Climate Change From a Mountain Community Perspective…

Here in the Keys we are pretty focused on climate change… mostly from a rising sea-level perspective.  Here is a peek into the same issue as seen from the mountaintop…

“This historic joint climate agreement by China and the US, the world’s two largest polluters, is good news for the future of mountains and snow. With climate change leading to increasingly erratic winters, decreasing snowpack, and shorter ski seasons, mountain communities need climate action now.” – Phil Huffeldt, Snowriders International.

Denver, CO  –  On Wednesday night, the U.S. and China announced a groundbreaking agreement to cut greenhouse gas pollution, raising the chances of a possible accord at the international climate summit scheduled for December 2015 in Paris. In response, Philip Huffeldt, the Coordinator of Snowriders International, said the following:

“This historic joint climate agreement by China and the US, the world’s two largest polluters, is good news for the future of mountains and snow. With climate change leading to increasingly erratic winters, decreasing snowpack, and shorter ski seasons, mountain communities need climate action now. Continue reading

UN Climate Summit: What To Expect and Why it Matters

On September 23, world leaders from government, business, finance and civil society will gather in New York City—at the invitation of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon—to attend the UN Climate Summit 2014.

The aim of the Summit is to secure widespread commitment to increasing action on climate change and to build ambition among key country leadership ahead of pivotal negotiations at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris, in December 2015. In Paris, countries are widely expected to build upon their respective domestic climate plans and activities with the aim of developing a new international deal to address climate change from the year 2020 forward. The litmus test for this agreement will be whether the world changes paths to keep the goal—avoiding catastrophic climate change by limiting warming to below 2°C—within reach.  The Climate Summit will preview political appetite for such a course correction. Continue reading

CLIMATE CHANGE: How Do You Sell Florida Keys Real Estate That May Soon Be Underwater?

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Back in the summer of 2009, there was a big meeting up in Marathon about climate change and its implications for the Florida Keys. Officials of the Nature Conservancy and others, quoting reports from international panels of scientists, predicted that by 2100, the Keys will have lost about 59,000 acres of real estate valued at $ 11 billion to rising sea levels. And that, they said, was the best case scenario. The worst case scenario would be that sea level could rise by more than 28 inches, submerging 154,000 acres valued at $ 43 billion.

The spin, in case you haven’t heard, is that the climate is warming and that the polar ice cap is melting, which is causing sea levels to rise. Indeed, sea level here in the Keys has already risen by 9 inches over the last 100 years, according to an Associated Press article published in July of last year– that rise reportedly documented by a tidal gauge operating in the Keys since before the Civil War. Also, perhaps coincidentally, tidal flooding here, once a periodic inconvenience, has become almost routine. Just ask the owners of businesses on the northern end of Duval Street. But having said that, it is also important to report that a large number or scientists and weather experts believe that the Keys-going-underwater scenario is being overstated. Continue reading

Risky Business Report Finds Businesses and Infrastructure in U.S. and Florida Face Significant Economic Risks From Climate Change

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First-Ever Risk Analysis Quantifies Potential for Widespread Economic Disruptions

The American economy will face significant and widespread disruptions from climate change unless U.S. businesses and policymakers take immediate action to reduce climate risk, according to a new report released today. The report, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” analyzes economic and climate impact data at the county, state, and regional level, and finds that communities, industries, and properties across the U.S. face profound risks from climate change.

The report, a product of the Risky Business Project, emphasizes that climate impacts differ by scale and type across the country. Focusing on higher temps and sea level rise, the report finds that Florida faces significant climate-related risks in the coming decades.

The report identifies these specific impacts as likely to hit the Sunshine State in the next five to 25 years: Continue reading

Climate Action Transparency Key To Trustworthiness

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New carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) report reveals that global voluntary reporting of local climate action triggers trustworthiness, access to finance and citizen engagement.

Four hundred twenty-two [422] local and subnational governments from 44 countries serving 12% of the world’s urban population are on track to trustworthiness, according to the carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) 2013 Annual Report released today at the ongoing UN Bonn Climate Change conference in Bonn, Germany.

The cCCR is the world’s largest public database of local climate action. It contains 3870 mitigation and adaptation actions, 870 climate and energy commitments, and 771 inventories covering around 2.25 Gigatons Co2e of annual GHG emissions. The cCCR catalyzes the trustworthiness of local and subnational governments by improving transparency, accountability and comparability of local climate actions. Continue reading

Reversing Climate Change Achievable by Farming Organically / Regenerative Organic Agriculture Can Reverse Global Greenhouse Effect

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Kutztown, PA – Rodale Institute recently announced the launch of a global campaign to generate public awareness of soil’s ability to reverse climate change, but only when the health of the soil is maintained through organic regenerative agriculture. The campaign will call for the restructuring of our global food system with the goal of reversing climate change through photosynthesis and biology.

The white paper, entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming,” is the central tool of the campaign.  The paper was penned by Rodale Institute, the independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit agricultural research institute widely recognized as the birthplace of the organic movement in the United States.

The white paper states that “We could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term “regenerative organic agriculture.”” Continue reading

The Dumbshine State

Solar panels being installed on house in Marathon

A rally last week in Tallahassee was staged to encourage solar energy development in Florida. Fortunately it became political because otherwise the mainstream media might not have covered it. Organizers used the event to accuse Gov. Rick Scott of blocking solar energy initiatives in the state at the behest of the big power companies.

Because Scott’s election-year rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, attended the rally, the media paid some attention.

What should have made bigger news is how the state has placed its legislative thumb firmly on the development of renewable power. Florida has the third-largest potential for rooftop solar generation in the nation but ranks 18th in solar installations.

KEYS, which delivers power west of the Seven Mile Bridge, illustrates what is typical for the rest of the state. Look at information provided by KEYS spokesperson Lynne Tejeda about the sources of the utilities power. Continue reading

CLIMATE CHANGE: IS THE SKY FALLING?

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Last week, the United States Senate held an all-nighter to call attention to the threat of climate change. You don’t have to convince me that the climate is changing. I watch the National Geographic and Discovery channels a lot and I have learned that climate change is natural. It’s been going on for millions of years. In fact, starting back about two million years ago, the climate of the Earth repeatedly shifted back and forth between very cold periods to very warm periods. During the cold periods, glaciers covered much of the world. And during the warm periods (global warming), much of the ice melted, presumably submerging much of the low-lying land around the world. There weren’t any civilizations back then, but if there had been, it is possible that, during one of the warm periods, a reporter in Chicago may have written, “Scientists are predicting that the climate is changing and that Chicago will be completely destroyed by a glacier within the next century. Congress is continuing to debate the passage of laws to try to prevent the climate from changing. But the good news is that the scientists are also predicting that we’ll get five great lakes out of this.” Continue reading

Debate About Yard Waste Incineration Flares Up

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“No, no, no this is a terrible idea!”

Laura Haight, New York Public Interest Research Group

For reasons that remain as cloudy as the smoke from a wood fire, Monroe County seems determined to pursue a plan to incinerate yard waste. At the same time, the commissioners may be ignoring a comparably priced plan to compost yard waste here in the Keys.

The commission discussed the plan for over an hour at its February 19 meeting and, after hearing from nine speakers, eight of whom opposed the plan, kicked the proposals back to the county’s sustainability program manager Rhonda Haag.

At issue is why the commission wants to burn organic material despite a recommendation of its own Climate Change Advisory Committee and why the BOCC is making a concerted push to do this without competitive bids, giving the project to local contractor Rudy Krause on Ramrod Key? Wednesday’s session seemed to move the discussion back toward issuing an RFP but Commissioner Neugent continued to make a strong push for incineration as a way to save money. Continue reading

Next Steps on Climate Change: Infrastructure Adaptation

Monroe County Commissioners will soon make some bell weather decisions that signal their approach to climate change. The County has joined compacts, attended conferences, hired sustainability coordinators, established committees, and developed plans which embark on the “process.” Eventually, the process moves from planning to action.

Action includes mitigation (reducing the causes of climate change) and adaptation (preparation for the effects). Mitigation efforts began years ago by obtaining grants to purchase hybrid cars, replace light bulbs, retrofit old buildings and replace air conditioning systems. These popular projects reduce ongoing expense and use “other people’s money,” for funding. The county will soon decide if it wants to further reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by ending the practice of burning Monroe County’s yard waste. This may cost a couple of bucks thus not be as popular. However, if atmospheric carbon dioxide is accelerating global warming, then our low elevation county will soon have the opportunity to end a major portion of its contribution.

Unlike mitigation which often yields immediate pay back, adaptation can be expensive and has a longer return on investment. The next step for adaptation in the Keys is openly discussing the possible effects of sea level rise. We don’t know when it will happen or exactly how much we will see, but we can determine where it will first occur. Initially an annoyance to those who realize the damage salt water does to vehicles; deeper puddles will begin to alter travel plans. Not convinced sea level will rise? Then think about adaptation as preparation for hurricane storm surge.

As the umbrella governing entity, Monroe County will soon decide if they want to take the next “adaptation step” by providing a forum for all municipalities and business leaders to identify the parts of their infrastructure that should be evaluated for exposure to sea level rise and the long term cost of doing nothing verses the expense of adaptation.

Will you please take a look at this month’s high tides, think about how you feel about climate change and let county commissioners know how you would like them to proceed? Thanks!

Bill Hunter

Sugarloaf Key

GREEN Reactor: Vampire Blues

Sucking blood from the earthIn the 70s Neil Young, sang…

I’m a vampire, babe,
Suckin’ blood from the earth
I’m a vampire, baby,
Suckin’ blood from the earth.
Well, I’m a vampire, babe,
Sell you twenty barrels worth.

Forty damn years later, long after we were supposed to be FLYING our cars and living in solar houses, we still SUCK. We’re sucking over 7 million barrels of crude out of the ground EVERY DAY in the US. And that doesn’t even count all of that horrendous fracked natural gas.  The US is on track to exceed Saudi Arabia’s massive output before too long.  Why are we here? Continue reading

GREEN Reactor: Keystone Cops and Flops

When people of my age were kids, our 3 or 4 channels of TV would fill afternoon and weekend slots with old movie shorts like The Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy.  Typically they’d include “silent” shorts featuring the Keystone Cops – a gang of incompetent policemen who’d pursue criminals or attempt to do public services, but to disastrous results. However it wasn’t unusual that after all the tumult, they’d still get their man.Keystone Cops

The Keystone “bitumen” (obscure term for “sandy thick unrefined oil”) pipeline that is proposed to cross America seems to be following a similar script.  It’s to be fed from a disastrous super-project in Canada where the politics of money have obliterated the reality of the harm being done. Parts of the pipeline erstwhile in place have already experienced catastrophic spills.  US government agencies evaluating the project have been duped into hiring the “bad guys”.  And a Faux News caricature of a news service continues to back it with sometimes humorous, often hilarious but always inaccurate and misleading narrative.  Keystone Cops indeed. Continue reading

GREEN Reactor: Legacy of Sally’s Rides

Sally Ride on the job

Sally Ride on the job

Anyone who’s followed my various Key West columns or pages knows I started my career working on the Space Shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center. My LPS (Launch Processing System) code aided in Shuttle checkout and launches, and I was fortunate enough to be able to watch up-close and personal the launches of the first dozen shuttle missions (through the first launch of Discovery).  Ultimately two of the Shuttles I worked with were tragically lost, but Discovery flew 39 missions over the next quarter century.

There were many “firsts” during those early years, but other than the first Shuttle launch itself, the most significant was undoubtedly the launch of STS 7 on June 16, 1983, where Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. (That happened to be exactly 20 years and 2 days after the Russians had launched Valentina Tereshkova in a dual-launch “man and woman in space” stunt.)  Sally joined the then-record crew of five in the Challenger spacecraft for its second flight, which included deployment of two satellites from the payload bay.  During that mission Sally was the first person to pluck a satellite from orbit — using the Shuttle’s “robot arm” to grab it and store it in the bay – and return it to earth. Continue reading