Month: December 2017

Environmental News Bits on holiday break from December 23-January 2

Environmental News Bits will be taking a break for the holidays from December 23-January 2. We’ll return with new content on January 3. Meanwhile, feel free to browse the archives.

Red ornament hanging from tree

Happy holidays from Environmental News Bits!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2018.

Climate Change Adaptation: DOD Needs to Better Incorporate Adaptation into Planning and Collaboration at Overseas Installations

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What GAO Found

The expected impacts of weather effects associated with climate change pose operational and budgetary risks to overseas infrastructure according to the Department of Defense (DOD), but DOD does not consistently track the impacts’ estimated costs. Operational risks (including interruptions to training, testing, and missions) and budgetary risks (including costs of repairing damages) are linked to these impacts. However, installations inconsistently track these costs because there is no requirement for such tracking. Without a requirement to systematically track such costs, DOD will not have the information it needs to integrate climate-related impact resource considerations into future budgets.

DOD surveyed overseas installations on their vulnerability to the operational and budgetary risks of weather effects associated with climate change, but the approach used to gather survey data on the impacts that cause these risks was incomplete and not comprehensive. Specifically, DOD exempted dozens of overseas sites from completing the vulnerability assessment, and did not include key national security sites. As a result, DOD did not obtain information on risks posed by weather effects associated with climate change at many key overseas installations, which is critical for managing such risks at these locations.

While the military services have begun to integrate climate change adaptation into installations’ plans and project designs, this integration has been limited. For example, only about one-third of the plans that GAO reviewed addressed climate change adaptation. Similarly, projects GAO discussed with DOD officials were rarely designed to include climate change adaptation. This is due to the inconsistent inclusion of climate change adaptation in training and design standards for installation planners and engineers. As a result, planners and engineers do not have the information needed to ensure that climate change-related risks are addressed in installation plans and project designs.

DOD collaborates with host nations at both the national and installation level, but cost sharing agreements and other collaboration efforts generally do not include climate change adaptation. Without more fully including adaptation into its agreements with host nations, DOD may miss opportunities to increase the resilience of host-nation-built infrastructure at overseas installations to risks posed by the weather effects associated with climate change.

Why GAO Did This Study

According to DOD, climate change will have serious implications on the ability to maintain infrastructure and ensure military readiness. DOD has identified risks posed by climate change and begun to integrate adaptation in guidance. GAO was asked to assess DOD’s actions to adapt overseas infrastructure to the expected challenges of climate change.

GAO examined the extent to which DOD (1) identified operational and budgetary risks posed by weather effects associated with climate change on overseas infrastructure; (2) collected data to effectively manage risks to infrastructure; (3) integrated climate change adaptation into planning and design efforts; and (4) collaborated with host nations on adapting infrastructure and sharing costs. GAO reviewed DOD data and documents on climate change, planning, and cost-sharing and visited or contacted a nongeneralizable sample of 45 overseas installations reporting climate change impacts.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD require overseas installations to systematically track costs associated with climate impacts; re-administer its vulnerability assessment survey to include all relevant sites; integrate climate change adaptation into relevant standards; and include climate change adaptation in host-nation agreements. DOD non-concurred with two recommendations and partially concurred with four. GAO recognizes DOD’s efforts to review its climate-related policies, but continues to believe its recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report.

Wetlands not culprit behind rising methane concentrations

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

Wetlands – vibrant habitats rich in wildlife – are the largest natural global source of methane emissions, but are they responsible for increasing global concentrations of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere? Probably not, according to a major study published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

Metal-organic framework compound sets methane storage record

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

A porous material that sucks up record-breaking amounts of methane could pave the way to more economical natural-gas-powered vehicles (Nat. Mater. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nmat5050).

Chemists forge green path to alkylated amines

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Chemists use alkylated amines to build plastics, pharmaceuticals, and more. Unfortunately, making these important building blocks on a large scale is energy intensive and relies on nonrenewable feedstocks. Now a team of researchers report a green approach to synthesizing the molecules.

Tao Yan, Ben L. Feringa, and Katalin Barta of the University of Groningen, describe an environmentally-friendly catalytic process that uses alcohols to add alkyl groups to amino acids harvested from microbes (Sci. Adv. 2017, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6494). The method retains the chirality of the amino acids and releases water as its only waste product.

Bringing Space Technology to Water Needs in California Vineyards

Read the full story from the Agricultural Research Service.

ARS scientists are saving water in California’s vineyards by using satellite data and computer models to better manage water resources.

Why we’re behind on saving the world

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

In September of 2015, the United Nations tried to save the world.

Representatives from all 193 member countries released a plan they called the Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 global goals that would “ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity” by the year 2030. Each goal was lofty in ambition: “No Poverty,” “Zero Hunger,” “Reduced Inequalities,” and “Gender Equality.” This was by design. As Ban Ki-moon, the then-secretary-general, put it: “We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.”

In June, the latest report assessing the implementation of the goals was released. Things aren’t going very well.

A Look at West Hartford, Conn.’s Curbside Food Waste Collection Pilot Project

Read the full story in Waste360.

West Hartford is partnering with waste-to-energy project developer Quantum BioPower, Covanta and a local hauler to see how the 15-week program involving 130 residents plays out.

EPA Lauds Aldi for Environmental Efforts

Read the full story in Progressive Grocer.

Limited-assortment grocery chain Aldi has received the 2016-17 Best of the Best award from the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Partnership for its use of cutting-edge, environmentally sustainable refrigeration systems in 34 of its stores.

Transforming Energy Efficiency Markets: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

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Market transformation is a program model for achieving long-lasting changes in targeted markets to increase shares of energy-efficient products and services. This report examines recent market transformation efforts to identify keys to successful programs and the challenges they face. We characterize the markets best suited to this model, identify effective steps and interventions, and present ten case studies that illustrate best practices. Finally, we describe areas with the greatest potential for future market transformation and recommend ways to move forward.

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