speculate what would happen to the U. S.’s pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions after Donald J. Trump takes control of the White House. The U. S. promised not only to cut its own emissions through its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) but to help poor countries under the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, the President-elect has openly vowed to leave this landmark deal, which intends to limit the global temerature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. So, what if the U. S. cannot meet, or even abandon, the INDC? Alternatively, if it somehow manages to deliver its promise, does it mean the worst-case climate scenario averted?

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[Summary] Electricity Generation from Renewables in the United States

  • Title: Electricity generation from renewables in the United States: Resource potential, current usage, technical status, challenges, strategies, policies, and future directions 
  • Date: April 2013
  • Author: Atif Osmani, Jun Zhang, Vinay Gonela, Iddrisu Awudu
  • Published: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

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Associating GHG Emissions with Electricity Generation

It is elementary: a large part of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to power generation, especially to fossil fuel combustion. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), electricity production accounted for 30 percent of the U. S.’s total GHG emissions in 2014, marking the largest share [1]. About two-thirds of the produced electricity comes from fossil fuel combustion, mostly coal and natural gas [2]. It can be implied that employing less carbon-intensive technologies such as renewables and nuclear—although the latter can be politically charged—would lead to less GHG emissions.

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Little Ice Age Reflected in Dutch Landscape Paintings

  • Title: Ice and snow in paintings of Little Ice Age winters
  • Date of publication: February 2005
  • Authors: Peter J. Robinson
  • Published by: Weather

Artists will probably find beauty in a piece of Dutch landscape paintings in the 17th Century, but climate scientist may see it as a data set; art work can be important evidence of the Little Ice Age that lasted from 1300 to 1850 [1]. An interesting study titled “Ice and snow in paintings of Little Ice Age winters” examines how artists in Europe depicted the colder weather and how we can get information about climate from those paintings.

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Observed vs. Modeled Climate Sensitivity

  • Title: Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth
  • Date: June 2016
  • Authors: Richardson et al.
  • Published by: Nature Climate Change

Naturally, there are always some gaps between the real world and the results from simulation models. In case of climate sensitivity, which refers to the temperature increase from doubling CO2, the real-world data that has been historically recorded gives us around 1.3 , while models gives us a little bit higher value. Climate skeptics often use this fact to support their argument; that global warming is not in fact that serious as scientists predict. However, a study published by Nature Climate Change this last June, Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth (Richardson et al., 2016), addresses why climate sensitivity is predicted differently from climate models and observed data.

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‘Recycling’ the Funds from Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade

Reducing the national emissions often involves a powerful policy tool such as carbon tax or emission trading. While many focus on the effectiveness of such measures in cutting carbon emissions, there have been some serious discussions on how to spend the money gained from tax or cap-and-trade auctions. We are talking about some BIG money here; for example, California is reaping over $2 million annually from its cap and trade, and the proceeds are expected to grow over time [1].

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About My Program: MS in Energy Policy and Climate

By the end of the Spring Semester of 2016, I would be only 30 percent away from completion of my master’s degree. I am currently enrolled in Master of Science in Energy Policy and Climate (EPC) at Johns Hopkins University, which is offered as an interdisciplinary, professional degree. There would be a lot of different opinions about this program, especially considering its relatively short history, but here I’d like to share my personal thoughts as a current student for those who may consider choosing this particular degree program.

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Why Stick to 2 Degrees?

Ever since global leaders came to an agreement in Copenhagen that “an increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius [1]” in 2009, there have been heated discussions over whether the so-called 2-degree goal is appropriate, realistic or sufficient as a means of avoiding the worst climate scenario. CNN even set up a “2-degrees series” on its opinion section to thread the goal through energy and climate issues [2].

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Catching Before Belching: the Questionable Future of Carbon Capture

Today, countless smokestacks around the world are emitting carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This is not a good news, as “cumulative emissions of hundreds or even thousands of gigatonnes of CO2 would need to be prevented during this century to stabilize the CO2 concentration at 450 to 750 ppmv (IPCC).” Because we cannot just stop using fossil fuels overnight, other ways are pursued to offset the emissions. The idea of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is simple; to capture the emissions from energy-using processes and dispose it. In details, CCS technology includes collecting and concentrating the CO2, transport it to a storage location, and then store it for as long as possible [1].

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Redefining National Interest: Debates Over Keystone XL Pipeline

One of the hottest environmental issues during the Obama Administration has been the Keystone XL pipeline. In January 2012, President Obama exercised his veto power against the proposed project. The 875-mile long pipeline and related facilities were supposed to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana [1]. Once constructed, the pipeline that would go across the entire North America is expected to last for over 50 years.

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