The Real-Life Effects of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation (NY Times)


By Eric LiptonSteve Eder and John Branch Read full NYTimes article here

For nearly two years, President Trump has pursued an aggressive, far-reaching effort, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, to free American business from what he and many of his supporters view as excessive environmental regulation.

The consequences are starting to play out in noticeable ways in communities across the United States.

An investigation by The New York Times showed how Mr. Trump’s deregulatory policies are starting to have substantial impact on those who experience them close up — and often are economically dependent on the industries the president is trying to help.

Here are 5 key takeaways….

Recommended Sources- Climate Change and Ecology News (my final Point Blue blog post)

Dear colleagues,

On this 50th anniversary of the NASA Earth Rise photo (humanity’s first view of Earth from afar), I thank you for an incredible 20 years at the helm of Point Blue. This is my last official posting as CEO of Point Blue (read more here and here).

To keep up on the latest climate change, ecology and related news, I’ve listed below some of my favorite online, free sources.

Thank you for being part of my Point Blue news blog and community over the years. Thank you for your continued support of Point Blue‘s outstanding, collaborative climate-smart conservation science. And thank you for everything you do to secure a healthy, just future for all life on our planet!

Happy holidays and all the best in the future-

Ellie

Climate change, ecology and related online news sources:

  • Science Daily (you can choose specific topics from climate change, agriculture and food to ecology, animals and microbes; you can also choose daily or weekly updates; you can subscribe and/or get RSS feeds):
  • Skeptical Science (excellent compilation of science articles on climate change as well as multiple resources on rebutting skeptics and more; free subscription, RSS feeds- and weekly climate change science publication summary):
  • Inside Climate News (a non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment – with layperson-friendly interpretations and comments from the scientists- free subscription and feeds)
  • The Daily Climate (an excellent compilation of news stories from around dthe world on climate change solutions, impacts, causes, resilience, politics and good news; free subscription and feeds)
  • Climate Home News (an independent climate change news site with a more global perspective on climate policy, finance, energy, land use, technology and science; they provide excellent high level summaries of the UNFCCC and other global policy efforts)
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD News, Knowledge Hub, global jobs listing and more- free subscription)
  • Nature Climate Change
  • Society for Ecological Restoration
  • Maven’s News (California’s water news/policy blog with daily and weekly news compilations, updates, and other excellent resources on water and groundwater)
  • California Weather Blog (excellent occasional postings with the science explained)
  • Public Policy Institute of California (excellent nonpartisan analyses and updates on water and many other key policy issues facing California)

A Year of Climate Change Evidence: Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal

  • Compelling new evidence shows we will speed past a dangerous climate-risk threshold as soon as 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, potentially triggering climate change on a scale that would present grave dangers to much of the living planet.
  • The IPCC 1.5C report reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the Paris treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050.
  • “The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” said Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment.”

Our heat-stricken planet is orbiting through the end of a year that humanity might rather forget. But several recent climate reports tell us that 2018 may be remembered as a turning point, for better or worse, in the fight to cap global warming…

….Several reports conclude that investing in a global economic transformation now would save huge amounts of money compared to paying spiraling costs for climate disasters later. Others outline the tremendous challenge: We are still shoveling millions of tons of coal into furnaces every day; CO2 emissions have increased 4.7 percent since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015.

Although there were many promises of action and signs of progress as coal plants closed, renewable costs dropped and companies and state and local governments tightened their rules, the United Nations Environment Program said the gap remains as large as ever between commitments under the Paris agreement and the cuts needed to reach its goals.

IPCC: 1.5°C Warming Is Bad; 2°C Is Worse

The climate science highlight of the year was publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of a report mandated by the Paris Agreement, Global Warming of 1.5 Celsius.

It authoritatively reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050. That means transforming energy, agriculture and forest systems on a large scale. It means rethinking how and where we build, work, shop, play and live; how we get around and feed ourselves; where we obtain the energy we need for economic development, and how we adapt to the global warming impacts that are ahead….

….Biodiversity, Food Security and Extinction

…scientists have also started identifying global warming impacts to biodiversity, and by extension, the effects on humans due to the loss of important food crops or the ecologically valuable services of species like pollinating insects and bats. By 2070, global warming could be the main driver of biodiversity decline. Warming temperatures can affect animals directly, by changing their habitat, and also by disrupting natural reproductive cycles between species, like flowers, insects and birds.

A World Wildlife Fund study released in October found that global populations of vertebrate species have, on average, declined in size by 60 percent in the past 40 years. Habitat loss and direct exploitation are the main factors, and are linked with overconsumption of resources, which is also at the root of global warming. In November, the European Commission Joint Research Centre suggested global warming will cause cascading extinction effects at up to 10 times the rate of existing estimates. Scientists also showed how populations of crop-killing insects will boom with global warming, and how warming temperatures are throwing the plant-pollinator cycle out of sync.

In the oceans, hundreds of fish species are moving north to cooler water, disrupting coastal economies and threatening food supplies in less developed countries in the Global South…

In the Arctic: Rapid Changes Underway

Several 2018 reports also described how global warming continues to force rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems, including changes to ocean chemistry that are affecting marine life, as well as melting ice and thawing permafrost that is directly affecting local communities and the wider global climate system….

….What Should We Be Learning from All This?

The massive amounts of information can seem overwhelming, but if you strip away most of the technical and scientific jargon, the message is clear, said Michigan State University professor Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People.

“The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” White said.

The indigenous knowledge expressed in several of this year’s reports has universal relevance for the systems-level change we need, he said. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment,” he said.

Our Food, Our Farmers and the Planet

  1. Solutions to global environmental problems will also not be realized without tackling the problems in agriculture.
  2. Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawals, 70 per cent of biodiversity loss on land and 73 per cent of deforestation in the tropics.
  3. At the same time, the increased frequency of droughts and floods is a major obstacle to ending hunger and malnutrition.

International Institute for Sustainable Development Read full story here

Agriculture matters: it provides a livelihood for more people in the world than any other sector and represents almost 50 percent of total employment in poor countries. It is also on the front lines of nearly all urgent global challenges, from hunger & malnutrition to climate change, biodiversity loss and freshwater scarcity.

Farming has the power to end extreme poverty and feed billions of people. The goal of ending hunger is within reach, but it will not happen unless we increase public spending—by an extra USD 11 billion per year from now to 2030. IISD is working with IFPRI to measure the costs and provide the solutions to ensure the world achieves the critical SDG goal of ending hunger. Our recent study looked at the agricultural conditions and policies of 117 states in Asia and Africa over 45 years to determine why some countries have made the leap beyond subsistence agriculture and others have not….

Scientists called for ‘unprecedented’ action. But the global climate talks aren’t built for that.

  • “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” said one young activist.

  • But in Poland, the IPCC’s findings on what the world would need to do to hold off the worst impacts of climate change collided with the reality of a bureaucratic process that requires consensus among nearly 200 nations. It was never designed to be nimble. Instead of dramatic new commitments, diplomats were left to wrestle with what to outsiders may seem like semantics, arguing about whether to “welcome” or “note” or “recognize the role” of the report.

 

Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice leaves scientists ‘shocked’– means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather

  • Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather for us.

Joe Romm Read ThinkProgress article here    Read 2018 NOAA Arctic Report Card here

The annual Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is out, but it appears that humanity is flunking science badly.

As NOAA reports, “Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.” And one stunning result of this is that 95 percent of the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice has disintegrated in just three decades.

The Report Card makes clear that our failure to slow global warming has led to an all-but irreversible Arctic death spiral — which in turn is driving more extreme weather in this country, faster sea level rise everywhere, and more rapid disintegration of the carbon-rich permafrost, which in turn causes even faster global warming….

….NASA scientists who in March flew over the region north of Greenland — home to much of the Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice — were stunned by how much the thickest sea ice had been broken up into pieces as opposed to remaining a solid sheet. NASA cryo-scientist Nathan Kurtz, who has been on many such research flights, told the Washington Post, “I was just shocked by how different it was.”[Read more here]…

—————————-

Highlights from the NOAA report:

  • Surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.
  • In the terrestrial system, atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation.
  • Despite increase of vegetation available for grazing, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50% over the last two decades.
  • In 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years.
  • Pan-Arctic observations suggest a long-term decline in coastal landfast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s, affecting this important platform for hunting, traveling, and coastal protection for local communities.
  • Spatial patterns of late summer sea surface temperatures are linked to regional variability in sea-ice retreat, regional air temperature, and advection of waters from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
  • In the Bering Sea region, ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season.
  • Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean and threatening food sources.
  • Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

 

Sierra snowpack could drop significantly by end of century

  • Researchers found that we could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak Sierra Nevada snowpack water volume by 2100.
  • Peak snow melt could be as much as one month earlier, increasing the lag time between when water is available and when it is most in demand.
  • “We basically get 50 percent of our annual precipitation in five to 15 days, or one to two weeks. Our water demand is highest during the summer months when we don’t get a lot of precipitation, so we really rely on mountain snowpack as a stopgap for our water supply.”

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Read ScienceDaily coverage here

A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study that analyzed the headwater regions of California’s 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state’s surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

…the study found that peak timing, which has historically been April 1, could move up by as much as four weeks, meaning snow will melt earlier, thus increasing the time lag between when water is available and when it is most in demand.

…Mountain snowpack is a critical source of water for California, and much of it comes in a very narrow window. “Our precipitation is really intermittent and extremes-driven,” Rhoades said. “We basically get 50 percent of our annual precipitation in five to 15 days, or one to two weeks. Our water demand is highest during the summer months when we don’t get a lot of precipitation, so we really rely on mountain snowpack as a stopgap for our water supply.”…

Alan M. Rhoades, Andrew D. Jones, Paul A. Ullrich. The Changing Character of the California Sierra Nevada as a Natural Reservoir. Geophysical Research Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018GL080308

Does Grazing Matter for Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration in the Western North American Great Plains?

Long-term removal of grazing from semiarid grassland ecosystems in the western North American Great Plains does not enhance long-term SOC sequestration.

Justin D. Derner, David J. Augustine, Douglas A. Frank. Ecosystems (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-018-0324-3

ABSTRACT

Considerable uncertainty remains regarding grazing-induced influences on soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration in semiarid grassland ecosystems due to three important complications associated with studying such effects: (1) Ecologically meaningful shifts in SOC pools attributable to grazing are difficult to detect relative to inherently large grassland SOC pools, (2) a lack of baseline (pre-treatment) data, and (3) frequent lack of or limited replication of long-term grazing manipulations. SOC sequestration rates were determined in 74-year-old grazing exclosures and paired moderately grazed sites, established across a soil texture gradient, in the western North American shortgrass steppe in northeastern Colorado. We sampled soils (0–20 cm) from 12 exclosures and paired grazed sites to measure SOC concentration and soil radiocarbon D14C (&); the latter allowed us to determine turnover of the SOC pool over a 7-decade period in the presence versus the absence of grazing. Removal of grazing for more than 7 decades substantially altered plant community composition but did not affect total soil C, SOC, soil D14C, SOC turnover rate, or total soil N. Grazing effect also did not interact with soil texture to influence any of those soil properties. Soil texture (silt + clay content) did influence total soil C and SOC, and total soil N, but not D14C or SOC turnover. Results provide evidence that long-term removal of grazing from semiarid grassland ecosystems in the western North American Great Plains does not enhance long-term SOC sequestration, despite changes in the relative dominance of C3 versus C4 grasses.

A day in the life of a UN climate conference observer– Ellie’s COP24 Blog Post #3

by Ellie Cohen

(See also my other COP24 posts: From Katowice to Auschwitz — Ellie’s COP24 #2 blog post and 2018 UNFCCC Global Climate Meeting– Ellie’s COP24 blog #1 from Katowice, Poland with video and news links)

One of the joys of attending the UNFCCC global climate meetings is meeting passionate, caring people from all over the planet. Sitting at lunch today, I met The Nature Conservancy’s climate change and energy director of China, a sustainable agriculture NGO staff person from Kenya, an environment minister from Uganda, and the global UNFCCC Associate Liaison Officer for Observer Organizations. The UNFCCC officer explained how the number of people formally registered for COP24* has skyrocketed to over 30,000, likely making this the largest ever.  He said how committed the UNFCCC is to being as inclusive as possible but he also wondered aloud how they would organize it in the future to successfully engage the growing number of attendees.

Inside the main entrance to COP24 in Katowice, Poland– jammed with new arrivals from all over the world going through security and registering.

I arrived last Friday and the enormous venue felt a bit empty. Not so now! It took me a half hour to get through security yesterday morning as thousands more arrived (see photo above). Wherever you go, there is an energy and intensity just from the sheer numbers of people.  I am putting on an average of 4 miles every day just walking to various presentations. There are the main plenary sessions in enormous halls that have formal seating for representatives from all the countries of the world as well as room for observers such as Point Blue. There are the officially recognized side events organized by the UN, countries, NGOs and businesses. There are the unofficial side events hosted in country, business and NGO pavilions (imagine an enormous conference with temporary displays that include meeting and presentation rooms), and there are press conferences held just about every half hour, every day sharing new findings or bringing attention to various concerns (see photo below).  [Note: You can see many of the official sessions and press conferences by webcast on demand here at the COP24 website. It’s worth just taking time to look through just to see the titles of the various sessions!]

Amazonian indigenous peoples organization’s press conference on destruction of rainforests, COP24, Dec 11 2018

The United States has a muted but unfortunately distinct negative presence again this year, promoting “clean oil and coal” (see more here) and working behind the scenes to slow down the process of advancing urgently needed climate policy. The “We Are Still In” coalition (of more than 3,500 CEOs, mayors, governors, college presidents, and other leaders telling the world that the US is still committed to climate action as part of America’s Pledge) has a smaller-than-last-year but visible presence here, sharing a pavilion with the World Wildlife Fund (webcasts of sessions held there can be seen here). I was thrilled to personally be able to thank Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto, for his climate and community leadership before he introduced a showing this evening of the outstanding new documentary, From Paris to Pittsburgh (recommended watching- you can now see it on the National Geographic channel).

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto introducing the excellent new documentary, From Paris to Pittsburgh, at COP242.

One highlight for me today was an excellent side event entitled “Planetary Boundaries and Global Commons– managing risks and solutions” organized by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Its director, Professor Johan Rockstrom, is renowned for his collaborative work identifying nine planetary boundaries that if passed would spell doom for life on our planet.  Humanity is already pushing past four of those boundaries into unknown territory (climate change, biodiversity loss, shifts in nutrient cycles [nitrogen and phosphorus] and land-use) with major debates on how far we’ve gone with two other boundaries: water-system change and chemical pollution.

In Rockstrom’s presentation today (see photo below), he called for a new framework of planetary stewardship (read more here) that brings together the planetary boundaries ideas with our global commons — newly defined as “a resilient and stable planet.” He described this as “No Paris without Earth Resilience” and said we need to go beyond carbon for planetary stewardship. We need fresh water, biodiversity, and the ocean — fundamental tools essential to regulating our climate– along with a sustainable food system to secure a future for human society. [Note: Point Blue’s Board of Directors recently approved a new five year strategic plan focused on increasing the pace and scale of climate-smart conservation that is built in part around Rockstrom’s Planetary Boundaries work.]

Dr. Johan Rockstrom, Potsdam Institute: No Paris without Earth Resilienceplanetary boundaries + global commons = planetary stewardship.

Another highlight was attending several side events on agriculture including one entitled Transforming agriculture by recarbonizing the earth’s soilOrganized by CGIAR, a global research partnership dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources, the panelists presented on some of the latest soil science and the case for investing in healthy soils. I am particularly interested in the potential for soil carbon sequestration on agricultural lands to help countries meet their greenhouse gas emission reductions goals under the Paris agreement while also providing other benefits such as food security, biodiversity and greater climate resilience. The latest science projects that healthy soils on agricultural lands could provide as much as 25% of the carbon removal needed by 2030 but there is much to learn about how to scale up these efforts. It was great to meet some of the panelists afterwards, to learn more about their work and share some of what Point Blue is doing.

I was also thrilled today to see my friend, Dr. Steve Hammer (photo below), of the World Bank. In his presentation about their new report “Financing a Resilient Urban Future,” he mentioned the SF Bay Area’s recent passing of Measure AA as an example of a successful “local authority taxation” adaptation strategy. Measure AA, a $12/year parcel tax in the 9 counties of the SF Bay region, will raise $500m over 20 years for green infrastructure to increase resilience. I am delighted that Point Blue’s STRAW project is already implementing climate-smart wetland restoration as a recipient of Measure AA funds and so grateful to our conservation colleagues around the Bay Area for their visionary leadership that made Measure AA a reality.

Dr. Stephen Hammer, World Bank, presenting on urban adaptation funding strategies, highlights Measure AA in the SF Bay area.

And, of course, I was able to do some “observing” today, spending time in one of the plenary sessions listening to country delegates from around the world urging strong climate action. For many of these countries, climate change is an existential threat. In that sense, it is truly humbling to be here, coming from one of the wealthiest countries, one of the wealthiest states and one of the wealthiest regions in the world. This reality strengthens my commitment to doing everything possible in support of our global community and to make the changes necessary to return to a safe climate. My hope is that when my children are my age, they can celebrate and enjoy the benefits of our efforts here today.

The minister of Congo speaking to the parties in a plenary session.

I even had the honor of meeting Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development for Argentina. He has been an inspiring leader in his country and globally. I particularly liked his comment on a panel this morning: “The future is the decision you make today.”

Indeed, we must be more ambitious immediately– and to do that– each of us must make decisions this morning then start acting on them this afternoon to steward our planet’s life support systems for a healthy, just and secure future for all.

One long but wonderful day at COP24– so full of interesting interactions, learning, inspiration and networking!

Together we can zmniejszenie ilości gazów wpuszczanych do atmosfery (reduce emissions in the atmosphere) and ochrona środowiska (protect our environment) for a zdrowego życia (healthy life)!*

*COP24 is the 2018 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “Conference of the Parties” -the 24th meeting of the 195 countries of the world signed on to the Rio environmental treaty of 1992 to prevent dangerous climate change.

**Picking up a little bit of the beautiful Polish language here but these phrases I found on the internet!

Small and isolated habitat patches crucial to species survival — new study from Point Blue and partners

  • Small and isolated habitat areas are very important to the survival of many rare and endangered species

Point Blue Conservation Science  Read full ScienceDaily coverage here

Small, local patches of habitat could be playing a much bigger role in conserving biodiversity than you think, according to new research.

…Co-author Dr. Sam Veloz, Climate Adaptation Group Director at Point Blue Conservation Science, added “We have many existing processes in place to fund restoration or conservation activities that are largely focused on large patches of habitat. While it’s important to continue these efforts, our paper emphasizes that small but important habitat patches should be included in an overall conservation portfolio.

An example from the paper explored suitable habitat for four songbird species in California and Oregon (the streaked horned lark, savannah sparrow, Western meadowlark and the Oregon vesper sparrow). Research showed that highly fragmented parts of the study areas for each species contain habitat patches of very high conservation value. And the four species studied have ranges primarily in those small, isolated patches….

Brendan A. Wintle, Heini Kujala, Amy Whitehead, Alison Cameron, Sam Veloz, Aija Kukkala, Atte Moilanen, Ascelin Gordon, Pia E. Lentini, Natasha C. R. Cadenhead, and Sarah A. Bekessy. Global synthesis of conservation studies reveals the importance of small habitat patches for biodiversity. PNAS, 2018 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1813051115