Energy and Global Warming News for June 10th: Hotter planet means more underweight babies; China aims for 20% renewables by 2020

Hotter Planet Means More Underweight Babies

If current projections of a warming planet prove accurate, the percentage of dangerously underweight newborns will increase significantly in the U.S. by the end of the century, according to a paper recently published in the American Economic Review. Due to the effects of hot temperatures, mean birth weights will decrease, on average, by 0.22 percent among whites and 0.36 percent among blacks.

“We find an estimated 5.9 percent increase in the probability of a low-birth-weight birth (defined as less than 2,500 grams) for whites and a 5.0 percent increase for blacks,” the researchers conclude.

“I would expect these effects to be possibly much larger in poorer/hotter countries,” added Deschenes, the lead author and associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Deschenes and his colleagues came to these conclusions by comparing data on birth weights from 1972-1988 (from the National Center for Health Statistics Natality Detail Files) with the daily average temperature for each American county (as compiled by the National Climatic Data Center). They found a significant correlation between low-birth-weight babies and hot temperatures during the second and third trimesters.

“In addition to a predicted increase in average temperatures, many global climate change models contain the oft-overlooked prediction that there will be a large increase in the number of very hot days,” the paper notes. “Our estimates imply that exposure to such extreme ambient temperatures will have deleterious effects on fetal health, causing a decrease in birth weight and an increase in the probability of low birth weight.”

China eyes 20 pct renewable energy by 2020: report

China plans to dramatically increase its use of wind and solar power, aiming to generate up to one fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, a senior official told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

“We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy,” Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China’s national development and reform commission, said in an interview in London published Wednesday.

“We can be sure we will exceed the 15 percent target. We will at least reach 18 percent. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20 percent of total energy consumption.”

See also “China begins transition to a clean-energy economy.”

Ways and Means panel leans toward skipping markup of cap-and-trade bill

The House Ways and Means Committee appears headed toward fast-track approval of the global warming and energy bill so as not to lose momentum on President Obama’s call to enact a health care reform law by the fall.

Obama welcomed Democratic members of the powerful tax-writing panel to the White House yesterday where the focus was primarily on the health care legislation — and a presidential request to get a bill to his desk by Oct. 1.

Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told reporters that lawmakers also raised their work on the climate change bill with Obama, but only in the context of how it was diverting their attention from the health care debate.

China alone could bring world to brink of climate calamity, claims US official

China must be far more ambitious in tackling climate change if the international community wants to prevent calamitous levels of global warming, a senior US official told counterparts in Beijing today.

David Sandalow, assistant secretary of state for energy, said the continuation of business as usual in China would result in a 2.7C rise in global temperatures by 2050 even if every other country slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.

“China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change,” said Sandalow, who is in Beijing as part of a high-level negotiating team that aims to find common ground ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

Senate Dems struggle for votes to strengthen RES

Senate Democrats have their work cut out for them to raise renewable electricity standards higher than 15 percent despite pressure from environmental and renewable energy lobbyists, and even some members of their own party.

The renewable electricity standard (RES) is part of a comprehensive energy bill the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has considered over the past two months. The RES title would require utilities to use renewable energy to supply 15 percent of their electricity sales by 2021 but could substitute almost one-fourth of that through energy efficiency measures. The committee is scheduled to vote on the complete energy bill, including the RES title, tomorrow.

Environmental and renewable energy groups say the standard as negotiated is too low to actually make any difference and are lobbying members to boost the RES when the Senate takes up the measure along with a climate bill Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to take up this fall.

Shell sells straw-based biofuel

Royal Dutch Shell is selling a biofuel made from straw at one of their service stations in Canada.

The station in Ottawa will sell a blend of cellulosic ethanol and petrol.

“¦Such so-called “second-generation” biofuels do not compete with food sources for land – unlike some current biofuels, which are made from the edible parts of crops such as corn or sugar cane.

Cash-for-clunkers deal moves ahead

A controversial auto bill that would reward consumers with tax credits for trading in their old cars and buying more-fuel-efficient ones passed the House on Tuesday, inching closer to becoming law.

The “cash for clunkers” proposal, which would give consumers a tax credit of up to $4,500 for switching from their gas guzzlers, has been under consideration for months by lawmakers trying to strike a balance between giving an economic boost to struggling auto companies and promoting their environmental goals.

Energy fuels new ‘Great Game’ in Europe

The giant Russian energy company, Gazprom, which controls the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, has issued a stark warning to the European Union saying it must decide if it wants to continue receiving supplies of Russian gas.

Speaking in an interview for the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Gazprom deputy chairman Alexander Medvedev warned that Europe was now at a crossroads.

“Only three countries can be suppliers of pipeline gas in the long-term – Russia, Iran and Qatar. So there is no other choice than to deal with these suppliers,” he said.

“Europe should decide how to handle this situation”¦ and if Europe doesn’t need our gas, then we will find a way of selling it differently.”

The threat comes as the EU scrambles to find alternative energy suppliers following the crisis in January, when Russia shut down the main pipeline into Europe for two weeks in a price dispute with the key transit country, Ukraine.

Climate change blamed for Caribbean coral deaths

Climate change has contributed to a flattening of the complex, multi-layered architecture of Caribbean coral reefs, compromising their role as a nursery for fish stocks and a buffer against tropical storms, a study shows.

The analysis of 500 surveys of 200 reefs, conducted between 1969 and 2008, showed the most complex types of reef had been virtually wiped out across the entire Caribbean.

Such reefs — typified by Table Corals of over 1 meter across and huge antler-shaped Staghorn Corals — act as a sanctuary for local fish stocks and a hunting ground for larger, commercially fished species.

Many have been replaced with the flattest types of rubble-strewn reef, which now cover about three quarters of the Caribbean’s reef area, up from about a fifth in the 1970s, said the study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Scientists: Global warming has already changed oceans

Researchers, scientists and Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter painted a bleak picture Tuesday of the future of oceans and the “blue economy” of the nation’s coastal states.

The hearing before the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee was expected to focus on how the degradation of the oceans was affecting marine businesses and coastal communities. Instead, much of the testimony focused on how the waters that cover 70 percent of the planet are already changing because of global warming.

Sweden to call for CO2 tax as EU president

When Sweden takes over the European Union presidency in July, it will urge its EU counterparts to impose a carbon tax as a way to meet targets to reduce emissions across Europe, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said Tuesday.

The premier said a tax on pollution was the best way to cut greenhouse gases blamed for climate change and suggested member states coordinate the introduction of such a levy since the EU has no powers regarding taxation.

“I am asking them to introduce this at the nation state (level),” Reinfeldt said. “The CO2 tax is a good idea.”

Reinfeldt acknowledged that while a CO2 tax would not be popular among voters or businesses during the current economic crisis, it is cheaper in the long run to shift European industry to a low-carbon economy.

EPA restoring risk database’s scientific integrity — GAO

U.S. EPA has taken “positive action” toward restoring scientific integrity and transparency to its risk-assessment process by reversing some Bush-era changes to a key chemical database, a government auditor said today.

At issue is the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, which establishes safe exposure levels for more than 540 chemicals. The Government Accountability Office last year reported that political interference in the Bush administration influenced IRIS changes that would delay action on chemicals and jeopardize the program’s credibility (E&E Daily, May 22).

But recent changes “reflect a significant redirection of the new IRIS process that, if implemented effectively, can help EPA restore the integrity and productivity of this important program,” GAO’s John Stephenson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

13 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 10th: Hotter planet means more underweight babies; China aims for 20% renewables by 2020

  1. Chris Winter says:

    “Hotter Planet Means More Underweight Babies.”

    Would it be reasonable to suppose this would lead to more abortions? If so, it might be a factor in bringing the Right on board.

  2. paulm says:

    Great demonstration of whats happening with the sea level…

    Global sea level from 200 A.D. to 2000, as reconstructed from proxy records

  3. K L Reddington says:

    Smoking. Nutrition.
    It does seem a source of untested speculation to link birth weight to global warming.
    You all need to study medicine. Then go tell us what we know about prenatal care.
    Real medical science tests using control groups. I suggest the high population growth rates in the amish comes in counties where the air is loaded with cow methane.

  4. paulm says:

    Add driving. The Ying and the Yang of fossil fuels!

    One would have thought that good research on this would have identified this years ago.

    Road particles pose ‘higher risk’
    Children may be at greater risk from the microscopic particles in traffic pollution than was previously thought.

  5. Michael says:

    Can we have any more projections and models?

    They provide amusement with their constant over the top predictions until they are proven to be plainly wrong.

  6. K L Reddington says:

    American Economic Review

    Not a medical journal. Actually not a journal regarding weather or meteorology either

    I guess we could go the the APA and get reports of anxiety disorders and the DSM-Iv regarding climate induced fears.

    It seems Political journals are in an epidemic of writing opinions outside of their field.

  7. MarkB says:

    Here’s the peer-reviewed study on climate change and birth weight:

    “Using individual-level data on more than 37.1 million births, we find that exposure to extreme hot temperatures during pregnancy leads to lower birth weights. We combine this finding with estimates of the distribution of future daily temperatures from state of the art climate change predictions. We then use these predictions of the effect of climate change on the distribution of daily temperatures to estimate the predicted effect of global climate change on future birth weights by the end of the century. These estimates imply that mean birth weights will decrease on average by 0.22 percent (7.5 grams) among whites and by 0.36 percent (11.5 grams) for blacks by the end of the century. Further, the impact is not spread evenly through the birth weight distribution. We find an estimated 5.9% increase in the probability of a low birth weight birth (defined as less than 2,500 grams) for whites and a 5.0% increase for blacks.

    Our detailed historical temperature data allow us to date specifically each shock to the conditions experienced in utero. We are thus able to estimate not only the effects of exposure to extreme temperature while in utero, but to explore how this effect varies according to the timing during gestation. This allows us to shed light on the mechanisms at work in fetal programming. Of particular interest, we find that as much as 95 percent of the effect of in utero exposure to very hot ambient temperatures occurs for exposure during the second and third trimesters.”

  8. Bill Woods says:

    Not so windy: Research suggests winds dying down
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The wind, a favorite power source of the green energy movement, seems to be dying down across the United States. And the cause, ironically, may be global warming — the very problem wind power seeks to address.

  9. John Hollenberg says:

    > Smoking. Nutrition. It does seem a source of untested speculation to link birth weight to global warming.

    If you read the article, it wasn’t “untested speculation”. It was based on an analysis of data:

    “They found a significant correlation between low-birth-weight babies and hot temperatures during the second and third trimesters.”

    Granted, this is not the same level of proof as a controlled trial, but it is suggestive nonetheless.

  10. Brewster says:


    Can we have any more projections and models?

    They provide amusement with their constant over the top predictions until they are proven to be plainly wrong.

    Who needs proof, right Michael? Just open your mouth…

  11. Courtney W. says:

    Apparently China will be spending $440 billion USD to implement its renewable enegy plan, and the amount of wind power it plans to produce by 2020 is three times what it estimated in 2007.