National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program’s Executive Director Brad Warren speaks on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross about ensuring initiative 1631 provides a fair solution for working lands and working waters, as well as rural communities. He tackles some of the most common opposing viewpoints and shares why price-and-invest policies like 1631 are the ones that work best. Interview starts at 12:47. Or, to listen directly from the start of his interview, click here.
Rich and poor country representatives clash over policy priorities and replenishment at Green Climate Fund board meeting
By Megan Darby, Climate Home News, 7/3/18
Paul Oquist and Lennart Båge, co-chairs of the Green Climate Fund board, were accused of poor preparation for this week’s meeting (Photo: GCF)
A meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board in Songdo started unevenly on Sunday, as co-chair Paul Oquist was detained by political turmoil in Nicaragua, leaving Sweden’s Lennart Båge to run the session single-handed.
With developing countries complaining their priorities were not properly represented, it took nearly two days to agree on the agenda for the meeting.
“I have never served on a board that is this dysfunctional and toxic in my life,” said US representative Geoffrey Okamoto, as the discussion dragged on.
In the context of Donald Trump’s US cutting off contributions to the fund, however, Okamoto’s comment rankled with some.
“It is typical playing to the crowd,” said Zaheer Fakir, who represents South Africa. “The reason why it is dysfunctional and toxic is the way [the co-chairs] prepared for this board meeting.”
He said there had been a “serious lack of consultation” and the chairs had not responded to comments regarding the agenda before the meeting.
The barely veiled hostilities come as the fund faces a cash crunch. It has $2.8 billion left to allocate from its start-up donations. Projects up for consideration on Wednesday would claim $1bn of that.
As well as the US withholding $2bn of its pledge, the pot has lost some $1bn in value due to exchange rate fluctuations since 2014, officials reported.
Discussions on how to top up the budget were rolled over to the final day of the meeting, after lively but inconclusive talks on Tuesday. There were divisions over how much to hinge donations on closing policy gaps, many of which have defied resolution since the fund started.
Trump’s refusal to contribute has driven a wedge between other wealthy countries and the developing world, which still expects governments to fulfil a collective promise to deliver $100bn climate aid a year by 2020, partly through the GCF.
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Comment on story from GOH Executive Director Brad Warren: “The future of healthy oceans and fisheries depends on rapidly reducing carbon emissions. That’s one reason why it matters that falling costs for solar + battery storage are starting to knock out coal in some markets, and may do so in China soon.”
By Soila Apparicio, Climate Home News, 3/7/2018
Falling battery costs will allow for renewable power to grow rapidly, analysts predict, replacing traditional baseload generation
In the US, the combo can outcompete gas generation by 2027, according to the same New Energy Outlook report, presented in London on Friday.
BNEF expects battery prices, which are already down by 79% per megawatt-hour since 2010, to continue falling fast. That will enable grids to integrate more variable renewables and ultimately end reliance on coal, gas, and nuclear to meet peak demand.
By 2050, the report predicts 71% of electricity worldwide will be generated by carbon-neutral sources, with 50% coming from renewables.
“The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” lead author Seb Henbest said at the launch.
Rechargeable, high-energy density lithium-ion batteries are the main focus of this analysis. There are several different types of lithium battery on the market with varying lifetimes. They are used to store excess energy from solar panels and wind turbines and release it when needed.
David Howey, an engineering science professor at Oxford University, told Climate Home News lithium-ion technology is going to be “with us for at least ten years, possibly even beyond.”
Read more here
New report details sustained economic and environmental gains enjoyed by states participating in regional carbon cap-and-trade market.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, continues to succeed at reducing pollution, creating jobs, and boosting economies for all participating states. It’s no wonder that Virginia will soon add its name to the RGGI states, New Jersey is in the process of rejoining, and that states are exploring ways to reap the benefits of carbon markets to drive investments in transit and cleaner mobility options.
A new report released last month by the Analysis Group found that, over the past three years, RGGI helped grow participating states’ economies by $1.4 billion, while adding 14,500 job-years (equivalent to full-time jobs for one year of employment). Nine states participate in RGGI, including the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Key findings from the report are detailed in the infographic below.
RGGI is a cap and trade program; it requires energy producers that emit carbon dioxide to buy pollution allowances through an auction process. This means that they must internalize some of the costs of carbon pollution related to fossil fuels. It also incentivizes investment in cleaner fuel sources.
Altogether, since the program was implemented in 2009, the nine RGGI states have collected $2.8 billion in auction proceeds. States typically use RGGI auction revenues to pay for energy efficiency and clean energy programs – a “cap-and-invest” approach that further cuts emissions, reduces energy costs, and creates jobs. When states invest RGGI proceeds in energy efficiency, they get the biggest “bang for the buck” as they add more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment. RGGI also helped reduce by $1.37 billion the amount of money sent out of the region to import fossil fuels.
Read more here
June 15th, 2018, Marshall Shepherd, Forbes.com
One of the grand challenges that I find as a climate scientist is conveying to the public the “here and now” of climate change. For many people, it is still some “thing” that seems far off in time or distance from their daily lives of bills, illness, kids, and their jobs. Ironically, climate change touches each of those aspects, but the average person does not often make the connections. People eat seafood and fish, but most people will not make any connections between tonight’s dinner of flounder, lobster or mackerel to climate change as they squeeze that lemon or draw that butter.
A new Rugters University study caught my eye because it is a good example of a “here and now” impact. Climate changes is causing fish species to adjust their habitats at a more rapid pace than current policy can manage. Many species of flounder, lobster, mackerel and crab are migrating to find colder waters as oceans warm. The study suggests that such shifts may lead to international conflict and reductions in fish supply. Seafood is a pawn in the trade chess game.
Researchers at Rutgers University say that an obsolete and outdated regulatory system has not kept pace with how the ocean’s waters are warming and shifting fish populations. I actually wrote a few years ago in Forbes about how warming waters were shifting crab populations in the North Pacific and affecting fishers as well as one of my favorite TV shows, The Deadliest Catch. This new study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world, Science, has provided new insight that has implications for our food supply and potential international conflict. According to a press release from the university:
for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.
Malin Pinsky is an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study. He, postdoctoral associate James Morley and a group of international co-authors reported that commercially important fish species (in other words things you like to eat and that many depend on for sustenance) could continue to migrate further northward in search of colder waters.
Read more here
Litigants from eight countries claim EU institutions are not protecting fundamental rights
Daniel Boffey. The Guardian, May 24th 2018
Lawyers acting for a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have launched legal action against the EU’s institutions for failing to adequately protect them against climate change.
A case is being pursued in the Luxembourg-based general court, Europe’s second highest, against the European parliament and the council of the European Union for allowing overly high greenhouse gas emissions to continue until 2030.
The families, including young children, claim their lives have been blighted by the policy decisions in Brussels, and that the EU’s inadequate emissions targets will cause more suffering.
The legal complaint asserts that the EU’s existing climate target to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, does not protect their fundamental rights of life, health, occupation and property.
The litigants, from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra, say the EU should define a higher reduction target.
The claim specifically targets the EU’s emission trading scheme directive, the effort sharing regulation and the land use, land use change and forestry regulation.
The plaintiffs, who are not seeking compensation for their loss, are asking the court to declare the three acts null and void, “since they violate the plaintiff’s rights and are not in line with higher ranking law”.
According to a legal summary of the complaint, to avoid a vacuum, the court will be asked to keep the acts in force until a stronger version of them has been enacted. Lawyers claim there is a case for this in article 263 of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.
In 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years, ruling that its plans to cut emissions by 14-17% compared with 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The government has appealed the decision, which will be heard in The Hague on Monday.
Maurice Feschet, 72, a lavender farmer in Grignan, Provence, told the Guardianhe became involved in the action against the EU after losing 44% of his harvest in six years because of climate change.
He said: “My family has been farming here since the 1800s. I am taking this action for my 38-year-old son who lives on the farm. We want him to continue to be able to farm, but it is not going to be easy. There must be more done.”
Alfredo Sendim, 52, an organic farmer in central Portugal, said the irregularity of the climate in his area raised serious doubts about the long-term sustainability of his business. He said: “Last year we had almost the entire year without a drop of rain. Then we had two weeks and all the rain that we should have had fell.”
In Sweden, the traditional Sami way of life herding reindeer is said to be under pressure from rising temperatures that threaten the size of herds. Warmer winters mean less snow and more rain freezing into ice, making it harder for the animals to reach the plants they need to eat.
Read more here
As the state’s only shellfish hatchery, it’s a large part of the oyster industry in the region.
Alan Barton is the Production Manager at Whiskey Creek.
He’s worked there for the past decade and says they play a big part bringing shellfish from ocean to plate.
“We probably produce about a third of all oyster larvae on the West Coast,” says Barton.
In 2007 and 2008, the whole operation was nearly shut down.
Something changed in the waters of Netarts Bay, which Whiskey Creek uses to spawn oysters.
Their output was reduced by nearly 75 percent each year.
A hatchery out of business would have had a substantial impact on the oyster industry.
The Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated that shellfish growers employ, directly and indirectly, more than 3,200 people across the Pacific Northwest with an economic impact around $270 million.
“In these rural areas along the coastline, 3,000 jobs are pretty important,” says Barton. “These are just blue collar guys.”
Initially, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery staff believed their mass die-offs were caused by biological problems, like foreign bacteria – or the wrong type of algae used for food.
“I remember one morning, we came in and everything was dead, all of it,” says Barton.
“It was our worst day, but also our best day. Because it’s when we realized the problem might be with the water from the bay.”
That is when the hatchery turned to Oregon State University for help.
The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery believed “ocean acidification,” a byproduct of climate change, was to blame.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) define ocean acidification, or “OA” for short as, “a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.”
In essence, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the more it will sink into the ocean.
Once enough of it gets into the water, it’s chemical makeup changes.
That can have a wide variety of effects on local animals and the ecosystem they live in.
George Waldbusser, Associate Professor at OSU, says ocean acidification is undoubtedly connected to climate change.
“By burning fossil fuels, we’ve increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 30 percent,” he says. “That’s lowered the pH of the ocean — or the acidity of the ocean — by about 30 percent, which shifts the saturation state and makes it harder for organisms to make shells.”
The drop in acid in water is troubling for shellfish.
During the first two weeks of an oyster’s life they are especially sensitive to the level of oxygen and acid in the water.
In high acid events, oyster’s shells deform – and often times they die.
Waldbusser believes conditions will only get harder, not easier on shellfish.
“We know the chemistry will change and these extreme events will get worse and worse. And so periods of time that are easy or good to grow oysters will diminish in time for the hatchery,” he says.
Fortunately, OSU was able to help the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery.
Burke Hales, a professor at OSU, created a way to measure the chemistry of the water used to spawn shellfish.
That allows the hatchery to treat the water and provide a successful growing environment for their oysters.
“With that knowledge,” Hales says, “the Whiskey Creek folks are able to change their operations: the timing of their water pumping, how they condition the water. Now they’re back to almost 100 percent of their pre-crash productivity.”
But Hales believes the current method of overcoming ocean acidification is not a long-term solution.
“Netarts Bay has always had some good times; it’s always had some bad times. But the frequency of the good times is less and the frequency of the bad times is greater. And the bad times are a little bit worse than they used to be,” says Hales.
To combat the problem for the long term researchers at OSU point to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere which causes ocean acidification.
“We have to recognize that fossil fuel emissions are a cause of climate change and ocean acidification. We also have to recognize that we’ve relied on them for a long time and we have to find reasonable transition plans to move away from fossil fuels and into alternative energy,” says Waldbusser.
For Barton at the Whiskey Creeks Shellfish Hatchery, he’s thankful they’ve found a way to overcome the effect the effect carbon dioxide has had on the ocean.
“If we had not figured out what ocean acidification was doing to this hatchery we would for sure be out of business,” he says.
However, he is not confident their current techniques for treating the water will sustain them forever.
“The short term prospects are pretty good. But within the next couple of decades we’re going to cross a line I don’t think we’re going to be able to come back from,” he says. “A lot of people have the luxury of being skeptics about climate change and ocean acidification. But we don’t have that choice. If we don’t change the chemistry of the water going into our tanks, we’ll be out of business. It’s that simple for us.”
Originally published here
December 14, 2015, NPR.org, Claire Leschin-Hoar
For anyone paying attention, it’s no secret there’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We’ve got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights. And fishermen say they’re seeing unusual patterns in fish stocks they haven’t seen before.
Researchers now have more grim news to add to the mix. An analysis published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe.
“This, as far as we know, is the first global-scale study that documents the actual productivity of fish stocks is in decline,” says lead author Gregory L. Britten, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine.
Britten and some fellow researchers looked at data from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems across the globe. They say they’ve identified a pattern of decline in juvenile fish (young fish that have not yet reached reproductive age) that is closely tied to a decline in the amount of phytoplankton, or microalgae, in the water.
“We think it is a lack of food availability for these small fish,” says Britten. “When fish are young, their primary food is phytoplankton and microscopic animals. If they don’t find food in a matter of days, they can die.”
The worst news comes from the North Atlantic, where the vast majority of species, including Atlantic cod, European and American plaice, and sole are declining. In this case, Britten says historically heavy fishing may also play a role. Large fish, able to produce the biggest, most robust eggs, are harvested from the water. At the same time, documented declines of phytoplankton made it much more difficult for those fish stocks to bounce back when they did reproduce, despite aggressive fishery management efforts, says Britten.
When the researchers looked at plankton and fish reproduction declines in individual ecosystems, the results varied. In the North Pacific — for example, the Gulf of Alaska — there were no significant declines. But in other regions of the world, like Australia and South America, it was clear that the lack of phytoplankton was the strongest driver in diminishing fish populations.
“When you averaged globally, there was a decline,” says Britten. “Decline in phytoplankton was a factor in all species. It was a consistent variable.”
And it’s directly linked to climate change: Change in ocean temperature affects the phytoplankton population, which is impacting fish stocks, he says.
Read more here
Too often the tone of environmental discourse —Crisis! Dire failure!—promotes hopelessness and paralysis. Brock Bernstein, President of the National Fisheries Conservation Center (Global Ocean Health is a program of NFCC), takes a different view. He was recently asked to write a blog entry for the journal Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, and we think it’s an important message.
By Dr. Brock B. Bernstein
Pervasive doom and gloom dominates much of the popular news about the environment. Global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, drought, wildfires, overfishing, or overpopulation—it all contributes to a feeling of despair and hopelessness, particularly among young people. This struck home for me on a personal level during a recent conversation with my college-aged son and a few of his friends—they felt they were “totally screwed” because of the inevitable impacts of climate change.
One value of getting older is that you’ve seen more and have a longer history to draw on. I grew up in southern California from the 1950s through the 1970s when environmental problems were severe and visible – air pollution (I remember frequent episodes of eye-burning smog that caused incessant coughing fits during water polo practice) and sewage contamination that led much of Santa Monica Bay’s beaches to be permanently closed to swimming (1,2). While I was in graduate school, I visited a colleague in Cleveland in the late 1960s, just a couple of years after the Cuyahoga River caught on fire again, because it was so polluted that, as Time Magazine put it, the river “oozes rather than flows” (Time, August 1, 1969).
And yet, we’ve solved many of these and other problems that seemed so overwhelming at the time, and we’ve made major progress on newer ones such as the ozone hole. One useful thing about getting older is that it provides some protection against the shifting baseline phenomenon in which our perceptions are dominated by more recent information while the past recedes in our collective memory and is not part of our current awareness. For good reason, environmental advocates typically focus on shifting baselines that cause us to see current, degraded conditions as normal. For example, the average size of top-of-the-food chain fish, such as swordfish, has declined substantially since the 1800s (3), to the extent that most people cannot even imagine a 400-pound swordfish. Yet shifting baselines also diminish our awareness of past successes and the effort that went into them. My son and his friends were only vaguely aware of southern California’s decades-long battle against air and water (2) pollution. As a result, they have no experience of hard-won success to draw on as they consider what their future holds. And because they’re not in the engineering facilities and meeting rooms where solutions to California’s current extreme drought and likely drier future are being crafted and implemented, they—and much of the rest of the public—don’t appreciate the stunning speed with which solutions such as stormwater capture and the potable reuse of treated wastewater are being developed and implemented.
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The New York Times, October 15th, 2015,
Ocean and coastal waters around the world are beginning to tell a disturbing story. The seas, like a sponge,
are absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so much so that the chemical balance of our oceans and coastal waters is changing and a growing threat to marine ecosystems. Over the past 200 years, the world’s seas have absorbed more than 150 billion metric tons of carbon from human activities. Currently, that’s a worldwide average of 15 pounds per person a week, enough to fill a coal train long enough to encircle the equator 13 times every year.
We can’t see this massive amount of carbon dioxide that’s going into the ocean, but it dissolves in seawater as carbonic acid, changing the water’s chemistry at a rate faster than seen for millions of years. Known as ocean acidification, this process makes it difficult for shellfish, corals and other marine organisms to grow, reproduce and build their shells and skeletons.
About 10 years ago, ocean acidification nearly collapsed the annual $117 million West Coast shellfish industry, which supports more than 3,000 jobs. Ocean currents pushed acidified water into coastal areas, making it difficult for baby oysters to use their limited energy to build protective shells. In effect, the crop was nearly destroyed.
Human health, too, is a major concern. In the laboratory, many harmful algal species produce more toxins and bloom faster in acidified waters. A similar response in the wild could harm people eating contaminated shellfish and sicken, even kill, fish and marine mammals such as sea lions.
Increasing acidity is hitting our waters along with other stressors. The ocean is warming; in many places the oxygen critical to marine life is decreasing; pollution from plastics and other materials is pervasive; and in general we overexploit the resources of the ocean. Each stressor is a problem, but all of them affecting the oceans at one time is cause for great concern. For both the developing and developed world, the implications for food security, economies at all levels, and vital goods and services are immense.
This year, the first nationwide study showing the vulnerability of the $1 billion U.S. shellfish industry to ocean acidification revealed a considerable list of at-risk areas. In addition to the Pacific Northwest, these areas include Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and areas off Maine and Massachusetts. Already at risk are Alaska’s fisheries, which account for nearly 60 percent of the United States commercial fish catch and support more than 100,000 jobs.
Ocean acidification is weakening coral structures in the Caribbean and in cold-water coral reefs found in the deep waters off Scotland and Norway. In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system. Dramatic change is also apparent in the Arctic, where the frigid waters can hold so much carbon dioxide that nearby shelled creatures can dissolve in the corrosive conditions, affecting food sources for indigenous people, fish, birds and marine mammals. Clear pictures of the magnitude of changes in such remote ocean regions are sparse. To better understand these and other hotspots, more regions must be studied.
Read more here