5 ways the Supreme Court could transform water policy

Read the full story at E&E News.

The Supreme Court will take up a landmark dispute Monday that could shape the scope of the Clean Water Act for decades to come, affecting the fate of wetlands that have an outsize effect on emissions and climate change.

The nation’s highest court will kick off its new term with oral arguments in Sackett v. EPA, in which Idaho landowners have asked the court to exempt their land from costly federal permitting requirements by instructing a lower court to apply a more restrictive definition of waters of the United States, or WOTUS.

Some expect the Supreme Court — now dominated by six conservative justices — will side with the landowners, Michael and Chantell Sackett.

This 100% solar community endured Hurricane Ian with no loss of power and minimal damage

Read the full story from CNN.

Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. He has lived in southwest Florida for nearly 19 years, had experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017 and saw what stronger storms could do to the coast.

Grande told CNN he wanted to find a new home where developers prioritized climate resiliency in a state that is increasingly vulnerable to record-breaking storm surge, catastrophic wind and historic rainfall.

What he found was Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away.

Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.

Webinar: Sustainability, Growth and Resilience: A Guide for Business

Oct 6, 2022, noon-1 pm CT
Register here.

Just as companies are upping their game when it comes to addressing their sustainability and climate impacts, so, too, are cities, transit districts and other public agencies. They are taking a fresh look at their infrastructure — everything from water, power and transit systems to mobility hubs — through the lens of improving lives and livelihoods while making their communities more prosperous and climate-resilient.

The critical infrastructure that keeps cities running also can help companies better meet their sustainability goals. It’s not just about technology. There’s a significant people-centered approach at the heart of planning and designing decisions.

In this hour-long webcast, hear from experts and engineers at Black & Veatch, who have been helping keep cities’ lights on and clean water flowing for over 100 years, and from Tranzito, an urban smart mobility operator, about the StreetsLA program in Los Angeles, California. The program, which is re-imagining public transportation in the city, could forever alter U.S. perceptions about public transit and shared mobility, and also serves as a model for systems from a people-first perspective.

Join this session to hear from the experts, listen in on the discussion, ask your questions, and learn:

  • What to consider now to mitigate business disruptions due to climate-change factors
  • How the people, planet, profit framework can align with designing infrastructure for growth and resilience
  • What people-first design looks like, and how it can spur economic development and environmental justice
  • How StreetsLA is helping the City of Los Angeles prepare for an influx of visitors for the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics

Moderator

  • Joel Makower, Co-Founder & Chairman, GreenBiz Group

Speakers

  • Steph Stoppenhagen, Director, Business Development, Black & Veatch
  • Ajay Kasarabada, Associate Vice President & Director, Environmental Solutions, Black & Veatch
  • Gene Oh, CEO, Tranzito

If you can’t tune in live, please register and GreenBiz will email you a link to access the webcast recording and resources, available to you on-demand after the live webcast.

Hurricane Ian capped 2 weeks of extreme storms around the globe: Here’s what’s known about how climate change fuels hurricanes

Hurricane Ian’s water vapor on Sept. 28, 2022, meant heavy rainfall for large parts of Florida. NOAA

by Mathew Barlow, UMass Lowell and Suzana J. Camargo, Columbia University

When Hurricane Ian hit Florida, it was one of the United States’ most powerful hurricanes on record, and it followed a two-week string of massive, devastating storms around the world.

A few days earlier in the Philippines, Typhoon Noru gave new meaning to rapid intensification when it blew up from a tropical storm with 50 mph winds to a Category 5 monster with 155 mph winds the next day. Hurricane Fiona flooded Puerto Rico, then became Canada’s most intense storm on record. Typhoon Merbok gained strength over a warm Pacific Ocean and tore up over 1,000 miles of the Alaska coast.

Major storms hit from the Philippines in the western Pacific to the Canary Islands in the eastern Atlantic, to Japan and Florida in the middle latitudes and western Alaska and the Canadian Maritimes in the high latitudes.

A lot of people are asking about the role rising global temperatures play in storms like these. It’s not always a simple answer.

Record-setting cyclones in late September 2022. Mathew Barlow

It is clear that climate change increases the upper limit on hurricane strength and rain rate and that it also raises the average sea level and therefore storm surge. The influence on the total number of hurricanes is currently uncertain, as are other aspects. But, as hurricanes occur, we expect more of them to be major storms. Hurricane Ian and other recent storms, including the 2020 Atlantic season, provide a picture of what that can look like.

Our research has focused on hurricanes, climate change and the water cycle for years. Here’s what scientists know so far.

Rainfall: Temperature has a clear influence

The temperature of both the ocean and atmosphere are critical to hurricane development.

Hurricanes are powered by the release of heat when water that evaporates from the ocean’s surface condenses into the storm’s rain.

A warmer ocean produces more evaporation, which means more water is available to the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water, which allows more rain. More rain means more heat is released, and more heat released means stronger winds.

Simplified cross section of a hurricane. Mathew Barlow

These are basic physical properties of the climate system, and this simplicity lends a great deal of confidence to scientists’ expectations for storm conditions as the planet warms. The potential for greater evaporation and higher rain rates is true in general for all types of storms, on land or sea.

That basic physical understanding, confirmed in computer simulations of these storms in current and future climates, as well as recent events, leads to high confidence that rainfall rates in hurricanes increase by at least 7% per degree of warming.

Storm strength and rapid intensification

Scientists also have high confidence that wind speeds will increase in a warming climate and that the proportion of storms that intensify into powerful Category 4 or 5 storms will increase. Similar to rainfall rates, increases in intensity are based on the physics of extreme rainfall events.

Damage is exponentially related to wind speed, so more intense storms can have a bigger impact on lives and economies. The damage potential from a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, like Ian at landfall, is roughly 256 times that of a category 1 storm with 75 mph winds.

Two women stand in a wind-damaged kitchen looking up at the sky through a missing section of roof.
Hurricane Ian tore up roofs on homes, businesses and at least one hospital. Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

Whether warming causes storms to intensify more rapidly is an active area of research, with some models offering evidence that this will probably happen. One of the challenges is that the world has limited reliable historical data for detecting long-term trends. Atlantic hurricane observations go back to the 1800s, but they’re only considered reliable globally since the 1980s, with satellite coverage.

That said, there is already some evidence that an increase in rapid intensification is distinguishable in the Atlantic.

Within the last two weeks of September 2022, both Noru and Ian exhibited rapid intensification. In the case of Ian, successful forecasts of rapid intensification were issued several days in advance, when the storm was still a tropical depression. They exemplify the significant progress in intensity forecasts in the past few years, although improvements are not uniform.

There is some indication that, on average, the location where storms reach their maximum intensity is moving poleward. This would have important implications for the location of the storms’ main impacts. However, it is still not clear that this trend will continue in the future.

Storm surge: Two important influences

Storm surge – the rise in water at a coast caused by a storm – is related to a number of factors including storm speed, storm size, wind direction and coastal sea bottom topography. Climate change could have at least two important influences.

Homes across entire neighborhoods seen from a helicopter are surrounded by floodwater.
The day after Hurricane Ian made landfall, homes were surrounded by water in Fort Myers, Fla. AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

Stronger storms increase the potential for higher surge, and rising temperatures are causing sea level to rise, which increases the water height, so the storm surge is now higher than before in relation to the land. As a result, there is high confidence for an increase in the potential for higher storm surges.

Speed of movement and potential for stalling

The speed of the storm can be an important factor in total rainfall amounts at a given location: A slower-moving storm, like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, provides a longer period of time for rain to accumulate.

There are indications of a global slowdown in hurricane speed, but the quality of historical data limits understanding at this point, and the possible mechanisms are not yet understood.

Frequency of storms in the future is less clear

How the number of hurricanes that form each year may change is another major question that is not well understood.

There is no definitive theory explaining the number of storms in the current climate, or how it will change in the future.

Besides having the right environmental conditions to fuel a storm, the storm has to form from a disturbance in the atmosphere. There is currently a debate in the scientific community about the role of these pre-storm disturbances in determining the number of storms in the current and future climates.

Natural climate variations, such as El Niño and La Niña, also have a substantial impact on whether and where hurricanes develop. How they and other natural variations will change in the future and influence future hurricane activity is a topic of active research.

How much did climate change influence Ian?

Scientists conduct attribution studies on individual storms to gauge how much global warming likely affected them, and those studies are currently underway for Ian.

However, individual attribution studies are not needed to be certain that the storm occurred in an environment that human-caused climate change made more favorable for a stronger, rainier and higher-surge disaster. Human activities will continue to increase the odds for even worse storms, year over year, unless rapid and dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are undertaken.

Mathew Barlow, Professor of Climate Science, UMass Lowell and Suzana J. Camargo, Lamont Research Professor of Ocean and Climate Physics, Columbia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A key to controlling emissions: More buildings in a city’s unused spaces

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Constructing more condensed communities in existing neighborhoods has been found to go a long way toward fighting climate change.

The world’s oldest winged insect is in trouble. How frightened should we be?

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

Mayflies are among nature’s best environmental sentinels — and their current message to us is grim.

Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap

DOE’s Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap frames the emerging and transformative technology pathways needed to achieve net-zero GHG emissions in the industrial sector by 2050. It identifies four key pillars of industrial decarbonization:

  • energy efficiency;
  • industrial electrification;
  • low-carbon fuels, feedstocks, and energy sources (LCFFES); and
  • carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

Each represents a high-level element of an industrial decarbonization action plan, and a cohesive strategy will require all four pillars to be pursued in parallel. The report also covers decarbonization in five industry subsectors:

  • iron and steel
  • chemical manufacturing
  • food and beverage
  • petroleum refining
  • cement manufacturing

Dow is buying renewables and cutting waste in its environmental quests

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Dow Inc. is a multinational chemical company. It manufactures plastics, chemicals, and agricultural products. The Michigan-based company operates in 160 countries and has 54,000 employees. In 2017, the company merged into DowDuPont, and in April 2019, the company’s parent, Dow Inc., became public. Among the company’s environmental goals are to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to drastically decrease plastic waste.

“We have crafted a portfolio that is well-positioned to meet the increasing needs of our customers and consumers who are demanding more circular and sustainable products around the world. We have a clear, science-based, disciplined, and affordable path to carbon neutrality, even while we continue to grow our capacity and improve transparency and accountability in all our sustainability efforts,” says Jim Fittlerling, chief executive, in the company’s ESG statement.

Vestas is turning old wind turbine blades into cement

Read the full story at Waste360.

An Iowa Vestas site is collecting wind turbine blades from across the country to be recycled. The company is grinding the blades up to be used as an additive in cement.

Worth it: Building demolition and reuse

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Building demolition accounts for more than 90 percent of the 600 million tons of construction-related waste generated in the U.S. each year.