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Fall 2007, Volume 24.1


READING THE WEST

read-ing [from ME reden, to explain, hence to read] _ vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to; study.

 

western collaboration

In May 2007, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman signed a Memorandum of Understanding to include Utah in the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative. The Western Climate Initiative is a collaboration launched in February 2007 between the Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington to meet regional challenges raised by climate change. WCI is identifying, evaluating and implementing collective and cooperative ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the region. In April 2007, the Premier of British Columbia joined the Initiative.

On August 22, 2007, members of the Western Climate Initiative announced a regional, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions target of 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, or approximately 33 percent below business-as-usual levels…WCI members [also]… agreed to establish, by August 2008, a market-based system—such as a cap-and-trade program covering multiple economic sectors—to aid in meeting it. The regional target is designed to be consistent with existing targets set by individual member states and does not replace these goals. Covered emissions include the six primary greenhouse gases identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

Source: http://www.westernclimateinitiative.org

 

regional initiatives

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Western Governors’ Association (WGA): Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative

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New England Governors: Climate Change Action Plan (NEG-ECP)

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Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Source: Pew Center on Global Climate Change: http://www.pewclimate.org

 

west out In front

Brad Knickerbocker explained in a recent edition of the Christian Science Monitor why the American West in "out in front" on curbing greenhouse gases:

Even without Baghdad-like summer temperatures in Phoenix and other desert environs, heat has always been a major issue across the American West. For one thing, it relates directly to three of the classical earthly elements: water, air, and, of course, fire. That is, air quality and pollution, water-loaded snowpacks and glaciers, and wildfires made worse by hot weather patterns.

So it’s not surprising that climate change is seen by many citizens and officials out West as a big deal—so big that Western states and cities have been at the forefront of tackling global warming…. Under the Western Climate Initiative, the leaders agreed to slash emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-warming pollutants to 15% below 2005 levels in their states and provinces in the next 13 years…. Overall, the region would cut emissions by 350-million metric tons over that time period…. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the goal is roughly the same as taking 75.6 million cars off the road, making it "North America’s most comprehensive and overarching regional program because it could affect every business sector, as well as consumers’ daily lives, such as what type of fuel motorists pump into their vehicles…."

One goal of the Western pact is to pressure Congress and the Bush administration into passing laws that would regulate emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

While environmentalists lauded the effort, they point to its weaknesses. For example, Reuters reports: "The Western pact does not include Alberta, the Canadian province that is home to oil and natural gas fields, including the tar sands, whose development is extremely carbon-intensive. It also excludes Nevada, California’s neighbor which lacks emissions targets and has sought to lure Golden State businesses with tax benefits and other incentives."

The states plan to meet the reductions by using more renewable-energy sources, regulating emissions from motor vehicles, and improving the efficiency of appliances and other electrical equipment. There are other goals as well, Bloomberg reports: "The plan lays the groundwork for a European-style system across the region that will limit emissions and allow businesses to buy or sell pollution credits if they exceed, or fall short, of their goals. The states want to link up to other systems, such as the northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and to Europe’s trading plan."

Last week, [California] Attorney General Brown and San Bernardino County "settled a lawsuit over the negative effects of runaway growth on greenhouse gas emissions, an accord that could have implications for cities and counties throughout the state," the San José Mercury News reported.

"The settlement calls for San Bernardino County to account for the effects its land-use decisions will have on the emissions blamed for global warming. The county, which stretches from the Los Angeles County line to California’s eastern border, is the largest by geographic size in the lower 48 states and has seen rampant growth…. It is expected to add 1 million residents by 2030, for a total population of 3 million…. The settlement requires the county… to devise strategies to reduce carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases."

According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, "across the country, states and regions are adopting policies to address climate change. These actions include increasing renewable energy generation, selling agricultural carbon sequestration credits, and encouraging energy efficiency. Such policies reduce vulnerability to energy price spikes, promote state economic development, and improve local air quality…."

Source: Brad Knickerbocker, "Why the American West is out Front on Curbing Greenhouse Gases," Christian Science Monitor, 99 (30 August 2007); available at http://csmonitor.com

 

temperature outlook

Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/s2818.htm

 

california dreamin’

California became the first U.S. state to re-strict greenhouse gas emissions when Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill authorizing a state board to set emissions targets for various industries. The state has established the California Climate Change Research Center which has recently sponsored the Fourth Annual California Climate Change Conference (see: http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/index.html). Other states have followed California’s lead, and court decisions have backed those efforts.

The eye of the climate change storm is descending upon the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In April, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, holding that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and the U.S. EPA has the authority to regulate the emission of those gases. On Wednesday, September 12, 2007, another important court decision on climate change was issued—this time by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.

The Burlington, Vermont, court decided in Green Mountain Chrysler v. Crombie that California’s greenhouse gas emission standards for new automobiles (standards that were subsequently adopted by Vermont) are not preempted by federal fuel efficiency laws. The case was brought by automobile manufacturers arguing that the state automobile emission standards for greenhouse gases constituted fuel efficiency standards, and that fuel efficiency standards are exclusively regulated by the federal government under the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act ("EPCA"), adopted in 1975….

However, in recognition of California’s unique smog problems, subsection (b) was included in Section 209 to enable California to adopt standards more stringent than federal standards so long as it applies for and obtains a waiver from the U.S. EPA. The Vermont court explained that under Section 209, "Congress has essentially designated California as a proving ground for innovation in emission control regulations." Other states are then free to adopt California’s standards under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, so long as the standards are adopted at least two years before the model year that they regulate.

Source: Mondaq, a collection of sources from professional business advisors around the world. http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=52390

 

Source: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/photos-RMGS-product/66-Set4-MainStreet.jpg

 

warming fuels trouble

Earlier this year the National Wildlife Federation summarized a report in their publication, National Wildlife, which they had issued in October 2006: "Fueling the Fire: Global Warming, Fossil Fuels and the Fish and Wildlife of the American West." Prepared by Patty Glick, the report argues that climate change will produce more wildfires, drought and wildlife losses.

The American West is feeling the heat from global warming, and that could mean more widespread wildfires, prolonged drought and extensive loss of wildlife habitat in the years to come, according to a new NWF report. "America’s addiction to fossil fuels is coming at an enormous price, one that threatens not only people but the fish, wildlife and ecosystems that are so fundamental to the region’s—and nation’s—economy, culture and values," observes Patty Glick, an NWF global warming specialist and author of the study….

"The latest science paints a bleak picture," says Glick, noting that the last wildfire season was the most expensive on record. "It is an eerie snapshot of what will happen in the West if warming continues." Among the predictions compiled in the report:

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Global warming will cause a significant reduction in snowpack. The Pacific Northwest is projected to lose as much as 88 percent of its average snowpack in future decades; the Central Rocky Mountains could lose as much as 75 percent.

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Drought conditions are expected to become more extreme in some areas as higher average temperatures contribute to increased evaporation rates.

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Big sagebrush habitats throughout the West could decline by 59 percent in coming decades, which would have devastating consequences for sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and other species that depend on them.

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A continuing trend toward higher stream temperatures would significantly reduce habitat for trout, salmon and other cold-water fish across the West.

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The overall area of acreage burned by wildfires will double in size by the end of the century, hitting New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Utah particularly hard.

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Heat waves will become more intense, more frequent and longer lasting during this century if global warming continues unabated.

"We have a real opportunity to change course," says Glick. "Fortunately, solutions are at hand." The report provides a number of recommendations, including placing significant, mandatory limits on U.S. global warming pollution; reducing the nation’s overall dependence on fossil fuels through greater investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; and implementing strategies to help wildlife survive the effects of global warming that are already underway.

Source: "Warming Fuels Trouble in the West," National Wildlife, 45 ( Dec 2006/Jan 2007); available from Academic Search Premier at http://web.ebscohost.com

 

climate change-induced summer droughts

At this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists urged the U.S. to consider a national drought policy. The western United States has experienced increasing drought conditions in recent years—and conditions may worsen if global climate change models are accurate—yet the country is doing little to prepare for potential catastrophe.

…Though many climate change models predict warmer and wetter weather for parts of the Earth, the potential for drought in regions like the southwestern U.S. is actually greater, said Jim Coakley, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University and a co-organizer of the AAAS symposium.

Most western rivers and streams are more dependent on snowmelt for sustained flows than regular rainfall—and declining snow packs have already become an issue throughout much of the West, Coakley pointed out.

"We’re already seeing snow packs dwindle and spring runoffs coming earlier and earlier," Coakley said. "The dry summers that we’ve experienced recently may pale in comparison to what could happen in the near future. There is a kind of domino effect as temperatures warm. Precipitation that would have fallen as snow will come as rain and run off more quickly. Spring runoffs begin earlier. Summers lengthen and evaporation increases."

During the last three decades, temperatures have risen 1-2 degrees (Fahrenheit), and many scientists believe the pace of that warming is accelerating. Drought is a reality facing many western states, yet the governmental and societal response is through ad hoc crisis management, pointed out Shaun McGrath, of the Western Governors’ Association.

"Providing adequate supplies of clean water is a challenge when there is normal precipitation," McGrath said, "and extended times of drought and water shortages create further stresses for our water systems. Yet in marked contrast to the myriad federal programs that report, prevent and mitigate the damage of other extreme events—like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes—we accept drought’s effects as an unavoidable natural hardship…."

It is "long past time" to integrate climate change into water planning and management, said Peter Gleick, a MacArthur Fellow and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.

"Climate change is a reality," Gleick notes, "and we must begin planning for those impacts that will be unavoidable. We must do a better job of evaluating the potential for water efficiency and conservation in planning for future needs. And new ways of thinking about supply are needed, including water reuse, conjunctive groundwater and surface water management, and smart desalination…."

"To achieve sustainable water supplies, we’ll need a combination of sound science, new technologies, creative management and a coherent policy that weaves all the elements together," Coakley said. "And it won’t come without a price—both economic and social. But given our future, it is a must."

Source: Science Daily, 1 March 2007, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218140443.htm

 

Source: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

 

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