Friday, May 31, 2013 | By Adriane Hall | No Comments
The Gulf Restoration Network‘s vision is that the Gulf of Mexico will continue to be a natural, economic, and recreational resource that is central to the culture and heritage of five states and three nations. The people of the region will be stewards of this vital but imperiled treasure, and they will assume the responsibility of returning the Gulf to its previous splendor.
Wetlands are extremely valuable to society. Wetlands can decrease flooding, remove pollutants from water, recharge groundwater, protect shorelines, provide habitat for wildlife, and serve important recreational and cultural functions. If the wetlands are lost, the cost of replacing them can be extremely expensive, if at all possible. Lost wetlands can result in a city having to invest more money in drinking water treatment or higher costs to citizens for flood insurance.
About Louisiana’s Coastline
A growing human presence interrupts the natural beauty and vastness of Louisiana’s coastline. Beyond the wetlands and outside the bayous are oil platforms and it seems everywhere there are warning markers of underground oil pipes. Still, the most dramatic change these wetlands are undergoing is the inundation of saltwater and the loss of land. Since the early 1930s, it is estimated that Louisiana has lost almost 5,000 square kilometers of wetlands. In fact, some say an area the size of a tennis court disappears every thirteen seconds. The wetlands are turning into water.
According to the United States Geological Survey and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Louisiana has about 3,560 square kilometers of fresh water wetland and 6,600 square kilometers of tidal (salt water) wetland. That’s an area equivalent to two states of Rhode Island. Wetlands include landscape features you are familiar with such as marshes, bogs, and swamps.
Beauty-wise, Louisiana’s coast rivals the icecaps of the Antarctic, the rolling waves of the Pacific and the tropical beaches of the Caribbean. But protecting these wetlands is about more than preserving a magnificent landscape. We should all feel a great sense of urgency to guard a culture, an economy, and a natural wonder teeming with life…
For a greater understanding visit The Institute for Coastal Ecology and Engineering’s website from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
Friday, May 31, 2013 | By Great Energy Challenge | No Comments
On a recent late night at the office, I got a warning from the cleaning woman: “You know the lights all shut off at 10 o’clock, right?” Fortunately, I had never stayed at National Geographic late enough to learn that fact. But I had noticed before that at 8:00 p.m., my computer sends a message saying it is going into sleep mode unless I click a button to keep it on.
Those automatic shut-offs are one of many small measures that have added up to big energy savings for the National Geographic Society. In fact, the Society’s facilities department announced earlier this year that NG achieved a record for energy conservation last year, hitting its lowest-ever level of energy use at 13,947,932 kilowatt hours. That’s 25 percent less energy than the Society used at its peak in 2000. Frank Candore, chief engineer for NGS, says each kilowatt hour saved amounts to 15.5 cents — at that rate, the Society has shaved nearly $700,000 off its annual energy bill.
The lights across National Geographic’s LEED-certified headquarters here in Washington, D.C. are shut off anywhere between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays, depending on the location, and automatically come on at 7:15 a.m. The engineering staff also took one fluorescent bulb out of each fixture and replaced the remaining ones with higher-output bulbs, which cut the building’s lighting use almost in half, according to Candore.
Other ways NG cuts energy use:
– building temperature adjustments and improved heating/cooling systems
– smart printers that print only when you’re there to pick up the job, reducing paper waste
– Low-flow toilets and faucets in bathrooms
– Discounts and subsidies for Metro commuters and carpoolers
– Ample recycling and composting bins; compostable cups and containers in the cafeteria (and a discount on coffee if you bring your own mug)
– Green Fridays
What’s a Green Friday, you ask? For nine or ten days each year in warmer months, the Society shuts down most of its offices and cafeteria. If work needs to be done, employees do it remotely. According to Candore, every Green Friday saves 15,000 kilowatt hours, and this year, Green Fridays will add up to $21,000 in energy savings.
“We used to be 100 percent customer-oriented,” Candore said of his department. “If you called me and said, ‘I’m going to come in Saturday. Could you turn the air on for me?’ No problem.” Because of the way the building operated, that meant turning on the air conditioning for several floors on half of a whole building all day for one person—who may or may not have ended up coming to the office after all.
“About 10 years ago, we started saying, you know, we can’t keep running the equipment for one or two or three or four people. So we get people fans now if they want to come in on a Saturday or off hours,” he said.
Operators of large buildings like National Geographic have a significant role to play in increasing energy efficiency, and it’s clear to anyone who has passed a fully lit, empty office building at night that there is widespread room for improvement. Buildings account for about 40 percent of domestic energy use, and commercial buildings account for nearly half of that amount. As part of a larger effort to boost American energy efficiency, President Obama created the Better Buildings Initiative two years ago with the goal of making commercial buildings 20 percent more efficient by 2020.
Making such an improvement, however, isn’t as simple as just shutting off more lights. National Geographic’s progress is the product of several smaller changes that add up to large savings, and it’s countered somewhat by the cost associated with testing different approaches and new-to-market equipment.
“A lot of it’s all educating us, too,” Candore said. “We’re on the cutting edge of this, and not everything we do is a success.” He says, for example, that it took time to recognize energy savings from new, smaller boilers that were installed a couple of years ago. “We were thinking maybe we had a flop there,” he said. Changes to the way the boilers were being operated eventually resulted in improved performance.
The Society continues to look for improvements on energy use, and the engineering department is evaluating smart panels that would help fine-tune control over the building systems. As efforts to lower the Society’s carbon footprint continue internally, the new goal for 2015 is to achieve a 10 percent reduction in electrical use, 10 percent reduction in water use, 25 percent reduction in landfill waste, and 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gases for NG’s vendors and suppliers.
Many of the Society’s efforts at sustainability are also powered by a “green team” of employees who volunteer their time to help put ideas into practice and to bolster energy awareness across divisions. Candore said that citing the environment, rather than savings, as the impetus for occasionally jarring changes tends to elicit support from coworkers. But, he said, “We’d rather not even call it the green initiative. We’d rather just call it best building business practices, because that’s what it is.”
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | By Great Energy Challenge | No Comments
U.S. Department of State photo
We generally complain that action on climate change is mired in polarized partisan politics and thus nothing can be done. True to an extent, but let’s hold on a bit.
In terms of generating important discussion about the clarity that exists around the conclusion that the scientific debate over climate change as an anthropogenic process is over, the political bully pulpit can be incredibly powerful.
A case in point is the paper published last week in Environmental Research Letters, where I am the Editor-in-Chief: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” John Cook, of the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland, Australia, was lead author of the paper, which begins with this abstract:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics “global climate change” or “global warming.” We find that 66.4 percent of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6 percent endorsed AGW, 0.7 percent rejected AGW and 0.3 percent were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1 percent endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5 percent.) Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2 percent endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
The paper came out, and President Barack Obama’s Twitter account weighed in:
That high-profile tweet (not directly from the president, but like all his tweets, from the campaign group formed to support his political agenda) drove a wave of attention to the research. Follow-on tweets came from Vice-President Al Gore and U. S. Congressman Henry Waxman. Television coverage followed in: ABC Lateline, Al Jazeera (Inside Story), CNN International, Democracy Now, and NRK. At last count there were over 200 newspaper and magazine pieces, and a number of radio segments. At last count there were several hundred blog posts on the findings of this paper and the Obama Tweet. A link to the ever-growing set of media coverage is: http://sks.to/tcpmedia.
The article has been downloaded over 21,600 article downloads in just a few days of having the paper published online.
What this story highlights – beyond the excellent data collection, analysis and scholarship in the paper itself – is the value of thoughtful comments and recognition of these findings.
Daniel M. Kammen is the Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he founded and directs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (http://rael.berkeley.edu). Kammen is a Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Kammen the Lead Scholar for the Fulbright NEXUS program in energy and climate for the U. S. Department of State.