Six years after the Keystone XL oil pipeline was first proposed, environmental groups are celebrating their most tangible victory in their crusade to stop the line from delivering Canadian oil sands crude to U.S. refiners.
On Thursday, Norwegian oil firm Statoil said it will postpone its 40,000 barrels-a-day Corner project for at least three years, possibly indefinitely.
While a handful of other projects have also been delayed or canceled this year, due in part to rising costs, Statoil is the first company to explicitly cite the issue of "limited pipeline access" as a reason. Its decision drew a direct link to the contentious and growing battle between producers seeking access to global markets and environmentalists seeking to block every export avenue for Canada's oil sands.
Americans are getting increasingly worried about climate change and its impacts, according to results from at least two nationwide polls released this week.
A New York Times/CBS News poll found that nearly half of Americans believe that global warming is causing a serious impact now, while about 60 percent said that protecting the environment should be a priority "even at the risk of curbing economic growth."
Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said that global warming is caused by human activity. This, the New York Times notes, is the "highest level ever recorded by the national poll."
Those results echo those of another survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which found that more than 70 percent of Americans believe climate change is either a critical or an important threat "to the vital interests" of the country, while more than 80 percent said that combating climate change is either a "very important" or "somewhat important" goal for the U.S.
Under the blistering Central Valley sun, Filiberta Sanchez and her toddler granddaughter strolled down a Parkwood sidewalk lined with yellow weeds, dying grass and trees more fit for kindling than shade.
"It was very pretty here, very pretty," said Sanchez, 56, as little Jenny crunched a fistful of parched dirt and pine needles she grabbed from the ground. "Now everything's dry."
Parkwood's last well dried up in July. County officials, after much hand-wringing, made a deal with the city of Madera for a temporary water supply, but the arrangement prohibited Parkwood's 3,000 residents from using so much as a drop of water on their trees, shrubs or lawns. The county had to find a permanent water fix.
Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is planning to step down.
Quarterman, who leads pipeline and hazardous material regulatory efforts within the Transportation Department, will leave Oct. 3, spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said Wednesday.
Quarterman has been at the forefront of the United States' efforts to improve the safety of trains carrying crude oil amid a string of major explosions in North America since last year.
The following is the text of President Obama's speech on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the United Nations Climate Change Summit.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders: For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week -- terrorism, instability, inequality, disease -- there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.
Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced -- both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.
No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history. A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded -- with global carbon emissions still on the rise.
So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.
We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means -- the technological innovation and the scientific imagination -- to begin the work of repairing it right now.
As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.
The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.
So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades -- proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.
Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more. Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.
Last week alone, we announced an array of new actions in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030. That's the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.
I also convened a group of private sector leaders who’ve agreed to do their part to slash consumption of dangerous greenhouse gases known as HFCs -- slash them 80 percent by 2050.
And already, more than 100 nations have agreed to launch talks to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol -- the same agreement the world used successfully to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.
This is something that President Xi of China and I have worked on together. Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)
And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid. All told, American climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations around the world. We’re helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously.
We’re partnering with African entrepreneurs to launch clean energy projects. We’re helping farmers practice climate-smart agriculture and plant more durable crops. We’re building international coalitions to drive action, from reducing methane emissions from pipelines to launching a free trade agreement for environmental goods. And we have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with many of you to make the Green Climate Fund a reality.
But let me be honest. None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about.
Now, the truth is, is that no matter what we do, some populations will still be at risk. The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most. And that’s why, since I took office, the United States has expanded our direct adaptation assistance eightfold, and we’re going to do more.
Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.
Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.
The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution. It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.
This time, we need an agreement that reflects economic realities in the next decade and beyond. It must be ambitious –- because that’s what the scale of this challenge demands. It must be inclusive –- because every country must play its part. And, yes, it must be flexible –- because different nations have different circumstances.
Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.
So today, I call on all major economies to do the same. For I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.
This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.
While you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor, we can act to see that the century ahead is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; not by human suffering, but by human progress; and that the world we leave to our children, and our children’s children, will be cleaner and healthier, and more prosperous and secure.
Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
The U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, promised to put climate change "front and center" of American diplomacy on Monday, raising expectations for this week's United Nations climate summit.
A day before the first world leaders' meeting on climate change in five years, Kerry said he would take it upon himself to make sure the international community steps up to deal with the threat.
"This is an enormous challenge, and this is why the United States is prepared to take the lead in order to bring other nations to the table," Kerry said in remarks at the start of a week of climate-themed events in New York.
"As secretary of state, I promise you I am personally committed to making sure this is front and center of all our diplomatic efforts."
The commitment offered a much-needed boost to the UN summit, being held on Tuesday.
The U.S. has outlined its vision of how a global climate agreement could work, and confirmed it is on track to reveal its proposed carbon cuts by March 2015.
It wants countries to offer an initial five-year plan for greenhouse gas cuts, from 2020-2025. That proposal is contested by the E.U., which wants 10 years.
"If the end date were 2030, which some have suggested, parties might be unsure about how ambitious they could be," the U.S. argues in a document sent to the UN.
"We might end up locking in ambition at a lower level than would have been possible had we first chosen 2025 and then made new contributions for 2030."
The timing of the 13-page submission from the State Department is significant, arriving five days before UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon hosts a heads of state climate summit in New York.
Last December at a summit in Warsaw leading economies committed to revealing their "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs) by the first quarter of next year.
TransCanada Corp.'s chief executive said the cost to build the Keystone XL pipeline, currently estimated at $5.4 billion, is expected to double by the time the U.S. government completes its review of the largest part of the project.
Russ Girling, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta,-based company, in an interview this week said he expects the project's cost could increase to a "number that gets you into the high single digits to a 10 number."
Rhea S. Suh, President Obama's nominee to head the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Interior Department, was named president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group that has been particularly influential in pressing the Obama administration to move ahead with carbon dioxide limits on coal plants.
Suh becomes only the third president in the NRDC's 44-year history, replacing Frances Beinecke.
Suh is currently serving as assistant secretary of the Interior for policy, management and budget, overseeing the department's $12 billion budget and 70,000 employees. Earlier in her career she taught earth science in the New York City school system, worked as a program officer for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Hewlett Packard Foundation, and served as senior legislative assistant to then-Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Col.).
A 1992 graduate of Barnard College, she also has a master's degree from Harvard University's graduate school of education. She is a first generation Korean American and a native of Colorado.
Wildfires may cost the U.S. as much as $62.5 billion a year by 2050 as the effects of climate change worsen, argues an economic analysis released Tuesday.
Wildfires cost the U.S. government $1.7 billion in 2013, but that figure only includes firefighting. It doesn't take into account the loss of private property or timber, the loss of the ecosystem benefits forests provide, or the cost for rehabilitating burned forests. The economic loss caused by wildfires is 10 to 50 times higher than the suppression costs alone, argues a new paper from New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While fighting wildfires is already expensive, costs are projected to rise as the climate changes and fires burn hotter, longer, and over more acres.
Economic damages, the paper's authors argue, should be taken into account when projecting future climate costs. Right now, they are not included in the so-called social cost of carbon figure that the Obama administration uses to evaluate the benefits of avoiding climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The paper argues it should be, along with a number of other costs that the three groups document as part of their Cost of Carbon effort.