Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: Policy

  1. Climate change and the Farm Bill

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    Climate change wasn’t always the political hot potato it is today. 

    —Christian Science Monitor  Full article here

    Last month, Congress held initial hearings to inform the 2018 Farm Bill.|

    Agriculture Committee members heard about the struggling farm economy, crop insurance, and rural development. One issue that wasn’t discussed, despite its profound impact on farmers, is climate change….

    The 1990 Farm Bill included a title called the Global Climate Change Prevention Act. That title established a program at the USDA to coordinate climate-related issues within the giant agency….This work included coordinating both inter-agency work as well as representing the USDA at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had just been established in 1988. Specifically, the new climate change program was to study the impacts of climate change (including drought, extreme weather, new pests) on crop production and explore the potential for developing more climate-resilient crops….

    …the climate change title was primarily focused on a research agenda, rather than a regulatory framework that directly threatened the agriculture or fossil fuel industries….

    …Another factor is that the fossil fuel industry hadn’t kicked into over-drive their campaign to politicize and discredit climate science. That multi-decade effort, even after company scientists at Exxon/Mobil had warned the company about climate change going back to the 1970s, shifted the political discussion around climate. Working particularly closely with the Bush-Cheney administration, the industry spent millions to sow doubts about climate science and reinforce the perception that environmentalists had conjured up climate change to advance their agenda….

    …Following the science, and what they are seeing in the field and supply chains, most major agribusiness and food companies are not waiting for Congress to act. CargillGeneral MillsMonsanto, and fertilizer giant Yara, among others, are openly touting how they are responding to climate change. Increasingly, farm groups like the National Farmers Union are pushing for reforms that support climate resilience.

    …Congressional inaction on climate change, led by Republicans, unfortunately reflects what is now a fiercely partisan issue. A recent Pew poll confirmed that political partisanship is the single biggest factor determining people’s views on climate change.That partisanship on climate change is continuing in the 2018 Farm Bill. Even as their home states struggle to recover from yet another extreme weather event—a devastating wildfire that killed more than 10,000 cattle across three states…

  2. Rural America Is Acting On Climate Change – Without Calling It Climate Change

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    02/22/2017 08:46 am ET | Huffington Post see full article here

    By Rebecca J. Romsdahl, University of North Dakota

    …..The results show that energy, economic benefits, common sense and sustainability are frames that are providing opportunities for local leaders to address climate change without getting stuck in the political quagmire. This strategy is being used across the Great Plains states, which include some of the most climate-skeptical areas of the country….

  3. Long-term studies contribute disproportionately to ecology and policy

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    Full paper pdf here

    Abstract:

    As the contribution for long-term ecological and environmental studies (LTEES) to our understanding of how species and ecosystems respond to a changing global climate becomes more urgent, the relative number and investment in LTEES are declining. To assess the value of LTEES to advancing the field of ecology, we evaluated relationships between citation rates and study duration, as well as the representation of LTEES with the impact factors of 15 ecological journals. We found that the proportionate representation of LTEES increases with journal impact factor and that the positive relationship between citation rate and study duration is stronger as journal impact factor increases. We also found that the representation of LTEES in reports written to inform policy was greater than their representation in the ecological literature and that their authors particularly valued LTEES. We conclude that the relative investment in LTEES by ecologists and funders should be seriously reconsidered for advancing ecology and its contribution to informing environmental policy.

    Keywords: climate change, impact factor, citation rate, National Research Council, study duration

    Hughes B.B., R. Beas-Luna, et al. 2017. Long-term studies contribute disproportionately to ecology and policy. In press. BioScience. Featured on the cover.

    Box 1. A recommended attributes of sustainable, productive LTEES largely drawn from the ecological literature (see text for citations).

    Question/hypothesis-based purpose
    Ensure that the purpose and design of a LTEES is motivated by well-defined questions and associated hypotheses.
    Both basic and applied purposes
    Include both basic and applied purposes (questions) to increase the value of an LTEES and breadth of interested participants and funding sources.
    Consistent core sampling design and protocols
    Ensure that core sampling design criteria (spatial and temporal) and protocols are consistent through time to maintain the integrity of a time series. Any new designs and methods should be gradually transitioned to with calibration to evaluate comparability and compatibility of the time series.
    Consistency and quality of data collection
    Establish a rigorous system for maintaining consistency and reliability of data collection and quality control over the long term that is robust to turnover of project personnel. This includes the training and evaluation of data collectors.
    Adaptability of sampling design and protocols
    Ensure capacity to adopt additional designs and protocols to enhance its relevance by addressing emergent and topical questions and hypotheses.
    Documentation
    Maintain rigorous and detailed documentation of sampling designs, data collection methods, instrumentation, calibrations, environmental conditions and other metadata to inform the proper use and interpretation of data.
    Data management and dissemination
    Design and support a well-developed and adaptable data management and data dissemination program throughout the lifetime of the LTEES. This includes a strong online presence.
    Attractive and inclusive participation by the scientific community and others
    Develop means (e.g., workshops, website, outreach) for engaging others in the research community, managers, stakeholders, citizen science and others with emphasis on recruiting new young researchers.
    Management structure
    Implement an adaptable and functional management and governance structure that is responsible for strategic research planning, resource allocation, administrative policies, and staffing throughout the lifetime of the LTEES.
    Rigorous funding structure
    Identify and establish long-term reliable and resilient funding sources in advance of initiating an LTEES. Establish mechanisms for identifying and pursuing additional sources of funding throughout the lifetime of the LTEES (e.g., outreach products and efforts).
    Complementary research programs
    Foster and integrate a diversity of multi- and interdisciplinary research approaches (e.g., short and long-term experiments, modeling, coupled biological and physical observations, coupled socio-ecological investigations).
    Educational component
    Create educational components that expose future generations of scientists and others to the value of LTEES at several levels (visiting researchers and teachers, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduates, K-12).

  4. Climate Scientist Ben Santer’s “statement of purpose” post election

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    Scientist Ben Santer’s ‘statement of purpose’

    see here for full article 

    ….from Ben Santer’s letter:

    Personal statement of purpose:

    1. To continue working to improve scientific understanding of the nature and causes of climate change;

    2. To continue to inform the public and policymakers about all aspects of climate science;

    3. To continue to seek constructive engagement and respectful dialogue;

    4. To continue to be in the public arena, to be a voice of reason, and to be accountable for the research I do.

  5. Study Finds Biofuels Worse for Climate than Gasoline

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    August 25th, 2016 By John Upton climatecentral.org

    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/study-biofuels-worse-for-climate-than-gasoline-20634

    Years of number crunching that had seemed to corroborate the climate benefits of American biofuels were starkly challenged in a science journal [Climatic Change] on Thursday, with a team of scientists using a new approach to conclude that the climate would be better off without them. Based largely on comparisons of tailpipe pollution and crop growth linked to biofuels, University of Michigan Energy Institute scientists estimated that powering an American vehicle with ethanol made from corn would have caused more carbon pollution than using gasoline during the eight years studied.

    Most gasoline sold in the U.S. contains some ethanol, and the findings, published in Climatic Change, were controversial. They rejected years of work by other scientists who have relied on a more traditional approach to judging climate impacts from bioenergy — an approach called life-cycle analysis.

    Following the hottest month on record globally, and with temperatures nearly 2°F warmer and tides more half a foot higher than they were in the 1800s, the implications of biofuels causing more harm to the climate than good would be sweeping.

    The research was financially supported by the American Petroleum Institute, which represents fossil fuel industry companies and has sued the federal government over its biofuel rules. “I’m bluntly telling the life-cycle analysis community, ‘Your method is inappropriate,'” said professor John DeCicco, who led the work. “I evaluated to what extent have we increased the rate at which the carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere?”

    Lifecycle analyses assume that all carbon pollution from biofuels is eventually absorbed by growing crops. DeCicco’s analysis found that energy crops were responsible for additional plant growth that absorbed just 37 percent of biofuel pollution from 2005 to 2013, leaving most of it in the atmosphere, where it traps heat.

    …The findings were criticized by scientists whose work is directly challenged by them…..Thursday’s paper provided fresh fuel for a heated debate among opposing groups of scientists over bioenergy’s climate impacts. Some are certain it’s a helper in the fight against climate change. Others are convinced it’s a threat.

    DeCicco, J.M., Liu, D.Y., Heo, J. et al. Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use. Climatic Change (2016). doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1764-4

  6. Climate urgency: we’ve locked in up to 3 C global warming unless we reduce emissions and sequester carbon

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    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2016/aug/15/climate-urgency-weve-locked-in-more-global-warming-than-people-realize

    Posted on 15 August 2016 by dana1981 skepticalscience.com

    While most people accept the reality of human-caused global warming, we tend not to view it as an urgent issue or high priority. That lack of immediate concern may in part stem from a lack of understanding that today’s pollution will heat the planet for centuries to come, as explained in this Denial101x lecture.

    So far humans have caused about 1°C warming of global surface temperatures, but if we were to freeze the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide at today’s levels, the planet would continue warming. Over the coming decades, we’d see about another 0.5°C warming, largely due to what’s called the “thermal inertia” of the oceans (think of the long amount of time it takes to boil a kettle of water). The Earth’s surface would keep warming about another 1.5°C over the ensuing centuries as ice continued to melt, decreasing the planet’s reflectivity.

    To put this in context, the international community agreed in last year’s Paris climate accords that we should limit climate change risks by keeping global warming below 2°C, and preferably closer to 1.5°C. Yet from the carbon pollution we’ve already put into the atmosphere, we’re committed to 1.5–3°C warming over the coming decades and centuries, and we continue to pump out over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.

    The importance of reaching zero or negative emissions

    We can solve this problem if, rather than holding the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide steady, it falls over time. As discussed in the above video, Earth naturally absorbs more carbon than it releases, so if we reduce human emissions to zero, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide will slowly decline. Humans can also help the process by finding ways to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it.

    Scientists are researching various technologies to accomplish this, but we’ve already put over 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Pulling a significant amount of that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it safely will be a tremendous challenge, and we won’t be able to reduce the amount in the atmosphere until we first get our emissions close to zero.

    There are an infinite number of potential carbon emissions pathways, but the 2014 IPCC report considered four possible paths that they called RCPs. In one of these (called RCP 2.6 or RCP3-PD), we take immediate, aggressive, global action to cut carbon pollution, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels peak at 443 ppm in 2050, and by 2100 they’ve fallen back down to today’s level of 400 ppm. In two others (RCPs 4.5 and 6.0) we act more slowly, and atmospheric levels don’t peak until the year 2150, then they remain steady, and in the last (RCP8.5) carbon dioxide levels keep rising until 2250.

    As the figure below shows [see here], in the first scenario, global warming peaks at 2°C and then temperatures start to fall toward the 1.5°C level, meeting our Paris climate targets. In the other scenarios, temperatures keep rising centuries into the future.

    This is the critical decade

    We don’t know what technologies will be available in the future, but we do know that the more carbon pollution we pump into the atmosphere today, the longer it will take and more difficult it will be to reach zero emissions and stabilize the climate. We’ll also have to pull that much more carbon out of the atmosphere.

    It’s possible that as in three of the IPCC scenarios, we’ll never get all the way down to zero or negative carbon emissions, in which case today’s pollution will keep heating the planet for centuries to come. Today’s carbon pollution will leave a legacy of climate change consequences that future generations may struggle with for the next thousand years.

    Five years ago, the Australian government established a Climate Commission, which published a report discussing why we’re in the midst of the ‘critical decade’ on climate change:

    Click here to read the rest

  7. Brexit: Environmentalists fear ‘bonfire’ of regulations designed to fight climate change and protect wildlife

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    Remain campaigners have argued that EU legislation has helped towards tackling water and air pollution, protect endangered species and imposed tough safeguards on the use of genetically modified crops and potentially dangerous chemicals

    Regulations set in place to help fight climate change and protect Britain’s wildlife may be destroyed following the Brexit result, top environmentalists have warned….

    Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s CEO, said: “The referendum may be over but many of the difficult debates are only just beginning. The environment must be at the heart of our negotiations with Europe and how we create a positive future for our country. We cannot let the UK return to the days of ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Protections for our birds and wildlife, our beaches and rivers, must not be sacrificed in the name of cutting away so-called EU ‘red tape’. ”

    “The environment was rarely mentioned during the referendum but it must now move up the political agenda. With urgent issues like climate change, air pollution and destruction of the natural world already impacting this generation, not just the next, we don’t have time for the environment to take a back seat through years of negotiations.”…

    Rules restricting the amount of fracking could also be lifted, since the majority of restrictions come from European directives, Greenpeace analysis suggests.