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The Climate Post: North Carolina Legislature Mulls Ban on Sea Level Rise Projections

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The link between climate change and sea level rise, already well established, has been reinforced by recent studies. But sea level rise also made headlines in a more unusual way recently after some North Carolina legislators introduced a bill that would call into question some of the scientific projections related to sea level rise in the state. Specifically, their draft legislation would "prohibit state and local government agencies from using projections of accelerated sea level rise -- due mainly to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps -- when forming coastal development policies and regulations."

The document has drawn criticism across the world, even finding a spot on the popular spoof television show The Colbert Report. Duke University's Bill Chameides characterized it as an attempt to "legislate away" what is possibly "the greatest threat that climate change poses to North Carolina." The Senate's Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee was scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.

Elsewhere, rising temperatures are being blamed for the transformation of more shrubs into trees in the northwestern Eurasian tundra. According to a Reuters report, the advancing of such forests could negatively impact the climate--increasing warming by as much as 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And in other remote parts of the Arctic, scientists have recorded what's been labeled a climate milestone--carbon dioxide levels above the level of 400 parts per million. It's a measurement some scientists believe hasn't been reached in roughly 800,000 years.

Climate's Effect on Energy

Warming waters and reduced river flows in the United States and Europe could have a significant impact on power generation, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Rising temperatures, the study said, would affect coal and nuclear plants dependent on rivers for cooling during production. In the U.S. alone, capacity could fall as much as 16 percent on warmer days between 2031 and 2060.

While coal use dropped to 34 percent in March -- its lowest level since January 1973 -- so did the U.S. utility industry's confidence in the energy source. In fact, in a survey of utility industry executives, 56 percent said coal had a future as a fuel source, down from 82 percent in 2010. Confidence in renewables, however, was higher at 96 percent.

Or maybe executives won't have to choose. One new technology, out this week, claims to be equipped to produce cost-effective electric power with little to no emissions from any fuel source.

In Japan, solar makers are betting a new feed-in tariff could help the country boost power generation from solar past its current 1 percent. The tariff program is set to launch next month. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the use of solar and wind power as a source of secondary income for farmers is gaining popularity. The move, according to the National Farmers' Union, could be a major contributor to profitable farming.

Emission Stunners

Despite congressional deadlock, new International Energy Administration (IEA) data indicates the U.S. leads the world in CO2 emission cuts since 2006. The IEA cited lower oil use and a shift from coal to gas as factors in the 7.7 percent cut.

Negotiations for a new climate treaty that would help to reduce emissions worldwide fizzled in Bonn, Germany recently. The deadlock was a result of disputes among rich and poor countries over technicalities--namely how to divide the burden of emissions cuts between developed and developing nations.

Cities are the solution to addressing climate change, according to a new infographic by C40 cities. Cities across the world are creating plans to reduce emissions. Where are climate change plans more prevalent? In places prone to natural disasters, increasing temperatures and rainfall variability such as Latin America. In fact, 95 percent of Latin American cities are planning for climate change. In New York, rooftops are being transformed--speckled with solar panels, coated with white paint and even plants--to make them more climate-friendly. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is expected to extend a 100 percent green electricity option to customers this month.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

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