By Andrew H. Perellis, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

In anticipation of its proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions of existing electric power plants, expected to be released Monday, June 2, EPA just released its report Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2014, Third Edition (Report), showing some stunning data about climate change and industry’s responsibilities.

The Report details the science behind climate change and is a tool to educate the public about the causes and effects of climate change and what can potentially be done to reduce the effects of global warming.

We had blogged previously about President Obama’s “Plan to Cut Carbon Pollution and Address Climate Change” – the Climate Action Plan. In making his case for the Plan, in June, 2013, the President said “while no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.” P. 4.

The EPA Report represents the next step in the President’s Climate Action Plan. The Report pulls together “observed data on key measures” of our environment, also known as “indicators.” These indicators include: U.S. and global temperature and precipitation, ocean heat and ocean acidity, sea level, and the length of the growing season, among others. With thirty indicators suggesting “long-term trends,” the Report asserts climate change is already affecting our society and says the “indicators present compelling evidence that climate change is happening now in the United States and around the world.”

Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, suggested that these indicators “make it clear that climate change is a serious problem and is happening now here in the U.S. and around the world.” While all of the indicators relate to the causes or effects of climate change, they also show that humans can have different levels of influence on different indicators.

The Report is consistent with the recently released National Climate Assessment in suggesting this data “presents clear evidence that the impacts of climate change are already occurring across the United States.”

Some important indicators in the Report that show a trend toward a changing climate include:

  • Temperature: Average temperatures have risen across the contiguous 48 states since 1901, with an increased rate of warming over the past 30 years. Seven of the top 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. Every part of the Southwest experienced higher average temperatures between 2000 and 2013 than the long-term average dating back to 1895. Some areas were nearly 2°F warmer than average.
  • Violent storms: Tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico has increased during the past 20 years.
  • Rising sea level: Along the U.S. coastline, sea level has risen the most along the Mid-Atlantic coast and parts of the Gulf Coast, where some stations registered increases of more than 8 inches between 1960 and 2013.
  • Ice loss: Glaciers have been melting at an accelerated rate over the past decade. The resulting loss of ice has contributed to the observed rise in sea level.
  • Increased frequency and size of wildfires: Since 1983, the United States has had an average of 72,000 recorded wildfires per year. Of the 10 years with the largest acreage burned, nine have occurred since 2000, with many of the largest increases occurring in western states.
  • Drought: Water levels in the Great Lakes have declined steadily over the last few decades.
  • Heat-related deaths: Over the past three decades, nearly 8,000 Americans were reported to have died as a direct result of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke. The annual death rate is higher when accounting for other deaths in which heat was reported as a contributing factor.

The Report purports to represent the state of the science as collected and digested by the EPA. The analysis goes a long way toward supporting and moving forward the President’s Climate Action Plan and his insistence that now is the time to act.

Assessing the Impact of Proposed New Carbon Regulations in the United States

Also in preparation Monday’s proposed power plant rules release, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s (Chamber) Institute for 21st Century Energy (Energy Institute) commissioned IHS Energy and IHS Economics to examine and quantify the expected impacts of the proposed power plant rules on the electricity sector and the economy as a whole, based on policy scenarios provided by the Energy Institute.

The Energy Institute’s analysis focuses on the economic impacts of EPA’s proposed rules on CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired electricity generating plants under the Clean Air Act. According to the Chamber’s analysis, the rules threaten to suppress average annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product by $51 billion and will lead to an average of 224,000 fewer U.S. jobs every year through 2030, relative to baseline economic forecasts. The proposed power plant rules are a central part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.

When discussing changes that can be made to address climate change, Acting Assistant Administrator McCabe says “everything we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the changes that are already underway will help us safeguard our children’s future.”  Maybe it is time for Smokey the Bear to change his tune and tell the public “Only You Can Prevent Climate Change.”