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Tag Archive: climate change

  1. Nature-based solutions can prevent $50 billion in Gulf Coast flood damages– Restoration of marshes and oyster reefs are among the most cost-effective solutions

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    • Wetland and reef restoration can yield benefit-to-cost ratios greater than seven to one, meaning more than $7 in direct flood-reduction benefits for every $1 spent on restoration.
    • Future flood risks from coastal hazards will grow, and that the major driver of risk in the Gulf is coastal development, particularly for the most extreme and costly events: the more people and property exposed to coastal hazards, the greater the flooding risk. Climate change, however, will result in more frequent losses. Events causing $100 billion in damages may become approximately three times more frequent in the future, the study found.

    April 12, 2018 University of California – Santa Cruz Read full ScienceDaily article here

    While coastal development and climate change are increasing the risk of flooding for communities along the US Gulf Coast, restoration of marshes and oyster reefs are among the most cost-effective solutions for reducing those risks, according to a new study.

    …the study compares the cost effectiveness of nature-based and artificial solutions for flood reduction across the Gulf of Mexico. The results clearly demonstrate the value of nature-based solutions such as marsh and oyster-reef restoration. Overall, wetland and reef restoration can yield benefit-to-cost ratios greater than seven to one, meaning more than $7 in direct flood-reduction benefits for every $1 spent on restoration. Many artificial solutions (such as levees and home elevation) have benefit-to-cost ratios near or below one-to-one; their benefits can be high, but they are expensive to implement at scale.

    The study was led by researchers at UC Santa Cruz, the Nature Conservancy, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at ETH Zurich. It applied the Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA) approach, which was developed by reinsurance company Swiss Re and partners to understand what drives coastal risk and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of adaptation options…..

    …The new study quantified the flood risks to people and property for the entire U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico under current and future climate scenarios and economic growth projections. It showed that future flood risks from coastal hazards will grow, and that the major driver of risk in the Gulf is coastal development, particularly for the most extreme and costly events: the more people and property exposed to coastal hazards, the greater the flooding risk. Climate change, however, will result in more frequent losses. Events causing $100 billion in damages may become approximately three times more frequent in the future, the study found.

    ….”We show that nature-based measures for flood reduction can be considered right alongside artificial or gray measures such as seawalls in industry-based benefit-cost models. This removes a major impediment for engineers, insurers, and risk management agencies for building coastal resilience more naturally,” said project team leader Michael Beck, lead marine scientist at the Nature Conservancy and a research professor at UC Santa Cruz.

    …The team developed open-source software based in part on Swiss Re’s natural catastrophe model to assess flood risks and adaptation solutions. All of the results and maps showing the cost effectiveness of adaptation solutions under future climate change and development scenarios are available in an interactive mapper available online at CoastalResilience.org.

    Borja G. Reguero, Michael W. Beck, David N. Bresch, Juliano Calil, Imen Meliane. Comparing the cost effectiveness of nature-based and coastal adaptation: A case study from the Gulf Coast of the United States. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (4): e0192132 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192132

  2. US power sector carbon emissions intensity drops to lowest on record

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    • U.S. power plant emissions averaged 967 lb. CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2017, which was down 3.1 percent from the prior year and down 26.8 percent from the annual value of 1,321 lb CO2 per MWh in 2005.

    April 4, 2018 College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Researchers have announced the release of the 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index. The Index tracks the environmental performance of US power producers and compares current emissions to more than two decades of historical data collected nationwide. This release marks the one-year anniversary of the Index, developed as a new metric to track power sector carbon emissions performance trends.

    ….The latest data revealed the following findings: U.S. power plant emissions averaged 967 lb. CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2017, which was down 3.1 percent from the prior year and down 26.8 percent from the annual value of 1,321 lb CO2 per MWh in 2005. The result for 2016 was initially reported as 1,001 lb/MWh, but was later revised downward to 998 lb/MWh.

  3. Oil and Gas Companies Pledge Major Methane Emissions Reductions—Will They Follow Through?

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  4. Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Change Lawsuits Stand Today

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    • Some of the biggest oil and gas companies are embroiled in legal disputes with cities, states and children over the industry’s role in global warming.
  5. 50 years on the Farallones–and still counting!

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    • Today, we’re kicking off a celebration to mark this remarkable milestone. Join us on Twitter and on Facebook in the weeks and months ahead as we use the hashtag #Farallones50 to share photos, videos, stories, and highlights of our work on the “Galapagos of California.”

    By | April 3, 2018

    Farallones50_blogfeaturedimage Exactly fifty years ago today Point Blue scientists officially began our research program on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco. When our boat landed on April 3, 1968, we had no idea that it was the start of a continuous research operation on the island that hosts the largest seabird breeding colony in continental United States. Since then, we’ve maintained a presence on the island 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, working in close partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Former Point Blue Farallon Intern, Jen Aragon, measuring the weight of a seabird Photo credit: Annie Schmidt/Point Blue

    Former intern, Jen Aragon, measuring a seabird. Photo credit: Annie Schmidt/Point Blue.

    Over these five decades, we’ve amassed invaluable long term data sets that are crucial for understanding and addressing threats to our climate, the ocean, seabirds, sea lions, seals, whales, white sharks, and the marine food web.

    Our research has led to significant outcomes including: the 1987 ban on gill-netting to protect seabirds from being killed as bycatch; the 1993 state law banning the hunting of White Sharks in California; the establishment of Marine Protected Area regulations around the Farallones in 2010; and, new actions by NOAA and the US Coast Guard to reduce ship strikes on whales.

    Today, we’re kicking off a celebration to mark this remarkable milestone. Join us on Twitter and on Facebook in the weeks and months ahead as we use the hashtag #Farallones50 to share photos, videos, stories, and highlights of our work on the “Galapagos of California.”

    But we’re not just looking to the past. As we’ve shared with you before, with all that’s going in Washington, D.C., our Farallones Islands program needs your support more than ever. With your generous support, we will continue our groundbreaking science and stewardship on the island, day in day and day out, for the next 50 years!

    Please join us in celebrating this amazing milestone by investing today in the future protection of the Farallon Islands!

    Cassin's Auklet. Photo credit: Brett Hartl/ Point Blue

    Cassin’s Auklet. Photo credit: Brett Hartl/ Point Blue.

     

  6. Advancing UN efforts on agriculture for climate change mitigation and adaptation– webinar recordings now available

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    • Agriculture is a special topic under the UNFCCC, cross-linking between adaptation and mitigation and covering all countries under the convention
    • In a recent webinar, participants discussed how the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture can help agricultural development address a triple threat: food security, climate resilience, and mitigation (read more here).

    March 5 2018 GFAR (Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation) Presentations & Recordings from the Global Webinar

    In light of the recent adopted decision by the Parties at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in November 2017 known as the Koronivia* joint work on agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) organized a global webinar to provide participants with a better understanding of the key opportunities and challenges involved in advancing Koronivia joint work on agriculture and an opportunity for dialogue on the topics identified in the Koronivia decision ahead of the Subsidiary Bodies for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Implementation (SBI) meetings to take place from 30 April – 10 May 2018 in Bonn, Germany.

    Through discussions it was noted that, many countries are already strongly affected by the adverse effects of climate change, including but not limited to droughts, pests and diseases. This requires support to increase resilience and sufficient climate finance in agriculture to make informed investments. In this sense, agriculture is a special topic under the UNFCCC, cross-linking between adaptation and mitigation and covering all countries under the convention. The Koronivia joint work is a chance to align the efforts of all stakeholders in the agricultural community – and we can take full advantage of this!

    Read blog

    Keynote speakers included representatives from the European Union, New Zealand, UNFCCC and Uruguay.

    Moderator: Julia Wolf, Natural Resources Officer, FAO Presentation | Recording

    Herwig Ranner, European Commission in the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development Presentation | Recording

    Dirk Nemitz, Programme Officer for agriculture, forestry and other land-use at the UNFCCC Presentation | Recording

    Victoria Hatton,  Senior Policy Analyst, Ministry for Primary Industries, New ZealandPresentation | Recording

    Walter Oyhantcabal, Director of the Climate Change and Sustainability Unit in Uruguay’s Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Presentation | Recording

    Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Presentation | Recording

    Martial Bernoux, Coordinator of the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme, FAO Presentation | Recording

    As a follow up to the webinar, regional webinars are expected to be organized throughout the year. Please be on the lookout for these Koronivia regional dialogues!

    For more information on Koronivia joint work on agriculture, please visit: www.fao.org/climate-change/resources/learning/

    *Koronivia grass is a leafy, procumbent, creeping, stoloniferous perennial grass

  7. Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check: 20% below countries’ Paris pledges

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    • Emissions reduction efforts in the next decade pledged by governments under the Paris climate agreement are by far not sufficient to attain the explicit aim of the agreement — they will not keep warming below the 2-degrees-limit.
    • Emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement to keep costs and CO2 removal in check.
    • Rapid short-term emissions reductions are the most robust way of preventing climate damages and large-scale deployment of carbon removal technologies can only be avoided when reliable CO2 prices are introduced as soon as possible.

    March 28, 2018 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Read full ScienceDaily article here

    Rapid greenhouse-gas emissions reductions are needed if governments want to keep in check both the costs of the transition towards climate stabilization and the amount of removing already emitted CO2 from the atmosphere. To this end, emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement, a new study finds….

    Removing CO2 from the atmosphere through technical methods including carbon capture and underground storage (CCS) or increased use of plants to suck up CO2 comes with a number of risks and uncertainties, and hence the interest of limiting them.

    ….”Emissions reduction efforts in the next decade pledged by governments under the Paris climate agreement are by far not sufficient to attain the explicit aim of the agreement — they will not keep warming below the 2-degrees-limit,”…”To stabilize the climate before warming crosses the Paris threshold, we either have to undertake the huge effort of halving emissions until 2030 and achieving emission neutrality by 2050 — or the emissions reductions would have to be complemented by CO2 removal technologies. In our study, we for the first time try to identify the minimum CO2 removal requirements — and how these requirements can be reduced with increased short-term climate action.”

    …It turns out that, according to the computer simulations done by the scientists, challenges for likely keeping warming below the threshold agreed in Paris would increase sharply if CO2 removal from the atmosphere is restricted to less than 5 billion tons of CO2 per year throughout the second half of the century. This is substantial. It would mean for instance building up an industry for carbon capture and storage that moves masses comparable to today’s global petroleum industry. Still, 5 billion tons of CO2 removal is modest compared to the tens of billion tons that some scenarios used in climate policy debates assume. Current CO2 emissions worldwide are more than 35 billion tons per year…

    …first, rapid short-term emissions reductions are the most robust way of preventing climate damages, and second, large-scale deployment of CDR technologies can only be avoided when reliable CO2 prices are introduced as soon as possible….”Ramping up climate policy ambition for 2030 to reduce emissions by 20 percent is economically feasible. It is all about short-term entry points: rapidly phasing out coal in developed countries such as Germany and introducing minimum prices for CO2 in pioneer coalitions in Europe and China makes sense almost irrespective of the climate target you aim for. In contrast, our research shows that delaying action makes costs and risks skyrocket. People as well as businesses want stability, and this is what policy-makers can provide — if they act rapidly.”

    Jessica Strefler, Nico Bauer, Elmar Kriegler, Alexander Popp, Anastasis Giannousakis, Ottmar Edenhofer. Between Scylla and Charybdis: Delayed mitigation narrows the passage between large-scale CDR and high costs. Environmental Research Letters, 2018; 13 (4): 044015 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aab2ba

  8. Past mass extinction had prior warning: warning signs today

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    • Warning signs for mass extinction do exist, contrary to previous assumptions.
    • The first indicators of a mass extinction were evident as early as 700,000 years prior to the actual even
    • ‘The increased rate of extinction 250 million years ago (Permian Triassic) in all habitats we are currently observing is attributable to the direct influence of humans, such as destruction of habitat, over-fishing and pollution. However, the dwarfing of animal species in the oceans in particular can be quite clearly attributed to climate change. We should take these signs very seriously.’
    March 27, 2018 University of Erlangen-Nuremberg read full ScienceDaily article
    Mass extinctions throughout the history of the Earth have been well documented. Scientists believe that they occurred during a short period of time in geological terms. In a new study, paleobiologists have now shown that signs that the largest mass extinction event in the Earth’s history was approaching became apparent much earlier than previously believed, and point out that the same indicators can be observed today….

    … around 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary… gigantic volcanic eruptions and the greenhouse gas emissions they caused wiped out around 90 percent of all animal species according to estimates. ….In a new study a team of researchers from Germany and Iran have proved that this crisis happened over a longer period of time….

    ….Their results show that the first indicators of a mass extinction were evident as early as 700,000 years prior to the actual event. Several species of ammonoids were killed off at that time and the surviving species became increasingly smaller in size and less complex the closer the main event became. The warning signs of mass extinction are also visible today….

    Wolfgang Kiessling, Martin Schobben, Abbas Ghaderi, Vachik Hairapetian, Lucyna Leda, Dieter Korn. Pre–mass extinction decline of latest Permian ammonoids. Geology, 2018; 46 (3): 283 DOI: 10.1130/G39866.1
  9. Nature-based solutions needed for better management of water, says UN report

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    • We need to increase our use of nature-based solutions – where we work more with nature – says a new report on global water management by the United Nations.
    • World Water Development Report 2018demonstrates how nature‐based solutions (NBS) use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs). Read more / Download the report in English | Français | Español

    ….“We need new solutions in managing water resources,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change.”

    nature-based solutions - global water managementGreater use of nature-based solutions will help us toward a more holistic approach to managing global water resources. Image: CP/pixabay composite.

    The 2018 United Nations World Water Development Report featured recently at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil.

    Holistic approach to water management

    The report argues that nature-based solutions are one of the many essential tools for moving toward “a more holistic approach to water management.”

    Nature-based solutions support the idea that water is not an isolated element but an inseparable part of a cycle of evaporation, precipitation, and absorption through the soil.

    Grasslands, forests, and wetlands – and the extensive vegetation cover that they provide – have a profound effect on the water cycle and by focusing on them we can do much to improve the amount and quality of water that is available.

    The report says that we need to make more use of environmental engineering that focuses on “green infrastructure” rather than just “grey infrastructure” solutions provided by traditional civil engineering.

    This does not mean that we do not continue to seek civil engineering solutions in the form of irrigation canals, reservoirs, and water treatment plants, but look to increase nature-based solutions to complement them.

    Benefits of ‘green infrastructure’

    Green infrastructure has much to offer water-intensive applications such as agriculture. For example, it can help to reduce soil erosion, pollution, and the amount of water required by making irrigation systems more efficient.

    An example of this is the change that has occurred in recent decades in the Indian state of Rajasthan, which suffered one of its worst droughts ever in 1986.

    In the years that followed, collaboration between an NGO and local communities established ways of harvesting water that regenerated forests and soils.

    As a result, forest cover in the state increased by 30 percent, groundwater levels went up several meters, and productivity of croplands improved.

    “For too long,” says Azoulay, “the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In so doing, it has often brushed aside traditional and Indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches.”….

  10. Biodiversity and nature’s benefits continue dangerous decline, scientists warn; Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn

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    • Unsustainable exploitation of the natural world threatens food and water security of billions of people, major UN-backed biodiversity study reveals
    • 75% of Earth’s land areas are degraded– new report warns that environmental damage threatens the well-being of 3.2 billion people. Yet solutions are within reach.
    • Climate change will be the fastest-growing cause of species loss in the Americas by midcentury, according to this new set of reports from the leading global organization on ecosystems and biodiversity.
    • Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the main driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and impacting food security, water purification, the provision of energy, and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached “critical levels” in many parts of the world…Wetlands have been hit hardest, with 87 percent lost globally in the last 300 years…Wetlands continue to be destroyed in Southeast Asia and the Congo region of Africa, mainly to plant oil palm.
    • Landmark reports highlight options to protect and restore nature and its vital contributions to people.

    March 23 2018 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) See National Geographic story here; See GuardianUK news coverage here;  Read ScienceDaily article here

    Biodiversity — the essential variety of life forms on Earth — continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark science reports written by more than 550 leading experts, from over 100 countries.

    Read the 5th new IPBES assessment report press release, on global land degradation and restoration report here.

     

    • Projections include:
      • The unprecedented growth in consumption, demography and technology will roughly quadruple the global economy in the first half of the twenty-first century.
      • Unless urgent and concerted action is taken, land degradation will worsen in the face of population growth, unprecedented consumption, an increasingly globalized economy, and climate change.
      • Land degradation and climate change are likely to force 50 to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.
      • By 2050, land degradation and climate change will reduce crop yields by an average of 10% globally, and up to 50% in certain regions.
      • The capacity of rangelands to support livestock will continue to diminish in the future, due to both land degradation and loss of rangeland area.
      • Biodiversity loss is projected to reach 38–46% by 2050.
    • Opportunities to accelerate action identified in the report include:
      • Improving monitoring, verification systems and baseline data;
      • Coordinating policy between different ministries to simultaneously encourage more sustainable production and consumption practices of land-based commodities;
      • Eliminating ‘perverse incentives’ that promote land degradation and promoting positive incentives that reward sustainable land management; and
      • Integrating the agricultural, forestry, energy, water, infrastructure and service agendas.
    • Remedial Options
      1. National and international responses to land degradation are often focused on mitigating damage already caused….Land degradation is rarely, if ever, the result of a single cause and can thus only be addressed through the simultaneous and coordinated use of diverse policy instruments and responses at the institutional, governance, community and individual levels.
      2. Land managers, including indigenous peoples and local communities, have key roles to play in the design, implementation and evaluation of sustainable land management practices.
      3. Proven approaches to halting and reversing land degradation include:
      • Urban planning, replanting with native species, green infrastructure development, remediation of contaminated and sealed soils (e.g. under asphalt), wastewater treatment and river channel restoration.
      • Better, more open-access information on the impacts of traded commodities.
      • Coordinated policy agendas that simultaneously encourage more sustainable consumption of land-based commodities.
      • Eliminating perverse incentives that promote degradation – subsidies that reward overproduction, for example – and devising positive incentives that reward the adoption of sustainable land management practices.
      • Rangelands:
        • Land capability and condition assessments and monitoring
        • Grazing pressure management
        • Pasture and forage crop improvement
        • Silvopastoral management
        • Weed and pest management
        • Rangelands with traditional grazing in many dryland regions have benefitted from maintaining appropriate fire regimes and the reinstatement or development of local livestock management practices and institutions. A variety of passive or active forest management and restoration techniques have successfully conserved biodiversity and avoided forest degradation while yielding multiple economic, social and environmental benefits.
      • Combating land degradation resulting from invasive species involves the identification and monitoring of invasion pathways and the adoption of eradication and control measures (mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical).
      • Responses to land degradation from mineral resource extraction include:
        • on-site management of mining wastes (soils and water)
        • reclamation of mine site topography
        • conservation and early replacement of topsoil
        • restoration and rehabilitation measures to recreate functioning grassland, forest, wetland and other ecosystems

      4. Examples of well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, to halt degradation of agricultural lands include:

      • Effective responses to avoid, reduce and reverse wetland degradation include:
        • controlling point and diffuse pollution sources
        • adopting integrated land and water management strategies; and
        • restoring wetland hydrology, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions through passive and active restoration measures, such as constructed wetlands

     

    Here is the America’s report from the IPBES- Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

    By the numbers- The Americas:

    Trends / data

    • 13%: the Americas’ share of world’s human population
    • 40%: share of world ecosystems’ capacity to produce nature-based materials consumed by people, and to assimilate by-products from their consumption
    • 65%: the proportion of nature’s contributions to people, across all units of analysis, in decline (with 21% declining strongly)
    • >50%: share of the Americas’ population with a water security problem
    • 61%: languages and associated cultures, in trouble or dying out
    • >95%: North American tall grass prairie grasslands transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 72% and 66% respectively: of tropical dry forest in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean have been transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 88%: Atlantic tropical forest transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 17%: Amazon forest transformed into human-dominated landscapes since pre-European settlement
    • 50%: decrease in renewable freshwater available per person since the 1960s
    • 200-300%: Increase in humanity’s ecological footprint in each subregion of the Americas since the 1960s
    • 9.5% and 25%: Forest areas lost in South America and Mesoamerica respectively since the 1960s
    • 0.4% and 43.4%: net gains in forest areas in North America and the Caribbean respectively since the 1960s
    • 1.5 million: approximate number of Great Plains grassland hectares loss from 2014 to 2015
    • 2.5 million: hectares under cultivation in Brazil’s northeast agricultural frontier in 2013, up from 1.2 million ha in 2003, with 74% of these new croplands taken from intact cerrado (tropical savanna) in that region
    • 15-60%: North American drylands habitat lost between 2000 and 2009
    • >50%: US wetlands lost since European settlement (up to 90% lost in agricultural regions)
    • >50%: decline in coral reef cover by the 1970s; only 10% remained by 2003

    Economic value of nature’s contributions to people

    • $24.3 trillion: estimated value per year of terrestrial nature’s contributions to people in the Americas (equivalent to the region’s gross domestic product)
    • $6.8, $5.3 and $3.6 trillion per year: nature’s contributions to people valued as ecosystem services in Brazil, USA and Canada respectively
    • >$500 million: annual cost of managing the impacts of invasive alien zebra mussels on infrastructure for power, water supply and transportation in the Great Lakes….