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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Policy

  1. California Considers Following China With Combustion-Engine Car Ban

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    Ryan Beene and John Lippert

    The internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air…. The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away… replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K.

    …Embracing such a policy would send shockwaves through the global car industry due to the heft of California’s auto market. More than 2 million new passenger vehicles were registered in the state last year, topping France, Italy or Spain. If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere.…California has set a goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Rising emissions from on-road transportation has undercut the state’s efforts to reduce pollution, according to Next 10, San Francisco-based non-profit.

    To reach the ambitious levels of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we have to pretty much replace all combustion with some form of renewable energy by 2040 or 2050,” Nichols said. “We’re looking at that as a method of moving this discussion forward.”…China will likely order an end to sales of all polluting vehicles by 2030, the chairman of electric-carmaker BYD Co. said Thursday. France and the U.K. have announced 2040 as their end date for sales of fossil fuel-powered cars….

  2. We must accelerate decarbonization for sustainability and limiting warming to 2C; 66% chance if emissions peak by 2020 and drop by 70% by 2050

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    • 66% chance of limiting global temperature increases to below 2C if global energy-related carbon emissions peak by 2020 and fall by more than 70% in the next 35 years

    • Necessitates “deep decarbonisation” of electricity, tdransport, heat, industrial, forestry and agricultural systems across the world
    • Rapid changes in electricity, heat, buildings, industry and mobility are needed including tripling of the annual rate of energy efficiency improvement, retrofitting the entire building stock, generating 95% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050 and shifting almost entirely towards electric cars.

    September 21, 2017 University of Sussex

    …To provide a reasonable (66%) chance of limiting global temperature increases to below 2oC, the International Energy Agency and International Renewable Energy Agency suggest that global energy-related carbon emissions must peak by 2020 and fall by more than 70% in the next 35 years. This implies a tripling of the annual rate of energy efficiency improvement, retrofitting the entire building stock, generating 95% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050 and shifting almost entirely towards electric cars.

    This elemental challenge necessitates “deep decarbonisation” of electricity, transport, heat, industrial, forestry and agricultural systems across the world. But despite the recent rapid growth in renewable electricity generation, the rate of progress towards this wider goal remains slow…

    The Policy Forum provides four key lessons for how to accelerate sustainability transitions.

    Lesson 1: Focus on socio-technical systems rather than individual elements…Accelerated low-carbon transitions therefore depend on both techno-economic improvements, and social, political and cultural processes…Traditional policy approaches emphasizing a single technology will not be enough…

    Lesson 2: Align multiple innovations and systems…accelerated low-carbon transitions in electricity depend not only on the momentum of renewable energy innovations like wind, solar-PV and bio-energy, but also on complementary innovations including energy storage and demand response. These need aligned and then linked so that innovations are harmonized…

    Lesson 3: Offer societal and business support…Public support is crucial for effective transition policies. Low-carbon transitions in mobility, agro-food, heat and buildings will also involve millions of citizens who need to modify their purchase decisions, user practices, beliefs, cultural conventions and skills. To motivate citizens, financial incentives and information about climate change threats need to be complemented by positive discourses about the economic, social and cultural benefits of low-carbon innovations….

    Lesson 4: Phase out existing systems…Phasing out existing systems accelerates transitions by creating space for niche-innovations and removing barriers to their diffusion. …

    Frank W. Geels, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Tim Schwanen, Steve Sorrell. Sociotechnical transitions for deep decarbonization. Science, 2017; 357 (6357): 1242 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao3760

  3. Democrats kill bill to require all renewable energy in California by 2046

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  4. ‘Keep it local’ approach more effective than government schemes at protecting rainforest

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    September 12, 2017 University of Cambridge  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Conservation initiatives led by local and indigenous groups can be just as effective as schemes led by government, according to new research. In some cases in the Amazon rainforest, grassroots initiatives can be even more effective at protecting this vital ecosystem

    …”Policy makers must focus on a more diverse set of mechanisms for protecting the rapidly disappearing tropical forests,” said Schleicher. “Our analysis shows that local stewardship of the forest can be very effective at curtailing forest degradation and conversion in the Peruvian Amazon. Local conservation initiatives deserve more political, financial and legal support than they currently receive.”

    “Our analysis shows that there is no single way of protecting tropical forests, and multiple approaches are required to stem the relentless tide of forest conversion and degradation,” said co-author Professor Carlos Peres from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences.

    Judith Schleicher, Carlos A. Peres, Tatsuya Amano, William Llactayo, Nigel Leader-Williams. Conservation performance of different conservation governance regimes in the Peruvian Amazon. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10736-w

  5. Extreme weather has limited effect on attitudes toward climate policies

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    September 7, 2017 Indiana University  read full ScienceDaily article here

    People who recently experienced severe weather events such as floods, storms and drought are more likely to support policies to adapt to the effects of climate change, according to a new study co-authored by an Indiana University researcher. But the relationship between exposure to extreme weather and support for climate policies is small, the study finds. And it fades quickly; a month after an extreme weather event, there was no effect….

    …The researchers examined survey responses from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and correlated them with data from the National Weather Service’s Storm Events Database. They focused on three policies for climate adaptation: restrictions on coastal development, limits on outdoor residential water use and regulation of stormwater runoff from residential property.

    All three policies enjoyed considerable support, but respondents who had experienced recent extreme weather expressed only modestly stronger support than other respondents.

    Aaron Ray, Llewelyn Hughes, David M. Konisky, Charles Kaylor. Extreme weather exposure and support for climate change adaptation. Global Environmental Change, 2017; 46: 104 DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.07.002

  6. Allowing polluters to offset carbon emissions by paying forest owners effectively reduces greenhouse gases, Stanford study finds

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    • A pioneering California program to sell carbon offsets has surprising environmental benefits – including providing habitat for endangered species – and provides lessons for initiatives under development in other states and countries.
    • The program as a whole leads to emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, the Stanford scientists found after analyzing metrics used to confirm individual projects’ robustness.

    See more here: Carbon Offsets Really Do Help Lower Emissions Aug 15 2017 Scientific American

    By Rob Jordan August 14, 2017 read full Stanford News article here

    You can’t grow money on trees, but you can earn money for letting trees grow. Or at least you can through a pioneering California program that allows forest owners around the United States to sell carbon credits to companies required by the state to reduce emissions. Researchers at Stanford analyzed the program and found that the initiative has valuable environmental benefits beyond just offsetting greenhouse gases….

    ….“California provides the first proof of concept with a government program that credits standing forests.”

    ….Forest offsets, which account for the majority of offsets in California’s cap and trade market, involve forest owners changing the way they manage their land so trees will store more carbon…cutting trees less often, reforesting previously forested land or improving forests through various management practices…

    For each additional ton of carbon dioxide their trees store, forest owners can earn a credit – worth about $10 currently – to sell to California companies required to reduce or offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Since it started in 2013, the program has earned forest owners about $250 million, while offsetting 25 million tons of carbon – an amount equal to 5 percent of California’s annual passenger vehicle emissions.

    …Although California’s cap and trade program allows the use of forest offsets up to an amount equaling 8 percent of a polluter’s emissions, the volume issued so far is only 2 percent of total capped emissions. Because the pool of available offsets is quite small, polluters still need to reduce their own emissions directly, rather than relying on purchasing offsets. The program as a whole leads to emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, the Stanford scientists found after analyzing metrics used to confirm individual projects’ robustness.

    Still, Anderson and her co-authors warn against using forest offsets in large numbers because they may distract from urgent and drastic emissions reduction priorities elsewhere….

    Anderson, Christa M, Field, Christopher B, Mach, Katharine J. Forest offsets partner climate-change mitigation with conservation. Front Ecol Environ 2017; 15(7): 359365, doi:10.1002/fee.1515

  7. NPS chief scraps climate-focused order calling for decisions to be based on science, law and public interest

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    …Former NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis signed the order — formally known as Director’s Order No. 100, or DO 100 for short — on Dec. 20, 2016, as one of the last acts of his tenure as director (E&E News PM, Dec. 20, 2016)…

    …The order called for park managers to make decisions based “on science, law and long-term public interest.” And it said that park superintendents and other NPS leaders had to “possess scientific literacy appropriate to their positions and resource management decision-making responsibilities.”

    Jeremy Barnum, an NPS spokesman, said the order was rescinded by acting Director Michael Reynolds on Aug. 16 “to eliminate confusion among the public and NPS employees regarding current NPS policy in light of the Department of the Interior’s new vision for the long-term protection of America’s unparalleled national parks.”…

  8. CA: More than 99 percent of sustainable groundwater agencies have been formed

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    published on August 28, 2017 – 3:48 PM
    Written by The Business Journal Staff- full article here

    In what the state is billing as “a major step toward sustainable groundwater management in California,” more than 99 percent of the state’s groundwater basins have met a key deadline in reporting groundwater pumping.

    According to the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014, key stakeholders of the state’s 127 high- and medium-priority groundwater basins were required to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to manage groundwater pumping. The deadline for formation of the GSAs was June 30, and as of this week, more than 99 percent had been formed.

    …The next step for SGMA compliance is to create and implement groundwater sustainability plans that describe the plan for bringing “basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.” Basins identified as critically overdrafted are required to have sustainability plans in place by Jan. 21, 2020, while all other high- and medium-priority basins have until Jan. 31, 2022, to adopt plans.\

  9. Interior secretary recommends Trump alter at least three national monuments, including Bears Ears

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    • Zinke proposed reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in Utah, and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon
    • in addition to radically shrinking Bears Ears and perhaps other sites, he is pushing to allow activities at some monuments that previous presidents restricted or barred outright
    • no president had ever sought the kind of rollbacks Trump is contemplating.

    By Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears August 24 Read full Washington Post article here

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three dramatic national monuments and change the way others are managed, moves that would represent the greatest reversal of protections for such sites in more than a century.

    Zinke proposed reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in Utah, and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision. Together, the Utah sites span more than 3.2 million acres.

    Zinke’s report, which the White House did not release, launches what will be a legal and political battle over a relatively obscure law that grants a president wide latitude in preserving federal lands and waters that are threatened.

    After spending nearly four months examining more than two dozen monuments established by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, Zinke is calling for less major change than some conservatives advocated. But in addition to radically shrinking Bears Ears and perhaps other sites, he is pushing to allow activities at some monuments that previous presidents restricted or barred outright.

    “The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations,” Zinke said in a statement, “and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”

    ….In his statement, Zinke described his proposal as a reasonable remedy to years of presidents’ unilaterally exercising their authority without giving adequate consideration to the people living closest to these public lands.

    …Yet John Leshy, who served as Interior’s solicitor in the Clinton administration and is now a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, noted that no president had ever sought the kind of rollbacks Trump is contemplating.  “The scale of this, and the sweep of this, is definitely unprecedented,” Leshy said.

    Ethan Lane, executive director of the public lands council at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the administration’s push reflected that “they’re concerned with rural America.” “They’ve been talking to groups that feel like maybe they weren’t included in the process,” Lane said. “Ranchers across the West are certainly part of that.”

    The Interior Department gave no specifics of Zinke’s recommendations, instead releasing a report summary that described each of the 27 protected areas scrutinized as “unique.” Even so, his proposal takes direct aim at several, according to several individuals who asked for anonymity because the report has yet to be made public….