The National Grazing Lands Coalition (NatGLC) is dedicated to providing voluntarily ecologically and economically sound management of all grazing lands for their adaptive uses and multiple benefits to the environment and society through science-based technical assistance, research and education.
Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy concentrates the talents of the university on energy research and education, from basic science and technology to policy and business. They disseminate research results and help the university develop energy-literate leaders as part of its educational mission. They also build collaborations globally with industry, other research institutions, government and civic organizations in pursuit of sustainable, affordable, secure energy for all people.
Valuation of Ecosystem Services
This video is a part of Conservation Strategy Fund's collection of environmental economics lessons and was made possible thanks to the support of Jon Mellberg and family. This series is for people who want to learn - or review - the economics of conservation. The Valuation series will look at the process of estimating the value of an ecosystem. This video will look at the difference between indirect, direct, bequest, existence and option use and non-use values of ecosystem services.
Voluntary Ecosystem Services Markets: A Fresh Approach to Free-Market Climate-Smart Policy
Publishers Note: This article written by David Crow originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of The Cattleman, a Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association publication.
The number of Fortune 500 companies committing to bold climate goals increased by 75% since 2019. It marked a major strategy shift for major corporations around the country, whose investments pivoted toward climate-focused programs. A number of solutions emerged with intentions of addressing these environmental challenges by leveraging agriculture. But few of these solutions offered any promising change — until now.
Voluntary ecosystem service markets present an encouraging solution. These markets focus on private, working lands, generating credits from the many nature-based benefits found on farms and ranches. For the first time, private land is recognized for its ability to store carbon, replenish water resources, provide habitat to fish and wildlife, and more.
Despite this potential, there is industry concern, and with good reason. Historic approaches to climate discussions were compliance or regulation focused, using strict guidelines to meet legal requirements related to greenhouse gas emissions.
Cap and trade, a system designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by marketing a limited number of credits to corporations, meant regulation limiting a landowner’s freedom to operate. Carbon taxes added financial burdens to already high production costs for cattle producers and had no promises of returned environmental outcomes. These types of approaches threatened the viability of many operations.
This is why a voluntary, market-driven approach is exciting for the industry. Rather than focusing merely on the use of resources, they focus on outcomes driven by incentives. It models price premium programs like USDA Certified Organic or Certified Angus Beef, paying producers for practices known to benefit the environment with measurable outcomes.
Pricing models for these programs operate on supply and demand. Unlike cap and trade, these markets are not artificially manipulated.
Change is dependent on dollars invested, and pricing is scaled based on willingness to participate. Momentum from climate discussions
reflect the potential for landowners. Willing buyers are coming forward, making investments in these climate-focused industries. This brings a great deal of promise for the agricultural community.
One important component of these marketplaces is the ability to commoditize more than just carbon. In addition, producers can capitalize from management decisions influencing water quality, water quantity and biodiversity. The greatest challenge is making these markets work for a variety of land uses. Relatively few ecosystem services markets serve the grazing lands community, most focus on row crops. Research and innovation are changing this.
Recently, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association released a report reviewing carbon markets available to cattle producers. The report identified practices benefiting carbon sequestration, including prescribed grazing, stocking rates, brush management, improved wildlife habitats and more. It also explored five carbon markets applicable to grazing operations, observing similarities and differences and providing considerations for producers preparing to explore these markets.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association isn’t the only group exploring the potential for these markets. The Texas Agricultural Land Trust, of which Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is a founding member, is at the front of this charge right here in Texas. The trust formed an ecosystem services market committee chaired by former Congressman Mike Conaway. The committee is tasked with supporting the development of markets in Texas. It’s exploring opportunities to pilot these markets across varying regions in the state, and supporting research that will help inform valuation of
various ecosystem services.
This is merely the beginning. We are just uncovering the potential of this free-market approach to conservation. As more research emerges that contributes to the values provided from grazing lands, we can anticipate more interest in ecosystem services markets for the cattle ranching sector. It may very well fundamentally change approaches to conservation across the county. I’m proud to be a part of the industry that will serve as an important pillar in that solution.
San Antonio To Be The First Texas City To Try Out Cooler Pavement To Combat Warm Temperatures
City hopes pavement topper is answer to combating urban heat island effect.
The lack of tree canopy or greenery, and heat-retaining materials like concrete walls and asphalt can result in much warmer temperatures in urban areas.
It’s called the urban heat island effect. It leads to significantly warmer temperatures in the city during the summer months. It’s a problem the City of San Antonio is aware of and attempting to find ways to combat.
“What’s important about the urban heat island is that heat is absorbed all throughout the day,” said Murray Myers, the municipal sustainability
manager for San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability. “It’s supposed to cool down at night, and it doesn’t because all that heat is then released back into the neighborhoods.”
According to a UTSA study on urban heat islands, San Antonio, specifically the city’s east and west sides, can be anywhere from 10-20 degrees warmer in the summer compared to nearby rural areas.
The following images were taken from UTSA’s Heat Vulnerability Assessment Tool. They show the average monthly surface temperature in August 2019:
“You’ll see how places like Olmos Park, the older tree canopy and river/trail in King William and the forested area Northwest of Kelly Field are cooler than the paved surfaces in the same area,” Myers said. “Within the city, there are pockets of green space where the surface temperatures are at least 15 degrees cooler, and that correlates with an ambient air temperature decrease in those areas.”
“As we collect more data from the surrounding counties, we’ll be able to provide a more definitive answer on the temperature decrease between San Antonio’s core and the surrounding rural areas.”
It’s why San Antonio is leading the charge in Texas, being the first city in the state to test out cooler pavement.
It’s basically a pavement topper by the company GuardTop that has been shown to fight the urban heat island effect and not retain as much heat as asphalt or concrete.
“In this situation, it’s a seal coat,” Myers said. “It has a couple of different materials to make it more reflective, a little bit lighter that way the sunlight isn’t absorbed into the pavement.”
Myers said the cooler pavement was given to the city as a sample.
The University of Texas at San Antonio and the city will conduct a study on the small applied area near the Hays Street Bridge over the next several months.
If proven successful, the city will invest in the material to start applying it to the most impacted neighborhoods, possibly by next fall.
Studies in other cities have shown it does work, and Los Angeles and Phoenix are already using the cool pavement.
Arizona State University conducted a study in Phoenix in 2020 that showed cool pavement had an average surface temperature 10.5 to 12 degrees lower than traditional asphalt at noon and during the afternoon hours.
Sub-surface temperatures averaged 4.8 degrees lower in areas treated with the cool pavement. Nighttime air temperature at 6 feet high was on average 0.5 degrees lower over cool pavement than on the non-treated surfaces.
”If we locate or strategize our resources into the hotspots, then we can lower those temperatures and then tackle the next neighborhoods,” Myers said.
He said this is just one tool in the toolbox when it comes to combatting warming temperatures in the city, and planting more trees also plays a big role.
New Report Shows Texas is Far More Vulnerable to Extreme Weather Due to Climate Change
By Niki Griswold
October 07, 2021
October 07, 2021
AUSTIN, Texas — A new report released Thursday found that climate change is making Texas far more vulnerable to extreme weather events.
What You Need To Know
The research shows that Texas is going to keep getting hotter, while the severity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to dramatically increase and will have an impact on everything from infrastructure to public health.
“Extreme rainfall getting worse because of higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns, droughts getting worse because of greater evaporation, those all get connected to those temperature changes," said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas State Climatologist, author of the report, and atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M University.
The new climate report by Texas A&M and the nonprofit Texas 2036 found that the number of 100 degree days in Texas has more than doubled over the last 40 years and could double again by 2036.
Those rising temperatures are expected to have a significant impact on public health and industries like agriculture and construction.
“Workers, and especially employers, are going to need to be more conscious of making sure that people that have to work outside are protected and safe when they do that. That may lead to fewer hours of being able to work outside and lower productivity as a trade off for having to deal with more 100 degree days," said Nielsen-Gammon.
A big concern is how extreme weather will affect the state’s infrastructure. The research indicates that urban flooding could increase from 30% to 50%.
“For me the biggest changes to worry about are those associated with changes in extreme rainfall because that is going to be a very expensive problem going forward," said Nielsen-Gammon. "We already saw with Hurricane Harvey with over $100 billion of damage. It's already an expensive enough problem that we have to deal with.”
The report also shows that climate change is already having an impact in Texas.
Because of rising sea levels, Texas coastlines are already receding, and the research predicts that the risk of hurricane storm surge along some parts of the gulf coast will be twice as high as they were a hundred years ago.
The report included poll results that show Texans are not optimistic that the state is prepared.
“Only 40% said of the state was well prepared for extreme weather events. A majority, however, 59%, and that's close to 60, said that the state was not well prepared for extreme weather events," said Jeremy Mazur, senior policy advisor with Texas 2036.
The polling shows that Texans want the government to invest in making the state more resilient to natural disasters, including weatherizing the energy grid and funding flood control projects.
"When we're talking about long term projections of global temperatures being three or four degrees Celsius higher as a possibility by the end of the century, in Texas that translates six to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer," said Nielsen-Gammon. "In a sense, the fact that we're only looking up to 2036 sort of underplays the risks of climate change. In fact, what we do for infrastructure between now and 2036 is going to be designed to protect us after 2036, while temperatures are still rising."
It’s not about saving the planet. The planet will survive. The planet will be orbiting the sun long after we’re gone. It’s about saving us.
— Katharine Hayhoe
— Katharine Hayhoe
By Brantley Hargrove
August 13, 2021
August 13, 2021
The planet is running a temperature and it’s getting harder not to notice. The western states seem like they’re always on fire. Last month, the mostly un-air-conditioned Pacific Northwest shattered temperature records, giving folks in Portland, Oregon, a taste of Texas summer. Here, six years separated the hottest, driest year in Lone Star history (2011) from the most significant rainfall event in U.S. history (Hurricane Harvey, 2017), one of several one-hundred-year and five-hundred-year flood events to strike the Houston area in a span of three years. The three hottest Augusts on record in Austin are 2011, 2019, and 2020. So no, it isn’t your imagination. Things are getting weird.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that august global body that delivers semi-regular syntheses of the latest science on our warming world—concludes that conditions are virtually guaranteed to get worse. Scientists have long warned that an increase in average global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) could produce catastrophic changes for humans and other animal and plant species. Unfortunately, according to the IPCC assessment released this week, the planet is expected to pass that threshold as soon as the early 2030s—just a decade or so from now. That means more drought, more fire, more heat, more unusually intense hurricanes. That’s the bad news.
The good news is there’s still time to head off the worst of it—and maybe even reverse some of the damage we’ve done. To better understand the latest IPCC report and what it portends for Texas and the world, Texas Monthly spoke with Katharine Hayhoe, a professor and researcher at Texas Tech who runs the university’s Climate Center. Besides coauthoring the past three National Climate Assessments, serving as an expert reviewer on the Nobel Prize–winning IPCC, and being widely regarded as one of the best in the world at talking about climate science in terms people can understand, she’s also an evangelical Christian. In fact, she’s something of an ambassador to a group that has largely turned a deaf ear to what the planet is telling us. But if there’s anyone who can get people to listen, it’s Hayhoe.
Texas Monthly: What’s the top-line conclusion in this report for you?
Katharine Hayhoe: What’s new is, first of all, there is no equivocation. There is no mincing of words for any country, or company, or state, or city, or organization to hide behind and to say, “Oh, scientists aren’t sure. They don’t know enough yet. We need to study it more.” No, we have everything we need to act. There’s always something new to learn. The planet is as complex as a human body. But we are certain that climate is changing, humans are responsible, and that the impacts are serious. Our future is in our hands. Our choices will determine the outcome.
TM: Why were scientists hoping we’d head off that 1.5 Celsius increase in average global temperature, and what does it mean now that we likely won’t?
KH: As humans, we need targets. If you’re going to lose weight, you set a target. So scientists put together all the science in the world on how climate change would affect crops in Africa, water in the [American] Southwest, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, thawing permafrost in the Arctic. People, places, food, water, the economy, species. They pulled all of that together and asked, “What type of changes do we see as the world gets warmer by one degree [Celsius]?” which we’ve already reached. Or by one and a half degrees? By two degrees? By two and a half degrees? By three degrees? When do we start to see widespread dangerous impacts?
Science can put a number on how much worse human-caused climate change made Hurricane Harvey. We get hurricanes here in Texas; that’s a normal part of life. But we know that climate change is a threat multiplier. It’s taking naturally occurring events and amplifying them.
In the case of hurricanes, it’s making hurricanes bigger, stronger, and slower, and it’s increasing the rainfall associated with them. A best-guess estimate for how much more rain fell during Harvey because of a warmer ocean and a warmer atmosphere is about 37 percent more rain. There was a study that came out in April that shows that climate change increased the economic damages of Harvey. It was responsible for about three quarters of the economic damages [or about $67 billion of the hurricane’s $90 billion toll]. That’s a stunning number.
So, scientists put together all of that for all over the world and they said, “Where do we see the impacts getting really dangerous, really costly at a widespread level?” And they said, “Well, definitely by two degrees.”
Every bit of warming matters. Everything we do counts. And the more we do, the better off we will all be. Because you know what? Texas is the most vulnerable state in the whole U.S. to extreme weather and climate disasters already. And that’s because of our geographic location. We get everything. We get hurricanes, tornadoes, supercell thunderstorms, hail, drought, blizzards, ice storms, floods. We get everything.
TM: What can Texas water planners expect under different scenarios?
KH: Water planners across the state are already beginning to incorporate climate projections into their work. And I know because I speak with many of them. Water planners are very different than producers, and farmers and ranchers. Water planners go out fifty years, eighty years, in some cases even a hundred years. They’re also very familiar with long-term data, with temperature data, precipitation data, evaporation data, water supply, water demand, and how that fluctuates. Water planners had a huge wake-up call during the 2011–2012 drought. And that led many of them to realize that basing their plans on the drought of record in the past might not be a reliable source for water planning in the future if the droughts are getting more intense.
We need to start planning for a drought that’s just as bad, if not worse, than what we’ve already had, not a drought that’s only as bad as what we’ve had in the past. Here’s what our research found that we did at Texas Tech: As the world warms, the ocean is getting warmer. And as the high-pressure system [that annually brings dry weather to Texas during midsummer] passes on its annual migration over the Southeast, over the Gulf of Mexico, by Florida and by Alabama, and then on to Texas, that warmer water is going to be making that high-pressure system stronger.
So that natural seasonal pattern that we get, we’re going to have a greater risk of those stronger, longer-lasting drought years. Climate change is loading the dice against us. That’s why we know, again, that Texas is vulnerable because we’ve actually done the work. It’s not an issue [just] for people who live far away. It’s not an issue just for our children, our grandchildren. It’s affecting us right here and right now.
TM: Speaking of children and grandchildren, I have a toddler and another baby on the way. You can’t help but start thinking beyond your own lifespan to that of your children and your grandchildren. If we don’t take drastic action now, what can my son expect when he’s my age? And then my potential grandchildren, who will presumably see a new century?
KH: That’s exactly why I care. I mean, I’m a mom. And as a parent, you would do anything for your child. You want them to be able to grow up in a world that’s better than the world that we grew up in, not worse.
The climate is changing faster than at any time in the history of human civilization. What it’s doing is it’s taking our naturally occurring risks and it’s exacerbating them. We would be seeing weeks [full] of days over a hundred degrees by the time our children are our age. We would be seeing supersized hurricanes. We would be seeing longer, stronger droughts. We would be seeing increasing risk of heavy rainfall and flood. And of course these risks are already increasing. I mean, in some parts of Houston, they had three five-hundred-year flood events in three years. So we would see a world
that was less stable, less safe. Where people couldn’t take clean water for granted, or a stable supply chain, or a healthy economy, or even a safe environment.
KH: It does. It absolutely does, because COVID has so many parallels to climate change. COVID is an issue that we thought of as distant and far off until it was already here. COVID is an issue that requires action at all levels. Governments, universities, and corporations had to get together and collaborate to develop the vaccines, and they did that very successfully. But then each of us has a simple role to play by just putting a mask on our face to protect the most vulnerable people in our society who are not able, for whatever reason, to get the vaccine. And somehow we just can’t pull ourselves together to do it. That definitely gives me pause.
Each of us knows someone who’s been affected by COVID. We may even know people —I do—who were very sick. We may even know people who COVID took their lives. And we may know people who are unable to be vaccinated, especially if we have children or know people who cannot be vaccinated for certain health reasons. And so just to protect them, just to love our neighbor—simply to love our neighbor—can we not wear a mask? And to see so many people who call themselves Christians display such lack of love for their neighbors is just heart-breaking. Sorry, I’m getting a little personal here, just as a Christian speaking.
TM: I was about to ask. You’re an evangelical Christian, right?
KH: Yeah, it’s discouraging. There’s a verse in the book of James that says, “For anyone who hears that word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and then goes away and forgets who he is.” I just feel like so many have lost their way and forgotten who they are. They’ve forgotten that they are loving, caring people. They’ve forgotten that they are parents and grandparents. They’ve forgotten that we’re all called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And that’s what climate change is about, too.
When I give talks on climate change to Christian audiences, as I often do, my title is “Loving Your Global Neighbor.” That’s what my title is because that’s what climate action is. Climate change disproportionately affects the most marginalized and poorest and vulnerable people right here in Texas, as well as on the other side of the world. And if we truly believe that we are called to love others, as God loved us, then that includes caring for their physical needs. And I truly believe it’s an expression of God’s love, and it’s an expression of who God has made us to be.
TM: That seems like a way around the tree-hugger epithet.
KH: It’s not about saving the planet. The planet will survive. The planet will be orbiting the sun long after we’re gone. It’s about saving us.
Our civilization is built on the assumption of a relatively stable climate. Of course, we have hot and dry. We have cold and we have wet. And here in Texas, we have more of all of that than anyone else. But over climate timescales, which is the average of weather over at least twenty to thirty years, our climate has been relatively stable, stable enough for us to build two thirds of the world’s largest cities within just a few feet of sea level. Stable enough for us to parcel out our agricultural land so that multiple generations could grow the same crops on that land. Whereas now we’re seeing, of course, many crops, and trees, and plants, and animal and bird and insect species shifting poleward. It was stable enough to allocate our water resources and draw our geopolitical boundaries. But now we have a society that is entirely built on the assumption of a relatively stable climate, and climate is changing faster now than at any time in the history of human civilization. That’s why it matters to us.
TM: You live in Lubbock, which is probably one of the most conservative cities in Texas. When you look around your community, do you see an awareness of the truly frightening realities in this report?
KH: Here’s the interesting thing: I’ve been here for fifteen years and when I first came, I met a lot of people who were very curious, because they hear a lot about climate change, and they know that there’re conflicting opinions in the media—not in the scientific field, but in the media. And so there were a lot more people here who, as soon as they realized that I wouldn’t whip out one of those thousand-page IPCC reports and start hitting them on the head with it, they were very curious. And in fact, the whole reason why I do so much communication today is when I first moved to Lubbock, so many people and groups and organizations sought me out and said, “Hey, we’re not so sure about this whole thing, but we have a lot of questions. Could we talk?”
Back then, though, we would have been hard-pressed no matter who we are, where we lived—unless we lived up in the Arctic—to put our finger on a way that climate change was specifically affecting us. But today, fifteen years on, everybody I talk to—even the most hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool, most politically conservative people—everybody has a story about how things are changing. How things are not the same as when they were young. A cotton producer emailed me. He says, “I haven’t had a decent year since 2005.” Another man who would say climate change isn’t real, said, “I grew up going fishing here with my dad. And now when I go there, there’s algae all over the place and there’s no fish and things are just completely different.”
I was standing in line to pick up my son at Sunday school a couple of years ago. And the guy in front of me, who was picking up his child, he just turned to me as we were waiting. He said, “Is the weather getting weirder?” He just sort of opened with that. So I said, “Yes. I have looked at it, and the weather is indeed getting weirder. Heavy rain is getting more intense, droughts are getting stronger, extreme heat is getting more frequent.” And he said, “I knew it.” He said, “I’ve lived here for thirty years and I can see it happening.”
During the Syrian refugee crisis, I think there was something like ultimately about two million refugees outside the country and more than ten million inside the country. Well, that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of refugees that we’d be seeing. We’d be seeing hundreds of millions of refugees as sea level permanently inundates the largest cities in the world; as stronger droughts and more damaging storms and devastating heat waves wipe out crops and dry up water supplies. It’s not a world that I would ever want my child to have to cope with. We take for granted the access to basic resources that many people in other parts of the world don’t have access to. Well, I don’t think we could guarantee that for our children if we don’t fix climate change. I mean literally: if we don’t fix climate change, it will fix us.
TM: When you look at Texas and you see the renewable energy sources now powering an increasing percentage of our grid, do you see cause for hope?
KH: Yes and no. And here’s why. So often people see the [energy] issue as a giant boulder sitting at the bottom of a steep hill with only a few hands trying to roll that boulder up the hill. But the reality is, the boulder’s already at the top of the hill and it’s rolling down in the right direction. And it has millions of hands on it. Texas leads the U.S. in wind energy production. During COVID last year around the world, according to the International Energy Agency, ninety percent of new electricity installed was clean energy. So changes are happening, and I think that does give me hope because we’re heading in the right direction. The “but” is we’re not doing it fast enough. We have to scale it up. We have to be doing it ten times faster if we want to avoid the most serious and dangerous impacts of climate change, which, like I said, have Texas right in their crosshairs.
TM: But as humans, I think it’s been established that we have a hard time processing and responding to abstract threats. I can’t help but think about the parallels with COVID-19. You could argue we’ve collectively failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. And that makes me worry about our ability, at least in this country, to act collectively to prevent some of the worst scenarios in this report. Does that give you pause?
How Will Global Warming Impact Texas Climate?
With hotter weather comes greater frequency of extreme weather
By Fares Sabawi, Digital Journalist
August 11, 2021
August 11, 2021
SAN ANTONIO – A new major climate report from an international group of scientists holds a grim conclusion — the global temperature is warming fast and the effects can be catastrophic.
The findings were part of a 3,500-page assessment released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of more than 230 scientists from more than 60 countries.
It was the IPCC’s first report since 2014. Technology has progressed since then, allowing for more precise climate modeling and more confidence in the forecast.
The report shows that temperatures will be 1.5-degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels by 2040. That’s faster than previously estimated and faster than the rate that temperatures have risen in the last century.
The result is an increased likelihood of extreme weather events across the world, including in Texas.
In an interview with KSAT, Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said that, in some cases, the effects of global warming could be even more extreme in Texas.
For instance, temperatures will heat up faster in Texas than the global average, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a meteorology and climatology professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences.
“Land heats up faster than the oceans do,” he said.
In Texas, that means average temperatures could increase by up to four degrees Farenheit by 2040. The heat will be felt most in the summer.
“Every couple of degrees of warming basically doubles the number of 100-degree days we experience,” he said. “So that’s doubled already, it’s going to double again and unfortunately probably keep doubling for a while.”
Another big concern for Texans as temperatures heat up is the frequency of extreme rainfall and flooding.
That’s evident by past natural disasters, like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the Wimberley flood of 2015.
Nielsen-Gammon’s research shows that extreme rainfall events in Texas have increased by up to 15% over the past century.
“We’ve seen that impact lots of places in Texas already, and the places that haven’t seen an impact from that have been lucky so far, but it’ll be coming for them too,” he said.
The impacts global warming will have throughout the United States (KSAT) Action is required both on a personal level and a governmental level to begin cutting down on carbon emissions, and every bit helps, he said.
“People like to talk about a deadlines for action because that’s a motivating factor, but there really is no deadline for climate change,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “Every little bit that we do is reducing the worst possible impacts, and the more we do along those lines, the sooner, the better off we are no matter when that happens.”
As part of his job, Nielsen-Gammon will present findings to policymakers in Texas. What he tries to impress upon them is to consider the long-term impacts of global warming.
“Things that we do now (to combat climate change) are going to help us somewhat, but it’s mainly going to have an impact on our children and grandchildren,” he said.
One avenue could be government-backed programs that incentivize companies to reduce pollution, waste and energy usage.
“We’ve got companies that are acting to benefit their shareholders over a six-month period, the incentives really aren’t set up (to benefit the environment),” he said.
Texans Face Greater Risk of Heat, Drought and Hurricanes, but Abbott Administration Has No Plan to Tackle Future Threats of Climate Change
The state’s silence stands in contrast to governments across the world tackling climate change at a UN summit in Scotland.
By David Schechter, Chance Horner
November 7, 2021
While the science on climate change is unequivocal – that Texas will face a future of more extreme heat, drought, fire and hurricanes – Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration has no policy on how those risks will impact Texans or how to mitigate them.
Abbott’s position stands in stark contrast to agencies, like the United States Department of Defense, which considers climate change a "threat multiplier" to military operations, and to the efforts of world leaders gathered at the United Nation’s COP26 Summit in Scotland to negotiate rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
MORE EXTREMES AHEAD
In Texas, at least 210 people died in the cold and dark during the February 2021 winter storm. It was the most expensive disaster in state history.
Like a set of dominoes, the extreme cold created a cascading effect. For example, when power plants froze that meant some water plants, running on electricity, did not have the power to pump water. Without water, the National Guard resorted to airlifting bottles of water across the state.
A widely-reported paper in the journal Science indicates the domino that started the cascade was likely climate change. In it, scientists draw a connection between climate change and the likelihood that arctic temperatures could sag all the way down to Texas.
“It's all tied together. Everybody has to worry about everything,” said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor at Texas A&M University and the Texas State Climatologist, talking about the risks of climate change.
Through his work, Nielsen-Gammon has been warning state policymakers about those risks for years. His latest research indicates we're headed for a future of more extremes: more 100-degree days, more extreme rainfall, more urban flooding, more intense hurricanes, more severe drought, more risk of wildfire.
Does he think that officials responsible for mitigating against future risk must consider climate change in their planning?
“If you're dealing with risk that is weather sensitive, then yes,” he said.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE OF TEXAS
In 2011, Texas was hit with one of the worst droughts in history. Farmers and ranchers sustained $8 billion in losses, 300 million trees died and it was the worst year for wildfires in state history.
How long did it take farmers to recover from that devastating year?
“It may be two years after the fact, hopefully, if things go well, before you come back to even to recuperate what you lose in that year,” said John Paul Dineen, a farmer in Waxahachie.
So, what is the state of Texas doing to prepare for future droughts?
Bois D'arc Lake, in Fannin County, is the first major new reservoir in Texas in 30 years. It takes a long time to develop a new water source, like this. That’s one reason the state's water plan looks 50 years into the future.
The mission is to always have enough water in case of a drought that's as bad as the worst drought Texas has ever had, called the drought of record.
But in a scientific research paper called Unprecedented Drought Challenges for Texas, Nielsen-Gammon and others conclude, because of climate change, future droughts are likely to be worse than the drought of record.
SHOULD THE STATE BE PLANNING FOR THAT?
“I think they should,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “You're basically assuming the droughts that occurred in the past are going to be similar to the droughts that occur in the future. That's not necessarily a good assumption.”
But the Texas Water Development Board, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor, has no policy on how climate change could impact the state's future water supply.
Chairwoman Brooke Paup declined to be interviewed for this story. However, in a statement, a representative wrote, "...planning groups and local water providers have the flexibility to consider, balance, and address a variety of potential risks and uncertainties, including the risk of a drought worse than the drought of record.”
In other words, helping Texans navigate the risks that climate change will pose to their water supply is not the board’s job.
On this episode of Y'all-itics, David joined the Jasons to talk about the climate summit, and the possible impacts for Texas.
WHERE ABBOTT'S AGENCIES STAND
We found the Water Board is one of 10 major state agencies -- all run by commissioners appointed by Abbott – that do not have a policy on how climate change impacts state operations.
More extreme temperatures will likely increase the demand for electricity, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It could also hamper how energy is produced and delivered, as Texans saw last winter. But the Texas Public Utility Commission, responsible for keeping the lights on in Texas, has no policy on how climate change will impact the reliable energy Texans count on.
In a statement the PUC writes: “Texas has always had highly variable weather, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, any policy decision needs to be made on sound science and data...”
Climate Change degrades air quality and increases ozone levels, according to the EPA. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is responsible for maintaining air quality, but has no policy on how climate change will impact the air Texans breathe.
In a statement the TCEQ writes it, “…uses air monitoring data and a variety of other inputs to develop future projections for air quality in Texas. That said, the agency does not use climate change projections to evaluate future impact on air quality.”
Hurricanes, heavy rain and heat are all made more intense by climate change, according the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the Texas Department of Emergency Management, responsible for responding to disasters, has no policy on how climate change will impact the disasters Texans will face.
In a statement, TDEM writes that it “uses various professionals, organizations, and models to study weather and weather patterns that may impact Texas…” and “…takes an all-hazards approach to preparedness and is ready to respond to all disasters whether natural or manmade.”
Guidance from several federal agencies says extreme rain, heat and drought caused by climate change can disrupt transportation systems. The Texas Department of Transportation, responsible for the state's roads and bridges, says it takes steps to harden its assets against extreme weather conditions, but it has no policy on how climate change will impact overall mobility in the future.
In a statement, TXDOT writes it has “a combination of programs and projects that are adaptable and flexible to keep our system resilient to changing conditions of flooding, sea-level rise, extreme heat and drought. Some of these include: updating models and design standards for roads and bridges that are susceptible to extreme weather; efforts to reduce flooding, soil erosion and water pollution; an investigation team that evaluates pavement affected by extreme heat and drought; and more consideration of extreme weather events during project design and maintenance activities.”
Heat-related illness, asthma and allergies are getting worse because of climate change, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for improving the health, safety and well-being of Texans, has no policy on how climate change impacts that mission.
In a statement TDHHS writes it “does not consider climate change for our projections and we do not have a policy regarding climate change.”
A report from Columbia University Law School finds climate change “will strain the already overburdened U.S. correctional system and imperil the health of inmates and penal employees alike…” The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which houses inmates and employs prison workers in facilities without air conditioning, has no policy on how climate change impacts the agency’s mission.
In a statement the TDCJ writes it “…works closely with other state agencies on climate projections to make operational decisions,” however none of the agencies it mentioned have a policy on climate change.
The National Parks Conservation Alliance says “climate change is the greatest threat the national parks have ever faced.” Texas Parks and Wildlife is responsible for managing and conserving the natural and cultural resources of Texas for future generations. When planning for the future, TPWD says it does take into account environmental changes, but it does not have a policy on how climate change impacts its mission.
In a statement, TPWD writes it is “… continually reviewing how a dynamic climate impacts park lands for Texans, especially since public use and outdoor recreation facilities are so connected to the natural environment. When planning for the future, we consider several environmental factors, including increased flooding, sea-level rise, and stronger heat waves and winter storms. In addition, our agency has identified resources conservation strategies that are required to be considered with every new construction project to assure sustainability.”
Experts warn that insurance providers face increased risk and exposure from more frequent catastrophic events. The Texas Department of Insurance, which regulates the business of insurance, has no policy on how climate change may impact the insurance industry.
On multiple occasions WFAA requested an interview with Governor Abbott asking why his government has no formal plans to address the risks Texans face from climate change. His office did not respond.
By contrast, there is the example of Texas Forest Service, responsible for protecting and sustaining the state’s trees and forests. It’s run by Texas A&M University and its leadership is not appointed by the Governor.
The U.S. Forest Service says that climate change may make trees more susceptible to disease and death. And while TFS says it does not have a formal policy on how climate change impacts its mission the agency’s Forest Action Plan gives strong consideration to the impact of climate change on forests and ways to address the issue.
The commissioners of the Texas General Land Office, Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Railroad Commission are all elected positions and not appointed by the governor. None of these agencies have a policy on climate change, either.
THE POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN TEXAS
“The politics of this, if you're a Republican, are very tricky,” said Dr. Jim Henson, Director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Even though the science of climate change is rock solid, Henson polled Texans, asking "is climate change happening?" He found that the political divide on that question is enormous: 86% of strongly-identifying Democrats said yes, compared to 25% of strongly-identifying Republicans.
“When everybody adopts a norm that says, ‘You know, we can't really talk about climate change directly or explicitly,’ that's going to affect the policy discussion,” he said. “Silence becomes the default option in a polarized environment like this.”
The politics of climate change also reached into government inquiries that followed the aftermath of the February winter storm.
During a hearing with experts to better understand why the state-run power grid failed in Texas, Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, said,
“I think we have to put it on the table, ‘global warming’ or whatever is happening to our weather patterns. Would it be your educated advice that we better get ready for more?”
With that, another senator who was chairing the hearing, Kelly Hancock, a Republican from Tarrant County interrupted.
“I really want to focus on last week. Was it predicted? Can you predict the extent? Should we have known it was going to last this long? How easy is that to predict? Those type of events,” Hancock said. “Rather than get into a climate change discussion at this point,” he added.
The science is clear: climate change is juicing up the destructiveness of hurricanes, drought, fire. Around the country and the world, governments are making plans to address those risks.
But, in Texas, the response is silence.
The Abbott Administration will not talk about climate change and will not use climate science to tackle the risks Texans face in the future and try to do something about them now.
Nature Can Reduce Costs, Extend Life Of Infrastructure Projects
A new study by a Texas A&M AgriLife research scientist makes the case for natural infrastructure.
By Adam Russell
November 2, 2021
November 2, 2021
A newly published article could prompt discussion around adoption of construction designs and methods that utilize nature to cut costs, extend project lifecycles and improve ecological synergy, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.
The lead author is Rusty Feagin, AgriLife Research professor and ecologist in the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the Department of Ocean Engineering in the College of Engineering, both at Texas A&M University. In addition to Feagin, 23 U.S. and European professionals in various fields including engineering, public policy, construction and biology contributed to the publication.
Feagin said the paper aims to initiate conversations about sustainable infrastructure and the need for incorporating natural elements into projects.
Publication of the commentary piece in One Earth is timely, as U.S. Congressional members continue to haggle over pieces of a proposed infrastructure bill, Feagin said. Natural elements go by many names, including “nature-based solutions,” “nature-based features” or “natural infrastructure.” But regardless of the names used, everyone involved in national infrastructure construction needs to shift their mindset toward these ideas, he said.
Incorporating nature-based features, Feagin said, can reduce project costs and make infrastructure more resilient in dynamic natural settings, helping the structures last longer than traditional constructions.
“People tend to think of roads and bridges when we say ‘infrastructure,’ but infrastructure is really anything that represents the foundation we build society on, including our waterways, coastlines and ports,” he said. “Transitioning from concrete and steel to natural elements is not ideal for every project, but we need to begin looking at ways to implement these methods, especially where natural change is dynamic and projects need to be more flexible within the changing environment.”
Natural infrastructure is especially applicable in areas where climate change is impacting weather variability, such as coastlines where storm surges can occur and riverbanks where heavy rains can cause flooding.
For example, rather than managing floodwaters with walls of concrete and steel, which can degrade over time, incorporating natural infrastructure might mean utilizing natural levees and landscape features to steer water via ecosystems like wetlands and retaining ponds. Natural infrastructure implemented correctly also improves with time, Feagin said.
Feagin said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Department of Transportation are already incorporating natural elements within projects. European countries such as the Netherlands are also adopting in increasing number of natural methodologies in construction.
For a specific example, Feagin said, the proposed $26 billion “Ike Dike” in the Houston-Galveston area designed to reduce the impact of flood events due to hurricanes and torrential rains is an example of a project that could benefit from natural infrastructure elements.
“The goal for any project would be to take advantage of natural processes, such as water movement to deposit sediment, or the spread of trees and native vegetation to help capture that sediment
and build natural levees, sand dunes, and water detention basins,” he said. “By working with nature, you can minimize effort and cost and realize maximum efficiency in the overall system.”
Texas A&M AgriLife volunteers plant vegetation in a five-acre stormwater wetland at the Houston Botanic Gardens designed to curb flooding and filter pollution.
CHALLENGES TO ADOPTION
A shortage of existing expertise and time needed to train the next generation of engineers are constraints to natural infrastructure application in building projects, Feagin said. Traditional engineering follows established technical planning criteria, whereas natural infrastructure requires technical expertise from professionals outside the field, such as ecologists.
This disconnect in expertise is being bridged by project managers and planners who view natural infrastructure as a way to save money and extend a project’s life. But Feagin said building those collaborations takes time and effort.
“Natural infrastructure is being used, but it’s happening because project managers and collaborators see the cost savings or they see an opportunity to add value to the project,” he said. “It could be something as simple as making a space that delivers the infrastructure benefit for the project but also makes it good for activities like bird watching or hunting.”
Another constraint is bureaucracy that regulates and approves project plans, Feagin said. Construction codes and requirements are attuned to traditional construction methods and adding natural infrastructure can lengthen approval processes.
But Feagin said the constraints create an exciting opportunity to train the next generation of engineers and construction professionals.
“The transition will require cross-training and educating people about these new methods and concepts,” he said. “That takes generational change. It would help if policy makers were emphasizing the benefits of natural infrastructure and providing incentives that spur on change.”
INCENTIVIZING ADOPTION OF NATURAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Feagin said there is an opportunity to ride the wave of increased public interest in reducing the carbon footprint of projects during and after construction.
The broad acceptance of the burgeoning construction concepts can be accelerated by incentivizing their use through an executive order in a way that would expedite implementation in publicly funded projects, Feagin said.
Offering a discounted or incentivized rate would mean project planning would take a longer-term view of infrastructure projects, Feagin said, and taxpayers would get more value from their investment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already operates at the lower rate, which is why they are one of the leading users of natural infrastructure in projects.
“That would be an easy lever to pull, and decision-makers would start selecting projects that provide longer-term lifecycles,” he said. “It’s a small incentive to change, but it could pay huge dividends when it comes to adopting these concepts and speeding up the transition toward increased use of natural infrastructure within future construction.”
Climate Change has Destabilized the Earth’s Poles, Putting the Rest of the Planet in Peril
New research shows how rising temperatures have irreversibly altered both the Arctic and Antarctic. Ripple effects will be felt around the globe.
By Sarah Kaplan
December 14, 2021
December 14, 2021
The ice shelf was cracking up. Surveys showed warm ocean water eroding its underbelly. Satellite imagery revealed long, parallel fissures in the frozen expanse, like scratches from some clawed monster. One fracture grew so big, so fast, scientists took to calling it “the dagger.”
“It was hugely surprising to see things changing that fast,” said Erin Pettit. The Oregon State University glaciologist had chosen this spot for her Antarctic field research precisely because of its stability. While other parts of the infamous Thwaites Glacier crumbled, this wedge of floating ice acted as a brace, slowing the melt. It was supposed to be boring, durable, safe.
Now climate change has turned the ice shelf into a threat — to Pettit’s field work, and to the world.
Planet-warming pollution from burning fossil fuels and other human activities has already raised global temperatures more than 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). But the effects are particularly profound at
the poles, where rising temperatures have seriously undermined regions once locked in ice.
In research presented this week at the world’s biggest earth science conference, Pettit showed that the Thwaites ice shelf could collapse within the next three to five years, unleashing a river of ice that could dramatically raise sea levels. Aerial surveys document how warmer conditions have allowed beavers to invade the Arctic tundra, flooding the landscape with their dams. Large commercial ships are increasingly infiltrating formerly frozen areas, disturbing wildlife and generating disastrous amounts of trash. In many Alaska Native communities, climate impacts compounded the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to food shortages among people who have lived off this land for thousands of years.
“The very character of these places is changing,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and co-editor of the Arctic Report Card, an annual assessment of the state of the top of the world. “We are seeing conditions unlike those ever seen before.”
The rapid transformation of the Arctic and Antarctic creates ripple effects all over the planet. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift and ecosystems will be altered. Unless humanity acts swiftly to curb emissions, scientists say, the same forces that have destabilized the poles will wreak havoc on the rest of the globe.
“The Arctic is a way to look into the future,” said Matthew Druckenmiller, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and another co-editor of the Arctic Report Card. “Small changes in temperature can have huge effects in a region that is dominated by ice.”
This year’s edition of the report card, which was presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting December 14, 2021, describes a landscape that is transforming so fast scientists struggle to keep up. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average. The period between October and December 2020 was the warmest on record, scientists say.
Separately on December 14, 2021, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed a new temperature record for the Arctic: 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020.
These warm conditions are catastrophic for the sea ice that usually spans across the North Pole. This past summer saw the second-lowest extent of thick, old sea ice since tracking began in 1985. Large mammals like polar bears go hungry without this crucial platform from which to hunt. Marine life ranging from tiny plankton to giant whales are at risk.
“It’s an ecosystem collapse situation,” said Kaare Sikuaq Erickson, whose business Ikaagun Engagement facilitates cooperation between scientists and Alaska Native communities.
The consequences of this loss will be felt far beyond the Arctic. Sea ice has traditionally acted as Earth’s “air conditioner”; it reflects as much as two thirds of the light that hits it, sending huge amounts of solar radiation back into space.
By contrast, dark expanses of water absorb heat, and it is difficult for these areas to refreeze. Less sea ice means more open ocean, more heat absorption and more climate change.
“We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly and irreversible climate impacts,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Rick Spinrad told reporters.
Record highs have also sounded the death knell for ice on land. Three historic melting episodes struck Greenland in July and August, causing the island’s massive ice sheet to lose about 77 trillion pounds. On Aug. 14, for the first time in recorded history, rain fell at the ice sheet summit.
“I think my jaw would have hit the floor,” Moon said, imagining what she might have felt had she witnessed the unprecedented event. “This fundamentally changes the character of that ice sheet surface.”
Though the Greenland ice sheet is more than a mile thick at its center, rain can darken the surface, causing the ice to absorb more of the sun’s heat, Moon said. It changes the way snow behaves and slicks the top of the ice.
The consequences for people living in the Arctic can be dire. In Greenland and elsewhere, meltwater from shrinking glaciers has deluged rivers and contributed to floods. Retreating ice exposes unstable cliffs that can easily collapse into the ocean, triggering deadly tsunamis. Roads buckle, water systems fail and buildings cave in as the permafrost beneath them thaws.
Some 5 million people living in the Arctic’s permafrost regions are at risk from the changes happening at their shores and under their feet.
“It’s not just about polar bears, it’s about actual humans,” said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and another co-editor of the Arctic Report Card. “These changes are impacting people and their lives and livelihoods from ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ up to the international scale.”
In Antarctica, said University of Colorado at Boulder glaciologist Ted Scampos, “climate change is more about wind changes and ocean changes than warming — although that is happening in many parts of it as well.”
Though the continent stays frozen for much of the year, rising temperatures in the Pacific have changed how air circulates around the South Pole, which in turn affects ocean currents. Warm, deep ocean water is welling up toward coastlines, lapping at the ice sheet’s frozen underbelly, weakening it from below.
“This is triggering the beginnings of a massive collapse,” Scampos wrote in an email from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he is preparing for a field trip to the Thwaites Glacier’s failing ice shelf.
The disintegration of the Thwaites ice shelf won’t immediately increase sea levels — that ice already floats on top of the water, taking up the same amount of space whether it’s solid or liquid. But without the ice shelf acting as a brace, the land-bound parts of the glacier will start to flow more quickly. Thwaites could become vulnerable to ice cliff collapse, a process in which towering walls of ice that directly overlook the ocean start to crumble.
If the entire glacier failed, it would raise sea levels by several feet. Island nations and coastal communities would be inundated.
“We don’t know exactly if or when ice cliff failure is going to initiate,” said Anna Crawford, a glaciologist at the University of St. Andrews, who works on models of the process. “But we’re certain Antarctica is going to change.”
“There’s ample evidence to support reducing emissions,” she added, “because it’s giving us enough to be worried about already.”
For some in the Arctic, this rapid thaw represents opportunity. Tundra vegetation flourishes in the warmer weather. Beavers have migrated northward, digging their paws into the once-frozen earth.
Satellite images show that the number of beaver ponds in western Alaska — formed when the large rodents build their dams along waterways — has at least doubled since 2000. These ponds can contribute to the rapid thaw of permafrost, unleashing carbon that has been locked in soil for thousands of years. But it’s not yet clear what beaver engineering means for the planet, or even for the ecosystems just downstream.
Warmer conditions have also allowed people to infiltrate new environments, and here the detrimental impacts are plain to see. New shipping routes have been established through areas once blocked by sea ice, disrupting wildlife and polluting the ocean with unnatural noise.
Passing ships also leave behind huge amounts of garbage; in summer 2020, hundreds of items washed ashore in Alaskan communities along the Bering Strait. Residents — most of them Alaska Natives — found clothes, equipment, plastic food packaging and cans of hazardous oils and insecticides in waters where they regularly fish. Labels in English, Russian, Korean and a host of other languages illustrated the international nature of the problem.
For many Arctic residents, climate change is a threat multiplier — worsening the dangers of whatever other crises come their way. Another essay in the Arctic Report Card documents the threats to Alaska Natives’ food security caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Quarantine restrictions prevented people from traveling to their traditional harvesting grounds. Economic upheaval and supply chain issues left many grocery stores with empty shelves.
But the essay, which was co-written by Inupiaq, Hadia, Ahtna and Supiaq researchers, along with experts from other Native communities, also highlights how Indigenous cultural practices helped communities stave off hunger. Existing food sharing networks redoubled their efforts. Harvesting traditions were adapted with public health in mind.
“Our people, we’ve had to have these underlying characteristics of resiliency, sharing, respect,” said Erickson, the Inupiaq researcher. “We focus on practical solutions, otherwise we won’t survive.”
“The rest of the world,” he added, “is going to have to face that as well.”
Though no place on Earth is changing as fast as the Arctic, rising temperatures have already brought similar chaos to more temperate
climates as well. Unpredictable weather, unstable landscapes and collapsing ecosystems are becoming facts of life in communities around the globe.
None of this represents a “new normal,” Moon cautioned. It’s merely a pit stop on a path to an even stranger and more dangerous future.
Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to keep rising. Governments and businesses have not taken the steps needed to avert catastrophic warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. There is every reason to believe that instability at the poles — and around the planet — will get worse.
But achieving the best case climate scenarios could cut the volume of ice lost from Greenland by 75 percent, research suggests. International cooperation could prevent garbage from getting into the oceans and alleviate the effects of marine noise. Better surveillance and early warning systems can keep people safe when melting triggers landslides and floods.
“There’s such a big range and difference in what the future of the Arctic and the future anywhere on our globe can look like,” Moon said. “It all depends on human actions.”
Climate Threats To Birds Are The Same Things That Threaten Our Communities
September 23, 2021
Audubon scientists have studied the effects of climate threats on birds and found that the same things that threaten birds threaten our communities, natural spaces, and working lands. The good news is that there are abundant opportunities to make progress in the climate fight immediately.
Birds tell us it’s not too late, but there’s no time to lose. Here is an immediate action you can take right now:
Audubon scientists have studied the effects of climate threats on birds and found that the same things that threaten birds threaten our communities, natural spaces, and working lands. The good news is that there are abundant opportunities to make progress in the climate fight immediately.
Birds tell us it’s not too late, but there’s no time to lose. Here is an immediate action you can take right now:
- Sign Audubon’s Climate Pledge. Stand with Audubon as we call on elected leaders to create a brighter future for birds and people through durable and inclusive policies and climate solutions.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act recognizes the role played by farmers, ranchers, and foresters in the fight against climate change.
By Michael Obeiter, Senior Director
Federal Climate Strategy
April 21, 2021
Federal Climate Strategy
April 21, 2021
Policies to promote natural climate solutions—actions that restore or enhance the capacity for trees and plants to absorb and sequester carbon pollution—are attracting a lot of attention from both sides of the aisle. There’s a good reason for that, as these policies are often win-win: they’re good for the climate, and they’re good for the local economy. When you add in the potential for habitat conservation and restoration, they’re good for birds too.
Enter the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021, reintroduced in the senate this week by lead sponsors Mike Braun (R-IN) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with several of their colleagues from both parties. As with last year’s version, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help expand, harmonize, and add structure to the existing patchwork of voluntary greenhouse gas offset markets around the country. It’s a bipartisan approach that recognizes the vital role our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners play in the fight against climate change. The bill would also lay the groundwork for new sources of revenue to flow to local economies in rural areas.
Greenhouse gas offset markets allow companies that emit greenhouse gases to purchase credits to offset their own emissions. The money from the sale of those credits directly supports measures like cover cropping, prescribed grazing, and reforestation that either reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, or remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soil and biomass. Critical to the success of the bill are provisions that ensure any emissions reductions are permanent, and the measures implemented under the auspices of the bill are additional to what producers were already doing. Importantly for Audubon, the bill also includes avoided conversion of grasslands, forests, and wetlands as eligible activities for the generation of offsets, which will help slow habitat loss for countless species of birds and other wildlife.
Of course, this bill is merely a start; a necessary, but incomplete blueprint for reducing some greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture andPolicies to promote natural climate solutions—actions that restore or enhance the capacity for trees and plants to absorb and sequester carbon pollution—are attracting a lot of attention from both sides of the aisle. There’s a good reason for that, as these policies are often win-win: they’re good for the climate, and they’re good for the local economy. When you add in the potential for habitat conservation and restoration, they’re good for birds too.
Enter the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021, reintroduced in the senate this week by lead sponsors Mike Braun (R-IN) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with several of their colleagues from both parties. As with last year’s version, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help expand, harmonize, and add structure to the existing patchwork of voluntary greenhouse gas offset markets around the country. It’s a bipartisan approach that
recognizes the vital role our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners play in the fight against climate change. The bill would also lay the groundwork for new sources of revenue to flow to local economies in rural areas.
Greenhouse gas offset markets allow companies that emit greenhouse gases to purchase credits to offset their own emissions. The money from the sale of those credits directly supports measures like cover cropping, prescribed grazing, and reforestation that either reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, or remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soil and biomass. Critical to the success of the bill are provisions that ensure any emissions reductions are permanent, and the measures implemented under the auspices of the bill are additional to what producers were already doing.
Importantly for Audubon, the bill also includes avoided conversion of grasslands, forests, and wetlands as eligible forestry sectors. But the bill's sponsors deserve credit for coming up with ways to ensure that the stewards of our working lands are part of the solution to the climate crisis, and for growing the support for this bill substantially in less than a year.
Alongside clean energy and economy-wide solutions like carbon pricing, natural climate solutions are an important part of solving the climate puzzle and helping safeguard the survival of the two-thirds of North American bird species vulnerable to extinction from climate change. We urge the Congress to vote on the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would facilitate and enable more of these types of projects.
Paul Adams, Ph. D.
June 4, 2019
June 4, 2019
"Like it or not communication is a part of conservation." Paul Adams, a professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at The University of Texas at Austin, has been talking to farmers in the Panhandle and West Texas the past eight months.
I’m spending the night in the small town of Muleshoe, Texas, in the Llano Estacado, a region west of Lubbock and Amarillo. I’m interviewing farmers to hear how they talk about the environment where they live and work, the terms and phrases they use, the stories they tell.
The Llano Estacado is an extraordinarily flat place and is so dry that most of the farms depend on irrigation to supplement the sporadic and unpredictable rain and snowfall. I’m interested in how people in this part of the state think and talk about water, in particular, because our stored water will run out within a few decades at the current rate of consumption. Just when this will happen in any particular place depends on ups and downs of a layer of sand and gravel buried far below the flat surface of West Texas and the Panhandle.