As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, a panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) declares in a report released today. The committee, made up of members of academia and industry, recommended beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.The report “identifies the different pieces that need to come together” to have a chance at an effective oil spill response, says Martha Grabowski, a researcher in information systems at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and chair of the NRC committee.Even in the absence of oil and gas exploration, the Arctic’s rapidly intensifying traffic—whether from barges, research ships, oil tankers, or passenger cruises—makes oil spills increasingly likely. So “the committee felt some urgency” about the issue, says geologist Mark Myers, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The report, sponsored by 10 organizations ranging from the American Petroleum Institute to the Marine Mammal Commission, focused primarily on the United States’ territorial waters north of the Bering Strait, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Cleaning up oil in the Arctic is particularly tricky for a number of reasons, the committee notes. The extreme weather conditions are one problem. The lack of many kinds of data—high-resolution topography and bathymetry along the coasts; measurements of ice cover and thickness; distributions in space and time of the region’s fish, birds, and marine mammals—is another. And if an emergency happens, there’s no infrastructure in place—no consistent U.S. Coast Guard presence and no reliable supply chains to support a rapid response.On top of that, there is little real-world information about how the Arctic’s own oil (rather than an amalgam from an oil pipeline, as is now tested) will behave in the Arctic’s heavily stratified water column, which could prevent deep spills from reaching the surface. Then there’s the lingering question of how effective chemical dispersants or oil-munching microbes are in the frigid Arctic environment. And virtually nothing is known about how oil and sea ice will interact. “Ice really changes everything,” Myers says. Some oil might make its way into the ice, only to later become liquid again when the ice melts; some might remain trapped beneath it, moving with the ice—or possibly not. “We have very few observations of the under-ice environment,” he says.The report calls for upgrading oil spill response infrastructure, additional studies, and more coordination between agencies, industry, academia, and other Arctic nations. Grabowski also emphasized the need for standardization—of data collection and sharing, of oil spill exercises and responses.Who would coordinate all of this and who would pay for it remain unsettled questions. Grabowski notes that she and her panel members recommend public-private partnerships, interagency coordination, and working with, for example, local communities to develop trained response teams in local villages. “But in terms of an overall framework,” she says, “I think that that is a wide-open question. And obviously connected to that is a resource question. We can identify lots of ideas for a framework but without adequate resources that causes a real difficulty.”Still, amid the flurry of Arctic-related reports that have papered Washington, D.C., in the last few years, the committee hopes its recommendations will stick. By digging “deep into the science,” Myers says, “we felt it was going to be a good authoritative source which people can use to help make decisions.”“This is a study that’s both broad and deep,” Grabowski adds. “In terms of whether anyone picks this up and runs with it—that’s another step.”
When President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, he claimed that staying in would cost the economy trillions of dollars and millions of jobs. His decision was based on bad advice and bad economics. More rigorous, dynamic analysis shows that smart climate policies can boost growth and jobs. When G20 leaders meet in Hamburg July 7-8 they have an opportunity and responsibility to send a clear message that Trump’s position on Paris – and the idea that economic growth and action on climate are at odds – are simply wrong.Why the G20?G20 countries account for roughly 80 percent of global GDP and 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the group’s role in harmonizing policy on economic issues, it has helped shape and reinforce the direction of international political will and ultimately global decision-making on climate change. Since 2009, when the parties agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit, the G20 has sought to ramp-up action on climate change and clean energy (albeit with mixed results).Once again, climate change and clean energy are on the agenda for the G20 leaders’ summit. Just as the G7 parties – minus the United States — did in Italy the week before Trump’s announcement, all other parties of the G20 must now stand together to once again embrace the Paris Agreement and the economic progress it makes possible. It is critically important that the remaining G20 parties send the message that the world views the climate challenge in a starkly different way than the current U.S. administration.What to Look for in a Climate OutcomeThe G20 parties must continue their vocal support of the Paris Agreement and the unprecedented collective commitment to tackling climate change that it represents. By publicly highlighting their disagreement with the U.S. over Paris, the other parties of the G7 signaled that climate change is now an issue of international importance on par with trade, security and economic stability. The US decision has reinforced the determination of other parties like China, India and the EU: they have called the Paris Agreement “irreversible” and “an article of faith” and their commitments steadfast and “unwavering.” This sets the stage for a broader rejection of Trump’s position on Paris by this larger, more diverse collection of countries.Parties must rally behind the proposed German G20 Action Plan on Climate and Energy Growth, the most comprehensive statement yet by the G20 parties on an integrated set of climate and energy priorities. Designed to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it lays out a suite of actions and measures, including implementation of Paris pledges (and helping other countries to do the same), creation of Long-Term Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategies, clean energy RD&D, promotion of energy efficiency, access to modern energy services for all, enhanced adaptation, advancing finance flows on energy and climate, continuing to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and encouraging non-state actors — such as states, cities and the private sector — to work toward implementing the Paris Agreement.A full-throated endorsement of this plan by most of the G20 countries would show that they have not just a vision but a concrete set of priorities to build on the momentum coming from Paris and the global markets.The Crucial Role of Major Emerging EconomiesDemonstrating global solidarity on Paris is even more important because of the major emerging economies included in this G20 forum, especially India and China. In addition to endorsing the German Action Plan, it is critical that the developing country members of the G20 signal their action on the ground and commitment to delivering on Paris. They know climate change poses fundamental challenges to their development objectives, and at the same time represents unique opportunities to drive innovation and spur sustainable and inclusive growth.Trump mistakenly believes these parties “won” the negotiations in Paris, by getting an agreement that supposedly allows them to do nothing for the next 13 years. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, China has exceeded one of its four 2020 ambitious climate goals under the Paris Agreement; India added 5.5 gigawatts of new wind capacity in FY 2017, exceeding its 4 GW annual target, and Mexico has taken steps to establish comprehensive carbon pricing.By announcing and demonstrating their intent to lead in the fight against climate change, these emerging economies will also send a clear signal that they want to capture global markets the Paris Agreement has opened up, an opportunity worth an estimated $23 trillion. Trump’s Paris pull-out ensures that China will lead the global clean energy market into the future, just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel predicted at the G7, and capture the influence that comes along with it.Moving ForwardG20 leaders need to clearly articulate what the American people will lose from Trump’s determination to be a climate loner: job growth, minimized costs and risks to American businesses, and global competitiveness through sound investment opportunities.With or without the United States, the Paris Agreement and the broader international regime that serves civility and stability will survive this stress test of the U.S. withdrawal and be all the stronger for it. But this only happens if the other leaders continue to stand firm in their strong commitment to their intertwined goals of climate action and sustainable economic development.
Try Again, Fail Again?In February, the Trump Administration released its FY19 budget request. What is remarkable is how similar it is to its FY18 request, which has been largely rejected by Congress. The administration again proposes:Cutting funding for the GEF even more steeplyEliminating support for international environmental organizations (though the State Department later verbally committed to $6.4 million for the IPCC and UNFCCC)Merging the Development Assistance and Economic Support Fund accounts to hide steep funding cuts and evade Congressional oversight.Yet by failing to address the concerns voiced by both parties of Congress regarding the implications of the FY18 proposal for U.S. foreign policy, next year’s request looks dead on arrival. Last year, we looked at the extreme cuts to international climate finance the Trump administration put forward in their fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. Based on Trump’s announcements, one might assume that U.S. climate finance has fallen to zero.Luckily, this is not the case. It is Congress that sets funding priorities in annual appropriations bills. Six months overdue, Congress has finally agreed an omnibus spending package to fund the entire government for FY18 (covering October 2017-September 2018).For climate finance the budget is a mixed bag: some international climate funding has been preserved, some cut, and much left to the discretion of government agencies.Good News: Congress Continues Some Climate FundingCongress has rejected some of the most damaging spending cuts proposed by the Trump administration, and some key funding items are largely in line with previous years:Global Environment Facility (GEF): $139.5 million. Provides support not just for climate, but a host of environmental challenges, such as protecting biodiversity and tackling desertification. The US is the second-largest contributor in the GEF’s current 4-year funding cycle, after Japan. Funding has been largely preserved, and stands at $7 million less than FY16 and 17 levels.Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund: $31 million. Supports developing countries to phase out ozone depleting substances, some of which are powerful greenhouse gases many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Funding is $1 million below FY17 levels, but the money that has been approved will have a big impact, increasing the fund’s available resources by 38 percent.Bad News: No Funding for Critical Climate BodiesThat said, for anyone who prioritizes climate action, the FY18 Appropriations Bill is far from good. Congress has failed to find funding for critical global climate institutions.Green Climate Fund (GCF): $0. The largest and newest international climate fund receives no funding. The Obama Administration pledged $3 billion to the fund in 2014, paying two $500 million installments in 2016 and 2017. This leaves $2 billion still due, nearly 20 percent of the fund’s $10.3bn in total pledged funding. The GCF is doing important work: the 76 projects it has approved so far will avoid 1.3 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions while increasing the resilience of 217 million people to climate impacts. Congress’ failure to support the GCF undermines U.S. influence over the fund’s direction, as well as their credibility in international negotiations.Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): No allocation. These bodies are responsible for synthesizing the state of the art of climate science and providing a space for climate diplomacy. Funding was cut completely in the FY17 budget. This led a number of European countries to increase their funding, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to pledge $15 million to make up for the U.S. shortfall. In a positive move, the Trump administration has said it now wants to fund these bodies. The House of Representatives didn’t seem to get this memo, rejecting the Senate’s bipartisan recommendation to restore FY16 funding levels of $10 million. The administration could, however, still fund the UNFCCC and IPCC from discretionary funds.No News: Much Yet to Be DeterminedOne of the biggest challenges in assessing the bill’s implications is that not all spending on climate is clearly determined upfront. Allocations to international funds are important, but a larger amount of U.S. climate finance goes through bilateral channels, primarily the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Overall allocations to the Development Assistance and Economic Support Fund accounts , used to fund State and USAID’s work, have increased slightly. However, the amount of this that will go towards climate activities is not Congressionally-mandated, so it falls to the discretion of the executive branch.The Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) budget also remains intact. OPIC has been investing an average of $1 billion a year in renewable energy since 2010, the largest single element of U.S. international climate finance. Not only is this helping deploy renewable energy around the world, but returns on these investments help reduce the federal deficit.The U.S. is also a major contributor to the multilateral development banks (MDBs), which have their own goals for scaling up climate finance. Although the FY18 budget provides 14 percent less to the MDBs compared to FY17, this was anticipated since the U.S. had already paid up most of its pledged capital increases in earlier years.Key things to watch will be:How will the State Department and USAID spend bilateral development funding? Will staff be guided by recipient country priorities and expert analysis that shows climate action and sustainable growth go hand in hand, or will they be subject to political interference? There are concerning signs: last year, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the abolition of the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change, which had played a key role in coordinating the State Department’s climate work.Will OPIC (or its successor organization) retain its cap on its portfolio greenhouse gas emissions, which has helped encourage the organization to pursue more renewable energy investments?Will the U.S. agitate for multilateral development banks (MDBs) to roll back their climate work? The Treasury Department has already issued new voting guidance to its MDB representatives, directing them to “Help countries access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently,” and has abolished its Office of Energy and Environment, which developed U.S. positions on MDB climate policy, as well as represented the U.S. in the GEF and GCF.