Day: November 13, 2013

Your State: Ready for Climate Change?

Read the full story at Atlantic Cities.

Whether it’s wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, or sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard, chances are good your state is in for its own breed of climate-related disaster.

Every state is required to file a State Hazard Mitigation Plan with FEMA, which lays out risks for that state and its protocols for handling catastrophe. But as a new analysis from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law reveals, many states’ plans do not take climate change into account.

Partnerships, cost-sharing are key to agriculture and water quality project

As the Yellow Medicine River winds its course in southwest Minnesota, descending from the prairie couteau to the Minnesota River near Granite Falls, it curls around an 80-acre field on the Doug and Lois Albin farm.

The soil is fertile – great for raising abundant yields of corn and soybeans. But the low-lying ground adjacent to the river often remained too wet to plant, and was susceptible to erosion. Installing sub-surface drain tile would improve chances of getting a crop, but it would also open the door to more nutrients and sediment pollution in the river.

In seeking a win-win solution, the Albins opened their land to a major project to install the drain tile, but also reduce pollutants reaching the river. Components of the project include drainage water management, streambank and outlet stabilization, woodchip bioreactors, and a more recent tool – saturated buffers.

The expense, both in dollars and technical assistance, would have exceeded any immediate economic benefit. But with local, federal, and state assistance, including a grant funded by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy amendment, the project became an example of what can be done when property owners, agencies, and the public can achieve by working together.

Thanks to a cooperative effort by the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), state and federal agencies, and other groups, the project has been installed, buffering the impact of cropland on the river, and providing important data for wider use.

“I appreciate everybody’s participation,” Albin says. “The agencies were very helpful and willing to work together. This is exciting here, and I hope we can continue.” Along with the Yellow Medicine SWCD, the Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota Water Resources Center served as lead co-sponsors, following up on their conservation drainage focus groups project. While a majority of the cost was covered by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment and other funds, the Albins used their own money to complete the project.

The saturated buffer impacts 12 acres at a cost of $3,600. The bio-filter impacts 22 acres at a cost of $13,500. All open tile intakes have been removed from the research field. Fertilizer application is calibrated and soil grid-sampled, which improves cost-efficiency and can reduce nitrogen loss. “We’ve got great soils, we just need to learn how to use it better,” Doug says.

Last February, the Albins were recognized for their cooperation and effort on the project, receiving the “River Keeper” award from Clean Up the River Environment, a citizen organization based in Montevideo, where the Chippewa River flows into the Minnesota River.

More information about crop land research is available at the Minnesota Corn Growers’ Association website, on the Discovery Farms webpage of MAWRC, and the Clean Water Research Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

CARD study concludes reduction in ethanol mandate would have minor impact on price of corn

Read the full post from Green Car Congress.

A working paper by Professor Bruce Babcock and Wei Zhou from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University suggests that lowering the US ethanol mandate to a level that can be met solely with E10 would result in a lower price of corn of between 5 and 6%, or about 25 centers per bushel, compared to the status quo.

EIA’s new map layers provide more detailed information on petroleum infrastructure

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

In recent years, midstream U.S. crude oil infrastructure has adapted to increased onshore oil production, leading to some changes in crude oil and petroleum product movement around the country. To help users understand and keep up with changes in petroleum infrastructure, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has added new petroleum layers to the maps on its State Energy Profiles and Energy Disruption pages.

Smaller Rise in Global CO2 Emissions May Be Sign of Permanent Slowing

Read the full post at Yale Environment 360.

Global carbon dioxide emissions grew last year at about half the rate of the past decade, possibly signaling a permanent slowdown of CO2 emissions, says a new report from the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.

Saltwater-cooled greenhouse grows crops in the Sahara

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

How do you grow vegetables in arid areas? Reverse the trend of desertification, the Sahara Forest Project proposes.

The project combines existing technologies — such as the evaporation of saltwater to create fresh water along with solar thermal energy tech — to utilize what we have (saltwater, CO2) to produce what we need (food, fresh water and energy).

Metcalf Institute’s flagship fellowship program to focus on climate change in 2014

Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting is accepting applications for its 16th Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists: Climate Change in Coastal Ecosystems. The workshop runs from June 1 through June 6, 2014 at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, one of the nation’s premier oceanographic research institutions.

The Metcalf Workshop is a unique professional development experience that gives journalists an opportunity to explore and understand the effects of climate change in coastal ecosystems, using Narragansett Bay as a living laboratory.
Metcalf Fellows roll up their sleeves for an intensive week with scientists and regulatory experts in the field, lab and at the conference table.  Journalists learn how to interpret scientific publications and sharpen their investigative reporting skills as they explore some of the most important environmental issues of our time.
The ten journalists selected to attend the workshop will:
  • Study the causes and consequences of ocean acidification through hands-on research;
  • Conduct a fisheries survey aboard the URI research vessel Cap’n Bert to identify the long-term impacts of climate change on commercially important fisheries;
  • Discuss projections for sea level rise and the latest policy approaches for coastal adaptation to climate change;
  • Attend lectures featuring top national researchers, policy makers and science communicators;
  • Enjoy off-deadline interactions with scientists and cultivate contacts for future reporting;
  • Gain skills and confidence to translate scientific publications for public audiences.
Early to mid-career journalists from all media with a strong interest in improving and expanding their coverage of environmental topics and a desire to learn about scientific methods through field and lab work are invited to apply. The fellowship includes room, board, tuition, and up to US$500 in travel support, paid after the program. Non-U.S. applicants must include a written statement indicating that they can secure full travel funds and obtain the appropriate visa.
Applications for the 2014 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists must be postmarked or emailed by February 7, 2014. For more information and to apply, visit
About Metcalf Institute
Metcalf Institute is an internationally recognized leader in providing environmental science training for journalists. The Institute also offers communication workshops for scientists, science resources for journalists and free public lectures on environmental topics.
Metcalf Institute was established at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in 1997 with funding from three media foundations, the Belo Corporation, the Providence Journal Charitable Foundation and the Philip L. Graham Fund, with additional support from the Telaka Foundation.  Metcalf programming is underwritten by federal and foundation grants, as well as private donations managed by the University of Rhode Island Foundation.

Sustainable Business Initiatives Will Fail Unless Leaders Change Their Mindset

Read the full story from the HBR Blog Network.

Ten years ago, sustainability issues were not considered business issues.  But today, most major corporations have a sustainability function.  Increasingly, companies are applying data-driven methodologies such as carbon footprinting, product indexing, lifecycle analysis, and ecosystem services valuation to support smarter decision-making and business innovation.

Yet, if the ultimate goal is to bend the arc of unsustainable business practices enough to make a crucial difference, we still have a long way to go.

Webinar: Biomimicry: Designing by Nature

Get ready for EE Week 2014: Engineering a Sustainable World by joining us in November for our first webinar of the 2013-2014 school year.

From the Wright Brothers, inspired by pigeon flight, to the design of super-efficient buildings mimicking the structure of termite mounds, humans have long copied nature for problem-solving. Join us next month as we partner with the Biomimicry Education Network for an educator webinar on the fascinating topic of biomimicry: the act of creating sustainable solutions by copying designs and processes found in nature. Webinar participants will get an introduction to the concept of biomimicry and will learn about resources to help them introduce biomimicry to their students. Webinar participants will also hear from an educator who has successfully engaged students in STEM learning through biomimicry study.

Register for EE Week 2014 to participate in this webinar.

Climate change opens door to forest pests new to Great Lakes

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

Climate change will increase the frequency of droughts, increase the severity of snow/rain storms and make frosts occur later, said Sophan Chhin, assistant professor in the department of forestry at Michigan State University.  As climate changes and growing seasons are interrupted by drought and frost, trees are preoccupied with regaining their strength and become more vulnerable to insects and disease.

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