Focus of the Week
Global Value of Ecosystem Services- a new assessment —-and special section on new EPA carbon emissions regulations in POLICY below…
3– ADAPTATION and HOPE
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Focus of the Week– Global Value of Ecosystem Services
Changes in the global value of ecosystem services
- Robert Costanzaa, Rudolf de Grootb, Paul Suttonc, d, Sander van der Ploegb, Sharolyn J. Andersond, Ida Kubiszewskia, Stephen Farbere, R. Kerry Turnerf,
- Global Environmental Change
Volume 26, May 2014, Pages 152–158 DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.04.002
• Global loss of ecosystem services due to land use change is $US 4.3–20.2 trillion/yr.
• Ecoservices contribute more than twice as much to human well-being as global GDP.
• Estimates in monetary units are useful to show the relative magnitude of ecoservices.
• Valuation of ecosystem services is not the same as commodification or privatization.
• Ecosystem services are best considered public goods requiring new institutions.
In 1997, the global value of ecosystem services was estimated to average $33 trillion/yr in 1995 $US ($46 trillion/yr in 2007 $US). In this paper, we provide an updated estimate based on updated unit ecosystem service values and land use change estimates between 1997 and 2011. We also address some of the critiques of the 1997 paper. Using the same methods as in the 1997 paper but with updated data, the estimate for the total global ecosystem services in 2011 is $125 trillion/yr (assuming updated unit values and changes to biome areas)
and $145 trillion/yr (assuming only unit values changed), both in 2007 $US. From this we estimated the loss of eco-services from 1997 to 2011 due to land use change at $4.3–20.2 trillion/yr, depending on which unit values are used. Global estimates expressed in monetary accounting units, such as this, are useful to highlight the magnitude of eco-services, but have no specific decision-making context. However, the underlying data and models can be applied at multiple scales to assess changes resulting from various scenarios and policies. We emphasize that valuation of eco-services (in whatever units) is not the same as commodification or privatization. Many eco-services are best considered public goods or common pool resources, so conventional markets are often not the best institutional frameworks to manage them. However, these services must be (and are being) valued, and we need new, common asset institutions to better take these values into account.
Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses
JUNE 5, 2014 Carl Zimmer New York Times
Coral reefs have proved valuable to coastal regions by helping to blunt shore erosion from storm waves. Credit Reuters
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the United States Army Corps of Engineers got to work on a massive network of levees and flood walls to protect against future catastrophes. Finally completed in 2012, the project ended up costing $14.5 billion — and that figure didn’t include the upkeep these defenses will require in years to come, not to mention the cost of someday replacing them altogether.
But levees aren’t the only things that protect coasts from storm damage. Nature offers protection, too. Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. And while it’s expensive to maintain man-made defenses, wetlands rebuild themselves.
Protection from storms is just one of many services that ecosystems provide us — services that we’d otherwise have to pay for. In 1997, a team of scientists decided to estimate how much they are actually worth. Worldwide, they concluded, the price tag was $33 trillion — equivalent to $48.7 trillion in today’s dollars. Put another way, the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997.
“We basically said, ‘It’s an imprecise estimate, but it’s almost definitely a pretty big number, and we’ve got to start paying attention,'” said Robert Costanza, a professor at Australian National University who led the study.
That study proved to be hugely influential. Many governments, from Costa Rica to the United Kingdom, started to take the value of ecosystem services into account when they planned environmental policies. But the study also set off a lot of controversy. Some economists argued that it was based on bad economics, while some conservation biologists argued that price tags were the wrong way to save ecosystems.
Seventeen years later, the debate is getting re-energized, just as the nation becomes immersed in an intense fight over the Obama administration’s attempt to tackle the emissions that scientists say could threaten many of these ecosystems. Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high, they said.
“As we learn more, these estimates increase,” Dr. Costanza said.
That’s putting it mildly. The enormous rise in the price tag stems from hundreds of new studies carried out on ecosystems around the world. Taken as a whole, these studies reveal that ecosystems do more for us than Dr. Costanza and his colleagues could appreciate in 1997.
Coral reefs, for instance, have proved to be much more important for storm protection than previously recognized. They also protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. As a result, Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997. They estimate that each acre of reef provides $995,000 in services each year for a total of $11 trillion worldwide.
Most of the 17 services that Dr. Costanza and his colleagues analyzed in 16 different kinds of ecosystems — including tropical forests, mangroves and grasslands — also turned out to be more valuable. When they added up all their new figures, they came up with a global figure of $142.7 trillion a year (in 2014 dollars).
But they also had to take into account the fact that many ecosystems have suffered since 1997. Many coral reefs, for example, have been dying off because of pollution and other human activities. Dr. Costanza and his colleagues estimate that the world’s reefs shrank from 240,000 square miles in 1997 to 108,000 in 2011.
If coral reefs and other ecosystems were still as healthy as they were in 1997, the value of their services today would have been considerably higher: $165.8 trillion.
In other words, deforestation and other damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world has wiped out $23 trillion a year in ecosystem services. To put that loss into perspective, consider that the gross domestic product of the United States is $16.2 trillion.
“I think this is a very important piece of science,” said Douglas J. McCauley of the University of California, Santa Barbara. That’s particularly high praise coming from Dr. McCauley, who has been a scathing critic of Dr. Costanza’s attempt to put price tags on ecosystem services.
“This paper reads to me like an annual financial report for Planet Earth,” Dr. McCauley said. “We learn whether the dollar value of Earth’s major assets have gone up or down.”
But even with the new calculations, Dr. McCauley still thinks valuing those assets with dollar figures is wrong. As ecosystems shrink or suffer degradation, they may be seen as less valuable — and thus less likely to be protected. “I think this approach to conservation is disingenuous and dangerous,” he said.
Dr. McCauley is hardly alone. In the journal Conservation Letters, Matthias Schröter of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and his colleagues recently surveyed a number of objections that have been leveled against Dr. Costanza’s approach. Some scientists argue that it doesn’t make sense to look at ecosystems simply as providing us with good things. Ecosystems can also harbor diseases and harm us in other ways.
As for his own view, Dr. Schröter said that Dr. Costanza’s method was a powerful way to communicate just how much we depend on nature — and just how much of it we’re destroying. “Time has run out,” Dr. Schröter said. “The message needs to get through that we lose something of crucial value every day.”
There may be multiple paths to fuel reduction in the wildland-urban interface
(May 30, 2014) — Conservative fuel treatments designed to reduce fire severity while still providing forest cover and wildlife habitat worked equally as well as more intensive treatments in allowing for the protection of homes during the 2011 Wallow Fire, a study has found. The distance into the treated area where fire severity was reduced varied, however, between these different thinning approaches where fuels were reduced. … The study’s findings showed that fire severity was reduced as the fire moved from untreated to treated areas, evidenced by the fire transitioning from a crown fire to a ground fire. But the distance at which the reduction occurred differed, depending on the intensity of the fuel treatment. The Alpine treatment area, which was more intensively thinned, achieved a spatially rapid reduction in severity, while the Nutrioso area required a wider area, although reduction was achieved before the fire reached the adjacent community. This would suggest that the greater a fuel treatment’s emphasis on wildlife habitat and aesthetic considerations, the larger the size of treatment area needed to realize a reduction in fire severity. Both thinning prescriptions permitted firefighters to safely access the communities to extinguish fire starts and spot-protect homes.
“Our findings suggest that fuel treatments that promote wildlife habitat and aesthetics are still potentially successful in sufficiently reducing fire severity to provide opportunities to protect residences in the WUI during a fire,” said Kennedy. “Although this case study refers to just these treatments in this particular fire, it does point to the possibility that there are multiple paths to effective fuel treatments.”… > full story
Maureen C. Kennedy, Morris C. Johnson. Fuel treatment prescriptions alter spatial patterns of fire severity around the wildland–urban interface during the Wallow Fire, Arizona, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 2014; 318: 122 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2014.01.014
Notifying speeding mariners lowers ship speeds in areas with North Atlantic right whales
(June 3, 2014) — There are only around 500 North Atlantic right whales alive today. In an effort to further protect these critically endangered animals, a recent NOAA regulation required large vessels to reduce speed in areas seasonally occupied by the whales. The policy of notifying — but not necessarily citing — speeding vessels in protected areas was effective in lowering their speeds, helping to protect these magnificent creatures from ship collisions, while keeping punitive fines to mariners to a minimum. … > full story
Gregory K. Silber, Jeffrey D. Adams, Christopher J. Fonnesbeck. Compliance with vessel speed restrictions to protect North Atlantic right whales. PeerJ, 2014; 2: e399 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.399
How do phytoplankton survive scarcity of critical nutrient?
(June 5, 2014) — How do phytoplankton survive when the critical element phosphorus is difficult to find? Researchers conducted the most comprehensive survey of the content and distribution of a form of phosphorus called polyphosphate, or poly-P in the western North Atlantic. What they found was surprising. ..
Rather than finding low levels of poly-P in the phytoplankton in the Sargasso Sea where P is scarce, they found the phytoplankton were enriched with poly-P when compared to those in the nutrient rich waters in the western North Atlantic — the opposite of what they had expected. They also found that in low-P environments, poly-P was more readily recycled from sinking particles, retaining it in shallower waters where phytoplankton live and making it available for their use.. > full story
Sea Star Disease Epidemic Surges in Oregon, Local Extinctions Expected
June 4, 2014 — Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate Oregon’s … full story
What a 66-Million-Year Old Forest Fire Reveals About the Last Days of the Dinosaurs
June 5, 2014 — As far back as the time of the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago, forests recovered from fires in the same manner they do today, according to a researchers. During an expedition in southern … full story
How red tide knocks out its competition
(June 4, 2014) — New research reveals how the algae behind red tide thoroughly disables – but doesn’t kill – other species of algae. The study shows how chemical signaling between algae can trigger big changes in the marine ecosystem. The algae that form red tide in the Gulf of Mexico are dinoflagellates called Karenia brevis, or just Karenia by scientists. Karenia makes neurotoxins that are toxic to humans and fish. Karenia also makes small molecules that are toxic to other marine algae, which is what the new study analyzed. … > full story
New global maps of livestock distribution
(May 30, 2014) — New global maps of livestock distribution have been established by an international team of researchers. This study should help to measure the socio-economic, public health and environmental impacts of livestock and poultry, worldwide. The evaluation of multiple socio-economic, environmental and public health around the livestock sector requires accurate accessible and comprehensive spatial data on the distribution and abundance of livestock. … > full story
Tracking animals on videos: Software able to identify and track a specific individual within a group
(June 1, 2014) — It is easy to follow the route traced by an animal by using video recordings of the animal. The problem arises when the behavior of two or more individuals is studied, as animals often cross or interact with other members of the group and wrong assignments of identity for each animal occur. These faults make virtually impossible to identify an individual after several minutes of video. … > full story
Hugging trees feels good and can even be healthy for many animals, according to a study in the latest issue of Biology Letters. There are several perks to being a tree hugger, but a surprising one is that trees help to regulate the hugger’s body temperature.
Deep sea fish remove one million tons of carbon dioxide every year from UK and Irish waters
(June 3, 2014) — Deep sea fishes remove and store more than one million tons of CO2 from UK and Irish surface waters every year, according to a new study. This natural carbon capture and storage scheme could store carbon equivalent to £10 million per year in carbon credits Fish living in deep waters on the continental slope around the UK play an important role carrying carbon from the surface to the seafloor. … > full story
The southern migrant hawker dragonfly. Credit Jerry Hoare
By THE NEW YORK TIMES June 2, 2014
Light-colored species of butterflies and dragonflies in Europe like the heat, while dark-colored ones retreat northward to cooler areas. Because of climate change, lighter species are taking over areas once dominated by their darker counterparts, researchers report in the journal Nature Communications. Lighter insects can reflect sunlight more easily and prevent their bodies from overheating….
By Lori Montgomery, Published: May 31, 2014 Washington Post
NORFOLK — At high tide on the small inlet next to Norfolk’s most prestigious art museum, the water lapped at the very top of the concrete sea wall that has held it back for 100 years. It seeped up through storm drains, puddled on the promenade and spread, half a foot deep, across the street, where a sign read, “Road Closed.”
The sun was shining, but all around the inlet people were bracing for more serious flooding. The Chrysler Museum of Art had just completed a $24 million renovation that emptied the basement, now accessible only by ladder, and lifted the heating and air-conditioning systems to the top floor. A local accounting firm stood behind a homemade barricade of stanchions and detachable flaps rigged to keep the water out. And the congregation of the Unitarian Church of Norfolk was looking to evacuate. … The city hired a Dutch consulting firm to develop an action plan, finalized in 2012, that called for new flood gates, higher roads and a retooled storm water system. Implementing the plan would cost more than $1 billion — the size of the city’s entire annual budget — and protect Norfolk from about a foot of additional water. As the city was contemplating that enormous price tag, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) last year delivered more bad news: If current trends hold, VIMS scientists said, by the end of this century, the sea in Norfolk would rise by 51 / 2 feet or more. “Clearly, we’ve got more work to do,” said Ron Williams Jr., Norfolk’s assistant city manager for planning.
Options for dealing with the water are limited, and expensive. The city could protect itself with more barriers.
Williams lamented, for instance, that a new $318 million light-rail system — paid for primarily with federal funds — was built at sea level. With a little foresight, he said, the tracks could have been elevated to create a bulwark against the tides. As it stands, the new rail system could itself be swept away, the money wasted. “Nowhere do we have resiliency built in,” he said….. A
second option calls for people to abandon the most vulnerable parts of town, to “retreat somewhat from the sea,” as Mayor Paul D. Fraim put it in a 2011 interview, when he became the first sitting politician in the nation to raise the prospect. For now, Williams said, retreat is not on the table “on a large scale,” though “you may look at localized hot spots.” The Dutch consultants, Fugro Atlantic, recommended buying out properties in Spartan Village, a bowl-shaped neighborhood that flooded during a rainstorm in 2009.
That leaves the third option: adaptation. Raising buildings, roads and other critical infrastructure. Last fall, the city council required all new structures to be built three feet above flood level, one of the strictest standards in the state. “People right now are having trouble getting their arms around what needs to be done. And no one can fathom what it’s going to cost,” said City Councilwoman Theresa Whibley, who represents many pricey waterfront neighborhoods, including the Hague, where the plan calls for floodgates to block the surging tide. … It’s not just Norfolk, Atkinson said. Much of the Eastern Shore would be underwater; Baltimore and Washington would be in trouble, too. “At five feet,” he said, “the Mall’s flooded.”
Ticking time bomb? The expanding range of Lyme disease is driven by climate change; warming temperatures allow new populations of the tick vector, Ixodes scapularis, to establish themselves in regions that were once too cold. Now a new study quantifies the relationship between warmer temperatures and the tick’s expansion into Canada. Environmental Health Perspectives
Summer flounder stirs north-south climate battle June 3 2014 Daily Climate
The center of summer flounder population, recorded as far south as Virginia around 1970, is now off the New Jersey coast. Its migration has set the stage for battle between East Coast states on how to share the business of harvesting this tasty, lean fish – valued at $30 million per year commercially and untold millions more for the recreational fishing industry.
Humans, not climate, to blame for Ice Age-era disappearance of large mammals, study concludes
(June 4, 2014) — Was it humankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear — humans are to blame. The study unequivocally points to humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years. … > full story
Photographer Mike Bowers spent several weeks on Kiribati documenting life in the central Pacific island nation. It’s a nation with an average height above sea level of just two metres and a population density to rival London. Its future is under threat due to rising sea levels, increasingly saline arable land and contamination of the delicate freshwater lenses under the narrow atolls.
By Emily Atkin on June 2, 2014 at 9:16 am
The last two years in Australia have been the hottest ever recorded, and there’s no sign that the heat wave is going to stop any time soon, a report released Sunday showed. According to data compiled by Australia’s biggest crowd-funding campaign, the independent Climate Council,
the period from May 2012 to April 2014 was the hottest 24-month period ever recorded in Australia. Next month, when the two-year period spans from June 2012 to May 2014, those above-average temperatures are expected to be even greater, the report said. “Climate change is here, it’s happening, and Australians are already feeling its impact,” Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council told the Guardian on Sunday. “We have just had an abnormally warm autumn, off the back of another very hot ‘angry summer.'”….
Red spruce, a tree species that researchers thought was doomed because of acid rain, is now growing faster than ever, and it’s not the only one. It hints that climate change producers winners as well as losers.
Global warming may quintuple summer downpours in UK June 2, 2014 New Scientist
By 2100 southern England will be drenched by five times as many sudden summer deluges as it is today, probably causing more flash floods, according to an advanced climate model.
US hottest spots of warming: Northeast, Southwest
By SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press | Jun 4, 2014 2:25 PM CDT in Science
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is warming fastest at two of its corners, in the Northeast and the Southwest, an analysis of federal temperature records shows. Northeastern states — led by Maine and Vermont — have gotten the hottest in the last 30 years in annual temperature, gaining 2.5 degrees on average. But Southwestern states have heated up the most in the hottest months: The average New Mexico summer is 3.4 degrees warmer now than in 1984; in Texas, the dog days are 2.8 degrees hotter.
The contiguous United States’ annual average temperature has warmed by 1.2 degrees since 1984, with summers getting 1.6 degrees hotter. But that doesn’t really tell you how hot it’s gotten for most Americans. While man-made greenhouse gases warm the world as a whole, weather is supremely local. Some areas have gotten hotter than others because of atmospheric factors and randomness, climate scientists say. “In the United States, it isn’t warming equally,” said Kelly Redmond, climatologist at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada. “Be careful about extrapolating from your own backyard to the globe.” For example, while people in the East and Midwest were complaining about a cold winter this year, Redmond’s Nevada and neighboring California were having some of their warmest winter months ever. To determine what parts of the country have warmed the most, The Associated Press analyzed National Climatic Data Center temperature trends in the lower 48 states, 192 cities and 344 smaller regions within the states. Climate scientists suggested 1984 as a starting date because 30 years is a commonly used time period and 1984, which had an average temperature, is not a cherry-picked year to skew a trend either way. The trend was calculated by the NCDC using the least squares regression method, which is a standard statistical tool….
El Nino–ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch June 5, 2014
Synopsis: The chance of El Niño is 70% during the Northern Hemisphere summer and reaches 80% during the fall and winter
Above- average sea surface temperatures (SST) expanded over the equatorial Pacific Ocean during May 2014 (Fig. 1), though the collective atmospheric and oceanic state continued to reflect ENSO-neutral. All of the Niño indices increased during the month, with the latest weekly values between 0.6oC and 1.6oC (Fig. 2). In contrast, subsurface temperature anomalies decreased over the last two months (Fig. 3), but still reflect a large pool of above-average temperatures at depth (Fig. 4). The low-level winds over the tropical Pacific remain near average, except for westerly anomalies over the eastern Pacific. At upper-levels, anomalous easterly winds have predominated over most of the equatorial Pacific. Unlike the previous month, convection was near average across most of the tropics (Fig. 5). The lack of a clear atmospheric response to the positive SSTs indicates ENSO-neutral, though the tropical Pacific continues to evolve toward El Niño.
Over the last month, the chance of El Niño and its ultimate strength weakened slightly in the models (Fig. 6).
Regardless, the forecasters remain just as confident that El Niño is likely to emerge. If El Niño forms, the forecasters and most dynamical models, such as NCEP CFSv2, slightly favor a moderate-strength event during the Northern Hemisphere fall or winter (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 1.0oC and 1.4oC). However, significant uncertainty accompanies this prediction, which remains inclusive of a weaker or stronger event due to the spread of the models and their skill at these lead times. Overall, the chance of El Niño is 70% during the Northern Hemisphere summer and reaches 80% during the fall and winter (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome).
This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts are also updated monthly in the Forecast Forum of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 10 July 2014. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: email@example.com….
Posted on Thursday, June 5 at 11:54am | By Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle
The odds of an El Niño helping shake California out of its prolonged drought got a bit bleaker this week with a new forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. While the agency’s monthly report still projects that summer or fall will give rise to an El Niño — the warming ocean surfaces that can tip worldwide weather — federal scientists say the phenomena is most likely to be only of moderate strength.
In Northern California, El Niños that have been weak or moderate have had little correlation with winter weather conditions while strong ones have been associated with some of the region’s wettest years. The El Niño year of 1997-98, for example, pounded San Francisco with a record 47.2 inches of rain. “We continue to be confident that an El Niño will develop,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of the Climate Prediction Center. But “maybe it’s not looking like the ’97-98 event that a few folks thought a few months ago.”….
David Perlman Updated 11:00 pm, Thursday, June 5, 2014 SF Chronicle
Drought-stricken farmers in the Central Valley are pumping more and more water from the valley’s huge aquifer beneath them, and the drainage is triggering unexpected earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, scientists have discovered. For the past 150 years, they report, periodic pumping from the aquifer has caused the towering Sierra to rebound upward as much as 150 millimeters, or about 6 inches. At the same time, they note, California’s Coast Range, which spans 400 miles from Humboldt to Santa Barbara counties, has grown, although by much less.
The pace of uplift in the Sierra is measured only in millimeters, but when California experienced bone-dry seasons between 2003 and 2010 and pumping increased up and down the Central Valley, the High Sierra rose by about 10 millimeters, the geophysicists say. That’s nearly half an inch during those seven years alone. During that same period of increased pumping, instruments at Parkfield in Monterey County detected unusual clusters of earthquakes along the quake-prone San Andreas Fault there. The unexpected links between the periodic drainage of the Central Valley’s aquifer and the rise of the mountains that increase stresses on the San Andreas fault zone are reported in the May issue of the journal Nature. Its authors are a team of Earth scientists led by Colin Amos of Western Washington University and includes Roland Bürgmann of UC Berkeley and William Hammond of the University of Nevada in Reno. The remarkable ability to measure tiny changes in the height of mountains is made possible by the extraordinary sensitivity of advanced global positioning systems, similar in principle to the GPS devices that tell car drivers where they’re going in unfamiliar cities, block by block….”This is a real eye-opener,” said James Famiglietti, a water resource expert and director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling at UC Irvine who has long studied the great aquifer’s long-term drainage issues and its seasonal water losses. He called the study’s conclusions surprising and valid.
“The whole role of fluids and seismicity is still poorly understood. They have identified a real link between human activity and earthquakes,” said Famiglietti, who was not part of the study.
“It forces us to consider not only the role that large groundwater mass changes can play in earthquake frequency, but by extension, the roles of water management decisions in times of drought and climate change.”
By BETH GARDINER JUNE 2, 2014 NY Times
Credit Cristóbal Schmal
LONDON — As droughts and floods become more frequent and extreme around the world, companies from food and beverage makers to the mining and energy industries are beginning to scrutinize their operations for vulnerability to water problems that could increase their costs or disrupt production. The concept of “water risk” is catching on as a way of thinking about potential exposure not just to shortages or deluges, but also pollution, regulatory troubles or increases in the prices of water and water-dependent raw materials. “Businesses manage risk, that’s one of the main functions of management,” said Adrian Sym, executive director of the Alliance for Water Stewardship, a group that promotes the responsible use of water. In the case of water, “it could be ‘Do I have enough water to do what I need to do for this business? Is the quality of this water sufficient to enable me to do that?”‘ and will local authorities remain willing to license a company’s usage, Mr. Sym said. “These are the things businesses are dealing with.” Water supply stresses are intensifying everywhere from California to South Africa, the result of climate change, booming populations and the growing numbers of people moving to cities and adopting resource-intensive, middle-class lifestyles….
Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California. Counties in the farm-rich Central Valley are issuing record numbers of permits for new water wells. Driller Steve Arthur says his company’s got an eight-month waiting list. Some of his competitors are backlogged more than a year. San Francisco KQED Public Radio, California
The East Bay Regional Park District unveiled a new sign apologizing to park goers for grass areas that are browner than usual. The “Brown is the new green” sign is part of the district’s effort to achieve water conservation goals in light of the state’s ongoing drought conditions. Despite the April rains, the district said drought conditions are still a big concern and have affected operations of its 65 parks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties…..
by Sabine Bergmann on June 02, 2014 BAYNATURE
Los Alamitos Creek below Almaden Reservoir. (Photo by Greg Kerekez © 2014)
Santa Clara Valley Water District officials say they are facing an “unprecedented shortage” of water this year, and as the district’s drinking water reservoirs run dry, it is cutting releases into the county’s creeks and recharge ponds to conserve.
In dry years SCVWD imports up to 99 percent of its drinking water from state and federal sources, and this year both the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project implemented massive water cuts that meant the district received only 5 percent of its usual allowance. So the district is reducing recharge from the Anderson reservoir and suspending releases from the Calero reservoir altogether until supplies increase. According to district spokesperson Marta M. Lugo this is the first time the district has been forced to make such drastic cuts. The decision will likely change the state of the county’s aquatic ecosystems, forcing wildlife to adapt to man’s water cuts as well as Mother Nature’s.
“With the closure of some reservoir outlets we are concerned about threatened and endangered species,” said Greg Kerekez, co-founder of the Urban Wildlife Research Project. In Los Alamitos Creek, for instance, steelhead trout and Western pond turtles may be vulnerable, Kerekez said. And since the drought is so widespread, there are no suitable options for relocating species that are at risk. “Unfortunately,” Lugo said, “these dry creek and pond conditions are being seen statewide.”…
… after nearly 10 years of planning, permitting, and fundraising, the largest phase of the Sears Point Wetland Restoration Project will break ground this week. Over the next 18 months, Sonoma Land Trust and project partner Ducks Unlimited will prepare 955 acres of diked agricultural baylands for the reintroduction of the tides after more than a century of isolation. There are many elements to the upcoming phase of work, too many to list, but here are some highlights. Highway 37 and the SMART railroad tracks will be protected by a new levee serving not only as flood protection but also as habitat. Its slope to the bay will be gradual, allowing vegetation to establish and provide refuge for marsh wildlife during extreme tides and storm surges. Scattered throughout the tidal basin will be hundreds of marsh mounds. These island-like features will break up wind-wave energy and encourage sediment to accumulate for the purpose of bringing the site back up to marsh plain elevation. Much of the land is currently subsided below sea level. We’ll remediate contaminated soils, remove structures and energy infrastructure, build stormwater pumps, and excavate up to six miles of new channels to provide soil for the levee and mounds. The crest of the new levee will have a new 2.5-mile section of the Bay Trail on its crest and we are building a safe access road to the trail and to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. In February of this year we transferred 500 acres of the Sears Point property, including the headquarters area, to the Refuge. This area is also the location of our Baylands Center, built in 2012. It is our plan to breach the old levee shortly after completing this phase. The timing will become clearer as we move forward.
A living shoreline off Tottenville is among the projects selected for funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition Monday.
Jillian Jorgensen | firstname.lastname@example.org on June 02, 2014 at 4:16 PM, updated June 02, 2014 at 6:36 PM
MANHATTAN – As the region looks to become more resilient in the face of future storms like Hurricane Sandy, in Staten Island, planners are looking to the borough’s past to do so – with a $60 million living reef off the shore of Tottenville harkening back to the borough’s oyster farming days. A living breakwater project designed by SCAPE Landscape Architects was among the winning projects for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design contest, and the state will receive $60 million from HUD to implement it along the South Shore coast. “The proposal is going to create a living breakwater that will reduce wave action and erosion and lower risk from heavy storms,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “It also includes a plan to engage the local schools to help build resilience awareness in the community.” Kate Orff, principal at SCAPE, called their win a “big win for Staten Island.”
“The living breakwaters project is really part of this layered approach that was a key aspect of all the community-led design — it was part of the New York Rising efforts, so we’re excited to get this facet funded,” Ms. Orff said. “And I think, in close collaboration with all the things that are happening on shore, the breakwaters can make a big difference.”… The irony of going back to the old maritime basics wasn’t lost on Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We’re planting oyster beds off Staten Island. Just think of it: Oyster beds,” Cuomo said. “We spent decades devastating the oyster beds. Now we’re going back and rebuilding oyster beds because they were Mother Nature’s intelligence of a natural barrier.”
Schumer said the city was unprepared when Sandy struck – but that they couldn’t afford to make the same mistake again. When given the option of rebuilding as the coastline was or rebuilding more resiliently, they had to choose the latter, he said.
“Resiliency is fancy word for meaning we’re going to do it better and learn from our mistakes,” he added….. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also weighed in, saying there “is no doubt that climate change is real and that it is here.”
“As we learn the lessons of Superstorm Sandy, these bold, inventive projects will bring together some of the brightest minds and best ideas to help develop a storm-resilient strategy and ensure that communities throughout New York are armed with innovative practices to protect against future disasters,” she said.
Cleaning the air with roof tiles
(June 4, 2014) — Engineering students have created a roof tile coating that when applied to an average-sized residential roof breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles makes. They also calculated it would cost only about for enough titanium dioxide to coat an average-sized residential roof. … > full story
Carbon-capture breakthrough: Recyclable material absorbs 82 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide
(June 3, 2014) — Scientists invent a porous material to capture carbon dioxide at natural gas wellheads. The recyclable material absorbs 82 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide and releases it as gas when the wellhead pressure is relieved. … > full story
By Scott Clement and Peyton M. Craighill June 2 at 1:00 pm Washington Post
A lopsided and bipartisan majority of Americans support federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds most are willing to stomach a higher energy bill to pay for it….
Editor’s note: This is the third post in an ongoing biweekly series on the climate adaptation gap. Stay tuned for future installments here on TriplePundit! In case you missed it, you can read the first post here and the second post here.
In a previous post, I explained how to determine climate-related risks in your supply chains, capital assets and community engagements. With that knowledge, how do we determine strategies to prepare your most vulnerable assets? It’s likely that a storm will prod corporate risk managers and business-continuity planning managers to take stock and begin instituting telecommuting policies, diversifying their supplier chain to other geographies and advising the small businesses they rely on how to develop a resiliency or adaptation plan.
Here is what it takes to do so:
Start with adaptive actions already in place. Shift your thinking to resiliency from greenhouse gas mitigation, and revel in a new set of actions you can feature and enhance as part of a growing global corporate strategy.
- Review local climate-change impact projections.
- Identify vulnerabilities relevant to your supply chain, capital assets and community engagements.(extreme heat, extreme precipitation, ecosystem changes, fire, floods, inundation, sea-level rise)
- Prepare an economic risk analysis that adds these risks to your financial modeling for risks avoided.
Finally, they must create a short- and medium-term plan that:
- Sets priorities for adaptations with collateral benefits; e.g., mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (onsite stormwater management), improving employee morale (work-from-home options) or buoying your reputation (shoring up public health systems in one of your supplier hubs).
- Establishes as priorities adaptations with a collateral improvement to your bottom line and your employees’ quality of life.
- Includes financials for avoided risks to explain and promote any additional costs not covered by collateral benefits.
….Businesses new to climate adaptation need only look to peers with their own plans for invaluable resources. They also may find helpful tools from government-backed organizations that understand what climate adaptation looks like and, importantly, how to create an institutional commitment to climate adaptation.
Two that I especially like are: Private Sector Engagement in Adaptation to Climate Change, a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready…..
NEW EPA POLICY ON CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS—SPECIAL SECTION:
– June 2, 2014
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. power sector must cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to federal regulations unveiled on Monday that form the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change strategy. The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal is one of the most significant environmental rules proposed by the United States, and could transform the power sector, which relies on coal for nearly 38 percent of electricity. It also set off a political backlash likely to run well into next year. Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, said on Monday that between 2020 and 2030, the amount of carbon dioxide the proposal would reduce would be more than double the carbon pollution from the entire U.S. power sector in 2012.
States will have flexible means to achieve ambitious but attainable targets, regardless of their current energy mixes. States which rely heavily on coal-fired power plants are thought to have the toughest tasks ahead. “The flexibility of our Clean Power Plan affords states the choices that lead them to a healthier future. Choices that level the playing field, and keep options on the table, not off,” McCarthy said in remarks at EPA headquarters on Monday.
The plan had come under pre-emptive attack from business groups and many Republican lawmakers as well as Democrats from coal-heavy states like West Virginia before it was unveiled.
But the 645-page plan looked less restrictive than some had feared, with targets easier to reach because emissions had already fallen by about 10 percent by 2013 from the 2005 baseline level, partly due to retirement of coal plants in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas. The plan gives states multiple options to achieve their emission targets, such as improving power plant heat rates; using more natural gas plants to replace coal plants; ramping up zero-carbon energy, such as solar or nuclear; and increasing energy efficiency.
States can also use measures such as carbon cap-and-trade systems as a way to meet their goals. Share prices for major U.S. coal producers like Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and Alpha Natural Resources closed at or near multi-year lows on Monday.
Monday’s rules cap months of outreach by the EPA and White House officials to an array of interests groups. The country’s roughly 1,000 power plants, which account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, face limits on carbon pollution for the first time. Climate change is a legacy issue for President Barack Obama, who has struggled to make headway on foreign and domestic policy goals since his re-election. But major hurdles remain. The EPA’s rules are expected to stir legal challenges on whether the agency has overstepped its authority. A 120-day public comment period follows the rules’ release. The National Association of Manufacturers, a long-time EPA foe, argued on Monday that the power plant plan was “a direct threat” to its members’ competitiveness.
The electric utility industry, encompassing plants that use resources from coal and natural gas to wind was more circumspect about the plan.
“While the 2030 reduction target is ambitious, it appears that utilities may be allowed to take advantage of some of their early actions,” the Edison Electric Institute said….
4 key takeaways from EPA’s new rules for power plants National Geographic News June 2 2014
What’s also striking about the rules is that for all the ambition they represent—and the plan for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 is ambitious—they also appear designed to lock in carbon reductions that have been under way for years. ….It could be up to 15 years before the EPA’s vision is fully realized, as states will have time to hammer out implementation plans and carry them out. But crucial decisions made over the next three years will help determine how the nation’s energy picture will change. For some states, the plan represents a continuation of business as usual; for others, it will mean a significant and possibly painful overhaul of the status quo.
Here are four key takeaways from the plan that the EPA announced Monday:
The United States is well on the way to meeting the goal of cutting carbon emissions by 30 percent. In setting the baseline for reductions at the 2005 emissions levels, the EPA is being less aggressive than it could have been. Emissions levels have been falling for years in the United States, thanks in part to the fracking boom that has boosted a nationwide shift to cleaner-burning natural gas, and to the 2008 recession, which depressed energy demand….
It’s not a great day for coal, but it’s not an immediate death knell. The EPA rules add to challenges that the coal industry has been facing for years, but they do not mandate the closure of any plant or eliminate coal from the U.S. energy picture.That said, the rules will put pressure on the industry by making coal more expensive. The industry faces higher costs one way or another: It may meet emissions targets by upgrading equipment to reduce pollution that plants emit, or if a state decides to set a cap on carbon emissions and issue permits allowing plants to pollute up to certain levels, the plants essentially would be paying extra fees to pollute.
A few states will have tough choices ahead. Many states, such as the nine Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and those such as California that have been moving forward with clean energy alternatives, will need to forge ahead in the same direction they are already moving. But for coal-dependent states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, and for those that have not put any kind of targets for clean energy in place, meeting the standard will be a heavier lift…..The EPA noted in its plan that 47 states already have energy efficiency programs run by utilities, and 38 states have “renewable portfolio standards,” or explicit targets for boosting the share of solar and wind on the grid. The 12 states that do not have such standards likely face a longer road ahead….
On their own, the new EPA rules won’t be enough to reduce climate change. However momentous Monday’s plan might be in the context of domestic U.S. policy to curb climate change, worldwide the plan has more symbolic value than real impact on greenhouse gas emissions. If implemented, the rules stand to keep 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere: a drop in the bucket compared with the 35.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted worldwide as of 2012.
Even so, analysts say that the United States must take the lead on reducing emissions given upcoming international negotiations on climate that will look to developing nations, including China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, to make its own commitments toward reducing pollution. China, which has said it is exploring ways to reduce emissions, did not appear to have a reaction to the EPA plan…..Ladislaw said last week before the rules were released that whatever the United States does may not be ambitious enough but that its global leadership on the issue is important. “Which follows first: the ambition, or incremental building up of capability to shore up [political] support?” she asked. “I think that’s what we’ll learn over the next year.”
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD New York Times June 2, 2014
The greenhouse gas reductions required by the Obama administration’s proposed rule on power plants will not get the world to where it has to go to avert the worst consequences of climate change. But they are likely to be enormously beneficial: good for the nation’s health, good for technological innovation, good for President Obama’s credibility abroad, and, in time, good for the planet and future generations. The proposed rule — and the importance of this cannot be overstated — signals the end of an era in which polluters could dump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without penalty. It would set new emissions standards for America’s existing power plants, which generate 38 percent of the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and one-third of overall greenhouse gas emissions. The broad goal is to cut these emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This means that many of the nation’s roughly 550 coal-fired power plants, which are much dirtier than plants powered by natural gas, will have to close or undergo expensive upgrades.
The 2030 target is ambitious but hardly unattainable. Emissions from power plants have already fallen roughly 13 percent from the 2005 baseline partly because tougher rules on pollutants like mercury have forced some coal-fired plants to close or become more efficient and partly because cheap and cleaner natural gas is edging out coal as the fuel of choice among big generators. In other words, the country is almost halfway to its goal. A recent study by M.J. Bradley, a Boston consulting firm, showed that 100 of the largest power producers steadily reduced pollutants of all kinds, including carbon dioxide, between 2008 and 2012.
If it withstands almost certain legal and legislative challenges, the rule also means that Mr. Obama’s pledge in Copenhagen in 2009 to cut America’s overall greenhouse gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 202o is well within reach. And it will give him leverage as he leads this country into the next round of global climate negotiations. World leaders will meet this fall in New York with an eye to producing ambitious new national emissions targets by next spring and, perhaps, a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.
Mr. Obama’s credibility will be enhanced by the fact that he has begun this process on his own, in the face of a hostile Congress. After a bill imposing a price on carbon that passed the House in 2009 found no takers in the Senate, Mr. Obama decided to invoke executive powers to impose the kinds of limits that Congress had refused to entertain. Two Supreme Court rulings have said he has the authority under the Clean Air Act to do so.
The issue now is how tough the new standards can be and how they are to be achieved. The rule provides industry and the states — which, by law, share responsibility for carrying out the rule — with considerable flexibility. Each state will be given a reduction target tailored to its energy mix. States will be able to decide how best to meet their targets, using an array of strategies of their choosing — deploying more renewable energy sources like wind and solar and more natural gas, ramping up energy efficiency, creating regional cap-and-trade initiatives aimed at the greatest reductions at the lowest cost.
Even so, Mr. Obama and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, have been accused of a power grab, of governing by fiat, of declaring a war on coal. Jobs will indeed be lost in coal country and costs imposed on industry. But, over time, these jobs are likely to be replaced by new jobs created by the retrofitting of much of the current energy delivery system and by the expansion of alternative energy sources. And because the rule will also greatly reduce harmful toxic pollutants, the costs will be more than offset by health savings — by a ratio of as much as $7 in savings to every $1 invested in cleaner energy. So far, Mr. Obama’s major environmental achievement has been a set of landmark fuel economy standards that will greatly reduce automotive carbon emissions and rested on essentially the same legal authority. This new rule is his last big chance to enlarge that legacy.
By Joe Romm on June 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm
The Obama Administration took the most serious step toward limiting carbon pollution of any in history. And besides its proposed rules for power plant carbon pollution, the White House has already helped bring about an explosion in solar and wind power, along with very strong fuel economy rules negotiated with the major automakers.
But the grade the President merits for his climate policies to date is still an “I” for Incomplete until he takes two more major steps: regulate methane leaks from the natural gas production/delivery system and negotiate a serious international climate deal for the December 2015 climate talks in Paris.
Let’s start with natural gas. On Monday, the EPA proposed a 25 percent cut in electric utility CO2 emissions by 2020 (vs 2005 levels). The proposal is flexible enough to allow that target to be achieved by replacing dirty coal power with a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, and, yes, natural gas.
Fuel switching to natural gas is a sub-optimal strategy for a few reasons. We know that U.S. natural gas consumption must peak sometime between 2020 and 2030 to preserve a livable climate. So it makes little or no sense to spend any substantial amount of money on new natural gas production, delivery, and power systems simply to meet a near-term 2020 target.
The best strategy is clearly transitioning straight to energy efficiency and renewables like solar and wind, technologies that are already cost-effective enough to hit the 25 percent target without any help from natural gas — especially since we already about half the way to the target. But much of the electric utility emissions reductions we have seen to date have come from replacing coal with gas power and much of the rest of the target will certainly be met the same way because our energy policy remains shortsighted.
That brings us to the final problem with gas. Natural gas is mostly methane, and methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, some 86 times (to as much as 105 times) as effective at trapping greenhouse gases as CO2. So even very low leakage of methane from the natural gas system wipes out its advantages over coal power for decades. The recent scientific literature — based on actual measurements of methane — reveals that methane leakage is actually quite high.
But the new EPA rules focus on power plants, by necessity, and so they don’t encompass the leaks in a methane production. Unfortunately, as a comprehensive 2014 Stanford study reconfirmed, “America’s natural gas system is leaky.” The news release explained, “A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates.” So high, in fact, that, as I calculated at the time, “By The Time Natural Gas Has A Net Climate Benefit You’ll Likely Be Dead And The Climate Ruined.”….
China is the world’s biggest emitter by far — and the fastest-growing in absolute terms. It has worked as hard behind the scenes is anybody to stop a global deal. But now it seems clear that they want to curtail coal consumption simply because air pollution has gotten out of hand. And there are signals coming from China that suggest they are looking at capping total carbon emissions some time in the 2020s. And, of course, the dangerous effects of climate change are becoming more obvious every year (to those whose heads aren’t stuck in the ground). And we are coming closer and closer to irreversible tipping points according to scientific observation and analysis, such as the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. On top of that, 2014 and then 2015 are poised to be the hottest years on record, if an El Niño forms this year. Given these unique confluence of circumstances, if Obama can’t leverage his policies and commitments to get a serious international deal, it will be prima facie evidence that he didn’t do enough. And future generations living with the multiple catastrophic impacts of a ruined climate will judge him, and all of us, as failures. And deservedly so.
June 4, 2014 George Zornick The Nation
There’s little doubt the Obama administration’s big push to cut carbon pollution, announced this week, will lead to much less coal-fired power in the United States. That’s a good thing. But what if states instead turn to natural gas-powered electricity instead? That could be a disaster for the environment….
Obama step forward on carbon undone by China’s steps back
President Barack Obama is set to take his boldest step to halt the rise of the oceans and stop the warming of the planet. It won’t be enough unless the rest of the world follows.
President Obama will use his executive authority to move forward on the most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president
By Pema Levy Newsweek Filed: 5/30/14 at 8:21 AM | Updated: 5/30/14 at 4:40 PM
Step aside, Keystone XL pipeline. There’s a new, bigger climate battle about to take over Washington. With Congress in gridlock and climate change deniers still dominating the Republican Party, President Obama will use his executive authority to move forward on the most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president. On Monday, the administration will announce new carbon pollution standards for the nation’s more than 1,000 power plants which produce 40 percent of the country’s carbon pollution — making these plants the country’s number one producer of greenhouse gases causing climate change. A New York Times report Thursday said the new rules will call for a decrease of 20 percent of plants’ emissions by 2020, a significant amount.
But like everything in Washington these days, the new rules won’t become final without a major fight, and both sides are preparing for war — in Congress, in the courts, at the state-level, even at the ballot box. “We see this as the pivotal battle on climate change,” David Goldston, Director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group playing a leading role in the effort, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday. “For the first time, climate is going to be front and center as the national issue. And what that means, we think, is that when this battle is over and the power plant standards are in effect, climate will have turned into an ordinary environmental issue.” Once the standards are announced, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take comments on the proposal, make any revisions they see fit, and plan to announce a final rule in June 2015. The states will have a year after that to come up with their own plans to comply with the new standards. Throughout this process, Goldston hopes that the climate change issue will be “demystified”: politicians will learn not to fear it, Americans will come to expect action on it. The new standards, Goldston predicted, will “fundamentally change the political dynamic on climate change.”…
By Joe Romm on May 30, 2014 at 3:01 pm
Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explains for the umpteenth time that climate action is super cheap — and that even the pro-pollution U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees.
What would be the cost to the U.S. of moderate carbon pollution reductions, such as the emissions standards for existing power plants that the EPA will be announcing shortly? It’s a question that we always had to answer since, as everyone knows, EPA is legally obligated to issue rules regulating CO2 from existing power plants…. In his new column, Krugman repeats that point. “The U.S. economy is still depressed — and in a depressed economy many of the supposed costs of compliance with energy regulations aren’t costs at all,” he writes. “In particular, building new, low-emission power plants would employ both workers and capital that would otherwise be sitting idle, and would, if anything, give the U.S. economy a boost.” The Natural Resources Defense Council does the math in its recent economic analysis of the carbon rules, assuming they are written flexibly to encourage things like energy efficiency. NRDC finds that a well-designed rule “can save American households and business customers $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020 while creating more than 274,000 jobs.” This is a far more credible analysis then the one by the Chamber, not just because NRDC’s is actually consistent with the economic literature, but also because EPA appears to have been influenced by NRDC’s original proposals for how to do the rule flexibly.
By Greg Sargent Washington Post June 2 2014 at 9:09 am
With the Obama administration today set to roll out ambitious new rules on carbon emissions from existing power plants, multiple news organizations are already noting that the new push could create political problems for vulnerable Dems in 2014. So it’s worth noting that Democrats see this as a much longer battle that will likely continue through the 2016 presidential race and beyond — posing long term risks to Republicans, too. It’s true that some vulnerable Dems, particularly in coal states, will likely distance themselves from the new regulations. But as Politico reports today, Dems actually see the short term politics of this as “manageable.” Similarly, Dem strategists told me recently that Dems in tough races will have to deal with the issue but for a number of reasons the risks will largely turn out to be hyped. But the long game may matter a whole lot more. To understand how some Dems see this, look back at this Pew poll from last fall. It shows that the very voter groups who could continue giving Dems a demographic edge in national elections — the same groups that Republicans must broaden their appeal among — overwhelmingly believe there is solid evidence of global warming:
* 73% of those aged 18-29 believe it’s happening.
* 76 percent of nonwhites believe it’s happening.
* 67 percent of college educated whites believe its happening.
Meanwhile, far more Republicans remain skeptical of global warming, but this is largely driven by Tea Party Republicans. While 61 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans believe there is solid evidence of global warming, only 25 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe this….
The administration wants to get enough states supporting its Clean Power Plan to color the map mostly low-carbon green, instead of coal black.
By John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News Jun 5, 2014
At the core of Obama’s plan to control greenhouse gas emissions from more than 1,000 power plants is a strategy resembling that of a presidential campaign in search of electoral votes.
The administration wants to get enough states on board to color the map mostly low-carbon green, instead of coal black.
To that end, it has designed a policy that seems intended to isolate the fiercest pockets of resistance, winning over as many fence-sitting states as possible.
That would make it harder for his opponents to paint this regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act as a heavy-handed federal intrusion.
“It is going to be important to have a critical mass of states being supportive,” said Travis Madsen, a global warming campaigner at Environment America, a federation of state-based advocacy groups. “If too many states decide they will not cooperate, it’s hard to say what might happen. The more states cooperate or act supportively, the more likely we will succeed.”
The greenest states would be California and most of those in the Northeast. With their cap-and-trade markets already up and running, these are the poster children for the highly flexible regulatory approach the EPA is pushing.
Leaning their way are states like Oregon and Washington, which are already planning to join forces with California (and British Columbia) in a regional alliance of the kind the EPA is encouraging.
Even states like Pennsylvania or Ohio might not balk if, together with their big power companies, they can figure out an advantageous path. A Kansas or an Iowa, where wind power is pushing ahead, or a place like sunny Nevada, where solar is making strides, could take on a greener tinge.
The blackest states would be places like West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota and Wyoming, where dependence on coal is highest, alternatives are fewer and political opposition is red hot….
OTHER POLICY NEWS:
China seeks to cap fossil fuel emissions for first time June 6, 2014 China is working on how to cap its greenhouse gas for the first time, an effort that would spur the worldwide effort to hold back climate change.
On May 27, the US Department of Agriculture announced a new $1.2 billion five-year program aimed at promoting public-private partnerships for soil and water conservation projects. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), authorized under the recent Agricultural Act of 2014, will consolidate the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion into a single program. The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s
$1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. There is $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.
“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.” The agency is now accepting proposals for the program, due July 14, 2014.
Environmental groups focus on change by strengthening their political operations. When the police arrested seven students at Washington University in St. Louis recently after a crowd of protesters sought to crash a board of trustees meeting, leaders of the environmental movement were thrilled. New York Times
Coal companies have stripped the tops of mountains in Appalachia in search of the fuel. But the Rainforest Action Network has helped convince some of the world’s biggest banks to stop funding companies that practice destructive Mountain Top Removal.
Keystone XL pipeline opponent cites terrorism concerns June 5, 2014 LA Times
Billionaire Democratic donor and environmental activist Tom Steyer opened a new front Wednesday in his campaign to derail the Keystone XL project by commissioning a study of the oil pipeline’s vulnerability to terrorism….
By JONATHAN WEISMAN NY Times June 3, 2014
The states dependent on tobacco received economic benefits that helped settle a long battle. The emissions issue has parallels but important distinctions.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate Smart Conservation – Putting Adaptation Principles Into Practice looks at how climate change already is affecting the nation’s wildlife and habitats, and addresses how natural resource managers will need to prepare for and adapt to these unprecedented changes. Developed by a broad collaboration of experts from federal, state, and non-governmental institutions, the guide offers practical steps for crafting conservation actions to enhance the resilience of the natural ecosystems on which wildlife and people depend.
Habitat Restoration Webinars June 10-19, 2014
If you know anyone who might be interested in a very cost-effective way to learn about planning and/or implementing a habitat restoration project, please forward this on to them. Sustainable City Network has partnered with the Northwest Environmental Training Center to provide habitat restoration training in online courses offered June 10 through 19. Instructor Larry Lodwick will conduct the 6-hour habitat restoration planning course in three 2-hour webinars June 10, 11 and 12 for those with limited to moderate experience in natural area management, natural resource management or environmental permitting. The 6-hour habitat restoration implementation course will be presented in three 2-hour webinars on June 17, 18 and 19. Continuing education certificates will be provided, and each session will be recorded, so missing live sessions won’t be a problem.
Communicating about Climate Change – From Impacts to Solutions
June 23, 2:00-3:15 PM (EDT)
Americans are waking up to the reality of extreme weather events are beginning to connect the dots to climate disruption. Effectively engaging the public as partners in addressing the challenge requires emphasizing local, current and personally relevant impacts and bridging to solutions. Join environmental communications expert Cara Pike and Executive Director of Climate Access, for a discussion of the latest trends in public opinion poling, how to frame the climate conversation, and best practices in climate engagement.
Cara Pike, Director, Climate Access
North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.
July 21-23, Washington, DC.
First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
“United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places“
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
California Adaptation Forum
August 19-20, 2014. SACRAMENTO, CA
This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference. To register go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449
International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015
Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.
***SAVE THE DATE!!*** Sponsored by the CA LCC and CA Dept. of Water Resources
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workshop September 23rd, 2014 @ California State University, Sacramento
Registration will open in June 2014. Check the California LCC website for details: http://californialcc.org/
The CA LCC, DWR and co-sponsors will host a one-day workshop for state and federal agency staff, NGOs, and Tribes with interest in how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) can help ensure resilient and sustainable natural landscapes for California in the face of climate change and other ecological stressors. Participants will learn from Tribal instructors about what TEK is, how it has been cross-walked with Western science to gain valuable insights about species and ecological cycles, and how to talk with Tribes about TEK. Attendees will come away with an increased understanding of TEK and indigenous peoples of California, and how we can work together in the future.
- Ron Goode (North Fork Mono Tribe)
- Sage LaPena (Nomptipom Wintu Tribe)
- Chuck Striplen (San Francisco Estuary Institute, Amah Mutsun Tribe)
- Dr. Beth Rose Middleton (UC Davis)
Workshop Topics (subject to change)
- Basic definitions and applications
- Cultural sensitivity
- TEK and ethnobiology
- Tribal sovereignty – with respect to protection of tribal lifeways, access to resources, resilient environments.
- TEK and the policy environment
- Intellectual property law
- Tribal consultation
- Ethno-ecological fire traditions
- Cultural landscape mapping – archaeology + ethnography + historic and contemporary resources
- Science needs – data, mapping, cross-walking of sensitive information
- Successful partnerships between tribes and agencies (NGO, universities) that advance resource co-management
JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
Please spread the word about an exciting opportunity at EDF to help us develop the Central Valley Habitat Exchange and pursue other opportunities to bring habitat markets to scale. If you have any questions about the position, let me know. And if you have networks where you can post this, it would be much appreciated.
- The National Park Service Klamath and Pacific Island Network Program Manager positions are now open. They are Interdisciplinary Supervisory GS-12/13 positions. Please distribute this announcement widely to anyone who may be interested. The announcement number is: PWROPI-14-I&M-1118179 DE/MP
CA OCEAN PROTECTION COUNCIL—MPA STAFF PERSON, OCEAN ACIDIFICATION STAFF PERSON
The California Natural Resources Agency and the Ocean Protection Council are recruiting for two vacancies. One position will likely serve as the staff lead on marine protected area (MPA) management. The other will likely serve as the staff lead on the issues of ocean acidification and hypoxia. For both positions, the ideal candidate will be willing and able to work on the wide variety of issues under the responsibility of the Ocean Protection Council. Applicants must be eligible for hire from the Coastal Program Analyst I or II lists. Applications will be considered on a continuous basis; therefore, interested applicants are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible. For more information, please visit: https://www.jobs.ca.gov/ and choose “Resources Agency” in the search function under “Department”. Please note that a Statement of Qualifications is required in addition to an Employment Application (STD 678) and resume.
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
By Eric Holthaus SLATE June 3, 2014
Hurricane Irene in 2011 Photo by NASA via Getty Images
A new study out on Monday makes an audacious claim: Hurricanes can be made safer just by changing their names. If you haven’t seen this headline yet, I defy you to guess the reason.
Go on … OK, fine. I’ll tell you, but you won’t believe me. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study alleges that hurricanes with female names are more deadly than those with male names because—get this—people don’t take them as seriously. It’s a story that’s quickly rocketed to the front page of /r/nottheonion, where the discussion surrounding it is priceless.
Except there’s at least one major flaw in the study. From Ed Yong at National Geographic:
But [National Center for Atmospheric Research social scientist Jeff] Lazo thinks that neither the archival analysis nor the psychological experiments support the team’s conclusions. For a start, they analysed hurricane data from 1950, but hurricanes all had female names at first. They only started getting male names on alternate years in 1979. This matters because hurricanes have also, on average, been getting less deadly over time. “It could be that more people die in female-named hurricanes, simply because more people died in hurricanes on average before they started getting male names,” says Lazo.
Whoops. That’s a pretty basic error to make in a study where you’re trying to correlate deadliness of something over time. Actually, when the authors did attempt to account for this by comparing only storms after 1979, as you might expect, any correlation between names and deadliness vanished. Ideally, to back up a claim like this, you’d want to have lots of data, and there simply haven’t been enough years of named hurricanes to get a sufficient statistical significance……
… Lazo says, “It could be that more people die in female-named hurricanes, simply because more people died in hurricanes on average before they started getting male names.” But no, that is not the case according to our data and as reported in the paper. We included elapsed years (years since the hurricane) in our modeling and this did not have any significant effect in predicting fatalities. In other words, how long ago the storm occurred did not predict its death toll. My suspicion is that this study is a classic example of confirmation bias: The authors likely knew what result they were going for when they set out to do the study, and sure enough, they found it. The deadliness of hurricanes is an intensely complicated problem. To generalize it down to gender stereotypes based on the name of the storm itself is a simplistic distraction at best, and a perpetuation of gender myths at worst. The researchers went so far as to develop a fatality forecast model based on storm name alone. In an extreme case, the researchers found an especially damaging hypothetical storm with femininity of 11 on the investigators’ 11-point scale—even the Disney-esque Hurricane Belle in 1976 only scored a 10.4—would have more than five times the predicted deaths as a hurricane with an excessively male name. As an aside, I’ve never thought about “excessively gendered” names before (and, apparently, neither has the Internet), so at least there’s that.
There’s only one possible takeaway from this study. Why not go all out? Here’s my proposal: Starting in 2015, the National Hurricane Center should immediately implement a completely non-gendered list of hurricane names that immediately brings to mind the severity of the situation, so as to forever remove any sense of bias or uncertainty when it comes down to taking action when an evacuation order is issued. Because, apparently we’re incapable of doing that now….
Other parts of the world do use non-human names for storms. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, rotates naming by country, and typically uses native words for flora and fauna. Last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines, was named after a Vietnamese word for “sea bird.” During the record Atlantic hurricane season of 2005, forecasters exhausted the list of human names and had to resort to the Greek alphabet. So, there’s many different ways to do this, if we as a society decide that female names are too dangerous to be used to label inanimate natural disasters.
Interestingly enough, back in the day, some of the first hurricanes ever to receive names were named after weather forecasters’ ex-girlfriends.
Hell hath no fury, indeed.
By Ari Phillips June 5, 2014 at 9:19 am Updated: June 5, 2014 at 11:36 am
China is just about the same size as the United States, but livable land is in short supply. With the population and economy still growing at a rapid clip, the government has undertaken a plan to bulldoze hundreds of mountains to create land for building on. In a paper published in journal Nature this week, three researchers from Chang’an University in China warn that the scores of mountains already being truncated is leading to air and water pollution, erosion, and flooding. With unprecedented plans to remove over 700 mountains and fill valleys with the debris, they warn that “there has been too little modelling of the costs and benefits of land creation. Inexperience and technical problems delay projects and add costs, and the environment impacts are not being thoroughly considered.”…
Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system
(June 5, 2014) — In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. ..
The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as we age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles — periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months — kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders….. > full story
Green tea could reduce pancreatic cancer risk: Study explains how
(May 30, 2014) — A new study explains how green tea changed the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells, opening a new area in cancer-fighting research. Green tea and its extracts have been widely touted as potential treatments for cancer, as well as several other diseases. But scientists have struggled to explain how the green tea and its extracts may work to reduce the risk of cancer or to slow the growth of cancer cells. … > full story
Eating prunes can help weight loss, study shows
(May 30, 2014) — Eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss, research shows. Consumption of dried fruit is not readily recommended during weight loss despite evidence it enhances feelings of fullness. However, a study of 100 overweight and obese low fiber consumers tested whether eating prunes as part of a weight loss diet helped or hindered weight control over a 12-week period. The results were promising. … > full story
Subtle change in DNA, protein levels determines blond or brunette tresses, study finds
(June 1, 2014) — A molecule critical to stem cell function plays a major role in determining human hair color, according to a new study. The study describes for the first time the molecular basis for one of our most noticeable traits. It also outlines how tiny DNA changes can reverberate through our genome in ways that may affect evolution, migration and even human history. … > full story
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