USDA, Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Rangeland Resources & Systems Research in Ft. Collins, CO, are using rain shelters to experimentally examine the impacts of deluge during a drought on forage production and carbon cycling (release and intake of carbon) in a semi-arid grassland in eastern Colorado…
In a study recently published in Global Change Biology, researchers measured the combined effects of two opposite extremes, a deluge during an extended drought, on green-up, end-of-season plant productivity, and carbon cycling using chambers to measure carbon fluxes.
Intel has announced plans for an initial investment of more than $20 billion to construct two chip factories in Ohio, which will be built with green building principles and use all renewable electricity.
Updating Michigan standards last addressed in 2015, state officials are to consider a new, more energy-efficient home construction code this year ─ likely sparking a battle between home builders and environmentalists who back stronger energy mandates.
President Biden’s clean energy and jobs agenda is facing a critical test as the White House weighs several decisions on U.S. solar policy, with pressure mounting on multiple fronts.
While the entire solar industry wants to see more panels and cells built in the U.S., there are differing views on how to get there. The current debate hinges largely on two questions: What should happen to Trump’s solar tariffs, and should Biden’s “Buy American” policy be changed?
People living in the western U.S. have been concerned about wildfires for a long time, but the past two years have left many of them fearful and questioning whether any solutions to the fire crisis truly exist.
The Dixie Fire in the Sierra Nevada burned nearly 1 million acres in 2021, including almost the entire community of Greenville, California. Then strong winds near Lake Tahoe sent the Caldor Fire racing toward homes, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people – including one of us. They followed destructive wildfires in 2020 in California, and Colorado and Oregon also saw devastating fires in the past two years.
A new 10-year plan announced by the U.S. Forest Service in early 2022 aims to change that. It outlines an ambitious strategy, but Congress will now have to follow through with enough funding to carry it out.
The fires spread quickly over vast areas, but both burned less severely in areas with proactive forest restoration and fuels management projects, including near South Lake Tahoe and near Quincy.
Fuels reduction projects include thinning out trees, burning off woody debris and reducing “ladder fuels” like small trees and brush that can allow fire to reach the tree canopy. Forest restoration projects focus on forest structure, density and composition as well as reducing fuels.
The Forest Service’s new 10-year plan sets a goal to treat as much as 50 million additional acres across the West over 10 years, just under 80,000 square miles. For comparison, the Forest Service treats around 2 million to 3 million acres a year now.
The first priorities in the plan are high-risk areas where communities have been threatened by out-of-control fires, including in the Sierra Nevada in California, the eastern side of the Rockies in Colorado and parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.
The Forest Service already has a “shared stewardship” agreement with California, reached in 2020, aiming to treat 1 million acres annually by 2025. Though, research indicates that current levels of treatment are closer to 30% of that million-acre goal. Remember that 1 million acres is about how much the Dixie Fire burned.
A lingering question is how the 10-year plan will be paid for, considering that it will require a workforce larger than the U.S. has seen in decades.
So far, Congress has approved additional funding through the 2021 infrastructure bill, which included about $655 million a year for fire management for five years. That’s in addition to the Forest Service’s annual funding for this work, which was about $260 million this fiscal year.
But in California alone, a group of scientists, land managers and former government leaders has recommended spending $5 billion a year on proactive management, roughly equivalent to what was spent to suppress fires in the state in 2020. Known as “The Venado Declaration,” this proposal, championed by former Gov. Jerry Brown and former Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott, calls for addressing forest resiliency on every acre and acknowledges that more than just funding is needed. It also discusses building infrastructure and a workforce and reevaluating regulatory barriers.
Four key steps
To manage fires in an era of climate change, when drier, hotter weather creates ideal conditions for burning, experts estimate that the area treated for fuels reduction needs to increase by at least an order of magnitude. We believe government needs to accomplish these four things to succeed:
1) Drastically increase funding and staff for agencies’ fuels reduction projects, as well as outreach, cost-sharing and technical assistance for private forestland owners. The new plan is a good start. Funding more federal and state agency positions would add forest restoration capacity for the long term. The Biden administration’s proposal for a Civilian Climate Corps could also bring in more young workers.
2) Reduce regulations on forest and fuels management efforts for both public and private land. While California and the federal government have made recent strides to streamline regulations, land management agencies need to acknowledge the biggest risk is doing nothing. Agencies need to plan larger restoration projects and drastically cut the time needed to implement them.
3) Invest in communities’ capacity to carry out local forest restoration work by providing long-term support to local organizations that provide outreach, technical assistance and project coordination services. Funding restoration through competitive grants makes development of long-term community capacity challenging at best. The new plan’s inclusion of state, tribal and private lands is an opportunity for partnerships.
Amid a changing climate, we will have to learn to coexist with wildfires in the U.S. West. This will require concerted action and a cultural shift in how we view and manage our forests and communities to be resilient.
This is an updated version of an article first published on Oct. 13, 2021.
In 2016, the United States Geological Survey began tracking wind turbines. In 2018, it published a database with wind turbine records that it keeps regularly updated. To date, there are 70,808 turbines covering 44 states and territories, which includes Guam and Puerto Rico.
In Canada, the Canadian Wind Turbine Database is maintained by Natural Resources Canada. The Canadian database is not as frequently updated as the U.S. database but reflects all wind turbines installed up through 2020.
A solar panel recycling crisis is looming and the industry is now rushing to clean up its act. The Circular PV Alliance (CPVA) is one such industry-led initiative set up to help stop panels going to waste. The group’s cofounders share their story.
Social movements (e.g., anti-war, civil rights, labor, environmental) and leaders (e.g., the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks) have historically used non-violent civil disobedience (e.g., sit-ins, blockades) as a powerful tool to build political power and motivate corporate or government action. In recent years, groups like Extinction Rebellion have advocated for the use of non-violent civil disobedience to promote climate action.
In September 2021, we asked Americans about their willingness to support an organization engaging in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse and about their willingness to personally engage in such non-violent civil disobedience themselves. Here we examine how this willingness varies across different groups including Global Warming’s Six Americas, generations, and the three largest racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
A similar process could be created with offshore wind turbines.
If direct air capture systems were built alongside offshore wind turbines, they would have an immediate source of clean energy from excess wind power and could pipe captured carbon dioxide directly to storage beneath the sea floor below, reducing the need for extensive pipeline systems.
Researchers are currently studying how these systems function under marine conditions. Direct air capture is only beginning to be deployed on land, and the technology likely would have to be modified for the harsh ocean environment. But planning should start now so wind power projects are positioned to take advantage of carbon storage sites and designed so the platforms, sub-sea infrastructure and cabled networks can be shared.
Using excess wind power when it isn’t needed
By nature, wind energy is intermittent. Demand for energy also varies. When the wind can produce more power than is needed, production is curtailed and electricity that could be used is lost.
For example, New York State’s goal is to have 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. Those 9 gigawatts would be expected to deliver 27.5 terawatt-hours of electricity per year.
Based on historical wind curtailment rates in the U.S., a surplus of 825 megawatt-hours of electrical energy per year may be expected as offshore wind farms expand to meet this goal. Assuming direct air capture’s efficiency continues to improve and reaches commercial targets, this surplus energy could be used to capture and store upwards of 0.5 million tons of CO2 per year.
That’s if the system only used surplus energy that would have gone to waste. If it used more wind power, its carbon capture and storage potential would increase.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected that 100 to 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere over the century to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels.
Researchers have estimated that sub-seafloor geological formations adjacent to the offshore wind developments planned on the U.S. East Coast have the capacity to store more than 500 gigatons of CO2. Basalt rocks are likely to exist in a string of buried basins across this area too, adding even more storage capacity and enabling CO2 to react with the basalt and solidify over time, though geotechnical surveys have not yet tested these deposits.
Planning both at once saves time and cost
New wind farms built with direct air capture could deliver renewable power to the grid and provide surplus power for carbon capture and storage, optimizing this massive investment for a direct climate benefit.
But it will require planning that starts well in advance of construction. Launching the marine geophysical surveys, environmental monitoring requirements and approval processes for both wind power and storage together can save time, avoid conflicts and improve environmental stewardship.
Whether it’s leaving hollow plant stems as nesting sites or making a watering hole for native bees, Treehugger is not short of tips and tricks for more pollinator-friendly gardening practices. Yet if you have only a small, urban garden to tend, it can sometimes be tempting to wish for a lot more space with which to help our furry, flying friends. It turns out, however, that size doesn’t matter all that much.