Posts tagged climate change

Project BudBurst

   I can tell you when my Greenland tulips, Strutter’s Ball daylily or perennial hibiscus bloomed in the last several years; when the grass first turned green this spring or when the chartreuse of the willows began to show. I’m a compulsive jotter. Maybe it’s the product of my training as a reporter combined with my gardening obsession that compels me to write down every observation. At least I’m not alone. Nationwide, nature-lovers, gardeners, scientists and students are taking note of what’s happening in the natural world around us.

   It’s all part of an effort called Project BudBurst – http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/

 

  Thousands of volunteers across the country have been participating in the project, which tracks climate change by recording the timing of flowers and foliage. Project BudBurst, started as a pilot program in 2007 and operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Chicago Botanic Garden and University of Montana, is amassing thousands of observations from these “citizen scientists” to give researchers a detailed picture of our warming climate.  An analysis of thousands of Project BudBurst observations from last year and the 2007 pilot shows a baseline for the timing of key plant events. Volunteers can compare these observations to flowering and leafing in future years to measure the impact of a warming climate. Overall, 4,861 observations were reported online in 2008 from participants in every state except Hawaii.

 

   Rachael Drummond, who works in Media Relations for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., got me in touch with an Eastern Iowa participant of Project BudBurst. Den Henrickson of Marion said he decided to get involved after hearing about the project on National Public Radio. Den is keeping track of three things in his yard: Eastern red cedar, Eastern white pine trees and buffalo grass. “I think this is a valuable way to leave a nugget of information for future generations,” he said. Den added that he knows some people are combing parks and ditches in search of plants, but he knew he would be more apt to follow through with something in his own backyard.

  

  The project works like this: Each participant in Project BudBurst selects one or more plants to observe. The Web site suggests more than 75 trees and flowers, with information on each. Users can add their own choices. Participants begin checking their plants at least a week prior to the average date of budburst–the point when the buds have opened and leaves are visible. After budburst, participants continue to observe the tree or flower for later events, such as seed dispersal. When participants submit their records online, they can view maps of these phenophases across the United States.

 

   Den, 37, said he’s watching the white pine, for example, for the first needles, first pollination and first pine cones.  He joked that he should be watching the common dandelion, another of the options on the list. Because this is the first year Den has been involved, he didn’t have a comparison to previous years and hasn’t been recording any of the phases on his own. An information technology employee at ADM in Cedar Rapids, Den said he isn’t a “jotter” like me, but he is a data person. And that’s where he sees the importance of the project, especially when it comes to global warming. “I’m not into it for the politics of climate change,” he said. “In my mind the jury is still out on that. With the data, you get a clearer picture.”

 

   Here is more about Project BudBurst from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:

   The science of phenology, or tracking cyclic behavior among plants and animals, has a distinguished history. For centuries farmers, naturalists, and scientists have kept careful records of the phenology patterns of plants and animals. Farmers have long used their phenology knowledge to predict the best time for planting and harvesting crops and when to start expecting problems with insect pests.  Numerous plant and animal species throughout the world are being affected by climate change. Some plants respond to warmer temperatures by extending their growing seasons. Others shift their ranges toward the poles or to higher elevations.

   At the same time, many insects breed and disperse based on regular cycles of sunlight rather than temperature. This can cause a mismatch between the behavior of pollinating insects, such as bees, and flowers that bloom earlier than the insects expect. Such asynchronous behavior has already been noted across many parts of the world.  

   Researchers have already found some interesting comparisons from the last two years. In 2008, for example, forsythia in Chicago opened their first flowers from April 17 to 19—almost a week earlier than the 2007 flowering dates of April 23 to 25. In Wadsworth, Ohio, flowering dogwood reached full bloom on May 8, 2008, which was two weeks earlier than in 2007. They warned, however, that results about global warming couldn’t be drawn from just two years of data. Scientists will have to analyze observations for many years in order to distinguish the effects of long-term climate trends from year-to-year variations in weather.

   Project BudBurst is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Ecological Observatory Network, National Geographic Education Foundation, and U.S. Forest Service. The USA National Phenology Network is one of Project BudBurst’s partners. The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation and is hosted on Windows to the Universe, a UCAR-based educational website.

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

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Greenhouse gases – a public health threat

This just in from the EPA:

EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Threat to Public Health, Welfare

 

Proposed Finding Comes in Response to 2007 Supreme Court Ruling

 

 

 

(Washington, D.C. – April 17, 2009)  After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding Friday that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

 

The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat.

 

“This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations.  Fortunately, it follows President Obama’s call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation,” said Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”

 

As the proposed endangerment finding states, “In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem.  The greenhouse gases that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”

 

EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.

 

The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change impacts human health in several ways. Findings from a recent EPA study titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone,” for example, suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:

 

·         increased drought;

·         more heavy downpours and flooding;

·         more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires;

·         greater sea level rise;

·         more intense storms; and

·         harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.

 

In proposing the finding, Administrator Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources.

 

In addition to threatening human health, the analysis finds that climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.

  

The proposed endangerment finding now enters the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process EPA must undertake before issuing final findings. Today’s proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations. Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input.  Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.

 

More information:  http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

 

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Legal rights for Mother Nature

The following came out today from the University of Iowa:

Law professor leads initiative to protect environment for future generations

A University of Iowa law professor is spearheading an effort to make environmental rights as much a part of the legal vocabulary as economic or property rights so future generations can enjoy a safe environment.

“Our growing climate crisis demands that our laws take seriously the legal rights of children and future generations to inherit a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” says Burns Weston, professor emeritus in the UI College of Law, senior scholar of the UI Center for Human Rights and project director of the Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI). “In turn, the present generation must take legal responsibility for the ecological legacy we leave behind. It is a rank injustice to our heirs if our behavior does not change.”

The CLI, a joint project of the UI Center for Human Rights and the Environmental Law Center of Vermont Law School, seeks to broaden and deepen the legal means for protecting the earth’s environment for future generations. This week, it is releasing a major policy paper titled “Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice,” authored by Weston and Tracy Bach, CLI associate director and a researcher and professor at Vermont Law School.

“The Climate Legacy Initiative’s work is intended to spark public and professional discussion about how our laws can adapt to and confront the climate crisis,” Weston said. “We seek a fundamental rethinking of how the law, both nationally and internationally, can be made a better steward of the environment, especially in the face of unprecedented climate change.”

The CLI legal and legislative strategy will be unveiled at meetings next Thursday, April 23 of the University of Iowa Center for Human Right and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. The ICFRC meets at noon at the Congregational Church, 30 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City. Admission is $7.50 for members, $8.50 for nonmembers.

The UI Center for Human Rights presentation begins at 8 p.m. in 1505 Seaman Center for Engineering. Admission is free.

He said a legal approach is just one tool in confronting this huge challenge, but it is critical.

However, Weston said this not a task for the law alone. “Law underwrites all we do and how we go about doing it,” he said. “In a democratic society, this makes law’s relation to the environment everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility, and it cannot wait. Events may overturn intention unless we are expeditious.”

The CLI policy paper lays out a legal framework for constructing intergenerational rights and duties, and for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of existing law. It also offers 16 recommendations that governing bodies from local to global can implement to safeguard the environment.

The CLI engaged more than 40 legal and public policy experts from across the country to help with the policy paper, including Jonathan Carlson, a professor in the UI College of Law; Jerald Schnoor, a professor in the UI College of Engineering; Maureen McCue, an adjunct professor in the UI Global Health Studies Program and coordinator of the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Sharon Benzoni, formerly a research associate at the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, currently executive director of the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

“The CLI’s ultimate goal is a fundamental change in the way legal systems think about the environment,” said Weston. “We hope it leads to a paradigm shift in the way the law — and everyone and everything else — relates to the environment.”

Weston said that the obligation to do right by our children and grandchildren carries great moral weight, but that this has not been reflected in our legal systems to a degree sufficient to meet such environmental challenges as climate change. The concept of the common good, he said, is not only to establish a civil society for the current generation, but to make sure a functioning society can be handed to our heirs and their descendants.

In an environmental sense, he said, this means that current generations must act to ensure future generations’ rights to, for instance, biological diversity, environmental quality, and access to resources.

“Leaving the earth better than we found it is not merely a nice idea,” Weston said. “It is our responsibility to our children, grandchildren, and generations beyond.”

However, Weston said that for this to happen the legal system must be reformed. As it is now, he said environmental rights and especially those of future generations are only peripherally considered by the legal and political system, if they’re considered at all. Most of the time, they’re trumped by such values as property rights and economic development.

“We must align the laws of humans with the laws of nature,” he says.

Among the CLI’s 16 legislative, regulatory and judicial proposals:

–Urging states to adopt constitutional amendments implementing environmental rights for future generations and to pass state laws to enforce them.

–Enacting a National Environmental Legacy Act that would require defining in concrete terms the environmental legacy that should be left to future generations and providing a mechanism to ensure it.

–Creating “Environmental Stakeholder Trusts” such as “sky trusts” to safeguard and make clear the shared ownership of our environmental commons.

–Instituting cap and trade regulatory strategies.

–Asking governments to establish offices of “legal guardians” to act on behalf of the ecological rights and interest of future generations.

–Urging the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a declaration formally recognizing the atmosphere as a global “commons” shared by present and future generations.

Weston said the CLI will spend the coming months discussing their policy proposals with public policy organizations, think tanks, citizens groups, scholars, political and government leaders, faith-based organizations and others.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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What does Climate Change mean for Iowa?

“Climate Change Threat and Opportunity: Will Iowa Respond?” is the subject of a free, public forum from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 16, 2009, at T-Spoons, corner of Linn and Market streets in Iowa City. The forum will be led by Jerry Schnoor, Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research in the UI College of Engineering.

Schnoor, who chairs Gov. Chet Culver’s Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, said that the council’s recent report can be summarized by asking whether or not Iowans are going to respond to climate change and take advantage of the obvious opportunities presented in transforming the state’s economy towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, or are they going to be left behind by other states and other countries?

The talk is presented by Café Scientifique of Iowa City, whose discussion sessions are held on the third Thursday of the month from September to May. Café Scientifique of Iowa City is a meeting forum where the public is invited to explore and debate the latest ideas in science, mathematics, medicine and technology.

For more information on Café Scientifique visit http://www.physics.uiowa.edu/cafe/

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Climate change and renewable energy

The 2009 Agribusiness/Bioscience breakfast series in Iowa City began this morning, with a session on climate change and battery technologies. The series is an annual event with topics that impact agriculture. 

 

   Jerry Schnoor, chairman of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council and co-director of the University’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, and Johna Leddy, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa were featured this morning. Schnoor discussed climate change, including how we can reduce energy usage and create more renewable energy. Leddy followed with an overview of her work on electrochemical power sources. More than 50 people attended.

 

   If you missed this morning’s program, two more are coming up that address alternative energy.

 

On Feb. 27, the Gazette’s own Chuck Peters, our CEO, will present insights and lessons learned from living on a farm outside of Iowa City that has been powered for the last 10 years by wind and solar methods. Chuck Peters

 

On March 27, Newly-elected State Representative Larry Marek will discuss his efforts to make Iowa an energy independent “green” state , specifically regarding wind energy. He will also discuss his plans to lease part of his family farm to TradeWind Energy, which specializes in developing and managing wind energy projects in the Heartland. 

 

The programs are hosted by the Agribusiness/Bioscience Committee of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce with support from Eldon C. Stutsman, Inc., and First Trust & Savings Bank.

 

All programs are 7:30-8:30 a.m. at Hills Bank & Trust, 1401 South Gilbert St., Iowa City. The fee is $7 per event or $20 for the series, which includes breakfast.  RSVP to rsvp@iowacityarea.com by the Wednesday before each event.

 

Visit www.iowacityarea.com for more details.

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Climate change Monday

CLIMATE  CHANGE IN  IOWA TOPIC OF NOV. 3  FORUM:

Kirkwood, Area Partners Host “Connections” Discussion with Dr. Jerald Schnoor

 

“The global climate is changing. We know that humans are responsible for a large portion of that change, which will have implications for Iowa.”

 

That is the central theme of a public forum set for Kirkwood Community College on Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Kirkwood and several other colleges and community groups will host a “Connections” program in Ballantyne Auditorium on the main Kirkwood campus.

 

The free forum will feature Dr. Jerald Schnoor of The University of Iowa, speaking on “Mitigating and Responding to Climate Change in Iowa.”  Schnoor is the Allen S. Henry Chair and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

 

Discussion will include what we know and how we can mitigate global warming while creating economic opportunities for the future.  Policy options from the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council and from the Midwest Governor’s Accord will be discussed.

       

In an academic career spanning nearly three decades, Schnoor has studied many aspects of environmental science, especially water quality, environmental protection and public policy. He has served in advisory and official capacities with the Environmental Protection Agency, National Research Council and others. Schnoor has won numerous awards, including distinguished lecturer honors at Yale, Iowa State and Massachusetts universities. In 1996 he received the Distinguished Fellows Award from the Iowa Academy of Science, the group’s highest honor.

 

The Connections Natural History Speaker Series is a cooperative project since 1993, bringing noted science professionals to the Cedar Rapids metro area for free, public discussions in the natural sciences. All fees for the program are provided by grants and private donations. Participating partners include the Linn County Conservation Department, Cedar Rapids Washington High School, Coe College, Cornell College, Mt. Mercy College, Linn County Environmental Council, Cedar Valley Rocks and Minerals Society and other organizations, as well as Kirkwood.

 

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Polar bears in a greenhouse world

 Experts in diverse Arctic issues will be on the Grinnell College campus to weigh the impact of climate change on northern communities and environments.

 Grinnell College’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights and the Environmental Studies Program will jointly sponsor the symposium on “Critical Issues for the Arctic,” Apr. 1-3 .  Symposium speakers will address the exacerbated effects of global warming and the adaptation of northern communities to conditions such as melting sea ice and the atmospheric transport of pollutants to the Arctic.  The symposium schedule includes:

  • Apr. 1, 4:15 p.m.: Nature writer Elizabeth Grossman, who traveled this winter through the Arctic on an ice breaker, will offer her observations of Arctic melting in “It’s All About the Ice: Climate Change and its Impact on Contaminants in the Arctic.”
  • Apr. 1, 8 p.m.: Scot Nickels, senior science adviser to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (the national organization representing Inuit peoples across Canada), will describe the challenges that northern communities face in adapting to climate change.
  • Apr. 1, 9 p.m.: Ice Wall, an artistic work created by curator of academic and public outreach Tilly Woodward in collaboration with symposium participants (Rosenfield Courtyard)
  • Apr. 2, 4:15 p.m.:  Research scientist Donald Forbes will focus on coastal and marine issues in “Arctic Warming and Challenges for Northern Coastal Communities.” Forbes has been involved in research projects in the Canadian Arctic and Atlantic Provinces for more than a decade and was a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Apr. 2, 8 p.m.:  Nikita Ovsyanikov, senior research scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, will describe “The Future of Polar Bears in a Greenhouse World.”  Ovsyanikov has studied polar bears in the field since 1990 and consulted on several nature documentaries.
  • Apr. 3, 11 a.m.:  The Scholars’ Convocation will be presented by Justice Thomas Berger, formerly of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Berger’s talk “The Arctic: Whose Country Is It?” will offer an historical perspective on the development of native rights and land claims based on his work in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and most recently, Nunavut Territory. Berger is revered in Canada as a long-standing advocate of First Nation’s rights and for his role in the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline inquiry.
  • Apr. 3, 4:15 p.m.: William Shilts, chief of the Illinois State Geological Survey, will discuss the glacial history of northern Canada and implications for current and future ecosystems in “The Glacial and Periglacial Heritage of the Nunavut Landscape.”  Shilts was previously head of the environmental geochemistry section of the Geological Survey of Canada and is considered an expert on glacier deposits.
  • Apr. 3, 8 p.m.: Research scientist Jeff Chiarenzelli of St. Lawrence University will discuss environmental justice issues in “The Legacy of Formerly Used Defense Sites on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.” His research in Alaska and Nunavut examines the atmospheric transport of pollutants to the Arctic.

All symposium events, which are free and open to the public, will be held in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101, located at 1115 8th Ave. in Grinnell. 

The college adds: The greatest temperature increases resulting from global warming are recorded in the Arctic, so the Inuit people who have lived there for thousands of years will be the first forced to adapt to the changing environmental conditions with global implications.

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