A rise in sea levels threatens the viability of more than 1,400 cities and towns, including Miami, Virginia Beach and Jacksonville, unless there are deep cuts in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, says an analysis out Monday. Prior emissions have already locked in 4 feet of future sea-level rise that will submerge parts of 316 municipalities, but the timing is unclear and could take hundreds of years, according to the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If global warming continues at its current rate through the year 2100, at least an additional 1,100 cities and towns will be mostly under water at high tide in the distant future.
“It’s like this invisible threat,” says author Benjamin Strauss,a scientist at Climate Central, a non-profit, non-advocacy research group based in Princeton, N.J., that’s funded by foundations, individuals and federal grants. He says these sea levels are much higher than what’s predicted this century — typically 1 to 4 feet — because climate change multiplies their impact over hundreds of years. He says many people have the mistaken notion that if greenhouse gas emissions stop, the problem of sea levels rising will go away. It won’t, he says, because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries — even millenniums — and contributes to two factors that raise sea levels: higher temperatures and the loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
His dire projections suggest that the billions of dollars in damages from last year’s Superstorm Sandy are a harbinger of the future. “The current trend in carbon emissions likely implies the eventual crippling or loss of most coastal cities in the world,” writes Strauss, who directs Climate Central’s program on rising sea levels. To calculate U.S. cities at risk, he looked at elevation data and 2010 Census population figures. He blended that with a finding, published last month in a PNAS paper led by Anders Levermannof the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, that each degree Fahrenheit of global warming translates to 4.2 feet of sea-level rise in the long run (as much as two millenniums.)
“This is probably the most unique and novel way I’ve seen of talking about a longer time frame,” says Peter Ruggiero, a coastal engineering scientist at Oregon State University. He says it’s “useful,” because most analyses look only at this century, and “the world doesn’t end in 2100.” Yet he says there are huge “uncertainties” projecting so far into the future, and the paper has “a bit of fuzziness” because its estimates on the number of people who could be affected assume no change in coastal population or land features. The estimates also do not account for potential engineering solutions.
Some climate scientists say the findings may be counterproductive. Looking at such a distant tomorrow “could scare people about something that might not happen for centuries,” says Jayantha Obeysekera of the South Florida Water Management District, a regional government agency. He says such long-term projections may not be helpful to U.S. planners who tend to focus on the next few decades.
Strauss’ analysis says 3.6 million Americans live in the 316 municipalities — including New Orleans, Atlantic City and Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach — that are already considered at risk, because half of their populations live below the future high tide level that prior emissions have locked in.
Florida is the most vulnerable state by far, Strauss says, adding that Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina also face enormous difficulties. Unless major change occurs, he says, more than 100 cities in each of these states could be threatened.
Strauss says tragedy can be avoided or mitigated with deep global pollution cuts followed by technology that sucks CO2 from the atmosphere. Such bold steps, he says, could help preserve hundreds of coastal communities.
If current emissions continue, his analysis projects the year when global carbon emissions will lock hundreds of U.S. cities into the eventual sinking — below the high-tide line — of the land that now houses half their residents: Galveston, Texas (2030); Miami (2040); Norfolk, Va., (2044); Coral Gables, Fla. (2044); and Virginia Beach (2054).
Source: Wendy Koch, USA Today, “Study: Sea-level rise threatens 1,400 U.S. cities,” July 29, 2013.
CGC would like to congratulate Richard Kauffman – the Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York and a close friend of the Coalition – who testified in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last Thursday in favor of green banks and other important mechanisms for clean energy finance. He said: “State green banks can help solve clean energy financing gaps. After all, it makes sense for states to play a role in clean energy finance: projects are local, building codes are local, and a substantial part of utility regulation is also done at the state level. However, while states can address some of the financing gaps, they cannot address them all: we need federal leadership.” The Committee leadership was very receptive to his points and we hope to see them manifested in new federal legislation clean energy deployment in the near future. Way to go, Richard!
Watch the full webcast of the hearing or download the testimonies here.
CEFIA continues to receive press covering the announcement of the brand new Solar Lease II.
A recent article published by Breaking Energy praises CEFIA’s decision to partner with a group of private banks to invest around $60M in aggregate in solar PV and solar thermal hot water systems at residences and businesses. The article calls attention to several aspects of the program that differentiate it from traditional solar finance options. Specifically, CEFIA’s program lowers costs to taxpayers and customers, fosters competition among installers, and offers homeowners a worry-free solution for solar by including a one-of-a-kind insurance package provided by Assurant.
CGC is proud to have supported CEFIA from the start and expects a sunny future for the green bank.
Read the full article here.
Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) closed on a $60 million deal on Friday that will finance leases for over 2,000 rooftop solar systems for residential and commercial customers. CEFIA contributed $9.5 million to the deal, which attracted more than $50 million from private banks including US Bancorp, First Niagara Financial Group, and a number of local and regional firms.
Like any traditional residential rooftop solar PV lease model, CEFIA’s Solar Lease II enables the green bank to act as an aggregator, pooling many smaller leases in order to take advantage of federal incentives such as the investor tax credit and accelerated depreciation. In this case, US Bank will provide upfront capital as tax equity and receive the 30% ITC as part of its payment. CEFIA also provides a credit enhancement by using public funds as a loan loss reserve for senior debt providers. CEFIA’s Solar Lease II is an excellent example of how a green bank can leverage scarce public resources to attract the maximum amount of private capital into the renewable energy industry.
Another unique aspect of the program is the insurance package offered under the Assurant Warranty Management and Insurance Plan. The insurance deal bundles property, casualty, and liability insurance. Unlike many insurance plans and warranties, the insurance package incorporated into the Solar Lease II will extend for the entire 20-year lease period.
By offering a financing alternative to solar leases from industry leaders such as SolarCity and SunPower, the deal is expected to boost competition and reduce the cost of solar systems. The green bank has approved about 40 smaller companies to use the financing that the state has made available. CEFIA hopes that the increased competition will ultimately drive down costs and make solar more accessible to a wider range of homeowners and businesses.
CGC is proud of CEFIA’s hard work and looks forward to seeing the results of this great new Solar PV Program!
Want to learn more? Check out these articles: CEFIA – Press ReleaseBloomberg – “US Bancorp, Niagara Providing Funds for Connecticut Solar”The Courant – “CT Green Bank Closes On $60M Solar Lease Financing”
A New York Times article today reported that President Obama was readying regulations that will impose carbon dioxide emissions limits on power plants. Carbon standards on existing plants will be so costly, coal-powered facilities in America may be under pressure to close, leaving a huge void to be filled by wind, solar and natural gas. This step would emphasize CGC’s work to continue lowering the price of renewables in order to ensure a more attractive option once the prices of carbon-fuels are on the rise. Coupling these emissions limits with a move to green banks, states will be able to rapidly shift to clean energy without raising consumer prices.
John Broder of the New York Times notes Obama’s reiteration in a recent speech in Berlin that “the United States and the world have a moral imperative to take ‘bold action’ to slow the warming of the planet.” He goes on to say that “Mr. Obama had decided the risks from climate change outweighed the potential economic and political costs from taking steps to address it.” These words symbolize a huge step in the fight against climate change in America, and CGC is excited to be a part of this important social and environmental leap forward.
See the full article here.
Earlier this week, CNN’s Fortune interviewed Jonathan Silver – previous head of the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Program (November 2009-October 2011). Here is an excerpt from that interview, where Silver recommends a long-term federal green bank that would help promote scale and consistency.
How do you currently view the loan program’s performance? Leaving aside the politics and PR, do you believe the performance justifies renewal?
The program has been a significant success. That success has, unfortunately, been obscured a bit by some of the politics around the program. To date, something like 95% or 98% of the funds invested are money good. Less than 10% of the funds Congress appropriated to pay for loan losses has been tapped and several detailed , independent reviews of the program suggested that it would never tap the full amount (even in a worst-case scenario). Much of the technology and construction risk embedded in these transactions is now largely gone and nearly half the projects are already operational. The first few successes, like Tesla (TSLA), are now coming to fruition.
Markets will always have difficulty deploying innovative technologies at scale. Fundamentally, a program like this is necessary to address that market failure.
In an ideal world, the federal government would leverage these programs to create a long-term, self-sustaining infrastructure bank, to provide low-cost loans to innovative technologies on a consistent basis and on a schedule which reflects when both the technology and the company are ready. Other countries are already doing this and have provided meaningful funding for institutions with a much longer time horizon. That approach makes more sense than ours and we are at a comparative disadvantage as a result. It should not be easier to build a clean energy project, particularly with US funding, in India than in Indiana. Full interview available here.
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