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: August 30

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. DROUGHT: DRY CONDITIONS COME WITH NUMEROUS COSTS, HARDSHIP FOR COMMUNITIES According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of the week of Aug. 21, roughly 53 percent of the nation has experienced at least moderate drought conditions. This has been the case roughly since mid-July. Drought conditions stand to have multifaceted effects on ecosystems as well as the U.S economy, particularly agriculture. Private crop insurers could lose more than $5 billion if this year’s drought destroys more crops than the one in 1988, according to Standard & Poor’s. By 2030, climate change could cause $1.1 billion to $4.1 billion in losses for Corn Belt farmers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agency states it expects to spend $170 million to help livestock ranchers devastated by the drought. Along the Mississippi River, slowing currents from the drought have allowed salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to advance up the river, leading to the issuance of a state of emergency and drinking water advisory for communities around Chalmette, LA. Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. will build a 1,700 foot-long sill at the bottom of the river to block the heavier salt water from seeping farther north. The project, spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will cost $5.8 million. Dry conditions alter wildfire management practices Furthermore, the drought corresponds with an increase in forest fires. In lieu of this increased dryness and record heat, which allows fire to spread more easily and do more damage, the U.S. Forest Service has altered its wildfire containment practices. Consequently, the agency has temporary suspended a long standing “let it burn” policy, where it would save money by allowing small fires to burn out. The fires still require funds for monitoring. Fire suppression accounts for more than half the Forest Service’s budget. This year, the cost projections are surpassing the budgeted amount of $848 million to $1.4 billion. A recent study in the Ecological Society of America’s open access journal Ecosphere noted that 38 percent of the planet will likely see increased fire activity over the next 30 years. For additional information federal drought monitoring efforts, click here. To view the Ecosphere paper, click here. EPA: FEDERAL APPEALS COURT STRIKES DOWN AIR POLLUTION RULE On Aug. 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Obama administration’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that forces cuts from plants in 28 states in the eastern half of the country, concluding that it exceeds the Environmental Protection...

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Extreme weather, campaigning honeybees and tracking whale sharks

This post contributed by Molly Taylor, ESA Science Writing Intern. Extreme weather: The rare multi-vortex that hit Joplin, Missouri on May 22 has claimed more than 100 lives and destroyed countless homes and buildings. Unfortunately, this is not the only natural disaster to devastate the U.S. this year. According to a recent Washington Post article, this storm season is turning out to be one of the most violent on record. The extreme weather, Brian Vastag and Ed O’Keefe reported in the article, is due at least in part to La Nina: “The jet stream’s river of cool air high in the atmosphere pulls warmer, more humid air from the ground upward, forming thunderstorm ‘supercells.’ Such a pattern drove the outbreak of more than 300 tornadoes that swept from Mississippi to Tennessee in late April, killing at least 365…” But according to the Post, researchers have also been exploring the potential role of climate change in recent weather patterns. Read more at “Storm season on deadly path; Obama to visit Joplin.” Campaigning honeybees: In the spring, beehives can reach capacity, basically overflowing with honey and bee larva. This overcrowding can cause the hive to literally burst in two, leaving half of the population in need of a new home. The old queen leads one half of the homeless pack to establish a new colony at a separate location, while a new queen takes charge of the existing hive. But where do the homeless bees go? Despite the royal title, the queen is not ruling a monarchy—worker bees actually vote for their favorite location. “The older, more experienced bees…fly off looking for options,” wrote NPR’s Robert Krulwich, and upon their return, they “announce their ‘finds’ by dancing.” That is the point when the “waggle dancing” begins (and yes, that is the official term), whereby the scouting bees use dancing to signal their sister bees. This encourages the sister bees to have a peek at the potential new home, and if they like what they see, they start doing the same dance. “This is how bees ‘vote,’” wrote Krulwich. “They dance themselves into a consensus.” Read more at “Nature’s Secret: Why Honey Bees Are Better Politicians Than Humans.” Tracking whale sharks: “With the help of algorithms designed to guide the Hubble telescope’s starscape surveys, conservation-minded coders have designed software that helps biologists identify whale sharks by their spots,” wrote Brandon Keim in a recent Wired Science article. “The program enlists the help of citizens with cameras, and lets researchers track Earth’s biggest fish across time and oceans.” In the past, researchers have found whale sharks to be too elusive to track as...

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Patterns in the climate change mosaic

Finding patterns and trends in the environment is an important natural human tendency. Without trends, for instance, Darwin may never have theorized about evolution. But the somewhat controversial question, especially now in the face of climate change, is “what do trends explain about the world?” Or a more specific example: do studies showing elevated global temperatures and sea level rise prove that one caused the other?

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Looking to the Jersey Shore for CO2 sequestration

Riding on the heels of Copenhagen, a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlined one way the United States might address enormous CO2 emission levels. Not surprisingly, the researchers propose carbon sequestration; it is the location, however, that makes this study unique.  Beach at Sandy Hook, New Jersey Photo Credit: National Park Service The scientists have pinpointed volcanic rock, namely basalt, along the coasts of New Jersey, New York and New England to serve as prime reservoirs for CO2 emitted by local power plants. David Goldberg and colleagues from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say the lure of this particular site is the igneous rock. That is, when it comes to holding CO2, basalt is thought to be much more secure than the other proposed inland sites that feature shale and sandstone. In addition, say the study authors, the CO2 and basalt would react and eventually turn into limestone.  The researchers located four areas of more than 1,000 square kilometers each off northern New Jersey, Long Island and Massachusetts. They also targeted a smaller patch under the beach of New Jersey’s Sandy Hook peninsula that has enough pore space to hold close to one billion tons of CO2-the equivalent emissions, the researchers say, of four 1-billion-watt coal-fired plants over 40 years. Goldberg, D., Kent, D., & Olsen, P. (2010). Potential on-shore and off-shore reservoirs for CO2 sequestration in Central Atlantic magmatic province basalts Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI:...

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