PICS CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 16 August 2011
- Vancouver mayor may pay the political price for bike lanes
- Carbon-gobbling trees in Northwest forests change the forest equation, a new study finds
- Top writers tackle climate change in short stories
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business in partnership with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Cellulosic biofuel could revive farmlands conservation program
August 9, 2011. Traditional biofuel production from sources such as corn and soy offers minimal positive gains in GHG emissions and often takes 100 years or more to produce a net benefit once energy input and land-use changes are accounted for. Recent research suggests that cellulosic feedstocks grown on existing US federal conservation land may provide a carbon-neutral alternative, given that no land-use changes occur and little energy input is required. It would also allow farmers to generate an income from fallow land and acts as an additional incentive for them to keep land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which sequestered an estimated 44 million metric tons of GHG emissions in 2010. This opportunity, however, hinges on the commercialization of cellulosic technology, which has been slower than predicted.
BC is home to a well-known cellulosic R&D company, Lignol, with research offices located in Burnaby. Boasting a number of patents and partnerships with various organizations, the company hopes to develop a commercial facility in the near future. The ability to produce cellulosic ethanol is particularly relevant to BC, given its extensive forestry ranges and the surplus of mountain pine beetle lumber available. Lignol’s research facility has been focused on turning wood waste into ethanol and, if commercially viable, this could bode well for the forestry sector. Wood waste from forestry practices could be diverted to produce cellulosic ethanol, allowing the sector to diversify its operations and mitigate fluctuations in the demand for lumber.
Fuel-efficient auto effort already supports 151,000 jobs, report says
August 9, 2011. According to a new report, more than 151,000 Americans already work in jobs resulting from initiatives to make cars and trucks more fuel-efficient. The report says that new fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama Administration have helped create jobs in making parts for cleaner vehicles. According to research by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Wildlife Federation and the United Auto Workers, these employment opportunities stem from more than 300 companies located in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The number of clean-vehicle technology jobs is expected to increase as the automotive industry further embraces new fuel economy standards. The report was published along with an interactive online map that locates each clean-vehicle manufacturer by technology class and outlines the products made at each facility.
Honouring its commitment to follow American policy in this area, the Canadian government announced on Tuesday the intention to also establish fuel-efficiency regulations by next year, which would take effect in 2014. This follows Canada’s earlier commitment to set tough new fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. The new report identifies a direct link between new fuel economy standards for vehicles and increased jobs to supply the technology needed to meet those standards. Most of these jobs are not in building fuel-efficient cars but in producing clean, efficiency-oriented vehicle components. The interactive map shows that the production of these components and the accompanying jobs are not limited to traditional locations of auto sector manufacturing, but that manufacturing takes place across the country. Canada’s struggling auto sector could see significant job growth as a producer and supplier of energy-efficient vehicle components.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Vancouver mayor may pay the political price for bike lanes
July 31, 2011. A new report by Stantec shows that Vancouver’s bike lanes will have positive long-term impacts for the city, although change in the short term is always difficult and some fear the city’s mayor may lose an election over the policy. Bike lanes offer a myriad of benefits to the public, including both cyclists and motorists. Getting people out of cars and onto bikes increases physical activity and improves health as well as eases congestion on roadways for the remaining drivers. Reducing vehicle trips also reduces CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, providing cleaner air for residents while simultaneously addressing global climate change. Surprisingly, increased biking also produces net economic benefits for the community, as money normally spent on vehicles and fuel can be invested locally rather than leaving the area.
Some of the concerns voiced over the increasing number of bike lanes in Vancouver point to negative effects on the businesses along the new bike routes where there is now less parking for customers and increased traffic congestion. The Stantec report finds that driving times have increased by at most 1.5 minutes and there are benefits to having a bike lane in front of your business. The results highlight an important misconception among business owners, who overestimate the use of cars by patrons. Only 1 in 5 patrons arrive by car; the remaining bike, walk or take transit. This figure is consistent with previous studies from the UK. Bike trips across the Burrard Bridge doubled in June compared to last year and were up 50% along the key Dunsmuir Street bike lane, suggesting that the public in Vancouver is starting to embrace the bike as a viable mode of transportation.
BC launches free home energy assessments
August 8, 2011. The Capital Regional District, City of Victoria, Township of Esquimalt and Town of View Royal are partnering with BC Hydro, the Victoria Real Estate Board and the province to launch a Time of Sale Home Energy Labelling pilot project. The pilot project will provide participating homes with a free, third party home energy assessment and an accompanying EnerGuide for Houses rating. The home energy assessment and EnerGuide label will supply a list of top recommendations for improvements, along with financial incentives available under provincial and federal energy retrofit programs. This pilot will inform provincial policy on home energy labelling at the time of sale. Although labelling is voluntary in Canada, one million homes in Canada already have an EnerGuide label.
In many countries, energy labelling is mandatory and has become common practice in home sale disclosures. Jurisdictions in Europe, Australia and the USA already have mandatory labelling. By placing a value on energy performance, it is hoped that energy labelling will raise awareness of energy efficiency and encourage upgrading to make properties more marketable. In 2010, the EU International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report looking at the energy performance certification of buildings. Delivering a robust, accurate and low-cost certification scheme depends on many supporting mechanisms, ranging from assessor training and validated evaluation procedures, tools and support, to quality assurance procedures and administration systems.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Carbon-gobbling trees in Northwest forests change the forest equation, a new study finds
August 4, 2011. Forests in the Northwest US are capturing more carbon than previously thought, largely because they are not being harvested and because the stands are older and more diverse. In a new study, published by researchers at Oregon State University, the trends in net ecosystem carbon balance were compared between public and private forestland. In 1993, a policy change decreased the rate of harvest removals on public forest land, principally with the aim of increasing biodiversity conservation. However researchers found that this also positively impacted carbon sequestration by the forests.
The techniques used in this study for modeling the value of public old-growth versus privately-managed second growth forests in terms of ecosystem services should be of interest to forest carbon researchers and policymakers in BC seeking to use public land for maximum climate change mitigation benefit. The Great Bear Rainforest, for example, seeks to use public land for multiple environmental benefits including climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration. In their conclusions, the researchers note that direct losses of carbon from fire emissions were generally small relative to the net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB), despite increased incidence of forest fires in the northwest.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Top writers tackle climate change in short stories
August 10, 2011. Canadian author Margaret Atwood is among a dozen noted authors who are contributing to a new collection of stories about a future transformed by climate change. Edited by the NGO 350.org and with sale proceeds supporting the organization, the hope is that the images of a changed world in “I’m With the Bears” will resonate more strongly with readers than abstract concepts like parts-per-million and global rainfall patterns. The stories include a future scenario in which oil costs $800 per barrel and another in which water-rights rationing has been instigated in the western US.
Innovative means of public engagement on the issue of climate change are strongly endorsed by policymakers in BC. Regular events hosted by PICS provide narratives and many different hooks for members of the public to understand the likely consequences of continuing greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, the importance of reducing emissions as soon as possible. Policymakers may also find material and imagery in these stories that will resonate with their constituents, helping them mobilize support for climate policies.
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