Energy & Environment — US emissions have big cost for other countries: study


New research suggests the US has cost other nations more than $1.8 trillion in damages because of its contributions to climate change, and environmental groups are pressing the Biden administration to halt logging in old-growth forests.

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US, China caused $3T in climate damage: research

China and the US, the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters, have collectively cost the global economy more than $3 trillion, according to research published Tuesday.

  • Researchers from Dartmouth College found that five of the world’s biggest emitters — the US, China, India, Russia and Brazil — cost the world some $6 trillion in gross domestic product over a quarter-century period.
  • The two biggest emitters, China and the US, accounted for more than $1.8 trillion each in lost global income from 1990 to 2014.

Researchers say this could help provide a foundation for climate litigation: “This research provides an answer to the question of whether there is a scientific basis for climate liability claims — the answer is yes,” Dartmouth PhD candidate Christopher Callahan, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“We have quantified each nation’s culpability for historical temperature-driven income changes in every other country.”

The research also put a specific number to the damage major emitters have done to developing nations, which are often especially vulnerable due to their geographic locations in the global south and along continental coastlines.

  • In Bangladesh, for instance, the US accounted for $14.1 billion in economic losses over 25 years, with China representing another $13.6 billion.
  • “Greenhouse gases emitted in one country cause warming in another, and that warming can depress economic growth,” Dartmouth assistant professor of geography Justin Mankin, senior researcher on the study, said in a statement.
  • “This research provides legally valuable estimates of the financial damages individual nations have suffered due to other countries’ climate-changing activities.”

Researchers said the study also repudiated the idea that climate change can only be mitigated by collective international action rather than action by a single country.

“Nations need to work together to stop warming, but that doesn’t mean that individual countries can’t take actions that drive change,” Callahan said. “This research upends the notion that the causes and impacts of warming only occur at the global level.”

Read more about the findings here.

GREEN GROUPS TO BIDEN: STOP THE HARVESTING

Environmental groups are calling on the Biden administration to halt the logging of mature and old-growth forests that they say are essential to slowing climate change.

  • More than 240,000 acres of big, carbon-trapping trees are on the chopping block, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a coalition of nonprofits like Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.
  • That’s an area of ​​100-plus year old trees approximately the size of Indianapolis.

The organizations argue that the planned cuts are in contradiction with an April executive order by the Biden administration to restore and conserve the nation’s mature and old-growth forests — which is running into a historic mandate that demands for national land-management agencies provide lumber companies with a steady supply of timber.

“The best way to protect these carbon-storing giants is to let them grow, but our federal agencies keep turning them into lumber,” Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

In the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota, for example — which at 180,000 acres the largest targeted tract — mature ponderosa pine trees are targeted for removal.

In Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, 1,000 acres of mature and old growth trees are set to be cut, while another planned clearcut on state forest administered by the Bureau of Land Management would cut down 4,573 acres.

Spivak argued that the administration could slow climate change by “permanently protecting mature and old-growth trees,” noting that it would take centuries to re-capture the carbon lost when those trees were cut down.

Asked for comment, a US Forest Service spokesperson argued that extreme weather is the biggest threat to old-growth forests and detailed the Biden administration’s effort on the issue.

“Recent, peer-reviewed science continues to show that primary threats to mature and old-growth forests are wildfire, drought, and other climate-induced disturbances, as we are seeing in real time with threats to sequoia groves and Yosemite National Park in California ,” spokesperson Larry Moore said in a statement.

Read more about the report here from The Hill’s Saul Elbein.

Conservation group sues EPA over fracking smog

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday, demanding that the agency take action to mitigate the air pollution emitted by Colorado’s oil and gas sector.

  • If successful, the lawsuit would force the EPA to order the State of Colorado to limit the pollution coming from both drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities in both the Denver metro area and the Denver-Julesburg Basin, according to the petition.
  • The Denver-Julesburg Basin is a geological rock formation that stretches from southern Colorado into Wyoming along the east side of Colorado’s “Front Range.”

“We’re never going to solve our smog problem until the EPA cracks down on Colorado allowing unlimited air pollution from drilling and fracking,” Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“If it takes a lawsuit to bring about that fix, that’s what we are going to do,” Ukeiley added.

Both the Denver metro area and North Front Range region have concentrations of ozone — also known as smog — that far exceed EPA standards designed to protect both public health and Colorado’s “natural beauty,” according to the center.

The state’s Air Pollution Control Division — a branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — was required to submit plans to the EPA detailing smog cleanup strategies, a statement accompanying the lawsuit stated.

While the EPA authorized that plan, the center argued that a potential loophole could allow for unlimited pollution from drilling and fracking, according to the statement.

Read more about the lawsuit here from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee to testify on the department’s budget
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on energy prices
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on three bills related to pollution
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on nuclear waste cleanup that features Energy Department officials
  • The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on forestry in the farm bill

WHAT WE’RE READING

🔭 Lighter click: Out of this world!

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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