Climate Capsule: Earth, Snow & Fire

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: Comments on Keystone
  2. Quote: Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC)
  3. Economic Story of the Week: USDA Grants Help Farmers Face Climate Change
  4. Editorial of the Week: Solutions: Time to rethink flood control
  5. Declining Snowpack Strains Water Resources
  6. Climate Change Could Intensify Wildfire Impacts
  7. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Comments on Keystone


via Rainforest Action Network

More than forty Northeastern conservation groups, representing close to 1 million area residents, are expressing strong opposition to a controversial tar sands pipeline known as Keystone XL. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they emphasized the massive carbon pollution the pipeline will generate and the damage it would do to the Obama Administration’s clean energy aspirations.

Residents and businesses across the Northeast want to get off oil and build a clean energy future,” stated Daniel Gatti, staff attorney, Environment America. “The last thing we need is to rely on even more destructive sources of fuel, such as tar sands sent down from Alberta, Canada in the proposed XL pipeline.”
Upon the close of the public comment period for the State Department’s second round of environmental review of the potential pipeline, more than a quarter of a million Americans had written to oppose the proposal, stating that the U.S. does not need and cannot risk a pipeline carrying dirty, toxic and corrosive tar sands crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) a rating of “insufficient” citing a failure to adequately address several key issues, including pipeline safety, carbon pollution, impacts to water and wildlife, and environmental justice concerns. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts also sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, asking the State Department to reopen the comment period, citing concerns over pipeline safety and the recent spills on existing tar sands pipelines.

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via Yanov/Flickr

“Conservatives typically are people who try to be cognizant of risk and move to minimize risk. To be told of risk and to consciously decide to disregard it seems to be the opposite of conservative. What I hope to do is be a part of an effort that calls conservatives to return to conservatism and to turn away from the populist rejection of science.”

– Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) on new conservative coalition to address climate change.

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Economic Story of the Week

USDA Grants Help Farmers Face Climate Change

via Conservation Commission

A recent Oxfam International report states that climate change is affecting the amount of crops farmers can harvest, causing food prices to soar, which could have devastating effects on the world’s hungry populations. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization also stated that climate change will tighten water supplies for agriculture.

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, sustaining a growing population in the face of climate change uncertainty means farmers worldwide need to increase the overall sustainability of food production. The United States Department of Agriculture is working to reduce carbon pollution while also generating new revenue streams for farmers. More than $7.4 million, funded in part by the department’s Conservation Innovation Grants, will go to nine projects in 24 states that involve creating income opportunities through carbon markets.

Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the USDA awarded the Delta Institute and National Wildlife Federation a three-year Conservation Innovation Grant. The project team will use the $400,000 award to help farmers sell pollution reduction credits for implementing nutrient management practices in Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma. Nutrient management practices like improved fertilizer timing and cover cropping will not only credits by reducing harmful nitrous oxide emissions, but also enhance water quality and farmer profitability.

“We’re excited to support farmers implementing practices that benefit wildlife, our global climate and farmers’ bottom lines,” said Eliav Bitan, agriculture advisor for NWF. “This project will teach us many valuable lessons about the best ways to work with farmers to help them implement practices that will protect wildlife for our children’s future.”

More on this story: Reuters, E&E News

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Editorial of the Week

SOLUTIONS: Time to rethink flood control

(The Center for Public Integrity)

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

We owe it to the victims of the 2011 Mississippi flood to learn the lessons of this not-so-natural disaster so we can do a better job protecting the nation’s river communities in the future.

Climate research tells us that we need to prepare for even greater volumes of floodwaters on the Mississippi in the future. Will we prepare for this future or will we consign Mississippi River communities to misery even greater than in 2011? ….It is time to learn the lessons from such successful experiments, as well as from the unnatural disaster that played out yet again this year on the Mississippi. (More…)

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Declining Snowpack Strains Water Resources

Coulter Sunderman

Snowpack in the Rockies has decreased gradually over the last three decades in an unusual pattern that, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, can be attributed to climate change. While this past winter saw heavy snowfall that caused flooding, the overall trend has been toward less and less snow.

The study, which was based on tree-ring studies that look back hundreds of years, noted that the increasing role of warming would have fundamental impacts on stream flow and water supplies across the western U.S. Snowmelt in the Rockies feeds the Colorado, the Columbia and the Missouri, three river systems that provide water resources for 70 million Americans. The rate at which the snowpack melts is critical to provide a steady supply of water. Variability of both amount and rate of melt is already affecting the frequency of both flooding and drought in the West and causing concern for future water resource management.

More on this story: Reuters, NPR, NY Times

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Climate Change Could Intensify Wildfire Impacts

via graceyheart/Flickr

This year, in regions across the country marked by exceptional drought, preventing and controlling wildfires has been a losing battle. Arizonans, for example, fought a raging wildfire that has scorched more than 480 square miles of the state and sent smoke all the way to Iowa. Residents have been evacuated, flights have been diverted on account of heavy smoke, and air quality alerts have been issued. In Texas, more than 400 homes have burned across the state amid severe drought and high winds since November. Twenty-seven wildfires were reported in a single four-day period last month in New Mexico.

While it is not possible to attribute a single weather event to climate change, recent events have many drawing a link between climate change and the surge in droughts, floods, heat waves and other extreme weather events. Scientists warn that the trend of larger and more severe fires will only get worse as a result of climate change.

But climate change is not only projected to make wildfires more common. A new study released in the online journal PLoS One reports that warmer climates may also make wildfires more potent in releasing carbon and nitrogen pollution from soil.

More on this story: PLos One, Wildlife Promise

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Happening this Week

Thursday, June 16

14th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Policy Forum, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, 345 Cannon House Office Building (Cannon Caucus Room)

Markup of energy and water appropriations bill, House Appropriations, 9:30 AM, 2359 Rayburn

Hearing on air pollution and public health , Senate Environment and Public Works, 10 AM, 406 Dirksen

Hearing on DOE’s clean-tech programs, Science, 2 PM, 2318 Rayburn

Hearing on pipeline safety, Energy & Commerce, Energy and Power subcommittee
9:30 AM, 2322 Rayburn

Saturday, June 18

Netroots Nation, Progressives vs. Polluters: Standing up for the EPA, 1:30 PM, Panel, L100 FG

Coming up…
Tuesday, July 5th

Deadline to Urge the EPA to set strong limits on mercury pollution from power plants to protect wildlife and our health.

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