Colorado renewable energy potential: sun on the left, wind on the right. NREL; sun, wind
New modeling shows the state can decarbonize — at a savings.
Of all the states in the US, Colorado may be the best prepared for a genuine, large-scale energy transition.
For one thing, thanks to its bountiful sunlight and wind, Colorado has enormous potential for renewable energy, most of which is untapped. The state currently generates only 3 percent of its electricity from solar and just under 18 percent from wind.
The political climate is favorable as well. As of earlier this year, Democrats have a “trifecta” in the state, with control over the governorship and both houses of the legislature. Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a promise to target 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. In their last session, he and the legislature passed a broad suite of bills meant to boost renewable energy, reform utilities, expand EV markets, and decarbonize the state economy.
Colorado has the three main ingredients it needs to get going on clean energy: a healthy economy, plentiful sunlight and wind, and Democrats firmly in charge of state government.
Over the last year or so, energy systems modeler and analyst Christopher Clack, with his team at the energy research outfit Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE), has been taking a close look at what Colorado is capable of in terms of clean energy, and what it might cost. (The research was commissioned by renewable energy developer Community Energy.) 11-07-19
Read more at Vox
Taking a Different Approach to Fighting Climate Change
Mr. Rao, in rear, conducted a survey of energy use in a school in Uttar Pradesh in India in 2014.
The research of Narasimha Rao, a Yale professor, shows that reducing inequality could improve our ability to mitigate some of the worst effects on the environment.
When policymakers, financiers and scientists describe the world decades from now, in the throes of climatic changes that we now only model, they emphasize what might be lost. They discuss the threats to gross domestic product, the havoc wrought by natural disasters or the runaway greenhouse gas emissions released by emerging national economies.
To Narasimha Rao, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies specializing in energy systems analysis, that is a false choice, one that sacrifices justice on the altar of economic growth.
So far, the global economy has not been able to fully decouple growth in G.D.P. from growth in greenhouse gas emissions. That relationship portends doom for a planet trying to keep emissions in check in order to avoid global catastrophe and also for emerging economies — mainly in the global south — working to lift millions out of poverty, and to achieve the levels of growth and success that the United States and much of the West have experienced. 11-07-19
Read more at The New York Times
Trees are Healing the Planet
Credit: Cabildo Resguardo Indígena Cañamomo Lomaprieta via Facebook
A recent study found that new forests might be our best shot at saving the world. A global guide to doing it right.
It’s not often these days that there is good news about climate change. So when a recent study suggested that establishing a trillion new trees around the world could turn back the climate clock to the 1970’s, it landed like a bombshell in the scientific community. Researchers analyzing satellite data calculated about 2.2 billion acres of available land around the world that could be converted into forest cover, capturing 205 gigatonnes of CO2. This could bring down atmospheric levels by twenty five percent.
Prof. Thomas Crowther who co-authored the research said, “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today.”
That’s a big statement — one that got the whole world got excited to run out and plant trees. Hell, it even became an election platform.
But there are many challenges with planning landscape-level projects decades into the future, especially as climate change alters local growing conditions. And unless the underlying causes of past deforestation are addressed, any new trees planted may suffer the same fate as the ones they are replacing.
So before we all stick shovels in the ground, we decided to take a look at some examples of resilient reforestation efforts and why they worked. 11-06-19
Read more at Reasons to Be Cheerful
Trump Interior nominee fast-tracked a ‘deficient’ drilling permit
Providence shows other cities how environmental justice is done
“Still Here,” a Gaia mural of Lynsea Montanari and Princess Redwing in Providence, RI, represents indigenous communities’ centuries-long fight against erasure. The city’s new plan aims to stop displacement and make sure marginalized communities are heard. Lane Turner / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
This Spring, right before Earth Day, New York City passed its very own Green New Deal — an ambitious plan for eliminating carbon emissions by 2050. Los Angeles launched its own plan with the same name and goal just a few weeks later (ouch, that’s gotta hurt!). Boston’s got a climate plan. So do Seattle and Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine. We’re still waiting on Portland, Texas, but across the country, cities are announcing climate action plans like it’s going out of style.
So how did Providence, Rhode Island, which announced a standard, net-zero-by-2050 pledge in 2016, end up with a newly released Climate Justice Plan that looks so different from the parade of municipal “Green New Deals?” And could other cities get there, too?
“For a while, we were calling it a climate action plan with an equity lens, and we didn’t really know what it was going to be,” said Leah Bamberger, Director of Sustainability for the City of Providence. “At the end of it I was like, ‘Oh — this is a climate justice plan.’”
Yes, it’s got all the typical trappings of a climate action plan: Get 100 percent of municipal buildings running on renewable energy by 2030. Increase electric vehicle trips to 80 percent of total vehicle miles traveled by 2050. Install heat pumps in about half the city’s residences by 2035. Zzzz. 11-01-19
Read more at Grist
This classroom on a Chesapeake Bay island taught generations of students. As the sea rises, its doors are closing.
Writer Tom Horton recounts his history with Fox Island while sitting in the lodge. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
FOX ISLAND, Va. — In the hallway of a weatherworn lodge that has stood on stilts in the Chesapeake Bay for more than 90 years, a negotiation is underway. Who will take the maps? The arrowheads? The turtle skeletons adorned with wigs and leis? How much student art, accumulated over more than 40 years of field trips, should be saved?
Captain Larry Laird lifted an electric drill to the wall of the cabin that has been the heart of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s island education initiative. He pressed his trigger finger. Screws separated from the wood with a whir. The boat captain let out a low sigh.
Generations of middle and high school students have come here to learn about the fragile ecosystem of the bay. Now, the Virginia island, about six miles from Crisfield, Md., off the Eastern Shore, has succumbed to the very forces these educational programs have sought to fight: a warming climate, rising sea levels and disappearing shores.
Schoolchildren have come to the Fox Island learning center by the busload for nearly half a century. For many, it was like being in another world.
They slept in bunk beds and used compost toilets. They stargazed and combed the beach for terrapin eggs. They mucked through sea grass and dove into heaps of mud. They analyzed their home water usage and devised ways to lessen their carbon footprint. On the walls, they left footprints, names and a message, scrawled over and over again: “SAVE THE BAY.”
In the past 40 years, foundation officials said, water has swallowed about 70 percent of Fox Island — so named because when viewed from above, the land once resembled a fox plodding along through the waves. 10-31-19
Read more at The Washington Post
White House Pressed Car Makers to Join Its Fight Over California Emissions Rules
Andrew Olmem, a special assistant to the president for financial policy, called on car companies to side with the Trump administration.Credit…Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg
WASHINGTON — Monday’s surprise move by General Motors, Toyota and other auto giants to back President Trump in his fight with California over pollution rules came after days of White House pressure to support one of the administration’s biggest efforts to weaken climate regulations.
Previously, many automakers had indicated to California that they would not take a stand, according to Mary D. Nichols, chairwoman of California’s clean air regulator, the Air Resources Board.
Late last week, their stance quickly changed.
Andrew Olmem, a top policy aide to Mr. Trump, began calling car companies to push them to sign on to the administration’s effort in the courts to eliminate California’s right to set its own auto emissions rules on planet warming pollution, a power granted under the Clean Air Act of 1970. He was joined on the phone in some cases by Justice Department officials, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The auto industry was already divided. In July four other major companies — Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW — publicly sided with California. 10-30-19
Read more at The Washington Post
Major Coal Producer And Trump Booster Files For Bankruptcy
A bulldozer moving coal at the Murray Energy Corporation port facility in Powhatan Point, Ohio.Credit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters
The Trump administration has spent three years trying to help the coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations and pushing for subsidies for coal-fired power plants. Still, the long list of coal company bankruptcies has continued, and dozens more plants have announced their retirement since President Trump took office.
Now the list of bankruptcies includes a company headed by one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. Murray Energy Corp. filed for Chapter 11 on Tuesday morning.
The company says it reached an agreement to restructure and continue operating. As part of that, Bob Murray — the chairman, president and CEO — will relinquish two of his roles. His nephew, Robert Moore, will become president and CEO while Murray will stay on as chairman.
“When you’re a private company and you’re in financial failure, the first person that loses everything is the owner. And that’s what will happen,” Murray tells NPR.
Murray has had a close relationship with the Trump administration. He donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration and has met with administration officials to advance the coal industry’s interests. 10-29-19
Read more at NPR
House Democrats set to introduce first-of-its-kind climate refugee bill
House Democrats are set to introduce the first major piece of legislation to establish protections for migrants displaced by climate change, ramping up a push for a long-overdue framework for how the United States should respond to a crisis already unfolding on its shores.
The bill, called the Climate Displaced Persons Act, would create a federal program separate from the existing refugee program to take in a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants starting next year.
The legislation, a copy of which HuffPost obtained, directs the White House to collect data on people displaced by extreme weather, drought and sea level rise and submit an annual report to Congress. It also requires the State Department to work with other federal agencies to create a Global Climate Resilience Strategy that puts global warming at the center of U.S. foreign policy.
The bill, set to be introduced by Representative Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat, is a companion to legislation proposed by Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey, one of the leading advocates for a Green New Deal. Its introduction in the House of Representatives marks an escalation as Democrats start to flesh out what a sweeping federal plan to eliminate emissions and prepare the country for more climate catastrophe would look like.
The 21-page proposal looks unlikely to become law while Donald Trump, who rejects climate science and slashed the country’s refugee cap to a historic low of 18,000 last month, remains president. 10-26-19
Read more at Grist
Americans would rather reduce oil and gas exploration than ‘drill, baby, drill’
The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It.
A polling place at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The state has imposed tough restrictions on using student IDs for voting. Credit: Joshua Lott, The New York Times
The share of college students casting ballots doubled from 2014 to 2018, a potential boon to Democrats. But in Texas and elsewhere, Republicans are erecting roadblocks to the polls.
At Austin Community College, civics is an unwritten part of the curriculum — so much so that for years the school has tapped its own funds to set up temporary early-voting sites on nine of its 11 campuses.
No more, however. This spring, the Texas Legislature outlawed polling places that did not stay open for the entire 12-day early-voting period. When the state’s elections take place in three weeks, those nine sites — which logged many of the nearly 14,000 ballots that full-time students cast last year — will be shuttered. So will six campus polling places at colleges in Fort Worth, two in Brownsville, on the Mexico border, and other polling places at schools statewide.
“It was a beautiful thing, a lot of people out there in those long lines,” said Grant Loveless, a 20-year-old majoring in psychology and political science who voted last November at a campus in central Austin. “It would hurt a lot of students if you take those polling places away.”
The story at Austin Community College is but one example of a political drama playing out nationwide: After decades of treating elections as an afterthought, college students have begun voting in force. 10-24-19
Read more at The Boston Globe
New study pinpoints the places most at risk on a warming planet
Jens Büttner / Picture Alliance via Getty Images
As many as five billion people will face hunger and a lack of clean water by 2050 as the warming climate disrupts pollination, freshwater, and coastal habitats, according to new research published last week in Science. People living in South Asia and Africa will bear the worst of it.
Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering. But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity. It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer.
This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be. It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model.
Patricia Balvanera, a professor of biodiversity at National University of Mexico who wasn’t involved in the study, said the new model “provides an extremely important tool to inform policy decisions and shape responses.” 10-17-19
Read more at Grist
The Worst Day in Earth’s History Contains an Ominous Warning
Tiny fossils—each half the size of a grain of sand—from Geulhemmerberg Cave in the Netherlands, the only place on Earth that contains fossils from the oceans in the decades and centuries after the K-T impact. (Michael J. Henehan / PNAS)
One of the planet’s most dramatic extinctions was caused in part by ocean acidification, which has become a problem in our own era.
The worst day in the history of life on Earth, so far, happened almost exactly 66 million years ago, when an asteroid roughly the size of Manhattan slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula.
You may know the story. The asteroid—which arrived, probably, in June or July—immediately drilled a 20-mile hole into the planet’s surface, vaporizing bedrock and spewing it halfway to the moon. The planet shuddered with magnitude-12 earthquakes, loosing tsunamis across the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the ejected debris condensed in orbit and plunged back to Earth as searing spheres of molten glass, which torched the land and turned forests into firestorms. Other debris remained high in space, where it blocked the sun’s rays and began to chill the surface of the planet.
By the time it was over, about 75 percent of all species on Earth had died, including all nonavian dinosaurs. The event, which ended the Cretaceous Period and began the Tertiary Period, is named the K-T extinction.
Since 1980, when the K-T impact hypothesis was first proposed, the Day the Dinosaurs Died has attained almost mythic significance. But questions remain about the theory. None of the Earth’s other big mass extinctions were caused by an asteroid impact. Why did this one end the 180-million-year reign of the dinosaurs?
A new paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a possible answer: The impact changed the chemical content of the ocean, rendering seawater more acidic and inhospitable to the tiny plankton that form the base of the marine food chain. Combined with the other effects of the asteroid—darkened skies and a snap of global cooling—this ecologic disruption doomed much of life on Earth. 10-22-19
Read more at The Atlantic
Editorial: Will SC need gas pipeline like it needed abandoned coal, nuclear plants?
Originally published in The Post & Courier
In 2007, Santee Cooper said it would run out of electricity to power Myrtle Beach within five years if it didn’t build a $1.2 billion coal plant on the Great Pee Dee River.
The next year, SCE&G and Santee Cooper said they wouldn’t be able to keep powering most of South Carolina unless they built two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.
The year after that, Santee Cooper acknowledged that, well, no, it didn’t really need the coal plant after all. It walked away from the nascent project after spending $242 million.
And in 2017, after spending $9 billion on the unfinished reactors, Santee Cooper and SCE&G walked away from them as well, citing massive cost overruns and delays — and a precipitous drop in current and projected energy demand.
In the two years since, Santee Cooper and the successor of the now-defunct SCE&G, Dominion Energy, have essentially acknowledged that they’ll meet our energy needs just fine without all that extra capacity.
We understand that utilities have to project power demand years or decades in advance, because it takes years to plan, permit and build a new power source. We understand that natural gas is far preferable to coal. And that South Carolina needs a diversified energy mix.
Still, it’s important to keep our expensive recent history in mind as Dominion, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance start laying the groundwork to argue that we have to have another natural gas pipeline extended through South Carolina to meet our future energy needs.
Dominion CEO Tom Farrell, whose company is building the $7.5 billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina, told S.C. regulators last year that he “would like to bring the pipeline to South Carolina if the demand is there,” and “I am hopeful that it will come.”
And Chamber CEO Ted Pitts told The Post and Courier’s Andrew Brown last week: “Eventually, we are going to need additional natural gas capacity” to fuel economic development. That was right after we published a letter to that effect from Mr. Pitts and Manufacturers Alliance CEO Sara Hazzard.
It might turn out that we really do need additional natural gas capacity. Or it might turn out that we need another natural-gas pipeline about as much as we needed the coal plant and the nuclear reactors. 10-19-19
Peter Dykstra: Spoiling “America’s Best Idea”
The bipartisan neglect of our National Parks
Credit: Anacostia Trails Heritage Area/flickr
Cape Cod is a special place for me, and for my environmental awakening.
Like so many special places, the Cape is under constant threat from its own popularity. Second homes, vacation rentals, and all of the tawdry elements of an American vacation paradise began to take over the Cape in the mid-twentieth century.
Parts of Cape Cod began to look like a hybrid of a seaside suburb and the Jersey Shore.
The Cape, or at least part of it, had a savior. John F. Kennedy, the dashing young Senator whose dynastic family had an estate at Hyannis Port, championed the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Despite some furious opposition from landholders and business interests, the Seashore was signed into law in August 1961 by President Kennedy. The 43,000 acres of the Seashore have dodged suburbanization, and are still relatively pristine. 10-20-19
Read more at Environmental Health News
The Stark Inequality of Climate Change
As Hurricane Florence moved across the Atlantic in early September of 2018, state officials issued evacuation orders for communities along the Virginia and Carolina coasts. The writer and law professor Jedediah Purdy, who was teaching at Duke at the time, was situated well inland, where the Atlantic coastal plain meets the Piedmont, and in his new book, “This Land Is Our Land,” he writes about his own surge of disaster preparation. Stocking up on canned goods and candles, he was also cataloguing his dependencies, contemplating how his household might get along without stocked shops and available gasoline. Could he make a cup of coffee if the electricity went out or remember loved ones’ phone numbers without the use of a smartphone? Human beings, at least we modern ones, are “an infrastructure species,” he writes, dependent on elaborate systems for shelter, electricity, and water. Purdy contemplates the potential devastation—the friendliest, nearest-term end of the the disaster-scenario spectrum laid out by David Wallace-Wells in “The Uninhabitable Earth,” but still no picnic—and thinks of the fate of what King Lear calls “unaccommodated man,” defenseless and soggy, “like an oyster ripped from its shell.”
The accelerating climate crisis is a Rorschach test, with everyone responding differently to the inkblot of planetary trauma. Hard deniers (a shrinking group) believe, or convince themselves, that established science is not real; softer deniers may understand the problem on some osmotic level but choose not to engage. Others react with outrage, terror, or gallows humor, or settle in somewhere on the spectrum between anxious resignation and outright nihilism. Some get to work securing a bunker and a disaster-preparedness plan, wishing to insulate at least their own homes and families from the wider risk. Others metabolize their anxiety into demonstrations, like the marchers who filled streets around the world in September’s global climate strike, or into direct-action protest, like the two women, indicted last month, who are now facing decades in prison for sabotaging the Dakota Access Pipeline’s progress in Iowa. (They are awaiting trial.) Purdy’s response, a scholarly kind of action, is to break down the politics that created the climate crisis, identifying the extractive practices and competitive ways of thinking that brought on the Anthropocene and imagining a system that could help us get out of it. 10-17-19
Read more at The New Times
Op-ed: Natural gas vs. renewable energy — beware the latest gas industry talking points
The natural gas industry is on an aggressive public relations tear to convince Americans that for decades to come, it is the “bridge” between coal and renewable energy.
The campaign is loaded with disinformation. The American Petroleum Institute (API) says it’s pushing gas as a “foundation for the future” because it is “clean.” Major fossil fuel companies including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell are API members. The Independent Petroleum Association of America is playing up outdated 2008 praise of gas by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to decry pledges by leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for gas.
Dark money has also ramped up. A group called the Empowerment Alliance popped up last month to condemn the Green New Deal as “radical and unachievable.” The Alliance claims: “Eliminating our natural gas advantage will destroy our economy, kill American jobs and lead to more income inequality.”
It is no coincidence that the PR blitz comes amid an avalanche of unfavorable developments that should make us question whether natural gas should still be considered a natural choice for power generation.
First, there’s the fact that the heat-trapping properties of methane are contributing to climate change, which is accelerating much faster than previously thought. 10-27-19
Read more at The Daily Climate
Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight
William Moomaw has had a distinguished career as a physical chemist and environmental scientist, helping found the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and serving as lead author on five reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In recent years, Moomaw has turned his attention to working on natural solutions to climate change and has become a leading proponent of what he calls “proforestation” — leaving older and middle-aged forests intact because of their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.
While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.
“The most effective thing that we can do is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their full ecological potential, to store carbon, and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services,” said Moomaw. “Cutting trees to burn them is not a way to get there.”10-15-19
Read more at Yale Environment 360
The Story of Plastic: New Film Exposes the Source of Our Plastic Crisis
Petrochemical facilities in the Houston ship channel. Roy Luck / CC BY 2.0
Prigi Arisandi, who founded the environmental group Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation, picks through a heap of worn plastic packaging in Mojokerto, Indonesia. Reading the labels, he calls out where the trash originated: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada. The logos range from Nestlé to Bob’s Red Mill, Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts.
The trash of rich nations has become the burden of poorer countries.
It’s one of dozens of moving scenes in a new feature-length documentary called The Story of Plastic,directed by Deia Schlosberg and presented by The Story Of Stuff Project, the organization first known for its punchy digital shorts about consumption and environmental issues.
We all know by now that plastic waste is a problem — it’s washing ashore on beaches, swirling in giant ocean eddies, gumming up the insides of whales and seabirds, and embedding itself in the farthest reaches of the planet. But most media coverage focuses on the end of the line — where plastics end up — and not where they came from or why.
The Story of Plastic fills that void. 10-12-19
Read more at EcoWatch
Will New Pork Rules Put the Meat on Your Plate and Workers at Risk?
Photo: Gerry Broome / AP
Last month, the USDA quietly issued a new rule changing meat inspection standards for pork. Not only does the new rule mean slaughterhouses can run their processing lines as fast as they want, it also changes who does the inspecting, giving the pork producers themselves a bigger role in the process.
For our podcast, Trump on Earth, we talk with Tom Philpott, food and agriculture reporter for Mother Jones, about what the changes could mean for the safety of food and workers.
“Just picture the hog being stunned and then this carcass going down the line and workers immediately setting to cut it up at this rate; pull the guts out and start breaking it down,” he said. “These are facilities that are full of lots and lots of blood and guts and enormous animals being slaughtered.”
The changes represent the first updates to hog slaughterhouse inspection procedures in over 50 years. Proponents says they will bring much-needed modernization and innovation to the industry. Critics say it’s a dangerous move toward privatization and decreased food safety.
The faster speeds have already been piloted in five facilities. A few years ago, a secret video was filmed inside one of them, a slaughterhouse in Minnesota that supplies Hormel. 10-11-19
Read more at the Alleghany Front
These State Birds May Be Forced Out of Their States as the World Warms
Georgia: Brown Thrasher Could lose 98 percent of its summer range in the state
Each state in America has an official state bird, usually an iconic species that helps define the landscape. Minnesota chose the common loon, whose haunting wails echo across the state’s northern lakes each summer. Georgia picked the brown thrasher, a fiercely territorial bird with a repertoire of more than 1,000 song types.
But as the planet warms and birds across the country relocate to escape the heat, at least eight states could see their state birds largely or entirely disappear from within their borders during the summer, according to a new study.
The research, released Thursday by the National Audubon Society, projects that hundreds of bird species across North America are likely to drastically shift their ranges in the decades ahead in response to rising temperatures and other threats from climate change.
The report raises the prospect that many bird species could struggle to cope as warming forces them into unfamiliar territory or shrinks their existing habitats. And it illustrates how thoroughly the avian world as we know it may be remapped if humans continue pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
If global temperatures rise a plausible 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels this century, Minnesota will no longer enjoy the local climate conditions that loons are accustomed to as they arrive each summer to breed and hunt for food, the study found. As a result, the birds may bypass the state altogether and head farther north.
The same goes for other state birds, including the northern flicker in Alabama — known locally as the yellowhammer — as well as the brown thrasher in Georgia, the purple finch in New Hampshire, the hermit thrush in Vermont and the goldfinch in Iowa and New Jersey. Those birds are projected to lose virtually all of their summer ranges within those states at 3 degrees of global warming. 10-10-19
Read more at The New York Times
As Sea Levels Rise, So Do Ghost Forests
Saltwater is killing woodlands along the East Coast, sometimes surprisingly far from the sea.
Up and down the mid-Atlantic coast, sea levels are rising rapidly, creating stands of dead trees — often bleached, sometimes blackened — known as ghost forests.
The water is gaining as much as 5 millimeters per year in some places, well above the global average of 3.1 millimeters, driven by profound environmental shifts that include climate change.
Increasingly powerful storms, a consequence of a warming world, push seawater inland. More intense dry spells reduce freshwater flowing outward. Adding to the peril, in some places the land is naturally sinking.
All of this allows seawater to claim new territory, killing trees from the roots up.
Rising seas often conjure the threat to faraway, low-lying nations or island-states. But to understand the immediate consequences of some of the most rapid sea-level rise anywhere in the world, stand among the scraggly, dying pines of Dorchester County along the Maryland coast.
People living on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary system, have a front-row view of the sea’s rapid advance, said Keryn Gedan, a wetland ecologist at George Washington University.
Part of the reason for the quickly rising waters may be that the Gulf Stream, which flows northward up the coast, is slowing down as meltwater from Greenland inhibits its flow. That is causing what some scientists describe as a pileup of water along the East Coast, elevating sea levels locally.
The effects of climate change are also exacerbated by land that is sinking as a result of geological processes triggered by the end of the last ice age. 10-09-19
Read more at The New York Times
From the Rooftops, Big Box Stores Are Embracing Solar
The solar panels on the roof of Target’s distribution center in Phoenix can be seen by passengers arriving and departing on flights at nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.Credit
Target and Walmart are trying to out-green each other in proving to customers they are environmentally responsible businesses.
Target’s famous bull’s-eye is so cosmically linked with the brand that it’s hard to imagine the retail behemoth ever messing with the logo’s red color. But over the past decade — under pressure from customers, shareholders and employees — Target’s retail future is morphing into a very different hue: eco-green.
The Minneapolis retailer best-known for its trendy, private-label brands and its millennial-friendly prices, has very publicly embraced the renewable energy passions of its millennial-heavy consumer base and is adding rooftop solar panels to its stores to generate renewable electricity at a breathtaking pace.
Target is so serious about being viewed as a friend of the planet that by November, the company said, it will have erected rooftop solar panels on 500 of its stores in the United States. That’s more than one-quarter of its total 1,855 stores, and Target expects to reach that goal one year earlier than projected.
By the end of 2019, Target will have achieved 25 percent of its mission to attain 100 percent renewable electricity in its stores — and this just months after announcing the pledge. In its relentless bid to out-green archrival Walmart, Target also has ranked No. 1 in on-site solar capacity for three years in a row in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Means Business report, a survey of corporate solar users.10-07-19
Read more at The New York Times
A Brief Guide to the Impacts of Climate Change on Food Production
Food may be a universal language — but in these record-breaking hot days, so too is climate change. With July clocking in as the hottest month on Earth in recorded history and extreme weather ramping up globally, farmers are facing the brunt of climate change in croplands and pastures around the world.
Here in the U.S., for instance, climate impacts like more downpours make it harder to avert flooding and erosion on farms across the Midwest. California farmers, on the other hand, must find ways to stay productive despite increasing drought and wildfire risks.
It all amounts to far more than anecdotal inconvenience: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth National Climate Assessment report projects that warming temperatures, severe heat, drought, wildfire, and major storms will “increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity,” threatening not only farmers’ livelihoods but also food security, quality, and price stability.
If these anticipated effects sound extreme, so too are the causes. 10-05-19
Some economics nerds just realized how much climate change will cost us
Frank Bienewald / LightRocket via Getty Images
A bunch of economists just put down their calculators and concluded that we should act on climate change sooner rather than later. Really.
For decades, economists have suggested that the government should charge a fee on every ton of carbon dioxide that gets emitted, giving companies a bottom-line incentive to change their polluting ways. The conventional wisdom is that we’d ease into it, starting with a low price — say, $40 per ton — and gradually ramp it up over time.
But according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that prevailing wisdom is backwards. The authors argue that a carbon tax should start out steep, above $100 per ton (and potentially above $200 per ton), rise higher for a few years, and then slowly fall over the next few centuries as people get the whole climate crisis thing under control.
Such a high price would encourage countries and businesses to clean up their act much faster. Part of the reason is that we need to make up for lost time. The implication is that the United States and most governments have waited so long to put a price on carbon that a milder approach just doesn’t make much sense.
“To me the most surprising result of the research was how quickly the cost of delay increases over time,” said Robert Litterman, a risk management expert who used to work for Goldman Sachs, in a statement accompanying the study. His team found that if the world procrastinated on a carbon price by just one more year, the damages from climate change would climb an additional $1 trillion. Waiting 10 years would put the price tag at $100 trillion. In other words, the time to act was yesterday (or, like the 1980s). 10-03-19
Read more at Grist
Dolphins are swimming, mating and even giving birth in the Potomac
Common bottlenose dolphins surface in the Potomac River near Reedville, Va. on Sept. 25. (Parker Michels-Boyce for The Washington Post. Photograph taken under NMFS Permit No. 19403.)
REEDVILLE, Va. — Five decades ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the polluted Potomac River a “national disgrace.” Although it is now much cleaner, officials in Washington are still not convinced the water is safe for humans to swim in.
But many miles downriver, where the Potomac widens to lakelike proportions as it flows toward the Chesapeake Bay, it teems with a different species of swimmers whose presence may signal healthier waters: dolphins.
During the past four years, researchers who study the common bottlenose dolphins swimming this part of the Potomac have hardly been able to keep up with their numbers. Dolphins are easily identified by their distinct fins or marks on their bodies, and in 2015, scientists identified about 200 individuals in one section of river off Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now they have counted well over 1,000 dolphins, which sometimes congregate in groups of more than 200.
But an even more unusual development in this effort to understand the dolphins in “the nation’s river” came in August, when researchers with the project, based at Georgetown University, witnessed evidence of a dolphin birth. It was only the third documented observation of a wild dolphin birth, and those present say they hope it makes area residents view the Potomac differently.
“There are dolphins here, and there’s breeding and birthing going on, and this is connected to D.C. — such a populated, urban area,” Ann-Marie Jacoby, associate director of the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project, said on a recent morning while scanning the lower Potomac from the 18-foot skiff that serves as a research vessel. “You follow it further down and there’s all this wildlife here. And what people are doing up there, it does affect wildlife. They are directly linked to this oasis.” 10-02-19
Read more at The Washington Post