Congressional briefing highlights climate adaptation, mitigation efforts in Midwestern United States
Jul22

Congressional briefing highlights climate adaptation, mitigation efforts in Midwestern United States

On July 17th, the Environment and Energy Study Institute held a briefing entitled “Climate Impacts in the Midwest: Becoming More Resilient.” The briefing showcased a variety of climate change effects happening now in the Midwest as well as various local efforts to mitigate and adapt to these environmental changes. Rosina Bierbaum, Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan, outlined the impacts of climate change occurring now on agriculture, transportation and infrastructure, natural resources, human health, and economic well-being. Bierbaum was also a contributor for the US National Climate Assessment released this spring. Her presentation noted that in the short-term, rising CO2 levels and warmer temperatures will benefit farmers by longer growing seasons and increased crop yields. However, more days of warmer temperatures will also increase the number of weeds, disease-carrying organisms, and insect pests. Over the long-term, the detrimental effects of climate change will ultimately decrease agricultural productivity, Bierbaum noted. For human health, negative impacts outlined in Bierbaum’s presentation included increased heat waves, degraded air quality, longer allergy seasons, increased “pest” insects and reduced water quality.  She also noted that throughout the entire US, “very heavy” precipitation events are expected to increase, although the frequency of such events will be markedly higher in areas that traditionally experience a great amount of precipitation, such as the northeast and Midwest regions of the US. Carmel, IN Mayor James Brainard  highlighted the actions Carmel is taking to reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy effceincy. Brainard is one of four Republicans serving on President Obama’s Climate Change Task Force. In 2008 he received the US Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Award. Mayor Brainard discussed the city of Carmel’s 80 roundabouts, which replace traffic stops at road intersections. National studies state that, in addition to reducing injurious traffic accidents, roundabouts reduce pollution by less idling-time for cars and less gas being burned. Additionally, Mayor Brainard touched on his success in increasing access to public transit in Carmel and designing walkable-bikeable paths in the city community. Larry Falkin, with the City of Cincinnati, Ohio Office of Environment and Sustainability, emphasized the many local effects of global climate disruption. For example, in extreme weather events, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, effects included food shortages, energy shortages and displaced populations. He also mentioned his office’s Green Cincinnati Plan, intended to help the city cope with the effects of climate change. Recommendations in the plan include preparing for prolonged heat, choosing plants for “growing zones,” mitigating the urban heat island effect and installing stronger infrastructure in anticipation of more intense storms. Jeremy Emmi, with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,...

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ESA Policy News May 16, 2014: national climate assessment, water resources bill agreement, drought initiatives
May16

ESA Policy News May 16, 2014: national climate assessment, water resources bill agreement, drought initiatives

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. WHITE HOUSE: ASSESSMENT OUTLINES NATIONWIDE IMPACTS OF HUMAN-INDUCED CLIMATE CHANGE On May 6th, the US Global Change Research Program released the 3rd National Climate Assessment that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. The NCA report concludes that the effects of human-induced climate change, once thought to be a distant problem, are happening now and causing significant ecosystem changes with numerous consequences for the natural world and human society. Precipitation patterns are changing, sea level is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and the frequency and intensity of some weather events are increasing. “As an ecologist, you can’t escape the effects of climate change on natural resources. We’re observing climate impacts in nearly all natural and managed ecosystems,” said Ecological Society of America President Jill Baron in an ESA press release. “In order to protect biodiversity and the natural resources that we rely on, we need to be developing policy now. The National Climate Assessment provides guidelines for how to respond and adapt.” Baron was also a contributor to the NCA. Reaction on Capitol Hill was typically partisan. An array of press statements from Republicans and Democratic leaders on related committees highlights how far Congress has to go in reaching any consensus on legislation to address climate change. “The new National Climate Assessment report confirms with the greatest level of detail yet that climate change in the United States is all around us and we are already feeling the impacts,” stated Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “We must act in a comprehensive way to reduce carbon pollution for the sake of public health, our nation’s economy, and the well-being of future generations.” “This is a political document intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions,” asserted House Science, Space and Technology (SST) Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “In reality, there is little science to support any connection between climate change and more frequent or extreme storms.  It’s disappointing that the Obama administration feels compelled to stretch the truth in order to drum up support for more costly and unnecessary regulations and subsidies.” View the National Climate Assessment by clicking this link. A White House Fact sheet on climate change by region is available by clicking this link. View the full ESA press release by clicking this link. WATER: HOUSE, SENATE REACH AGREEMENT ON ARMY CORPS REAUTHORIZATION BILL This week, House and Senate leaders who sit on committees with jurisdiction...

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ESA Policy News: January 18

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: BEYOND THE FISCAL CLIFF, SPENDING BATTLES AWAIT As battle lines on both sides are beginning to be drawn, the initial makeup of what will prove to be a highly contentious battle next month over how to raise the national debt ceiling and address pending budget cuts to federal agencies has already begun to simmer. On Jan. 11, Senate Democratic leaders formally aligned themselves in supporting President Obama utilizing a perceived, yet contentious constitutional authority under the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling through sending him a letter on the matter. In their letter to the President, the Senators said: “In the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt limit extension only as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation, we believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without Congressional approval, if necessary.” Meanwhile House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has made two specific pledges to his conference on any potential debt deal: 1) that he will only bring legislation to the floor that a majority of Republicans support and 2) that any debt limit increase will only happen if it is met dollar-for-dollar with additional spending cuts. If the past is prologue, it is expected that House Republicans will try to tie any debt limit increase with further cuts to discretionary spending and mandatory spending programs that provide assistance to low-income individuals, similar to a bill House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) put forward last May. It is anticipated that any potential deal to increase the national debt may also address budget sequestration, a “trigger” of automatic indiscriminate spending cuts across all federal agencies set to occur on March 1 if Congress doesn’t come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Congressional Democrats have insisted that such a deal included some type of revenue, likely the closure of tax loopholes. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, however, considers the tax issue “resolved” in lieu of the tax provisions passed in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240). The Senate letter to Obama is viewable here. DISASTER RELIEF: HOUSE PASSES ADDITIONAL HURRICANE SANDY ASSISTANCE On Jan. 15, the House passed H.R. 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, the second of two major bills to provide emergency federal assistance to areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The bill originally included $17 billion for immediate repairs, including $5.4...

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ESA Policy News: September 17

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. SENATE: SENIOR DEMS SEEK ACTION ON ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES While the Senate seems unlikely to approve an energy bill during the few weeks it reconvenes before the November elections, it may consider measures on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency climate rules, power plant pollution curbs and energy tax incentives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledged it’s a “cinch” that climate legislation won’t move this year. But he praised negotiations among some senators in recent months on plans to cap carbon from utilities. Amid election-year politics and an already-crowded legislative calendar, consideration may be punted until a lame-duck session. Reid stated that small business legislation will top the chamber’s agenda this month, but recently suggested that a narrow energy bill could see floor action before the election. The energy bill will likely include incentives for natural gas vehicles and the “Home Star” energy efficiency retrofits program, two measures Reid has indicated he supports. The “Home Star” legislation establishes a $6 billion rebate program to encourage immediate investment in energy-efficient appliances, building mechanical systems, insulation and energy-efficiency retrofits for households. Rockefeller challenges climate rules With climate legislation likely off the table, opponents of the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas rules are planning efforts to hinder EPA’s climate regulations, while environmentalists seek to protect the agency’s authority. Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has stated he will seek a vote this year on his bill that would block EPA from regulating stationary sources’ emissions for two years. Rockefeller told reporters in July that Reid promised a vote on the measure before the November election. Rockefeller’s bill has six Democratic co-sponsors, including North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, Sens. Tim Johnson (SD), Claire McCaskill (MS), Ben Nelson (NE) and Jim Webb (VA). Reid promised the vote in order to siphon Democratic support away from a more sweeping resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), according to a Senate Democratic aide. There was great speculation that Senator Murkowski would have offered the legislation, which sought to altogether block EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, as an amendment during a mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2011 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which was postponed this week. If Rockefeller’s bill comes up for a vote, several senators may bring up an alternative aimed at draining support from it. White House officials have insisted that Obama would veto the Rockefeller bill if it reached his desk. Many see an appropriations amendment as having a...

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