Why Texas Is Fighting the Federal Government over Water

Read the full story in Governing.

Foretelling a new environmental battle between state and federal regulators, Attorney General Greg Abbott this week demanded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back down from a proposal to expand the definition of federal waters to include seasonal and rain-dependent waterways.

Geographic Footprint of Electricity Use for Water Services in the Western U.S.

Vincent C. Tidwell, Barbie Moreland, and Katie Zemlick (2014). “Geographic Footprint of Electricity Use for Water Services in the Western U.S.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (15), 8897-8904 DOI: 10.1021/es5016845

Abstract: A significant fraction of our nation’s electricity use goes to lift, convey, and treat water, while the resulting expenditures on electricity represent a key budgetary consideration for water service providers. To improve understanding of the electricity-for-water interdependency, electricity used in providing water services is mapped at the regional, state and county level for the 17-conterminous states in the Western U.S. This study is unique in estimating electricity use for large-scale conveyance and agricultural pumping as well as mapping these electricity uses along with that for drinking and wastewater services at a state and county level. Results indicate that drinking and wastewater account for roughly 2% of total West-wide electricity use, while an additional 1.2% is consumed by large-scale conveyance projects and 2.6% is consumed by agricultural pumping. The percent of electricity used for water services varies strongly by state with some as high as 34%, while other states expend less than 1%. Every county in the West uses some electricity for water services; however, there is a large disparity in use ranging from 10 MWh/yr to 5.8 TWh/yr. These results support long-term transmission planning in the Western U.S. by characterizing an important component of the electric load.

In Sandy’s Wake, BIG U Promises Lower Manhattan Upped Coastal Protection

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

In 2013, President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force devised the Rebuild by Design Competition.  Applicants were to design a “fundable and implementable” infrastructure project to mitigate the dangers of rising sea levels and increasingly frequent extreme weather events in New York and New Jersey coastal regions.  In early June 2014, the United States Department of Housing and Development (HUD) announced the six winners.[1]  The most ambitious of the project winners is the “BIG U,” which would circle around 10 continuous miles of Lower Manhattan shoreline, using a mix of natural and physical infrastructure to protect the city’s most vulnerable stretch of coast.  HUD Phase 1 funding for the project will be $335 million, the largest Rebuild by Design award.  The Lower East Side section of the BIG U promises integrated flood protection and upgraded “social infrastructure,” such as parks and walkways, for an area that suffered extensive damage from Sandy.

Dry California Fights Illegal Use of Water for Cannabis

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Amid the state’s crippling drought, many communities are fighting not the mere cultivation of cannabis — which is legal in the state, though subject to myriad restrictions — but the growers’ use of water. Marijuana is a thirsty plant, and cultivating it at a time when California residents are subject to water restrictions has become a sticky issue.

Tracking the Global Generation and Exports of e-Waste. Do Existing Estimates Add up?

Knut Breivik, James M. Armitage, Frank Wania, and Kevin C. Jones (2014). “Tracking the Global Generation and Exports of e-Waste. Do Existing Estimates Add up?” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (15), 8735-8743 DOI: 10.1021/es5021313

Abstract: The transport of discarded electronic and electrical appliances (e-waste) to developing regions has received considerable attention, but it is difficult to assess the significance of this issue without a quantitative understanding of the amounts involved. The main objective of this study is to track the global transport of e-wastes by compiling and constraining existing estimates of the amount of e-waste generated domestically in each country MGEN, exported from countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) MEXP, and imported in countries outside of the OECD MIMP. Reference year is 2005 and all estimates are given with an uncertainty range. Estimates of MGEN obtained by apportioning a global total of 35,000 kt (range 20,000–50,000 kt) based on a nation’s gross domestic product agree well with independent estimates of MGEN for individual countries. Import estimates MIMP to the countries believed to be the major recipients of e-waste exports from the OECD globally (China, India, and five West African countries) suggests that 5,000 kt (3,600 kt–7,300 kt) may have been imported annually to these non-OECD countries alone, which represents 23% (17%–34%) of the amounts of e-waste generated domestically within the OECD. MEXP for each OECD country is then estimated by applying this fraction of 23% to its MGEN. By allocating each country’s MGEN, MIMP, MEXP and MNET = MGEN + MIMP – MEXP, we can map the global generation and flows of e-waste from OECD to non-OECD countries. While significant uncertainties remain, we note that estimated import into seven non-OECD countries alone are often at the higher end of estimates of exports from OECD countries.


IAA to Bring Life to Dorm Rooms

Read the full story from the University of Maryland.

Thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of an instructor and students from the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA), Terps moving into the dormitories for the fall 2014 semester will receive green plants to help decorate their rooms and improve air quality.

IAA instructor and advisor Ken Ingram was awarded a grant through the Pepsi Enhancement Fund to supply the plants. Pepsi grants fund programs or events that create a campus community, appeal to campus citizens and advance the university’s academic mission.

Is green growth good for the poor ?

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The developing world is experiencing substantial environmental change, and climate change is likely to accelerate these processes in the coming decades. Due to their initial poverty and their relatively high dependence on environmental capital for their livelihoods, the poor are likely to suffer most due to their low resources for mitigation and investment in adaptation. Economic growth is essential for any large-scale poverty reduction. Green growth, a growth process that is sensitive to environmental and climate change concerns, can be particularly helpful in this respect. We focus on the possible trade-offs between the greening of growth and poverty reduction, and we highlight the sectoral and spatial processes behind effective poverty reduction. High labor intensity, declining shares of agriculture in GDP and employment, migration, and urbanization are essential features of poverty-reducing growth. We contrast some common and stylized green-sensitive growth ideas related to agriculture, trade, technology, infrastructure, and urban development with the requirements of poverty-sensitive growth. We find that these ideas may cause a slowdown in the effectiveness of growth to reduce poverty. The main lesson is that trade-offs are bound to exist; they increase the social costs of green growth and should be explicitly addressed. If they are not addressed, green growth may not be good for the poor, and the poor should not be asked to pay the price for sustaining growth while greening the planet.

Carbon price efficiency : lock-in and path dependence in urban forms and transport infrastructure

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This paper investigates the effect of carbon or gasoline taxes on commuting-related CO2 emissions in an urban context. To assess the impact of public transport on the efficiency of the tax, the paper investigates two exogenous scenarios using a dynamic urban model (NEDUM-2D) calibrated for the urban area of Paris: (i) a scenario with the current dense public transport infrastructure, and (ii) a scenario without. It is shown that the price elasticity of CO2 emissions is twice as high in the short run if public transport options exist. Reducing commuting-related emissions thus requires lower (and more acceptable) tax levels in the presence of dense public transportation. If the goal of a carbon or gasoline tax is to change behaviors and reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions (not to raise revenues), then there is an incentive to increase the price elasticity through complementary policies such as public transport development. The emission elasticity also depends on the baseline scenario and is larger when population growth and income growth are high. In the longer run, elasticities are higher and similar in the scenarios with and without public transport, because of larger urban reconfiguration in the latter scenario. These results are policy relevant, especially for fast-growing cities in developing countries. Even for cities where emission reductions are not a priority today, there is an option value attached to a dense public transport network, since it makes it possible to reduce emissions at a lower cost in the future.

Climate change, industrial transformation, and “development traps”

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This paper examines the possibility of environmental “development traps,” or “brown poverty traps,” caused by interactions between the impacts of climate change and increasing returns in the development of “clean-technology” sectors. A simple specification is used in which the economy can produce a single homogeneous consumption good with two different technologies. In the “old” sector, technology has global diminishing returns to scale and depends on the use of fossil energy that gives rise to long-lived, damaging climate change. In the “new” sector, the technology has convex-concave production and is not dependent on the polluting energy input. If the new sector does not grow fast enough to move through the phase of increasing returns, then the economy may linger at a low level of income indefinitely or it may achieve greater progress but then get driven back down to a lower level of income by environmental degradation. Stimulating growth in the new sector thus may be a key element for avoiding an environmental poverty trap and achieving higher, sustained income levels.

Wildlife Corridors Sometimes Help Invasive Species Spread

Read the full story from the University of Florida.

When the ants come marching in, having miles of linked habitats may not be such a good idea after all.

In a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, new University of Florida research suggests that wildlife corridors – strips of natural land created to reconnect habitats separated by agriculture or human activities — can sometimes encourage the spread of invasive species such as one type of fire ant.