Insurers Hip to Climate Change

CERES, a coalition of investor groups, environmental organizations and investment funds, along with the Heinz Center, a environmental policy group, issued a report on the dangers to US seacoast from the changing climate. Endorsed by many of the biggest insurance companies, including Travelers, Fireman’s Fund and Lloyd’s it starts off with a stark recitation of the economic facts.

Powerful storms are wreaking increasing havoc along the world’s coasts, as Hurricane Katrina and Cyclone Nagris indelibly demonstrated. A recent assessment by the Wharton School’s Risk Center revealed a dramatic surge in global economic losses from natural disasters, increasing from just over $50 billion in the 1950s to almost $800 billion in the 1990s, with about $420.6 billion so far in the current decade (through 2007)1. Munich Re estimated worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes at $200 billion for 2008, up from $82 billion in 2007. Lloyd’s of London and Risk Management Solutions (RMS) predict that flood losses along tropical Atlantic coastlines would increase 80 percent by 2030 with about one foot of sea level rise3 – in line with the conservative estimates of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The purpose of the Resilient Coasts Blueprint is to put forth what are called the “basic principles for making the coasts more resilient” in the face of expected storm costs. Over half of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties. It is directed to Congress, the Administration, state and local leaders as well as those in the business sector. It says:

Use science. Reduce risks. Plan for storms. Build smarter. Use nature to protect itself and us; don’t destroy it. Recast investment risk with weather in mind.

A comprehensive set of guidelines from those who have a big stake in the outcome. I hope their lobbying groups can match those of gas, coal and oil still saying not to worry, nothing there.

A Cornelia Dean article in the NY Times about the initiative.

Industries Denying Climate Change Knew Plenty

Andrew Revkin in a NY Times article on April 24 shows that the Global Climate Coalition, auto, coal and oil groups, while spending $1.68 billion in 1997 to question scientific judgment about climate change, knew full well there was no question. Its own scientists had said as much.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.” The paper — a draft summary– concluded with a short review of some of the contrarian theories about climate change and said:

“The contrarian theories raise some interesting questions about our total understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate change.”

The sweet thing is that the revealing paper, prepared by Leonard S. Bernstein of Mobile Corporation — one of the Coalition partners– came to light because of a law suit against the State of California by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, another Coalition partner, suing to stop California from imposing stringent requirements for automobile emissions.

Legal discovery unearthed the document, along with minutes of meetings and other treasures.

So now that some of the original partners of the Coalition have begun admitting to the actuality of climate change, and the Coalition itself has disbanded, what judgment can be brought against those who are responsible in large part for a ten year delay in dealing seriously with the issue? Perhaps an extra carbon tax for the estimated about of CO2 that escaped in the lost 10 years.

For the document itself, all 25 pages of it, go here.

Endangered Species Reportected


“The Obama administration today revoked an eleventh-hour Bush-era rule that undermined protections for plants and animals listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

“Passed in January 2009, the Bush-era rule lifted the requirement that federal agencies consult wildlife experts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking actions that could harm listed species. The Bush move allowed federal agencies to decide for themselves if their own projects, such as roads, dams and mines, would hurt species.

“Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who head the two agencies that administer the Endangered Species Act, said their decision to again require consultation before action is based on sound science.

“By rolling back this 11th hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law,” Salazar said.

“Because science must serve as the foundation for decisions we make, federal agencies proposing to take actions that might affect threatened and endangered species will once again have to consult with biologists at the two departments,” he said. “

Bees in Sharp Decline in Europe

A flurry of news about bees in the U.S. made the news last year. Speculation flew, blaming colony collapse disorder, parasites, fungicides, pesticides, long distance truck hauling. Now it appears the Europe has long had bee problems which are also mounting in intensity.
According to Apimondia, The International Federation of Beekeeper Associations, Europe’s beekeeping industry could be wiped out in 8 to 10 years.

Last year, about 30 percent of Europe’s 13.6 million hives died, according to Apimondia figures. Losses reached 50 percent in Slovenia and as high as 80 percent in southwest Germany.

With 35 percent of European food crops relying on bees to pollinate them, it poses a big threat for farmers, said Ratia.

“It is a complete crisis,” said Francesco Panella, who tends about 1,000 hives in Piedmont, northern Italy. “Last year, I lost about half my production. I can’t survive more than 2 or 3 more years like this.

Most keepers blame powerful new pesticides along with a parasitic mite called Varroa.

Bees in Crisis

However, in recent news, scientists in Spain claim the culprit is a parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia), not the Varroa mite, and that they have treated sick colonies with an antibotic.

If so, that is very good news. If it simply permits more and more intensive industrialized farming, dependent on newer and better drugs that will not be so good.

Out of San Francisco is coming a citizen-scientist endeavor called the Great Sunflower project in which ordinary folks get a packet of sunflower seeds with the promise to keep a summer long census of the bees they attract. What a great way to sharpen our long atrophied connections to the natural world.

For a summary story, and introduction to a good site, see this at Planet Earth online, from the Natural Environment Research Council

Solar Energy for 7,000,000,000

Interesting technical talk from the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory Cyrus Wadia walks you through the economics and technology of moving from current high cost silicon photo voltaics to new and promising innovations in nanotechnolgy.

[ A trifle annoying that his laser pointer to the charts is not visible to us, as it is to his live audience.]

On Thin Ice

PBS NOW ran an hour long show on big glacier melt — at the head of the Ganges in India, and Glacier Park, Montana. A bit of an odd mix of adventure and easy to digest scientific observations, but worth a quiet hour. The take away — we are in very bad shape. The source of the Ganges may be gone in 20 years or so — and it won’t just affect poor Indians.

Thin Ice

Where the Glacier Once Reached

Where the Glacier Once Reached

EPA Proposing to Find Greenhouse Gases a Danger to Health and Safety

Damn! I’m so glad. I’m so glad. I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad. The new EPA under the new Administrator, Lisa Jackson, appointed by the new president, Barak Obama stood eight years of dangerous idiocy on its head and issued a proposed finding — that is, We Propose to Find that — CO2 and five other gases, human-made, are a danger to those who make them and must be regulated. This is said in very clear and compelling language.

SUMMARY: Today the Administrator is proposing to find that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are at unprecedented levels compared to the recent and distant past. These high atmospheric levels are the unambiguous result of human emissions, and are very likely the cause of the observed increase in average temperatures and other climatic changes. The effects of climate change observed to date and projected to occur in the future – including but not limited to the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems – are effects on public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act. In light of the likelihood that greenhouse gases cause these effects, and the magnitude of the effects that are occurring and are very likely to occur in the future, the Administrator proposes to find that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

Read All (pdf)

Not only that, but a clear and wonderful pronoun grabs our attention and makes us glad: SHE

“She proposes to make this finding specifically with respect to six greenhouse gases that together constitute the root of the climate change problem: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.”

Lots of terrible things have happened in the past 40 years. That women are now a major part of the highest governing circles of the land is a great and happy thing.

And finally, I’m so glad because James Imhofe is mad, so mad, so mad.

The EPA website with links to the finding and the technical support [pdf] for them is here.

Joy from NRDC, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club.

This Finding does not mean that the EPA WILL regulate CO2. It says that, absent other action — from Congress– it must do it on its own. The preference would be that widely drawn, effective plans be created at a national level, including incentives and disincentives such as cap-and-trade, or tax-and-dividend. The finding ensures that Congress will now have the stick of EPA regulations to consider if they can’t move ahead themselves.

TIME has a good article summarizing the “stick,” and the long path yet to go.

And as for you, dear reader, don’t neglect the Fasting For Our Future action, explained here with more comments here.

Big Sur in Springtime

Big Sur in Springtime

Big Sur in Springtime

On Easter Sunday we hiked a few fingers of the great hand of God, the Santa Lucia mountains and the coast line of Big Sur. The Big Sur river itself, just 4 days before, had churned its muddy way over the bridge on Highway One, and half-buried several cars in a once green meadow. The raging fires of last summer had left lots of open earth. The later winter rains had saturated it and a nondescript shower on Tuesday had been the more than the muchness needed for one section up river, loosed it and down it came. By Saturday the earth movers and shovel handlers had been out and the road was open, the river clear and cold. No one had been injured.

The climb up to Buzzards’ Roost from the south end of the bridge is over an hour of not quite continuous switchbacks almost entirely through cool coastal redwood forests. Maidenhair and five-fingered fern, miners’ lettuce, the ubiquitous redwood sorrel with its three clover like heart-shaped leaves, some sprouting lovely white flowers spread wide along the trail. Big leaf maple, sycamore and alder try to out compete the redwoods, here and there succeeding. A solitary brown creeper makes its way steadily up a redwood trunk looking for lunch. Stellar jays scream to each other, yak at us. The egg-yolk yellow of a warbler captures our attention for a long as she’ll stay still — not long at all.

Coastal Redwood, Big Sur

Coastal Redwood, Big Sur

At the top of the climb, the shelter of the trees below, the final yards of the trail lined with blackberry brambles and manzanita, we stand in chaparral, sage and beautiful yellow deerweed, waist high, and see the broad expanse of the Pacific, the fog-belt cinched four miles off-shore. The wind is still cool though the heat is noticible. Beneath our feet is a tumble of magma, hard-cooked layers of sandstone that have been through the trenches of hell before being pushed to these heights. Distinct bands of yellows and ochres from river run-off millions of years ago are clearly visible — all in God’s own unmistakable signature.

Falcon Mania

falcons_p_0499968962 The periodic raptor rapture that erupts in big cities when nesting predators are found has come to San Francisco. Nice article in the SF Chronicle.

Dapper Dan and Diamond Lil, … have built a nest on top of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. headquarters at 245 Market St.

… The raptors’ nest contains four eggs that are expected to hatch next week. Roughly 40 days later, the chicks will learn to fly. A few weeks after that, they’ll be gone

Raptor Rapture

There is a live cam on the birds. So far I have not been able to do more than get in line. Must be overwhelmed with interest.

Composting Gone Wild

foodscraps Dang! Here’s a business model that past me by, back in the day of saving our daily scraps and turning them into our garden compost pile. It was good rich stuff, mostly, and made us feel virtuous and way cutting edge as we harvested our zukes, lettuce, radishes and what all; this was back in 1970 my friends. Seems as if San Francisco has taken it to a whole different level.

Every morning, garbage trucks swing by the Hotel Nikko, the Palace Hotel and MoMo’s, picking up food left on dinner plates and in San Francisco chefs’ kitchens. Green crews hit neighborhoods from the Mission to the Sunset, collecting oatmeal, chicken bones and dead tree leaves.

About 2,000 restaurants, 2,080 large apartment buildings and 50,000 single-family homes have embraced the city’s environmentally friendly green bins. The scrap is turned into gold, a rich compost that boosts the region’s bounty of food while curbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

San Francisco’s garbage and recycling companies are leading the way in producing a high-quality, boutique compost tailored for Bay Area growers, experts say. In one year, 105,000 tons of food scraps and yard trimmings – 404 tons each weekday – get turned into 20,000 tons of compost for 10,000 acres.

The compost is in such demand from nearby growers of wine grapes, vegetables and nuts that it sells out at peak spreading season every year.

SF Gate