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Office of Global Change

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Date: 05/21/2009 Description: Renewable Energy © USG Photo

The Office of Global Change (OES/EGC) works on a broad range of international climate change issues, under the guidance of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. The United States is taking a leading role by advancing an ever-expanding suite of measures at home and abroad. The President’s Climate Action Plan highlights unprecedented efforts by the United States to reduce carbon pollution, promote clean sources of energy that create jobs, protect communities from the impacts of climate change, and work with partners to lead international climate change efforts. The working partnerships the United States has created or strengthened with other major economies has reinforced the importance of results-driven action both internationally and domestically and are achieving measurable impacts now to help countries reduce their long-term greenhouse gas emissions.

To reach the Office of Global Change, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

What is Climate Change?

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Climate Change: Basic Information


How is the climate changing in the U.S.?

Observations across the United States and world provide multiple, independent lines of evidence that climate change is happening now.

Climate change is happening

Our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.

What are climate change and global warming?

View of Earth from space

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.

Learn more about the signs of climate change in the United States.

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Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change

Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.

Emissions at sunsetGreenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This phenomenon is called the greenhouse effect and is natural and necessary to support life on Earth. However, the buildup of greenhouse gases can change Earth's climate and result in dangerous effects to human health and welfare and to ecosystems.

The choices we make today will affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere in the near future and for years to come.

Learn more about the causes of climate change.


Climate change affects everyone

Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.

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Take a Quiz

How much you know about the health impacts of climate change? Take our new online quiz and share your score with friends!Climate Change and Human Health quiz

Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth's system. Although it's difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what's clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.

We can reduce the risks we will face from climate change. By making choices that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and preparing for the changes that are already underway, we can reduce risks from climate change. Our decisions today will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change and adapting to change.

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Hands on a globe

We can make a difference

You can take action. You can take steps at home, on the road, and in your office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risks associated with climate change. Many of these steps can save you money; some, such as walking or biking to work, can even improve your health! You can also get involved on a local or state level to support energy efficiency, clean energy programs, or other climate programs.Link to EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

Calculate your carbon footprint and find ways to reduce your emissions through simple everyday actions.

EPA and other federal agencies are taking action. EPA is working to protect the health and welfare of Americans through common sense measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to help communities prepare for climate change.

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Source: https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information#main-content

 

STATEMENT: Secretary of Energy Should Embrace America’s Clean Energy Future

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STATEMENT: Secretary of Energy Should Embrace America’s Clean Energy Future

Statement - December 13, 2016

WASHINGTON (DECEMBER 13, 2016)– According to multiple media reports, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy. Perry was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, and twice ran for president of the United States.

As Secretary of Energy, he would lead the Department’s mission to “ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” The Secretary of Energy oversees a budget of $29.6 billion (in 2016), including $10.7 billion for all-of-the-above science and technology.

Last week, several reports revealed that the Trump transition team sent a request seeking names of people within the agency who work on climate and clean energy.

Following is a statement from Jennifer Layke, global director of WRI’s Energy Program:

“Governor Perry comes from a state long-associated with the oil industry, but he also has a successful track record of promoting wind power. When Perry took office as governor, Texas had 116 megawatts of wind power, but it now boasts 18,000 megawatts, making it the country’s largest wind producer. If the incoming Secretary truly wants to boost America’s economy, health and security, he should look no further than extending the Department’s commitment to clean, renewable energy.

“The shift to clean energy is well underway and already employing hundreds of thousands of people across the country, including in rural communities. Wind and solar power have been the largest source of new electricity in the U.S. in recent years. The cost to install solar power has fallen by more than 70 percent over the last decade. Wind power currently supplies 4.7% of U.S. electricity and employs more than 88,000 Americans. That’s why states from Texas to Maine and Iowa to Florida are all investing in renewable energy.

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

2 December 2016
209 115 59 31

Legal experts from key international organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, are meeting to develop a climate change legal toolkit to help countries carry out the Paris Agreement.

The two-day consultation is taking place between 1 and 2 December at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London. Academics, think tanks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are exchanging knowledge and pooling resources to explore how to best support the legal needs and priorities of countries for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Partners include the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Environment. Participants include representatives from six United Nations entities and the World Bank. The Paris Agreement was signed by 193 countries and aims to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement Celebration and Reality Check

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement
Celebration and Reality Check

 Paris Climate Change Agreement

Bonn, Germany, 12 December 2016 – One year after the world adopted the Paris Climate Change Agreement, climate action across governments, business and societies continues to scale new heights. The challenge now is to take this to an even higher scale with a speed and an urgency that reflects the scientific reality.

“2016 was an extraordinary year in many ways. In less than 12 months the Paris climate agreement entered into force and almost weekly, more countries ratify. Meanwhile nations, cities, regions, businesses and investors continue to signal their unwavering support through practical action, shifts in investments and ever more ambitious pledges, “said Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This urgency and this action needs not only to continue but to go to scale and gather ever more speed over 2017 and the years and decades to come—because current ambition still falls short of what is needed. In 2016 the UN’s World Meteorological Organization announced world-wide average temperatures had risen 1-degree Celsius in 2015 and that concentrations of the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, reached past the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere over the entire year, “she added.

Ms Espinosa said achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement will also rest on the speed and urgency of realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015.

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Investing in Infrastructure? Don't Forget the Electric Grid

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Investing in Infrastructure? Don't Forget the Electric Grid

Solar panels and wind generators against a city view

December 7, 2016

Photo by artJazz/Getty Images

by Aimee E. Curtright and Kathleen Loa

One of the initiatives on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda for his first 100 days in office is a plan that would spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years.

Along with fixing America's dilapidated roads, bridges, transit and airports, the plan envisions spending $52 billion in taxpayer money on electricity infrastructure, with a presumed emphasis on integrating advanced “smart grid” technologies. While many consumers might see this as just another technology rollout that could be best left to the private sector and the free market, leaving the future of the electricity grid to chance should not be an option.

To maximize the potential benefits of a multibillion-dollar smart grid investment, a closer examination of smart grid technology and policy is needed.

A smart grid is an electric grid that connects electricity producers to consumers in new ways, including allowing for electricity and information to flow not just from the producers, but back to them as well. It includes the various pieces of equipment and devices that are used to produce, deliver and monitor the electricity that keeps America's lights on.

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The environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The state of research

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The environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The state of research

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On July 30, 2014, the United States did something that had been legally prohibited for nearly 40 years: It exported domestically produced crude oil. While minor exports had occurred through the years and the July shipment involved some technical sleight-of-hand (the product was classified as lightly refined “condensates”), it was one of the first significant oil shipments since Congress banned exports in the wake of the 1974 oil embargo.

Respecting the law up to now has been easy, given America’s declining domestic oil production and thirst for imported oil — in 2006, the country imported 3.7 billion barrels. What changed between then and now all comes down to one word: fracking, the popular name for hydraulic fracturing. Combined with horizontal drilling, the technique has powered a boom in U.S. energy production, unlocking substantial petroleum and natural gas deposits trapped in shale formations. A lot of this is good news: U.S. consumers and industry rarely complain when energy prices fall, and reducing imports from unstable parts of the world has considerable appeal. Natural gas also releases half as much carbon dioxide as coal, allowing it to potentially serve as a “bridge fuel” to the cleaner energy supported by the majority of Americans.

U.S. oil production, 2000-2014 (U.S. EIA)

Despite these advantages, fracking remains highly controversial, in large part because of the potential damage it poses to human health and the environment. Reports of fracking operations contaminating aquifers are widespread, and research has found indications of higher rates of silicosis among well workers, an increase in congenital defects to children born nearby, and elevated cancer risk due to air pollution. Even earthquakes have been linked to fracking operations. Such concerns have led a number of towns to try to ban the practice, and fracking has become one of the central issues in the 2014 battle for Colorado’s governorship, a crucial swing state.

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Air Pollution in China

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Air Pollution in China

Coal is the leading culprit of air pollution in China. A recent University of Leeds study sponsored by Greenpeace East Asia traced PM2.5 (fine particles with a diameter under 2.5µm) in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and found the amount of PM2.5 released into the air in 2010 alone was more than ten million tons.

The study also confirmed that the majority of air pollution happens when certain gases are discharged into the air and turn into fine particles. And coal burning contributes most of these gases.

China's epic climb to the world's second-largest economy has had devastating health impacts. Another research project co-authored by Greenpeace on the health impacts of coal power plants shows that PM2.5 pollution from the 196 coal-fired power plants in the capital region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei caused 9,900 premature deaths and nearly 70,000 outpatient visits or hospitalizations during 2011. 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

Air pollution will remain a serious problem in China as long as coal continues to be the country's major energy source.

PM2.5 concentration levels have particularly endangered public health in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an. The PM2.5 concentration levels in all four cities exceed World Heath Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines. This means higher health risks to the cardiovascular system, cerebrovascular system and an increase in the probability of cancer and premature death.

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Wind Turbine Technologies

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Wind Turbine Technologies

The purpose of this report is to give investors a better idea of which turbine is suitable for a particular setting and to provide a new outlook on vertical-axis wind turbines. Vertical-axis wind turbines are more compact and suitable for residential and commercial areas while horizontal-axis wind turbines are more suitable for wind farms in rural areas or offshore. However, technological advances in vertical-axis wind turbines that are able to generate more energy with a smaller footprint are now challenging the traditional use of horizontal wind turbines in wind farms. Wind technology has grown substantially since its original use as a method to grind grains and will only continue to grow.

Source: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/research/#hydrogenforelectricitygeneration

 

How does oil affect the environment?

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How does oil affect the environment?

Crude oil is used to make petroleum products used to fuel airplanes, cars, and trucks; to heat homes; and to make products like medicines and plastics. Although petroleum products make life easier, finding, producing, and moving crude oil may have negative effects on the environment. Technological advances in exploration, production, and transportation of oil and enforcement of safety and environmental laws and regulations help to avoid and reduce these effects.

Technology helps reduce the effects of drilling and producing oil

Exploring and drilling for oil may disturb land and marine ecosystems. Seismic techniques used to explore for oil under the ocean floor may harm fish and marine mammals. Drilling an oil well on land often requires clearing an area of vegetation. These impacts are reduced by technologies that greatly increase the efficiency of exploration and drilling activities. Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies make it possible to discover oil reserves while drilling fewer exploratory wells. Mobile and smaller slimhole drilling rigs reduce the size of the area disturbed by drilling activities. The use of horizontal and directional drilling makes it possible for a single well to produce oil from a much larger area, which reduces the number of wells required to develop an oil field.

Hydraulic fracturing

An oil production technique known as hydraulic fracturing is used to produce oil from shale and other tight geologic formations. This technique has allowed the United States to increase domestic oil production significantly and reduce the amount of oil that the country imports. There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing rock requires large amounts of water, and it uses potentially hazardous chemicals to release the oil from the rock strata. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for oil production may affect the availability of water for other uses and can potentially affect aquatic habitats. Faulty well construction or improper handling may result in leaks and spills of fracturing fluids.

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Microhydropower Systems

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Microhydropower Systems

Microhydropower can be one of the most simple and consistent forms or renewable energy on your property.

Microhydropower can be one of the most simple and consistent forms or renewable energy on your property.

If you have water flowing through your property, you might consider building a small hydropower system to generate electricity. Microhydropower systems usually generate up to 100 kilowatts of electricity. Most of the hydropower systems used by homeowners and small business owners, including farmers and ranchers, would qualify as microhydropower systems. But a 10-kilowatt microhydropower system generally can provide enough power for a large home, a small resort, or a hobby farm.

A microhydropower system needs a turbine, pump, or waterwheel to transform the energy of flowing water into rotational energy, which is converted into electricity.

Our page on planning a microhydropower system has more information.

How a Microhydropower System Works

Hydropower systems use the energy in flowing water to produce electricity or mechanical energy. Although there are several ways to harness the moving water to produce energy, run-of-the-river systems, which do not require large storage reservoirs, are often used for microhydropower systems.

For run-of-the-river microhydropower systems, a portion of a river's water is diverted to a water conveyance -- channel, pipeline, or pressurized pipeline (penstock) -- that delivers it to a turbine or waterwheel. The moving water rotates the wheel or turbine, which spins a shaft. The motion of the shaft can be used for mechanical processes, such as pumping water, or it can be used to power an alternator or generator to generate electricity.

A microhydropower system can be connected to an electric distribution system (grid-connected), or it can stand alone (off-grid).

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Ecosystem Services

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Ecosystem Services

What are Ecosystem Services?

Ecosystem sevices

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defined Ecosystem Services as “the benefits people derive from ecosystems”. Besides provisioning services or goods like food, wood and other raw materials, plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms provide essential regulating services such as pollination of crops, prevention of soil erosion and water purification, and a vast array of cultural services, like recreation and a sense of place..

In spite of the ecological, cultural and economic importance of these services, ecosystems and the biodiversity that underpins them are still being degraded and lost at an unprecedented scale. One major reason for this is that the value (importance) of ecosystems to human welfare is still underestimated and not fully recognized in every day planning and decision-making, in other words, the benefits of their services are not, or only partly, captured in conventional market economics. Furthermore, the costs of externalities of economic development (e.g. pollution, deforestation) are usually not accounted for, while inappropriate tax and subsidy (incentive) systems encourage the over-exploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources and other ecosystem services at the expense of the poor and future generations.

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Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water

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Book Launch - Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water

December 01, 2016
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM ESTWashington, DC

Learn how Bangladesh is leading the way forward in adaptation, from local community action to international negotiations.

Like most developing nations, Bangladesh emits a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases. Yet it is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, facing increasingly severe flooding, droughts and cyclones. Climate scientists estimate that rising sea levels alone will displace 18 million people by 2050.

But Bangladeshis are not simply victims of climate change. They have centuries of experience coping with environmental variability, and they are leading the way forward in adaptation, from local community action to international negotiations. Cyclone shelters and early warning systems have dramatically reduced fatalities, while Bangladeshi experts have played a central role in global climate talks.

David Hulme will launch his co-authored book, Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water, and discuss the findings of the book with a participants and a panel of experts.

Speakers

David Hulme, Professor of Development Studies, The University of Manchester; Executive Director, Global Development Institute. David Hulme is Professor of Development Studies at the University of Manchester where he is Executive Director of the Global Development Institute and CEO of the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre. He has worked on rural development, poverty and poverty reduction, microfinance, the role of NGOs in conflict/peace and development, environmental management, social protection and the political economy of global poverty for more than 30 years. His main focus has been on Bangladesh but he has worked extensively across South Asia, East Africa and the Pacific. His recent books include Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change (Anthem, 2016), Should Rich Nations Help the Poor? (Polity, 2016), Global Poverty: Global Governance and Poor People (Routledge, 2015), Governance, Management and Development (Palgrave, 2015), and Just Give Money to the Poor (Kumarian Press, USA, 2010).

Moushumi Chaudhury, Associate, Climate Resilience, World Resources Institute. Moushumi Chaudhury is an Associate at World Resource Institute’s Climate Resilience Practice, where she builds capacity to prioritize adaptation options in Fiji and Kenya as well as supports South-South knowledge exchange. She previously worked with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) covering East Africa, West Africa and South Asia. Prior to her experience with CCAFS, she worked with the United Nations Development Program in New York, the Center for International Forestry Research Institute in Indonesia as well as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Moushumi holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. She has an MS in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a BA in Anthropology & Sociology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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  • Sophie Boehm

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