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  • How climate policy can mitigate extreme weather's economic toll

    By Jonathan Camuzeaux

     

    This post was co-authored with Maureen Lackner

    In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Americans are coming together to support communities as they recover from the physical, emotional and economic toll after lives, possessions and livelihoods were washed away. Reestablishing daily routines, including work, school and regular commerce will take time, and for many, life may not return to what was once considered normal. But as we begin rebuilding what can be replaced, it is necessary to first gauge the scale and cost of the damage. It is also time to face the possibility that devastating weather events like Harvey and Irma may become the new normal

    Harvey and Irma are among the most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history

    Harvey and Irma have brought front and center the high costs of extreme weather-related disasters. While the damage is still being assessed, Harvey’s could cost as much as $200 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, surpassing Hurricane Katrina ($194 billion in 2017 USD). Estimates of Hurricane Irma’s economic damage are less certain, but the storm will likely also be among the most expensive weather-related disasters in the United States. (And we can’t forget that before reaching Florida, Irma caused damage to many Caribbean islands, which in some cases exceeded their GDP.)

    While hurricanes tend to be the most dramatic, other types of severe weather also cause billions of dollars in economic damages. During the first half of 2017 alone, nine weather events including hailstorms, flooding, and tornados racked up $16 billion in damages across several states.

    Climate change elevates the risk of severe weather events, and that comes at a cost

    Climate change doesn’t cause hurricanes, but sea level rise and warmer temperatures make storms more destructive. Storm surges along the Texas coast where Hurricane Harvey hit are now about 7 inches higher than storm surges a few decades ago as a result of sea level rise, which can make a big difference in flooding. In addition, evaporation intensifies with warmer temperatures, which results in more moisture in the atmosphere and therefore higher rainfall amounts and flooding when storms make landfall. Warmer ocean temperatures also fuel hurricanes, making them more powerful. Hurricane Irma was a classic example of just how powerful a storm can get from increased ocean temperatures.

    It is also possible that severe weather-related events overall are becoming more frequent. One recent EDF analysis shows that U.S. counties experienced, on average, a fourfold increase in the frequency of disaster level hurricanes, storms, and floods between 1997 and 2016 than in the 20 years prior. In the Southeast, this increase is even more pronounced; on average, its states experienced close to four-and-a-half times more disaster declarations over the same time period.

    In the coming decades, risk of climate change-influenced severe weather will differ from region to region, but one thing is clear: if left unmitigated, the effects of climate change could come at serious economic costs, not just to those who lose homes and livelihoods, but to their insurance companies or to taxpayers. Other aspects of the economy could experience significant pain as well.

    In the Southeast alone, higher sea levels resulting in higher storm surges could increase the average annualized cost of storms along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast by $2-3.5 billion by 2030. In some areas, like Texas, where sea levels are rising faster than the global average, these increases even higher. Research published in Science suggests that even if storms themselves do not become more severe, direct annual economic damage could rise by 0.6 to 1.3% of state gross domestic product (GDP) for South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida under median estimates of mean sea level rise. This translates into billions of dollars in additional economic damage every year for each of these states.

    Hurricanes and severe storms pose serious risks to U.S. energy infrastructure

    During Hurricane Katrina, the extent of the damages suffered by Entergy New Orleans forced the utility into bankruptcy. Hurricane Irma caused power outages in Florida that left over six million people without power.

    Beyond these local impacts, these events can cause damage nationwide. Texas is home to about 30% of domestic oil and gas refining capacity, half of which was disrupted by Hurricane Harvey. This shut down 16% of the nation’s total refining capacity, spiked the average national gasoline price approximately 37 cents per gallon, and forced crude exports to drop from 749,000 to 153,000 barrels per day in the week after Harvey. As of September 10, 2017, more than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, five Gulf Coast refineries remained closed, representing 11% of total Gulf Coast refining capacity and 5.8% of U.S. refining capacity.

    The Trump administration should focus on adaptation and mitigation

    In the short term, the Trump administration should maintain existing programs designed to enhance U.S. energy security and disaster response. For starters, the administration should stop dismantling EPA programs expressly designed to help communities respond to damage from storms.

    In the long term, we need to build climate resilient communities and infrastructure, through efforts like wetland restoration and smart development. President Trump would also do well to listen to Miami’s Republican Mayor Tomás Regalado, and rethink his approach to climate policy. Instead of rolling back smart policies and regulations, or simply ignoring the impacts of climate change, we need to stop compounding the problem and mitigate the effects of a warmer climate through policy that sets aggressive emissions reduction targets. Such strategies will do much more than just protect our economy's bottom line—it will help ensure the safety, security, and well-being of millions of Americans.

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  • Chile’s President reaffirms commitment to marine conservation

    By Erica Cunningham

     

    Julio Chamarro at the UN

    Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to protecting the marine environment while speaking at a meeting on ocean conservation issues during the annual gathering last week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    “Our commitment to the prosperity and well-being of our citizens cannot be disassociated with economic growth,” she said.  “But for the same reason, we must accept, once and for all, that long-term growth is not possible, nor is it true development, without an active policy of environmental protection.”

    We couldn’t agree more with the President that long term growth is not possible without the protection of the environment. We also believe that working hand in hand with fishermen is critical to building sustainable fisheries, and that economic prosperity is achievable even alongside environmental protections.

    That’s why we are excited and inspired to see that President Bachelet invited Julio Chamorro, a lobster fishermen from Juan Fernandez to attend the meeting  of the UN General Assembly and present on the importance of marine protected areas and sustainable fishing.  

    In Chile, EDF is engaging with local partners and fishing communities to help ensure that Chile’s fishing legacy is protected for future generations.

    Chile learning network

    Julio is part of a Small Scale Fisheries Learning Network we established in Chile with the goal of analyzing problems related to near-shore artisanal fisheries, and finding solutions. These networks aim to boost collective action of communities by uniting them and encouraging collaboration between participants from different backgrounds who might not otherwise have the opportunity to work together.

    The Learning Network has prioritized several projects, including the prevention of illegal fishing, low-cost data collection on fishery health, including participatory processes for data collection and monitoring, as well as effective co-management of resources and supply chain management and market-access.

    EDF is committed to working with our partners, like Julio, to strengthen this network over the coming years, bringing together stakeholders (both virtually and in-person) to solve problems and overcome the challenges identified for Chile’s near-shore artisanal fisheries.

    Sustainable fishing clearly continues to be a priority for Chile, as they work to ensure a thriving future for their communities and fish populations.  We’re proud to see such a true and humble leader like Julio sharing his perspective and experience on the global stage to represent the hard work that Chilean fishermen are doing to ensure a bright future. Working with fishermen like Julio brings us great joy and honor. We look forward to the next transformative steps we can take together in Chile, in partnership with both fishermen and the government.

     

    Read more »
  • Leading methane commitment from Exxon’s U.S. driller: Why it matters

    By Ben Ratner

    The degree to which the oil and gas industry can be trusted to play a constructive role in a low carbon future depends in no small measure on whether and how it reduces climate pollution today. That’s why company insiders, investors, and policy makers should take careful note of the sensible and innovative commitments announced by XTO Energy, the ExxonMobil subsidiary that leads the United States in natural gas production.

    The industry’s many outside stakeholders both in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly calling for emission reductions and greater commitment to cleaner production. Companies that heed those calls, and advance new technologies, will be much better positioned to answer society's demands for responsibility.

    Political Pendulum

    Ben Ratner, Director, EDF+Business

    Unfortunately, the current picture for much of the rest of the industry is less bright. Oil and gas trade associations—of which companies like Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and many others are members—have egged on a Trump administration ideologically bent on eliminating national methane safeguards.

    Even as company-level leadership like XTO’s will likely increase confidence in that company’s responsibility, industry support and acquiescence on Trump environmental rollbacks undermines confidence in the responsibility of the silent masses of thousands of operators who have not yet stepped up. Indeed, many in the industry are already concerned that overreach will carry a price when the political pendulum swings back the other direction.

    So even as the Trump administration and lowest elements in industry pursue a deregulatory agenda that simply goes way too far, XTO has committed to reducing its methane emissions in the United States, through a set of tangible actions that move the company well beyond compliance.


    America’s largest driller is raising the bar for methane emission reductions via @RatnerBen
    Click To Tweet


    Commitments to Implementation and Innovation

    Elements of the XTO commitment include phasing out a known type of intentionally venting devices in existing facilities; enhancing construction standards to install zero emitting devices at new facilities with electricity access; and undertaking leak detection and repair in existing facilities not already subject to regulations.

    XTO will also partner with methane mitigation companies to innovate new, lower-emitting technologies for remote sites that lack electrification. And, ExxonMobil will continue its work with the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative, including the company’s new commitment to serve as a technical advisor on the Stanford/EDF Mobile Monitoring Challenge.

    Most importantly for industry, regulators, and the courts, XTO’s actions reinforce the technical and financial feasibility of reducing oil and gas methane emissions, which cast a long shadow over claims that natural gas can play a credible role in the transition to a low carbon energy economy.

    Looking Ahead

    Of course, any company with the carbon footprint of XTO can and should always do more to address its emissions. We will look for robust XTO disclosure that enables stakeholders to closely follow and assess the progress and results of its U.S. methane program. And we hope that XTO’s announcement is a harbinger of things to come from parent Exxon Mobil, which can expand leadership in support of global methane emission reduction goals, and flaring reduction.

    It is too soon to know whether others in the U.S. oil and gas industry will follow suit with strong operational commitments and a more balanced, pragmatic approach to federal and state methane policy.

    But we do know that America’s largest driller is raising the bar for methane emission reductions in its onshore operations.

    The question now is who will follow?


    Follow Ben on Twitter, @RatnerBen


    Stay on top of the latest facts, information and resources aimed at the intersection of business and the environment. Sign up for the EDF+Business blog. [contact-form-7]


     

    Read more »
  • Deltas Around the World are Facing Uncertain Futures – Using the River Can Help

    Deltaic systems around the world, such as Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta and France’s Rhône River Delta, are facing growing consequences from climate change and sea level rise. Sea levels are projected to rise a staggering 1 to 2 cm per year by the end of this century, and deltas around the world will not be able to survive if no action is taken to protect them. In a recent paper published in Science of the Total Environment, researchers analyzed the ...

    The post Deltas Around the World are Facing Uncertain Futures – Using the River Can Help appeared first on Restore the Mississippi River Delta.

    Read more »
  • Leading methane commitment from Exxon’s U.S. driller: Why it matters

    By Ben Ratner

    The degree to which the oil and gas industry can be trusted to play a constructive role in a low carbon future depends in no small measure on whether and how it reduces climate pollution today. That’s why company insiders, investors, and policy makers should take careful note of the sensible and innovative commitments announced by XTO Energy, the ExxonMobil subsidiary that leads the United States in natural gas production.

    The industry’s many outside stakeholders both in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly calling for emission reductions and greater commitment to cleaner production. Companies that heed those calls, and advance new technologies, will be much better positioned to answer society demands for responsibility.

    Political Pendulum

    Unfortunately, the current picture for much of the rest of the industry is less bright. Oil and gas trade associations—of which companies like Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and many others are members—have  egged on a Trump administration ideologically bent on eliminating national methane safeguards.

    Even as company-level leadership like XTO’s will likely increase confidence in that company’s responsibility, industry support and acquiescence on Trump environmental rollbacks undermines confidence in the responsibility of the silent masses of thousands of operators who have not yet stepped up. Indeed, many in the industry are already concerned that overreach will carry a price when the political pendulum swings back the other direction.

    So even as the Trump administration and lowest elements in industry pursue a deregulatory agenda that simply goes way too far, XTO has committed to reducing its methane emissions in the United States, through a set of tangible actions that move the company well beyond compliance.

    Commitments to Implementation and Innovation

    Elements of the XTO commitment include phasing out a known type of intentionally venting devices in existing facilities; enhancing construction standards to install zero emitting devices at new facilities with electricity access; and undertaking leak detection and repair in existing facilities not already subject to regulations.

    XTO will also partner with methane mitigation companies to innovate new, lower-emitting technologies for remote sites that lack electrification. And, ExxonMobil will continue its work with the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative, including the company’s new commitment to serve as a technical advisor on the Stanford/EDF Mobile Monitoring Challenge.

    Most importantly for industry, regulators, and the courts, XTO’s actions reinforce the technical and financial feasibility of reducing oil and gas methane emissions, which cast a long shadow over claims that natural gas can play a credible role in the transition to a low carbon energy economy.

    Looking Ahead

    Of course, any company with the carbon footprint of XTO can and should always do more to address its emissions. We will look for robust XTO disclosure that enables stakeholders to closely follow and assess the progress and results of its U.S. methane program. And we hope that XTO’s announcement is a harbinger of things to come from parent Exxon Mobil, which can expand leadership in support of global methane emission reduction goals, and flaring reduction.

    It is too soon to know whether others in the U.S. oil and gas industry will follow suit with strong operational commitments and a more balanced, pragmatic approach to federal and state methane policy.

    But we do know that America’s largest driller is raising the bar for methane emission reductions in its onshore operations.

    The question now is who will follow?

    Read more »
  • XTO Steps Up on Methane Mitigation
    Read more »
  • Fines from “Codfather” sentencing should fund groundfish monitoring program
    Read more »
  • Assets from “Codfather” sentencing should fund groundfish monitoring program
    Read more »
  • U.S. District Court Hears Arguments for Common Sense Protections to Reduce Waste of Natural Gas
    Read more »
  • Ready to jumpstart your company's chemical policy?

    By Alissa Sasso

    We’ve previously introduced our readers to the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP), a benchmarking survey that evaluates companies’ chemicals management practices and recognizes leaders. The CFP recently released a Model Chemicals Policy for Brands and Manufacturers, a template to help companies develop and share their chemicals policies. A chemicals policy institutionalizes a company’s commitment to safer chemicals and ensures understanding of these goals among all levels of their business, including the supply chain.


    New resource from @BizNGO and @EDFBiz can help you jumpstart your chemicals policy
    Click To Tweet


    The CFP Model Chemicals Policy builds directly from EDF’s own Model Chemicals Policy for Retailers of Formulated Products. This alignment is important, demonstrating a consistent library of resources for companies to use as they strive to create safer products and supply chains.

    The CFP Model Chemicals Policy was developed by the BizNGO Chemical Working Group (in which EDF is an active participant). The policy includes the 4 key components that EDF thinks are important for a successful chemicals policy:

    • Improving Supply Chain Transparency
    • Cultivating Informed Consumers
    • Embedding Safer Product Design, and
    • Showing Public Commitment

    The CFP Model Policy is intended for brands and manufacturers of formulated products and articles (i.e., hard products, like furniture), meaning it can be used by any business sector. Embedded in the policy template are guidance and specific examples of how other companies have crafted elements of their own policies. The CFP Model Policy also aligns directly with questions in the CFP survey, making it easier for those companies who have participated in the survey to take their chemicals management commitments public in a meaningful way.

    The CFP Model Policy will help brands and manufacturers take an important next step in showing their consumers that they are committed to using safer chemicals in their products and supply chain. EDF is pleased to see a new resource that builds consensus for how a company can meaningfully share their safer chemicals journey with the public.


    New model policy will help brands to demonstrate commitment to safer chemicals
    Click To Tweet


    For additional information, please see our additional resources:


    Alissa Sasso, Project Manager, Supply Chain, EDF + Business

    Read more »