Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on How Millennials Can Shape Our Climate Future

Blog-Sep 05, 2016

By Ellie Ramm

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000, millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around — housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Ellie Ramm works in a variety of capacities to build engagement and action on climate and energy issues of interest to states, cities and businesses to foster low-carbon, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions. She also researches the connection between behavior and sustainability, in an effort to raise awareness about actions that individuals can take at home and in the community to live more sustainably. She is currently the Solutions and Engagement Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

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EarthBy Erin Twamley

Mother Earth has a fever, and our home is at stake.

We  hear this message day after day. In response, we do what we can to live better: we use efficient light bulbs; we recycle; we carry around  reusable mugs. And we worry about the future. We worry that our actions are not enough.

Many of us want to address climate change more directly. But one of the challenges is conveying to our communities that sense of urgency expressed in the blog post, “Why Should You Care About Community,” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Don’t get me wrong, the climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference  was #onegiantleap forward. A staggering 97% of the world’s carbon polluters signed the agreement and the Green Climate Fund will support the pledge by investing nearly 100 billion dollars toward drastic greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. But climate data from February 2016 show there are still enormous leaps to be made.

COP21

So what else can you do? Let this be your invitation to #takecharge and consider your role in creating a better planet. Because, as the Earth Day Network encourages, a billion individual acts of green can add up to a powerful change.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to encourage your community join the climate change movement:

  1. Use stories about local innovation to start a positive climate change conversation. 

Do you know where the Greenest School in the World” is located? In Washington DC! In 2015, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded this distinction to Dunbar High School for their use of renewable energy sources like solar, water conservation systems and geothermal to power the school.

Pro-tip: Learn which businesses, housing communities and restaurants are addressing climate change. Find out and share what local schools are doing – everyone loves to have conversations about youth and the future.

  1. Capture Images of #ActOnClimate. 

In addition to sharing snaps of your travel adventures, foodie pics and funny shots with your friends, you can use Instagram to send a message about the Earth, the environment or that picturesque day. Photos send a quick and powerful message.

Pro-tip: Use the hashtag #MotherEarth on Instagram.

#MotherEarth

#MotherEarth

  1. Read other perspectives. 

Climate change impacts communities around the world. But how it impacts yours is unique. Read articles, blogs and first-hand accounts of how people are being impacted today. Learn more about the predictions of climate change impacts from Norway to China. The consequences vary around the world, but we are a global community.

  1. Join the movement online. 

Join the global conversation! Use social media channels such as Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to share blogs, articles, facts and stories with your network. Information can spread far and wide online.

Pro-tip: Use hashtags like: #ActOnClimate #COP21 #Renewables

  1. Be A Climate Mentor. 

Help engage youth to act on climate change. You can connect with a young family member, neighbor or a friend’s kid. Try to come up with ways to save energy, then do an electronics check together. Make sure to explain how our energy use impacts the planet, and make sure to keep your messages positive.

Pro-tip: head outside to enjoy the fresh air together instead of plugging in.
Earth Relay for Climate Action - Brunswick

  1. Get Creative. 

Many people  would love to learn about climate in a unique way. Are you a poet or a budding videographer? Use your talent to talk about climate change.

Pro-tip: The quickest way to go viral is with a video. For example, this poem from a science educator is taking off right now!

  1. Cut Your Waste. 

How much we consume and what we consume makes a big difference.  Did you know that over 10,000,000 clothing items end up in landfills each year? Cheap clothing is not sustainable. Give your clothes additional life by donating or regifting them to friends and siblings!

Pro-tip: Go the extra mile; check out a fellow EcoWomen blogger’s tips for reducing food waste.

  1. Buy Renewable. 

Have you checked with your electricity provider to see if renewable energy is available? Most people are surprised to learn that in most cases, wind and solar can be distributed to your home from your local utility company. The first step in switching to renewable is finding out how to make the change.

Pro-tipDC and Maryland residents have options!

  1. Act Local – Write! 

From the mayor to the city council, we can hold elected officials accountable. In 2015, Washington DC was recognized to be the home to more LEED and ENERGY STAR-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country. Make known your support for green power in DC.

Pro-tip: reaching elected officials is easier than ever with email and Twitter!

  1. GlühlampeFind your Lumens! 

Instead of looking for “Watts,” determine your desired light bulb brightness  by “Lumens.” It is a new way to help consumers determine the right amount of light for each place in the home. Learn the new vocabulary and change your light bulb shopping habit. Watch this video to learn more.

Note: This article is an adaptation of an original post for children by Erin Twamley, originally published by Nomad Press and STEM Magazine //187V .

Erin Twamley is an energy educator, author and English Kindergarten teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Her books with co-author Joshua Sneideman, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth and Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future? aim to positively engage youth in learning about renewable energy and addressing climate change.

posted by | on , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How the U.S. Can Meet Its Climate Pledge

By Manjyot Bhan

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

U.S. goals and the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

Clean coal plantUnder the Clean Power Plan, the EPA sets unique emissions goals for each state and encouraged states to craft their own solutions. It is projected that the rule will reduce power sector carbon emissions at least 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Last month’s stay does not challenge “whether” EPA can regulate—the court has already ruled that it can—but rather “how” it can regulate. And the stay is not stopping many states and power companies from continuing to plan for a low-carbon future.

Some of the key ingredients that led to success at COP 21—national leadership and a strong showing by “sub-national actors,” including states, cities and businesses—will also be fundamental to U.S. success in meeting its climate goals.

Other federal policy for emissions reduction

A recent event in Washington—held by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and New America—outlined the gap between existing policy trajectories and the U.S. goal. A secondary outcome of the meeting also explored how federal, state, and local policies and actions can leverage technology to close the gap.

Solar and windAn analysis by the Rhodium Group found that even without the Clean Power Plan, the recently extended federal tax credits for solar and wind energy will help significantly. Existing federal policies on fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency also support the U.S. goals, as well policies in the works to regulate hydrofluorocarbons and methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

States and cities drive climate innovation

States and cities made a strong showing of support for the Paris Agreement, and they have emerged as leaders in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy.

Additionally, many states are continuing to work toward implementing aspects of the Clean Power Plan. And even those not doing public planning are discussing ways states and the power sector can collaborate to cut carbon emissions cost-effectively. Last month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric and alternatively fueled vehicles. The Clean Power Plan stay can be looked at as giving states more time to innovate.

Private sector commitments to climate

Business Climate PledgeMore than 150 companies have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge committing to steps such as cutting emissions, reducing water usage and using more renewable energy across their supply chains. One hundred companies have signed the Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, which calls the entire business community to transition to a low-carbon future.

Following the court’s stay, many power companies came out in support of the rule or reaffirmed plans to work toward clean energy and energy-efficiency.

A 2015 UNEP report suggests that beyond each countries’ individual commitments, actions by sub-national actors across the globe can result in net additional contributions of 0.75 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. While it is hard to accurately quantify the specific contributions of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in reducing emissions, they have the potential to accelerate the pace at which the U.S. meets its climate goals.

Manjyot Bhan is a Policy Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She holds a Ph.D. in public administration and environmental policy from American University’s School of Public Affairs and earned her Master’s in Corporate Sustainability from Arizona State University. When she isn’t being a policy wonk, Manjyot enjoys wine-tasting, hanging out with friends, and working out at a barre studio. Manjyot lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and works across the river in Arlington, VA. 

Follow Manjyot on Twitter @ManjAhluwalia and LinkedIn page.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sustainable Cities are Paving the Way at COP21

By Lindsay Parker

This week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 has begun. This conference is a very. big. deal. If successful, it could be a decisive moment in the fight against climate change.

Leaders from 150 countries along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are meeting to reach an agreement on how to address our biggest environmental challenge. Without international action, our climate is on track to warm up to 5C (9F) above pre-industrial levels, causing weather extremes and devastating our natural resources. The results of these negotiations are critical.

Leading up to the conference, political leaders and activists have responded to the call to address climate change. Countries across the world are setting sustainability goals, federally and locally. In particular, cities are enacting policies that reduce emissions and support mitigation and adaptation to global warming.

Source: Ben Johnson

Source: Ben Johnson

Today, half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities , and roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in urban communities by 2050.

Cities are hubs for economic and social advancement, commerce, and culture; however, they are also the source of many energy-intensive processes and emissions: building energy consumption, vehicles and transportation, solid waste water treatment, industry, and more.

To ensure a slowdown of global warming, urban areas face a challenge: remaining hubs for jobs  and prosperity, while limiting environmental impacts.


Fun facts about cities:


While cities face a sustainability challenge, they have an opportunity to enact influential climate policy much quicker than federal governments. In the U.S., Congressional inaction towards cohesive climate policy has pushed local leaders to take matters into their own hands. Currently, cities around the world are working to cut emissions, support public transportation, and increase efficiency. They are proving that they can fight climate change while growing economically.

The move toward sustainable and efficient infrastructure will not be cheap. Luckily, cities can benefit from international funding, particularly those in developing countries.  Mexico City, for example, has pledged to commit 10% of the city’s budget to resilience goals. UNFCCC financing mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), provide grants up to $10 million for urban transport projects and low-emission urban systems to all non-Annex I members of the UN. Likewise, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), also instituted by the COP, finances low emission cities using $10 billion from country pledges.

Today, during a special Summit at the COP21, over 1,000 mayors will join President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the Climate Summit for Local LeadersThe event is co-hosted by Mike Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The event will bring a collection of local actors together to urge action and build upon the efforts of the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of city officials who pledge to create ambitious climate action plans, increase resilience to global warming, reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions, and publicly track progress toward each goal. Currently, 382 cities, representing 345,853,881 people worldwide and 4.7% of the total global population have committed to the Compact of Mayors. Major cities involved include:

Cities are leading as an example for national governments that is it possible to set and achieve more ambitious goals for emissions reductions. These officials will present their ambitious climate action plans at the COP21.

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris Source: : https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/11/30/follow-along-global-agreement-act-climate

President Obama addresses attendees at COP21 in Paris
Source: US State Department

Earlier this year, President Obama announced his goal for 100 US cities join the Compact by the start of COP21. That goal has been met and exceeded. Across the country and the world, cities are taking action by retrofitting buildings, upgrading transportation, and building efficient infrastructure.

In the U.S., cities are already making great headway:

Internationally, megacities in the C40 network are leading the way with low carbon goals and sustainable urban growth. This group represents half a billion people and 25% of global GDP, and they have promised to shift towards sustainable policies. Below are actions taken by leading cities:

  • London plans to install 6,000 charging points and 3,000 battery-powered cars by 2018
  • Gothenburg and Johannesburg have issued $489 million worth of green bonds
  • Shanghai will invest $16.3 billion over the next 3 years on 220 anti-pollution projects

In sum, the COP21 is on track to have some significant outcomes. If you live in a city, you’re likely to see evidence of these first hand. You can contribute to reducing global warming by taking public transportation, turning off lights, and supporting your local sustainability leader.

Lindsay Parker is a Texas native with a Masters of Public Policy focused on energy and climate policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. She is currently working at the U.S. Department of Energy on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. When she’s not hiking, she enjoys choir, running, swing dancing, and yoga.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on An Environmentalist’s Guide to the Pope’s Encyclical

by Farley Lord Smith

It’s been a few months since Pope Francis visited Washington, and several more since his encyclical, Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home was published. Yet the effect of his words and presence still ripples.

EncyclicalCoverFor the faith community, Laudato Si’ s significance is pretty clear. An encyclical is a letter from the Pope to instruct Catholic bishops in how they guide their congregations. Pope Francis riffs on that a bit by addressing the letter to all people living on the planet.

For the 5,100 Catholic bishops representing 1.2 billion Catholics, it is a directive. To the 801 million Christian Protestants and roughly 3.5 billion people of other faiths, it is a strong statement if not an example.

But does Laudato Si’ have anything to say to environmentalists, regardless of faith? I think so, and I suggest that everyone should put it on her reading list. It is accessible and beautifully written – think Wendell Barry meets Desmond Tutu with a dash of Naomi Klein.

Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. (217)

The first thing that strikes me is the quality of the moral language Pope Francis uses. Notably, he contains most of the “Jesus stuff” in one section, presenting most of the letter in language accessible to anyone, regardless of faith. The environmental movement has gotten comfortable with moral language, such as justice or our responsibility to future generations, and Laudato Si’ gives this way of thinking fodder, freshness, and encouragement.

Using strong, unapologetic moral language, Pope Francis bubbles up two major themes that were already simmering within the environmental community:

Integral ecology: Everything is connected

“We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

Pope Francis touches on multiple issues including climate change – pollution, waste, consumerism, water, loss of biodiversity, agriculture, oceans, privatization of land, urban sprawl, employment, social exclusion, inequality, and politics.

By the way, the Pope was trained as a chemist, so he can definitely talk about science.

In a pretty pointed way, he criticizes capitalism as detrimental to both people and planet. He calls for an “integral ecology” in which ecology, economics, culture, society, and government are connected to uphold peace, love, and justice. This, in turn, sustains the natural world.

“An integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” (11)

Local to global

Pope Francis presents the entire “ladder of engagement,” as environmental advocates might call it.

  • He celebrates small, individual actions as reason for hope and progress.
  • He calls for collective action through churches, neighborhoods, and cities.
  • He moves to cultural and policy shifts.
  • He implores international decision-making bodies to inspire new approaches to the global economy.

The “faith” part

From a particularly Christian perspective, Francis has broadcast the worldview of many people following different faiths in which caring for the natural world is essential. For environmental advocates who aren’t fluent in the faith-based case for “creation care”, the Pope gives a comprehensive summary, including these important themes:

Caring for creation: Many churches have gardens

Caring for creation: Many churches have gardens

“Creation” vs. “nature”

Simply put, “Creation” implies a “Creator”. In the Pope’s tradition, the Creator is the benevolent, redemptive One who brought all things into being out of love; who remains present and alive to all things; and brings about beauty, goodnesss, and truth. “Creation” includes all living beings, air, water, soil, the human-built environment, relationship, economy, and government.

Human beings have the potential for immense power over creation, including the capacity to love it and to take joy in sustaining it. Problems occur when we prioritize our vices and when the systems we’ve created become forgotten and anemic.

We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (1-2)

Vice, conversion and hope

Pope Francis echos Gus Speth, who names the root causes of environmental degradation as selfishness, greed, and apathy. Moral failings in individuals or in societies – also called “sin” – are named unabashedly by Pope Francis as foundational for the interconnected suffering in our world.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).

Whereas Speth concludes that scientists don’t know how to address these vices, Pope Francis offers faith-based concepts that do. He suggests a spiritual “conversion”, in which we name our “sins,” forgive ourselves, and follow a new path.

I also note that hope is the antidote virtue to the vice of despair, which is a real temptation in environmental work.

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; [God] never forsakes [God’s] loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. (13)

What can we –  as environmental advocates – learn from Laudato Si’?

This is a textbook example of how the right champion, with the right message, at the right time, to the right audience, can have an immeasurable impact.

Both the encyclical and the Pope's visit to the United States increased awareness about climate change across all American demographics

Both the encyclical and the Pope’s visit to the United States increased awareness about climate change across all American demographics

Consider the power of the faith community

Ecological and social sustainability.
Re-imagining capitalism.
Speaking truth to power.

This is the food the faith community is being fed through particular contexts and language. How can the environmental community engage them honestly and effectively?

Farley Lord Smith is the Founder and Principal at Wesley Walden, offering creative integration of faith-based approaches into the sustainability-community nexus.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Global Warming Affects Our National Security and Agriculture

By Sodavy Ou

“Planning for climate change and smarter energy investments not only make us a stronger military, they have many additional benefits—saving us money, reducing demand, and helping protect the environment,” former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel

Similar to wealth, global warming’s detrimental impacts are not distributed equally across the globe.

Developed nations, such as the United States and Western European countries, have the resources to lessen the magnitude of global warming in their nations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for less developed nations where economic development needs outweigh environmental needs. However, since the world is inter-connected, environmental issues in other countries significantly influence the U.S. economy and national security.

Additionally, even though the U.S. can mitigate many environmental impacts, and even though most Americans feel relatively isolated from global warming, major changes in the national economy affect our daily life. Changes that we may have failed to notice.

Agriculture: A multi-billion dollar industry threatened by global warming

Exposed riverbed in the Columbia river after months without rain (Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Exposed riverbed in the Columbia river after months without rain

In addition to feeding Americans, agriculture is an important sector of the U.S. economy. Contributing at least $200 billion to the economy each year, it also provides almost 17 million jobs for farmers, textile mill employees, and distributors, among others.

Changes in precipitation patterns—consequences of climate change—are already significantly affecting the economy. For instance, the severe drought in California, the top agricultural producing state, costs the state approximately 21,000 jobs and $900 million in revenue related to crop losses.

Stakeholders and consumers pay a high price

In 2011, a drought in Texas increased the price of feeding cattle. Three years later, the drought still influences the industry despite the recent rains in the Southern Plain. In its 2015 – 2016 Food Price Outlook, the USDA predicts that beef and veal prices will increase by 5.5 to 6.5 percent in 2015 and 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2016.

The same increase cannot be said for all fruit and vegetable prices, mainly because the cost of growing produce is much lower than the retail price. However, some fruits and vegetable prices have experienced a sharp increase. For instance, the USDA also predicts that lettuce and avocado prices will increase by 34 and 28 percent, respectively.

Changes in global temperatures and precipitation patterns affect national security

California: Guard soldiers gear up for fire season

California: Guard soldiers gear up for fire season

Tasked with ensuring American security, the Department of Defense plans for a wide range of contingencies. According to the DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap, this includes strategy to address global warming impacts that range from intensifying infectious diseases to terrorism to natural disasters.

One study demonstrated that changes in rainfall are associated with large- and small-scale political and social conflicts. It showed that as the global temperature increases, dry regions become drier and wet regions experience more severe floods, resulting in decreased food production. As food and water become scarce, social conflicts can intensify.

Global warming is not simply an environmental issue, but also an economic and national security issue, and various industries and players must continue to work collaboratively to address the threats properly.

Sodavy Ou was born in Cambodia and grew up in Long Beach, California. She received her Bachelors in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California, Santa Barbara. Outside of the academic field, she enjoys hiking, camping, running, and any other activities that take her to the great outdoors.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Water Shortages: a Global Concern

By Sonia Abdulbaki

California drought: a dry riverbed in 2009

California drought: a dry riverbed in 2009

Luxury is a concept synonymous with grandeur – at least in the first world. Strip away the layers and we find ourselves human. And being human means food, water, shelter and reproduction are our survival tools. Luckily for us, water is a luxury available with the turn of a faucet. Yet, water shortages are happening across the world, including in major cities.

Scope of Earth’s water distribution problem

Although Earth’s surface is composed of 70% water, only 2.5% is fresh water. According to National Geographic 1% of fresh water is accessible and only 0.007% is available to the almost 7 billion people. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), most freshwater lies in underground aquifers. Other freshwater sources include rainfall, reservoirs, lakes and rivers.

Thus, water is distributed throughout the world unevenly. According to the WBCSD, more than half of fresh water lies in nine countries: the United States, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Congo, Russia, India, China and Indonesia.

According to National Geographic, around 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. The United Nations estimates that one-fifth of the world’s population live in water-deprived areas and 500 million people will face this problem in the near future. Also, an additional 1.6 billion people experience water scarcity on an economic level.

The Nature Conservancy estimates that more than 3 billion people in major cities might experience annual water shortages lasting at least one month. And they will experience water shortages due in large part to climate change, industrialization, overpopulation, overconsumption, pollution, deforestation and destruction of wetlands.

As a child of first generation Lebanese-American parents, I have visited Lebanon many times. The electricity cut offs, low water pressure, lack of warm or clean water never resonated with me as a major issue that affected the whole world. But it was a taste of the reality that water deprived regions experience.

Mexico City, a sinking capitol

Mexico City, with 22 million residents and 25% of the Mexican population, is an overpopulated city where a small percent of citizens use a majority of the water, and demand exceeds supply. Although the city was built on top of Lake Texcoco during Aztec times, the Spaniards rebuilt the city, draining the water rather than building canals to help with the water flow.

Thus, the city’s infrastructure is unreliable; for example, distribution pipes lose 40% of the water before reaching the city’s homes. Yet Mexico consumes more bottled water than any nation in the world. Population growth is the cause of dried up wells, and the city sinking is into the lake-bed at three inches per year.

A sustainable solution for Beijing?

Water wheel in Lijiang Yunnan, China

Water wheel in Lijiang Yunnan, China

China’s water shortage is predominantly due to drought. According to CBS, Beijing’s Yongding River, along with 27,000 other rivers in the country, ran dry. And although citizens are digging wells near their homes to access ground water, their efforts are not enough.

According to the World Health Organization, around 700 million people in China drink water that does not meet their health standards. In response, the city built canals and tunnels to divert water from the humid south to the dry north, according to The Guardian. This means that many citizens need to relocate. This is not a long-term solution. Additionally, water pollution and poor infrastructure are hard to reconcile without the budget to do so.

Brazil and the economics of water, rich or poor?

Brazil possesses one-eighth of the world’s fresh water due to the Amazon and other great rivers. It is infamously rich in water resources yet it is experiencing its worst drought in a century, according to the New York Times.

Residents of Sao Paulo have started drilling their own wells and taking other measures to reduce water use. The government is executing water cutoffs and warning that the solution may be to flee the country. Experts predict that this is just the beginning of Brazil’s water crisis and will exacerbate problems with already low prices on Brazilian exports that weaken the economy.

Fuel to the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

SYRIA, ALEPPO. Children fill tanks with water in Aleppo in 2012.

Children fill tanks with water in Aleppo, Syria in 2012.

The Middle East and North African (MENA) region receives a lot of media attention with its current political upheaval. Included in its detrimental state is its water problem.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) listed the water crisis as a contributing factor to the Syrian conflict. An inherently dry region, intense heat waves recently overwhelmed the area. WRI ranks 14 of the 33 water stressed nations to be in the MENA region. According to The Guardian, “analysts urge ending water subsidies for large farms, the raising of energy prices to discourage over-pumping and the use of ‘smart’ irrigation technologies to reduce water loss on farms.”

These are just a few cities and regions that experience regular water shortages. But from Delhi to Johannesburg to California’s dire drought, water is an eminent issue. Governments and citizens need innovation, infrastructure improvement, more efficient water usage, better management and nature-based solutions. The predicted environmental catastrophes threaten global security, forcing governments to take these issues seriously.

Sonia Abdulbaki is a Freelance Writer and Communications Specialist with experience in the environmental and hospitality industries. She is currently the Member Services Assistant at Green America and a contributing writer for Business Traveler magazine, National Wetlands Newsletter and contributing editor for MovieswithMae.com.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Women’s Discoveries that Influence Climate Change

by Erin Twamley

The faces of women making positive changes for the environment and planet are often hidden. Many of them may not have known that their research, discoveries and investigations would help address climate change. They conducted some of their environmental work before we even knew the term!

EarthWordle

The following women have done amazing work that enabled us to make strides on curbing climate change:

Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle

Dr. Earle is most notably known as an Oceanographer. In fact, she has spent nearly 271 days of her life underwater. But did you know that data from the oceans and coral reefs is key to understanding the impacts of climate change?

The ocean is one of the largest absorbents of carbon dioxide and helps us to tell the story of the past, present and future on Earth. Dr. Earle’s work helps us understand how we can help keep the oceans healthy.

Dr. Mária Telkes & Eleanor Raymond

Today, commercial and residential solar is booming across the world. But did you know that two women were instrumental in bringing solar power to residential homes in Massachusetts in 1948?

Maria Telkes and Raymond designed a solar-powered house in Massachusetts

Maria Telkes and Raymond designed a solar-powered house in Massachusetts

The idea of a solar powered house in a cold climate baffled most scientists and Americans. But MIT solar energy researcher Dr. Mária Telkes and Boston architect Eleanor Raymond helped to challenge that notion.

Together, they designed and built the first solar powered house in the USA. Breaking or changing perceptions is often a key factor in advancing our clean energy future. It is also important in leading efforts to address climate change. These two women helped people understand that solar energy can power homes and businesses in almost any climate.

Gina McCarthyGina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy is the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (and is a former EcoHour speaker!). She has dedicated her career to policy work at the local, state and now federal level to address climate change.

She is a strong advocate for decisions and policies that address climate change in the USA and around the world. Her job is to help policy makers and federal agencies make decisions to mitigate climate change.

AdaLovelaceAda Lovelace

Ada Lovelace is recognized as the first computer programmer. What year was that? 1842! Long before typewriters and computers, people were writing algorithms, she wrote an algorithm for the analytical engine, which would later become known as the world’s first computer program.

Today, computer simulations and models are key for understanding the global, regional and local effects of climate change. Without computers and computer programs, we would not be able to predict and understand our climate future.

To see what other women are doing today to address climate change, check out the article, 20 Women Making Waves in the Climate Change Debate.

Erin Twamley is an energy education specialist and adult educator. She is a leader in providing climate and energy information for STEM education efforts. She authored the book, Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth to positively engage youth in learning about and addressing climate change.

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By Lindsay Parker

Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake

Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake

You may look at the photo above and only see a patch of leftover snow. However, this is one of the few remaining glaciers in Glacier National Park (GNP). In 1850, the park held an estimated 150 glaciers whereas today, less than 25 remain. Experts predict that by 2030, they will disappear completely. This rapid geological recession is largely a result of climate change; many are disappearing faster than predicted.

A hike for climate change awareness!

For these reasons, I joined a group of environmental activists to explore the park, to learn about the ecology, to see the namesake glaciers first hand before they are gone, and to hear what we can do about it. I signed up for a 5 day, 45-mile hike organized by Climate Ride, a non-profit organization that supports fundraising and awareness for environmental causes by arranging life changing hikes and bike rides throughout the country.

I was joined by a friendly bunch of volunteers from Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots advocacy organization, with the aim to pass positive legislation that addresses climate change. Together, we were led and educated by local guides well-versed in the park’s history, landscape and ecology. The experience renewed my awareness of our precious natural resources and of the urgent need to protect them.

Lake Josephine and purple wild fireweed

Lake Josephine and purple wild fireweed

As part of our trip through GNP, our group hiked to the banks of the Grinnell Glacier. We started by trekking almost 4 miles along the tiny trail etched into the mountainside, viewing steep drop-offs, Lake Josephine, beautiful alpine meadows replete with wildflowers and a few big-horn sheep. After some steep inclines and freezing rain, we reached the remnants of the tiny glacier. Grinnell Glacier Overlook offered views of the 152-acre glacier, the Garden Wall (Continental Divide), Upper Grinnell Lake and the 9,553-foot Mt. Gould. It was breathtaking to see something so old up close.

Glaciers and climate

Glaciers are geological wonders. They are large, dynamic packs of snow and ice that are formed when snow melts slower than it collects. The glaciers in GNP were part of the last ice age, formed approximately 7,000 years ago. Glaciers grow and recede based on climate, making them a perfect indicator of long term shifts in climate.

Iceberg in Upper Grinnell Lake below Grinnell Glacier

Iceberg in Upper Grinnell Lake below Grinnell Glacier

While they typically grow during the winter, overall, glaciers are retreating due to higher temperatures and a reduced snowfall. During the summer, glacial ice melt cools streams and regulates water flow. Without this glacier melt, increased stream temperatures and lower water levels affect local aquatic species adversely, including the endangered bull trout. Warming temperatures bring a real threat to biodiversity, especially the 140 plant and animal species living in GNP that are listed as “Species of Special Concern.”

Wildfires and other effects of climate change

As if receding glaciers isn’t enough to contend with, some of the largest wildfires are sweeping through the Western states this year. Sixteen wildfires are burning in Washington State, impacting over 920 square miles and threatening more than 12,000 homes. This includes the fire in Okanagan County, which is the largest single fire that the state has ever seen. In California, over 120 wildfires have already occurred this year.

If temperatures continue to rise, wildfire impacts are estimated to double by late this century, with special impact on Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. According to one study, “fire season has gotten longer for more than quarter of the Earth’s vegetated surface, from 1979 to 2013. Globally, fire weather season increased by nearly 19%.”

Smoke from Reynolds Creek Wildfire in Glacier National Park

Smoke from Reynolds Creek Wildfire in Glacier National Park

A main culprit of increased wildfire activity is climate change. A few factors fueling the infernos are:

  • record-high temperatures,
  • low-humidity levels,
  • mega-droughts since 2010,
  • dry vegetation, and
  • lightning from increased thunderstorms.

In addition, warmer temperatures and droughts weaken trees and supply prime conditions for infectious insects that contribute to tree death and further tinder for the fires. Furthermore, global warming creates a feedback-loop, where CO2-absorbant trees burn, releasing carbon, effectively exacerbating the problem.

In 2015 alone, the Forest Service will spend an estimated $1.7 billion and use 10,000 people to combat wildfires. The sooner policy makers and the public understand the affect climate change is having on the duration, intensity and frequency of wildfires, the sooner they can develop better responses to handle them.

Call for action

This all sounds pretty bleak, right? Well, below are a few ways to make an impact, as suggested by the National Wildlife Federation:

Personally, I recommend visiting the park, supporting the National Park Service, and remembering that living sustainably isn’t just about your monthly energy bill, but about something much bigger.

Lindsay Parker is a Texas native with a Masters of Public Policy focused on energy and climate policy from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany. She is currently working at the U.S. Department of Energy on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. When she’s not hiking, she enjoys choir, running, swing dancing, and yoga.