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U.S. farmers: growing a positive impact on climate change

(May 31)

The Vindicator

AUSTIN, Texas – America’s agriculture industry contributes a relatively small amount of this country’s greenhouse gases, but experts say various techniques that are growing in use can take a proactive approach to the issue – and farmers could play a key role in altering the path of climate change.

By implementing certain practices, said Johnathan Hladik, senior policy advocate for the Center for Rural Affairs, agricultural soils have the potential to pull carbon out of the air and reduce greenhouse gases.

California native fish could disappear with climate change

(May 31)

Los Angeles Times

Climate change could be the final blow for many of California’s native fish species, pushing them to extinction with extended drought, warmer water temperatures and altered stream flow.

The authors of a new study published online in the journal PLOS ONE used 20 metrics — including species population trends, physiological tolerance to temperature increase and ability to disperse — to gauge the vulnerability of native fishes to climate change.

The results: 82% of 121 native species were deemed highly vulnerable.

NOAA Climate Research Funding Could Be Gutted Under New House Bill

(May 29)

Huffington Post

A bill being drafted in the House could potentially undermine the climate science research activities and the oceans programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The bill, known as the “Weather Forecasting Improvement Act,” would put more emphasis on research and development of new weather forecasting capabilities for anticipating near-term, high-impact events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, at the possible expense of two of the agency’s other long-standing areas of focus — climate and marine science.

The bill was the subject of a May 23 hearing in the House Science Subcommittee on the Environment. It has not yet been formally introduced, and is largely being drafted by Republicans on the subcommittee, which has jurisidiction over NOAA’s National Weather Service, according to several close observers of the legislation.

Protest could delay Forest Service’s update of aging air fleet

(May 23)

E&E News via Red Lodge Clearing House

A Missoula, Mont.-based air tanker company has protested a Forest Service plan to issue contracts for seven new air tankers, potentially hampering the agency’s ability to battle wildfires well into the 2013 season. Neptune Aviation Services yesterday protested the contracts to the Government Accountability Office, arguing that it was unfairly excluded from the agency’s latest contracts announced earlier this month.

The company had won contracts for two of its BAe-146 fire-bomber jets last August, but other contractors challenged the award.

Last week, the Forest Service said it intends to award new contracts to five companies — but not Neptune — for seven “next generation” wildfire air tankers that can fly faster and carry more flame retardant than most of its legacy fleet (E&ENews PM, May 6).

Natural Disturbances Affect Climate Response Strategies

(May 29)

Laboratory Equipment

Fires and hurricanes are only two examples of natural disturbances that drastically affect millions of people worldwide. Now, scientists are considering how these events might limit opportunities for climate mitigation as well. A team of scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, working at the Joint Global Change Research Institute at Maryland, found that strategies to alleviate the impacts of climate change will need to account for future land and atmospheric disturbances that impact forests. This study is the first to quantify the effect of future natural disturbances on climate mitigation strategies.

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Farm Bill Fiasco: What Now?

(May 14)

Huffington Post

By a vote of 15-5, the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee finally approved the 2013 Agricultural Reform Food and Jobs Act otherwise known as the farm bill. It will go to Congress for a vote as early as next week. This massive bill, expending roughly $100 billion annually, helps define America’s food and farming landscape — what gets planted, what we eat, and what it costs — yet the consumers, farmers, and workers most affected have no voice in how that money is spent.

Corporate control over our food and farming is profound, and must be checked. With four corporations controlling 50 percent or more of most major commodities and meat production, and running the supermarkets most Americans shop in, big food has the economic and political clout to dictate farm bill policy.

Produce Industry’s Food Safety Push Takes Toll on the Environment

(May 10)

Scientific America

A coalition of farmers, growers and processors in California created a new set of bacteria-minimizing standards designed to eliminate potential sources of contamination by mandating that crop sites be cleared of vegetation and kept a certain distance from wildlife and natural bodies of water. Unintended consequences such as soil degradation and river and stream pollution have risen from the 2006 regulation in addition to ineffective results of reducing food-borne illnesses. Researchers discovered that the new farming practices have further de-incentivized growers from farming in ways that take into account the importance of natural systems of resource cycling and plant regeneration. Instead, many have cleared land of native vegetation, erected fences and laid poison to deter the presence of wildlife. As a result of growers’ attempts to control for all potential variables on crop sites, farmed areas have become not only uninhabitable for wildlife but also more vulnerable to climate change.

New Study: As Climate Changes, Boreal Forests to Shift North and Relinquish More Carbon Than Expected

(May 10)

Environmental Research Web

A new Berkeley Lab research maps how Earth’s myriad climates – and the ecosystems that depend on them – will move from one area to another as global temperatures rise. The approach foresees big changes for one of the planet’s great carbon sponges. Boreal forests will likely shift north at a steady clip this century. Along the way, the vegetation will relinquish more trapped carbon than most current climate models predict. The research is published online May 5 in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Berkeley Lab research suggests the planet’s boreal forests won’t expand poleward. Instead, they’ll shift poleward. The difference lies in the prediction that as boreal ecosystems follow the warming climate northward, their southern boundaries will be overtaken by even warmer and drier climates better suited for grassland.

Climate Milestone: Earth’s CO2 Level Passes 400 ppm

(May 9)

An instrument near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii has recorded a long-awaited climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 55 years of measurement—and probably more than 3 million years of Earth history. Two independent teams of scientists measure CO2 on Mauna Loa: one from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the other from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The NOAA team posted word on its web site this morning before dawn Hawaii time: The daily average for May 9 was 400.03 ppm. The Scripps team later confirmed the milestone had been crossed.

Forest Service Gets New Wildfire Tool in Time for Season

(April 24)

Climate Central

With much of the West mired in drought conditions heading into the summer, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing for what could be another damaging wildfire season. This year, firefighters will be armed with an updated tool to help them battle fires with the precision of special forces on the battlefield. The instrument, known as the “Autonomous Modular Sensor,” or AMS, can help the Forest Service detect wildfires and conduct post-burn assessments. While similar devices have been in use for several years, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., working with the Forest Service, recently deployed a new version with expanded capabilities that will allow firefighters on the ground to request overflights during the day, when wildfires tend to be most active. Previously, such flights were conducted at night due to the limitations of the older generation instrument.

The Case of the Disappearing Dilbit: How Much Oil Was Released in 2010 Pipeline Spill?

(May 6)

Inside Climate News

A key piece of data related to the biggest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history has disappeared from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, adding to confusion about the size of the spill and possibly reducing the fine that the company responsible for the accident would be required to pay. Sometime in March, the EPA’s website for the accident stopped showing how much oil has been collected at the site—1,149,460 gallons at last count. Web archives show that number was deleted between March 9 and March 27.

U.S. Food Production Shifts North, along with Infrastructure to Move It

(May 6)

Scientific America

The epicenter of agricultural production has moved north and west over the past half-century, and that trend will likely continue at an accelerated pace due to global warming, a new study finds. Published yesterday in the online version of the journal Nature Climate Change, the study depicts how such a shift could put new strains on U.S. infrastructure, as rails and trains replace riverboats as the primary mode of agricultural transportation.

Gulf Oil Spill: Mental Health Impacts On Affected Communities Should Be Considered, Researcher Argues

(May 6)

Huffington Post

It’s been three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and forever changing the way the world views the Gulf Coast. While the $4 billion verdict against BP has finally been handed down as justice for damages, it’s not going to help many of the people directly impacted by the spill’s impacts. It’s time for a reminder of the long-term impacts accompanying technological disasters — and for the development of a better system for addressing the mental well-being of coastal residents and their communities after these all-too-frequent events.

Wildfire Interactive Helps Track the Springs Fire Blaze

(May 4)

Climate Central

With the weather lending a helping hand, officials were cautiously optimistic that the raging fire, called the Springs Fire, near Los Angeles was being brought under control as of late Saturday. Firefighters reportedly had contained more than 50 percent of the fire, as they were aided by calmer winds and cooler temperatures, and Sunday’s forecast had a 20 percent chance of rain.

The Springs Fire started right as a new outlook by the National Interagency Fire Center released its wildfires outlook, which highlighted how fire season may come early this year in the West, thanks to ongoing drought conditions and increasing temperatures. The NIFC predicted that major wildfires in California could begin as early as May, nearly a month ahead of schedule. Wildfire season is also expected to come early in southern Oregon and Washington, as well as in the central Rocky Mountains and parts of the Southwest.

Partners Celebrate Conservation Success at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

(May 3)

The Nature Conservancy

Partners engaged in projects that will restore about 2,500 acres of marsh in the western Lake Erie basin gathered Friday to celebrate the successful completion of the first major task – turning a 100-acre former wheat field into a coastal marsh. While wading birds enjoyed new feeding areas in the background, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur cut a ribbon over one of the earthen levees that help maintain this newly created wetland. The project, funded through a $1.3 million grant awarded by NOAA in 2011, will involve 500 acres of wetland restoration. The first phase includes about 100 acres of restored wetland, new pumps and water control devices and fish ladders that allow most fish to enter the wetland but can also be used seasonally to block troublesome species such as carp.

Sequestration pushes conservation agency toward ‘breaking point’

(May 2)

Greenwire via Red Lodge Clearinghouse

Sequestration has affected the federal government’s ability to put in place conservation measures on farmland, according to several organizations that work closely with the Agriculture Department. The effects of the across-the-board spending cuts on farmland conservation programs, which have already taken large cuts in the last several budget cycles, have been lost amid all the talk about furloughs to meat inspectors and reductions in farmers’ subsidies, they say. The groups worry that the next round of budget cuts could bring the programs, which include the popular Conservation Stewardship Program and the Conservation Reserve Program, past their breaking point.

USFS 2012 Planning Rule Proposed Directives open for comment

(February 15, Comment deadline April 29)

U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service has released and is seeking public comment on the proposed 2012 Planning Rule Directives, the key set of agency guidance documents that will direct implementation of the 2012 Planning Rule.

The proposed directives will help the Forest Service achieve the vision articulated in the 2012 Planning Rule – to protect and restore National Forests and Grasslands for the benefit of communities, natural resources and the environment. The Agency’s intent is to ensure an adaptive land management planning process that is inclusive, efficient, collaborative and science-based to promote healthy, resilient, diverse and productive national forests and grasslands.

Comment on the Planning Rule

Ancient Tree Clones To Be Planted In Effort To Restore Forests, Fight Climate Change

(April 22)

Huffington Post

As nurseryman, David Milarch, and his sons became concerned about the condition of the world’s forests, they planned to restore ancient forests with genetically created tree clones. Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a non-profit group, have developed methods to produce genetic copies of the world’s strongest tress. In recent years, they have focused on towering sequoias and redwoods, considering them best suited to absorb massive volumes of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climate change.

Group faults ‘One Size Fits All’ agricultural policy response to climate change

(April 19)

Premium Times

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), one of the world’s most influential international development and environment policy research organisations, has faulted a general agricultural approach to addressing climate change and its impact on food production. According to the independent, non-profit organization, agricultural policies should be drafted to suit specific needs after putting into consideration geological landmarks, climate variations and other factors.

“Current policy narratives limit climate resilience in world’s dry regions,” the organisation said in a report released on Friday titled ‘Current policy narratives limit climate resilience in world’s dry regions’. It added that partial narratives that underpin policy-making prevent people in dry regions from fulfilling their potential to provide food and sustain resilient livelihoods in a changing climate.

Climate change: lessons in cross-sector collaboration

(April 17)

The Guardian

Connect4Climate (C4C), a global partnership program dedicated to climate change, has set out to engage a broader and more diverse audience. Their aim is to  convene different organisations, groups and individuals who wouldn’t normally speak to one another, around the table to talk about climate change. C4C has chosen to prioritize capacity building and creative cross-sector collaboration.

Tare three prevailing truths that shape the work they do: the first is that there have been far too may COP summits. C4C are now heading towards COP19, without a binding global deal on climate. The second is that no one group has the silver bullet to address climate change. Lastly, no single organisation has nearly enough resources to tackle the issue on their own.

Which Government Policies and Other Factors Have Reduced U.S. Carbon Emissions?

(April 17)

The Energy Collective

The U.S. was the largest emitter carbon dioxide (CO2) until 2006 when China’s emissions exceeded the U.S.  U.S. CO2 emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels peaked in 2007 and have declined significantly over the past five years. Recent Federal regulations, including the EPAct 2005, EISA 2007, and the ARRA 2009 (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research  and Investment section), have successfully supported the expansion of many renewables and significant energy efficiency improvements.  Besides funding increased R&D of renewables and alternatives to petroleum fuels, these regulations have provided substantial subsidies and loan support for commercial development of clean energy technologies.  In addition, the Federal regulations expanded existing energy programs such as vehicle CAFE fuel efficiency standards and ‘renewable fuels standards’ that mandated biofuels blending.

 

N.M. announces program to put veterans to work as wildland firefighters

(April 5)

Greenwire via Red Lodge Clearinghouse

The pilot program will recruit 40 veterans, who will be placed on four fire crews available to fight wildfires across the state. The new program is a collaborative effort among the New Mexico State Forestry Division, the Department of Veterans’ Services and the New Mexico Workforce Connection.

Building Natural Carbon: Five Policy Principles

(April 5)

Grist

Driven by the fossil-fueled industrialization of Asia, carbon dioxide levels hit 395 parts per million in 2012, the highest level in four or five million years.  That was an era when sea levels were around 80 feet higher and temperatures up to 10° Fahrenheit hotter. Disruptive climate change is pushing us towards great carbon-reduction. The biocarbon revolution will be driven by public policy, none more important than policies of the federal government.  There is virtually no branch of the federal government where opportunities could not be uncovered.  A starting place is to line out five federal biocarbon policy principles through which substantial biocarbon storage could be realized:

#1. Channel carbon revenues to biocarbon preserving/building activities.

#2. Incorporate explicit biocarbon goals in federal land conservation granting programs.

#3. Incorporate consideration of green infrastructure alternatives in federal granting programs.

#4. Move planning for federal lands and projects into an ecological services framework that includes carbon.

#5. Incorporate carbon reduction in resiliency efforts

New study: A warming world will further intensify extreme precipitation events

(April 4)

National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration

According to a newly-published NOAA-led study in Geophysical Research Letters, as the globe warms from rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, more moisture in a warmer atmosphere will make the most extreme precipitation events more intense.

The study reports that the extra moisture due to a warmer atmosphere dominates all other factors and leads to notable increases in the most intense precipitation rates.

Percent maximum daily preciptation difference (2071-2100) - (1971-2000).
Percent maximum daily preciptation difference (2071-2100) – (1971-2000).(Credit: NOAA)

The study also shows a 20-30 percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gases continue to rise at a high emissions rate.

New Visions, Smart Choices – Western Water Security in a Changing Climate

Carpe Diem West

Carpe Diem West released a report which spotlights successful, sustainable and economically sensible steps ten communities are taking to make sure they will have water in the decades to come. The report illustrates what communities can do to build a more secure water future and protect our rivers.Local communities are acting to build resilience to help them cope with a changing future.

Oil boom sparks water leasing bill: Proposal would protect rights as demand goes up

(March 30)

Great Falls Tribune

Water rights could be temporarily leased to oil developers or other users under a bill meant to help meet soaring demand for water resulting from the oil development in northeastern Montana. Rep. Bill McChesney, D-Miles City, the sponsor of House Bill 37 would allow water rights holders to lease water for a different use for up to two years, without losing their senior rights. For example, a farmer with a water right for a particular piece of land could decide not to irrigate and lease access to the water for a different kind of use. The oil industry strongly supports the legislation because it streamlines the change-of-use process and and contains safeguards that ensure water is not pirated

Climate change tipping points in fire management

(March 29)

Firescience.gov

Fire management in the Northern Rockies seek to understand how climate changes in fires affect management responses. Researchers created simulations of progressively warmer and drier or wetter climate scenarios for the Western U.S. that represent potential future fire and vegetation dynamics. They concluded that forest cover and structure are influenced by climate and fire regimes and that climate changes can modify fire regimes and facilitate forest to shrub and grassland transitions.

Justices uphold EPA’s policy on logging road runoff

(March 22)

Red Lodge Clearnignhouse

The Supreme Court today upheld U.S. EPA’s policy for regulating stormwater runoff on logging roads in the Pacific Northwest. The 7-1 ruling in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center backed EPA’s policy that logging roads are not industrial point-source pollution and consequently don’t require Clean Water Act permits.

The decision is a blow to environmental groups like the Portland, Ore.-based NEDC, which argued that the channeled runoff carries sediment and other contamination into forest streams, polluting their ecosystems. It was widely welcomed, however, by the timber industry. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the court’s opinion, noted that days before the court heard arguments on the case in December 2012, EPA amended its policy and formally said the logging roads are not an industrial activity — and thus do not require the permits.

Look to the World’s Forests — and the People Who Live There — for Climate Change Solutions

(March21)

Huffington Post

The global dialogue around climate change tends to focus on energy policy. But there are issues beyond energy. Forest loss is now responsible for almost one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than all global transportation combined. Fortunately, real progress on this issue is within our reach. We now have a number of tools to prevent forest loss and keep the oceans at bay. One of the least appreciated is community management of forests, a proven approach that can help turn the tide.

High court to rule on forest plan challenge

(March 18)

SF Gate

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether environmental groups can challenge a federal government plan that has led to increased logging in California forests throughout the Sierra. The plan was adopted in 2004 by President George W. Bush’s administration for 11 national forests covering 11.5 million acres. In February 2012, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the government had failed to analyze the potential impact of more tree-cutting and road-building on fish in the mountain streams. Nine species of fish in those streams are listed as threatened or endangered.

The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold Monday and granted review of an appeal by the Obama administration, which argued that the suit was premature because the overall forest management plan did not authorize any specific logging projects.

USGS water study details evapotranspiration rates

(March 18)

Summit County Citizens Voice

At least 80 percent of the precipitation that falls in the hot and dry American Southwest is lost to evapotranspiration, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said in a new report that will help resource managers plan for the future. The study, published in the Journal of the American Water Resources, is the first to map average evapotranspiration rates across the continental United States. Knowing those rates is important because ir’s part of the equation for determining the amount of water available for people and ecosystems.

To arrive at their findings, the scientists compared total annual average precipitation with the long-term discharges from 838 watersheds across the U.S. Then they plugged other climate data into the equation to determine the evapotranspiration rates.

Shifting Climate Change to the Present

(March 18)

The Georgetown Public Policy Review

From a whimper to a bang, climate change is back on the agenda. President Obama must play the jobs card if he wants to win this time around. If climate change legislation is to succeed in the current political landscape, the President will need to reframe the debate around the jobs already lost, or severely at risk, because of the impact of climate change today.

Unfortunately, examples abound. According to the New York State Labor Department, Hurricane Sandy destroyed nearly 30,000 jobs in and around New York City. Ocean acidification—caused by increased atmospheric carbon—is seriously threatening commercial fishing along the US coastline. Oyster harvests in the US Pacific Northwest—worth over $110 million annually—have rapidly declined over the last five years, with thousands of jobs on the line.

Forest Service decides to “let it burn”

(March 8)

Last year, as hot, dry conditions fueled blazes across the West, nearly 10 million acres of U.S. land were burned in what ended up being one of the costliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in the nation’s history. In the middle of all that, the U.S. Forest Service, which manages nearly 200 million acres of public land, didn’t do itself any favors when it reversed nearly two decades of national policy and ordered an “aggressive initial attack” on all blazes within the agency’s jurisdiction, no matter how small or remote.

This year, it appears the agency is moving back toward what ecologists and fire scientists have considered the best practices for almost 40 years now: fires that are sparked in remote wilderness, where they aren’t hurting anyone, should be allowed to burn. That’s because fire, as a natural part of the environment, is good for the ecosystem. Some essential animal and plant species actually thrive in fire-ravaged landscapes, and by thinning out excess timber and clearing out dry underbrush, small forest fires can help prevent large and deadlier blazes in the future.

Al Gore Wants You To Drop A Dose Of Climate Change Reality On Internet Commenters: But does mindlessly repeating the same talking points really have any effect?

(March 1)

Co.Exist

There will always be people who ignore climate science, no matter how concrete it may be. Nevertheless, Arnold Worldwide and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project are hoping to give the public tools to fight climate change deniers in the environment where they thrive: the Internet. Reality Drop, a social media tool launched by Al Gore this week at TED, aims to give visitors talking points that they can share in the comments section of popular online climate change stories.

One of the top stories on Reality Drop right now is a piece in BusinessWeek discussing how a tax on carbon emissions in the U.S. would be greater than any resulting revenue gain. Reality Drop visitors are encouraged to “drop reality” by rallying their social networks around the story, deciding whether it’s fact or fiction, and using pre-packaged talking points to win the argument in the comments section.

NASA: Climate change thins forests in eastern U.S.

(March 1)

USA Today

Years of drought and high temperatures have damaged not only corn and other crops nationwide but also the forests in the eastern United States. Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic’s forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week. Other afflicted areas include southern Appalachia, the southeastern coast and to a lesser extent, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.

Does China Really Need U.S. Coal?

(March 1)

Triple Pundit

There are many reasons to oppose exporting U.S. coal to Asia through five planned terminals in the Pacific Northwest, including huge health, safety and environmental risks. But what if the entire underlying economic rationale—China’s supposed insatiable demand for U.S. coal exports—rests on a house of cards? What if that perceived and anticipated market, even if it once existed, now no longer exists?

That’s the theme of a Greenpeace report issued this week, The Myth of China’s Endless Coal Demand: A missing market for U.S. Exports. The 18-page report identifies various factors that cast doubt on the future of Chinese demand for U.S. coal, including new national and local policies in China aimed at reducing air pollution and capping coal use, slowing economic growth, surging renewable energy growth, and increased public concern about air pollution.

International conference to tackle climate-change threats to agriculture

(March 1)

Central Valley Business Times

Scientists and policymakers from around the world are scheduled to gather March 20-22 at the University of California, Davis, to grapple with threats of climate change to agriculture and recommend science-based actions to slow its effects while meeting the world’s need for food, livelihood and sustainability.

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference, planned in coordination with the World Bank, builds on a 2011 international meeting on this theme in the Netherlands. Conference topics will focus on the implications of cutting-edge agricultural, ecological and environmental research for improved design of policies and actions affecting agricultural management and development; identifying farm and food-system issues, determining research gaps; highlighting emerging research initiatives; and developing transformative policies and institutions.

2013 Distinguished Lecture – Tom Tidwell: “Sustaining Forests in the Time of Climate Change”

(February 14)

“By restoration I simply mean that restoring the functions and the processes that are characteristic of healthy, resistant, resilient, ecosystems even if it’s not exactly the same systems that were there before. I can’t stress this enough what a challenge this is. The things that we all learned when we went to school, the things that we learned during our careers about what is the right prescription for this stand, what’s the right thing to do to stabilize this watershed–we need to recognize that what worked the last 20, 30, 40 years–50, 100 years, may not work in the future.”