Climate change

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Climate change will begin to have a demonstrative effect on Kentucky’s economy within five years.

This is the conclusion from a report released today by the nonprofit Risky Business. The organization is dedicated to exploring the economic effects of climate change, and is chaired by liberal billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, as well as former banker and George W. Bush-era Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Recently, groups have begun focusing on the economic costs of climate change, considering any discussion or debate over the science or existence of climate change to be unnecessary. Yesterday, 13 major companies including Walmart, UPS, General Motors and Google launched the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” and pledged to reduce emissions with an eye toward their bottom lines.

Today, Risky Business’ report analyzes the factors around the Southeast that will become amplified as the climate changes. Researchers identified “likely” outcomes, which it defined as events with a 67 percent chance of happening if the country continues its current greenhouse gas emissions pattern.

Alfred Sommer, dean emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, worked on the report with Risky Business. He said it’s easy for politicians to bury their heads in the sand, but that’s a short-sighted perspective.

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Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial candidates disagree specifically on what evidence proves that, according to them, climate change isn’t happening or influenced by human activity. During a debate on CN2 last month, candidates Will T. Scott and Hal Heiner prefaced their statements with “I’m not a scientist, but…” and Matt Bevin called climate science “fluff and theory.” But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer offered the most specific example.

“I do not believe in global warming. I’m the one person whose business and livelihood depends on Mother Nature, so I understand weather patterns,” he said, citing his farming experience. “We’ve had a very severe winter this year with 12-inch snows, so there is no global warming.”

Putting aside the science behind climate change, and the fact that nearly all climate scientists agree both that it’s happening and is influenced by human activity, it was a severe winter this year. Louisville got 27 inches of snow, which is 15 more inches than usual. But there are some key differences between weather and climate, especially as pertains to agriculture, and these nuances are missing in Comer’s remarks.

“Climate determines where we grow crops, weather determines how much we grow,” Jerry Hatfield said. He’s the director of the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, which is run by USDA.

He said  the climate is definitely changing. One of the manifestations of that changing climate is weird weather patterns.

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The U.S. has submitted its carbon emissions reduction plan to the United Nations, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already warning the rest of the world that America may not follow through on it.

Today is the informal deadline for nations to submit their plans to the U.N., prior to global climate talks scheduled for December in Paris. The U.S. plan includes carbon dioxide reductions of 26 to 28 percent over 2005 levels by 2025, which is the same promise President Obama made last year in an address in China.

But Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is advising the rest of the world to think twice before making similar carbon reduction pledges.

“Even if the job-killing and likely illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan,” he said in a released statement. “Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”

McConnell has been a vocal critic of the Clean Power Plan, which is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most recently, he urged all 50 states to delay submitting compliance plans to the federal government and to instead wait to see if legal challenges to the rule are successful. If the EPA’s rule prevails and states haven’t created customized plans to meet the goals, they’ll have to follow the federal blanket plan instead.

But McConnell’s latest statement is an echo of the recent letter sent by all 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leaders. The letter warned Iran that any nuclear weapon agreements reached with the Obama Administration could be revoked or modified any time by Congress or the next U.S. president.

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House Republicans are targeting a key element of President Barack Obama's strategy for fighting climate change, this time with a bill to delay the Obama administration's plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky unveiled a draft bill Monday that would allow governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant hikes for electricity or harm reliability in the state.

The bill also would delay the Environmental Protection Agency's climate rule until all court challenges are completed.

The measure does not block the EPA rule outright, as previous GOP bills have intended, but Whitfield said he is confident the measure would protect states and consumers. Whitfield chairs the House Energy panel's energy and power subcommittee.

In a speech at the U.N. Climate Summit, President Obama called for a more ambitious global approach to environmental issues, and noted a new push to boost what the White House calls "global resilience" in the face of climate change.

We embedded video of the president's speech here and posted updates below.

Bill Nye, The Go-To Guy On Climate Change

Jul 29, 2014

Bill Nye first learned to talk to audiences through his ’90s TV show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” where he made science topics fun and accessible to kids. But now, as CEO of The Planetary Society, he speaks to a different audience.

Nye has appeared on numerous news programs to talk about climate change. He’s a proponent of immediate action to reduce the damage that has been done to the atmosphere.

Abbey Oldham

A WKU professor who served on the panel behind the recently released national climate change report says Kentucky hasn’t been as impacted by climate change as several other states.

But Dr. Rezaul Mahmood says that could change in the coming years.

The WKU Geography and Geology Professor is one of about 60 members of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. The group’s 1,100 page report, released Tuesday, says the impacts of climate change are being seen across the country.

While Kentucky hasn’t seen the degree of temperature change that some western and east-coast states have experienced, the WKU Professor says policy makers and residents in the commonwealth shouldn’t be complacent.

“If changes in other regions happen, that will eventually impact Kentucky, Dr. Mahmood said. "For example, if watersheds in other states are getting lots of rain, or not enough rain, eventually our water supply is going to be affected."

Dr. Mahmood says one way Kentucky has been proactive about climate change has been the creation of a comprehensive drought plan that coordinates efforts at the state and local levels.

"The effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans," and the world is mostly "ill-prepared" for the risks that the sweeping changes present, a new report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes.

We Americans are heavy consumers of meat, and we're increasingly reminded that eating less of it will shrink our carbon footprint. Growing the crops to feed all those animals releases lots of greenhouse gases.

The president of the Kentucky Board of Education says new academic standards for science education in public schools include material on evolution that has been in place since 2006.

David Karem says Kentucky worked with 26 other states on the scientific standards, which were approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education on a 9-0 vote.

Karem told WKU Public Radio Thursday that the evolution teachings will more closely align Kentucky's curriculum with entry-level college requirements. And he says it's in no way an effort to step on anybody's religious beliefs.

"I think the point is that there is no intent in the scientific standards that are being adopted that go into a person's religious beliefs or interfere with them in any way," said Karem.

The President of Kentuckians for Science Education, Robert Bevins, said climate change and evolution may be politically controversial for some people, but they aren't scientifically controversial.

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