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Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

Researchers from the Royal Horticultural Society, the University of Reading, and the University of Sheffield published a paper this month (Cameron et al., 2012) in the journal, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, called “The Domestic Garden – Its Contribution to Urban Green Infrastructure.” The article attracted attention from the UK newspaper, The Independent, because of the seemingly counter-intuitive claim that gardening can actually be harmful to the Earth, or “eco-unfriendly” according to The Independent. For a mere $39.95 US, you can read the article yourself from Science Direct! Among the indicted are peat, pesticides, petrol lawnmowers, and hardscape materials with high carbon footprints. Even a newly planted tree has a carbon footprint that may not be overcome for as much as a decade. Anyone with knowledge of sustainability already knows these things, but it is good to see it in mainstream publications available to the general public for far less than $39.95.

via The Independent

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Among environmentalists, certainly, few people discuss climate change winners – those places where the climate will be more moderate as a result of a warming planet. It’s an uncomfortable thought for some, and the great uncertainty over the extent of change makes us cautious. Nevertheless, Syracuse looks like a winner today! And I say that in an apologetic tone…

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Call them the 1%, the 2%, or even generously extend the designation to 20% as Andrew Ross does, people at the upper end of the income scale are the people who can afford to be green – IF green means hybrid vehicles, solar voltaics, and LEED-certified buildings (yes, there are some exceptions). In Ross’s new book, Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City, Phoenix is the context for an exploration of the relationship between income inequality and sustainability. Ross discussed this part of the book in a New York Times article this week titled The Darker Side of Green.  Ross cautions that a low-carbon lifestyle among the affluent will not be enough to slow climate change. The lessons that Ross uncovered in Phoenix are ones worth heeding, IMO.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent.

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Dustbowl Revisited

These videos of dust storms in the U.S. are becoming much more common. The latest storm was this past Monday in Lubbock, TX. Comparisons are being made to the 1930s.

 

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Very interesting chart from the insurance giant, Munich Re, found on the blog of economist Barry Ritholtz.

Natural Disasters in the United States

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The Filipino people are taking notice. Central American countries also rank high on the list.

The report by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works said the top 10 countries facing the highest risk are: Vanuatu, Tonga, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, Costa Rica, Cambodia and El Salvador.

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Is anyone excited about U.S. politics these days, excited in a positive sort of way? I have been ignoring the weekly ups and downs regarding legislation affecting the environment, preferring to take notice only when a proposal looks likely to pass. Given that nothing is passing both houses of Congress, I’ve had time on my hands! For some time now, it has been clear that climate change was not going to be on the agenda in Washington, D.C. Climate has, in fact, been considered the proverbial “third rail” in the nation’s capital ever since cap-and-trade legislation failed. This is a sorry state of affairs, in my opinion, but climate adaptation is still a growing need at the local level, with cities taking the lead in many cases, despite dysfunction at the national level.

Nevertheless, federal funding is still critical for local government planning, making it a necessity for local government planners to know which way the federal winds are blowing. This past week, members of the American Planning Association lobbied Washington in support of legislation that would support local communities, and NRDC blogger, Deron Lovaas reported on some of the planners’ interests.

In our current political climate, no one’s talking about climate. But people do want to hear about economics and energy, which means that it’s a great time to talk about transportation solutions.  …snip…  Planners should be pushing for bipartisan solutions like high-occupancy toll lanes, ITS technology and scenario planning in their communities.

Lovaas is urging planners to focus their attention on the infrastructure bills, like the American Jobs Act, as a possible means to climate action. He continues:

Yesterday planners spent the day lobbying on the Hill, pushing for the American Jobs Act and the clean energy opportunities it presents, such as investments in innovative transit projects through the TIGER and TIFIA programs, and Project Rebuild, which will invest $15 billion in rehabilitating properties in distressed communities.

It could happen.

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Charts of the Day – From the report, International Energy Outlook 2011  (IEO2011), released yesterday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Global energy use is projected to increase by 53% by 2035, with China and India accounting for half of the increase and with coal being the main source. Alternative energy is on the rise, everywhere, but its impact is fairly small in comparison with the projected increase in demand.

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Here’s an interesting synopsis of global initiatives by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from a speech delivered to Sydney University on September 8th. How/to what extent the aspirations are fulfilled, of course, is key, but the aims are impressive. The Secretary General was seeking to counter the common belief that countries around the world are hamstrung in their attempts to mitigate climate change. He pointed to some good news, while also being clear about the long road ahead. The entire speech can be found here.

China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by up to 45 per cent in the next decade. It now produces half of the world’s wind and solar equipment and is growing its capacity rapidly. It has already surpassed the United States to lead the world in installed clean-energy capacity. The European Union has committed to cut emissions by at least 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, regardless of what actions other countries take. The European Union’s commitment has not wavered, even in the face of tough economic times.

Mexico has launched a plan to reduce 51 million tons of carbon dioxide next year alone. That’s equal to four-and-a-half years of pollution from all the vehicles in Mexico City. Korea devoted 80 per cent of its stimulus programme to green growth, an investment that stands to deliver major economic, as well as environmental, benefits. India is also in the race, planning to increase investment in the clean energy sector by more than 350 per cent in this decade.

Japan is aiming to create 1.4 million new green jobs. Denmark is moving to be free of fossil fuels by 2050. Brazil committed to reducing its deforestation rate by 80 per cent by the year 2020 and is years ahead of schedule – even as it also continues to prove renewable energy can power a major economy.

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Even for Texas, this is BIG. An interactive map created by ESRI, showing fire locations and links to social media accounts (like YouTube videos), can be found here.

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