527955596_f274b37df5

Bird Lives Matter

eagle raptorThe White House recently announced proposed laws to beef up the protection of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The reasoning of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is that birds face dangers from new technology that the MBTA did not foresee.

Reading the Fine Print

On the surface, it sounds great. Though if you look at the fine print, you’ll find some disconcerting language. There are provisions for authorized incidental take with military-readiness activities. Okay, no problem there. Other wording is not so cut and dry.

The proposed laws also address incidental take with regard to certain industry sectors. Another part of the text reads:

“. . . and the effects on migratory bird populations of impacts to migratory bird habitat, including, but not limited to, climate change.”

Bird Losses

While worthy to note, it presents a political motivation for targeting certain industries. Let’s look at some numbers. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) located in the Mojave Desert, takes upward of 28,000 birds per year. This is a rate of one bird every two minutes.

Then, we have wind turbines. According to FWS numbers, wind turbines take nearly 440,000 per year, including raptors like golden eagles. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) warned that wind industry is actively lobbying to weaken regulations regarding eagle take. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill killed an estimated 225,000 birds. The Deepwater Horizon killed between 7,000 and 23,000 birds.

Birds and Politics

Some bird deaths are unavoidable. To suggest otherwise is an appeal to ignorance fallacy. However, the proposal wording to include climate change sets up a political firestorm. It gives the government the power to pick winners and losers. Birds are the vehicle to do it.

If the administration was serious about bird lives—bats are affected too BTW—then all industries would be fined equally. It makes little difference if a bird died outright as a streamer or if it was stunned by a turbine and then taken by a predator. The result is the same.

Provisions for “conditional authorization” must recognize the bird loss and not the means by which it occurred. And as the numbers show, the renewable energy industries have a lot of answer for.

http://exploring.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR
photo credit: eagle via photopin (license)

yak

It’s Not Just the Heat

yakA study by Washington State University reminds us that it’s not just heat that causes negative impacts from climate change. Researchers concluded that cold weather rather than heat may have lead to the collapse of the civilization located on the outskirts of the Tibetan Plateau around 2000 B.C.

Effects on Staple Crops

The problem wasn’t about rising sea levels or rising temperatures. Rather it involved the impacts of climate on a staple crop, namely, millet. Millet thrives in warm areas. It is also drought resistance, making it a good crop for the drier countries of Africa as well as the Plains states in the United States.

The end of the warm Holocene Climatic Optimum ushered in a trend toward cooling temperatures. The change in climate made it difficult to grow millet. Even more interesting is the response of farmers later in that same region. Archaeologists had noted the presence of wheat and barley seeds.

Coming Full Circle

The changing climate favored the cultivation of these crops, thus, explaining their presence at the sites. As researcher, Jade D’Alpoim Guedes, notes the irony of these findings is that the area is coming full circle. Rising temperatures are interfering with residents’ ability to raise yak, the modern-day staple for sustenance.

The takeaway offers some valuable lessons. First, abrupt climate change represents the true danger. It comes down to wildlife’s or farmers’ ability to adapt to a changing world. It’s not simply a matter of moving your village if times get harsh. It’s also the ability to be able to move toward more hospitable regions.

Second, climate change is a complex phenomenon. It isn’t just about temperatures rising. Climate change impacts regions differently because each is its own unique blend of geography, climate, and land use. It’s perhaps an unfortunate thing that climate change has come to a simplistic statement of a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise.

Finally, the message from this study is worth repeating. We are all dependent on the climate, whether it’s directly or indirectly.

http://exploring.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR
photo credit: YakYak via photopin (license)

boxing match

Study or Trial; Whatever You Want to Call It

boxing matchYou know that you’re dealing with a person suffering from science starvation when he says study or trial, whatever you want to call it.

It’s like a featherweight coming to a professional boxing match. You’ve thrown the match before the first punch. It’s like not knowing the difference between a hay maker and an upper cut.

Suspicious of Science

I had a discussion about science with a friend of mine. He is admittedly suspicious of science. He believes that all researchers are on the take. Yes, they have to publish to get grant money. Science, after all, isn’t cheap. Yet, he believes that puts them on the same level as used car salesmen. That’s like saying all women are bad drivers. It’s just as stereotypical—and wrong.

I suspect that his suspicion is intertwined with some deep-rooted ideology. That seems to be a common theme with the more contentious issues of our day. And it’s because of this relationship that discussions have descended into arguments. There are no winners in such debates.

Study versus Trial

The fact that he equated study and trial tells me that his position involves emotion rather than fact. They are by no means the same thing. They are not synonymous. As I tried to explain to my learned friend, a study can only draw correlations. It doesn’t determine causes. There are confounders that researchers can try to account for, but there may always be something.

A trial, on the other hand, controls for confounders. There is an adequate random sample of the population. They are randomly assigned into groups, control or treatment. It is only from trials that scientists can make causal statements. And as I also tried to explain, science cannot run trials on all the questions we may have because of ethics. You can’t run a trial on the effect of second-hand smoke on babies without drawing some backlash.

But my friend did not budge on that point. Science, in his eyes, is flawed. Never mind the fact that scientific papers undergo a peer-review. Never mind the fact that other scientists read papers regularly and will gladly point out flawed studies. Never mind the fact that the scientific community is its own check of fraudulent research. Everyone is on the take like one huge conspiracy in the scientific community. The suggestion is laughable to say the least.

Yes, my friend is a true agnostic—except when it comes to his own beliefs. He is one of those people who fly happily in the face of facts. Facts only fuel his fury however misplaced it is on the waves of ignorance. But he’s probably relishing the fact that he was right, while I too relish the fact that I know he was wrong. At least I know which one is indeed true.

http://exploring.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR
photo credit: Boxing cake via photopin (license)

water leak

Bringing Reality to the Climate Change Table

water leakSeveral years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with the US National Park Service (NPS). At the time, I was working with the US Forest Service(USFS). Both my volunteer work and actual work focused on restoration.

While they may seem similar, the missions of the two agencies differ. The NPS’s mission is one of preservation. Their mission states:

“. . .purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The USFS’s mission, on the other hand, contrasts the other agency’s mission on one key point.

“Our mission, as set forth by law, is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people.”

It’s that bit about multiple-use. And it is an important one. I believe it’s a guide to dealing with climate change.

The Triple Bottom Line

While not stating it overtly, the USFS operates with a triple bottom line approach (TBL). Coined by John Elkington, TBL is an accounting framework that recognizes not only the financial, but also the social and ecological measures.

Back in the day, conservation used to embrace more of the preservation aspect. Forget the people; limit their access. (Definitely sounds like the NPS.) And for a while, it worked. Lots of restoration and preservation moved forward. We cleaned up the streams and the air.

Unfortunately, some of the dialogue on climate change has taken up that charge, with a little twist added. The limit exists but as a control or regulation. That’s not always a bad thing. It does take a sharp downturn though if it ignores the financial and social factors.

It’s the Reality

The push toward doing something about climate change often ignores the social and financial factors. It’s one thing to say that we’ll cut emissions or increase our use of renewable energy. It’s another thing to implement them.

The global economy has stumbled. We have aging infrastructure—just ask California about its water situation. Hell, the water infrastructure in my neighborhood is showing signs of wear. City workers are repairing a water main leak down the road as I write this.

Renewable energy still has some significant hurdles to overcome. And it’s not a nationwide solution. The resources are better suited in some areas versus others. Then, there’s that bit about the infrastructure and billions and billions and billions of dollars.

Considering the Social Side

No matter what the cause, dissension will always exist. However, since climate change now wears a robe of ideology, it makes no sense to ignore the dissension. If governments want to make drastic changes to our quality of life, we better damn well have a say in the matter.

Climate change demands a rational approach. The only way to have a meaningful dialogue about it is to consider the triple bottom line. A solution doesn’t have to ignore social or financial constraints. Rather, it must work with them for solutions that everyone can live with.

http://exploring.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR
photo credit: BerwickDam01 via photopin (license)

Green Roofs, a Top-Notch Solution

If you live in an urban area, chances are you are familiar with the heat island effect. Ambient temperatures in the city often hover up to 6 degrees higher than in rural areas, especially during the summer. Dark-colored roads and roofs absorb more heat from sunlight, making you feel more uncomfortable. One effective solution for making summers in the city more bearable are green roofs.

What Are Green Roofs?

Just as the name implies, green roofs replace asphalt either partially or completely by all things green. It could be a garden for food or one for show. The vegetation helps lower the ambient temperature by absorbing less heat. As you can imagine, a large group of these roofs in a city can counter the heat island effect and make things much more pleasant–and attractive.

Benefits of a Green Roof

Lower temperatures are not the only benefit. The plants can reduce runoff by absorbing storm waters. The runoff that falls from your roof is cleaner because of the filtering action of the plants and soil. The vegetation can also reduce cooling in the winter by acting as insulation and helping you save on energy costs year round.

But, wait, there’s more. A green roof gives you added garden space to grow fruits and vegetables to save money on your grocery bill. You could also make it a green sanctuary with an array of colorful plants and flowers. You might even consider choosing plants to create habitat for birds and butterflies.

A green roof has the other advantage of being an option if solar panels are not practical in your area. As the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows, some areas are better suited for solar cells than others. A green roof offers an eco-friendly solution if solar power isn’t a viable solution in your area.

The Bigger Picture

Green roofs are an important part of the bigger solution. The heat island effect carries large environmental costs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains that it can increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Green roofs, therefore, are a good environmental choice that benefits the entire community.

In fact, they have received a great deal of attention because of these benefits. The French Parliament recently passed a law stating that all new commercial buildings must install a green roof or solar panels. And New York City’s CoolRoofs program is trying a similar approach with white roofs instead of the traditional asphalt. Either way, it pays to start at the top.

A green roof offers an environmentally-friendly choice that can help you save on energy costs while making your neighborhood a little more beautiful with some attractive plants. It’s a good way to do your part to reduce the effects of climate change.

This is a good quality article.

References:

Digital Journal
http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/france-new-rooftops-must-be-covered-in-plants-or-solar-panels/article/428773
Eureka Alert
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/nsfc-bit030712.php

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/hiri/